fall harvest
A Time to be Thankful...but How Do We Give Thanks When the World is Suffering?

The leaves fall- reminding us to let go, the weather turns cold- reminding us to slow down, spend more time indoors with our loved ones, the harvest is abundant and rich in color- reminding us to be thankful.  Yet, as we approach Thanksgiving, we ask: as Progressive Christians who strive to feel compassion for all beings, who strive to bring justice and peace to a war torn world, who strive to walk the path Jesus began on a dusty desert nearly 2,000 years do we muster up our thankfulness, when we look around and see a world in despair?  How do you find gratitude?  Who are we thanking?  And why?

Our articles today share some thoughts on this subject.  Enjoy this discussion and know that we ARE thankful for each of you, because you give us hope, you are reminders that there are people in this world that want to continue the true journey that Jesus began. We look forward to walking that dusty path with you.

*If you would like to contribute to this discussion, send in your sermons, articles, and thoughts regarding Being Thankful in Today's World to:
Your article thoughts, sermons or article might be featured on the TCPC Website or the next eBulletin.

In response to our last question, "Who or What is God in Progressive Christianity?"  we received many inspiring thoughts.  Here is one of our favorites: God Question
President's Note
Fred Plumer

Giving Thanks as a Life Changing Dynamic

By: Fred Plumer

Jesus was not born into a privileged life. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth and did not live under easy circumstances. But he still lived in gratitude. In fact he made giving thanks for life a foundational dynamic of his teaching. He seemed surprised by other people's inability to live happy, fulfilling lives with little or no gratitude. "Why do you worry so much about what you eat, what you wear?"

He was asking this question of some pretty marginalized people who were obviously struggling to make ends meet. You may recall the Sermon on the Mount or Plains in this case from Luke that often gets ignored by people of material substance.

"Congratulations you poor! For God's domain belongs to you."

Congratulations, you who are hungry! For you have a feast.

Congratulations, you who weep! You will laugh." (Luke 6:20-6)

So what gives with all of this?....

To Read this entire article, click here: Giving Thanks

To Read Fred's review of the book, An Introduction to Radical Theology, by Trevor Greenfield, click here:

Giving Thanks for the Good, the Bad and the Surprising

child at farmers marketBy: Ian Lawton

Pastor of C3/Christ Community Church in Spring Lake Michigan and on the TCPC Executive Council

What does it mean to live as if I am surrounded by miracles, even though the kids are fighting, the mortgage is overdue, there seems no end to global conflict and my back hurts? Who should I be grateful to, and for what?

Gratitude seems to be getting lost in our consumer culture, and I point to two reasons for this.

We are losing the sense of where anything comes from.

We confuse gratitude with plenitude.

Where does life come from?

Thanksgiving has traditionally been a time to give thanks to a Creator God for the harvest. Giving thanks for the harvest was hugely meaningful at a time when a lean harvest would mean winter diets of turnips and cabbage soup; dried beans if you were lucky. For some it would mean starvation, or dependence on charity just to survive.

We've lost the original sense of thanksgiving because we don't have that challenge. We just truck over and tuck in, fly down and fry up. We buy bananas from the local store, oblivious to their 20 hour flight from New Zealand.  We fly in whatever takes our fancy from anywhere in the world, no matter what the season. It doesn't even cost more. Why should we be grateful for our food, when it all seems so easy? As Bart Simpson prayed before one meal- "Dear God, we paid for this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing,"

Of course we are paying for it big time. The journey of the banana from New Zealand leaves a trail of ecological disaster behind it; a reminder of our lack of gratitude, a massive carbon footprint that stamps "thanks for nothing" all over the sky.

To Read this whole article: Giving Thanks

Jesus Lived and Died for Us

By: G. Richard Wheatcroft

In the April 1995 issue of Theology Today, theologian Murray Joseph Haar lamented what he regarded as a "rampant" sickness within the American church. He wrote, "The symptoms of this illness sound like this: 'Jesus died for my sins, His pain my gain, He died to set us free, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away my sins, I have decided to accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior." With words like these, many Christians proclaim and define their faith in the efficacy of Jesus' death on their behalf.  I contend that these words of faith indicate precisely the nature of the sickness at the heart of American Christianity." He calls the sickness, a "rampant, individualistic, self-serving redemptionism." (1)

The sickness continues today. The common understanding and frequent statement of many Christians is that "Jesus died for us." Standing alone, that is a distortion of the Christian faith, for it separates the life of Jesus from his death. A dramatic depiction of this separation is seen in Mel Gibson's film The Passion of The Christ. In the film the passion of Christ was almost entirely limited to his death. There was no understanding that his death was the consequence and fulfillment of the passion of his life.

