Living The Gospel Revolution

Another compelling offering from The Alternative Seminary

The Sermon on the Mount: Living the Gospel Revolution in Our World Today


Thursdays, September 15 – November 10

7:00 – 9:00 pm EST

(NOTE: No class on October 20)

The times we live in seem apocalyptic – war and violence, political extremism and rising authoritarianism, staggering disparities of wealth, ecocide.  Meanwhile, much of the church in the United States (and around the world) is increasingly succumbing to a militant and dangerous Christian nationalism.

Continue reading “Living The Gospel Revolution”

Challenging Power and Privilege: Is Good News for the poor Bad News for many of us in North America?

By Will O’Brien, coordinator of The Alternative Seminary

Our Western scholarship and church teaching have communicated to us the notion that the four Gospels convey “objective truth,” and we read them to discern their objective and universal meaning. But such an approach to Scripture, bred in the Western / European church, has functioned to uphold social power systems of domination. What is “objective” and what is “universal” have been adjudicated conveniently by church hierarchy and monarchs to serve the needs of Empire, muting the prophetic and liberating voices of scripture.

In recent decades, the Western church has had its safe objectivity subverted by the powerful and insistent voices from the global south, who have forced us to reckon with the social contexts of scripture – both in its historical origins and in our contemporary world. They have exposed the lie behind the phony neutrality of Western biblical scholarship and challenged our concepts of universal meaning by reading the gospels in contexts of real-life suffering, oppression, and unjust social systems.

Continue reading “Challenging Power and Privilege: Is Good News for the poor Bad News for many of us in North America?”

Liberating Christmas

A note from Will O’Brien, director of the Alternative Seminary in Philadelphia.

Peace On Earth and the Politics of Christmas


Saturday morning, December 11

10:30 am – 12:30 pm EST

Join  the Alternative Seminary on December 11 for a virtual Bible study, “Peace on Earth and The Politics of Christmas” Alternative Seminary coordinator and contributor to RLC Will O’Brien will lead a program reflecting on the “nativity narratives” in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke to see how they express core biblical themes of justice and liberation.  For more information, go to the Facebook page.

Continue reading “Liberating Christmas”

The Politics of Christmas in the Age of Trump

Will-OBrien-150x150.jpgBy Will O’Brien

For several years, the Alternative Seminary in Philadelphia has offered an annual Advent program called “Peace on Earth and The Politics of Christmas” Alternative Seminary coordinator and frequent contributor to the Radical Discipleship blog Will O’Brien leads the discussion on how we reclaim the domesticated biblical narrative of Jesus’ birth with their powerful message of challenge to worldly powers.  Folks in the Philadelphia area are encouraged to join this year’s program on Saturday, December 7. You can also spread the word via the Facebook page.

Can we liberate Christmas from its cultural captivity and rediscover the truly prophetic story that speaks to the crises of our world today? Continue reading “The Politics of Christmas in the Age of Trump”


Will O'BrienBy Will O’Brien (right), director of the Alternative Seminary in Philly, PA

*This is the 12th installation of a year-long series of posts from contributors all over North America each answering the question, “How would you define radical discipleship?” We will be posting responses regularly on Mondays during 2019.

Many decades into a vocation of trying to faithfully engage in movements for social justice and peace, I am coming to sense more and more the powerful and radical truth in the simple phrase from the First Letter of John, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). I am utterly convinced that all systematic theologies, all ethics and morality, all spiritualities are subsumed into this daring assertion: God is love. All of the created order is a miracle of love. The human adventure over millennia is the struggle to know and live out our belovedness. The mystery of sin is ultimately the failure to love or to experience belovedness. Jesus the Anointed One embodies love and invites us to a path of love. Continue reading “Belovedness”

I Speak of Jesus of Nazareth

will-headshot4-225x300By Will O’Brien

While I loathe almost everything about the Trump Administration, it is fitting to applaud and be grateful for the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson after two years of detention in Turkey. Now it is time to turn our attention to another tragic case of a religious leader being unjustly imprisoned in a hostile country.

I speak of Jesus of Nazareth, who for many years has been imprisoned under harsh circumstances in the United States.  Reports suggest he has suffered brutal torture during his detention – some followers who have glimpsed him in prison say he has been beaten so badly they could hardly recognize him.  The regime insists that Jesus is not being detained and in fact has complete freedom to function in society, though in fact he has not been seen in public for many years.  Regime supporters also frequently mention him in positive terms, but his followers say the statements about him are utterly false and distorted, which they cite as further proof that Jesus himself is not in fact active in ministry.  Scattered appearances of “Jesus” are, according to human rights observers, highly staged state events, using a poorly disguised double.

