Call for Papers: Weaponizing Scripture

Weaponizing Scripture?

Second Annual Graduate Student Colloquium in Scripture, Interpretation and Practice

March 22nd-23rd, 2015 at the University of Virginia

The 2015 Graduate Colloquium in Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice welcomes submissions of original research from graduate students on the topic “Weaponizing Scripture?”

Religious communities have frequently appealed to their scriptures in contexts of conflict. Sacred texts play a role in defining communal boundaries and in furthering their own formative and institutional goals. Conversely, individuals and groups who are antagonistic towards particular traditions deploy those traditions’ scriptures against them. Political and military leaders, resistance movements, and minority groups may all cite scripture as a warrant for action. The Word(s) of God can even be portrayed as a weapon itself.

This conference, then, will explore cases, both historical and contemporary, in which scripture serves as a resource for/against the communities that are formed by it, as well as how it is instrumentalized for formational, popular, political, and/or polemical agendas. It further seeks to uncover ways that scripture transforms the character of the debates and purposes for which it is deployed. Accordingly, papers could examine such cases intra-traditionally, ecumenically, inter-religiously, or between religious and secular spheres.

We seek participants who will address this topic from a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives — historical, legal, theological, hermeneutic, ethical, political, and more. The following list is meant to be suggestive of topics rather than provide categories and is therefore not exhaustive:

  • How is scripture a resource and/or an instrument in the following contexts?:
    • in social/political movements (Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Abolition, The Civil Rights Movement, Latin American Base Communities, Islamism, the Christian Right/Left, and so on)
    • within political and/or everyday speech
    • as warrant for
      • religious or political ideological stances, including secular ones
      • violence and war
      • non-violent action
      • social justice/activism
    • within religious traditions
      • as a means of formation, or as a means of inclusion or exclusion
      • in doctrinal arguments (classical or contemporary)
      • towards the reform of traditions and religious sects, or the formation of religious institutions institutionalization
  • Phenomena such as:
    • Portrayal of weapons in scripture, including depictions of scripture itself as a weapon
    • scriptural commentary, scriptural reading strategies, scripture interpreting scripture, rewritten scripture
    • religious groups/movements defined by a specific scripture or set of scriptures
  • Philosophical questions:
    • What is the place of scripture in nurturing our religious traditions?
    • What does it mean when a political leader cites scripture as warrant for a military action?
    • Is there a difference between scripture used as a warrant for a specific action verse scripture used as a means of forming particular communities?
    • Does scripture function as a warrant within communities?

Plenary Speaker: Dr. Sohail Nakhooda

Dr. Nakhooda is a scholar of both Islamic and Christian traditions, who, as senior advisor to the current Libyan ambassador to the UAE, played a significant role in the recent Libyan revolution. He is Co­-Leader of the Islamic Analytic Theology project at Kalam Research & Media (KRM) in the UAE, in association with the John Templeton Foundation. During the Libyan revolution he worked as Secretary of the Libya Stabilization Team and also with the Support Offices of the Executive Team of the National Transitional Council of Libya. He was also former advisor to HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan; a Junior Fellow of the Royal Aal Al­Bayt Institute; and Founder and former Editor-­in­-Chief of the award­winning Islamica Magazine. We have sought him out because he provides us a unique window into the role of scripture both within religious tradition and in the political and even military spheres.

Proposals in the form of a 250-word abstract should be emailed to by January 15th, 2014. Acceptance notifications will be sent out by February 5rd, 2014. Final papers, not to exceed 2000 words, must be submitted by March 14rd, 2014. For up-to-date information please check out our website:

We are grateful for the financial support provided by the following sponsors:

Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life; Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University; Project on Lived Theology; Society for Scriptural Reasoning; Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures; Office of Diversity and Equity; Department of Religious Studies; Virginia Center for the Study of Religion

Islamic Iman Leads U.S. House of Representative Prayer. #whynot

I’ve been thinking about this and have been asking the question “why not?” There are a few things to consider here:

Watch here

  • Is this or is this not a “freedom of religion” believing country?
  • Why are Christians only the ones to be blamed for America’s secularism?
  • Isn’t the text of the Islamic Iman’s prayer a text that even a Christian or a Jew wouldn’t volunteer an hearty “amen”?

