Intelligent People Can Take the Bible Seriously

by Ryan Gear

Can I share something with you?

Sometimes I’m embarrassed to tell people I’m a pastor.

There, I said it.

When I meet someone for the first time, I dread the inevitable, “So what do you do for a living?” It’s just awkward. I actually feel bad for them.

You probably understand why. The reason I’m embarrassed is the reputation so many American Christians have earned. If a person doesn’t already know me, my assumption is that they will instantly project their generalized experience of Christians onto me and wonder if I’m “one of those.” In what should be a devastating realization for U.S. Christians, that often means a Bible-thumping, politically partisan, backward person.

Along with that expectation of what Christians are like, there is usually an accompanying assumption that the Bible is an irrelevant, backward book that is most often used as a weapon to hurt other people. That too should be devastating to Christians like me who love the Bible and find so much meaning in it.

It saddens me because I know how fascinating and mind-expanding the Bible and Jesus-inspired spirituality can be. I understand that this is a cultural challenge to some, but the truth is that people who drink lattes, use iPhones, and watch TED Talks can take the Bible seriously. Even some Christians I know hold the view, perhaps unconsciously, that the Bible is passé. Their church involvement is motivated by their friendships or an affinity for their congregation’s stance on political issues, and the Bible figures quite small in their lives, even if they claim it plays a larger role.

Once you decide to move past your own preconceived notions and what other people have claimed about the Bible, you can approach with an open mind and for what it is. No, the Bible is not one cohesive book. It was not dictated by God. It is not objective, scientific history that demands Christian kids argue with their high school biology teacher.

It’s far more interesting than that.

The Bible is a collection books (originally scrolls) written by different authors, in different languages, living in different cultures, in different geographic regions, over a period of over 1,000 years. The books were clearly written by human authors (although, yes, I personally do believe they were inspired in some way by the divine). While the books of the Bible are not objective history, they are a fascinating and meaning-filled record of ancient people’s spiritual and cultural journeys that can change your life and mine.

Reading the Bible is like stepping into another world, one that opens your eyes to your current experience of the world in a new way, challenges your assumptions, moves you, and generally forces you to rethink your view of life and the world around you.

Some parts are inspiring. Learn from those things (ex. love your neighbor).

Some parts are horrifying. Learn from those mistakes (ex. don’t drive tent spikes into people’s heads.)

If you’ve never read the Bible, a good place to begin is at the beginning. I would suggest reading the first three chapters of Genesis. Again, remember that it was never intended to be a science textbook. Genesis 1-3 appears to be a mash up of two creation accounts. The first one ends at chapter 2, verse 3. It was likely written or compiled 2,600 years ago by Jewish priests after their land had been conquered and they were taken captive and exiled in Babylon.

You could Google some cultural context to help you understand the backdrop of what you’re reading. Wikipedia is better than nothing. What did the Babylonians believe about the origin of earth, the purpose of the sun, gods, and relationship of human beings to the gods? Try to avoid assuming you know what a word or statement means. While you read, ask yourself:

  • What do these two origin stories communicate about God (especially contrasted with a Babylonian view of God and creation)?
  • About human beings?
  • About our relationship to God?
  • About our relationship to other human beings? (ex. what does it mean that Eve is created from Adam’s side, “side” is a better translation than “rib,” and not from his head or his feet?)
  • About our relationship to the natural world? (to be created in the image of God is like being a king or queen that cares for creation on God’s behalf)
  • About growing up, learning about life, and facing temptation?

Genesis chapters 1-3 are meant to facilitate the experience of looking into a mirror and learning about ourselves. Read it a few times and ask if you can relate to anything in the two creation stories.

If you can do this, you just took the Bible seriously and let it speak to your spiritual life…

Even though you might be embarrassed to tell anyone.

Summer Reading, Part Two

by Amanda Petersen

I am excited to meet this week for the first of your summer reads – A Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.  (If you can make this months discussion please join us next month for Shift Happens by Robert Holden). I enjoy hearing about what people are reading, everything from mysteries to deep theologically challenging books. I do know someone who is making the Bible their summer read. This is someone who is not normally a reader of the Bible. This is one book that seems to generate the most passion both for and against the merits of reading it.  Because of this, I thought I’d share some thoughts that John Chuchman, one of our [Pathways of Grace Spiritual Life Center] facilitators, had on the topic.  
“For me,
the odd, disjointed compilation
of ancient Hebrew texts and later Greek texts
called the Bible
has lost its claims to historical truth,
or to supernatural revelation.
As history and revelation,
Bible stories have long ago fallen away;
almost nothing that happens in it
actually happened;
its miracles, large and small,
are of the same kind and credibility
as all the other miracles
that crowd the world’s great granary of superstition.

