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The Idolatry of Violence

Editor's Note: This article was submitted by guest author Matthew Distefano. I cannot understand the fascination conservative Evangelicals have with the movie American Sniper: The Most Lethal Sniper In U.S. History. Recently, I have witnessed what seems like overt idol worship for the late Chris Kyle, whose killings are highlighted in the film. There is a particular affinity for him and the movie in which h ...

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Bill O’Reilly, Brian Williams, and Jesus: On Goodness and Love

I’m cringing as I write this. That tells you a lot about me. When it comes to politics and theology, I identify as liberal. I firmly believe that Jesus wanted everyone fed, wanted universal health care, and that the Kingdom of God is about politics. It’s about structuring our personal and communal lives in a nonviolent way that ensures everyone has food to eat, debts are forgiven, and healing is freely prov ...

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Relaxing into Lent: Identity and those Voices in Your Head

The Christian journey of Lent is upon us. Lent commemorates Jesus’ journey into the wilderness. After his baptism, where Jesus heard the voice of God say to him, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased,” Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. After 40 days of fasting, he was tempted by the devil. In good mimetic fashion, Jesus had received his true identity from God at his baptis ...

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Doing The Hokey Pokey For Lent

I’ll be doing the Hokey Pokey with my children today. It may seem like a strange way to observe Ash Wednesday, but bear with me. If you’re searching for a way to teach children some basic principles of discipleship, repentance and forgiveness, with some reference to the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection to boot, this childhood favorite is an excellent resource. With a little modification, this song ...

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An Open Letter to President Obama on The National Prayer Breakfast

Dear President Obama, I first want to commend you on your wise, humble, and Spirit-led remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast last week. The backlash that your remarks have generated is unwarranted and yet, sadly, unsurprising. In a speech of nearly 3000 words, about 50 critiqued not Christianity itself, but a fraction of the violence committed in the name of Christ. All violence committed in the name of ...

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Top 4 Ways to Criticize without Scapegoating

Criticism. It’s an ugly word. Just reading it there makes me cringe. And there’s so much of it going around. There is a positive form of criticism, of course, but criticism usually has negative connotations. The news, Facebook, and Twitter are prominent places where a mean, nasty, and excessively critical spirit is spread like a contagious disease. If you need any evidence for René Girard’s mimetic theory, ...

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Book Feature Friday – Marcus Borg and the Unholy God

Marcus Borg, a bestselling author and prominent Jesus scholar, died last week. I read the news on my Facebook feed as many of my progressive friends lamented his death. Borg’s influence is unparalleled in progressive Christian circles. He was a scholar with the rare ability to speak to academics and to the masses. Many in my mainline denominational church claim that Borg helped them to remain Christians. Hi ...

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Meeting Jesus – What My Mom Taught Me About Death, Cussing, and Salvation

I began my second unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) yesterday.  CPE is basically a fancy way of saying that I’m studying to become a chaplain in a hospital. And “unit” is CPE speak for semester. We share our “story” with our supervisor and the other students on the first day of every unit of CPE. Our supervisor says that part of CPE is about owning our “stuff,” and part of the “stuff” we need to own ...

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Who is God? Part 1: God is Love

Theology comes from two Greek words. Theos, meaning God, and logos, meaning word or reason. So, theology is simply words about God. The most fundamental questions for theology is “Who is God?”* People have answered the question in many ways, but as a Christian theologian there are two answers that I find the most compelling. An early follower of Jesus, possibly his disciple John, wrote a letter knowns to us ...

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Jesus Is Charlie And So Is Muhammad: The Subversive Power Of Forgiveness

When I first saw the “Je Suis Charlie” hashtags on Facebook, before reading (and reading and reading and reading) about the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo, my theological dyslexia kicked in, and I accidentally read “Jesus is Charlie.” When I noted my mistake in a comment on Facebook, a friend replied, “ Jesus is Charlie.” Caught up in the mimetic phenomenon of showing my solidarity with the victims of the vicious ...

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