‘Was there really demon possession at the time of Jesus?’

‘Was there really demon possession at the time of Jesus?’

When we read about evil, such as demon possession, like the Gerasene demoniac, what can we take out of such incidents and apply to today’s world?

Recently I have had to make a long journey in my car. Rather than waste the time, I decided to listen to David Suchet narrating the four Gospels (something I often do, but generally just one Gospel at a time).

One of the incidents that appears in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) is the story of the Gerasene Demoniac. Each time I heard the account there were questions I wanted to ask about demon possession; questions which I am now going to address.

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About Experiencing the Divine - Matthew Fox

About Experiencing the Divine - Matthew Fox

Carl Jung said that “the main purpose of organized religion is to prevent persons from having an experience of God.”

A number of years ago I was being interviewed on Dutch television by a young (about 40 years old), bright, dynamic and professional man who had done his homework. Immediately after the interview ended and the bright stage lights had been turned off, he leaned over and said to me: “I am dying to ask you a question that I did not want to ask on air–Do you Americans actually believe that people can still experience God?”

Obviously this question hit me hard—otherwise I would not have remembered it all these years. I suspect behind it is the near collapse of religious practice in Europe where in Germany about 5-6% of the population practice their Lutheran faith; in England about 6% of Anglicans; in France about 6% of Catholics, etc. etc. And in America the numbers are in free fall as well though they started at a more elevated place. Having just returned from lecturing in Ireland, there the numbers have fallen from 95% Roman Catholics practicing fifteen years ago to 14% today.

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M. D. Chenu, Grandfather of Liberation Theology and Creation Spirituality

M. D. Chenu, Grandfather of Liberation Theology and Creation Spirituality

Silenced by Pope Pius XII for twelve years, he was forbidden to publish because he had supported the Worker Priest movement in France after WWII

M. D. Chenu, Grandfather of Liberation Theology and Creation Spirituality By Matthew Fox June 10, 2019

Père M. D. Chenu, named the Creation Spirituality tradition for me when I studied with him in the Spring of 1968. Yes, it was that climactic spring, when Paris and many university towns were shut down by rioting students opposing the Viet Nam War, but also a sclerosis of frozen academia that was preventing, it seemed to our generation, a fuller experience of learning.

Today some one asked me for more information about this amazing elder. In naming the Fall/Redemption vs the Creation Spirituality tradition for me, Chenu can rightly be named the Grandfather of Creation Spirituality.

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Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox

Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox

Patriarchy with its compulsion to control and extract and take and dominate and play reptilian games of being #1 is killing the earth

Blessings!

On Mother’s Day, May 12, 2019, in honor of Gaia, our wounded Mother Earth, Matthew Fox and a dedicated team of helpers, launched a series of daily meditations to support your being and your work. Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox supports your inner and outer work, your contemplation and your action, your mystical and prophetic vocations. Some of the meditations will be brand new and some will be drawn from Matthew’s past writings. Suggested practices and short videos will be offered at times as well. You are welcome to blog or interact with other subscribers along the way. Building on our Mother’s Day launch, the first few weeks of our meditations will focus first on the return of the Divine Feminine; and then the ushering in of the Sacred Masculine—these themes lie at the heart of the eco-disasters we are facing as a species.

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Richard Rohr — Living In Deep Time

Richard Rohr — Living In Deep Time

Men of all ages say Richard Rohr has given them a new way in to spiritual depth and religious thought

Richard Rohr — Living In Deep Time

Men of all ages say Richard Rohr has given them a new way in to spiritual depth and religious thought — through his writing and retreats. This conversation with the Franciscan spiritual teacher delves into the expansive scope of his ideas: male formation and what he calls “father hunger”; why contemplation is as magnetic to people now, including millennials, as it’s ever been; and how to set about taking the first half of life — the drive to “successful survival” — all the way to meaning. Podcast

Embedding Christianity Today

Embedding Christianity Today

What is wrong? Why is it that what goes on inside a church no longer inspires the general awe and reverence it did only a century ago?

The Church Does Not Inspire

In Britain, for many people Christianity has become a one-hour-a-week church activity, or even less.

