Who Will Give Peace a Chance?

This column was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on April 30, 2007

On the Saturday before Palm Sunday this year I was responsible for driving a Pulitzer Prize winning, New York Times Best Selling, outspoken critic of the war in Iraq from San Francisco to a church in Palo Alto where the author was to speak to a crowd of like-minded peaceniks. After a comedy of errors that included me getting lost in China Town, stuck between some lion dancers and group of Fulong Gong protestors, the famous author and I arrived twenty minutes late to the gathering on the Mid Peninsula.

And as we walked into the church’s sanctuary, which was filled to capacity with three hundred or more activists that day, I noticed something about the anti-war movement. At thirty-eight, I was the youngest person in the room, and it’s always like that when I participate in anti-war activities. Continue reading

Singing “Amazing Grace” in English

This column was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on April 23, 2007.

I used to speak Spanish.

In high school I was an exchange student in the Dominican Republic, where I learned to dance merengue, drink rum, and talk baseball with an Antillean accent. In college I worked with Salvadoran refugees in San Francisco’s Mission District and I read un-translated Latin American poetry for fun. As a clergyman, I helped to draft the bilingual rules of cooperation between the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico.

But today the language of Sammy Sosa and Sor Juana Ynez de la Cruz doesn’t come as easily to me as once it did. Continue reading

A Celebration of Doubt

This Column was published on UPI’s Religion and Spiritualiy Forum on April 16, 2007.

One of the most compelling stories of the Easter season is found in the twentieth chapter of the Gospel according to John, when Thomas the apostle doubts. According to John’s narrative, Thomas was away when the risen Christ first appeared to the disciples, and he refused to believe in the resurrection until with his own eyes he could see Jesus alive, and with his own hands touch the wounds of Jesus crucifixion.

Over the years, Thomas’ doubts have earned him a reputation for being somewhat spineless in the faith department, but to my mind Thomas deserves more credit that he tends to receive. Because he had the courage to voice his doubts, Thomas is one of the great unsung heroes of the Bible. Continue reading

Seeds for Life

My grandfather, William R. Mullenger, spent his life as a farmer on 500 acres outside of Dennison, Iowa. He was dedicated to the stewardship of his farm and to the work of conserving the natural resources necessary for the preservation of farming as a way of life. I’ve written this column in his honor.

This column was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on April 9, 2007.

The Easter Season now is upon us, it’s a time to cheer as the forces of life overcome the power of death; and because St. Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, compares the transformation of resurrection to the germination and sprouting of a seed that has been planted in the ground, the Easter Season seems an appropriate time to talk about the politics and ethics of seeds.

Seeds? Continue reading

The Old Rugged Cross

This column was published on April 2, 2007 on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum. It also formed the core of my sermon on April 1. On April 5, 2007 this piece was picked up by a newspaper in the Cayman Islands.  Who knew?

About this time last year I was approached by a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses at a bus stop. The bus was late, giving us plenty of time to talk, and eventually the conversation drifted to the subject of the cross I was wearing around my neck.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, it turns out, don’t like the symbol of the cross. For one thing, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe Jesus was crucified. They believe he was impaled on a stake, and this is an important distinction in their theology. But beyond the proper translation of the Biblical Greek word stauroo (“impale” to them, “crucify” to me), my conversational partners were concerned that I would wear the image of the device upon which I believe my savoir had died. (“My mother gave me this necklace” was not a satisfactory answer). Continue reading