Monday, November 21, 2011

Comment to Congregation

A few weeks ago a local Pastor (here in Clearwater, FL) made the following comment to his congregation during a Sunday morning worship service: “The ministry is the only profession where we send our brightest young men and women off to study at the Masters and Doctorial level, and when they come back to us we don’t allow them to tell us what they learned.”

Most of you—I believe—will understand what the good Pastor was inferring. For those who may be puzzled by the Pastors comment, let me explain; The Christian doctrine seminary students learn is NOT the Christian doctrine that you and I have been taught since childhood. The doctrine taught in most seminaries today is an academic understanding of the Christian religion that has developed over the past 250-300 years. It reflects our current knowledge of the cosmos, the human mind and the natural laws of the world in which we live. In my book, GIVING VOICE TO THE SILENT PULPIT, I refer to this as Academic Christianity. In many ways it is diametrically opposed to the doctrine you and I were taught as children and what we hear on a weekly basis from the pulpit of our local church. This I refer to as Popular Christianity.

The differences between these two adaptations of the Christian faith are so divergent that a young Pastor, fresh out of seminary, would likely never reveal his/her new knowledge to a pastoral search committee for fear of being immediately rejected for any potential ministerial position. Why? Because most Christians—the people in the pews—expect to hear nothing from the pulpit but the doctrine they grew up with. The same doctrine our forefathers (and foremothers) believed and taught them in their younger years. They are devoted to those basic ancient beliefs. They have invested too much of their mental security in those values to allow new knowledge to invade their ‘cocoon of religious comfort.’

And so . . . our newly educated Pastor, in order to secure a job, must acquiesce to the presumed desires of the multitudes and preach only the ancient, outdated, obsolete and basically irrelevant Popular doctrine of the past.

The victims in this charade: -

· The people in the pews—who are denied an intellectually honest understanding of their faith.

· The Pastors—who must, daily, perjure themselves in pastoral contact with their parishioners.

· Society at large—which is deprived of intellectual growth and maturity.

The winners: -

· Those who would use religion to impose their particular brand of social ethics on others.

· Those, around the world who, today, use the ‘word’ or ‘will’ of God to terrorize, murder and oppress others in the name of religion.

If the church is to survive this duality in doctrine, honesty must prevail.

Learn more about this struggle between Popular and Academic Christianity (including ten side-by-side examples) in my new book—GIVING VOICE TO THE SILENT PULPIT.

More information at

Barry e

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Giving Voice to the Silent Pulpit

I was not a religious fanatic by any means, but the church and all that it represented, was very important to me in my formative years—as it was, I believe, for most young people of that era. As I grew into adulthood, I began to take on, what I considered to be, my share of responsibilities in the church. I served as an usher, sang in the choir, and served on various boards and committees. At one point I became trained as a Lay Minister and served as a substitute preacher from time to time. I guess I would be called an active Christian.

However, in 1993, at age fifty-eight, my understanding of the Christian belief system began to change. This change was prompted by a life altering experience, which is reveled in chapter 1 of this book. The change was not something that happened overnight; rather, it took several years of study and investigation. Years during which I found myself hoping I was wrong about what I was discovering. But in the end I realized I was not wrong. Today I am still a Christian, but a Christian with a much deeper and more honest and mature understanding of what Christianity is about. A great deal of what I mean by “a much more honest and mature understanding “ will be dealt with, in detail, in the book.

I anticipate that this book will, to a degree, cause you, the reader, some of the same pain and stress that I felt in the early stages of my investigation and discovery. Do not despair. In the end, I am convinced you will become aware of a much richer and far more rewarding understanding of the Christian faith, than you have ever before experienced.

In my opinion, if the Christian church is to live on, as a force for good in human society, the greater depth of knowledge that is exposed herein, will of necessity, become the norm in Christian education among the laity.

Please remember as you read . . . this is not a book in which I make known my opinion on religious teachings. Rather it is a book in which I report, with straightforward honesty, information about Christianity and Christian doctrine that is unknown to a vast majority of the laymen and laywomen of the faith.

I will be reporting the results of many years of study. Some of my findings will certainly invade the reader’s comfort zone. For this, I make no apology. Knowledge can sometimes be painful, but ignorance also has a price. I will not maliciously tear down sacred beliefs. I will merely report what the past two and one half centuries of Biblical scholarship has reveled and how it has changed the church’s understanding of Christian doctrine.

The church has a responsibility to keep the laity informed of new knowledge, but has chosen not to do so. Instead, the church has, more often than not, chosen to deny, rebuff, or simply remain silent about new knowledge that would counter ancient beliefs. Today the gap between what is preached from the pulpit and what the clergy and hierarchy of the church know has become problematical.
This problem can only be solved by exposing the church’s hidden secrets. To my way of thinking, there is no choice—the church must turn to a more honest doctrine or perish. Perhaps together you and I can start to solve this problem. This book is my attempt to get that ball rolling.

More information at,

Available from publisher: Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR

barry e

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Why We Believe

I have just finished the book SUPERSENSE - Why We Believe in the Unbelievable by Bruce M. Hood. Thought you might enjoy the following excerpt regarding belief in the supernatural . . .

