Author Archives: Rachael McNeal

Faith Line Protestants: Moving Forward

by Rachael K McNeal

Faith Line Protestants is in the process of doing some restructuring. It seems in the middle of our attending seminary, getting medical degrees, parenting children, working full-time jobs, pastoring churches, volunteering in our respective faith communities, living married life, preparing for married life (congrats to Greg who is now engaged),dealing with pregnancy, and so on – well it seems we’re all kind of busy. Unfortunately, all of these life things seem to keep us from consistently keeping original and relevant content up on the blog on a weekly basis. We’ve been testing the waters trying to figure out how to keep the blog going and we appreciate you bearing with us as we smooth out the wrinkles in this adventure we call “FLP.” Despite the challenges, one thing is for sure – we all think that what we’re writing about at FLP is important.

Please understand, I don’t tell you about all of our other commitments and the challenges we’re currently facing when it comes to running the blog in order to complain, or to make excuses for falling short of excellence when it comes to maintaining our content. No, I tell you all of this so that you understand – despite all of these other very important commitments we hold, we are committed to making Faith Line Protestants work. We are committed to continuing this conversation. It is worth adding a little extra chaos to our lives to make sure someone is discussing the issues related to being a Christian in a religiously diverse world.

The thing is, between having babies, getting medical degrees, attending seminary, working full-time, etc., we want to be sure that someone is engaging the question of how to engage a religiously diverse world as a Christian in a way that’s nuanced, personal, inquisitive, open and above all loving. How can we live as witnesses to Christ in this overwhelmingly diverse world in a way that’s honest? In a way that’s true to the Gospel? In a way that progresses God’s Kingdom? These are all questions we ask here and these are questions we want to keep asking. What is this beast called “interfaith”? How do we work together with people who believe different things than us to better our communities and world? We’re particularly interested in how we can hold an Evangelical Christian identity while engaging in interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Does “interfaith” conflict with the theologies of an Evangelical identity?

We want to have these conversations, and we want to have them here at Faith Line Protestants. So we are committed to making it work and we hope that you will help us.

Please join our conversation. We want to hear from you! Comment on our posts – let us know if you agree with us, or disagree with us. Share our posts – like us on Facebook (www.facebok.com/faithlineprotestants), follow us on Twitter (@FLProtestants), tell your friends about Faith Line Protestants. Let us know if we’ve struck a chord with you. We want to know how you’re engaging with this religiously diverse world as a Christian. Or, if you’re not a Christian – we still want to know your thoughts. Maybe you’re even interested in writing a guest post – email us and let us take a look. The more voices we add to the conversation the better.

Recently a few of us Faith Line Protestants folks were at the Interfaith Youth Core’s Alumni Gathering in Atlanta, Georgia. We were encouraged and energized by the support Faith Line Protestants received from colleagues in the Interfaith Movement – from Christians and non-Christians alike. This made us very excited and enthusiastic about the future of Faith Line Protestants, and we are very much looking forward to the new voices that will be added to the conversation.

“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body and we all belong to each other (Romans 12:4-5).” Faith Line Protestants has a special function. At least I think it does (and perhaps I’m biased). When Greg and Cameron (co-founders of Faith Line Protestants) asked me last February if I’d be interested in contributing to Faith Line Protestants (after I wrote this piece for Interfaith Youth Core) I jumped at the chance. I work full-time in Interfaith Work and as an Evangelical Christian that can be quite isolating. Isolating from my faith community because many within my various Christian circles don’t understand interfaith work or how it fits into my walk as a Christian; and isolating from others within the interfaith movement because sometimes it seems the Interfaith Movement is quite short on evangelicals. Faith Line Protestants provided me with a cohort of fellow evangelicals who are interested in achieving a religiously pluralistic society as a person who follows Christ. FLP has also given me a place to further explore and articulate my understanding of the world, my identity as a Christian, and how to engage with people of different religious and non-religious identities.

This is my motivation as I continue to help grow FLP, its readership and content. As the now editor of FLP, I am excited to see where we go from here. I’m looking forward to gaining more partnerships, reading more from current FLP contributors and authors, gaining more FLP contributors and authors, sharing some compelling guest blogs and hearing your thoughts. I hope you will look forward with me.

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FLP in Atlanta: Reflections on the First Ever IFYC Alumni Gathering

By Cameron Nations

Maybe it was the impromptu interfaith dialogue with the belly dancer who surprised us at our table at the Turkish restaurant on the first night of the conference. Or maybe it was the overwhelming optimism and energy surrounding the largest Interfaith Leadership Institute in IFYC history. Whatever it was, something made the first ever gathering of IFYC alumni in Atlanta more than a mere memorable experience.

For over two days about 30 of us sat in a meeting room in the Sheraton in downtown Atlanta to discuss the ways in which we are using our interfaith training in our post-undergrad lives.

For some, this extension of their interfaith work came rather easily as part of their current job or occupation. For others, working interfaith engagement into their daily lives did not come as naturally. Yet both perspectives offered a glimpse of what the future of the interfaith movement could (and will) look like over the next couple of years as IFYC’s alumni base explodes from around 550 to over 2,000 young adults.

