Friday, May 9, 2014

Recommended Reading 5-9-14 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 some stuff I found meaningful to read this past two weeks (since I didn't sent out any last week:
  • If you are interested in where my sermon will be going on Sunday, check out this article by Diana Butler Bass "The Radical Feminist History of Mother's Day."
  • In case you missed the national news about the United Church of Christ filing a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina over its law prohibiting clergy from officiating marriage ceremonies without a state wedding license (obviously that includes same gender weddings since they are not recognized in NC), you can click here and see information about the case and links to media coverage.  By the way, currently in the state of MO, I officiate strictly religious weddings for same gender couples, because  the state does not recognize same gender weddings--if I were in NC, I could face a fine and jail time.   
  •  This week clergy from across Missouri--most of them African American--went to the state capital to protest the state legislature's failure to expand Medicaid according to the guidelines of the Affordable Care Act.  The clergy--among whom were colleagues from MORE2 congregations and our own Seminarian Karon Harper--chanted and disrupted the legislature.  Some of those clergy were even arrested.  Barbara Shelly's column in the Kansas City Star makes it clear why the MO legislature demonstrates that it does not care about low income people getting healthcare: "The state's current threshold is a tragedy. A parent can earn no more than 19 percent of the federal poverty level, an annual pay of just more than $4,000 for a family of four. Childless adults aren't eligible at all.  The legislature's refusal to expand eligibility has left nearly 300,000 Missourians, mostly working people, in a coverage gap. They make too little to participate in the new insurance exchange and too much to be eligible for Medicaid."  Shame on them!   
  • I may have given up being Baptist long ago, but the kind of Baptist I was raised to be was one who fiercely believed in the Separation of Church and State.  Ceremonial prayers before government meetings violate that separation in my mind, and they aren't really prayers as far as I'm concerned.  Too bad the majority of the Supreme Court feels differently.  Church historian (and Baptist) Bill Leonard argues my point far better than I can.     
  • Speaking of my Baptist days, the Christian ethicist who influenced most of my mentors in college and seminary was Glenn Stassen.  Stassen was an avowed Evangelical, but he felt like following Jesus didn't mean the narrow individualistic ethics of the Religious Right, but rather following Jesus meant opposing the buildup of nuclear weapons and thus he was active in the nuclear FREEZE movement in the 1980's.  He also felt like debating whether a war was just or not was too little too late, so instead he advocated what he called "Just Peacemaking" which means working to prevent wars in the first place through realistic pragmatic steps.  His obituary in the NYTimes is worth reading, as is this piece by UCC theologian Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite (see also the video of Stassen explaining Just Peacemaking).  .   
  • As I have shared with you before, I love tacky Jesus stuff.  If you are ever looking for a gift for me (hint, hint), number 9 on this list of "Thrift Store Finds That You Simply Must Buy" is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about.  
  • I read this article: "Why Nonprofits are Replicating the Startup Model" and I couldn't help but think it was relevant for church in the 21st century.  To use a business analogy--we aren't guaranteed customers anymore, especially when our method of doing business was at its peak a century ago.  The 21st century church needs to have a startup mentality! 
  •  The Pitch continues to do an incredible job of reporting on the unjust nature of Missouri's system of capital punishment.  Their latest issue contains an article you should read if you care about the fact that both MO and KS are killing people in your name.  
  • Roeland Park City Councilman Jennifer Gumby deserves our support.  She's trying to pass an ordinance prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people but she is facing stiff opposition from other councilmen and outside groups who claim to be "protecting" marriage. 
  • Did you see this powerful story about KC parents supporting their child through a gender identity transition?  
  • Last Sunday I preached about the Christian obligation to respond to Climate Change.  If you are interested in some of the articles  I was working from, here they are: "Cliff Notes for Climate Change?", "Obama's Last Shot",  "What Climate Change Means for Africa, Asia and the Global Poor," and "Fact Sheet" The Connection Between Global Warming and Recent Extreme Weather Events." 
     Also, check out this article about an Evangelical Christian who happens also to be a climate scientist and who is working to change the minds of conservative Christians on climate change.   
  • Matthew Vines, a member of a conservative Presbyterian church in Wichita who happens to be gay, has written a book God and the Gay Christian.  It seems to really be upsetting conservative Evangelicals, and I haven't been able to figure out why.  As far as I could tell the arguments in his book have been around for decades in liberal and moderate Christian circles.  It turns out, he didn't write his book for liberals or moderates but for conservative Christians who hold a much higher view of biblical authority.  Earlier arguments could be dismissed by conservatives as the work of liberals who don't believe the Bible, but now one of their own is using their own tools to speak up for LGBT rights.    
  • Can you name the 10 Commandments?  (I didn't think so.)  Take this quiz to find out some other stuff you didn't know about them.  
  • I think our church's Board of Evangelism should watch Stephen Colbert's idea for boosting church attendance.  
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