By 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
By 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
By 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
By 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 www.alternativeseminary.net.
Philadelphia March. Photo from the News and Observer
By Will O’Brien
The Wednesday following the violence in Charlottesville, I joined with thousands of people in Philadelphia, mostly persons of faith, to march in the streets and rally. The energy was high, the anger was rife, and the sense of energy to change palpable. As distressing as the events were that precipitated this march, it felt good to be there.
But it also stirred some long-standing concerns and questions of mine. This was partly the result of recently picking up off the shelf my old copy of Will D. Campbell’s memoir Brother to a Dragonfly, a book that had a powerful impact on me when I first read it over thirty years ago. Campbell was a Southern Baptist preacher from rural Tennessee who became an important leader in the civil rights movement. As a white southern man, he was part of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. His radical understanding of the gospel and his own discernment of the racial crisis in his home region led him to the conviction that “Jesus died for the bigots as well,” and he took to a very controversial ministry among Ku Klux Klan members. Ornery and wickedly funny, Campbell often cut through the pretensions and hypocrisies of many white liberal activists. Continue reading