Jan 2008 – Hearing the spiritually homeless

In his 2006 walk across America, UCC pastor Eric Elnes found thousands of people who identified themselves as Christians but felt so alienated from the faith community that they no longer actively participated. In Asphalt Jesus, he discusses what it means to be a progressive Christian in an age of fundamentalism. “Many Christians who yearn for a more inclusive, compassionate, and intellectually honest form of faith feel so alone,” he finds. However, he sees that collapse is waking the church up to its need for change.

Feb 2008 – Nets that can’t hold water—images for God

In Like Catching Water in a Net, lay theologian Val Webb observes that many people have no useful divine images, because so many traditional images require them to leave their minds behind in another era. Many people have left their religious tradition because they found its portrayals of the divine unbelievable and it offered no new ways to talk about the sacred.

Mar 2008 – Jesus’s politics and ours

In The Politics of Jesus, Obery Hendricks Jr. tells about his discovery of  the true revolutionary nature of Jesus’s teachings and how they have been corrupted. He came to realize that the gentle, serene, non-threatening Jesus of Sunday School, whose only concern was getting believers into heaven, isn’t the Jesus the Bible describes.

Columnist Leonard Pitts urges social conservatives to be on time for a change, instead of waiting until current social-justice arguments have been settled, as they have done in the past.

Apr 2008 – Using the strategies Jesus used

In The Politics of Jesus, Obery Hendricks Jr. calls Jesus the ultimate activist and describes his strategies that we need to copy. Reading Hendricks’s book made me rethink the meanings of mercy, justice, and piety.

Appalling news: FUMC-Conroe TX has ousted its pastor for refusing to condemn his gay son.

May 2008 – Thinking about war

War is a taboo subject in many churches, but we need to discuss its pros and cons openly. In War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, Chris Hedges says war is a dangerous addictive drug. It fulfills our wish to  be noble but suspends the self-critical thought we urgently need.

June 2008 – Welcoming worship for today

Worship services I attended at Elk Grove UMC in California were inspiring, thought-provoking, challenging, and heart-warming, all at the same time, especially because of the words their songs included.

July 2008 – Community organizing—What is it? Why do it?

Following a pattern begun by Dorothy Day and expanded by Saul Alinsky, Martin Luther King Jr. and others, it’s a way to mobilize suffering people to work together for changes that will reduce their suffering. Candidate Obama’s background made us newly aware of it.

Aug 2008 – Rethinking Connections

Feeling increasingly discouraged about the church and disconnected from it, I’m wondering about taking a break from writing Connections, finding a new format for it, or enlisting occasional guest authors.

Sept 2008Connections readers speak

They’re lonely, they wish for open discussion of their questions and of diverse views, they want to make a difference in the world by following Jesus, and they want to hear scholars’ findings, but they too rarely find such opportunities in their churches.

Oct 2008 – A family of Christian dynamos

D. L. Dykes, Jr.; the Dykes Foundation; David and Debo Dykes; www.FaithandReason.org

Nov 2008 – Noticing and acting

Guest author Don Manning-Miller writes about working to change the racially segregated way of life he was used to, after he noticed that it was incompatible with the gospel. He finds that the church tends to be too timid and mistakenly tries to make people religious instead of faithful.

Dec 2008 – The Bible’s Christmas stories–the gospel in miniature

In The First Christmas, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan discuss the birth stories found in Matthew and Luke.