Intro: This is my first blog entry, and it seems like I should introduce myself since you are willing to share your valuable time with me and the blog. I hail from Michigan, the Great Lakes State (unsalted and shark free), and Michigan is preferred (touched) by 4 out of 5 Great Lakes. I was also made in Detroit and am a “GM Brat.” That means my life is inexorably tied to the auto industry, for good and bad. I love Michigan and U-Michigan and extend a respectful Big Ten exception to Michigan State. I have been partnered with Linda for 32 years as of September 5, 2019, and legally married for 5 years. We met at Albion College, and have been together ever since.
Our life together has been such a blessing. But, we know what it is like to be treated as second class citizens, who paid taxes and could not marry, could not provide health coverage for each other, could not automatically inherit without a will, and could not make critical medical decisions without “next of kin” status without a medical power of attorney in place. And, despite the Obergefell v. Hodges SCOTUS opinion granting the right to marry for lesbian and gay people, once again our rights are threatened in the workplace.
I witnessed my mother slowly agonize and pass on from Parkinson’s Disease and realized first-hand about how vulnerable elders can be without loving, watchful eyes—in our case, those of my brother, Linda and me. Many people in this society are vulnerable and marginalized, especially people of color and the poor. This blog will emphasize the need for sweeping common sense immigration reform and will also tackle the pressing issues of our time from a progressive Christian perspective, especially where people are suffering from broken systems. I will flesh out this idea of the “progressive Christian perspective in the next blog. . . so stay tuned.
Four-leggers are important to Linda and me, but we are currently cat-less. Our dog, Hermione, is an English Pointer and is the happiest dog we have ever seen. And while she is an elder dog, boy, can she run.
So, I’ve been around a while, having spent most of my life in the Detroit area. Motown, once “Notown” in the eyes of many, is on the rise. It is exciting to watch the renaissance, but I am concerned about the poor being displaced by gentrification. Once known as the “Paris of the West,” Detroit is an amazing place, and I highly recommend you visit. Be sure to check out Hitsville, USA, the Motown Museum. It’s a blast.
Why am I Blogging about This? I’m blogging because I am passionate about three things:
1) Understanding and living out the Gospel, or Good News, of Jesus Christ; and
2) Understanding and exercising our First Amendment rights, especially concerning matters of faith and greater social justice; and
3) Understanding and respecting other faith traditions, and through that, building ecumenical and interfaith coalitions of people who yearn for a more just society.
You may also be wondering why I decided to do this. I have two careers, one in law, and one in practical theology (I’ll explain more in a bit). For more than two decades I advocated for the constitutional rights of LGBTQ people, criminal defendants and others living on the margins.
I had felt a call to ordained ministry as a teenager, but women were not serving God in the pulpit and at the altar. Thus, I transfigured this call into advocating for peoples’ rights. I could not argue the Gospel in court for a more compassionate legal system because that would be establishing a superior religion. And while that is the correct interpretation, it is nonetheless frustrating that I could not argue the Gospel in court for compassionate, problem-solving law. There is not a secular law on earth that can force people to be moral and fair. It must come from grassroots movements and faith movements fueled by hope, faith, and love.
That is where practical theology comes in—it can be understood as the practical application of the study of God to enhancing our faith and spirituality, and in working for a better world. Practical theology is a combination of vision (theory) and real-world action according to the teachings of our faith and sacred text.
So, I finally said, “Yes,” to the call of the Spirit. I attended two seminaries, the first, the Ecumenical Theological Seminary (ETS) in Detroit, and then the (Episcopal) Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) in Berkeley, California. CDSP conferred my Master of Divinity degree. I am ordained in the Episcopal Church, a member church of the worldwide Anglican Communion that has evolved from the Church of England. It is both Catholic and Protestant and is known as the via media, or middle way—the best of both worlds.
I hold a Doctor of Ministry degree from Pacific School of Religion (PSR), also in Berkeley. CDSP and PSR are sister schools at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley. The GTU is a world class ecumenical and interfaith consortium of seminaries and institutes. Sorry for all of the abbreviations…that’s enough alphabet soup for now.
My dissertation for the doctoral degree is entitled, Christian Progressive Political Theology: Acting on the Word for Immigration Reform. For the rest of my working life, I hope to join people of faith to speak publicly about injustices of all sorts.