What is wrong? Why is it that what goes on inside a church no longer inspires the general awe and reverence it did only a century ago? In the March edition of Progressive Voices, Edward Hulme had one answer. He suggested that Communion has now become a barrier to spiritual growth, to Christian Faith, and to God. He further suggests that the sacrament and the associated church services were never vital to discipleship. And I think this subject is worthy of further development.

First, there is a strong case that the Eucharist has been developed into forms that are radically different to how Jesus might have imagined events at the “Last Supper” would be interpreted.

It is most unlikely that Jesus would ever have envisaged Christianity as a world-wide religion separate from Judaism. Nor would he have imagined the ritual of Mass as it was later developed by the Roman Church: after the time of the Emperor Constantine and during the period when Christianity changed from being a persecuted sect, worshipping in the houses of Christians, to being a state sponsored, powerful religious institution, wealthy enough to build cathedrals and churches as ‘houses’ of God.

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The Great Spiritual Migration: Brian McLaren -  (Good Reads review)

The Great Spiritual Migration: Brian McLaren -  (Good Reads review)

With his trademark brilliance and compassion, McLaren invites readers to seize the moment and set out on the most significant spiritual pilgrimage of our time: to help Christianity become more Christian.

The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian by Brian D. McLaren

The Christian story, from Genesis until now, is fundamentally about people on the move—outgrowing old, broken religious systems and embracing new, more redemptive ways of life.

It’s time to move again.

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Of Old Trees, Stardust And Moments of Wonder: A Short Introduction To Religious Naturalism… by Rex A. E. Hunt on May 17, 2019

Of Old Trees, Stardust And Moments of Wonder: A Short Introduction To Religious Naturalism… by Rex A. E. Hunt on May 17, 2019

“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious” (Stephen Hawking, 1942-2018)

“The sense of wonder, that is our sixth sense.

And it is the natural religious sense” (D. H. Lawrence)

Stand under a big old tree and look up. (The tallest trees in Australia are all eucalypts, of which there are more than 700 species. While Australia’s oldest tree is a clonal male Lagarostrobos franklinii, Huon Pine, in Tasmania that is 10,500+ years old, with individual stems 1,000 to 2,000 years old).

Can you see the passing of time in its gnarled trunk? The network of bugs and insects burrowing into bark and foraging in leaves? Wildlife taking refuge in nests and leaf-lined hollows? Bacteria helping to nourish it with nitrogen?

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The human race seems to need rituals. by Gretta Vosper on April 23, 2019

The human race seems to need rituals. by Gretta Vosper on April 23, 2019

The human race seems to need rituals. Christmas, Easter, Baptisms and Eucharist/Communion are times and events that attract the most people to the church and corporate worship. Yet these same rituals are the ones where the theistic God is most evident and reinforced. How can we address this paradox?

Question & Answer (from PCN USA)

Q: By Edna The human race seems to need rituals. Christmas, Easter, Baptisms and Eucharist/Communion are times and events that attract the most people to the church and corporate worship. Yet these same rituals are the ones where the theistic God is most evident and reinforced. How can we address this paradox? A: By Rev. Gretta Vosper Thank you for this important question, Edna.

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Will your church be alive in ten years? by Ken Briggs OpinionParish - (NCR)

Will your church be alive in ten years? by Ken Briggs OpinionParish - (NCR)

these stark realities of decline go largely unnoticed because church structures retain the size and stateliness of more prosperous times - review of Christianity in the USA

Like stocks and bonds and the real estate market, religion has become more about “futures,” not in the Kingdom of God sense but in the realm of numbers. As in, is your church likely to be alive in 10 or 20 years?

America’s vitality is usually measured by growth or lack of it, epitomized by the Gross National Product report card. The tools for calculating gains and losses are digital and electronic, spewing a ubiquitous swarm of survey results and polls purporting to tell us how our institutions —and, by extension, we — are doing

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10 Ways Churches Could Bring Us to God. -Roger Wolsey

10 Ways Churches Could Bring Us to God. -Roger Wolsey

7-8,000 churches close their doors every year in the U.S. – about 150-200 every week