The regime denies claims of Jesus’ imprisonment, labeling them “fake-Good New propaganda” by Jesus’ supporters, who it asserts are a threat to the social order.  International observers say that the Trump regime’s treatment of Jesus is a departure from similar situations under modern authoritarian rule, such as the case with Pastor Brunson:  Rather than charging the religious leader with crimes against the government as a justification for detention, the U.S. is instead denying the detention and instead promoting the notion that Jesus is free, active, and working in support of the government.  One regime spokesperson, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, “We saw how Rome tried to handle Jesus through state-sanctioned law-and-order violence – which obviously didn’t work.  We felt that the strategy of Constantine was more appropriate to the U.S. situation, and so far it is working quite well” …

Alas, a little levity is in order, … but conscientious disciples must undertake the hard work of “liberating Jesus” if we are to have the power to be liberators.


Understanding & Responding to the Doctrine of Discovery

DoDBy Will O’Brien, executive director of Project H.O.M.E. in Philly and the curator of the Alternative Seminary

*This Saturday, September 29, the Alternative Seminary and a group of Mennonite pastors are hosting a gathering in Philadelphia to deepen understanding and discern a call to respond to the Doctrine of Discovery

Of the many crimes perpetrated through history in the name of an imperialized Christ, one of the most pernicious is also one of least known.

The “Doctrine of Discovery” is a philosophical and legal framework dating to the 15th century that gave “Christian” governments in Europe the moral and legal rights to invade and seize indigenous lands and dominate indigenous peoples. For more than five centuries, this doctrine and the laws based upon it have legalized the theft of land, labor, and resources from across the world – crimes that continue to this day. Continue reading “Understanding & Responding to the Doctrine of Discovery”

Is Small Always Beautiful?

indexBy Will O’Brien

A few years ago I was visiting good friends at an intentional Christian community in a large city.  This was a community I dearly loved: For many years, persons from privileged backgrounds, following Jesus’ call, had served, lived with, and developed ministries with the folks who lived on the streets of that city.  They engaged in powerful and creative prophetic witness to the compassion and justice of God, insisting on a commitment to struggle with society’s most marginalized persons.  These good saints had taught me, inspired me, challenged me, and emboldened my faith in countless ways. Continue reading “Is Small Always Beautiful?”

The Politics of Christmas in the Age of Trump

Republican Presidential Candidates Speak At Values Voter SummitBy Will O’Brien

Among the many manifestations of his project to “make America great again,” President Trump has frequently and pompously declared that “We will be able to say ‘Merry Christmas’ again!” When he spoke at last fall’s Values Voters Summit, this vow garnered the most boisterous applause. For many conservative Christians, Trump is the conquering hero who waged battle against secularism in the annual “war on Christmas” – and finally won the war. Like many Trumpisms, this would be simply pathetic were it not for the fact that it is part of a treacherous national vision. Continue reading “The Politics of Christmas in the Age of Trump”

Peace On Earth and the Politics of Christmas

CrossThe Alternative Seminary will be un-domesticating biblical tales of liberation for all radical disciples in the Philly area next weekend:

Saturday morning, December 9
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Project HOME, 1515 Fairmount Avenue


Part of President Trump’s vision of “making American great again” is that – to hell with political correctness – we will all be able to say “Merry Christmas!” again.

This is deeply ironic but sadly telling:  Much of the Christian church in the United States has been co-opted by an American gospel of prosperity, racism, violence, and militant nationalism.  The celebration of Christmas is often wrapped in innocent, feel-good, Hallmark-card imagery. But in fact the biblical texts describing the coming of Jesus are making powerful assertions about the politics of the Bible that speak very much to our contemporary global crises.  We will reflect on the “nativity narratives” in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke to see how they express core biblical themes of justice and liberation.  We will try to “un-domesticate” these tales of liberation and reflect on how they are truly challenging us in terms of our allegiance and our discipleship.  A perfect event for Advent.  A light breakfast will be served.  A $5 donation is requested to cover costs.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Will O’Brien at (215) 842-1790 or by December 3.

The Alternative Seminary is a program of biblical and theological study and reflection designed to foster an authentic biblical witness in the modern world.  For more information, see