Loving the Hell out of Us

Here is the text of the sermon I preached on Sunday, February 10th for Evolution Sunday.

“…we can…think of the end of our present life not as the end of our journey with God but simply as the beginning of its next phase. If so, we can conceive that divine grace, working entirely through the attractive power of love, might sanctify us all. There would be no need for the divine violence of casting sinners into hell. God would, instead, love the hell out of us.”
–David Ray Griffin, Two Great Truths: A New Synthesis of Scientific Naturalism and Christian Faith

Loving the Hell out of Us

I am the product of my parents. My father has a mind for science. My mother had a heart for faith. That isn’t to say that my father doesn’t have a heart nor my mother a mind. It is merely my perception of them to make a story about my life. My parents are far more complicated and interesting than the categories I create for them.

Nevertheless, it is with love and respect that I draw from the two of them an ongoing love for science and for faith, a lovers’ dance, two very different ways of knowing and of loving the world into which we are thrust.

Each day as I break a new personal record of consecutive days alive and breathing, I find myself negotiating my parents’ legacy in my own life. Science and faith. A love for facts and discovery. A desire to follow the will of God.

At times the lovers get snippy with each other, insisting that each’s own way is superior. True enough, one way is better at another in some things. Each way is also blind to its own shadow. Each way can also be blind to outside forces that manipulate each toward more sinister agenda.

Science is almost always used for the material of war.
Faith is almost always used for the emotion of war.

Each glimpses how the other is manipulated but that clarity often vanishes in the mirror.

The challenge to me and to us is how science and faith can contribute to the good. If science and faith are both ways of seeking what is true, is it too much to ask of both disciplines to seek also what is good? One of the historic principles of Presbyterian Church Order emphasizes both truth and goodness. You find this paragraph from the 18th century in our Book of Order:

F-3.0104 Truth and Goodness
That truth is in order to goodness; and the great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holiness, according to our Savior’s rule, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” And that no opinion can either be more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level, and represents it as of no consequence what a [person’s] opinions are. On the contrary, we are persuaded that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it.

These old Presbyterians were talking about truth that comes from faith, but that did not exclude truth that comes from reason. Both ways of knowing truth are in order to goodness. Of course, determining what is good as is determining what is true requires work, conversation, public debate, research, failure, humility, perseverance, and the ability and willingness to respond to change with corresponding change of mind and heart.

When I arrived at Southminster four years ago, a frequent question was asked of me: “What is your vision? What do you think Southminster should do?” My response then was that I didn’t know. I am new. We will have to see what Spirit presents to us.

Many times these types of questions are asked in terms of strategy and marketing. How do we brand ourselves and so forth? I am not against strategy, marketing, and branding, I suppose. But it must take a distant second to content. Who are you? What is real? What is God calling us to be and do? Truth and Goodness first. Strategy, Marketing and Branding, second.

I like this quote  [mis] attributed to Charles Darwin, whose birthday, we celebrate on the Sunday closest to his birthday as Evolution Sunday.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

No one likes change, of course. Especially, churches. We all know the old jokes, such as the seven last words of the church:

“We’ve never done it that way before.”

I am going to mention this morning two types of changes that would behoove us to be responsive.

First, some religion. Jesus preaches a sermon. The boys are washing their fishing nets. Jesus tells the boys to drop the nets in the deep water. Simon, who later Jesus calls Peter, the rock upon whom I will build my church, is resistant to this new idea. It sounds like something that has been tried and has failed in the past. Those are the other seven last words of the church:

“We tried it that way once already.”

Simon goes with that one and says to Jesus:

“Master, we’ve been hard at it all night and haven’t caught a thing. But if you insist, I’ll lower the nets.”

Of course, the story concludes with a huge catch of fish and a moral from Jesus:

“Remember this lesson friends, when we go to catch the big fish.”

Here is the question:

“Does Peter, the Rock, represent the church in his resistance to change or in his responsiveness to Jesus?”

I will let that question hang there. You answer it yourself.

One more piece of religion. That is the quote from David Ray Griffin from his book, Two Great Truths: A New Synthesis of Scientific Naturalism and Christian Faith. The question is how does the world end? Not just the world, the galaxy, the universe, the cosmos? Does it end with divine violence, sending sheep and goats to their separate areas? Or does it end through the lure of love? Griffin says, and I agree with him, that the end is the process. God’s work is not complete by sending sinners to hell. God’s work is complete by loving the hell out of us.