I cannot picture Moses, performing miracles in Pharaoh’s Court, using his staff, and then, when Pharaoh summons his magicians to perform the same miracles Moses was performing, that Moses would have said “no, I won’t accept this challenge… I can only accept miracles performed in the name of MY God, Jehovah”. No! Moses not only accepted the challenge but his staff-now-turned-into-snake consumed, devoured, ate, Pharaoh’s magicians staff-now-turned-into-snakes! Christians should not be afraid of any challenge from any other religion! We have to believe that God will prevail, and that our beliefs will surpass, metaphorically “eat” everyone else’s belief; otherwise we are nothing but religious weaklings, whiners and phonies! Jesus never shunned a challenge either! Let Muslims do what they do in between killings and beheadings, and let us as Christians do what we do in confidence that God will see us through as winners… In this the infamous Charismatic TV preacher is right: “I read the end of the book: We win!”

#thelostgospel press conference Bingo game!

Tomorrow is the press conference, to coincide with the release of the book, according to Jacobovici. It will be held at the British Library’s conference center which can be rented for a nominal fee. Due to the early release of the book on Google books, Dr. Robert Cargill has reviewed the book. (See my round up and post here.)

So, in honor of the press release, I thought a little fun may be in order. Here are the bingo cards (SIMCHA BINGO – pdf download), with which we can all play “Simcha Press Conference Bingo”. The game will be fun because the card includes the go-to arguments and phrases that Simcha routinely relies upon to promote himself and attack his critics.. The best thing about this is, is that you can reuse it next Christmas/Easter when our friend has another new startling revelation to announce! 

This is just one of the cards!!!!

simcha press conference bingo

Quote of the Day: Abraham and Watson – “Creedal Faith”

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

English: Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this month’s Circuit Rider (the print magazine of Ministry Matters), Drs. William Abraham. They conclude,

Wesley knew what so many of us have forgotten today: the set of claims that we make about God will shape the ways in which we view the world around us and will come to bear significantly upon the way we live. We all have a way of looking at the world, but not all ways of looking at the world are equally virtuous or healthy. Not all ways of looking at the world are equally true. The witness of the Church through the centuries is that the most virtuous and truest way of looking at the world is through the lens of our creedal faith. For United Methodists these are given in our Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith of the United Evangelical Brethren. The Holy Trinity brought all things into being, created humankind, mourned our rebellion, became incarnate in Jesus Christ, taught us how to live, bore the sins of the world on the cross, rose bodily from the dead, and will come again in glory. That narrative—if you internalize it—will shape the way you view everything. And so, as we say at the beginning of the book, “Belief matters.” It matters a great deal.

They make a few interesting points in this article:

  • Wesley didn’t provide a creed because he was operating within a people for which the Creed was knowledge and accepted.
  • Orthodoxy is what leads us Christians into a fuller life with God. It is not a litmus test, but something like fertilizer.

I am so very thankful I was given the room to grow into orthodoxy, battling it and questioning it along the way. Indeed, there is a difference between orthodoxy and fundamentalism — as much difference as there is between letter and spirit.

The challenge for me is to continue to “think,” “to think and let think,” and yet grow in orthodoxy. (Not to say orthodoxy is not thinking, but like any system, if can become based on the letter). Therefore, I believe we look towards the great mysteries of the faith. Like Clement of Alexandria and others among the Church Fathers, we have to recognize that Christians are on different journeys. Unlike some of them, I don’t think we should judge, coerce, or otherwise those “not up to us” (as in fact, we may be the immature ones if we do this!).

