Gregory Ellison II's book evokes the sort of honest conversations he has been convening.
“Seventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed.” I hear these words on a bright, cloudless morning on my way to work. They begin the speech that President Obama gave several hours earlier at Hiroshima.
Donald Trump’s proposal to screen all Muslims in the U.S. has drawn considerable backlash from liberals and conservatives alike. Journalists, bloggers, politicians, and religious leaders have condemned Trump’s plan and argued that it is inconsistent with core American values such as equality and religious freedom. They argue, rightly, that Trump’s comments are definitive proof that he shouldn’t be president. Really, he shouldn’t be anywhere near the presidency. He shouldn’t even be allowed to watch The West Wing. This criticism is justified and necessary, but it is unlikely to be heard by those most drawn to Trump’s rhetoric.
I sometimes envy my colleagues whose denominations have already fought this issue out, voted and moved on. We Disciples don't work that way.
On Sunday I visited a church that's majority white but not overwhelmingly so. After worship, I stuck around for a planned conversation about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Here the demographics were flipped: a slight majority of African Americans. But the white folks did their share of the talking.
"Speak the truth in love," and "see that none of you repays evil for evil," exhorts St. Paul. Which is easier said than done.
Earlier this year, the Century published a piece by an environmental scientist on just how radical the current shift in CO2 levels are—from the perspective of 50 million years. As I was working with that scientist, Lee Vierling, on the piece, we struggled to find a language that he and I and readers of the Century could share. He wanted something that was fluid and scientifically absolutely accurate. He also wanted to be certain that he was not using scare tactics.
I knew I had to talk to him. This longtime church elder would soon see my newsletter article, and he wasn't going to like it.
The deep attention and reverence that Thomas Merton and Abdul Aziz brought to each other's books, traditions and lives undergirded their friendship, and the frank way they explored their similarities and differences enlivened it.
In recent conversations with my seminary classmates, we've been lamenting the state of Christian education. In many churches it is evident that the average member hasn't grown in religious or biblical knowledge since he or she heard moralistic tales of Noah, Esther or Daniel as a child. Some even resist pastoral attempts to expand their Christian knowledge, and they simply refuse to learn about other religions. As seminarians, we are struggling with how to respond to this.