The Uncommon Commons

So for some strange reason this past year, I took on the role of Board President of our condominium association which, by all commonly accepted standards of our modern society, indicates that I either enjoy pain or I am slightly deranged or some combination of both. There have been some days in this role filled with experiences where I would not disagree with this assessment.

Seriously why would I voluntarily accept this non-financially compensated role of dealing with the multiple issues of a 2 building residential and commercial complex and the criticisms and complaints that arise from nearly 100 different and disconnected households? Well, quite frankly I did it simply because it’s our future or at least a microcosm example of our future.

What? We’re all going to live in Condo’s? Well yes & no. It’s rather obvious that our current American societal model of suburban McMansion living is unsustainable but that doesn’t mean that we all have to live in Condo’s. But then again in a sustainable future world -many more of us will. So we need to get it right. Hence my willingness to see if I can help grow a viable community.

If our future of humanity is ever to be sustainable then somehow we have to learn how to co-exist as a community of shared concerns rather than as isolated disconnected  individuals focused solely on fulfilling our individual wants, needs & desires.

The Crisis Of The Commons:

Currently our society has embraced hyper-individualism as it’s core life value. We can see this played out in the media, in our political system, in our economic models and in our everyday life experiences. The intense focus of our society is on individual rights and on the immediacy of today’s needs/wants/fears & desires.  But this approach to life fails to consider the future of the commons. It also flies in the face of the Gospel imperative to Love God & Neighbor but we will leave the discussion of that significant dimension to another day.

So what is the Crisis of the Commons? Simply put, its the uncomfortable fact that even though we are individuals, we share things in common. Some of things that we share are incredibly important and also ultimately limited. Somewhere along the range of possible actions in sharing the commons, our intense focus on individuality becomes a severe and ultimately fatal detriment to the whole. Perhaps a brief illustration from the Middle Ages will help to clarify our modern dilemma.

A few hundred years ago, the middle class was essentially non-existent. Our ancestors might have been serfs working on some Noble’s land. We could eat what scraps the Noble set aside for us to consume but if we wanted something more than scraps (or even not to starve when the Noble’s interests dictated a lack of concern for our plight) then we would need to pool our resources. Perhaps we might raise a few sheep in the town’s common area that could tide us over when times were tight. But if you or I decided to get ahead by raising some additional sheep for our own purposes at some point we would exceed the grass available in the common area and all the sheep would die out. It might be hard to determine whose additional sheep caused this “tipping point” to be exceeded but the result would be the same. All of the community would pay the price of our individual desire for more. Starvation would hit everyone, from those who tried for more and even those who were innocent. The only way to survive was to live in community that recognized the boundaries of what the commons could sustain.

If you look at the history of ancient civilizations, you will see this “crisis of the commons” played out in one form or another again and again and again. Civilizations that died out never could accept the limits of the commons. Perhaps they thought that they could invent new methods where natural limits wouldn’t apply to them or perhaps they simply thought that God would provide no matter what they did. But die out they did and all we have left from their walk in this life is some pottery remnants or perhaps some broken stone statues.

So what does the “crisis of the commons” have to do with a sustainable future? Perhaps because it directly affects everything that matters.

When I was a youth, as hard as it is to believe now, we used to practice how to survive nuclear annihilation by ducking under our school desks. I grew up in a time when humankind’s great technological achievement was to master the ability to destroy the world through nuclear war. Looking back, it is still is an amazement that somehow our leaders didn’t push those launch buttons but its scary to contemplate how close we got to this point at various crisis moments in the past 50 years.  But that was then, we moved on to new capabilities now. We have managed to expand our technological capability in our insatiable desire for consuming more such that all that is required to destroy intelligent life on this Earth is simply to continue to follow our current life path.

That’s the “crisis of the commons” for our time.