If you get a chance, read their article and their book, Key Beliefs of the United Methodist Church.

i still disagree with Watson about Mark’s Messianic secret… 

United Methodist Centrist Movement is a Third Way, but it is not Via Media


English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is another plan aiming to combat not the problems of the United Methodist Church but manifestations of those problems. It is put forth by members of an Annual Conference in Ohio. They call it a centrist plan and it is a third way. However, as I must remind you, the middle or third way mentality is not via media.

Let me also say that like others who have taken the time to write a plan, prayerfully, I trust that these authors have crafted this plan with a love of the United Methodist Church and a distaste for the constant wrangling over one issue. Any perceived attacks on them in this post is due not to my intention, but to my inability to fully craft it with as much grace as possible. I am frank, and sometimes that comes across rough. That is not my intention. I honor those who put something forward in good faith.

Others, more capable than I, have addresses some of the issues. My goal in this is to address it from my position, that of via media.1

The first line is likely a deal breaker. It reads:

The United Methodist Centrist Movement is made up of clergy and laity who love our denomination and believe the local church is the hope of the world

Isn’t this one of the problems in the UMC? We has forgotten that we are supposed to proclaim that Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. Second, we have forgotten our connexional foundation and the universality of the UMC’s polity. It should be that what one UMC congregation teaches as doctrine and intent, another does as well.2 Indeed, this very line is at the heart of the problems in the UMC — our increasingly small communities centered not on our connexion but on individual personalities or geographic locations. We even see the rise of individualistic, and often baseless, interpretations of Scripture far, far removed from the greater Christian orthodoxy and Wesleyan orthodoxy not to mention Reason and Tradition. We cannot even agree on the role and definition of “experience.”3

They propose to do away with the General Conference, the only real voice for the United Methodist Church. As Watson has said, there is a bureaucratic mess generated with each GC. Yet, instead of tackling that particular issue, they want to do away with it and instead allow regional conferences to take its place. This would, within a short time, create the bureaucracy of the GC at the regional level. It would also lead to regional conferences becoming denominations within a short time. Not only that, it would likely cause us in the United States to abandon the voices from today’s Central Conferences, given they are more conservative than many of our jurisdictions. This is not the image I want to see promoted. This is colonialism, even if it is a reverse of what we usually understand as colonialism.

Their call to the current itinerant system is interesting. I agree it needs to be overhauled, with something along the lines of forced itinerant systems. One of the issues I believe we face today is the cult of personality, where pastors stay too long to be effective. This occurs in our larger UMC churches, where the pastors suddenly become the dominant voice. Not the DS, the Bishop, or even Staff-Parish. The pastor is now in control. Overall, I am not sure their plan here is all that bad.

Their section on “Mutual Respect” is more American than anything. It gives power to those who break the BoD, ending any responsibility for their actions. What good is it then to have the Discipline if it is merely a soft guide?  Mutual respect is first earned when we share in mutual responsibility. What about the mutual responsibility and accountability of Bishops? What about the respect to the Book of Discipline and our individual responsibility to it.

In the end, this plan is truly a third way plan because it runs away from the actual root of our problems. In effect, if something is a problem, they only seek to change the reaction to it, and not the root. That is not a pattern we need to set.

There is nothing here in rediscovering our doctrine, our creeds, our connection to the Great Tradition. Indeed, there is little in here that actually moves us forward, rather than backwards (congregationalism).

The Centrist Movement is Third Way, but it is not via media.

You can find and you should read the plan here: The platform and beliefs of the United Methodist Centrist Movement.


the best thing about this plan is that it has killed A Way Forward. Rev. Mike Slaughter is one of the authors/supporters of this plan. 

I’ll edit this later, but wanted to put it out there now. 

  1. I do not speak for VMM, but speak as one who believes via media is the correct way forward.
  2. Note, this does not mean conformity in thought, but unity in doctrine.
  3. Experience means the Christian “new life” and it is but a tool in interpreting Scripture.