Only a handful of fundamentalists read it literally,
despite debunking by experts
and critical reason.

If I read the books and verses of the Bible
it is because they tell beautiful stories,
stirring and seductive.

I explore the stories in the Bible
because they are transfixing stories,
dense and compelling.

The beauty of the Song of Songs
or the poetic hum of the Psalms
are beautiful as poetry alone can be.

They were best translated into our own language
in the highest period of English prose and verse,
in Shakespeare’s rhythms and vocabulary
making them more seductive.

These are good tales and great poetry,
and I do not worry about their sources.
I read them as fiction
as I read all good stories,
for their perplexities
as much as for their obvious points.

I can be stirred by the Bible
as enduring moral inquiry,
working to translate the knots of the Bible stories
into acceptable, contemporary, and even universal ethical truths.

I think that
enduring moral teaching can be found
in the Bible’s stories.

I read Bible stories with intellectual detachment,
and a sense that the Bible is
an extraordinary compilation about human nature and

In reading Bible stories
I also learn that I need more.
I am fed up with
the stolid apparent meanings of its verse,
searching for deeper meanings that enrich me.

In defying logic
Bible stories invite imagination,
and as a fictional creation,
its ideas about Deity remain compelling,
in their plurality.

I neither believe nor doubt
as I read Bible stories,
but remain suspended in Wonder
where good reading really takes place anyway.”

What are your thoughts about reading the Bible?? Feel free to share your summer reads! I have a feeling many of you are looking for some more books to enjoy, to be challenged by, and to take you to that place of Wonder.

Review – Nomad: A spirituality for travelling light

by Ryan Gear

Brandan Robertson has written a book, just released in the UK, that any spiritually searching, thoughtful person can appreciate. This includes evangelicals, the expression of Christianity with which Brandan identifies. Contrary to some who have questioned their faith, Nomad is an honest story of a spiritual journey that has not left the author cynical. Brandon can’t be smugly written off with a label. There is no hint of academic elitism in his writing. He has not forsaken the Bible or become “just another one of those liberals.”

It’s clear from reading Nomad that Brandan loves God and the Scriptures and that he simply brave enough to say (or write) what many evangelicals are too afraid to admit… they have questions.

I first heard Brandan’s story when he shared it on a Sunday morning with the church I founded, One Church in Chandler, Arizona ( I can personally attest to his humble spirit and the grace that he writes about so beautifully in chapter 13. Brandon is not angry or vindictive. He is a loving, open-minded, young man who is an inspiration to anyone who wants to work out her or his salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

In the early chapters, Brandan tells his story of coming to faith in Christ in a high-octane fundamentalist KJV-only church when he was a teenager. He was so hungry to grow in his new relationship with Christ that he watched Charles Stanley before going to school in the morning. The church was a new family for him that modeled some level of love and healing in contrast to his hurting and dysfunctional family. Searching for belonging, he took on the same Bible-thumping ethos as his newly adopted church family. He began a teen evangelism, winning souls for Jesus and preaching against the Religious Right’s common enemies, abortion and homosexuality.

But then…


Chapter 6 is the turning point of Nomad and of Brandan’s life. I love Brandan’s description of his first encounter with doubt while watching a History Channel Easter special at 13 years old (58). He was terrified that Jesus may not have been raised from the dead, but at 13, sobbed with relief at the fact that the Gospel of Matthew reported otherwise. Still in early teens, Brandan absorbed his church’s commitment to biblical inerrancy, but the doctrine would not go unquestioned forever.

Brandan addresses the common conservative evangelical conundrums of biblical contradictions, Bible class questions, and the favorite apologetics buzz phrase “absolute truth.” I was reminded of how tortured I felt as a teenager trying to make the Bible a cohesive document, like a term paper dropped out of heaven.

