Posts Tagged faith

In Shooting Aftermath, How Can Faith Infuse Our Daily Lives?

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In Shooting Aftermath, How Can Faith Infuse Our Daily Lives? | Mitch Carnell, Mass Shootings, Gun Control

As a community of faith, our challenge is to change hearts. That means we must be more relevant to today’s world, Carnell says.

I heard the devastating news of the shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, when I returned home from church.

The horror of that incident is almost too much to comprehend. How can a single individual harbor that much hate? I have no idea.

I am the product of a small town and a small village church where everyone knew everyone. I am also the product of a Baptist church where fellowship is next to godliness.

Although my current church, First Baptist of Charleston, South Carolina, is much larger, worship and fellowship walk hand in hand.

We know that it could happen here. In fact, it did happen here only a few blocks away at Mother Emanuel AME Church. That horror is still with us and remains an open raw wound.

We know why Dylann Roof carried out his massacre. We don’t yet know what the Texas shooter’s motives were. Whatever his motive, we know that he was in a mental health facility in 2012.

When I was in graduate school, I had an apartment which was behind an unrented unit. There was an unsecured connecting door.

After a night that included fending off would be intruders, I resolved to purchase a gun. At some point, I realized that the only person that I would injure with a gun would be myself.

I knew that I could be deadly at close range with a wooden baseball bat; therefore, I bought a baseball bat instead. I knew that another gun was a recipe for disaster. There are too many guns now.

I know the arguments for gun rights. I also know that we cannot just do nothing. We can engage in a reasonable dialogue at the very least.

How does our religious faith impact our day-to-day lives? What action steps can we take as a community of faith to bring about greater safety at home and away?

Of course, we must remain vigilant to any threat. When we see something, we must say something. But we can do more.

Where does our faith fit in this struggle? What do we really believe?

I grew up in a culture of guns, but not in a household of guns. My dad had a 12-gauge shotgun that stayed in the corner for as long as I can remember. I don’t know what happened to it. It disappeared at some point.

Two of my teenage friends were playing with an “unloaded” pistol in their home. The pistol fired, and one brother was paralyzed from the waist down and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

Our church employs an off-duty police officer on Sunday mornings. He is usually in the parking lot but parks his patrol car in front of the church.

Our leaders are trying to protect us, and, sadly, it seems to be a necessity these days. But my heart sinks every time I see it. For me, it sends a chilling message.

I am not naïve. We are a downtown church. We must take reasonable steps to protect those who worship with us.

I and three others are greeters. We are not armed nor would I ever want to be. Although we know most of those who enter, we are a historic church with visitors from all over the world.

One of us tries to talk with every visitor, but we know that we miss some. There is a second set of doors that leads to the sanctuary.

These add a little more security, but not much. Our minister is very good about referring troubled members for counseling.

No guns could have prevented the tragedy at Emanuel AME Church. After all, the shooter sat and worshipped with his victims for an hour before launching his attack.

As a community of faith, our challenge is to change hearts. That means we must be more relevant to today’s world.

We must defeat hatred and disrespect for others. We must make it a priority to make friends. We must find a way to let our faith infuse our daily lives. We must ask ourselves, “What does it really mean to be people of faith?”

Our local newspaper ran a feature article based on the question, “How Can Your Faith Contribute to Better Race Relations?”

Perhaps it is time to ponder a different question: How can our faith create a more harmonious environment and reduce the violence in our culture?

If every congregation would open a dialogue on that topic, we might begin to make some progress. There are no easy answers, but we must diligently search for those that are consistent with our faith.

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How My Faith Can Influence Race Relations – Charleston Post and Courier


The Charleston Post and Courier challenged readers to write a short 100 word or less statement on how faith can change race relations. The newspaper published and posted the responses on November 5. This was my responses which they posted on their web site, www.postandcourier.com.

As a child, I sensed that there was a disconnect between what my church taught and what it did. We were urged to bring our offerings to send missionaries to Africa, but the Black children who lived a few blocks away could not come to our church.

That sensitivity guided me as PTA president at my children’s elementary school during the first year of racial integration, as CEO of a not-for-profit agency and as a board member of the Sea Island Comprehensive Health Center. The first scripture I learned was, “God is love.” There are no modifiers.