In my lifetime, the world’s human population has tripled and our pollution rate has increased six-fold. Those are staggering statistics to comprehend. But it’s not simply the head count of humans that matters. It’s also how much each human consumes. Scientists tell us that we passed the point of where the Earth was able to sustain our level of consumption sometime in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. Right now the scientific consensus is that we are consuming at a level which requires 1.5 worlds. If all 7.6 billion current human inhabitants consumed what the average American consumes then we would need more than 4 worlds. The problem of course is that we only have the one.  I can tell you from my world travels that our commercial global advertising outreach has got everyone wanting to consume at the level Americans take for granted. The natural laws of the universe will not permit this much longer. We are over heating the Climate, depleting the biosphere, destroying the oceans & the soils that sustain life and in doing so we are also hitting so many more natural limits that we can’t even predict which tipping point will come first.

In short we are facing on a global basis for the first time in our history the “Crisis Of The Commons”.  Life as we know it will simply cease to exist if we continue on our current life path. To be sure, I and my fellow grey hairs currently residing in western modern society are probably immune to this crisis. I am not so confident that my kids will be immune from this crisis and I am fairly sure that my grandkids and their peers around the globe will end up cursing our legacy with their dying breathes.

So what do we do in response to this modern day global “Crisis Of The Commons”?

Perhaps, we start on a personal basis by choosing the road less traveled. The seldom used road where our life path embraces the value of the rights of future communities to live over my perceived right as an individual to consume without limits in the here and now.

Perhaps we take the first initial even hesitant steps down this fork in our road of life by informing our daily decisions by the consideration of what is the best decision that I can make to the benefit of my grandchildren and their grandchildren. Perhaps we change from the concept that a “good life is measured by what I have accumulated” to the legacy of life that we enable future generations to experience.

Perhaps we start small: we reduce the amount of fossil fuels that we burn, change our diets in small and meaningful ways and restrain our urges to consume.  Perhaps we step further on this new life path to insist that laws are enacted which put a price on carbon and reign in the wanton excesses of Global Vulture Capitalism. Perhaps we even risk criticism by inviting others to join us on this new life path also such that a tipping point might be reached where the “Road Less Traveled” of caring for the future of God’s Good Creation becomes the norm.

I know for sure that “tipping points” are coming.

Whether they are the “tipping points” which carry us over the cliff into the total destruction of life or instead they are the “tipping points” of sufficient people demanding a different life path remains to be seen.

As a Public Theologian, I know which path is the one God calls us to take. (“Jesus looked upon him with love and said that you lack one thing, go sell…give.. and come follow me.”)

All this blog’s discussion to this point is to lead us to the need to envision the need to change human society on a global scale. To envision a radical concept that I have dubbed the “Uncommon Commons“.

The Uncommon Commons as proposed this day is perhaps best being debated in our society as the current “hot topic” known as the Green New Deal. It is the singular current aspiration of the scale necessary to solve our deep seated problems by tackling both economic injustice & environmental injustice via solving the Climate Crisis.

It arises from the basic understanding that Physics doesn’t compromise which makes the Climate Crisis with its recent tip over into being an “acute threat” unable to be successfully resolved using conventional political approaches. Some 30-40 years ago while it was still a “chronic threat”, the issue of Global Warming might have possible for our typical political approaches to have worked if all parties had bargained in good faith. But nothing was done then other than pretending that the problem didn’t exist.

That conscious intentional decision on the part of Fossil Fuel interests to deny that we needed to stop our polluting ways has caused this global crisis to escalate to the point where only a WWII level of response will prove sufficient. The level of investment of time, talent & resources necessary are staggering to comprehend. If not appropriately controlled, greed based interests will steal from these necessary global scale efforts. If done appropriately, the right expenditures of these resources can lift billions out of poverty.

Hence the need for the movement towards aspirational Green New Deal. Which would be a major step in human evolution to sustaining Creation rather than destroying it.

The Green New Deal could become a path leading us towards the Uncommon Commons that we first read about in the book of Acts 2:43

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

As I ponder each day anew the many terrible things happening across the globe on our mad march towards extinction, I have come to the radical conclusion that Billionaires ain’t going to Heaven because to obtain “their” billions they are making our Earth into Hell. That’s the radical truth of the Gospel reduced to a single sentence. If humans ever evolve to living in a sustainable relationship with Earth’s life systems then the concept of billionaires will have ceased to exist.

