Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Reflecting on the Changing Landscape of Christian Education

The world of Christian education has been undergoing significant changes over the last few decades. A poignant example is the recent news about Lincoln Christian University closing its doors, though the seminary will find a new life as part of Ozark Christian College.

I recall my days at Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly during the mid-1990s. It was there that I became a part of the independent Christian Churches, dedicating myself to preaching for several country congregations. Those were transformative years, shaping much of my understanding and approach to ministry.

Subsequently, my journey took me to Harding University, where I continued to serve as a preacher. My visits to institutions like Cincinnati Bible College & Seminary (later renamed Cincinnati Christian University) and Lincoln Christian, as well as Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, although worthwhile, did not lead to me attending seminary. Today, of those institutions, only Covenant Theological Seminary stands in its original form.

It's poignant to realize that two of the seminaries I considered for my theological journey are no longer operational in their original capacities. In my estimation, their ambition to attain university status might have been their downfall. The current educational market isn’t as conducive to such transformations. With declining enrollments and mounting costs, many educational institutions are finding it tough to keep their doors open. Staying true to their core strength – offering conservative ministry training – might have been a better strategy.

Ozark Christian College, however, appears to have a silver lining amidst these upheavals. With potentially less competition and the addition of a seminary, their future seems brighter.

While I harbor reservations about Bible colleges – given their potentially limited academic scope – my own academic journey was diversified. Moberly Area Community College granted me a holistic liberal arts education, and Harding University capped off my ministry preparation. My graduate pursuits took me to Catholic universities and Abilene Christian University’s Graduate School of Theology.

My children's educational trajectories have been varied. My daughter graduated from a county college in New Jersey, while my son is on a similar path, with ambitions to transition to a broader academic institution like Rutgers.

It's evident that timing and institutional legacy are pivotal to the success of educational entities. Institutions like ACU and Harding, firmly established decades ago, benefit from their longstanding reputations. Others, like Cincinnati and Lincoln, which endeavored to morph into universities, perhaps misjudged the challenges ahead. Whispers of financial mismanagement at Cincinnati further muddle the tale.

In sum, Christian education's landscape is in flux, with certain institutions flourishing while others grapple with adversity. It underscores academia's dynamic nature and emphasizes adaptability, vision, and robust leadership's paramount importance. Regardless of the trajectory, the indelible impact these institutions have had on countless students, myself included, remains profound.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

A Parish Has Left the United Methodist Church for the Best Reason

In our deeply polarized, divided times I did not expect to encounter the story I'm about to share with you. It's from Colton, New York, where yet another United Methodist parish has opted to split from the denomination. As I've shared here previously(see: The United Methodist Church Split), the United Methodist Church is undergoing a split over full inclusion of LGBTQ+ folks in the life of the church, as well as along related theological lines (progressive vs evangelical). Many such churches are opting to join the new Global Methodist Church, others are joining existing Wesleyan denominations that are more evangelical, and still others are remaining independent or forming their own networks. The Colton church has decided to go independent, but not so they can take one side or the other. The parish was split down the middle on the theological issues, so rather than divide the congregation, their vote to go independent means they will all stay together. They will not be part of the UMC, but also not part of any other group. What I'm saying is that staying together was more important to the members than their other concerns.

Frankly, this is remarkable to me. 

“We made a decision to not go traditionalist or progressive, so we became an independent church. We’re not affiliated with any denomination at this point because our congregation was split right down the middle.” — Bruce Winters, treasurer of Colton Community Church.

As you hopefully caught just there, the former UMC parish is now a nondenominational community church. To keep their property and go independent, they paid $20,000 to the denomination. Not a bad deal overall, though I imagine they have a sense of ownership already that made the price tag smart a bit. In any case, they are now free to do their own thing, together. 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Understanding Romans 1:26-32 in Historical and Cultural Context

"For this reason, God gave them up to vile passions. For their women changed the natural function into that which is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural function of the woman, burned in their lust toward one another, men doing what is inappropriate with men, and receiving in themselves the due penalty of their error. Even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, malice; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil habits, secret slanderers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also approve of those who practice them." (Romans 1:26-32 World English Bible)


The passage Romans 1:26-32 from the Bible has been a topic of discussion and interpretation for centuries. In this blog post, we will delve into the historical and cultural context surrounding this passage to gain a better understanding of its meaning. Scholars generally attribute the authorship of the Letter to the Romans to the apostle Paul and suggest that it was composed around the years 56-57 CE. To grasp the significance of Paul's words, it is crucial to explore the reigns of the Emperors Claudius and Nero, as well as the societal norms and beliefs of ancient Rome during that time. Additionally, we will examine concepts such as honor and glory in Roman society, the meaning of "nature" (φύσις), and the cultural understanding of sexual orientation in the ancient world.

Historical Context 

The historical context of Romans 1:26-32 centers around the reigns of the Emperors Claudius and Nero. Claudius' wife, Messalina, was known for her sexual promiscuity, which included engaging in competitions with prostitutes to see who could sleep with the most men. Claudius divorced her and married his niece Julia Agrippina. Nero, who succeeded Claudius, initially enjoyed a positive reputation but later proved to be a tyrannical ruler. His administration was characterized by his own vices, including indulging in sexual activities and engaging in brawls.

Cultural Norms and Beliefs 

In ancient Rome, the pursuit of honor and glory was highly esteemed. The Romans believed that their superior virtues had led to the exaltation of the empire by the gods. This cultural emphasis on honor and glory would have influenced how Paul's words in Romans 1:18-32 were received by the Jewish and Christian audiences. The notion of what was considered "natural" was also shaped by Roman cultural norms. The understanding of "nature" (φύσις) in Roman society varied, encompassing observable patterns, reconstructed dictates, and inherent qualities of beings.

Understanding "Nature" in Paul's Letter 

The meaning of "nature" in Romans 1:26-27 is complex. Modern scholars offer different interpretations, but it is essential to consider the cultural context of the term. Brendan Byrne suggests that "nature" reflects the Stoic sense of the established order of things, while also incorporating a theological understanding of God's design in creation. Craig Williams highlights the various meanings of "natura" or "φύσις" in the Latin textual tradition, showing that it can refer to observable patterns, reconstructed ideals, or specific qualities of beings. The concept of sexual orientation, as understood today, did not exist in ancient times. Therefore, interpreting Paul's words through a modern lens of sexual orientation may not fully capture the ancient understanding of sexuality.