     Psychologists have come to the conclusion that there are at least two different systems operating when it comes to thinking and reasoning. One system is believed to be evolutionarily more ancient in terms of human development; it has been called intuitive, natural, automatic, heuristic, and implicit. It is the system we think is operating in young children before they reach school age. The second system is one that is believed to be more recent in human evolution; it permits logical reasoning but is limited by executive functions . . . This second reasoning system has been called conceptual-logical, analytical-rational, deliberative-effortful-intentional-systematic, and explicit. It emerges much later in development and underpins the capacity of the child to perform logical, rational problem-solving. When we reason about the world using these two systems, they may sometimes work in competition with each other.
     One might assume that those prone to the supersense and belief in the paranormal (or supernatural) are lacking in rational thought processes, but that would be too simplistic. Studies reveal that the two systems of thinking, the intuitive and the rational, coexist in the same individuals. There are, in effect, two different ways of interpreting the world. In fact, when we measure reliance on intuition, no relationship has been found with intelligence. Intuitive people are not more stupid. They are, however, more prone to supernatural belief . . . The supersense lingers in the back of our minds, influencing our behaviors and thoughts, and our mood may play a triggering role. This explains why perfectly rational, highly educated individuals can still hold supernatural beliefs.

barry e

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Special Report...

This past Sunday Chris and I attended worship service at, Pilgrims in the Park in Bryan, TX.

Pilgrims in the Park is an open air church service conducted, administered and financed by the seventy year young Rev. Lenni Lissberger, for "all wayfarers on life's journey". Services are held under a picnic shelter each Sunday in Neal Park, a small public park on the west side of Byran, TX.

Rev. Lenni prepares lunch for her parishioners every week. This week she brought sandwiches, boiled eggs. cookies, coffee and orange juice. She pays for the food and supplies out of her own pocket. The parishioners are very grateful.

There were roughly thirty people in attendance this Sunday. All but four or five were homeless folks.

On the front of the worship bulletin - which Rev. Linne also prepares and prints each week - are there words...

Regardless how much money you have in your pocket,
Regardless of where you spent the night,
Regardless what language you speak,
Regardless of the color of your skin,
Regardless of who you love,
Regardless of whether
you have a family,
or we become
your family,
You are welcome here!
There was hymn singing and praying. There was a time for greeting each other and a time for scripture reading. Rev. Lenni gave a short inspirational talk. Several of the congregants helped in the service. One read the scripture, another handed out bulletins, several participated by expressing their sorrows and thanksgivings during the community prayer. Most all were homeless, down on their luck and destitute, but one could sense that they really cared about each other's welfare.
After the service, several people, without being ask, packed up the coffee jugs and other things, folded the table and loaded everything neatly in the back of Rev. Lenni's car. Next week when she arrives there will be several there to help unload and set everything up again.
I don't know that I have ever witnessed more honest and selfless expressions of the teachings of Jesus - to love one another, to show compassion, to include those on the margins of society - than I did that morning. The people who attend worship service at Pilgrims in the Park are very special people... And the Rev. Lenni Lissberger, who makes it happen, week after week, is a very special human being.
barry e

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The move from Polytheism to Monotheism

In all my studies of religion I had never thought to ask the question, “What motivated humans to move from polytheism to monotheism.” The question and the answer came to me while reading Robert Wright’s book, The Evolution of God, (Little, Brown and Company, 2009). Five hundred sixty seven pages crammed full of interesting information, much of which I have read in other sources, but the section regarding the move from ‘poly’ to ‘mono’ was so new and informative, I thought I would share it with you. So, here it is in short, capsule form…

When King Hammurabi came to power in Babylon, near the beginning of the second millennium BCE, all of Mesopotamia was polytheistic. There were dozens of gods worshiped throughout the country. Hammurabi’s base was Babylon and the god of Babylon was Marduk.

Hammurabi had aspirations of ruling all of Mesopotamia, but he died before that could happen. In the ensuing centuries, however, Babylon did rule all of Mesopotamia and Marduk eventually became the head of the Mesopotamian pantheon.

In a move of major theological development, the champions of Marduk began to demote the other gods of the pantheon from being Murduk’s subordinates to being mere aspects of him. i.e. Adad, once known as the god of rain was now, “Murduk of rain.” Nabu, the god of accounting became, “Marduk of accounting.”

Among other things, there was a very practical political reason for this move. Each of the gods of the pantheon wielded a certain amount of political power. Each had priests, temples and followers. By consolidating the powers of these lesser gods into Marduk’s realm, the political power of would be opposition was nullified. Wright states it like this; “For Babylonians who wanted to suffuse all of Mesopotamia in multicultural amity and understanding, what better social cement than a single god that encompasses all gods?”

Later, in the fourteenth century BCE an eccentric pharaoh known as Amenhotep IV came to power in Egypt. This new young pharaoh was quite ambitious and eager to seize control. He elevated his favorite god, Aten, from being a garden-variety deity to “he who decrees life”; he who “created the earth”; he who “built himself by himself.”

