RELIGION

TRUMP’S UNCOMFORTABLE MEETING WITH POPE FRANCIS by Jen Hayden

TRUMP’S UNCOMFORTABLE MEETING WITH POPE FRANCIS by Jen Hayden

Donald Trump and his family made their way to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis, who seemed to be in no mood to be schmoozed by America’s top con man. The meeting seemed icy from the start. From the press pool report of the initial meeting: “Thank you so much,” President Trump said to Pope Francis when they shook hands. After shaking hands, the pope and POTUS walked into the pope’s private study, which is just off the room where they shook hands. When pool entered the study, the pope and the president were seated across from each other at the pope’s wooden desk. POTUS told the pope it’s “a very great honor.” The pope did not say anything. He did not smile. He looked at [the] pool several times. We were quickly ushered out at 8:33 am. You can see that moment in the photo below. Pope Francis seems to be asking God what he did to deserve this. We’re all asking ourselves that, Holy Father. The image of the pope’s face while he is standing with President Trump (below) pretty well tells the story of his experience with President Trump:... read more
A BIGGER BOAT by Bill St Clair

A BIGGER BOAT by Bill St Clair

[The editor of Columnist with a View wishes to thank the Reverend St Clair for this article which came in “over the transom.” St Clair submitted his article on our HOME page.  Thanks!] Last month, the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church ruled that the consecration of a gay bishop violates church law. The bishop is Karen Oliveto who was married to woman when she was nominated, elected and consecrated by the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC as a leader of the denomination. UMC members in another region of the country objected. The decision caused some to raise their voices in protest, while others quietly whispered, “Amen”. There has been a fair amount of hand-wringing across the denomination about the effect the decision will have on the unity of the UMC. As a member of the UMC clergy, I offer humbly my observations. We can probably agree the Gospels do not recount Jesus mentioning anything about homosexuality. I would add that Jesus did not ask his followers to construct church buildings, to appoint bishops, to make rule books and to set up health and pension plans for clergy. The Great Commission does not ask us to build institutions. To me, those dissatisfied (disgusted) or satisfied (smug) with the decision are both struggling for one thing - control of the institution. Again, to me, this discussion and struggle is not about Jesus, does not involve the Gospel and diverts attention from the coming reign of God. Instead, the argument about same-sex relations leads inextricably to one side winning and the other side losing. Jesus offers guidance in such matters,... read more
AN OPEN LETTER TO REV. FRANKLIN GRAHAM from a “Small Church” Pastor

AN OPEN LETTER TO REV. FRANKLIN GRAHAM from a “Small Church” Pastor

Dear Frank, Can I call you Frank? This is just pastor to pastor. Feel Free to call me Peter. Anyway, I have to say I was flattered when I learned that your Decision America Tour took a detour off the beaten path to call upon us “small community churches.” We are nothing if not small. We seat 30-40 on a good Sunday. And we are a century old fixture of our small community. Most often we are overlooked and overshadowed by mega-churches and politically influential religious voices like your own. We don’t hold a candle to an auditorium filled with the music of a one hundred voice choir led by professional musicians. We probably will never be recognized in any nationally syndicated media. After all, we don’t do anything really “newsworthy.” We just preach the good news of Jesus Christ; love one another the best we can (which sometimes isn’t very easy); feed the hungry that come to our doors; care for the sick; comfort the dying; and bury the dead. So thanks for thinking of us. Rest assured, we are ready to respond to your calls to prayer and action. I have to say, though, that I was a little confused by your summons. Of all the things that worry me, loss of religious freedom for Christians in America isn’t one of them. I can’t say I have ever experienced anything in this country that could reasonably be called a restriction on my religious liberty, much less persecution. When you started talking about attacks on Christianity, I thought you might have been referring to the racially motivated slaying... read more
CAN THE CHURCH NO LONGER CHANGE SOCIETY? by L. Milton Hankins