That’s what scares the “bejesus” out of the billionaires.

Tearing down boundaries, barriers and walls

Exploring critical challenges to our presumptions on life

Recently a friend sent me a message asking for my comments regarding an article that made the radical assertion that Jesus isn’t the only way to heaven.

Instead of simply forming a singular response to my friend, I think this subject is worthy of pondering and sharing widely. It’s worth pondering if for no other reason than this claim of “Jesus is the only way” is the fundamental assertion of Christian supremacy for hundreds of millions of people.

Believe in Jesus? Yes? Then OK you get to go to heaven. No? Well then hellfire and brimstone for you my dear friend. Sorry about that eternal suffering stuff but what are you going to do since the good book clearly says so.

Or does it?

The assumption that Jesus is the only way to heaven arises primarily from a singular verse in the Gospel of John which proclaims: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

If you have spent anytime exploring other religions, then you probably know that Christianity isn’t alone in this bold interpretation of its sacred scriptures that they have the only true path to God.

Yep, pert near every expression of faith has followers that can point to a verse in their sacred scriptures asserting that they alone have the one true way to God.

Again, the most generous of those holding this position will be sorry that you going burn in hell, but hey what can you do? After all its right there in the BOOK!

But how does that assertion’s claim resonate with the understanding that God is love? I just don’t see it.

In my advanced years after lots and lots of theological wrestling with concepts, creeds and traditions, I’ve come to the conclusion that this practice of drawing barriers & boundaries around the access to God is pretty much like drawing barriers and boundaries on the Globe. Yeah, I’ve concluded it’s a human trait to draw barriers & boundaries not a Godly trait.

The poet that wrote the book of Genesis made a very bold assertion very early on in this amazing book that attempts to convey how Creation came to be: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Now that verse resonates for me with the concept that God is love.

So, if everything and everyone of God’s creatures (yes including you & I and even those that don’t remotely resemble you & I) is deemed by God to be “Very Good” then where do we get the warped idea that we can create boundaries and barriers when God has not? On what basis do we get to judge and exclude others from God?

This concept of desiring to exclude others from being a member of God’s Good Creation is an ancient sin. I’m confident that archeologists can point to cave drawings which convey this very same concept: I’m on the inside and you are on the outside so just go ahead and die. It’s like we never outgrew the childhood cruelties practiced in the school yard except now we do it with weapons of economic deprivation or environmental degradation or mass destruction or at least erecting walls isolating us from “them others”.

This argument is played out exceeding well in chapters 10 & 11 of the Book of Acts where Peter is castigated by his fellow early disciples for having the audacity to go to Gentiles with the Good News. His response is one that guides much of my current understanding on a faith filled life: “who was I that I could hinder God?” (Acts 11:17)

There’s a basic human failing which is to attempt to be God or direct God or limit who God can love.

Who am I to think that I can limit God? Yeah, that’s a really tough question which if we are honest enough to raise it then it should knock us back to reality when we get tempted to be supreme over others or any of God’s good creation.

In full confession, I’m hopelessly Christian but for me that simply and totally means being a follower of Jesus not human dogma and creeds. So as to the common assertion that God is limited to reaching humans with the message to live a life rooted in love only through Christianity, who are we to hinder God?

So, returning to our opening verse of John 14:6. I find it helpful to my life faith journey to re-phrase it this way:

Jesus came to show me the truth about the way I am to live.

The way is first and forevermore rooted in the practice of sacrificial compassionate love seeking justice for all of God’s Good Creation.

As to boundaries and barriers? On my better days, I know that God would say tear them down.

Walls and barriers are of human origin

Tearing down boundaries, barriers and walls

Exploring critical challenges to our presumptions on life

Recently a friend sent me a message asking for my comments regarding an article that made the radical assertion that Jesus isn’t the only way to heaven.

