Sermon on most divisive Christian claim

“I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me [Jesus]” is sometimes used as a billy club, as in, “if you believe, you’re ‘in’ – if you don’t, you’re ‘out’.” According to Matthew Myer Boulton, the statement has nothing to do with belief. Read in context, this line in the Gospel According to John is the opposite: an assurance of divine comfort and inclusion.

Matthew (“Matt”) Myer Boulton, President of Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, is the son of Wayne and Vicki Boulton, friends of Gordon and Steve for 51 years. Matthew’s leadership is a source of great joy. He is the author of God Against Religion and Life in God.

All the World – tout le monde, kl alealam

Christian Theological Seminary‘s “Statement on Attacks on Beirut and Paris” (11.16.15) is one for the ages.

“Friends,

“All the world – tout le monde – grieves and stands with France in the midst of these harrowing days. All the world – kl alealam – grieves and stands with Lebanon. As people of faith, our hearts can only break when God’s children turn against each other in the name of God. And the most elemental, effective way to counter such “turning against” is to reverse the gesture, turning toward one other in solidarity, compassion, and hope.

“On Friday night, I attended the student-organized vigil against racism, a gathering powerfully proclaiming that Black Lives Matter. CTS student body president Whittney Murphy spoke eloquently that we are like the candles we held that night: sometimes flickering in the wind, or even going out, but then rekindled by the lights of others. The shadows may fall and the winds threaten, but together we can walk in the promise that God is with us, and that God is a light the world’s shadows cannot and will not overcome.

“As we stood together in the vigil that night along Michigan Road, the attacks in Lebanon were only a day old, and the news was just beginning to come in about the attacks in Paris. On one level, these various events – the vigil and the attacks – seem separate and distinct. But on a deeper level, they are profoundly connected. The same dehumanizing act of dividing the world into “us” on the one hand and “our enemies” on the other is the root of both racism and religious intolerance. The peace and equality for which the vigil called here at home is the same peace and equality we need in France, Lebanon, and beyond. And what’s more (and more troubling), while France has received a public outpouring of support and solidarity from around the world, Lebanon has not. For many, this has understandably raised the question: When it comes to the world’s solidarity and concern, don’t Lebanese lives matter as much as French ones? If our hearts (or Facebook pages) now bear the French flag’s blue, white, and red, shouldn’t they also bear Lebanon’s red, white, and green?

“In the New Testament Gospels, Jesus’ signature move is to stand with outsiders, with the forgotten or marginalized, and to reach across religious and ethnic lines of hostility. Following Jesus as best we can, we can only heed the call to do the same. Jesus is in Lebanon. Jesus is standing along Michigan Road. Jesus is in France, and in so many other places around the world, mending the brokenhearted, calling for justice, calling for love. Wherever the shadows fall, there Jesus goes, the flickering, quickening light of the world.

“And so we give thanks for student leaders, their voices clear, their faces illuminated by candles of hope. We give thanks for all of those committed to helping to turn these horrifying attacks into renewed resolve to work toward reconciliation. For as we approach the coming Season of Advent, those four weeks of lament and prayer that lead to a once-forgotten backwater not far from Lebanon, we know our lives depend on the love that binds us together. So much depends on that love. All the world – tout le monde, kl alealam – depends on it.

“God’s shalom,

Matthew Myer Boulton

Matthew Myer Boulton

Matthew Myer Boulton
President and Professor of Theology
Christian Theological Seminary
1000 W. 42nd Street, Indianapolis, IN 46208″

 

Jesus and Indiana’s Religious Freedom law

Yesterday, March 31, Christian Theological Seminary released President Matthew Myer Boultons statement on Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The statement represents the official position of the CTS Board of Trustees. Views from the Edge is pleased to re-print it today:

“Christian Theology Seminary (CTS) believes deeply in religious liberty. But we witness to the fact that Jesus of Nazareth — the one every Christian disciple seeks to follow — calls us not to a freedom to exclude, or a freedom to discriminate, or a freedom to create an atmosphere where prejudice may flourish. On the contrary, again and again, Jesus calls us to a freedom of inclusion, equality, justice, and profound respect for the dignity of all.

“CTS opposes this act, then, not only because it represents an offense to the spirit of civil rights; not only because it cuts against the best of Hoosier hospitality; and not only because it has created a public relations crisis for the state of Indiana. CTS opposes RFRA primarily because it violates the Christian values we hold dear: values of inclusion, equality, justice, and the dignity of all people, including our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

“The Christian Gospels are replete with examples of these values. In the Gospel According to Luke, in response to the command to ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ a lawyer asks Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ It is a clannish question, a question that seeks to draw a circle around one group we are required to love and serve, creating another group we supposedly may exclude as outsiders.

“But Jesus will have none of it. In his response — the parable of the Good Samaritan — Jesus flips the question on its head, as if to say, ‘Don’t waste your time asking the clannish question of who your neighbor is; instead, go and BE an excellent neighbor, serving all with mercy and justice.’

“Three weeks ago, I was a keynote speaker at a church service rallying against RFRA. In conversations afterward, many of us who attended, including some of the event’s organizers, lamented that it appeared the bill was headed for passage. I take heart today at the bipartisan, statewide, nationwide outcry against this unwise, unjust legislation. And I continue to be inspired by the many Christians and other religious people who stand against RFRA as a matter of faith, conviction, and genuine religious liberty.

“Real damage has been done, but together we can and must begin the work of repair. Indeed, for Christians, as we move ever deeper into Holy Week, we can only be challenged and encouraged that God is a God of hope and resurrection.”

Matthew Myer Boulton
President and Professor of Theology
Christian Theological Seminary

NOTE: Christian Theological Seminary, an ecumenical seminary of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and its neighbor, Butler University, founded and co-host the Desmond Tutu Center.  The Desmond Tutu Center is North America’s only academic center in a university and seminary context named for Archbishop Emeritus Tutu. The center, launched on September 12, 2013, focuses on leadership development in social justice and reconciliation, international relationships, and interreligious bridge-building. South African churchman, theologian, and anti-Aparteid leader Rev. Dr. Allan Boesak is the Tutu Center’s Executive Director.

FURTHER PERSONAL NOTE: Matthew Myer Boulton is the son of  Wayne and Vicki Boulton whose friendship has blessed us since Wayne and I met as roommates in 1964 at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.  Steve and I  could not be prouder of Matt’s leadership and witness for justice and peace.

 

Religious Freedom in Indiana – the new face of discrimination

Dear IndianaThe Governor of Indiana just signed into law the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (SB 101) that brings to mind the pre-civil rights movement segregated lunch counters. In the era of expanding civil rights for GLBT people, Indian’s altogether unnecessary “Restoration Act” turns back the clock on the right to discriminate.

This May six Presbyterian ministers, all former seminary classmates, will spend our annual five-day retreat in Indianapolis at Christian Theological Seminary (CTS), a religious leader in welcoming, inclusive, nondiscriminatory belief and practices. CTS understands Christian freedom as the freedom for which Christ has set them free: freedom to love.

Wherever we go we will do as Amelia Aldred proposes in her blog post. Click SB101: Let’s make it awkward to read her thoughtful piece and to comment.

Wayne, Bob, Harry, Don, Steve, and I are from Indiana, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, and Minnesota. We’ll be courteous, but we will exercise our religious freedom and responsibility by making it awkward to discriminate.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 28, 2015.