He identifies with so many serious-minded young evangelicals who learn to become intellectual circus acrobats as they try to harmonize Bible verses that clearly contradict one another. In fact, the term contradiction carries negative connotations, while the Bible is actually a collection of books, a library, and no one expects every book in a library to agree on every topic. The biblical books are more like a conversation, sometimes even an argument, than a term paper.

Later in his teens, Brandan bravely and honestly acknowledged his questions. He writes, “The beliefs that we once held to be absolute and certain suddenly become subjective and unclear. The answers that we once held to so tightly dissolve and new, terrifying questions emerge” (56-57).

In my own experience, once a crack of intellectual honesty appears in the dam, it won’t be long before a flood of questions rush through, breaking apart what was once thought to be an immoveable concrete wall. Honestly acknowledging the first question begins the journey of the spiritual nomad.

Brandon then relays his story of discovery, becoming acquainted with church history and the ancient rhythms of a spiritual life that were ignored in his conservative evangelical church. He studied Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism. He became aware of a new world of Christian history, belief, and practice.

He points out what many evangelicals are becoming aware of, that Christianity is much larger than one particular Baptist-y megachurch, and in fact, evangelical megachurches are still a minority in global Christianity:

“In the churches I grew up in, there was absolutely no sense of tradition or a broader narrative we participated in. Instead, we focused on our communities’ autonomy and God’s unique work in our midst. We were rarely connected to other churches in the area because all of us were focused on creating our own unique style and brand of Christianity” (83).

In chapter 11, the second major movement of Nomad is Brandan’s discovery of his fluid sexuality in his late teens. Of course, this is the current hot button issue in the U.S., and within American Christianity, one’s full acceptance or non-acceptance of LGBTQ persons is the litmus test of one’s orthodoxy.

Sadly, there will be evangelicals who write off Brandan’s spiritual journey due to their judgment of his sexuality. This is tragic, and one that will ultimately count as their loss. Brandon is a sweet-spirited, grace-filled evangelist who will likely lead a megachurch in the future. His humble and loving presence will win over many detractors, but unfortunately, some will not even give Brandan or Nomad the chance.

Those who do will discover an inspiring leader and communicator who does his best to live out his understanding of the Eucharist in chapter 12. It is one of the simplest and best descriptions of the Gospel you will read:

“The first was that at the Table of the Lord where the Eucharist was served, all people are equal… For one moment of time, all of us stood on level ground. All our prejudices and biases were forced to fade into the background. We came together as one broken but connected body in need of grace” (113).

“The Eucharist also reminded early believers of a second truth – the pattern of life that they were to live. When Christ commanded us to do this ritual ‘to remember and proclaim his death until he comes again’, he was asking us to remember the way of life that he lived and to follow him in it” (114).

The remaining chapters of Nomad, “Grace,” “Journey,” and “Wonder” offer practical examples of how Brandan attempts to live this eucharistic lifestyle. He tells a stirring story of reconciling with his abusive father after his father’s arrest and release. Brandan finishes his story with an invitation to journey through the questions, citing that the narrative arc of Scripture is one of a journey, and the only way to travel is with an attitude of wonder.

At its heart, Brandan’s honest sharing of his journey is an invitation to all readers, not to necessarily begin a new spiritual journey, but to be honest about the journey they are already on.

Did I Just Read That Right?

by Davin Franklin-Hicks

I’ve known how to read since I was about five. I picked it up quick and loved it. I devoured books faster than Ms. Pac-Man devoured those Dippin’ Dots with a gaggle of ghosts hot on her tail. When I began to follow a Christian path as a teen, I lived out my appetite for written words by reading the Bible. I was pretty intense about it. This rabid intensity in reading and memorizing the Bible lasted into my early 20’s. To this day, I can likely still quote 200 scriptures, chapter and verse. I’m fun at parties.

I don’t know if you have noticed this, but we humans don’t always read things “right”. We stumble over words.  We find out the word we had been using had a different meaning than what we originally thought, like the time I used the word “fetish” about ten times during a class presentation in High School. I had meant something far different, like “hobby” or “interest”. Yes, those would have been much better choices. As the human race, most of us know we get things wrong. We know this because we live this. We don’t always read things “right”.

