United in Christ: Avoiding Division by Respecting Diversity

January 23, 2017

Welcome to “Bible Study for Progressives,” a show where moderates, liberals and leftists of all faiths and ideologies come together to discuss scripture, spirituality and politics.

Today we will be reading from Paul’s first letter to Corinthians.  Those testy Corinthians were in a ruckus over who they followed and what they believed.  Paul tells to be in “united in mind and purpose.”  

Have you ever had your faith called into question? Many Christians have a litmus test for deciding who's in and who's out. It is as if they have to double check to make sure we believe the exact same things.

Have you accepted Jesus as your personal savior? Do you believe that Jesus is God who took human form in order to die for our sins so that we can go to heaven after we die? Do you believe that anyone who doesn't believe these things will go to hell?

These are actually just the first questions people are asked. Throughout our lives we are told what it means to be a Christian, but many people disagree on the details. So we split up into different demoninations.

According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, there as as many as 33,000 different demonations around the world. While this number may be exagerated, there are at least thousands of different Christian denominations many saying that only they are saved. This type of division lead the Apostle Paul to ask: "Has Christ been divided?"

Today we will discuss Paul's instruction that we be in agreement with no divisions. Given the diversity of early Christianity, what could Paul have meant, and what should it mean for our modern pluralistic world today where we value and respect people of other cultures and religions? Is it something more than just agreeing to disagree?


Incarnation and the Word: An Universalist, New Age, and Gnostic Reading of John 1:1-14

December 19, 2016

Welcome to “Bible Study for Progressives,” a show where moderates, liberals and leftists of all faiths and ideologies come together to discuss scripture, spirituality and politics.

Today’s show is entitled: “Incarnation and the Word: An Universalist, Gnostic, and New Age Reading of John 1:1-14”   After reading from the Gospel of John, we will entertain an alternative interpretation that tracks the text is a poetic way.  In one of the most treasured passages in the New Testament, John declares Jesus to be God. Christ is “the Word” by which God created the cosmos.  Our reading will track this revered text and interpret it spiritually and intuitively.  Afterwards, we will hear other viewpoints.


It’s About Identity, Stupid! Why Third Parties are a Ruse and Hillary Clinton is Not Evil

October 10, 2016
Should we vote strategically, making sure that Donald Trump doesn’t get elected, or should we vote our conscience regardless of the result? Is Hillary Clinton a dishonest, corporate shill and warmonger who is only a little better than Donald Trump? Are third party candidates really a viable option?
In this election it is vital to make the right decision, because another dose of supply-side economics and deregulation is likely to lead to another financial crisis from which we may not be able to bail ourselves out. Bitter racial division and political polarization threaten to tear us apart. The threats of climate change, terrorism, and increasing economic inequality are killing people and destroying our world.
I am not exaggerating to say that this may be our last chance to take this country back and put it on the right track. Citizens United has all but handed the nation over to the corporations and the rich. We must use our vote wisely, because the further we go down the wrong road the harder it will be to turn things around.
In this show I will discuss Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, the problem with Hillary Clinton, the rise of Donald Trump, the choice, third parties, and the divided Left. It is my hope that this show will put the entire election into perspective, especially for liberals and progressives who are struggling with whether to vote for Hillary Clinton, a third party candidate, or whether to even vote at all.


All Kinds of Evil: Economic Inequality and the Pursuit of Happiness (1 Timonthy 6:6-19)

September 26, 2016

Welcome to “Bible Study for Progressives,” a show where moderates, liberals and leftists of all faiths and ideologies come together to discuss scripture, spirituality and politics.

Today’s show is entitled: “All Kinds of Evil:” Economic Inequality and the Pursuit of Happiness.”  The “love of money” may be the root of much evil in the world.  Economic inequality may be a cause of much of the violence we see today.  

When so few have so  much while most people in the world have very little, battles over resources often erupt into violence.  Wars over power and wealth slaughter and traumatize people around the world.  A world of economic inequality is a world of conflict and violence.

Money is essential not only to the ability to care for oneself but also to one’s satisfaction with life.  Much of our happiness comes from our ability to provide for ourselves and our families.  Making sure people have enough to live on would go a long way toward improving their wellness and would likely lead to a more peaceful world.


Think Impunity: Understanding Arrogance and Pride in the Bible (Sirach 10:7-18)

August 29, 2016

Welcome to “Bible Study for Progressives,” a show where moderates, liberals and leftists of all faiths and ideologies come together to discuss scripture, spirituality and politics.