#UMC Bishops issue statement calling for Unity

: United Methodist Church

: United Methodist Church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As bishops of The United Methodist Church, our hearts break because of the divisions that exist within the church.  We have been in constant prayer and conversation and affirm our consecration vow “to guard the faith, to seek the unity and to exercise the discipline of the whole church.” We recognize that we are one church in a variety of contexts around the world and that bishops and the church are not of one mind about human sexuality. Despite our differences, we are united in our commitment to be in ministry for and with all people.  We are also united in our resolve to lead the church together to fulfill its mandate—to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As we do so, we call on all United Methodists to pray for us and for one another.

via Bishops call United Methodists to prayer in human sexuality statement – The United Methodist Church.

My concerns are several. After all, the debate on human sexuality is one portion, but is it the root?

  • Yes, we are all committed to ministry, but this is an issue as well. If you view an LGBT person as a complete sinner, then you will do ministry to them whereas if you don’t view them as a sinner, then you will do ministry with them.
  • There are differences on basic theology. I’m not talking just about Christology, but likewise congregationalism and even soft-Calvinism. It is this that is the root, in my opinion.
  • This ignores a real controversy of people simply ignoring the Book of Discipline at their whim.

It remains to be seen what this will do to the two sides. I suspect the softness of the language will excite the extreme left, destroy the optimism of many in the middle and via media, and anger the extreme right.

However, we pray for unity.

Quote of the day – George Orwell on #Pacifism

Those who “abjure” violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.

via George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism,” May, 1945 .

Thought this might start a conversation…

Solution Aversion… goes with Theory of Motivated Reasoning

Fuqua School of Business

Fuqua School of Business (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine if the cure to a problem went against your political leanings… you are then more likely to admit that the problem does not exist.

“Logically, the proposed solution to a problem, such as an increase in government regulation or an extension of the free market, should not influence one’s belief in the problem. However, we find it does,” said co-author Troy Campbell, a Ph.D. candidate at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. “The cure can be more immediately threatening than the problem.”

via Denying Problems When We Don’t Like the Solutions | Duke Today.

I can see this explaining so many things from climate change to gun control. And also why Moderates are so mistrusted by each fringe.

The worst part about people is their humanity.


Book Review of @Energion’s “Worshiping with Charles Darwin”

There are a few names unmentionable, at least in the positive sense, from the Christian pulpit. One of them, if not the main one of them, is Charles Darwin, the 19th century scientist many accuse of creating evolutionary science. But, there are more than a number of Christians who believe science and faith are co-habitable. This number, we hope, grows every day. And this is where the problem lies. Pastors are having a difficult time presenting science and faith together due to a lack of education on the topic or because they simply do not know how. There are plenty of books about science and faith, but only a few on how to use them together. There is one, however, incorporating them. Cornwall’s book is a book of sermons and essays.

This is a pastoral account, almost like an autobiography, of bringing forth God’s message out of the two books, Scripture and Nature. As one who has read Cornwall considerably, I am neither surprised nor let down at the amount of work in these sermons. They exist, ever etched into someone’s mind, as a real method of worshiping the Most High God by celebrating how he formed the world. The book begins with a lengthy introduction wherein Cornwall tells you of his journey from Young Earth Creationism to this robust faith presented in this volume. Many of us who have traversed the same plane will recognize the same highway pit-stops along the way. This is not a story about someone losing their faith, but one where someone finds a faith richer and fuller than he has known before.

Following this are two parts, one with sermons and the other essays. Cornwall uses these short statements to explain further the relationship between faith and science. The sermons he delivered while the essays are former blogposts, all are crafted for both the subject and the audience. What does Cornwall really do? He doesn’t destroy the Christian faith, as I imagine some of his detractors would accuse him of, but instead leads us along the way to a better, more honest faith.

English: "A Venerable Orang-outang",...