Apart from the joys of the connections—both old and new—strengthened and forged over the course of the weekend, the sessions also focused on broader questions such as ways of leveraging social capital for the common good and judicious use of social media in our professional lives. The IFYC Alumni gathering proved an enriching time of building new relationships and new strategies to address our growing interfaith reality.

For part of our time we broke into smaller sector-based groups that focused on those working in “Religious and Intentionally Secular Communities,” “Media,” “Non-profit,” and “Higher Ed.”

Not surprisingly, I found myself (along with other seminarians and ministers) in the “Religious Communities” group with fellow Faith Line Protestants contributor Anne-Marie Roderick. Amber Hacker, who also writes for FLP in addition to her duties with IFYC, led the group. Along with us sat sometime FLP writer Nick Price, and together with our group we discussed the need for the development of theologies of interfaith cooperation in our respective traditions and ways in which we might see this development through to fruition.

The discussions throughout the alumni gathering helped us to refine FLP’s vision and mission to offer a place for constructive dialogue around the areas of interfaith cooperation and evangelism. Faith Line Protestants might also be a place for fostering conversations that move toward these theologies of interfaith cooperation mentioned in our sector group sessions.

Even outside our sector group quite a few people expressed interest in FLP’s mission, vision, and possible importance to the interfaith discussion. Case in point:
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This word cloud shows the post-gathering aspirations of the alumni. (Notice how our size compares to a certain other acronym. Heh-heh.) This word cloud expressed why the alumni gathering was more than just a memorable experience: it stood as evidence of the transformation that IFYC has had on the lives of all those who have had the privilege to go through their programs, and the support that they give to the leaders they foster. The gathering was, in short, the ways in which interfaith cooperation is being made a cultural norm. And it was humbling to behold.

As FLP moves forward over the coming months, we will continue to define our roles behind the scenes to better bring you regular, thought-provoking content. Join us! Be a part of the conversation.

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Interfaith Youth Core Features Rachael McNeal in podcast

In the third episode of Interfaith Youth Core’s podcast Common Knowledge, Cassie Meyer and Carr Harkrader interview Faith Line Protestants Contributor Rachael McNeal. Rachael talks about how she was inspired to be a better Christian by a Reform Rabbi and about common stereotypes about Evangelicals. Take a listen at one of the following links:
www.ifyc.org/podcast
or on iTunes

(listen for the Faith Line Protestants shout-out at the end)

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The Challenges of Interfaith Dialogue

Yes, we LOVE interfaith dialogue here at Faith Line Protestants, but it certainly has it’s challenges and it helps no one to overlook those challenges.
Read this insightful piece by Georgetown Student Aamir Hussain.

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Zach J. Hoag: What does this mean for you in your context?

Zach J. Hoag, Christian Blogger, shares some maps of the U.S. recently posted by the Washington Post which map out religion in the United States.

Zach asks, “What does this mean for your in your context?”

Take a look.

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Pagan Post-Holiday Reflections

Christmas has come and gone, but for many this is the perfect time to reflect on what Christmas means, or meant to them. I thought I would share with you two reflections from Pagans on Christmas, and their experiences with Christmas. They are lovely reflections and I strongly recommend them to you.

“Why this Pagan Celebrates Christmas” by Better Together Coach Tyler from Roanoke College and
“Yuletide Reflections” by University of North Florida student Emily Schroder.

Happy Reading.

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Sorry, Pope Francis didn’t say that

The Internet is a wonderful place, is it not? Information is at the tip of your fingers and sharing articles and knowledge with your friends is so easy through Facebook and Twitter. The frustrating part about the Internet is that misinformation can also spread like wildfire as was the case with a recent post by the Diversity Chronicle entitled, “Pope Francis Condemns Racism and Declares that ‘All religions are true at historic Third Vatican Council.'”

In the name of religious literacy, I’m here to tell you that, well, Pope Francis didn’t declare that “all religions are true,” nor did he say that literal hell does not exist. The Diversity Chronical is a satirical site, but unfortunately news that the Diversity Chronicle is satirical didn’t go viral in the way this article did.

That being said, I think this reflection over at Revangelical about the Pope and this Diversity Chronicle piece is quite worth the read.

So, no matter how much the world, which has absolutely fallen head-over-heels for the Pope, desires that he becomes the Unitarian universalist Pope, I have a feeling that this faithful Vicar will remain the radically Orthodox Christian leader that he has always been. And I think we should be most thankful for that. Amen?

Read the rest of the post HERE.

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Moving Beyond the War On Christmas

There has been a lot of talk this season about the “War on Christmas.” Many of my fellow Christians seem fearful that Christian holidays, and in particular Christmas, will be “taken away.” I’ve heard many people I know express concern that “they” want to “take away our holidays.” Though I couldn’t quite tell you what having a holiday “taken away” means – I can only assume there is a fear that Christmas could be taken off the list of federal holidays.

