Sunday, October 30, 2011

On Faith and Science (and Zombies) - Kurt Nelson

Rollins Chapel 10/30/11

1 Corinthians 13: 1-2
Psalm 8: 3-6

Two events of cosmic significance occurred,
since last we spoke:
Richard Muller, one of the last good, scientific skeptics of global warming,
concluded a massive, 2 year study,
funded in large part by the Koch brothers
and other oil concerns.
And Muller said to the world
that we no longer have reason to be skeptical.
The world is, in fact, warming.
Some of us, of course,
already believed that.
But it’s nice to be affirmed.

And AMC’s Show “The Walking Dead”
set just after the zombiepocalypse,
began its second season,
opening to the largest audience in the history of basic cable.
As I said, two events of cosmic significance.
worth mentioning together.
And worth mentioning in the context of our term’s discussion
of the Bible and the Newspaper.
Pulling, if we can,
our attention away from
violence on the streets of Oakland and Denver,
and immanent troubles in Thailand, Pakistan, Iraq, and elsewhere,
to ponder briefly the relationship between faith and science
(and zombies.)

Public discourse about faith and science has,
in recent memory,
been dominated by two camps.
Who push mirror images of the same essential idea:
That there is not only a singular truth,
but a singular way of knowing.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Being and Dartmouthness - Richard R. Crocker

Being and Dartmouthness
Richard R. Crocker
Rollins Chapel
October 20, 2011
John 15:12-17

As most of you know, the theme at chapel this term is “The Bible and the Newspaper”, which builds upon the words of Karl Barth, one of the 20th century’s most distinguished theologians, who reportedly said that one must preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.

This week, I have chosen to preach from the Bible and The Dartmouth (Dartmouth College newspaper). - more particularly from the passage in John, in which Jesus calls his disciples his friends, and a column in last Friday’s Dartmouth by Kip Dooley, a senior, called Being and Dartmouthness – a title which I have borrowed from him with his permission, and which he obviously borrowed from Jean Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. The scripture passage, as I said, deals with the notion of friendship, especially the friendship offered by Jesus to those who would follow him, a friendship not of casual acquaintance but of deep commitment. The newspaper column is really about what I consider the deep dark secret of Dartmouth life: Social anxiety – a secret which becomes most prominent at this time of year, when sophomores are undergoing the ritual of rush and experiencing either the elation of acceptance, to be followed quickly by the hazing of pledge term, or the despair of rejection, which can be a life-long wound.

So this is really a sermon – a meditation – about friendship and loneliness, about acceptance and rejection, about elation and despair, framed by the Bible on the one hand, and Kip Dooley’s column on the other.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Faith in our Public Life - Kurt Nelson

Romans 13. 1-7 (and 12. 9, 14-20)
Dartmouth College Chapel, 10-17-11

I hope you’ll take a moment to notice
how clever my sermon title is this week.
Highlighting in just 5 words both the immense question
of the role of religion in political discourse,
and the immense issue of our belief
in political life itself.
Truly a marvel, I know.

I submit that we have in this country a serious problem
regarding our discourse in general.
But particularly about the intersection of
religion & politics.
Faith and public life.
It’s not a new problem.
But it is a relevant problem, in this moment.
Brought into sharp focus for me,
by three events this week:
The least significant and perhaps least hopeful
was during Tuesday's debate
when Michele Bachmann alluded to the
“the devil in the details”
in reference to Herman Cain’s 9 9 9 tax plan,
upside down.
Which might be funny,
in some alternate universe,
in which earnest, similar comments weren't heard so often.
but probably not even then.
We might call it the “weird” approach to faith in public life.