Phallocentric Dominance and Power 

To comprehend the cultural perspective on sex in the Greco-Roman world, it is crucial to consider phallocentric dominance and the rigid social hierarchy. In this context, power and social class played a significant role in determining what was considered "natural." Penetration with the phallus was seen as a symbol of cultural privilege and power, reinforcing male superiority over women and individuals of lower social status. Ancient Roman men were expected to take the penetrative role in sexual acts to maintain their masculinity and social standing.


By examining the historical and cultural context surrounding Romans 1:26-32, we gain valuable insights into the meaning and significance of the passage. The reigns of Claudius and Nero provide a backdrop of moral decadence and societal upheaval during which Paul's letter was written. The emphasis on honor and glory in Roman society helps us understand how Paul's words would have resonated with his Jewish and Christian audiences, challenging prevailing cultural norms and calling for a higher moral standard.

The concept of "nature" (φύσις) in Paul's letter is multifaceted and should be understood in light of the Stoic understanding of the established order of things, as well as the theological perspective of God's design in creation. Recognizing the absence of the modern concept of sexual orientation in ancient times, we must approach Paul's words with caution, avoiding an anachronistic interpretation that may misrepresent the ancient understanding of sexuality.

Moreover, the acknowledgment of phallocentric dominance and the rigid social hierarchy prevalent in the Greco-Roman world highlights the power dynamics and cultural norms that shaped perceptions of what was considered "natural" in sexual relationships. This context reveals the underlying structures of privilege and male superiority that Paul was addressing and challenging in his letter.

Overall, understanding Romans 1:26-32 in its historical and cultural context deepens our comprehension of Paul's message and invites us to engage with its timeless ethical implications. It reminds us of the importance of interpreting ancient texts with sensitivity and awareness of the cultural complexities of their time.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

A Very Brief History of the American Unitarian Association

The American Unitarian Association (AUA) was founded in 1825, as a response to the growing liberalization of religious thought in America. The organization grew out of a group of ministers who rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, the idea that God exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These ministers believed in the unity of God, and that Jesus was a moral teacher, rather than the divine Son of God.

The AUA was founded at a time of great religious upheaval in America. The Second Great Awakening, a religious revival movement, was sweeping the country, and many people were questioning traditional religious beliefs. The AUA was part of a larger movement of religious reform that sought to bring Christianity in line with reason and science.

One of the earliest leaders of the AUA was William Ellery Channing, a Unitarian minister from Boston. Channing was a powerful speaker and writer, and his sermons and essays helped to define Unitarianism as a distinct religious tradition. Channing rejected the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, the idea that God had already determined who would be saved and who would be damned. He also rejected the idea of original sin, the belief that humans are inherently sinful and need to be saved by God's grace.

Channing believed that humans have the capacity for moral improvement, and that religion should help them to develop their moral and intellectual faculties. He believed that religion should be rational and based on evidence, rather than blind faith. Channing's ideas were influential in shaping the Unitarian movement, and many Unitarian churches today still hold to his vision of a rational, ethical religion.

In the years following its founding, the AUA grew rapidly. By the 1850s, there were hundreds of Unitarian churches across the United States, and the organization had become a major force in American religious life. The AUA was also involved in many social reform movements of the time, including the abolition of slavery and women's rights.

One of the most famous Unitarians of the 19th century was Ralph Waldo Emerson, a philosopher and writer who helped to popularize Unitarian ideas in America. Emerson rejected traditional religious doctrines and instead emphasized the importance of individual experience and intuition. He believed that humans have a direct connection to God through their own spiritual insights, and that religious authority should come from within, rather than from external sources.

Emerson's ideas were controversial in his time, but they were highly influential in shaping American intellectual culture. Many of his ideas, including the importance of self-reliance and the rejection of authority, are still influential today.

The AUA continued to play an important role in American religious life throughout the 20th century. In the early 20th century, the organization became more closely aligned with the social gospel movement, a movement that sought to use religious principles to address social and economic problems. Many Unitarian ministers were involved in social reform movements of the time, including the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement.

In the mid-20th century, the AUA became more involved in promoting humanism, a secular philosophy that emphasizes human reason and ethics. Many Unitarians came to reject traditional religious beliefs altogether, and instead embraced a more secular and rational approach to life. The AUA officially adopted a humanist manifesto in 1933, which affirmed the importance of reason, science, and ethics in human life.

Despite its growing emphasis on humanism, the AUA remained committed to social justice and reform throughout the 20th century. The organization was active in promoting civil rights and fighting discrimination, and many Unitarian ministers were involved in the feminist movement and the environmental movement.

In the late 20th century, the AUA consolidated with the Universalist Church of America to form the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Repenting of Missions and Right Wing Ideology

"Every way of a man is right in his own eyes..." - Proverbs 21:2a NKJV

It made perfect sense to me. On a Sunday night in June 1997 I attended my second worship service with a church in Brazil. I had only been in the country a little over a week, and already I was sensing something stirring within me about the place and the people. During communion that evening (the main Sunday service was held at night) a song was sung about Brazil. I couldn't understand the words, but I could feel them. I knew intuitively (and later confirmed once I learned Portuguese) that they were about the poverty and injustice in Brazil, and that the nation needed to look to God. In that moment my mind raced and I had what felt like a revelation that this was to be my life's work. I was to be a missionary in Brazil. Returning to the US and finding my way into a ministry program at Harding University, only to discover that the very next year we'd be doing a mandatory international campaign in Brazil, was only further confirmation for me. This was indeed my calling.

In Brazil after graduation and ordination, I worked to help start a church. My vision had been to do some sort of outreach to the poor. Some sort of justice work would have been appropriate, but that was lost in my time at the university, where I learned all about evangelism and nothing about addressing the world's real problems. The solution to everything was supposed to be the Gospel, preached and believed.

Things went sideways eventually, but that's a story for another day, one I've likely told too often anyway. For now, suffice it to say that I spent a brief time in Brazil helping to start a church, and on my return to the United States was able to shift much of my financial support to a Brazilian evangelist who was spearheading the work in Uberlandia. 

