Saturday, April 5, 2014

Recommended Reading 4-4-14 edition

Each week I send out a weekly e-mail of my thoughts to folks in my church.  I include in it what I found worth reading in the past week.  Here's this week's recommended reading:

Here's some stuff I found meaningful to read this past week:
  •  Lots of discussion on the interwebs this week about the new movie Noah.  I haven't seen it yet, but I'm interested in all the different critiques of the movie, especially the writer/director's use of sources in addition to the book of Genesis to tell the story such as rabbinic midrash, Kabbalah and Gnosticism.  One African-American theologian noted that the decision to cast only Caucasian actors was an offensive choice, especially since the Biblical account of Noah's curse of his son Ham was used to justify slavery and later segregation.   Otis Moss III, a noted UCC minister who also happens to be African American, didn't like the all-white casting choice but did like the movie overall.   Here's a critique of the movie by an evangelical scholar who thought the movie was based on the Kabbalah and Gnosticism.  And finally, here's a response to the last critique that agrees there is influence from the Kabbalah but rejects the idea that it's Gnostic.    
  • Speaking of Noah, here's an on-line quiz to see how much you know about the Noah story in Genesis.  I scored poorly on it.   Maybe it's time to re-read the early chapters of Genesis.
  • The week before last the Christian humanitarian group World Vision shocked the world of conservative Christians by declaring it would remove its ban on hiring LGBT employees.  After the ensuing outrage, World Vision reversed itself two days later.  The writer and (former?) evangelical Rachel Held Evans eloquently expresses her outrage over the reversal and protests evangelicals' oppression of LGBT people.   
  • If you are looking for a preview of what I will be preaching on Easter Sunday, here's a column by Molly Marshal, president of Kansas City's Central Baptist Theological Seminary on alternatives to understanding Jesus' death in a way that justifies violence.  
  •  More thoughts on what Jesus' death accomplished: The modern Christian understanding of Jesus' death is called "penal substitutionary atonement" which means Jesus took the punishment ("penal") for humanity's sins in humanity's place ("subsistutionary") in order to reconcile humanity with God ("atonement").  Despite how often this is preached in American churches, there are real difficulties with such views, for example why must God be satisfied by violence?  if Jesus is God's Son, doesn't this mean God is committing child abuse?, throughout Christian history this understanding of Jesus' death has promoted an idea of redemptive violence, and so on.  New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has some thoughts about this Christian doctrine that may help alleviate some of these problems.   
  • Do you remember the mega-best-selling apocalyptic fiction books in the Left Behind series by Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins.  Their particular mash up of biblical apocalyptic writings offers a distorted but wildly popular view of the end of the world.  A man named Fred Clark has been reading the series and posting his criticisms of the bad theology therein--here's a bit about how the Christian characters in the series seem unconcerned about the eternal fate of one of their non-Christian friends when he dies.   
  • Okay, I agree that Buzzfeed's so-called articles that are merely lists are part of what's wrong with the internet, but I did like this one which listed 11 great times when people of different religions demonstrated compassion for one another.  
  • As a white father of two brown-skinned boys, I appreciated this article on how to talk with your children about race.  (Not talking about it does not help.) 
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