To Read the entire article, click here: Jesus Lived

God In Disguise
tree with light

By: Meredith Jordan

...One letter at a time, interspersed with occasional visits in situ, the cowboy and the therapist have forged a friendship few men and women have. A friendship with deep love at its core, good courage to speak the truth, and the determination to listen well to another whose life experience is at once unique, even foreign, yet universally understood when received by the heart.


Once, I would have been reluctant to risk a conversation with men who were so different from me. When Jim extended his heart, we both became the grateful recipients of our own efforts to find a friend where we might not otherwise have looked. That is, of course, the happiest lesson of all, to find a beloved friend where we might not have looked for one, or perhaps even turned away from a potential companion lying in wait...


To Read this article in its entirety, click here: God In Disguise
Commentary on: In Praise of the Secular
science and relgionAuthor: Lloyd Geering
The following introduction of this booklet by:
Tom Hunt

It is the high calling of prophets, artists, and teachers to help us see things more clearly and thereby to live more wisely and happily. For well more than half a century Lloyd Geering has combined these roles by enabling people the world over to see where they stand in the slowly unfolding process of human self-discovery.   

Such tutelage is never easy, for like children we are loath to give up our familiar toys until someone requires or persuades us to do so. Besides, the myriad events that comprise the broad sweep of global history are not easily arranged into understandable patterns. Engrossed by the trees that comprise our daily experience, we tend to ignore the forest that they are but a part of.

It has been said, for instance, that the driving economic engine of slavery so permeated first-century Greco-Roman culture that even religious visionaries paid little explicit attention to its inherent moral depravity. A noted scholar recently suggested that the dynamic force behind our global culture - capitalism - is a similar phenomenon.   However arguable that second hypothesis may be, it is certain that Lloyd Geering is correct  in pointing out something we often overlook: that secularism is both a growing force in society worldwide and the dominant feature of western culture  (even including the bastion of reactionary theology known as the United  States.)

To Read this Commentary in it's entirety, click here: In Praise
Featured Book:
Like Catching Water in a Net-

Human Attempts to Describe the Divine

book cover

Author: Val Webb

The recent spate of God bashers--Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens--have received a good deal of criticism in the secular press, most notably, Dawkins in Harper's, The London Review of Books, and the New York Review of Books. Yet there are very few books on the God phenomenon that would appeal to the readers of these same publications, many of whom would be hard pressed to describe themselves as either true believers, or "cultured despisers of religion." Val Webb's Like Catching Water In a Net is such a book.  

In Like Catching Water in a Net, Webb is not out to prove the existence of a God, but to set out intuitions or intimations of the Divine nature and attributes from the literature of the world's religions. Casting her net more widely than Karen Armstrong in The History of God or Jack Miles in God: A Biography, Webb delves deeply into the writings of Sufi, Buddhist, and Hindu mystics, the nature religions of ancient Mesopotamians, their kin the Israelites, and the Aboriginal people of her beloved Australia, as well as Christian traditions. 

Why have so many societies throughout history suspected there is Something Bigger than themselves? What is the difference between knowing Something exists and knowing what that Something might be (or not be)? And what about arguments against the existence of God? Webb poses a critical challenge to the way traditional Christianity has straitjacketed Western notions of God and traces the lines of intersection and divergence of various religions in order to offer fresh ways to consider Something More in our contemporary multifaith world.

John Shelby Spong, author of Jesus for the Non-Religious calls it  "an absorbing book written with a lightness of touch, but grounded in deep knowledge and experience. As writer, teacher, artist, trained theologian and scientist, Val Webb draws on an amazing storehouse of ideas and explores in vivid, often unexpected ways the myriad of symbols and images that disclose the Divine in the contemporary world."