CAN THE CHURCH NO LONGER CHANGE SOCIETY? by L. Milton Hankins

In times past, Christians were seen as catalysts for change. The Books of Acts traces the impact of Christians on a preponderantly pagan society. When St. Paul encountered the worship of idols, he called the people out, challenging them to turn to the “one true God.” According to church history, wherever the apostles, who were scattered by the Great Diaspora, wound up, they preached the gospel (“good news” of God’s love), a new way, and consequently thousands of people adopted a new ethic and a new lifestyle. Ostensibly, twelve men (the Bible leads us to believe) were ultimately responsible for altering the way of thinking and believing in the first and second centuries. The least we can say is that after the fall of Jerusalem and the spreading of this newborn faith throughout Eastern Europe, the world was never again the same. Yes, there was change, but the central question is: Was it for the better or for the worse? A study of religious movements, disputes, outrages and wars provoked by Christianity (the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Reformation and Puritanism, to name a few) raises valid questions. Today, Christianity has a tremendous worldwide presence. The twelve have become 2.18 billion! A substantial majority of Americans claim they are Christians. Christian missionaries are proclaiming the gospel in all parts of the modern world. And a new question is raised. Has Christianity lost its power to significantly affect society? As I see it, that appears to be the case. And largely, I suspect, because modern Christians have perverted the message of Christ. What the modern church, in general, espouses is neither... read more
A FEW LESSONS ON PRACTICAL RELIGION by L. Milton Hankins

A FEW LESSONS ON PRACTICAL RELIGION by L. Milton Hankins

Over the past seventy-five years, or so, I have learned lots of important lessons about religious and spiritual things. Some are serious…some are quite revealing…and some are definitely amusing. All of them are worth consideration. Maybe you are already aware of some of them.  I do not claim they are original with me! But, some of them may not yet have found their way into your senses. Anyway, I’ve jotted them down over several years, and I hope some of them will “shiver your timbers!” 1. Fear the one who yells the loudest. 2. Most church signs display faulty grammar and faultier theology. The most important school subject for a sign-maker is spelling. 3. Churches say they want to grow, but they don’t want to bring in new people who want to do things different than they are used to doing. 4. Christians preach generosity and practice frugality. 5. Always do what is right even if you get criticized for doing it.  6. Faith comes not from knowing; faith comes from NOT knowing. 7. God knows the right thing to do in every situation. 8. Beware of over-solicitous people. 9. When you are absolutely sure you are right–reconsider! 10. Nobody knows everything about anything in spite of what they think. 11. In spite of what Christians believe, everything in the Bible is NOT true. 12. Take the middle road. The far left is too radical and the far right is too angry. 13. Leaders make wars and send followers to fight them. 14. I almost never talk about leprechauns, fairies, and unicorns because I don’t believe they exist. Why do atheists spend so much time talking about God? 15. Always say... read more
WE ALL MUST RISE by Beth Rankin

WE ALL MUST RISE by Beth Rankin

This morning my Facebook feed is full of “He is Risen!” I understand the ritual and passion for this Easter Sunday, but once again, I have a perspective as a Jew attending church with my husband for ten years that may never occur to most of you. All this declaration of Christ as your Savior appears to be meaningless gibberish for most people. Something they say by rote, without thought. Like my ex-husband who wanted to eat the foods on Jewish holidays but he had no understanding of the symbolism of those foods. Many people I know profess to be Christian but are walking a pathway that is full of trimmings but no substance. I spoke of this at Christmas also. The adoration of Baby Jesus and all the promise He represented goes no further than grabbing presents from under the tree for most people. I am NOT espousing that someone needs to be strict in their daily observation of religion…ANY religion…in order to be a good person. In fact, with ISIS attacking Muslims who do not believe as they do, with fundamentalist Christians destroying rights and freedoms in this nation, with any ultra-conservative branch of any religion, we see they have very narrow definitions of what is right. That is NOT what Christ taught. I confuse a lot of people when I say that I am closer to Christ than they are because I practice the same religion that Jesus did. He observed the rules better than I do but he also broke them from time to time. Most of the time, he broke social conventions and was... read more
ATTENDING A FUNERAL IN THE LAND OF ALTERNATIVE FACTS by HOUYHNHNM