For about eight years I was a supervisor of several treatment programs in Tucson. I was on call a lot and had to answer the phone frequently after I went to sleep to work out whatever crisis was occurring. One such night, the call that woke me was from an overnight staff member who was working at a short-term stabilization house. The nature of the house meant people could arrive at all hours if they needed support. The staff member who called me was a phenomenal helper. She got into this work for all the right reasons. She is consistent and awesome still today.

This night, though, she was concerned. She was worried about someone who had arrived on her shift because in his paperwork it indicated that he was a cannibal and she wasn’t sure what to do with a cannibal. She thought she’d give me a call for my expertise. After I didn’t speak for likely 30 seconds, she repeated it: he’s a cannibal. I was having many thoughts and questions come to me.

-Is he a cannibal in theory or in practice?

-How do we know he is a cannibal? Did he go to prison?

-Do you get to leave prison if you eat people?

-I need to say something because I am likely scaring this staff member massively.

So I said, “Hmmm. Did you ask him if he is hungry?” An assessment seemed important. She said, “Well, he’s in bed now.” I talked with her a bit more and we agreed if she had any concerns, even a small concern, we would talk again and I could even come out and be with her through the night. She said she was okay and would let me know if that changed at all. I drifted back to a fitful sleep, what with the visions of cannibals dancing in my head. Around 6 am I called her to check in. She described a hard night of jumping at every sound and checking on him a whole lot. She said he slept through the night and was still asleep. I promised her I would figure out what is safest for this person who was, apparently, a cannibal. I told her she could rest assured we would have some solid answers later in the day.

An hour later, I received a call from the Team Leader of the house who had arrived and debriefed with the overnight staff. The Team Leader was just as perplexed as I was and decided to review that paperwork once more. After a thorough review she gave me a call. I had a hard time, at first, understanding what she was saying due to her laughter that was bordering on hysterical. Finally she caught her breath and managed to say, “Cannabis Abuse”. Cannibal vs cannabis abuse; well that’s a whole different kind of munchies.

What a tremendous misunderstanding of fantastical proportion. What a helpful demonstration and reminder that as we live and be in this world, we get it wrong. Sometimes, we get it very, very wrong. This extends to all aspects of our living, including our faith development and concept of what is Holy and Sacred, what is Spirit and Life. Our lens changes as we have new experiences. That’s a really wonderful thing if we can acknowledge and allow for that. In my own lived experience, absolute-ism does not allow for flexibility, questions, and the mistakes I make all the time. It is too rigid. Absolutes demand that we say we know what we know loudly, proudly, and often regardless of what lived experience offers. Lived experience often leads me to humbly admitting all the things I do not know, all the things I desperately want and all the things I sure do fear. Holding all of that leads to a very different experience with Holy Scripture.

I still read the Bible today. It is the sacred text of my faith and my spiritual development. I just read the Bible differently now because I realized I wasn’t actually reading the Bible that whole time, after all. I was reading the Bible through my own lens, my own bias, my own culture, my own spiritual principles and values, my own church’s theology, my own hopes, my own wishes, my own fears. I was reading the Bible according to Davin.

The Bible is like poetry to me. The beauty of poetry is that it can mean something completely different to you than what it means to me. Clever poetry lets us hang out in the framework, knock around a bit within the walls, slink down into it as it envelopes us, raise us up, lower us down, and on and on and on. When a poem takes our breath away, it is awe-inspiring. This is also what I can experience when reading the Bible now. There’s just so much more room for wonder and questions than how I encapsulated it all before.

I shy away from individuals who quote scripture at me because it really feels like it is something being hurled to harm versus something being offered to nourish.  I don’t get into theological debates all that often because they seem to take me further away from my call: loving God and loving each other. I am not offering my thoughts as the “right” thoughts or the “right” way to read and interpret the Bible.

I am a seeker, a meaning maker, a holder of hope. My faith development in this leg of the journey can best be described as an inclusive Christian. I want to learn how to love better. I want to know how I can hold vulnerability as sacred. I want there to be room enough for your precious self and my precious self as we juggle some love back and forth in a rhythm that is easy and satisfying.