English: “A Venerable Orang-outang”, a caricature of Charles Darwin as an ape published in The Hornet, a satirical magazine Deutsch: Man sieht Darwin als Affen dargestellt, was eine Anspielung auf seine Evolutionstheorie sein soll. Seiner Meinung nach entwickelten sich die Menschen aus den Affen, was damals eine völlig neue Vorstellung war. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To be frank, it is difficult to review sermons, although not all of the book is made up of sermons. Sermons are meant to be given rather than read. Even the poorest sermon can sound remarkable if given properly. So I will not judge them as such. Rather, when I read them I tried to see if they were accomplishing what Cornwall intended. He does the job well. The sermons are exactly what you expect from sermons — rooted in Scripture, rooted in the Christian faith, and yet applicable to the modern world. No doubt, this is going to be difficult for some to digest, but the sermons (and essays) approach the Christian as a Christian who is in need of moving forward. Yes, Cornwall declares, the Books of God are applicable, practical and compatible. I would hope, and pray, that more pastors seek to implement what Cornwall has done, else we subcumb to St. Augustine’s warning about looking like fools for following superstitions (disguised as theology). God helps us and God bless Robert Cornwall.

Yes, we should close the floor at General Conference #UMC

Blue Circles Quote

A few months ago, I among others suggested we close the conference. We were roundly attacked by people who abused rape culture and the narratives of People of Color (see something of a rebuttal here. This type of colonizing narrative is common among modern progressives). This was actually met with a call that such discourse is somehow responsible and spiritually discerning. It is not.

If only, though, we could see something like our proposal in action. If only there was a serious meeting that would prevent bullying and let the work of the United Methodist Church proceed without disrupt… if only….

This past weekend the Connection Table of the UMC met. This part of the UMC is,

The Connectional Table discerns and articulates the vision and the stewardship of the mission, ministries and resources of The United Methodist Church as determined by General Conference and in consultation with the Council of Bishops.

The panelists included contributors to a book about the future of the United Methodist Church. It also included 4 videos selected by the Connectional Table. Each video presented represented the inclusive side.

I want to point you to the story found here and engage it briefly. First, I am heartbroken by the suicide of anyone, and the more so for reasons such as this. I am disheartened that it has been used to shame the UMC as a whole. I want you to compare Andy Oliver’s (a staff member of Reconciling Ministries) comments to that of Ms. Wood, the young man’s mother. Andy, via the best medium in the world for stupid sh..tuff, writes,

Ben took his life last year… His blood is on the hands of every United Methodist (including my own) who has ever called for patience and more conversation–from clergy and laity who don’t want to rock the boat to bishops who think the greatest thing at stake in our church’s fight over ‪#‎LGBTQ‬ discrimination is the unity of the church. I appreciated Bishop Carter’s words today, but they did not go far enough. Bishop, LGBTQ people don’t need more grace, they want freedom from discrimination, the ability to live out their call, and to live. They want a bishop and pastors to boldly say that our church’s law is immoral and wrong. So to my ‪#‎UMC‬ colleagues in ministry, including my friends and father, who continue to choose silence, more conversation, don’t ask don’t tell strategies… and you do so because of money, false unity, fear, or the sheer ignorance of never listening to a queer person the church has harmed… Why the hell are you still in ministry? Your silence and calls for more patience killed a boy name Ben and his blood is on our hands.

Ms. Wood told UMC press,

she did not want to identify the congregation because the incident was “not characteristic” of the congregation. The youth pastor involved is no longer at the congregation or part of the denomination….(she) now attends another United Methodist congregation with her family. At her new church, she said she sees people of all sexual orientations and all races getting along.

By way of…sources… the youth minister in question who shamed the young man was never a United Methodist and is now part of a team leading a non-denominational church that is extremely conservative.

It would be a grave mistake to blame the entire UMC for the shaming of the young man by a non-UMC youth minister when the mother herself, still a UMCer, wouldn’t even shame the local congregation.

