Jan 2002 – Pluralism—sinful or faithful?

“We cannot live in a world in which our economics and markets are global, our business relationships take us to every continent, and the Internet connects us with colleagues half a world away, and yet live on Friday, or Saturday, or Sunday with ideas of God that are essentially provincial, imagining that somehow the one we call God has been primarily concerned with us and our tribe,” says Diana Eck in A New Religious America. In a New York Times column, Thomas Friedman joins Rabbi David Hartman in advocating a pluralism that believes one’s faith can be nurtured without claiming exclusive truth. And in Saint Benedict on the Freeway, Corinne Ware reminds us that not only Christians seek a sense of being accompanied by God and want to move beyond self-centeredness.

Feb 2002 – The missing misfits

On Christmas Sunday, a day when even rare attenders go to church, I wasn’t there. I wanted to avoid what I knew I’d find there, including outdated language, songs without substance, all-masculine words, and avoidance of today’s most important issues. I was thinking of a recent conversation with a new kindred-spirit  friend who I’m sure also wasn’t at church. Despite feeling called to practice the radical love and justice that Jesus taught and lived, this man and I and others like us feel like misfits with regard to the church. It urgently needs to stop driving God-inspired misfits away, but that would mean making major changes.

In Servants, Misfits, and Martyrs, James C. Howell observes that we are trained to be suspicious of misfits because they threaten the status quo, yet the greatest leaders in Christian history, including Jesus, have been misfits.

Mar 2002 – War–a hot-button topic for Christians

In War: A Primer for Christians, Joseph Allen points out that what the Bible says about war leads to sharply conflicting interpretations. He discusses three main ways in which conscientious Christians respond to war.

Apr 2002 – Christian misfits–lifelines for each other

The 2-02 issue brought more responses than any previous issue, and nearly all were appreciative and many were unusually impassioned, revealing that there are many people “out there” who feel like misfits in the ways I described. For Christian misfits, connecting with other misfits is vital. When we can’t fit into the institutional church, we can be the church for each other. We can be each other’s lifesavers and also stimulate God-given insights in each other. But this requires speaking up so that other misfits will know we exist.

May 2002 – The most divisive issue for Christians

In Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, Marcus Borg says that conflict about the Bible is the single most divisive issue among Christians in North America today. The conflict is between a literal-factual way of reading the Bible and a historical-metaphorical way. Borg finds that for many people the old way, like an old set of lenses, no longer works. He reminds us that the old way is actually not very old but comes only from the past few centuries.

June 2002 – Misfits again

More misfits keep turning up in response to recent Connections issues. Here I suggest some ways in which pastors could help the misfits feel less like misfits.

July 2002 – Patriotism and Christianity

Rehearsing for a church-choir presentation based on the words of Thomas Jefferson reminds me that Jefferson, like many others of our “founding fathers,” was a deist, not a Christian, and that their aim was not to create a nation designed only for Christians. Examining and questioning some of the beliefs we usually take for granted, about our nation, is important for Christians. And it’s more patriotic than giving unquestioning support to all our nation’s actions and all American assumptions and customs.

Aug 2002 – Food for the journey–favorite books

“We read under the eye of God until the heart is touched and leaps to flame,” said 6th-century Benedictine Abbot Marmion.  Here I list books and scriptures that have especially influenced my spiritual journey.

Sept 2002 – Communion, change, and community

Communion, Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper has been a central feature—some say the central feature—of Christian worship throughout Christian history, but churches differ widely in the methods they use for it and the importance they give it. I especially love the account of the Last Supper from The Unauthorized Bible, by Gary Holthaus, partly quoted here.

Oct 2002 – Ten years of Connections

This issue finishes ten years of Connections. During these years  my basic concerns about the church haven’t changed, but with regard to some of them,  my awareness has expanded and my feelings have intensified.

In Zion’s Herald magazine (now The Progressive Christian), We Hyun Chang observes that the task of the church is not to discern what the majority of members want but to discern what God wants from us, and editor Stephen Swecker urges church members to speak about what they observe.

Nov 2002 – Standing by a river, dying of thirst

In Finding Our Voices, Patricia O’Connell Killen quotes a woman who was longing for God but not being fed by her Christian heritage as she experienced it in her church. She was feeling both hunger and disillusionment. Killen urges us to speak up when our best judgment tells us our tradition is being misused or misinterpreted, and to trust our perceptions when we see injustice, even if others don’t share those perceptions. She reminds us also that questioning the church, noticing where change is needed, and working to promote needed change are faithful acts, not faithless ones, and that if we’re growing, our view of our tradition will change.

In Sisters Today, Mary Farrell Bednarowski reminds readers that many women experience both alienation and transformation with regard to their tradition. This brings creative energy.

Dec 2002 – Wondering about peace

War preparations fill the news in the season in which we most often hear scriptures about peace. It’s hard to be sure what position Christians should take. Continuing to reconsider what the Bible says is important.

A 1967 speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. emphasizes the need to move from decision to action, to shift some of our national values, and to speak up.