In the end, no matter how many lifetimes it takes,

“All will be well.”

With all of that hope, let’s tackle some change.

The first change is that many churches in America are closing.

A friend sent me this article this morning in Baptist News. The article by Pastor Elizabeth Mangham Lott is entitled, “My seminary has closed. But churches are closing too, and it’s time to face some hard questions.”

This is true for Presbyterians as well as Baptists. Our denomination, or its antecedents in 1965 numbered four million. Today about 1.5 million. I am sure that Craig Butler, Southminster member, and treasurer of our presbytery, would be happy to educate us on trends within our own presbytery.

Rather than blame each other, we can ask some hard questions. How do we respond to this change? The article concludes with excellent advice:

“How will we know which path is ours to take? Well, that’s something I did learn in seminary. We sit in holy quiet together, embracing ancient practices of contemplation and discernment. We follow the threads across ancient texts and look for the ways God has always been finding new and wildly imaginative avenues to know and be known by a people. We foster honest, brave, healthy, truth-telling communities that step even more fully and boldly into their calling as followers on the Way of Jesus. We ask really good questions and listen to each other in hopes of getting to even better ones.”

The second change is a far bigger change. It dwarfs the first change in magnitude almost making the first seem irrelevant. But actually, how we respond to the first change will enable us to be better equipped at responding to this second change.

I have spoken of this second change often and from different angles for over twenty years. I haven’t talked about it every Sunday, but I think you know it. And you mostly don’t like it.

Here it is: Americans make up 5% of the world’s population and consume 25% of the world’s resources. Another way to put it is this: If the rest of the world consumed as much as Americans consumed we would need four planets of resources. We have one planet. This is the case when I first started talking about it 20 years ago. It is an inequity that is unsustainable and can only be sustained temporarily through violence.

This change will likely be good for the rest of the world when America stops consuming a quarter of the world’s resources and instead consumes what is proportional to its population. This change will be uncomfortable for Americans when this standard of living changes.

Whether one thinks that inequity is justifiable or not, inequities always result in change. There is always a re-ordering eventually. Evolution happens when species outstrip their environments or when environments change. Whether we come about this question by studying Peak OilClimate Change, or militarization and its accompanying propaganda, there are hundreds of ways to show that these inequities exist and are not going to last. Those inequities are the inequity of human population vs. planetary limits and the inequity of the elites of the world vs. the rest.

This change can come abruptly or gradually or in a combination. As humans in general and Americans in particular, collectively reach the end of our credit limit, and nothing has been done in the past twenty years that I have been talking about it in regards to changing our course, major changes likely will come sooner than later.

Now remember. It is all good.

Simon Peter, the rock of the church, was in the end, responsive to change and Jesus will love the hell out of us.

If my parents taught me anything it is that life ends. My mother lived to be 91. My father is 100 currently. Even long lives end. Given that something will kill us someday, how do we live now?

Do we live to make ourselves as comfortable as possible for as long as possible? That is one way. But there is another way: the way of Jesus. The way of Mohammad. The way of Moses. The way of Buddha. These spiritual leaders knew that life was bigger than themselves and they were all responsive to change.

How might we be responsive to change? I think the fire drill is a great start about being responsive and prepared.

What about snowstorms? Are we as a church responsive enough to that in regards to care for the building but also care for members?

Let’s go bigger.

You have heard that we are due for an earthquake (New YorkerAtlantic). I have not talked about that at all with the congregation in any organized way. Dick Burnham and I were talking about it the other day. A very small percentage has done any awareness or preparation for this.

For me the physical preparation is important, but more than that, the internal preparation is equally as important as is the social preparation.

Change is coming. It comes in many ways. Practicing responsiveness through education, internal spiritual preparedness, and social connection can put Southminster in a place where it can be a helper rather than irrelevant, or worse, a burden. This goes for the congregation as a whole as well as individuals within it.

This is what I do. I am not some slick marketer who can come in and tell you how to get young people in the church, or sing and dance to soft hits of the 80s. I find most of that stuff to be a bunch of bull. I can however tell you what I think is going on and help open discussions on how we might respond, theologically, ethically, and practically to changes that are coming.

Truth and Goodness.

March 10th after church we start with some conversations about what it means to be the church on Denney and Hall in Beaverton.

You can talk to me over pie for breakfast on Wednesdays at Sharis on Allen and Murray or coffee Tuesday mornings. Or whenever. I will leave you today with Charles Darwin (although likely a misquotation):

It is not the strongest of the species that survives,
Nor the most intelligent,
But the one most responsive to change.

