American Graces: Robert Putman on Religion in America

I am fascinated by what is going on right now and by the research behind what Putnam is saying.

His take on the Culture Shocks from the 60’s, the after-shock reaction of the Religious Right in the 80’s and the current reaction to this by the young ‘nones’ is eye opening. There is a shifting and a settling happening that is noteworthy.

This is not simple stuff.  It is complex and it is multi-layered.  The part that is most intriguing to me is the trough that is forming – the gap between the far right and the far left (with few left in the middle).  This is an emerging theme that is showing up in many arenas. It is the collapse of the Bell Curve logic and in our era, it is an increasing trend. The Trough is showing up in church attendance, political involvement, and views on marriage.

Here is his article from the LA Times two weeks ago.

Here is the rundown of a talk that he gave last week:

Here is the video of that interview:


Spending My Time: PhD

I am  very excited to be in a Practical Theology program.  The idea behind this is exhilarating to me and I look forward to the future part of the course work that focuses on the Practical part of Theology!

[I have heard so many times, by everyone from District Superintendents to the grocery-bag packers at the supermarket, that Practical Theology is an oxymoron: there is nothing practical about Theology. This is exactly why I am hoping to be part of the change. ]

I was reflecting this week about what has been getting the lion’s share of my attention over the last several months. Four major categories emerged.

Biblical Studies: I am fascinated both with the depth of investigation that scholars put into the text,including work behind the text, and how little of that seems to play a role in the life of the average congregation.  There is gap. It is wide.  I am afraid that it is widening into a gulf.

Church History: I have come to love and embrace church history. I think that it is more than illuminating about where we have arrived and what we have arrived with. It turns out that my former hatred of church history was a naive reaction against dogmatic uses of church history to dominate people of other opinions. I had unfortunately given in to ‘bumper sticker’ understandings and cliches that are nothing more than boiled down (maybe water downed) bullet-points and slogans used for winning arguments.

Philosophy: It turns out that philosophy has and continues to play as important a role in the Christian faith as the Bible does. It is the lens through which each generation reads the Bible and decides how to behave. It goes far beyond John 1, Acts 17, and Romans 5! It is barely acknowledged in the Creeds and Councils that led up to Chalcedon’s proclamations. I might go as far as to say that the Bible is merely a paint job on the car of the church – a car that is designed, manufactured,and powered by philosophy.

Inter-religious Dialogue: In a pluralistic world where we are inter-related and hyper-connected as never before, inter-religious dialogue is somewhere between vital and essential. The old boundaries of the Middle Ages and the definitions constructed under Colonialism will not suffice in the world that is becoming. Things have changed. Things need to change more.


Top 10 books as of 10-10-10

These are the books that I have referenced more in the first 1o months of this year than any other.  (I have linked the titles to Amazon)

Top 10

Living in Color by Randy Woodley (Culture – Church)
Making Room for Leadership by Mary Kate Morse (Leadership)
Cross & Covenant by Larry Shelton (Theology)

The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah (Church)
The Great Emergence by Phyllis TIckle (Church – History)
A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren (Theology)

Whose is Afraid of Post-Modernism by John Caputo (Theology)
Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism by Nancey Murphy (History)
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (Culture)

The Starfish and Spider (Culture)

Honorable Mentions:
The Emergent Manifesto of Hope (Church)
Collapse by Jared Diamond (History)