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October 7, 2016
The Word in Worship
Isaiah 40.1-11
Luke 3.1-18
The Sermon

"If That's the Good News...?!" - Dr. Nichols

October 7, 2016
From the Interim Minister . . . .
Dear Christ Congregation Friends,
Through a minor glitch the two books I mention in the Goodreads section this week were supposed to appear last week but didn’t.  No matter, really—they’re still good and still relevant. As you know I am fascinated by the way this year’s U.S. election season shines such a spotlight on certain aspects of the church, especially its right-wing evangelical territory. 
That aspect of Christianity has been in the front page news constantly—more so I’m guessing than in perhaps any other election so far. And why is it so newsworthy?  Purely and simply because it represents a certain voting block (the conservative Republican “base”) whose behavior may influence the election outcome. There was a time when the evangelical right made at least a gesture of some vague theological linkage between their politics and their religion.  Maybe around “family values,” or more lately about hot-button social issues like gay rights or abortion, but it was always a very thin and fragile link because there was no real theological, and certainly no Christocentric, strand anywhere in it. Now it is unmistakably blatant: Evangelical religion claims no theological propulsion, mandate or core; it is all cultural and political.
Always before, though, the political side of the marriage dutifully memorized their lines and offered at least blurry affirmations of their own religiosity, which more or less baptized the Evangelical/Republican alliance for those who didn’t look very closely.  That had been the strategy since the 1930’s when the corporate/ecclesiastical courtship began.
But now comes The Donald.  He not only has not memorized his lines, but both his words and his behavior are just proving very hard to cram into the pages of the family Bible.  That doesn’t hurt or worry Donald in the slightest, but it surely does tend to upset the Evangelical/Republican applecart and demonstrate how empty it has been all along. 
This year the dubious union has begun to unravel publically and the utterly non-theological news coverage of the “religious” as only a voting bloc is the sad but unmistakable evidence. It almost makes a person want to quote St. Paul, “Do not harness yourselves in an uneven team with unbelievers.  Virtue is no companion for crime.  Light and darkness have nothing in common.  Christ is not the ally of Satan.” (2nd Corinthians 6.14)  That, of course would be “proof-texting,” but just so you know ....
I’m in the process of researching an upcoming sermon on “being born again.”  That is not a topic I have often spent much time on, and so getting more up to speed on it has been very interesting.  In the process I came across a remarkable article in The Christian Century for October 22, 1980.  That was a time when televangelist Jerry Falwell was at his peak with his “moral majority,” and the presidential contest a few weeks away was between President Jimmy Carter and Governor Ronald Regan.  Scholars today argue that the Evangelical/Republican alliance reached its peak about this time, and as we all know, Jimmy Carter, himself a card-carrying evangelical in theological terms, was swamped.
The magazine piece, a symposium of five brief essays by well-known church leaders, was called “What’s Wrong with Born-Again Politics?”  It is reprinted below, and I hope you will read it, because its insights are just as trenchant today as then.  The truly embarrassing thing is that 36 years later liberal Christianity has still not been able to do much about it.
Maybe we should be thankful for . . . .  No, that’s a bridge too far.
Blessings and Peace,

Click here to read  "What's Wrong with Born-Again Politics?"
Looking Around
9 AM Bible Study, based on Revised Common Lectionary, will be led by The Rev. Bob Moore every Sunday before Worship.

2nd hour on October 9 and 16 will be led by Dr. Nichols and the Interim Process Team. Please plan to attend to discover some things about images and possibilities for our life as a congregation.

Wednesday, October 19th   Council will meet at the church at 7:30 p.m.

A Congregational Meeting will be held October 23rd directly after worship. Potluck lunch to follow.

The next book discussion
will be held at the Sundeen’s on Saturday, October 29th. The topic will be Melanie Benjamin’s bestseller “The Aviator’s Wife”, a historical novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her troubled marriage to Charles Lindbergh. The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. with a light supper, followed by the discussion. All are welcome. 1108 Pratt Drive, Yardley, Pa. Please RSVP with Joe and Carol by email at or by phone at 215-493-2647.