I love to chill inside the Bible with a sense of wonder. I love it when what I read clicks nicely with something I have been contending with or hurting about. I love it when I read something and it makes me more curious and loving about the world around me than I was before I took it in. I am not an authority on the topic of the Bible and theology, I am simply a guy sharing his own lived experience in seeking and finding God. To me, the Bible is a living, life affirming, sacred text that has the power to not only take my breath away, but it also has the divine ability to make me breathe once again in parts I had long thought were dead and gone.

That, my friends, is a pretty awesome thing to receive from reading the Bible. Right?

Ancient Bible Reading and Today

by Kenneth McIntosh

Faithful to our ‘God is still speaking’ faith, we read with the Bible in one hand and our smartphone in the other. This week, news on the phone practically screams with agony; multiple shootings, a presidential candidate blaming an entire religion, and—a poignant twist—a Dutch video in which people read from the Bible, claiming it’s the Quran, and listeners hearing the violent verses are fooled. In the midst of such troubling times, I’ve been working hard to complete The Celtic Study Bible: Gospels. Curiously, that work does intersect with the headlines.  If believers in the modern and postmodern eras had followed ancient principles of Bible reading, we might be better off in 2015. The following is excerpt from the (unpublished) Celtic Study Bible.

Eucherius (380-449) of Gaul wrote a book titled Formula for a Spiritual Understanding which influenced Celtic Christianity. Eucherius invites readers “to see through the surface (historical) level of Scripture to its ‘higher’ spiritual meaning.” The Apostle Paul can be cited to support this view “for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor.3:6). Such a metaphorical reading of Scripture is indeed pervasive in the Bible.

For some Early Christians there was a pressing reason to adopt this method of interpretation—they were trying to save the Old Testament. Marcion (85-160) a Christian living in what is today Turkey, noted that the Old Testament God did things which seem unworthy of the God revealed in Christ. Could God who demanded genocide of unbelievers (1 Samuel 15) be the same as God who loves the world (John 3:16) and is love (John 4:8)? Could the same Divine Spirit command “Do not leave alive anything that breathes” (Deuteronomy 20:16) and then speak through Jesus’ lips saying “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44)? Marcion had a simple answer—do away with the Old Testament.

Origen (184-254) a Christian scholar living in Alexandria Egypt agreed with Marcion that some Old Testament portrayals of God are unworthy of God. But Origen defended the Old Testament by interpreting the genocide passages symbolically. Origen wrote: “If the horrible wars related in the Old Testament were not to be interpreted in a spiritual sense, the apostles would never have transmitted the Jewish books for reading in the church to followers of Christ.”  A century later, Augustine likewise used symbolic interpretation to deal with troubling Old Testament passages. How could God say to smash the heads of Babylonian infants (Psalm 137:9)? Augustine explains “the ‘infants’ of Babylon were not literal children but rather the vices of the Babylonians.”

In our time, Marcus Borg was an important recent scholar in the field of Jesus and the New Testament, and a defender of symbolic Bible interpretation. Borg called metaphor the more-than-literal meaning of language. John Dominic Crossan, another major figure in contemporary Jesus scholarship, likewise says, “My point, once again, is not that those ancient people told literal stories and we are now smart enough to take them symbolically, but that they told them symbolically and we are now dumb enough to take them literally.”1

The Bible is critiqued today for the same reason that it was questioned in the second century—the malingering shadow of its violent passages. At a time when the world is reeling from religious terrorism, it is tempting to dismiss all religious Scriptures that portray God as demanding the slaughter of innocents.

Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, questions whether the Quran endorses violence more than the Bible? He answers in the negative: “If the founding text shapes the whole religion, then Judaism and Christianity deserve the utmost condemnation as religions of savagery.” He goes on, however, to note, “Of course, they are no such thing; nor is Islam.”2 As Jenkins points out, Abrahamic religions each have Scriptures that can be used to promote violence or peace, and if they are to result in peace then the teachers of religion must learn to talk about violent passages constructively.