"You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves." - Matthew 23:15b NABRE

Looking back, I'm glad I didn't spend more time in Brazil than I did. I had made myself into a fundamentalist who was proficient at straining out gnats, but prone to swallowing camels. My temperament was all wrong, and I had many unresolved issues from a broken relationship prior to my move to Brazil. Worse, I was preaching a message that promoted evangelicalism. We have seen in recent years the poison fruit that evangelicalism bears, with hatred against lgbtq folks, white supremacy, and a slavish devotion to right wing politics. It was evangelicalism's influence that led to Trump's disastrous time in office, and in Brazil the same occurred with the election of Jair Bolsonaro.

"... person will reap only what he sows." Galatians 6:7b NABRE

Again, my intentions were only ever good. I wanted to help people, and I had come to feel convinced that this was best accomplished by bringing them to faith in Christ, and in line with the beliefs I had come to accept. In fact, to some extent, it worked. I saw hurting families healed by their connection to the faith and its community, and experienced the joy of people finding new or renewed purpose in life. Often finding faith would lead people and families to make real material improvements in their lives, such as men giving up drinking and carousing, and parents giving more thought and attention to child rearing. Yet, these results could have been achieved, certainly, without the inclusion of bigotry and division. Sowing those seeds have led to terrible results on a large scale that inflicts real harm on people, particularly those in marginalized groups. 

"...to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." - 2 Timothy 4:3 NIV

People seek out preachers who will say what they want to hear. In the United States we find social conservatives who lack strong connections to the church identifying with evangelicalism or simply "Christianity." It's a cultural marker and a way to distinguish who is in an out. Of course, Christians who vote for Democrats aren't really Christians, in their estimation. So in the US as well as in Brazil and elsewhere, the evangelical pastors are often more than happy to deliver sermons that people want to hear. They tell them lies about the US having been founded as a Christian nation, and perpetuate myths in order to secure their positions and power. Many such religious leaders likely believe the things they are saying, though in some cases I have to wonder if they aren't doing what I once did, engaging in self-deceit in order to mold oneself into what other people want. It is toxic, either way.

"Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that...they will come to their senses...." - 2 Timothy 2:25-26

I don't have illusions that by reentering ministry as a progressive I will be able to win masses of people away from the snare of deceit and bigotry that they find themselves in. That's far too grandiose. My hope instead is that by working in practical ways for the betterment of humankind (loving my neighbor), and by advocating for peace and justice, the needle can be moved at least a little for some. Most importantly, I want to ensure that the seed I sow is good, and that my ministry does no harm, and in some fashion helps. 

Friday, May 12, 2023

Extroverted? Here's How to Be More Quiet and Reflective

Note: The following was written by ChatGPT in response to an Instagram post.


As a society, we often value extroverted qualities such as assertiveness and sociability. However, introverted qualities such as introspection and thoughtfulness are equally important and can be cultivated by anyone, regardless of their natural tendencies. If you're someone who identifies as extroverted but wants to cultivate more quiet and reflective qualities, here are some tips to help you get started.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness involves being present in the moment and observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment. This practice can help you become more attuned to your inner world and cultivate a sense of calm and clarity. Try taking a few minutes each day to practice mindfulness meditation or simply pay attention to your breath as you go about your day.

Take breaks from stimulation

As an extroverted person, you may be accustomed to seeking out stimulation in the form of social interaction or other activities. However, taking breaks from stimulation can help you recharge and cultivate a more reflective mindset. Try spending some time alone each day, reading a book, or going for a walk in nature.

Journal or reflect

Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be a powerful way to become more introspective. Set aside some time each day to journal or reflect on your experiences. Ask yourself questions such as "What am I feeling right now?" or "What did I learn from this experience?"

Listen more than you talk

As an extroverted person, you may be used to dominating conversations or jumping in with your own opinions. However, listening more than you talk can help you become more reflective and attuned to others. Practice active listening by focusing on what the other person is saying, asking questions, and refraining from interrupting.

Practice empathy

Empathy involves putting yourself in someone else's shoes and understanding their feelings and perspectives. This practice can help you become more reflective and attuned to others. Try practicing empathy by actively listening to others, asking questions, and imagining how you would feel in their situation.

In conclusion, being extroverted doesn't mean you can't cultivate quiet and reflective qualities. By practicing mindfulness, taking breaks from stimulation, journaling or reflecting, listening more than you talk, and practicing empathy, you can become more introspective and attuned to your inner world and those around you. These skills can be valuable in many areas of life, from relationships to personal growth and development.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

An Introduction to Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit, New Jersey

In June 2005, less than two months after moving to New Jersey, I slipped into the service already in progress at the Unitarian Church in Summit, New Jersey. Taking it all in, seeing through an evangelical lens, what I saw was a standard mainline Protestant service without reference to the Bible or Jesus. I slipped out again as soon as the service ended, and didn't return again until late 2015, over 10 years later! Now, having been with the congregation (now named Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit) for several years, I have quite a different perspective.

As a member of the Beacon congregation since 2016, I am proud to belong to a community that values inclusivity and spiritual growth. Our mission is to minister to our members and friends, reach out to those in need, and work towards justice and transformation. With about 450 adult members and 150 children living in Summit and surrounding communities, our Beacon building combines a historic sanctuary with modern classrooms and meeting spaces. We are also in the midst of a building campaign.

At Beacon, we aspire towards a "Welcome Table" that offers diverse theologies, generations, orientations, cultures, classes, ethnicities, and races. We aim to satisfy the human yearning for beauty, connectedness, and awe, while also encouraging deep searching of life's mysteries. Our commitment to generosity, leadership, and justice helps us grow and create a welcoming space for all who seek spiritual fulfillment.

That first time I attended a service in 2005 I was looking for something. I was struggling in my evangelical faith and I felt life wasn't going my way in many areas. Beacon was there and ready for me, but I wasn't yet ready for Beacon. What changed in the interim between then and late 2015 was in my. Though my evangelical faith was briefly renewed, by the end of 2013 it evaporated in the light of reason. At that time I was living in Brazil, so it took another couple of years for me to be in a position to visit Beacon again. This time around my son, then in 8th grade, went with me. We both liked what we found there, and in a matter of weeks we became regulars.