The Church is dying. Specifically, Christianity in Western countries is rapidly diminishing. 7-8,000 churches close their doors every year in the U.S. – about 150-200 every week. In 1966, there were 600 Catholic seminaries in America. 189 remain. 1000 Southern Baptist congregations close every year with half of them predicted to close by 2030. More and more churches are seeing fewer people participating in worship services and the ones who do are attending less frequently. Sure, there are a few exceptional congregations here and there, but they are outliers and those too will be declining within 10 years or so. Some say way we need to reform Christianity. Some say we need to do church differently. Some say we need to revise the language. Some say we need to jettison Christianity and the Church that conveys and enfleshes it all together. From moderate to radical, my colleagues Reverends Mark Sandlin and Greta Vosper, respectively, recently wrote essays conveying such calls to action in their recent columns on Progressing Spirit. Here is how Sandlin closed his essay,

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Oysters, Ballerinas, and a Reminder that No One Owns God - Vance Morgan

Oysters, Ballerinas, and a Reminder that No One Owns God - Vance Morgan

a reflection on the work of Barbara Brown Taylor

There are several contemporary writers on spiritual issues and matters of faith whose work I admire so greatly I that purchase their latest books as soon as they are published—I have my Amazon account set up to send me such “heads up” announcements. These are authors whose books never fail to both deepen and broaden my own perspectives and attitudes about faith and what is greater than me. The list includes Anne Lamott, Joan Chittister, Annie Dillard, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Lauren Winner and, more recently, Rachel Held Evans. Interesting that the first half-dozen names on the list that come to mind are women—but not surprising.

At the very top of the list is Barbara Brown Taylor, whose work I resonate with on almost every page. I have gone so far as to tell people that when I read Taylor’s books, I feel as if I’m reading a memoir of my own spiritual journey and a description of the current state of my faith, just much more eloquently expressed than I could manage. Her most recent book, Holy Envy, arrived in the mail about two weeks ago and is my current reading obsession. I’m about halfway through it; most of my reading time with it has been spent while riding a stationary bike at the gym early in the morning.

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A hierarchy clinging to privilege even as the structures around them totter: Tom Roberts, NCR executive editor

A hierarchy clinging to privilege even as the structures around them totter: Tom Roberts, NCR executive editor

"We would rather be ruined than changed. We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the present and let our illusions die."

“We would rather be ruined than changed. We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the present and let our illusions die.” The quote is from W.H. Auden’s The Age of Anxiety and I ran across it in Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps. I had revisited that book recently because more and more I think of the crisis in the church as one in need of the wisdom of recovery literature and the particulars of 12-step programs.

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Waking a Dancing World

Waking a Dancing World

From Patheos: A Zen Priest Reflects On Being Spiritually Fluid, March 9, 2019 by James Ford

I was recently a bystander on a Facebook thread about being Buddhist and Christian. My name was raised as an example of someone, how shall we say, “spiritually fluid.” A lovely term coined by Duane Bidwell, a professor at Claremont School of Theology, Presbyterian minister, and long time Buddhist practitioner.

I raised my usual objection that being a Unitarian Universalist is not (necessarily) being a Christian. And that, me, while I am a rationalist and naturalist (common characteristics among Unitarian Universalists) I basically considered myself a Zen Buddhist, not a Christian.

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From Certainity to Mystery

From Certainity to Mystery

Michael Saunders, neurologist and priest, writes about the journey of faith

I have just read “From Certainty to Mystery” by Michael Saunders. Michael is a retired consultant neurologist, an Anglican priest, and someone who has muscular dystrophy . In his book he provides very personal reflections on his relationship to matters of faith developed throughout his personal and professional life. Born and raised in a fundamentalist conservative evangelical household he reflects on the intellectual and professional challenges which led him to question and change. I found echoes of “Leaving Alexandria” by Richard Holloway in the sensitive and personal description of the journey of life.

In the book Michael raises the questions many of us raise: Does God work without science? Will disease cure itself if we pray hard enough? Or must we help ourselves? Michael Saunders, Neurologist, Ethical Philosopher and Priest says he is a religious pluralist. “I consider that all religions are created by humans in an attempt to explain the great questions of life and that this should be more openly acknowledged by the Church hierarchy. It is perfectly possible to be a ‘seeker’ within one’s own cultural and religious tradition while acknowledging the equal value of the other great religions of the world. True spirituality is about ‘transformation’ of the way we try to live out our lives and this is common to all undistorted religious traditions.”