Jenkins reminds us that in the accounts of Old Testament Genocide “we have a constructed narrative in which particular authors and editors have taken a story and framed it in ways that made sense to them. It is a story with a point or theme, and one that is aimed at a particular audience.”3

Investigating the conquest of Canaan, archaeologists find evidence that differs from the Bible tales. “Archaeologist William Dever concludes that … evidence ‘supports almost nothing of the biblical account of a large scale concerted Israelite military invasion of Canaan.’”4 So why would the Bible writers exaggerate tales of how they exterminated their enemies, down to the noncombatants? The Bible was mostly written after the Babylonian exile and Jews were wondering: how can we make sure history does not repeat for us? To ensure Israel’s future purity, the Bible writers portrayed a golden age of Israel, before they fell into God’s disfavor. This golden age was marked by absolute loyalty to God’s commandments. The wars in Canaan were portrayed as the utter extermination of everything that did not faithfully worship God, as an illustration of the way that faithful Israel should expunge everything ungodly from their midst.

The Bible stories of genocide were composed to point to a larger truth—the need to utterly eradicate idolatry—rather than a straightforward recounting of history. Thus, the best current scholarship supports the instincts of the ancient interpreters; the Bible stories of genocide were intended to be understood for their spiritual meaning rather than taken as literal history.

So there are compelling reasons—both the symbolic nature of many Bible passages, and the continuing need to properly interpret violent passages—that commend the ‘more-than-literal’ reading of Scripture. An ancient form of Bible reading could help us create a less-violent future.


1 James F. McGrath, John Dominic Crossan on Literalism, Patheos, June 14, 2014,

2 Philip Jenkins, Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can’t ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses (New York, Harper Collins, 2011), 13.

3 Jenkins.,210.

4 Jenkins.,57.

image credit: Ken McIntosh


The Un-evolving Relationship between Evolution, American Christians, and Climate Change

by Ryan Gear

Last week marked 156 years since Charles Darwin published Origin of Species. Had Darwin lived an incredibly long life, he would be able to see that a high percentage of Christians in 2015 still have trouble with his theory that species evolve over time.

Not only that, he would see that Catholics and Protestants have trouble with the science affirming some human element in climate change. According to a study by Arbuckle and Konisky, a belief in biblical literalism, the same belief behind the denial of evolution, also correlates with a denial of climate change.

While world leaders convene this week in Paris for the COP21 conference on climate change, could it be that the biblically influenced denial of science is actually what is slowing our country’s progress on mitigating climate change? If so, perhaps the place to begin is with a treatment of the Bible’s relationship with the theory of evolution.

Conservative Christian groups like the Southern Baptists and Missouri Synod Lutherans believe that the theory of evolution is incompatible with the Bible’s teaching of creation in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 (Roman Catholics and mainline Christians see evolution as compatible with Christian faith). The groups who reject evolution do so because the Genesis creation accounts appear to have God creating the heavens and the earth in six 24-hour days.

Even those who hold to a more literal reading of the Bible have proposed that Genesis 1:1 leaves room for a gap of unknown time, making it possible to reconcile evolution with a literal reading of the Bible. This is not the only way of reconciling faith and science. In a post I wrote for the religion blog Onfaith entitled 10 Things Evangelicals Aren’t Supposed to Say, I cited evidence that there are actually two creation accounts in Genesis chapters 1-2.

This evidence, however, is unconvincing to a significant percentage of American Christians. The Pew Research Center found that:

Only a minority of Americans fully accept evolution through natural selection. About two-thirds (65%) of U.S. adults say humans have evolved over time, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey on science and society. But only a little more than half of that group (35%) expresses the belief that humans and other living things evolved solely due to natural processes. About a quarter (24%) of U.S. adults say that evolution was guided by a supreme being. The same survey found that 31% of Americans reject evolution entirely, saying that humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.

As to the role of religion, a full 64% of American white evangelicals reject the evidence accepted by 98% of American scientists, that humans and other species evolved. According to the Gallup Poll, the percentage of Americans who reject evolution has remained relatively unchanged since 1982.

Evangelical Christian and scientist Francis Collins believes that it doesn’t have to be this way. As head of the Human Genome Project, Collins argues that DNA essentially proves the theory of evolution to be true, and that evolution does not have to be a threat to any religious person’s faith. As a believer in theistic evolution, Collins writes:

But I have no difficulty putting that together with what I believe as a Christian because I believe that God had a plan to create creatures with whom he could have fellowship, in whom he could inspire [the] moral law, in whom he could infuse the soul, and who he would give free will as a gift for us to make decisions about our own behavior, a gift which we oftentimes utilize to do the wrong thing.