Today’s show is entitled: “Think Impunity: Understanding Arrogance and Pride in the Bible.” In modern usage, “arrogance” or “pride” often describes someone who is haughty or “holier than thou.” In sum, someone who thinks they are better than others. This, however, does not represent a full understanding of the terms, especially as they are used in the Bible. We will be reading from an ancient Jewish text, the Book of Sirach, in order to better understand the meaning of these words.

I wrote the reading for today’s show back in late August of 2013. I wrote it near the beginning of the Syrian civil war when Hillary Clinton was running around saying “Assad must Go” and “It’s only a matter of time.” At that time, I chose to use Assad as an example of the Biblical meaning of the words pride and arrogance.  So Today, we will also be discussing the situation in Syria and the refugee crisis, as well other atrocities in the Middle East, particularly the Saudi Coalition invasion of Yemen and Bahrain.  


The Worker, the Immigrant, and the Refugee: The Good Samaritan in Contemporary Context (Luke 10:25-37)

July 11, 2016

Welcome to “Bible Study for Progressives,” a show where moderates, liberals and leftists of all faiths and ideologies come together to discuss scripture, spirituality and politics. On this show I will read from the Gospel of Luke the story of the Good Samaritan and then apply its lessons to the problems of the world. Along the way I will share with you some of my experience working in social justice advocacy. Our panel will add their views about that and about the tragedy in Dallas where 5 police officers were killed as well as the continuing murder of black people by police officers across the country.

The story of the Good Samaritan guides as we respond to yet another gun related tragedy. Though organizing can be difficult, and even impossible at times, it takes courage to fight back. Shootings and murders shouldn’t happen anywhere, and our protests should be places of nonviolence.  It’s up to us to get involved and keep the movement out of the hands of the haters, and it’s up to the leaders of our movements to disassociate from those who advocate violence.


“God Shows No Partiality:” Understanding the Language of Salvation (Acts 10, Easter C)

March 26, 2016

In this Easter program, we read the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts Chapter 10.  Here we find Peter saying that those who act justly are acceptable to God. So we talk about the meaning and usage of the words salvation, believing, sin, and forgiveness as used in the Bible. Salvation, for example, means freedom from oppression and release from captivity such as in the release from the Babylonian exile. I also focus on understanding sin, because it is essential to understanding the meaning of forgiveness and salvation.  Relying on the work of Marcus Borg, I describe "sin" by the using of three metaphors: hubris, sloth, and idolatry. By understanding the fuller meaning of these words and the matrix in which the story is told, we can then understand the lessons the story teaches us about our violent and unjust world.  "Greed, hatred and violence lead to poverty, injustice, and war." This sheds a new light on what it means to "fear" God and do what is right (Act 10:35).


I Pledge Allegiance to Jesus: Responding in Faith to the Promise of Salvation (Romans 10:5-15)

February 12, 2016

On this show Professor David Westfall and I discuss what it means to believe?  What does Paul mean when he says that "if we confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved?" Is it universal or exclusive?  What does the word "salvation" mean as used in the Bible?  How is our faith connected action?  How are religion and politics intertwined?  What are the connections between spirituality, compassion, righteousness, and justice?  We then discuss the free exercise and establishment clauses of the Constitution.  What the difference between the separation of church and state and the reality of religion and politics?  Can religion and politics ever be separated and, if so, should they be? 


Jesus: A Spiritual Man Confronts Religious People (Luke 4:21-30)

February 1, 2016

Today we discuss the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth.  The story seems to turn on a dime.  One minute they are gracious, the next they want to throw him off a cliff.  What happened?

What did Jesus mean when he said "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing?"  What did he mean by saying that prophets are never accepted in their hometown?  Why did the congregation become enraged?
We also address other questions, including asking what people mean when they identify as "spiritual but not religious."  What is the difference between being spiritual and being religious?  Can people be both spiritual and religious? Is there such a thing as being spiritual yet not religious?
By reading the story in it's cultural and literary context, we better understand the meaning of the story. I offer a provocative commentary, as always, and Professor Westfall comes back with his more moderate approach.

God Called a Writer: Paul’s Mystical Conversion Experience (Galatians 1)

January 26, 2016

On this show we read Galatians 1:11-24 and discuss mystical experiences. Written in honor of Marcus J. Borg, we talk about "The Varieties of Religious Experience" as American philosopher William James called them.  I describe my mystical conversion experience.  

We talk about Paul's mystical experiences and about how it provided him with his "vocational calling."  I tell of my vocational callings, and how we can all be inspired. 

We compare New Age spirituality with the many claims of mystical and supernatural experiences throughout the history of the Church and in every religion. Finally, Professor Westfall and I clash on New Age and Pagan religions.