Please save the date! –  Saturday, November 5, 2016; 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. will be CC Work Day. Work Day is an opportunity for us to give our building a bit of tender loving care. Please plan on joining us.

in drawers, filing cabinets, closets and the like.  With the approval of the Church Council and the relevant permissions of former donors, a de-hoarding team has been designated to conduct what we will call the Collyer Brothers Memorial Cleanup.  It will proceed as follows and this is official notice to all who may have an interest in the contents.  On Wednesday, October 12, the designated Collyer Team will proceed through the church triaging the contents.  Level one will be indisputable garbage which will be bagged and put on the curb; Level two will be staple and other materials deemed likely useable within the forseeable future and more cost-effective to save rather than replace, which will go back into storage; Level three will be items which might conceivably be important to someone in the congregation and therefore need to be saved temporarily for reclamation.  These objects will be carefully placed on folding tables in the rear of the sanctuary.  Interested parties have until Wednesday, October 19 to claim/identify any of those objects they wish to have preserved, and they will be replaced into storage.  The remainder will go to the curb.Over time CC has accumulated and lovingly preserved a number of objects which were once useful and important, but which have not in fact been used or even seen since.  They range in scope from defunct organ pipes closeted in the chancel to fragments of crayons manufactured before the Vietnam war.  Much of this treasure resides in the sliding door wall cabinets lining the hallway, with occasional other smaller hoards

Please note: THIS IS NOT A RUMMAGE SALE and you are NOT welcome to bring your own household stash to the church for distribution! The Newsletter will report anything or anyone found especially interesting in the cabinets.

The Coalition for Peace Action celebrates The Rev. Bob Moore’s 40th anniversary as an Ordained Minister and 35th year as Executive Director of the CFPA. Please join the CFPA November, 12th; 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., at Nassau Presbyterian Church (Assembly Room, 61 Nassau St. Princeton, New Jersey) in honoring their Executive Director. Visit www.peOur Outreach Ministry Offering (OMO) for September will go to The Crisis Ministry.

 Good Reads!”*
(*No, not the website!)
[This new and occasional section of the Christ Congregation Newsletter invites any reader to offer a brief description and review of a book they have read and especially value and recommend to others.
The only requirement is that it falls somewhere in the broad category of our human search for spiritual and psycho-social wholeness, growth, theology, God, religion, meaning, authenticity, community, etc.  That is a category that leaves completely out! Be sure to include your name at the end.]
Arguably one of the most interesting aspects of this U.S. election season is what it may portend for the long-standing cultural coalition of Fundamentalist-Evangelical Christian religion and Conservative Republican politics.  The candidacy of Donald Trump may be the catalyst for opening some fissures in that decades-old alliance, and that may prove to be the stimulus for some interesting historical and theological changes.  Here are two books to give you some guidance about what to look (and hope?) for.

Kevin M. Kruse, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (Basic Books 2015). Princeton resident Kevin Kruse, Professor of History at Princeton University, has written a thorough, provocative, and surprising history of the Evangelical/Republican coalition.  Many books and articles have been written about that whole political-cultural phenomenon, but none covers the entire blueprint as succinctly and engagingly as this.  Kruse’s argument—thoroughly documented—is that the emergence of this coalition was neither accidental nor recent: it was a carefully orchestrated campaign which began in the 1930’s as a reaction to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, and probably reached its apotheosis in the presidency of Ronald Regan.  An epilogue brings us into the present day, though (sadly!) just before the emergence of the Donald Trump political phenomenon.

Bob Edgar, Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right (Simon & Schuster 2006).  I’ve mentioned this book in the pulpit several times, and would say it is even more relevant now than it was when published ten years ago.  The author, who died suddenly in 2013 at age 69, was General Secretary of the National Council of Churches.  President Jimmy Carter called this book “A stirring call to American believers who resent their spiritual beliefs being co-opted for a political agenda contrary to their faith. Bob Edgar reminds us that faith belongs in the public realm—not to advocate war, privilege, and environmental degradation, but to promote peace, the eradication of poverty, and the preservation of our fragile planet.”  His chapter containing a modern version of the Beatitudes is worth the entire book.  Here they are:

  • Blessed Are the Faithful Risk Takers
  • Blessed Is the Courageous Remnant
  • Blessed Are Those Who Love the Stranger
  • Blessed Are Those Who Read the Whole Bible
  • Blessed Are the Faithful Voters
  • Blessed Are Those Who Challenge Us to Work for Justice
  • Blessed Are Those with a Sense of Humor and a Sense of Hope

I closed the sermon in which this book figured prominently with the same Franciscan benediction Edgar uses to end his volume, and a number of you asked for it.  Here it is again:
May God bless you with discomfort . . .
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deeply within your heart.
May God bless you with anger . . .
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with tears . . .
To shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
And to turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless with you with enough foolishness . . .
To believe that you can make a difference in this world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

J. Randall Nichols

Christ Congregation
50 Walnut Lane
Princeton, NJ 08540
Phone: 609-921-6253
The Rev. Dr. J. Randall Nichols, Interim Minister
Joanne Hardgrove, Organist-Choir Director 
Brandi Grove, Church Secretary
Rebecca Fransisco, Seminary Intern
The Rev. Jeffery Mays, Pastor Emeritus
Office Hours: Tuesday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

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Christ Congregation · 50 Walnut Lane · Princeton, NJ 08540 · USA

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