But Amenhotep IV was not interested in the slow absorption of other gods into his god Aten, as had taken place with Marduk. Instead he had the names and the temples of all other gods erased from the face of the earth and their priesthoods dissolved. Aten stood alone at the top of the heap in a monotheistic fashion. But Aten eventually fell from grace and was replaced by other gods and other pharaohs.

Some claim that Aten nonetheless changed the world forever. Sigmund Freud, in his book Moses and Monotheism, suggests that Moses was in Egypt during Aten’s reign and then carried this idea of monotheism to Canaan, where it would launch Judeo-Christian civilization.

While most Jews and Christians think of the Torah and the Bible as referring to a single God, close study shows that the early Israelites worshipped many gods. The Israelites were polytheistic, just as most of the rest of the world at that time. There are many references to this fact in the Bible. Wright does a masterful job of explaining this and how the Kings of the day used the movement from ‘poly’ to ‘mono’ in much the same way as Amenhotep IV did, to attempt to expand their power.

...Toward the end of the seventh dentury BCE, this opportunity was seized by the most important king in the theological history of Israel… His name was Josiah and he assumed the throne around 640 BCE. … Josiah wasn’t adverse to a little thuggery... For starters, Josiah had priests take from Yahweh’s temple and burn “all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah” and for “all the hosts of heaven” (which in this case means defied celestial bodies). He removed horses used is sun worship form the entrance to the temple and “burned the chariots of the sun with fire.” He wiped out the shrines built for “Astarte the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the abonination of the Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites” – and, as a kind of exclamation point, covered these sites with human bones. Josiah also banned mediums, sorcerers, household gods, idols, and miscellaneous other “abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem.”(2 Kings 23:5,20)
He tore down all the “high places” or alters across Judah where other gods were worshiped. But the alters were not his only target. He “deposed” the priests associated with these gods, including those who “made offerings to Baal, to the sun, the moon, and the constellations.” In the former northern kingdom he “slaughtered on the alters all the priests of the high places who were there, and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.” This presumably made for a more powerful Jerusalem, for all sources of divine authority and political power were now gone. Josiah had ‘centralized the cult,” as scholars but it.

This move from ‘poly’ to ‘mono’ seemed to have stuck for what would later become the three Abrahamic religions. Josiah seems to be the person in history who was most instrumental in making that happen (brutal but effective). Was his motive religious or politics? Hum!


barry e

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

From: Sigmund Freud (1932) - A Philosophy of Life

While the different religions wrangle with one another as to which of them is in possession of the truth, in our view the truth of religion may be altogether disregarded.

Religion is an attempt to get control over the sensory world, in which we are placed, by means of the wish-world, which we have developed inside us as a result of biological and psychological necessities. But it cannot achieve its end. Its doctrines carry with them the stamp of the times in which they originated, the ignorant childhood days of the human race.

Its consolations deserve no trust. Experience teaches us that the world is not a nursery. The ethical commands, to which religion seeks to lend its weight, require some other foundation instead, for human society cannot do without them, and it is dangerous to link up obedience to them with religious belief.

If one attempts to assign to religion its place in man’s evolution, it seems not so much to be a lasting acquisition as a parallel to the neurosis which the civilized individual must pass through on his way from childhood to maturity.

Sigmund Freud


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Invisible Velvet Curtain (it actually exists)

The Rev. Father Donald Cupitt, Anglican priest and Christian author, calls it a painted veil….I have often called it an Invisible Velvet Curtain that hangs between the pulpit and the pews of most all Christian churches.

An Invisible Velvet Curtain that separates ‘Popular Christianity’…. (the domain of the people-in-the-pews), from ‘Academic Christianity’…. (which is the domain of the church hierarchy from the pulpit to the Pope)

For the past six years, the Delphi Study Group (a.k.a. the Sojourners class) has been studying this Academic understanding of Christianity. We have been studying what students are taught in seminaries and religion classes in colleges and universities around the world.

Our studies have brought us in contact with many of today’s church leaders, historians, pastors, bishops, professors, biblical scholars and theologians. We have studied their writings, …listened to their lectures both in person and on the computer. …. We even took a semester of classes on the Old Testament from Yale University, via the internet.

We have come to appreciate many of the differences between these two understandings of Christianity. Some of these differences are somewhat shocking, some even traumatic…. But all of them are interesting.

We have discovered that these two belief systems (Popular vs. Professional or Academic) are so different in their respective views of Christian doctrine that if stripped of their Christian identity, and viewed separately,… most people would not recognize them as elements of the same religion.

Yet we have also discovered that while there are many differences between Popular and Academic Christianity, one point remains the same…. The teachings of Jesus of Nazareth….. to love one another, to care for the disadvantaged, to seek justice for all people.

The Church as a whole is moving toward a fuller understanding of Academic Christianity…More and more Christians are beginning to see over, under and around the Invisible Velvet Curtain…its a long slow process… but as it happens, the teachings of Jesus…. (as opposed to the teachings about Jesus)…. will become more and more the center of our faith journey.

barry e