Instead of simply forming a singular response to my friend, I think this subject is worthy of pondering and sharing widely. It’s worth pondering if for no other reason than this claim of “Jesus is the only way” is the fundamental assertion of Christian supremacy for hundreds of millions of people.

Believe in Jesus? Yes? Then OK you get to go to heaven. No? Well then hellfire and brimstone for you my dear friend. Sorry about that eternal suffering stuff but what are you going to do since the good book clearly says so.

Or does it?

The assumption that Jesus is the only way to heaven arises primarily from a singular verse in the Gospel of John which proclaims: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

If you have spent anytime exploring other religions, then you probably know that Christianity isn’t alone in this bold interpretation of its sacred scriptures that they have the only true path to God.

Yep, pert near every expression of faith has followers that can point to a verse in their sacred scriptures asserting that they alone have the one true way to God.

Again, the most generous of those holding this position will be sorry that you going burn in hell, but hey what can you do? After all its right there in the BOOK!

But how does that assertion’s claim resonate with the understanding that God is love? I just don’t see it.

In my advanced years after lots and lots of theological wrestling with concepts, creeds and traditions, I’ve come to the conclusion that this practice of drawing barriers & boundaries around the access to God is pretty much like drawing barriers and boundaries on the Globe. Yeah, I’ve concluded it’s a human trait to draw barriers & boundaries not a Godly trait.

The poet that wrote the book of Genesis made a very bold assertion very early on in this amazing book that attempts to convey how Creation came to be: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Now that verse resonates for me with the concept that God is love.

So, if everything and everyone of God’s creatures (yes including you & I and even those that don’t remotely resemble you & I) is deemed by God to be “Very Good” then where do we get the warped idea that we can create boundaries and barriers when God has not? On what basis do we get to judge and exclude others from God?

This concept of desiring to exclude others from being a member of God’s Good Creation is an ancient sin. I’m confident that archeologists can point to cave drawings which convey this very same concept: I’m on the inside and you are on the outside so just go ahead and die. It’s like we never outgrew the childhood cruelties practiced in the school yard except now we do it with weapons of economic deprivation or environmental degradation or mass destruction or at least erecting walls isolating us from “them others”.

This argument is played out exceeding well in chapters 10 & 11 of the Book of Acts where Peter is castigated by his fellow early disciples for having the audacity to go to Gentiles with the Good News. His response is one that guides much of my current understanding on a faith filled life: “who was I that I could hinder God?” (Acts 11:17)

There’s a basic human failing which is to attempt to be God or direct God or limit who God can love.

Who am I to think that I can limit God? Yeah, that’s a really tough question which if we are honest enough to raise it then it should knock us back to reality when we get tempted to be supreme over others or any of God’s good creation.

In full confession, I’m hopelessly Christian but for me that simply and totally means being a follower of Jesus not human dogma and creeds. So as to the common assertion that God is limited to reaching humans with the message to live a life rooted in love only through Christianity, who are we to hinder God?

So, returning to our opening verse of John 14:6. I find it helpful to my life faith journey to re-phrase it this way:

Jesus came to show me the truth about the way I am to live.

The way is first and forevermore rooted in the practice of sacrificial compassionate love seeking justice for all of God’s Good Creation.

As to boundaries and barriers? On my better days, I know that God would say tear them down.

Walls and barriers are of human origin

New Year Resolutions

Telling It Forward – A Progressive Faith Journey

New Year’s Resolutions

So, it’s that time of the year yet again.

Yep, time to resolve to do better in the coming year. Well at least to begin the New Year with the intent of doing better in some way, shape or manner.

But like usual, we’ve procrastinated and so we are “under the gun” and need to come up with an appropriate life changing resolution in the next 72 hours or so. You can almost hear the classic “Jeopardy” countdown theme playing in the background. Oh, the tension builds! What to do, what to do?!

Perhaps a bit of Gospel wisdom for a time such as this?

“Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:24)

Strive…hmmm. The core truth of New Year’s resolutions may well be in the striving to be better.

But better at what?