Beacon's congregational covenant is grounded in love and antiracism, as we strive to build healthy and loving relationships with one another. We listen deeply, speak compassionately, and embrace our unique diversity while communicating honestly, even in times of conflict. We aim to make amends, forgive, and grow when we hurt one another. As members of the Unitarian Universalist Association, we uphold seven principles, including the inherent worth and dignity of every person, justice and compassion in human relations, and respect for the interdependent web of all existence. We have also adopted an eighth principle.

Overall, I feel fortunate to be a member of the Beacon congregation, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve on the board. I look forward to continuing to work towards our mission
of being a radically inclusive religious community that feeds the human spirit and heals the world.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

A New Home for Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit, New Jersey

If, in early 2013 someone had told me that in a few years I'd be a member of a Unitarian Universalist congregation, I probably would have taken offense. I was at that point still of an evangelical faith that was becoming more progressive, but was soon to wane entirely. In 2015 my son, who was then in 8th grade, and I found our way to Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit, NJ, and in doing so we found a community locally, nationally, and even internationally that we can call our own. This congregation is doing exciting things, and one of the biggest projects right now is a building campaign.

Beacon is a community of people who have come together to celebrate diversity, promote justice, and provide a safe space for spiritual growth. Our Mission is to be a radically inclusive religious community that feeds the human spirit and heals the world. The congregation based in Summit, New Jersey, has been growing steadily over the years, and in response, we have launched an ambitious building campaign to expand our facilities and better serve our members.

The building campaign, which was launched in 2019, has been a long time in the making. Our congregation has been in Summit since 1908, and over the years, our membership has grown to the point where we have outgrown our current facilities. In addition to the growing membership, we have also been expanding our programs and outreach efforts, which has put further strain on our facilities.

Another key consideration in building this new structure is the physical appearance of our current home. While we love our facility at 4 Waldron Avenue in Summit, it is a traditional-looking white sanctuary. Looking at it without knowing about the community meeting there one would easily assume it's a traditional mainline Protestant church, not a welcoming place for atheists, Christians, people of Jewish identification, and others. People of all sexual orientations and genders have a place with us. We welcome all who welcome all. 

The new building will be a two-story, 10,000 square foot structure that will house a new sanctuary, religious education classrooms, meeting spaces, and administrative offices. The design of the new building is meant to be modern and welcoming, with large windows that let in plenty of natural light and an open floor plan that encourages community interaction.

One of our goals in the building campaign is to create a space that is accessible and welcoming to all. The new building will be fully ADA compliant, with features like ramps and elevators that make it easy for people with disabilities to navigate the space. The building will also be designed to be environmentally sustainable, with features like solar panels and energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.

The building campaign is being funded through a combination of donations from our congregation's members and friends, as well as the likely sale of our current building and the adjoining property which we own. We have already raised a significant amount of money, but we still have a ways to go before we reach our fundraising goal.

We see the new building as a way to not only meet the needs of our current membership but also to expand our reach and impact in the wider community. We hope that the new building will be a place where people of all backgrounds can come together to learn, grow, and make a positive difference in the world.

The building campaign of Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit, NJ is a testament to the power of community and the importance of creating spaces that reflect our values and aspirations. By expanding our facilities, we, the congregation, are not only meeting the needs of our growing membership but also creating a space that is accessible, sustainable, and welcoming to all. As we continue to work towards our fundraising goal, we remain committed to our vision of building a better world.

Friday, May 5, 2023

Addressing Food Deserts: The Promise of Nonprofit Grocery Stores

Nonprofit grocery stores are emerging as a promising solution to address food deserts in the United States. According to a recent article by Axios, these stores operate on a nonprofit model, aiming to provide fresh and affordable food options to low-income communities that lack access to healthy food. In this essay, we will discuss the concept of nonprofit grocery stores, their benefits, and their potential to alleviate food insecurity in America.

Before proceeding, it's essential to understand what nonprofit grocery stores are and how they operate. These stores are community-based and not-for-profit, meaning they reinvest their revenue back into the store's operations rather than distributing it as profit to shareholders. As a result, they can offer fresh produce and groceries at lower prices than traditional supermarkets, making them more accessible to low-income communities.

Nonprofit grocery stores can play a significant role in addressing food deserts, areas where residents lack access to affordable and nutritious food options. In the United States, approximately 19 million people live in food deserts, which are often located in low-income urban and rural areas. Without access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods, residents of these communities are more likely to experience diet-related health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

By providing fresh and affordable food options, nonprofit grocery stores can improve the health outcomes of residents in food deserts. These stores can also support local agriculture and reduce the carbon footprint associated with transporting food over long distances. Furthermore, nonprofit grocery stores can help create jobs and build community wealth by employing local residents and sourcing goods from local farmers and producers.

Nonprofit grocery stores are not a new concept. The first food cooperative, Park Slope Food Coop, was established in Brooklyn in 1973. However, interest in these stores has grown in recent years due to the increasing awareness of food deserts and the benefits of community-based solutions. For example, the Community Grocery Co-op in Baltimore, Maryland, opened in 2019 and is one of the latest nonprofit grocery stores to gain attention for its unique model. This store is owned by its members, who each pay a one-time fee to join and receive discounts on products.

Despite the benefits of nonprofit grocery stores, challenges remain in establishing and sustaining them. One significant challenge is securing funding to open and operate these stores. Without access to traditional funding sources, such as loans and grants, nonprofit grocery stores rely on community support and fundraising efforts to cover their costs. Additionally, these stores must navigate complex regulations and competition from larger grocery chains.

Nonprofit grocery stores offer a promising solution to address food deserts in the United States. By providing fresh and affordable food options, these stores can improve the health outcomes of low-income communities while supporting local agriculture and building community wealth. While challenges exist in establishing and sustaining nonprofit grocery stores, their potential benefits make them worth pursuing as a way to alleviate food insecurity in America.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Reflections on the History of Missions in Haiti

Haiti is a nation that has experienced more than its fair share of hardship and tragedy. From devastating natural disasters to political turmoil, the country has struggled to find stability and prosperity. But what many people don't know is that Haiti's history with missions and evangelism has been a contributing factor to its struggles.

In an article for Christianity Today, historian Daniel H. Bays examines the untold history of missions in Haiti and the responsibility that evangelicals have to address the harm that has been done.

Bays begins by acknowledging the many positive contributions that missionaries have made in Haiti, including the establishment of schools, hospitals, and churches. However, he also highlights the darker side of mission work in the country, particularly in the 19th century.

