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Janet Heimlich is an award journalist and former freelance reporter for NPR. She is the president of the Child-Friendly Faith Project and the author of Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment. She speaks with me about how religion has been used to justify and excuse mistreatment of children. From medical neglect to corporal punishment to emotional abuse, religion can serve to harm children. We can make a difference by breaking the silence.
Carolyn Baker was an adjunct professor of history and psychology for 11 years and a psychotherapist in private practice for 17 years. Her mission is to offer emotional and spiritual tools for those who are becoming aware of the collapse of industrial civilization. She is the author of Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse, Navigating the Coming Chaos: A Handbook for Inner Transition, and her latest published in November 2013, Collapsing Consciously: Transforming Truths for Turbulent Times. She spoke with me on Religion For Life about developing resiliency and a sense of meaning and purpose for these “interesting” times.
Debbie Blue is a founding minister of House of Mercy in St. Paul, Minnesota. She describes it as a “pretty great church.” She is also the author of Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible. She highlights ten birds in the Bible and through them finds a window into scripture, theology, and into conversations about social and ecological issues. Join us as we “consider the birds” on Religion For Life.
JC Farris describes herself as “a child of Appalachia, having grown up in the hills and valleys of Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee.” She also says she is “one of God’s most irritating children” because she asks a lot of questions! She is the author of Fundamentalism to Faith: Memoirs of a Recovering Free Will Baptist. (Amazon) She speaks candidly about agoraphobia, being gay, God, and a faith that reaches out to others on Religion For Life.
Bishop John Shelby Spong has sold over a million books. He has been an outspoken advocate for religious literacy and social change in regards to race, gender, and sexuality. In 2013 he published his latest book , The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic. Bishop Spong found this gospel “almost repellent” because it has been used to foster an outdated pre-modern view of God, religious exclusivism, literalism, and anti-semitism. But when it is seen through the eyes of Jewish mysticism, it comes alive in a relevant way for 21st century seekers.
Spiritual leader and Catholic priest, Henri Nouwen, died in 1996. He left a legacy of honest, insightful writing in his unpublished journals and other writings. Michael Christensen (Drew University), and Rebecca Laird (Point Loma Nazarene University), have compiled and edited some of Henri’s work in three volumes. The first was Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith. It was followed by Spiritual Formation: Following Movements of the Spirit. In 2013 they published the third of this trilogy, Discernment: Reading the Signs of Everyday Life. They spoke with me about this book and Henri’s legacy.
Did you know that religious people distrust atheists as much as rapists? Kile Jones, a Ph. D. student in religion at Claremont Lincoln University is doing something about prejudice against atheists by promoting “Interview An Atheist At Church Day.” Kile speaks to me about this project and shares his experience of being an atheist in America. To get an idea of what this is about, here is an interview in church with Neil Carter who is an atheist in Jackson, Mississippi. Learn more about “Interview An Atheist at Church Day” and how to get involved at the Facebook site.
One of the most significant discoveries in regards to early Christianity in the 20th century was the collection of texts found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945. These codices had been preserved in clay jars since the 4th century. Among them was the Gospel of Thomas. This gospel is contemporary with other New Testament gospels. It contains sayings of Jesus, some familiar to those in the canonical gospels, some quite different. The Jesus Seminar regarded Thomas as the fifth gospel.
Milton Moreland (Rhodes College) and Ruben Dupertuis (Trinity University) will be at First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tennessee, October 18-19 to lead workshops on The Fifth Gospel: The Gospel of Thomas and the Wisdom of Jesus. They spoke with me about this amazing text on Religion For Life!
This week my guest is Larry Easterling of the Spiritual and Pastoral Care Department of Mountain States Health Alliance. He has written an article that will be published this Fall in the Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling, entitled “Spiritual Care with Appalachians: Beyond Stereotypes.” He is also an organizer of “Prays Well With Others: The Use of Meditation/Prayer in Various Faith Groups.” Dr. Easterling describes the seminar and article in this way:
The whole purpose of our seminar “The Use of Meditation and/or Prayer in Various Faith Groups” is to learn about how “the other” practices their faith. The article I have included helps us get beyond stereotypes prevalent about Appalachians. And our seminar hopes to do that as well with diverse faith groups.