I believe God used the mechanism of evolution to achieve that goal. And while that may seem to us who are limited by this axis of time as a very long, drawn-out process, it wasn’t long and drawn-out to God. And it wasn’t random to God.

Even though secular scientists may not agree with his explanation, Christians can. It is a better alternative to denying evidence-based science and human discovery, altogether. More importantly, due to the correlation between biblical literalism and climate change denial, it just might save our planet.


The Gentle Rocking of Peace, Part 1

by Davin Franklin-Hicks

We are called to love.

The belief in God has never been something that I have struggled with before. Even as a young child, it was just something that made sense to me. I was able to see a flow in life. I had a pretty clear understanding of kindness, compassion and love. I gravitated toward those who operated in these fruits of the spirit. My grandma would whisper messages to me as she rocked me to sleep and I would absorb them. She told me I was precious to God. She told me God loved me. I believed it without a second thought. What this gave to me was the belief that I was in this world for a reason and that reason had something to do with being loving.

I have a dear friend that describes her faith in a way that is simply brilliant. She has given me permission to use it publicly as it is something that I love so much and I come back to quite often. She describes herself as a children’s Bible thumper. Isn’t that fantastic? When she expands on this more she talks about really getting behind the God of the children’s Bible. The children’s bible has an overarching message. You were created by God and you are so very loved. Nice.

Then we hit puberty and we are all lost. Just utterly lost; rough stuff. Nothing that was is now. Along with that, suddenly, the message changes. The children’s Bible gets dark. It becomes more like Grimm’s Fairy Tales. For many faith communities, all of our desires and thoughts and wishes become somehow bad in some way; something to be denied and certainly to be controlled. The children’s bible will no longer do! For me, this is when intense shame entered the picture for me. My sense of belonging also became challenged as I walked toward the fringe, afraid if those people who say they loved me really knew what I thought and felt, I would be cast out.

The children’s bible version of life is often something that we can get behind. It doesn’t take too much to get us there. We seek to be loved and it feels mighty good when we experience love ourselves. I recently found out from a segment on 60 minutes about dogs that my dog likes to look at me. I have a pit bull mix that I have had since she was teeny tiny. She stares at me. A lot… Like all the time. I honestly have felt burdened by this because I thought she wanted something. Does she need to go outside? Does she want to play? What does she want?

It turns out she just wanted to stare at me because it is enjoyable to her. When she stares at me, her brain releases oxytocin. We like oxytocin. So we do things that will allow us to feel that chemical change. We are called to love and that is a good, good thing. We desire that feeling of love. It moves us and changes us to love.

So we are called to love. Yes, we can get behind that.

Let’s add to that now. We are called to love those around us.

One of the perks I have found in coming to church is that I get to imagine doing “better”, whatever better looks like given the topic at hand. We get to sit in our pews and chairs, listen to a message and apply that message to imagined circumstances. We can have imagined conversations where we put into practice some fundamental spiritual discipline. I can just see myself being loving next time I encounter whatever made it difficult last time. I am going to rock being kind and forgiving at the office on Monday. It’s going to be good.

I can create scenarios with a sense of ease in my head where I am either the hero or I am the regretful one, ready to do it different next time. But I am still imagining. I am running through scenarios, making minor promises to myself that I will do it different next time. I will really do it well.

We are called to love those around us. There is a small human that I know and love. He has been on this earth for about a decade. He is the son of two of my friends. Since his first years of being able to express himself, he has expressed a deep love for others. His ability to empathize is simply incredible. One aspect of him that is true over and over is his desire to see equality and fairness throughout the world. He has just been baffled by America’s reticence to accept all adult couples who desire marriage. It simply did not make sense to him. In June, when his mom told him the news that marriage equality had happened in America, he was thoughtful. And then his response a moment later, “Mom, now they have to be able to marry in the rest of the world.”

We are called to love those around us and the world was all around him. We can imagine as we sit here, loving others. And I do believe that is a powerful tool. The ability to imagine ourselves in a situation is often a step in living into that situation. So, as we sit here in this moment, reading these words, we are likely able to get behind the concept that we are called to love those around us.

Let’s sit with the spiritual gift of imagined experience. Spend time holding onto that and let’s check in again on Wednesday because there is more to this than a simple imagined experience. There is lived experience.