What is Political Theology? The word, “political,” derives from the Greek, polis, which means of, or pertaining to citizens, that is, us. And, “theology,” is defined as the study of God. So, political theology means that citizens (residents) speak publicly about their understanding of God. All faith traditions are entitled to participate in public debate about shaping policy and law for the most just society possible. So, political theology can be described as:
1) speaking about important faith matters in public space, and
2) reaching as wide an audience as possible to convey the message, especially via broadcasting on the radio, television, and online.
Why do we need Political Theology? The Time for Being on the Fence is Over.
Although the federal constitution protects our speech, progressive Christianity is rather quiet, relative to more traditional corners of Christ’s vineyard. The reasons for this reality are varied, and our Gospel message is often drowned out in digital noise. So, we need to express our theology clearly and proactively whenever and wherever possible. By proactive, I mean we must start conversations about our faith and society. Unfortunately, we are often reacting to an opposing theological interpretation instead of framing a theological discussion regarding the complex issues of our time. As progressives, we are respectful of others’ rights to hold their own views, and we don’t like to boss people around. We are a difficult group to unify on specific issues because we are independent thinkers. It is like herding cats, so to speak.
We can be respectful of others’ views, but we also must be clear about our beliefs and challenges to our government, not to curse it, but to encourage it to do the right thing. Are we on the fence, or are we ready to jump in the deep end?
By engaging in political theology, we offer the public another viewpoint to consider. It is not about getting into big arguments with opponents. The foundation of a fully functioning democracy is a free exchange of ideas. By discussing this essential and fascinating aspect of our public and theological discourse, we better understand how to work towards greater justice and peace.
We are called by Christ to work for social justice as he did. We interpret the Gospel as inclusive and compassionate, especially where people are different than us. Ours is a theology of radical hospitality where all are welcomed and respected. It is our duty, if we call ourselves Christians, to spread the Good News of love, peace, and compassion. Political Theology is essential today, perhaps now more than ever, to cut through the divisive vitriol with a message of love and hope.
Your participation is vital. You are invited to comment, and I will be asking you to tell me what you want to hear about. We will take some polls and converse as a community of believers. We will have contests and other fun stuff.
I also invite the faithful from the world’s religions to join us. Every major world faith has some equivalent of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That is a mighty fact, and from it, we can build coalitions of faith to reverse prejudice and injustice. We can work together! There is power in numbers, especially when they come from the four corners of the earth.
Why Read this Blog? This blog is dedicated to examining political issues arising from the toxic climate and divisive rhetoric coming from the highest places of political power, be they federal, state or local. What makes this blog unique is a passionate discussion of political issues from a specifically progressive Christian theological perspective. And, by that I mean, my theological offerings come from a place of compassion and inclusion—it is a progressive view about how Christianity is still absolutely relevant for us these 2000 years later.
There are some Christian voices out there who presume to speak for all Christians. This is especially problematic when progressive Christians seldom agree with scriptural interpretations coming from the more traditional corners of Christ’s vineyard.
Traditional and progressive Christians share several important aspects of Christianity in common:
1) Jesus Christ as Savior;
2) Our sacred text; and
3) Our hope in the Resurrection and life in the world to come.
So, my encouragement to speak out faithfully and publicly is not about picking a fight with our traditional sisters and brothers in Christ. All faithful people are free to speak about their faith and interpretations. So are progressive Christians, and our goal must always be to achieve greater justice and peace to usher in the Reign of God. It is called democracy through respect. Speaking faithfully is a sacred duty for followers of Jesus Christ.
Through this blog, we will:
A) Develop deeper insight into our theology and relate it to our First Amendment (1stA) rights of free exercise of religion, of free speech, of free press, of peaceable assembly, and petitioning the government for the redress of grievances.
B) Participate in meaningful discussions about our sacred texts and how we can draw instruction from them to live a holier and a more spiritually-engaged life both personally and within our communities.
C) Be encouraged to speak out publicly against policies that hurt and dehumanize people, both far away and near.
D) Share ideas and experiences about doing political theology.
E) Understand better what charities and individuals can do legally in exercising their constitutional rights.
F) Consider the ever-changing cycle of news and politics across what promises to be an intense and draining presidential election in November 2020. We must be hopeful, creative, and out-spoken as disciples of Jesus Christ. We must turn fascism upside down through the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 17:6). It will happen now, as we are the hands and feet of Christus Victor.
Next time, we examine definitions of “progressive Christian theology.”
Speaking faithfully, and until next time, the peace of Christ be always with you.