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These Reformation Heroes Were Glossed Over by History – Pam Durso

These Reformation Heroes Were Glossed Over by History | Pam Durso, Reformation, Women in Ministry, Marie Dentière, Martin Luther

Marie Dentière was one of the many women, mostly privileged women born to families of wealth and nobility, who dared to proclaim publicly their commitment to reform teachings, Durso writes.

Churches around the globe paused earlier this week and remembered the courage of a man named Martin – and rightfully so.

Martin Luther’s challenge of the Catholic Church on Oct. 31, 1517, reshaped the 16th-century Christian landscape, and it continues to influence Christian life in the 21st century.

Soon, other voices joined Luther’s call for reform. We are familiar with many of those names: John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, John Knox.

Yet there are names we don’t know. Women’s names.

Women were active in this new movement. They spoke out, some even dared to preach. Others wrote letters, poetry and books; still others were financial underwriters of the movement.

Yet the names of these women did not make it into history books. Their stories have not been widely told. Their voices were often silenced during their lifetimes, and their voices have been silenced by history.

Among these women was Marie Dentière (c. 1495-1561).

Born to a French noble family, as a young teenager Marie entered an Augustinian convent. She eventually rose to the rank of abbess.

In the 1520s, Marie embraced Reformation teachings and was forced to leave her convent. She fled to Strasbourg, married a former Catholic priest, joined with him in working for reform and eventually moved to Geneva.

Among Marie’s strongest convictions was her belief that every person should have the opportunity to read God’s word. She believed that women and men were equally qualified and entitled to interpret Scripture and practice their faith.

In the 1530s, Marie began writing, first publishing an anonymous pamphlet about God’s intentions for reform in Geneva and later writing a book on the history of reform work in her city.

Marie also began speaking out, talking with people on the street corners and in public taverns and “preaching” to the crowds that gathered.

In 1539, Marie wrote a letter to fellow Reformation sympathizer, Marguerite, Queen of Navarre, in which she pushed beyond the teachings of Luther and Calvin, calling for equality for women.

Several of Marie’s writings appeared in Jane Dempsey Douglass’ book, “Women, Freedom and Calvin,” published in 1985 by The Westminster Press.

Marie wrote, “If God then gives graces to some good women, revealing to them by his Holy Scriptures something holy and good, will they not dare to write, speak or declare it one to another? … Ah! It would be too audacious to wish to stop them from doing it. As for us, it would be too foolish to hide the talent which God has given us.”

Marie’s letter also included these words: “Although it is not permitted to us [women] to preach in public assemblies and churches, it is nonetheless not forbidden to write and admonish one another in all love. Not only for you, my Lady, have I wished to write this letter, but also to give courage to other women held in captivity, in order that they may not all fear being exiled from their country, relatives and friends, like myself, for the word of God … that they may from now on not be tormented and afflicted in themselves but rather rejoicing, consoled and excited to follow the truth, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. … This is the principle cause, my Lady, which moved me to write you, hoping in God that in the future women will not be so much despised as in the past.”

The letter was published in Geneva and caused quite a scandal. The printer of the letter was arrested, and Marie’s books and writings were confiscated.

She was accused of “meddling with preaching and perverting people of devotion,” and as a result, Marie’s voice was silenced. Her name is known today only by a few.

Marie was one of the many women, mostly privileged women born to families of wealth and nobility, who dared to proclaim publicly their commitment to reform teachings.

Many of these women were reprimanded by male reformers. Some were persecuted, some burned at the stake. Their names certainly deserve to be remembered. They should not be a footnote in history.

I can’t help but wonder if their voices made a difference. Did the influence of these women result in freedom, equality, opportunity? Did women gain any ground as a result of the Reformation?

Most scholars agree that the Reformation did not instigate any drastic changes in gender roles and expectations. Protestant women did not gain freedom in their homes, society and certainly not in the church.

Women continued to be excluded from the priesthood. They were not given official leadership positions in the church. And yet the Reformation brought freedom or at least the possibility of freedom to women.

Many women embraced Luther’s principles of “sola scriptura” and the priesthood of all believers and believed wholeheartedly that these teachings meant that they too were included in the mission of the church.

They believed that spiritual equality was possible, and they used the avenues available to them to share their convictions, to spread the liberating message of the gospel.

Their names are not remembered. Their voices have been silenced. But in this anniversary year of the Protestant Reformation, let us not also be guilty of forgetting these women.