During this time, American missionaries played a significant role in Haitian politics and society. They worked to undermine the Haitian government and influence the country's leadership to align with American interests. This often meant supporting authoritarian regimes and perpetuating racial and economic inequality.

In addition to their political influence, missionaries also had a significant impact on Haitian culture and religion. Many Haitians were forced to abandon their traditional practices and adopt Christianity, often through coercion or manipulation. This had a lasting effect on the country's cultural identity and contributed to a sense of inferiority among Haitians.

Bays argues that evangelicals have a responsibility to acknowledge and address the harm that has been done in Haiti. This includes not only apologizing for past wrongs but also actively working to promote justice and equality in the country. He suggests that evangelicals can do this by supporting Haitian-led initiatives and organizations, advocating for policies that address poverty and inequality, and promoting a more humble and collaborative approach to missions work.

From my perspective as a Humanist and Unitarian Universalist, I believe that it is important to acknowledge the harm that has been done and work towards a more just and equitable future. This means listening to and centering the voices of Haitians themselves, supporting initiatives and organizations led by Haitians, and advocating for policies that address poverty and inequality.

It is also important to approach mission work with humility and a willingness to learn from the communities we are seeking to serve. This means recognizing the limits of our own knowledge and expertise and collaborating with local leaders and organizations to identify and address the most pressing needs.

The problem with this for evangelicals is, of course, that they believe they have certain right answers that the general Haitian public lacks. What makes for human flourishing is not always going to be conversion to faith in Jesus Christ, though for some people that is a step they personally find valuable. There's always an underlying bait-and-switch with evangelical ministries, as they hope that through their service people will be converted to their religion. An evangelical missionary would feel like a failure if she managed to build a school and educate children, but change the religious beliefs of no one. Of course, that's not how mainline Protestants feel about it, though their missionary outreach is admittedly limited these days in comparison to that of evangelicalism as a whole.  

To me, the goal of mission work should be to empower and support communities in their own efforts towards flourishing and self-determination. I think that all people have the capacity to create meaning and purpose in their lives, and it is our responsibility to support them in this endeavor. That includes Haitians. 

Monday, May 1, 2023

Unitarian Universalist Theology: Hopeful and Inclusive

Unitarian Universalism is a faith tradition that is unique in its inclusivity and diversity. It embraces people of all backgrounds, religions, and beliefs, and seeks to provide a welcoming and supportive community for all. However, despite its commitment to diversity, there has been a lack of investment in theological education and scholarship within the tradition. This has led to a lack of clarity about what Unitarian Universalist theology is, and has also limited the voices that have been able to participate in theological work.

But this is changing. The Commission on Institutional Change report has brought attention to the need for more investment in theological education and scholarship, particularly from voices that have long been ignored and suppressed. This is an opportunity for the faith to deepen its understanding of its own theology, and to enrich its community with new ideas and perspectives.

At the heart of Unitarian Universalist theology is a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is a faith that recognizes the value and worth of every individual, and seeks to create a world that is just and equitable for all. This commitment to social justice is grounded in a humanistic approach to religion and spirituality, which seeks to find meaning and purpose in this life rather than in an afterlife.

Unitarian Universalist theology is not defined by a specific set of beliefs or dogmas, but by a shared set of values and principles. These principles include a commitment to the inherent worth and dignity of every person, a commitment to justice, equity, and compassion in human relations, and a respect for the interdependent web of all existence. These principles provide a container within which people of all beliefs and backgrounds can find a home.

Unitarian Universalist theology is hopeful because it recognizes that people have the capacity to create a better world. It is not a faith that sees human beings as inherently sinful or flawed, but rather as capable of growth and transformation. It is a faith that believes in the power of collective action to bring about change, and that sees social justice as an essential part of its mission.

The lack of a specific dogma or creed in Unitarian Universalist theology can sometimes lead to the misconception that anything goes, and that people can believe whatever they want. But this is not the case. While Unitarian Universalism is a faith that welcomes people of all beliefs, there are still limits to what is acceptable within the faith. A commitment to justice, equity, and inclusion is essential, and beliefs that are contrary to these values are not compatible with Unitarian Universalism.

In conclusion, Unitarian Universalist theology is a hopeful and inclusive faith that recognizes the value and worth of every individual, and seeks to create a just and equitable world for all. While there is still much work to be done in developing a clearer understanding of the faith's theology, the commitment to diversity and inclusivity is a strong foundation on which to build. By investing in theological education and scholarship, and by listening to the voices that have been ignored and suppressed, Unitarian Universalism can continue to grow and evolve as a faith that offers hope and support to all who seek it.

Friday, April 28, 2023

The Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the world of higher education. In the United States, more than three dozen colleges and universities have closed or merged since the start of the pandemic, according to a new study from Higher Ed Dive. Among them are eighteen Christian institutions, including Methodist, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Church of Christ, and Independent Christian Church schools.

For many of these institutions, COVID-19 was the last in a series of devastating blows. They were already struggling with declining enrollment, demographic shifts, internal conflict, and unrelenting financial challenges. Some would likely have closed even without the pandemic, but for others, the crisis was the final straw that pushed them over the edge.

Most of the schools that have closed in recent years were small, some very small. Many people on those campuses appreciated the size and intimacy it created for their communities, but it also made them vulnerable to any enrollment decline. For example, MacMurray College, a Methodist-affiliated school in Illinois, had just 552 students in its final year of operation. Its enrollment numbers had dropped from around 630 in the 2010s, putting the school's finances in a perilous position.

"You have to have a clear long-term strategy," said David Fitz, a former MacMurray political science professor who took a position in the administration in the early 2000s. "I'm not sure the college ever did that well. We moved from crisis to crisis and managed well, until we couldn't and then it had to close."

Other schools, such as Finlandia University in Michigan and Presentation College in South Dakota, had made painful efforts to try to turn things around, such as sharply discounting tuition to increase enrollment and cutting spending. For a few hopeful moments, things seemed to be looking up. However, the COVID-19 crisis was too much, and these schools ultimately had to close their doors.

For some institutions, though, COVID-19 seemed like it could be a blessing in disguise, an odd but very welcome answer to prayer. Across the country, higher education institutions received about $40 billion from the federal government. Many also received additional money from state and local governments.