If you were able to catch the live stream, you would have noticed the absence of the UMC insurgent lobbying group, Love Prevails. They were actually barred from entering the room, no doubt due to their constant threats and their usual actions in carrying out those threats of disrupting these meetings with bullying tactics. I note LP fundraises to keep the UMC in a state of pain and disempowerment. Of course, all other outside observers were barred as well. The only people allowed to participate were those given the authority by the Book of Discipline and General Conference to do so.

There is a lot of good, and some really stupid, tweets about the meeting as well.

Over all, as Cynthia has pointed out, the meeting accomplished something remarkable. I disagree with some of her statements, but over all, I think she affirms that the tenor of the meeting and the hopeful signs that emerged provided something we haven’t seen — respectful conversation. Not only that, but it allowed for cyber-attendants to participate. Tweeters were allowed to submit questions via twitter.

What did this meeting accomplish? Dialogue. It opened up dialogue about the future of the United Methodist Church between those who see a place for inclusion and place for exclusion, but all within unity. And that scares people. It scares people because some in the fringes what 100% victory and would use any means necessary, even destroying the United Methodist Church, to do it. Their policy is one of bullying of scorched earth, of shaming those who disagree with them. Indeed, many on the left are just as guilty as that youth minister is  — yes, so are many on the right (I reference the extremes).

As the new Council of Bishops President said today, we need to be heard, we need to tell our story in order to trust. You cannot tell your story (which must include a Scriptural foundation) if you are in a room full of people shouting how unworthy you are.

We need more dialogue like this because only in doing the actual work of the Church will we see the right path to follow. We need to focus on biblical hermeneutics. We are a denomination that has Scripture as our prima authority.1 If we remove that, that’s fine, then we do not need to have this conversation (and you’ll lose the rest of the connection to the Church universal); however, we have not. We are still Wesleyan at least in that regard. Yes, there are several interpretations to Scriptures, but when it comes to something like this we need to find the right one or at least the one people can live with. As readers know, I believe there is a Scriptural argument to be made for inclusion. Shoot, depending on how you approach you, I believe you can use Natural Law to argue the same.

This dialogue, at the very least, showed our two starting points. The left starts with “what I feel” while the right starts with “how I read.” We need something more, but if nothing else, at least they are talking.

And that is why I am renewing my call for a closed session. Unlike last time, left me define what I mean by closed. Anyone not a delegate or staff of the General Conference should be removed if a closed session is called. At that time, the floor is cleared, but the live stream is allowed to stay on as are news reporting entities. This will only close the floor to public demonstrations and private threats. This is not to say the session is held in secret, only held in such a way as to honor the work of the Church.

We have seen a little progress by keeping the disruptions out. Imagine what we could do if the entire General Conference were able to speak to one another without fear and intimidation. Imagine if the entire General Conference was a safe space. Imagine if both sides would agree to something besides 100% victory. There are plenty of progressives not represented by the dominating force of Love Prevails and Straight White Male Progressive Colonizers on social media. There are plenty of conservatives not in lock-step with the IRD. There are plenty of people in the middle who do not want a schism, who really want love to prevail and scripture to remain as our authority.

Again, from St. Paul:

Love is patient and kind.
Love envies no one, is never boastful, never conceited, never rude;
love is never selfish, never quick to take offence.
Love keeps no score of wrongs, takes no pleasure in the sins of others, but delights in the truth.
There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, its endurance.

 Maybe we should give some heed to Scripture?

  1. Please note that Scripture is our first authority. The so-called Wesley Quadrilateral is a tool to read Scripture.

A schism to save Christianity from a “Protestant Pope?” #meme


I’d like to note that, for now, this seems to be a uniquely American call:

Other conservatives agree, pointing to Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, in which the upstart self-proclaimed Apostle Paul describes a meeting when he called out Peter—the first Pope—for hypocrisy. To his face and everything. According to Paul, Peter backed down. Now traditionalists want to use this as a precedent for calling out the Pope when he’s not Pope-y enough.

Read the rest here. It is a good read, quick, to the point.