To buy this book, click here: Amazon
Again we want to express our gratitude for your support, your interest, and your time.  Please feel free to call or email us anytime with any comments or questions.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! 
Fred Plumer and the Team at
The Center For Progressive Christianity
253 303-0022
harvest moon
News and Up Coming Events


In the Spirit of the Earth: Ecology and Spiritual Liberation
Nov 27, 2007: Upfront & Company restaurant
Marquette, MI

Competing Early Christian Voices- The Contest for Authority
Nov 30, 2007: The Association for Research & Enlightenment
Virginia Beach, VA

Jesus Seminar On the Road
Nov 30, 2007: All over the states!

The Living Spiritual Elders Project
Jan 7, 2008: New College
Sarasota, FL

Jesus and Buddha: Paths to Awakening
Jan 25, 2008: Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town
Albuquerque, NM

John Dominic Crossan Lectures
Feb 1, 2008: University Congregational United Church of Christ
Seattle, WA

Voting Justice, Voting Hope
Apr 11, 2008: Plymouth Congregational Church
Minneapolis, MI

To see all of our latest news items click here: NEWS

Our latest top stories include (click above to see these all other news)

Senate Bill Adds Momentum for Action on Global Warming, Vital Strengthening Needed
Click Read

TCPC Partners with Jesus Seminar to Encourage the Movement of Progressive Christianity Through Education

Judgment Day, a new documentary on the court case about teaching intelligent design in the schools of Dover, PA.
Click Read

Our quote of the month comes from a progressive thinker: Thich Nhat Hanh, who reminds us to celebrate life even amidst death.

"I still arrive, in order to Laugh and to cry, to fear and to Hope.  The rhythm of my heart is the Birth and death of all that is Alive." 

fall trees and river
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meditating girl
Blissful Seeker Corner
By Deshna Ubeda

When I think of being thankful, much comes to mind that I can give thanks for.  I have been blessed with a life of freedom, peace, health, and abundance.  But what about my brothers and sisters in other parts of the world or on the streets in my own neighborhood who have never experienced these things?  Is it right for me to be thankful when they have so little to give thanks for?  Or is the world in such a place that we need to spend less time thanking some God in the sky for our food, our homes, our jobs, our families, and more energy on healing this incredible gift of a universe?  Because it is in this universe that humans have been given the opportunity to create bliss and we have instead created nothing near bliss, heaven, Nirvana- or what ever you want to call it.  And sometimes I feel so angry, frustrated, bent on taking action that I feel the act of giving thanks trivial, superficial, selfish.  Although I know that it is imperative to my own well being to give thanks every day for what I have been given--this year I found the concept tricky.  For I week I was stumped!  How are we thankful, why are we thankful and to whom are we giving thanks?  What would Jesus say?  What would Buddha say?  I was ready to admit failure to solve this mystery of how I truly felt about about this challenge, when I had this very- pull your hair out kind of moment- food burning, phone ringing, baby yelling for something, boxes to pack, work waiting- and I uttered quietly yet quite vehemently-"He can have the squished vege burger, since he certainly isn't helping me in this moment one bit!"  I immediately felt horrible for putting out such a negative energy- our words are energy- and I apologized to the universe for adding even more negative thoughts and gave thanks for the incredible husband I have who works so hard each day for his family and who was in that moment working. 
And then, all of a sudden, it made sense again!  My own personal mind trip mystery solved!  I was so relieved to be reminded of what giving thanks does for me- it helps to balance the suffering, it puts a positive energy into the universe that others experience on some level at some time, for no energy is ever lost.  Any good physicist would tell you that.  It's balance!  So, this Thanksgiving, amidst all the suffering we have co-created, I give thanks.  I give thanks to balance my  frustration.  I give thanks to send out a positive thought to balance all the hate that is put out there every day.  I give thanks to balance the moments when I ask for more.  I give thanks to balance the anger I feel when I think of how we continue to hurt each other.  I give thanks for the opportunity to create heaven and for the moments I have seen that make me realize it is possible.  And in the end, I know that I must also give thanks for the suffering I and my fellow earth beings have experienced- for it is because of the suffering that we are driven to seek and create that nirvana. I give thanks for a future heaven on earth.

the spirit in me acknowledges the spirit in you.