Remembering Billy Graham in All His Humanity

 

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The David a lot of folks like to envision is the underdog who slew Goliath and then grew to be the king of Israel, the anointed man after God’s own heart. The David we like to ignore is the conniving and self-centered king who got a man killed and stole his wife. The reality is that the character of David isn’t one or the other, he’s not one-dimensional. David is simply human. God’s anointed/chosen king is a human, with all the faults and glories and greatness and awfulness that make humanity what it is.

Though his faults are nowhere near as awful as David’s, we can make a similar comparison with Billy Graham. This was a complex man who defies being easily placed in any box we seek to put him. As we hear this morning of Graham’s death, many will write their respective reflections on the greatness of Billy Graham as America’s Preacher. Many others will also be quick to point out that Graham was a flawed figure embedded too deeply in partisan politics and the rhetoric of the Religious Right. They’re all right.

Billy Graham is an American David. He was great. He wasn’t great. He was 3D. He was human.

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The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Hiring Policy and Soul Freedom (Again)

This is going to be a much thicker post than usual, but bear with me, because this is important. I wrote a few years ago about the CBF’s hiring policy and how it relates to the Baptist commitment to autonomy and soul freedom. This post came after the General Assembly in which the Illumination Project was first announced. Now, with rumblings of a new policy (which seems to have found a way to upset everyone, which is an achievement in and of itself) and a vote on Feb. 8, I wanted to share a paper I wrote on the subject last spring.

Whatever the new language says, I think the members of CBF have a responsibility to make it clear that the conversation is not yet over for those of us who want to see genuine change in CBF’s attitudes toward LGBTQ individuals. We need to make it clear that this is not just about a hiring policy. This is about the real risk CBF faces of losing my entire generation. And I know there seems to be a tendency to think that’s not truly the case, but I’m not exagerrating. At the moment, CBF stands to not only lose these people, but also risks giving the appearance that they won’t even miss them when they’re gone.

I have been a part of CBF my whole life. My better theological fit is the Alliance of Baptists, which has also been a home to me, but I have never felt ready to give up on CBF. My parents were there for the ripples that grew into the CBF. My sister and I spent our childhood thinking that General Assembly and summer vacations were the same thing. However flawed it may be, this organization is a home to me. Because of that, I want to continue pushing to help it become what I truly think it can be, as frustrating as that continues to be. We can be both cooperative and affirming, I truly believe that.

You’ll find my paper attached below. I know it’s a long read, but I would appreciate you taking the time to read it and think about what I’m saying. Circulate it around if you like. Whatever others might say, this is not about politics, this is a genuinely theological issue.

The Challenge of Being Cooperative: The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Organizational Policy on Homosexual Behavior Related to Personnel and Funding as it Pertains to Soul Freedom

(Tldr: The hiring policy doesn’t mesh with soul freedom)

New Post for Baptist News Global: “Roy Moore, Paul Pressler and Morals”

Just passing along my latest piece for Baptist News Global, addressing recent sexual assault allegations against Paul Pressler. I invite you to check it out at the link below. While you’re on the BNG site, check out Bob Allen’s articles on the lawsuit, he’s been doing a great job covering this story and the somewhat muted response from Southern Baptist leadership.

“We, as a nation, are in need of not only repentance, but also a renewed commitment to actual change. There is a problem with masculinity in this country and the privileges men have come to assume are their birthright. Christianity isn’t immune; we’re part of the problem. Rather than presuming to possess the moral high ground, and constantly pointing the finger at those from the other side who are just as bad, or offering forgiveness before taking time to condemn acts of sexual abuse, it’s past time to actually accept the breadth of this problem and do something about it.”

Source: Roy Moore, Paul Pressler and morals

To Kneel Or Not to Kneel

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I wasn’t going to write anything about this. I figured there was already a flood of articles on all sides of this debate. But, then I decided one more wouldn’t hurt. So, here we go: to kneel or not to kneel

Just for a minute, we’re going to set aside why Kaep and the others are kneeling in the first place, since that’s what most of y’all are already doing anyway. It seems to be an inherent characteristic of whiteness that we try to reframe legitimate protest into whatever we want it to mean, in this case making it an assault on America itself. I wrote a year ago about Kaepernick’s protest, and I stand by what I said then, and I’ll address it again at the end of this. But, first, let’s talk about the flag and the anthem.

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What Did Karl Marx Really Think About Religion?

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I took a Sociology of Religion final yesterday, but rather than the usual post-exam attempt to purge everything I learned over the semester, I’ve actually just been thinking about Karl Marx a whole lot. I’m sure this is something everybody does, right?

We all know about Marxism and its relationship with religion, or at least we think we do. Communism and socialism are all about atheism and the removal of religion. Billy Graham really rose to national fame by establishing the dualistic relationship between us God-fearing democratic Americans and the godless freedom-hating communists.  That quote from Marx about religion as the “opium of the masses” gets bandied about all the time. But, I think we mis-read him a bit.

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Will You Be the Repairers of the Breach? A Lenten Reflection on Isaiah 58

Note: I’m a little late getting this posted, but I wanted to pass along my sermon for Ash Wednesday at Oakhurst Baptist Church here in Decatur, GA.

On Ash Wednesday, we pause here on the front end of Lent to reflect and repent and recognize where we have gone wrong and where we can still go right. And I think that moment of reflection necessitates a discussion of sin. Because, as progressive as I am, and as many central doctrines of the Christian faith as I’ve attempted to throw to the wayside, I’ve held onto sin, and I’ve done so for a reason. What I would like to do, and what I think most progressives seek to do is to broaden the conception of what sin is. In your bulletins, you saw a quote from James Cone, the renowned theologian, in which he describes sin as a state of falling short of what we ought to be as Christians. In his words, sin is “a condition of human existence in which we deny the essence of God’s liberating activity as revealed in Jesus Christ.”[i] It’s living according to one’s own interests instead of the interest of the greater community.

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