The first session was September 16th. Remaining sessions will be on the following Mondays: September 30, October 21, and October 28 at 7 pm at the Votow Auditorium in the Palma Robinson Center across from the Johnson City Medical Center. For more information visit the Facebook page.
What is the state of religion, including progressive Christianity, in Australia? To explore that question I spoke with Rex A. E. Hunt, a retired Uniting Church minister, who lives just north of Sydney. He spoke to me about his work as a progressive minister, author, liturgist, and social ecologist. He is the chair of the Common Dreams Conference, September 19-22, 2013 and is the co-editor of Why Weren’t We Told? A Handbook on “progressive” Christianity. According to the book’s description:
Progressive Christianity is not new. It has been around for two hundred years or more. But the anger and disappointment of those who have encountered it only recently is palpable: “Why weren’t we told?” This international collection of cameos and articles on the themes and issues addressed by progressive Christianity is a response to that cry.
"Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild" is not Reza Aslan's Jesus. Professor Aslan has discovered a Jesus who is a revolutionary, a zealot, and who had a mission that was political and practical. Aslan's book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth became a number one bestseller thanks to this attack interview on Fox News that went viral. In this candid and in depth conversation, Dr. Aslan reveals a Jesus more like Malcom X than Martin Luther King and worth following regardless of one's religion.
The history of the United States could be defined as one of racism. Theologians have called racism America's original sin. Jesus is in the midst of it. My guest, Dr. Edward J. Blum, co-author of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America, speaks to me about how the "whitening" of Christ in popular imagery symbolized our combustible divisions. Dr. Blum will be in East Tennessee on the following dates to discuss race and religion.
This week we get behind the question of the historical Jesus and ask what is historic about these quests for the Jesus of history? What was and is at stake? Joseph Bessler is a theology professor at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He just published A Scandalous Jesus: How Three Historic Quests Changed Theology for the Better. He says that historic questions can be the most scandalous as they challenge assumptions governing societies.
Thomas Hill is a Clinical Assistant Professor at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, where he oversees the peacebuilding concentration within the Master of Science in Global Affairs program. Earlier in 2013 he took several students to the University of Duhok. Dr. Hill and one of his students, Barbara Augustine spoke to me via skype from Iraq regarding their work and study particularly around issues of the effects of religious conversion on peacebuilding. Here is the podcast of a previous interview with Professor Hill.
David Felten and Jeff Proctor-Murphy are Methodist ministers who felt a need for resources for people and congregations who want to explore questions that most churches are unwilling to ask. So they created the DVD series, Living the Questions. They bring scholars and leaders to talk about matters of faith and scholarship that address real questions we all have. They recently put some of these programs in book form by coauthoring Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity. David spent some time with me on Religion For Life to talk about questions that need asking!
As fellows of the Jesus Seminar search for the historical Jesus behind the Gospel and Creed, so Lesley Hazleton searches for the historical Muhammad behind the Qur'an and Hadith. In 2013 she released, The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad and talked with me about this fascinating person who changed history. Lesley Hazleton has reported from the Middle East and her work focuses on the the intersection of politics and religion. Previous books include After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Sunni-Shia Split in Islam, Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible's Harlot Queen, and Mary: A Flesh and Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother. She blogs at The Accidental Theologist.
This week's guest is a direct descendant of Roger Williams. Religion writer, Becky Garrison, writes about the radical commitments to freedom of conscience and equality that this 17th century religious pioneer embraced and how his virtues could inspire us. With wit and insight she takes on contemporary religiosity and how prophetic voices mute themselves at the expense of profit and fame. It is an important discussion of the cost of speaking truth. Pick up her e-book, Roger Williams' Little Book of Virtues and listen to our conversation on Religion For Life. She is also the author of Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church: Eyewitness Accounts of How American Churches are Hijacking Jesus, Bagging the Beatitudes, and Worshipping the Almighty Dollar.