Amen.

Apocalypse Now

I suspect that after this post gets sent, the number of people who follow me via email (currently 2174–see sidebar) will decrease substantially. The Progressive Spirit radio show has ended and I am taking a different turn in regards to the things that I view as important and worthy of my time and hopefully yours. Yet I hope you will be curious enough to stay with me and pass this blog on to others.

We are in an apocalyptic time. Apocalypse means revelation. This is a time of revealing, of making manifest that which has been shrouded. Apocalypse in the popular sense means massive destruction. This time could be that as well especially if we decide as a human species to ignore the revelatory aspect of apocalypse.

But I am hopeful because I believe in God (not Gawd) to use David Ray Griffin’s distinction. To believe in God means to believe that morality and purpose are more than human social constructs. Morality and purpose are as real as atoms and supernovas, beetles and Bohemians. The very fabric of the universe is moral and we are a part of it, participating in it, being guided by and, to a degree participating, in its unfolding.

That belief is important, according to Griffin, because without it, without a belief and hope that the universe in some way “cares” we will not be able to face the task before us that is immense beyond measure. That task has come to us in the form of Global Warming or Climate Catastrophe. Monumental in itself, our situation is far worse than a problem to solve. Our destruction (apocalypse in the popular sense of the word) is enabled by the evil in high places that temporarily profits by our impending demise. The work of this evil is to shroud our true situation. Evil works in darkness as our wisdom traditions remind us. None of our institutions is capable of dismantling this evil or even capable of naming it. All of the institutions associated with education, religion, politics, commerce, justice, military, and media are held by the grip of this evil, unable to see in the darkness their own complicity.

The only thing that can save us is apocalypse in the precise meaning of that word, which is revelation. We need an unveiling, a de-shrouding, an unfolding, and an awakening. This is not simply an intellectual activity. It is a deeply spiritual event. I use the word ‘event’ because apocalypse is an event in which we participate. This event is happening now. This time is apocalypse now.

All around us the shroud of evil is tearing. Glimpses of light are piercing it. These glimpses are truth-revealing glimpses into the reality of our imprisonment. What exactly happened on September 11th, 2001 is a question related to this apocalypse. We know that we have been deceived but at the same time we are not allowed to know. I am not supposed to be writing about this. You are not supposed to be reading it. It is taboo. Yet here you are. You are still with me. The apocalypse event unfolds as more and more people see what they are not allowed to see, say what they are not allowed to say, and do what they are not allowed to do. Apocalypse now is rendering the taboo powerless. I need not convince you of anything. You already know it. I don’t need to show you Building 7. You know the official myth is a sham. You only need to trust what you know. Find your heart (courage) and act. When you are ready, you will.

Arbaeen is Apocalypse Now. It is not apocalypse (revelation) in the sense of a religious ritual by a sectarian group of Muslims. Arbaeen as revelation is an unfolding of truth and courage so profound that Christian bishops prostrate before it and American Christian ministers (yours truly) return home and preach sermons about its transformative effects.

At first glance, Global Warming, 9/11, and Arbaeen are not related. But of course they are intimately connected. Global Warming negatively effects the poor first. It results from unbridled fossil fuel extraction that is linked to unsustainable economic growth that results in global resource war which is justified by demonizing the “Muslim enemy” that was created by the false flag of 9/11 who resists via Arbaeen.

Evil trembles before Arbaeen. American media cannot even report on it. But 15 million bear witness. Arbaeen (Apocalypse Now) is when the oppressed of the world lead the march toward justice.

Apocalypse Now (revelation) is a divine, redemptive event that uncovers the evil that is hell-bent on the popular version of apocalypse (destruction). Apocalypse Now is our summons to participate in our collective salvation.


Climate Change or How to Defeat Medusa: A Conversation with Kathleen Dean Moore

Moral Philosopher and Environmental-Thought Leader, Kathleen Dean Moore, tells the hard, urgent truth about the state of Earth and calls out for moral courage.

Dr. Kathleen Dean Moore spoke at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Beaverton, Oregon, September 30th, 2018. Hear her address, Bearing Witness (starts at 4:30).

In this interview, she talked with John Shuck about her 2016 book, Great Tide Rising: Calling on Clarity and Moral Courage to Confront Climate Change. She discusses grandchildren, criminals in high places, religious hypocrisy, despair, hope, and moral integrity. Time is short. We have a mission. What is life for?