For example, Concordia College Alabama, a historically black Lutheran school, was on the brink of closure before the pandemic hit. The school's enrollment had dropped from a high of 759 in 2007 to just 387 in 2019. However, the college was able to receive more than $4 million in federal funds through the CARES Act, allowing it to stay afloat for a little longer. The college was also able to receive a $2.4 million loan from the United Negro College Fund.

Other schools, such as Louisiana College and Huntington University, were able to use federal funds to make significant investments in technology and online learning, allowing them to continue educating their students even during the pandemic.

However, not all institutions were able to benefit from the influx of government funds. Many smaller colleges and universities did not receive enough aid to offset the financial damage caused by the pandemic. This was especially true for schools that were already in a precarious financial position before the crisis.

The closure of these institutions has had a profound impact on their students and communities. For many students, these schools represented a sense of home and belonging that they may struggle to find elsewhere. In some cases, students had to transfer to other schools or put their education on hold entirely.

The closure of Christian institutions is especially significant, as these schools have played a vital role in shaping the faith and values of countless students over the years. Many of these schools had a mission of integrating faith and learning, helping students to develop a deeper understanding of their relationship with God and their role in the world.

The closure of these schools is a loss that will be felt for years to come. It is not just the loss of physical buildings or academic programs, but the loss of a community and a shared sense of purpose. It is a loss of the unique perspective and values that these schools brought to higher education.

The pandemic has forced higher education institutions to confront long-standing challenges and adapt to new realities. Some have been able to weather the storm and emerge stronger, while others have had to close their doors. The closure of these institutions serves as a reminder of the importance of thoughtful planning and strategic decision-making in higher education.

Moving forward, higher education institutions must continue to adapt and innovate to meet the changing needs of students and society. This includes investing in technology and online learning, expanding access and affordability, and prioritizing student success and well-being.

In the face of these challenges, Christian higher education institutions have an opportunity to lean into their unique mission and values. They can continue to provide a holistic education that integrates faith and learning, preparing students to make a positive impact in their communities and the world.

Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted both the resilience and vulnerability of higher education institutions. It has shown the importance of careful planning, innovative thinking, and a commitment to the well-being of students and communities. As the world continues to change, higher education must continue to adapt and evolve to meet the needs of future generations of students.

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Thursday, April 27, 2023

The Importance of Universities for Local Communities and Student Development

Jefferson Street, Mount Pleasant, Iowa
The recent closure of Iowa Wesleyan University, a small liberal arts college in Mt. Pleasant after 181 years, has caused significant concern for the local community. This closure is a reminder that universities play a vital role in the development of their local communities, as well as the personal and professional development of their students.

The closure of the university has left many residents worried about the future of the town. Local residents have said that the university was a significant contributor to the character of the town's citizens. The university was not just an institution for higher learning but an integral part of the local community. The closure of the university has left a void that will not be easily filled.

Furthermore, the closure of Iowa Wesleyan University will also have a significant impact on the local economy. The university was a major employer in the town, and its closure will result in the loss of over 100 full-time jobs. It is also anticipated that there will be a significant impact on enrollment as the campus's 105 full-time workers and their families decide on the next steps.

In addition to the economic impact, the closure of the university will also have a profound effect on the education system in the town. The local school district has made use of the campus and its resources, and high school students have been able to take college credit classes there. The district has also hired many graduates of the education program to teach. With the university closing, the school district will have to find alternative resources and may struggle to find qualified teachers in the future.

The closure of Iowa Wesleyan University also highlights the importance of universities in the personal and professional development of students. The university was a home away from home for many students, and it provided an opportunity for personal and professional growth. The university offered a wide range of academic programs and extracurricular activities that allowed students to explore their interests and passions. The closure of the university will result in the loss of these opportunities for future students.

In conclusion, the closure of Iowa Wesleyan University highlights the vital role that universities play in the development of their local communities, as well as the personal and professional development of their students. The university was not just an institution for higher learning, but an integral part of the local community, a major employer, and a home away from home for many students. Its closure will have a significant impact on the town, the local economy, and the education system. It is essential that we recognize the value of universities in our communities and ensure that they continue to thrive.

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Thursday, April 13, 2023

Alternatives to Roman Catholicism for Hispanics in the United States

The religious landscape among U.S. Latinos is changing, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. While Catholicism remains the largest religious group among Latinos in the United States, the number of U.S. Latinos who identify as Catholic continues to decline steadily. In fact, the percentage of U.S. Latinos who identify as Catholic has dropped from 57% in 2010 to 47% in 2021, while the percentage of those who do not have a faith affiliation has risen from 10% to 30% during the same time period.

The Pew report also found that U.S. births, rather than new immigration, have driven U.S. Hispanic population growth since the 2000s. Additionally, the gap between the percentage raised Catholic and the percentage who are currently Catholic grew among U.S. Latinos older than 50.

Interestingly, the report suggests that U.S. Protestant Latinos are more likely than U.S. Catholic Latinos to say religion is very important in their lives, to attend services at least once a week, and to pray daily. This is despite the fact that speaking in tongues is an important part of charismatic Christianity and Pentecostal Christianity, which have become popular in Latin America. Among Mass-attending U.S. Catholic Latinos, 40% say their services at least sometimes include speaking in tongues, compared to 24% of all U.S. Catholics who said the same in a previous Pew survey.

With the decline of Catholicism among U.S. Latinos, many are seeking alternatives. The Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have Hispanic ministries, with ELCA's Hispanic outreach in Wisconsin having the Parroquia Santa Maria, an ELCA parish with Roman Catholic imagery, and the San José parish, which is a dual-affiliated congregation with both ELCA and PCUSA, incorporating strongly Roman Catholic imagery.

The Episcopal Church (TEC) has a 30-page strategic plan for Hispanic outreach, emphasizing understanding the cultural shifts that occur in immigrant communities and parishes as later generations become more Americanized. St. Peter's Church, a Lutheran church, uses Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Catholic icon, on its vestments. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) has embraced aspects of Hispanic religious traditions, and Lutherans tend to practice a worship style that is more historically liturgical, resembling that of the Anglican or Roman Catholic communions.

For those seeking a contemporary alternative to Roman Catholicism, the American National Catholic Church (ANCC) is an independent Catholic denomination that allows more flexibility. With priests that can marry and a liturgy that follows the 2nd edition of the Roman Missal, ANCC has similarities to Roman Catholicism, but allows for more freedom, including women priests and LGBTQ couples. ANCC may be a good alternative for Hispanic Americans who have left the Roman Catholic Church due to the pedophile priests and the Church's stance against women's autonomy in reproductive health and the LGBTQ community.

