By Jim Somerville at Ethics Daily

I see them shuffle in on Wednesday mornings when I volunteer. If it’s been either a hot, muggy night or a bitterly cold one or the rain has been pouring down outside, it can break your heart.

They take their seats with a sigh, remove their hats out of respect and wait for me to say whatever I’m going to say so that, afterward, they can get a cup of coffee and a pastry and wait for someone to call their number for a shower.

Sometimes when I mention the homeless in a sermon, someone will tell me afterward that they’ve had a bad experience with a panhandler who only wanted the money to buy alcohol, an experience that has made them suspicious of all such people.

I’ve had an encounter with a neighbor of the church who wondered why we let those people into our building at all.

“I used to live near a church in another neighborhood,” he said. “They didn’t always have homeless people hanging around.”

Read the full story at Ethics Daily.

“Do you like feeling good without having to act on your feeling? Boosting your self-esteem no matter your competence or behavior? Then I’ve got the religious program for you.”

 sympathizes with the 1 in 5 Americans who feel spiritual yet allergic to institutions. Yet, he opines that without religious institutions, their spiritual feeling will never be more than that, just feelings without action and without recognizable impact for good in the world.

Read the story at Time Ideas and let us know what you think.

It has been famously said that Western society today has a strong Christian memory. That is, in our secularized society most people come out of a Christian tradition and assume they understand the Gospel. This has produced a popular form of Christian belief in which most people believe they know what the Gospel has to say to even the deepest and most profound questions.

But on examination most of it turns out to be as accurate and as self-shaped as a memory. The church itself finds that it can more easily sell its story and its institution if it adapts to these popularized versions.

George Zimmerman (right) leaves the Seminole County Jail after posting a million-dollar bond on July 6, 2012. Photo by Roberto Gonzalez/Getty Images

Two recent examples hit me like a slap in the face, one very public and one sincerely offered to a community seeking an appropriately Christian way to grieve and heal.

God’s plan in the shooting of Trayvon Martin?

George Zimmerman declares that the Shooting of Trayvon Martin Was Part of “God’s Plan.” George 
George Zimmerman maintained that he acted in self-defense and that the events that led to Trayvon Martin’s death were part of “God’s plan.”

“I’m not a racist and I’m not a murderer,” Zimmerman said. He offered an apology to Martin’s parents, saying, “I pray for them daily” and that he’d like to talk to them about what happened. But, he said, he didn’t want to second-guess anything that happened that evening. “I feel that it was all God’s plan,” he said.  Read More…

Certain of our participants responded to the email message of last week as it regarded the dynamic between creation and kingdom. Some were confused because they were more familiar with the picture of a dichotomy between “earth and heaven.” Others took note of what they suspected were contradictions in a juxtaposition of creation theology and kingdom theology. Bishop Doss was asked to elaborate and perhaps clarify the distinctions he has formed as well as the dynamic of their interrelationship.

The difficulty that has been identified is due in part to the fact that both the popularized Christian theology of North America, and the common secular perspective today find the relationship between world and kingdom paradoxical – at best. In the statement I offered to describe the concrete behavior Christianity expects of discipleship some saw contradictions: God wills us to be at home in the world – God calls us to recognize that we are in exile; God wills us to embrace human life, our specific life, the way things are, as the most precious gift – God calls us to critique the world and change it most radically; God wills that we become fully human – God wills that we yearn for our eternal destiny.  God wills us to bless this world – God calls us to judge the world. And so forth.

Perhaps it will help to tell the story of when I first posited the formulation being examined. Read More…