The Barna Group, a non-partisan research group focused on the intersection of religion and culture, recently published some interesting findings on how we perceive the current state of religious liberty in America. Overall, a majority of Americans expressed some level of concern that religious freedom would become more restricted over the next five years.
Recently a friend (who, like me, grew up in an extremely Seventh-day Adventist family) and I were talking about the legalization of marijuana in Washington State, where both of us have lived. Something that was presented to us as instantly life-destroying can now be purchased in a store! The way our parents and teachers had taught us, marijuana wasn’t just something to avoid, but something that if used once would destroy you forever.
Carlos Raphael of Louisville, Kentucky graciously granted me permission to use one of his artistic creations for the cover design of my book, The Faith Factor. Titled “Ms. Rosa in Strength,” the painting depicts the painful struggle for Black liberation in the United States of America during the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 60s. At the center of the otherwise somber collage is the profile of a colorful and jovial Rosa Parks who is encircled by strategically placed sepia portrayals of three contemplative religious icons of the movement: Dr.
On Monday, President Barack Obama was publicly sworn in for his second term as president of the United States. Every inauguration is celebrated as a testament to the peaceful transition (or in this case continuation) of power and to the democratic system. For me and many others, the luster of the festivities was tarnished by a tweet from Pastor Mark Driscoll, a Calvinist pastor who is popular in conservative evangelical circles.
Christians in general, and Adventists in particular, often have contentious discussions on how to understand scripture as it relates to the physical and interpersonal world. Within Adventism prominent hot button issues are: homosexuality, role of women and faith & science. The positions we form depend, at minimum, on two general categories: evidence and argumentative method (how we reason out the argument). Both can have problems independent of each other.
It was Shakespeare who opined, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” These famous words from the pastoral comedy, “As You Like It,” serve as the first two lines of a monologue depicting the seven acts experienced by every human on the journey from birth to death. However, in our age of reality television where newsrooms have been hijacked by shameless ideologues and provocateurs of sensationalism, the relevance of these lines extends beyond the individual to include all who have become objects of the public eye.
Last week, the big news in Adventism came from Uganda. On Monday of that week Pastor Balsious Ruguri, church president for East and Central Africa, came out in support of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. The bill, which is colloquially known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, makes it a crime to engage in homosexual activity in the country. Penalties includelife imprisonment and the death penalty in some cases.
On the day the Waco standoff came to a climax, I was on my way to a class with a dozen other pastors of various denominations for my doctoral program at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. Naturally, everyone was talking about it when I arrived. I remember the teacher turning to me as I walked in and saying, “Loren can tell us about these Waco people. They’re Seventh-day Adventists.”
The gospel According to John is a fascinating document. There is little doubt that of the four gospels, it is the one that since antiquity has inspired Christians the most. According to Mark shines for its sharp focus on the one who came to give his life a ransom for many and will appear triumphant at the imminent Parousía.
I’m not an avid nature enthusiast, but I always cherish opportunities to get closer to God’s creation. I’ve made my fair share of treks to the Chattanooga and Shedd aquaria, and plan to visit the world’s biggest in Atlanta in the off season when I can appreciate the multitude of specimens in relative quiet. I’ve visited a few botanical gardens, from the grandiose assortment at Kew in the United Kingdom to the quaint collection in Huntsville, Alabama, where I currently reside.
They’ve decked the malls. The supermarket music is oblivious (mostly) to the Christmas songs you find in Luke. And even the “lead article” in the December Ministry, the Adventist magazine for pastors, misses the meaning of the Incarnation.
It’s harder than ever to perceive Jesus through the season’s ribbons and wrapping.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday on the calendar. As a society we spend so much time focusing on the negative, focusing on what makes us different. We have just come out of an election that at least seemed as divisive as ever. Thanksgiving gives us a day to step back and be thankful for all of the many blessings that God gives us. I am certainly thankful for my family, my friends, and for the successes that God has engineered in my life throughout the past year. My heart and prayers also go out to those who have had tragedy meet them at some point over the last year.
The events at the recent Annual Council meeting in response to a few unions initiating women’s ordination shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Hierarchical organizations will always make sure the top of the hierarchy gets the last word. But that’s normal, and I’m not sure why anyone would have expected anything else. Neither should we be surprised at the steady magnetic draw that these leaders feel toward the least adventurous option, nor their reluctance to trust fully a democratic system. We must expect that, too.
To the surprise of many, According to John exhibits elements characteristic of docetism. This doctrine says that the disciples saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion because the Logos who became incarnate was a divine being and therefore did not suffer death. In other words, it was not the mission of the Logos to die as an expiatory sacrifice, but to reveal to human beings the way of salvation. His saving mission did not require death and resurrection.
There is absolutely no logical reason why Mitt Romney should be leading Barack Obama in any state. More than any campaign in recent history, the Romney camp has adopted a strategy of flagrant lies and delirious deception, and it appears to be working for them. The extent Romney’s surrogates go to cover the lies would make a beetroot blush.
Earlier this month I had the distinct pleasure to participate on a panel of pastors and professors discussing the referendum on marriage equality in Maryland. In conjunction with the panel, the Metro Area Adventist Youth Association screened the film Seventh-Gay Adventists. I’m not quite sure what I expected from the film or from the evening. I was certainly excited to see the film, but I was certainly more focused on what I was going to say during the panel discussion afterwards.