Second, Texas pastor Robert Jeffress,
from the very public pulpit of the Value Voter Summit,
Asked the following question:
“"Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person
or one who is a born-again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ?"
At first, this might seem like a thoughtful question.
One which we should ponder and wrestle with.
But really it was rhetorical.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Occupy Wall Street? - Richard R. Crocker

Occupy Wall Street
Richard R. Crocker
Rollins Chapel, Dartmouth College
October 9, 2011
Amos 8:9-13

You will remember that the theme for the term is “The Bible and the Newspaper”. Large in the news this week has been the growing protest movement called “Occupy Wall Street.” Now this phrase must be carefully explained at Dartmouth, because many of you might well think it summarizes your ambitions, or the ambitions of your friends. But this is not a movement of young people aiming to be hired by Goldman Sachs; it is instead a growing, somewhat amorphous protest movement that CNN news describes as “a leaderless protest movement made largely of twenty somethings upset with the state of the economy, the state of the war in Afghanistan, the state of the environment, and the state of America and the world in general.”[1] Far from being composed of people who want to work on Wall Street, this movement contains people who have “a dream : to see the titans of Wall Street trade their palatial office suites for a row of dank prison cells.”[2]

This is a growing movement, spreading into cities across the country, but conspicuously absent in Hanover, where the ambition to be among the Wall Street titans seems very much alive and well.

Now I do not intend to say whether or not this protest movement is in all ways justified or correct in its assertions. I will say, however, that in its basic intentions, it is certainly Biblical.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dear Adam - David Coolidge

A re-post from our former Muslim Advisor Dave Coolidge.

The original post is available here.

Thanks to Dave for such a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece.

Dear Adam

In the Name of Allah, The All-Merciful, The Giver of Mercy

This is a public appeal to Adam Gadahn, an American citizen who has allied himself with al-Qa'ida.

Assalaamu alaykum Adam. I don't know you personally, so please forgive me for talking out of turn. I don't know what you have gone through in life, and how it informs who you are. I have no idea where you are in the world, or if you will ever see this, but I want you to know that I am wishing you well. Only Allah knows each of our ultimate fates, and I wish for you, me, and all human beings that we meet al-Khaliq with a heavy balance of good deeds.

I hope you know, somewhere deep in your heart, that you have strayed in your attempt to follow the way of the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and his family and grant them peace). Instead, you have followed the path of the Khawarij, and in doing so you have exposed yourself to the wrath of al-Muntaqim. In the hadith collection of Ibn Majah, Abu Umama reported that he heard the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and his family and grant them peace) say, "[The Khawarij] are the worst people killed under the sky, and the best people killed are those whom they kill. They are the dogs of Hell." This was the case even though the Khawarij looked like pious Muslims and did the actions of pious Muslims. Their fatal sin was being so convinced that they were right and that everyone else was wrong, so much so that others deserved to die because they disagreed with them.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The End is Near? - Kurt Nelson

The End is Near?
1 Thessalonians 4:13 - 5:2
Dartmouth College Chapel, 10/2/11

1 Thessalonians is, perhaps, the oldest piece of Christian writing we have.
Written by Paul to a fledgling community of Christ followers,
who were trying to come to terms with the fact
that members of their community –
beloved aunts and fathers and friends –
are dying.
And Christ – much to their dismay and surprise –
has not yet returned.
It was, to say the least, a problem.
It’s an early letter.
An important letter.
And a transitional letter.
And what we read today,
about meeting the Lord in the clouds,
is the sole basis of the whole idea of “the rapture.”
So these few verses
have spawned dozens of rapture films
and the multi-million dollar “Left Behind” industry,
and more than a few rapture predictions.
So it’s a culturally significant letter.
And, if we’re being perfectly honest, a strange letter.
But it’s by no means unique,
in offering confusion about the world’s end.
The Gospel of Mark, after all, places on Jesus lips:
“Truly I tell you this generation will not have passed away,
until the Son of Man returns.”
The book of Revelation, and Daniel, and 2 and 3 Peter
are full of dramatic visions of the world’s end.
And indeed,
Jesus was, as much as he was anything else,
a preacher of the coming Kingdom of God.
We're certainly, I suspect, more comfortable with Jesus as a wise man.
As a revolutionary. As a teacher and healer.
Jesus as personal savior and historical figure.
But at some point,
we need to wrestle with the idea of the Coming Kingdom.
And I'd suggest there's no better moment,
than during this swell of interest in the end times.

The world is -
in case you had forgotten -
scheduled to end on October 21st,