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) in Atlanta, Georgia. A version of this article first appeared on Durso’s BWIM blog. It is used with permission.

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Morning Worship: Jones Offers Five Pillars For Christian Practice

by MARY LEE TALBOT on JUNE 27, 2017  : The Chautauqua Daily

“In our challenge to recover and reinvent the human, in living with radical individuality and radical communion, we have to face anger and resentment as people reject the idea of shared humanity. That makes telling stories very important,” the Very Rev. Alan Jones said at the 9:15 a.m. Tuesday morning worship service. As Garrison Keillor said, “There are no answers, just stories.”

His sermon title was “Telling Stories: The Invention of God! And the Invention of Humanity!” The Scripture reading was John 3:1-8, the story of Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus.

Trying to live in the Spirit, to float where the Spirit wills is hard, Jones said, because we are stuck with ourselves. He reminded the congregation that the good news is “life’s not about you. There is another story going on — that God is madly in love with us.” That knowledge doesn’t take away the pain, but it puts the pain in context.

Our identity politics means we have a small view of ourselves. Jones cited a book written in the 1920s whose author said Jesus was the greatest salesman, a business organizer who welded 12 inefficient men into an effective machine. But the author forgot that part of Jesus’ job description was “must get crucified.”

Are humans more than our desire for economic growth?

“What is our raison d’être? There is more to life than the promise of material wealth,” Jones said.  “Society is held together by force or moral order, by the police or respect and common law.”

That is why religion is important; it puts the sacred at the center of life.

“To say God is dead means we are dead and society has no center,” Jones said. “In the West we spend a long time looking at our mortality. We want a long, lively life and a quick painless death.”

The reality is that death is rarely quick or painless. Even though the average life span worldwide has increased from 32 years to 70 years in four generations, in the Western world, most people will endure a slow, progressive deterioration preceded by pointless treatment. By 2040, Jones said 40 percent of the population will die alone in nursing homes.

“Life is a school and Chautauqua is a school for training the inventive imagination,” he said. “The marks of educated people are large sympathies, intelligence and the magnificence of soul.”

He noted that of the Five Pillars of Islam, one is about belief and four are about the practice of the faith. The first, faith, is what Muslims believe: there is one God and Muhammad is his prophet. The other four are about practice, he said: prayer, charity, fasting or participating in Ramadan, and the Hajj to Mecca.

The weakness of Christian creeds is that they contain no practices, Jones said. He suggested five possible pillars for Christians. The first is telling the truth, about reality and about who we are. The second is courtesy, a way of speaking that recognizes that what we say and how we say it matters.

“We have to pluralize, apologize and ecologize how we talk to one another or we will die,” he said.

The third pillar is a sense of the sacred. Jones shared a story from an essay by Salman Rushdie, who grew up kissing the books or chapatis that he dropped as a way of apologizing for his clumsiness.

“The act was a reminder that there is food for the body and food for the soul,” he said.

The fourth pillar is the recognition that what we tell are stories, not objective facts.

“Storytelling binds people together,” Jones said. “The lesser truth of our ethnic identity gives way to knowing there is one human heart.”

The last pillar is to treat everyone as a neighbor.

“This is discipleship,” he said. “We have to travel light and be subversive to help our neighbor.”

Jones said many people have to cope with being “W.E.I.R.D.” — Western, educated, industrialized, rich and demonic.

“As this is the time for reinvention, we have a need for self-restraint and civil discourse,” he said. “Because many of us are W.E.I.R.D., we can render other people invisible.”

As a college chaplain said, hell is filling up a resume with wonderful accomplishments to justify your existence.

The world pays a heavy price for the absence of soul. Relief comes in knowing that there is another story, larger than our own drama, he said.

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Jones said. “The way we are in the world can make a difference; we need to hold hands and reinvent the world together.”

The Rev. George Wirth presided. The Rev. Kent Groff, an ordained Presbyterian minister and the founder of Oasis Ministries in Pennsylvania, a writer and poet, conference speaker, and spiritual guide living in Denver, read the Scripture. Joseph Musser, piano, and George Wolfe, soprano saxophone, performed David Stern’s “The Inner Call” as the prelude. The Motet Choir sang “Set me as a seal upon your heart” by David N. Childs. Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, directed the choir. The Samuel M. and Mary E. Hazlett Memorial Fund and the J. Everett Hall Memorial Chaplaincy support this week’s services.

 

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