I think that we forget Christianity was intended to be a religion on the margins. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness” is an oft quote piece of scripture from Matthew 5. Identifying as a marginalized, oppressed, or persecuted population is part of Christian DNA. Yet, Christians in the U.S. enjoy many privileges and comforts (for a list of those comforts see here). Christianity in many ways has entered the realm of the mainstream in the United States – especially when it comes to Christmas.

So when we see a billboard in Times Square posted by Atheist.org that says, “Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody” -of course it is easy and understandable (and perhaps even justifiable) to respond to this kind of antagonism with defensiveness, but I also think we cling to it as proof that despite our privileged position in the U.S. we are indeed “persecuted because of righteousness.” Though we feel the need to cling to this martyr identity, I think we are really just afraid to lose our comfortable, privileged position as Christians in the United States. I think we are afraid of disappearing into the margins of society. I mean – who wouldn’t be?

In 1870, Christmas was established by law as a federal holiday along with Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day, and Independence Day. With this law, Christmas became a patriotic day, rather than simply a Christian holy day. None of us should be surprised that when the government of what is now the most religiously diverse country on the planet (and possibly ever) established Christmas as a federal holiday, Christmas entered the arena of the mundane. New myths of elves, and a jolly fat man who drove a flying reindeer -led sleigh, grew out of its foundation in an effort to make Christmas something all Americans could participate in. Of course, as a consequence, our free market took hold of the neck of Christmas and squeezed as much profit as they could out of Christmas, and so thousands of marketing campaigns developed to create a mad consumer dash to the finish line each Christmas season.

Christmas, a day to celebrate the birth of a little Galilean boy who would eventually preach the coming of the Kingdom of God, heal the sick, dine with tax collectors and prostitutes, teach forgiveness and then give the ultimate gift to humankind And so a season intended to remind us of grace and hope in the midst of the darkness and longing of winter, has become an American civic holiday filled with greed, selfishness and secularity.

So I ask you – which Christmas exactly, is this oft-spoken of “war” on? As far as I can see, the Christmas that is currently celebrated here in the United States, might not be worth saving. Perhaps we should let “them” (whoever “them” is) wage their war.

(Bear with me.)

When we say “they want to take away our holiday” – what exactly do we mean? As far as I can tell, what we really seem to be afraid of is Christmas being taken off the list of federal holidays. There are currently 11 federal holidays – Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, Independence Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, Inauguration Day, Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Columbus Day (This list begs the question, which of these things are not like the other?). Officially, federal holidays were created to honor different parts of American heritage which helped form the U.S. as a nation and as a people (read more here: http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/Federal_Holidays.pdf). Additionally, being a “federal holiday” simply means that all federal employees are required to be given that day off by the government with pay.

So would it really be so bad if Christmas was taken off the list of federal holidays?

As a federal holiday, Christmas belongs to the entire citizenship of the United States, Perhaps the entrance of Christmas into public life is what led to its commercialization, so removing Christmas as a government recognized holiday could be a step toward reclaiming some of the holiness of the day (let’s remember that “holy” means “set apart”). If Christmas was no longer a day that most Americans had off from work then Christians would actually have to make a bit of a sacrifice to honor and celebrate this day; something non-Christian Americans have always had to do in order to take off work to honor their holy days. Perhaps taking Christmas of the list of federal holidays would be one step toward loosening consumerism’s grip on our Christmas traditions. Perhaps we would actually honor Advent as a time of meditation, anticipation, and preparation for the return of Christ.

I’ll I admit it – I love Christmas – sacred and secular traditions alike. I enjoy baking the cookies, buying the gifts, decorating the Christmas tree, watching the Christmas themed movies. I like hanging my stockings and dreaming up ways I’ll play along with myth of Santa Claus with my children. I love it all. But none of those things I just listed do anything to help me honor and celebrate the birth of Jesus, my Christ. I love all of those things because I did them as a child with my family, and I feel like I’m participating in tradition. Perhaps the “secular Christmas” has merit as a time to gather with family and celebrate the previous year.

And I’m not suggesting we rally and sign a petition asking the Federal Government to take Christmas off the list of federal holidays.

What I am suggesting is, if “they” were to take away Christmas as a federal holiday, would it really be so bad? Thanks to the first amendment, we would still have the right to celebrate and honor this day just as much as Jews, Hindus, Muslims, etc. all have a right to celebrate and honor their special days. So would it really be so bad? And should Christians really get special status in the U.S. among these religions?

I am also suggesting that perhaps it’s time to drop the “War on Christmas” noise and focus on the sanctity of this time. Defensiveness and fear are not in the spirit of Advent, nor are they in the spirit of our beloved Jesus.

This Advent season, as we prepare for Christmas, rather than focusing on what could be taken away – let’s focus on what we have, and what we can give to others – hope; hope of a Kingdom where justice, mercy and peace will rule eternally under the Christ’s reign. This Christmas let’s honor the hope that was born in a barn that day in Bethlehem by dropping all grudges, shedding all defensiveness and reflecting the light of the hope we know is true – Jesus is coming.

Merry Christmas.

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