Overall, the Pew report underscores the importance of understanding the complexities of religious identity among U.S. Latinos and the ways in which this identity is changing over time. As Catholicism continues to decline among U.S. Latinos, alternative options such as Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, and ANCC may become more attractive. It will be interesting to see how this trend evolves in the coming years and what impact it will have on the religious landscape of the United States.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Process Theology and Pantheism

The relationship between process theology and pantheism is a complex and contentious issue that has been debated by theologians and philosophers for decades. While some argue that process theology is a way of explaining pantheism in theological terms, others claim that there are significant differences between the two. However, what is clear is that both theories are highly speculative and unanchored from scriptural and observational evidence.

At its core, pantheism is the belief that God is the universe and everything in it. This means that everything in the natural world is considered to be divine and sacred, and that there is no distinction between the divine and the material. In contrast, process theology is a modern theological perspective that emerged in the early 20th century, which emphasizes the dynamic and evolving nature of God and the universe. According to process theology, God is not a static, unchanging being, but rather a dynamic force that is constantly evolving in response to the changing world around us.

While there are certainly similarities between pantheism and process theology, there are also some significant differences. For example, process theology maintains that God is a distinct being that is separate from the universe, whereas pantheism holds that God is the universe itself. Additionally, process theology places a greater emphasis on the importance of human agency and free will, while pantheism tends to view individual actions and choices as less significant in the grand scheme of things.

Despite these differences, it is true that process theology can be seen as a way of explaining pantheism in practical theological terms. Both perspectives share a similar emphasis on the dynamic and evolving nature of the universe, and both reject the idea of a static, unchanging God. However, this does not mean that either theory is based on solid evidence or empirical observation.

In fact, both process theology and pantheism are highly speculative and unanchored from scriptural and observational evidence. While some proponents of process theology argue that it is based on a close reading of scripture, others see it as a modern innovation. To me, personally, it appears entirely speculative, built on less that air. Pantheism, likewise, cannot be verified by testing of any means. As is the case with supernatural religion in general, both process theology and pantheism lack any verifiable relationship to observable reality.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Genesis According to Science and ChatGPT

 ChatGPT provided me with the following two paragraphs from two separate requests I made. One was for a scientific version of the creation story, in biblical format, and the other was the same but for the origins of human life. It actually isn't too bad. Go forth and spread the word!

Scientific Genesis Chapter 1

  1. In the beginning, the universe underwent a rapid expansion event known as the Big Bang, which led to the formation of the universe, including the creation of the earth
  2. The early earth was a molten ball of rock, which gradually cooled and solidified over time. The oceans formed from water vapor in the atmosphere, and the first life likely emerged in the oceans around 3.8 billion years ago.
  3. The early sun provided the energy needed to kickstart photosynthesis in early life forms, leading to the first appearance of light on earth.
  4. As the atmosphere changed, photosynthetic organisms produced oxygen, leading to the development of the ozone layer and protecting the earth from harmful UV radiation.
  5. The rotation of the earth and its position relative to the sun created the cycle of day and night.
  6. Over time, the earth's crust cooled and solidified, forming a solid layer, and the oceans began to form on the surface.
  7. The movement of tectonic plates and volcanic activity shaped the earth's surface, including the formation of mountains and continents.
  8. The atmosphere and the formation of the ozone layer created the conditions necessary for life to thrive on land, leading to the evolution of plants and animals.
  9. The movement of tectonic plates and changes in sea level continue to shape the earth's surface today.
  10. The evolution of plants and animals led to the development of complex ecosystems, including the appearance of humans.
  11. The emergence of photosynthetic plants led to the development of terrestrial vegetation, eventually leading to the appearance of grasses, herbs, and fruit trees.
  12. The evolution of plants led to the emergence of a variety of plant species, including those that produce seeds and fruit.
  13. The development of plant life on land continued, leading to the evolution of more complex ecosystems.
  14. The appearance of the sun, moon, and stars in the sky was a result of the formation of the solar system, including the earth.
  15. The rotation of the earth and the position of the sun created the cycle of day and night, and the movement of the earth around the sun led to the creation of the seasons.
  16. The sun is responsible for the light and heat that sustains life on earth.
  17. The sun, moon, and stars provide light and guidance for navigation and timekeeping
  18. The position of the sun and the rotation of the earth create the cycle of day and night, allowing for the regulation of sleep and activity.
  19. The emergence of marine life, including fish and whales, occurred over millions of years through a process of evolution.
  20. The oceans are home to a vast array of marine life, including fish, whales, and other creatures.
  21. The evolution of marine life, including fish and whales, occurred over millions of years through a process of evolution.
  22. The diversity of life in the oceans and on land continues to evolve and adapt to changing environmental conditions.
  23. The evolution of life on earth continues, leading to the development of new species and ecosystems.
  24. The evolution of land animals, including mammals, occurred over millions of years through a process of evolution.
  25. The diversity of life on land, was good. Over time, the diversity of life on land continued to increase as species evolved and adapted to their environments. These adaptations were driven by natural selection

Scientific Genesis Chapter 2

  1. In the beginning, there was only the earth, and it was barren and void of life. But then, over millions of years, a great transformation occurred. The earth brought forth living creatures, each according to its kind, and among them were the primates.
  2. And among the primates, a remarkable development took place. One group of primates, known as hominins, began to evolve in a unique way. Their brains grew larger, their hands became more dexterous, and their bodies became more upright, allowing them to walk on two legs.
  3. As they continued to evolve, the hominins spread across the earth, adapting to a wide variety of environments. Some of them, such as Homo habilis, learned to use tools, while others, such as Homo erectus, became skilled hunters.
  4. But the greatest transformation of all came with the emergence of Homo sapiens. These early humans possessed a remarkable capacity for language, art, and culture. They created tools and weapons of unprecedented sophistication, and they built communities that spanned the globe.
  5. As they continued to evolve, the early humans encountered many challenges. They faced harsh environments, dangerous predators, and competing groups of humans. But through their ingenuity, their cooperation, and their determination, they persisted and flourished.
  6. Today, the descendants of these early humans continue to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances. They explore the mysteries of the universe, they create new technologies, and they build societies that reflect their deepest values.
  7. So let us remember the long journey of human evolution, and let us continue to embrace the wonder and possibility of our existence. For in our quest for knowledge, for meaning, and for connection, we fulfill the potential that was placed within us at the dawn of time.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Further Thoughts on the Independent Sacramental Movement (And a Parish Directory)

In recent months, out of pure curiosity, I've been looking into the Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM). It's a topic I've already blogged about. Here I'd like to share my thoughts on two aspects of this movement that really stand out for me.