Kathleen Dean Moore is a writer, moral philosopher, and environmental thought-leader, devoted to an unrelenting defense of the future against those who would pillage and wreck the planet.

As a writer, Kathleen is best known for award-winning books of essays that celebrate and explore the meaning of the wet, wild world of rivers, islands, and tidal shores – Riverwalking, Holdfast, Pine Island Paradox, and Wild Comfort. But her growing alarm at the devastation of the natural world led her to focus her writing on the moral urgency of action against climate change and habitat destruction. Quitting her university position, Kathleen began to write in defense of the lovely, reeling world. 

A moral philosopher, Kathleen holds a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado. For many years, she taught critical thinking and environmental ethics as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Oregon State University. She has published philosophical books on forgiveness (Pardons: Justice, Mercy, and the Public Interest), Apache philosophy (How It Is: the Native American Philosophy of Viola Cordova), Rachel Carson (Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge), and critical thinking (Reasoning and Writing). While at OSU, she co-founded and for many years directed the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word, where she now serves as Senior Fellow.

Two years ago, Moore left the University in order to write and speak full-time about the moral urgency of action to stop fossil fuels and the consequent global warming. She has addressed audiences ranging from 350.org activists to Nobel Conference scholars to Disneyworld executives and students all over the country — Alaska to Texas, New York to California — calling people to clarity and moral courage as they confront the forces that would wreck the world. Her new project, “A Call to Life: Variations on a Theme of Extinction,” is a collaboration with classical pianist Rachelle McCabe.

Kathleen is embedded in a family of environmentalists and biologists. Her parents were science educators who led nature walks in the beech-maple forests in Ohio. Her husband, Frank, a neurobiologist, is an expert on amphibian behavior. Her daughter, Erin, is an architecture professor at the University of Oregon, specializing in green construction. Her son, Jonathan, is a professor of coastal studies at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. Kathleen and her husband live in Corvallis, Oregon, and in the summers, in a cabin where two creeks and a bear trail meet a tidal cove in Alaska’s maritime wilderness.

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PS 136 Moore Transcript

Evolution, Climate Change, Denial & Beliefs

In this episode I take us back to 2012 for a re-broadcast of interviews with Michael Zimmerman and Barbara Kingsolver.

In the first part of today’s show, you will hear an interview that first aired in February 2012 with Michael Zimmerman, the founder of the Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Weekend.   Over 13 thousand Christian, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist clergy have signed a letter in support of teaching evolution in public schools.   On the Sunday closest to Darwin’s Birthday faith communities all over the United States celebrate Evolution Weekend by honoring science and religion.

Author Barbara Kingsolver lives in southwest Virginia.  She is the author of 14 books including the The  Poisonwood Bible, The Lacuna, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  She visited with me at the WEHC studio at Emory and Henry College to discuss her latest novel, Flight Behavior, a novel set in Southern Appalachia.   In part it is about denial and the beliefs that get assigned to us.

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Unprecedented Crime: Peter Carter and Climate Science Denial

Dr. Peter Carter is founder of the Climate Emergency Institute.  He has served as an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s fifth climate change assessment in 2014. He has also presented on the implications of global climate change on food security for the world’s most vulnerable regions and populations at science and policy conferences in Canada, the United States, Europe, Asia and South America.

He along with Elizabeth Woodworth, who has written extensively on climate science and activism, have co-written Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival.

They make the case that fossil fuel companies and the banks that fund them have committed and are committing crimes against humanity. They can be stopped.

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The Pentagon, Hollywood, Climate Change, and An Appeal for Democracy

Professor of Philosophy at Columbia, Phillip Kitcher, talks with host John Shuck about how if human beings hope to survive the looming climate catastrophes, we will need to talk it out, one to one, in families, neighborhoods, and social gatherings. The power of grassroots democracy is the theme in the latest book he co-wrote with MIT philosopher Evelyn Fox-Keller, The Seasons Alter: How to Save the Planet in Six Acts.

Matt Alford along with Tom Secker have exposed new evidence that the national security state led by the Pentagon and the CIA have forced script changes on over 800 Hollywood movies and over a thousand network television shows to cover-up crimes and to manipulate US citizens. The authors show that Hollywood and Washington are part of a system that is hard-wired to encourage American global supremacy and frequently the use of state violence. They document it all in their new book, National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood.

Phillip Kitcher 2:50

Matthew Alford 31:09

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