Michael Saunders has spent many years in roles of priest and neurologist simultaneously working predominantly in North East England and North Yorkshire. Michael qualified in Medicine at Charing Cross Medical School in 1962 and has worked as a neurologist in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Middlesbrough, Northallerton and India.

He was ordained in York Minster in1984 and has been licensed to Stokesley Deanery, The Archbishop of York, Ripon Cathedral, Great and Littlle Ouseburn with Whixley and Marton Cum Grafton, Masham and Healey. For Ten years he was an Honorary Tutor on the North East Ordination Course and served as an educational advisor for Bishops’ Selection conferences.

He has recently retired from being lead Governor of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust.

He is married to a consultant psychiatrist and has four adult children.

“From Certainty to Mystery” by Michael Saunders

Published by Olympia Publishers @ £8.99- Paperback ISBN: 978-1-78830-201-2

Diabolical

Diabolical

It was the American rocker Larry Norman who, in 1972, asked the question that many others had been afraid to voice.

It was the American rocker Larry Norman who, in 1972, asked the question that many others had been afraid to voice.

On what was perhaps the most influential album of his career “Only Visiting this Planet” he posed the question of a thousand flowerchildren who were finding their way in to the new Jesus movement: “Why should the Devil have all the good music?”

As far as many of his contemporaries were concerned, Norman may as well have been the Devil. His long hair and rock and roll stylings meant that they had his number, and it looked remarkably like 666.

To be even handed, it was at least a time when some rock musicians deliberately played up their diabolical stylings. Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page had deliberately appropriated an occult sensibility, using Satanism to sell records. If he did in fact sell his soul to the Devil, then perhaps his current feud with his neighbour the ‘Angels’ singer Robbie Williams is Page’s own private hell.

But while we were all more credulous in the years surrounding the summer of love, surely in these enlightened times we pay less attention to talk of Satan and his demons. While on the one hand, the Devil is perhaps the most clearly mythological figures in the Christian tradition, still a surprisingly large number of people cling resolutely to a belief in a single identifiable entity – whose name happens to be Satan.

There are probably a host of reasons for this, but don’t discount the influence of Baudelaire’s famous line: “the loveliest trick of the Devil is to persuade you that he does not exist…” or as later repurposed for the film ‘The Usual Suspects’: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled, is convincing the world that he does not exist.”

A fear that the very thing the malign agent we call the Devil wants is that we don’t believe in him, prevents our disbelief, adiabolically clever ruse – or is it just another example of the Devil’s famous pride? Always his downfall.

The thing is, of course, that the Devil of popular imagination is a long way from the Satan, or rather Satans of Biblical accounts. The Old Testament (Hebrew) Satan is an agent of Yahweh. A prosecuting counsel, an angelic being with the job of giving people like poor beleaguered Job a hard time. But as traditions began to synthesise Satan turned into a different character all together.

The Lenten fast comes from the story of Jesus in the wilderness, where after forty days without food he is tempted by none other than the old adversary. But of course Jesus’ temptations are the same that we all face, the temptation to abuse resources, power, and relationships – as well as the temptation to get out of the wilderness to somewhere with more food and less temptation. In other words, they are about what it means to be human.

I’m choosing to spend the forty days of Lent reflecting on the Devil, and you can join me if you like. Subscribe to my free daily meditations any time, but do it before Wednesday 6th of March if you want to get the full ‘Sympathy for the Devil?’ series.

Simonjcross.com/sympathy

“After the Flood”  by Erin Wathen - a lament for the Church

“After the Flood”  by Erin Wathen - a lament for the Church

this crumbling ark of a thing that we’ve half-worshipped and over-mortgaged

After the Flood by Erin Wathen - published on Patheos

this rusty relic

when it has finally good and washed away

on the waves of its children leaving

its last hope of resurrection spent on

an overhead projector and a damned outside consultant

with a damned good vision plan …

we will remember the big churchy words

wrapped around the marching orders.

we will remember the days when we loved being right

more than we loved loving.

this crumbling ark of a thing

that we’ve half-worshipped and over-mortgaged

finally goes down.

there is no hating God for this one.

no blaming that sad divine for the

wreck of our own creation.

maybe it was bound to end this way.

after the fire, the storm, the wandering.

after the flood,

the astounding rainbow of a promise

a love so vast and colorful that

we could never possibly keep up our end of the bargain.

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