Back to the Gospel:

“to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:35)

Resolve to be better at loving others with compassion and justice at its core.

2019 really-really needs resolutions such as this.

But then you knew this truth already, didn’t you?

Using Scripture to promote evil? Oh human what have you wrought?

And the Word became flesh -Using scripture to promote evil, oh humankind what have you wrought?Terry in robe I have been truly ineffectual, as of late. Well ineffectual at least in the realm of my ministry as a public theologian tasked with awakening people to hear God’s call to turn away from our current destructive paths in order to live another way. Due to changing family dynamics, I’ve been deeply engaged in a grandparenting on an active daily basis, but truth be told I still have time in my weekly schedule for ministry. In full confession, I’ve been woefully neglectful of my ministry to you because quite simply I don’t yet understand how to be an effective communicator of truth in this dystopian “Age of Trump”. Trump lies nearly 10 times a day. His followers are being quoted as knowing this but despite the lies or perhaps because of his unorthodox behavior, somehow still trust him. Recently individuals who claim to follow him have performed acts of great evil and in response to the evil perpetuated in his name, his inflammatory rhetoric has only escalated. In turn, the rhetoric of his monetary sponsors has also escalated. One might say its because they are afraid that our society is finally awakening to their particular form of evil and they fear the results of this election going against them. I pray that it might be so. This past week, his monetary sponsors have published racist advertisements and to prove there are truly no boundaries to this obscene movement, took out billboard advertisements which essentially proclaim that Trump is the Messiah by employing the words from the beginning of John’s Gospel “And The Word Became Flesh”. This is nothing new, as in the troubled history of humankind, Evil has often misused the Christian Holy Scripture to promote or even to sanctify evil acts. This of course has also been done with the Holy Scriptures of every other world religion. Scriptures misused to promote every kind of evil act. This type of Evil movement only stops when we stop it. In human history, good and faithful have opposed Evil at the cost of their lives. Today, we can do it at the ballot box. I hope you do it. I know for some, it will be a far greater hardship than it was for me. For some, your registration will be challenged, I hope you persist. For some, your voting place has been moved, I hope you persist. For some, your voting place has restrictions which will make it physically challenging for you, I hope you persist. For some, perhaps like me, you will need to throw off the deep despair you currently suffer in order to act, I hope you persist. But act we must. For you see to oppose this modern evil human empire and all evil human enterprises throughout history is exactly why the word became flesh as John so eloquently expressed it the opening 14 verses of his gospel. Vote and then spend some time with this Gospel passage today and again on the tomorrows yet to be. May they help guide our life paths to be centered in compassionate justice for all God’s good Creation. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.    And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-14)  

Do we live to worship or worship to live?

Scripture has some very challenging messages for us to wrestle with.


There’s one that comes from the book of Isaiah (1:10-18) and describes how very disappointed that God is with human’s intense focus on attempting to appease God through worship but doing nothing to change how they actually live.

It expresses the disturbing news that God has no interest in prayers and offerings from a people who reject compassion & instead embrace injustice.

The passage ends with the statement: “Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

Perhaps how we come to understand how God would have us live can be found through engaging in the difficult discussion of what we claim to believe and how we actually live.

Perhaps the willingness to encounter difficult truths through dialogue is the first step of discernment.

Stated another way, the “900 pound gorilla” in the room that nobody wants to talk about, is the justice dichotomy between how we pray/sing/worship & how we act/value/love.


Perhaps it is through this difficult dialogue, that real change in our lives is possible. 

Curse God or Persist?

There’s a troubling book in the Bible with an especially troubling passage that just rings vividly true for our current times.

(Job 2:7) So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”

Did we do something that deserved being on the receiving end of all the Evil befalling us right now?

Perhaps yes or perhaps not. Sometimes Evil just is and does and inflicts harm cuz well that’s how it earned it’s name. At least that’s what the book of Job kinda indicates.

The question more critical to these times is what will our response me?

Do we simply curse God & die?

Or do we persist in our integrity and continue to strive for a just & compassionate society?