First, the Independent Sacramental Movement seems to be rife with imposter syndrome. Frequently on sites I see not only explanations of how, really, their sacraments are valid, but even entire pages documenting their lines of apostolic succession. I suppose that to some extent this is necessary to persuade Roman Catholics and others who might be on the fence about joining. Having been raised Roman Catholic I can say that I grew up knowing very well the boundaries of the church and less well the contents of the Bible. So it's not out of the question that the average lay Catholic would want some assurance that they were getting themselves into something 'valid.' 

At the same time, I've listened to enough ISM podcasts to know that their clergy do often feel as though they have to prove something. The sense I get is that they consciously or unconsciously uphold the Roman Catholic Church as a sort of standard by which they will be judged. I don't think they should do that.

ISM jurisdictions should be able to stand on their own merits. If they believe that their documented lines of succession are valid, they can certainly share them, but they should also avoid trying to justify them. If the belief is that once a bishop, always a bishop, then run with that. Set that as fundamental and only revisit it to restate it, not to justify it. 

Second, the ISM is extremely decentralized. There are multiple jurisdictions as well as countless one-off parishes making a go of it. there have been and continue to be attempts to pull some of them together, but the results are mixed. This could be seen as a real weakness, but then why don't we judge the Protestant denominations by the same metric? There are thousands of Protestant denominations and who knows how many independent congregations. There are even "undenominations" like the independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ that refuse to organize beyond Bible Colleges and Christian Service Camps. Some denominations are in cooperative arrangments and others are far from it. Such is organized religion in a secular democracy. Accountability is raised as a point of concern in this context, but again I'd have to point back at the Protestants and say that they have the same issues. This isn't unique to the ISM. 

One problem that does come from the decentralized state of the ISM is that it can be very hard for an adherent to find a new parish when they move. If, for instance, someone with an Ecumenical Catholic Communion (ECC) parish in Arkansas were to move to Connecticut (for some reason), they would find that there is no ECC parish for them. Fortunately, there is now a list of ISM parishes that is in development that could help them out, showing that there is in fact a parish of the American National Catholic Church in Connecticut. This would be compatible with their faith and practice just as well, I would think, as an ECC parish.

Independent Catholic Eucharistic Communities is a useful directory of ISM parishes around the world, including the United States. Keep in mind that, as I've already said, it's a work in progress.

My sense is that the ISM is maturing, to some degree. I'll be interested to see if that really is the case, and what comes of it in years ahead. 

Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Return of Manx Gaelic

That the Isle of Man had its own form of Gaelic was news to me, along with the fact that it very nearly died out. In fact, it seems it did cease to be spoken for a time, but now is making a comeback. It's quite a story, one that gives me hope for other endangered and even 'dead' languages around the world. While the value of a global language of trade and diplomacy is certainly hugely beneficial, language also encodes culture. Losing a language signifies a dramatic loss for a people group. 

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Monday, February 20, 2023

UU Lent 2023

Lent begins this week, and I intend to participate in UULent. On Instagram and Mastodon I'll post an image and perhaps a thought centered on a word of the day. This is a very Unitarian Universalist Lenten practice, one that I haven't engaged in for a year or more.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

On Faith and Knowledge

Knowledge is not faith, and faith is not knowledge. Knowledge can't bring you to faith, and faith should not serve as the basis of knowledge.

Many of the so-called "proofs" for the existence of God appear to hinge on a person already believing that such a God exists. Nowhere is this more apparent in my mind than with Thomas Aquinas, who frequently wrote, in varying words, that ‘everyone understands that this is God.’ He was living in a Christian culture where the presuppositions were on his side. No doubt most if not all of the people in his life agreed together on the general nature of a supreme being who created the universe, even if they may have differed on some particulars. He might have been shocked, as I was, when I started meeting atheists who had been atheists since childhood, having always thought the stories about God to be silly or at least improbable. It could also have troubled him to have encountered people from cultures where the nature of the divine was either not considered of great import, or not understood as a personal deity to be known. A lot of assumptions go into the reasonings about proving God’s existence.

Anselm of Canterbury famously describe God as "that than which a greater cannot be thought." In recent years I've learned that he wrote his ontological argument in a work of meditation, not of logical reasoning. In other words, no ‘argument’ was intended at all, and it appears he was self-aware in writing from his perspective as a believer in God. Already believing, he found this way of thinking to be faith-affirming. That being the case, it seems uncharitable to take him to task for such a weak argument.

Someone could assert that an Invisible Pink Unicorn is the creator of all things, having swept the cosmos into being with a tilt of her glitter-laced horn. How can she be both invisible and pink? Why, that’s a divine mystery to be contemplated. After all, she is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. Maybe that’s quibbling over details though. Assuming that there is ‘that than which nothing greater can be conceived’ is a different question from the nature of that being, whether an Invisible Pink Unicorn, a Trinity, or something else.

It seems to me that such reasons ‘proofs’ for the existence of God can only ever serve as encouragement to those who have already taken a leap of faith, or are on the verge of doing so. They cannot possible provide the conclusive evidence that would be required to become considered knowledge. In the end, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). If it were knowledge, it would not be faith. And if faith is not required, then why does the New Testament repeatedly call for it?

To be clear, faith is not a moral virtue. When believing in something without or against evidence is held up as a moral triumph, a door is opened to embracing virtually anything that someone thinks 'makes sense' to them. This is, in my opinion, a large part of what is sickening and debilitating the United States, and those parts of the world where we still hold cultural influence. What we need is a revival of reason, and renewal of virtue ethics at the center of our society. This is not to say that faith is evil, by any means. It sustains the lives of many through dark times. What I am arguing is that when it comes to making clear-eyed decisions that impact other people, knowledge is of far greater value than faith, on a par I would say with empathy. These two together can change the world.