ATTENDING A FUNERAL IN THE LAND OF ALTERNATIVE FACTS by HOUYHNHNM

The back story is a tragic one. My brother apparently succumbed to depression, sought solace in a bottle, was disowned by his family, divorced by his wife, and died in a homeless camp. He and I had not been in contact since my mother died seventeen years ago. I got a vaguely uncomfortable feeling around him and his wife and I just didn’t make an effort to stay in touch. As the years went by it got easier and more comfortable not to call. Of course his phone dialed out. That’s what I told myself, but I felt guilty about it. Now I know the reason for that uncomfortable feeling. He, his wife, and children got drawn into a very fundamentalist church after moving to Colorado Springs from California (where they were completely secular as far as I knew). This church is part of the Presbyterian Church in America. They split off from the Presbyterian Church USA because they opposed the ordination of women. Not only are women not allowed to become ministers, they are allowed no other role in the church although I suppose they can teach Sunday School. In addition to the usual fundie stuff–anti-gay, anti-women, Biblical inerrancy, etc.–and the hardline Calvinist stuff–double predestination, they are tied in to the Colorado Springs dominionist complex. They are heavily involved with Navigators for instance. So I went out to attend the memorial service with great trepidation. I didn’t know if he would be held up as an object lesson in which happens to sinners and reprobates or if there would be a lot of airbrushing–glossing over how he died.... read more
STUDYING GENESIS RAISES PONDERABLE QUESTIONS by L. Milton Hankins

STUDYING GENESIS RAISES PONDERABLE QUESTIONS by L. Milton Hankins

I am working on my fourth book, tentatively called “A Sensible Look at Genesis.” It will be a companion volume to “A Sensible Theology for Thinking People.” In “A Sensible Theology…” I barely touched on issues like time and beginnings, the creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, etc., which comprised merely fifteen pages in the published work. The first two chapters of Genesis alone raise lots of questions. Some of them will forever remain unanswerable–at least to the inquisitive mind–or answered unsatisfactorily. An in-depth look at Genesis raises many questions about the “beginnings,” as we might expect. The Quest Study Bible (NIV) published by Zondervan (1994), responds to the question “How technical is this description of creation?” in this way: “While the ‘days’ of creation could be either a figure of speech or literal 24-hour periods, this passage is nevertheless an orderly narration of what took place.” I take exception to both assertions. A few sentences later, it adds, “…human beings have been given the privilege to explore, through scientific investigation, how God may have engineered these events, and how long he took.” This is an astonishing admission by the authors of the study guide that God welcomes our inquires. Of course, it could also be a tongue-in-cheek statement implying that our questions will never find satisfactory answers beyond the Bible text. I was reminded of several occasions, when I was a youngster, being told by pastors and Sunday school teachers, “There are some thing we human beings are not supposed to question!” They would sometimes say, “It’s a sin to question God!” These same, well-intentioned spiritual... read more
KEEPING IN TOUCH by Anonymous

KEEPING IN TOUCH by Anonymous

This explains why friends forward jokes. I’ve never thought of it this way before. A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead. He remembered dying and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them. After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight. When he was standing before it, he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold. He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side. When he was close enough, he called out, “Excuse me, where are we?”  “This is Heaven, sir,” the man answered. “Wow! Would you happen to have some water?” the man asked. “Of course, sir. Come right in, and I’ll have some ice water brought right up.” The man gestured, and the gate began to open. “Can my friend,” gesturing toward his dog, “come in, too?” the traveler asked. “I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t accept pets.” The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog. After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he... read more
HOUSE SPEAKER RYAN – A RELIGIOUS HYPOCRITE? by Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox

HOUSE SPEAKER RYAN – A RELIGIOUS HYPOCRITE? by Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox

A PRIESTLY LETTER TO SPEAKER PAUL RYAN FROM REV. DR. MATTHEW FOX Dear Speaker and Congressman Ryan, As a priest who commemorates his 50th year in the priesthood this year (28 as a Roman Catholic and 22 as an Episcopalian), and as your elder, I am writing you this letter because I am worried about your soul. We all know you take good care of your body, working out frequently in the congressional gym we taxpayers provide for those in Congress, and that is a good thing. But I am concerned that you are neglecting your soul. It too requires work-outs and practice to stay healthy. You claim to be a good and practicing Catholic Christian but I have serious doubts that you are. Our Christian beliefs include these words of Jesus after all: “What does it profit a person if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?” These powerful words are surely important for anyone serving in public office or any other places of responsibility, whether in government or business or church or wherever. Yes, they even apply to your close buddies the Koch brothers, upon whom you depend so fully for your income and ideas and campaigns and job. You see, another passage that grounds Catholicism and Christianity is found in Matthew 25: “Do it to the least and you do it to me.” Not to mention he golden Rule which is found in Matthew 7:12 and is reflected in some form in every world religion since the time of Hammurabi: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them,... read more