Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept, by Brent Nongbri – A Review

This is slightly modified version of a blog post published on July 28th on Quaker Universalist Conversations.

Brent Nongbri is a post-doctoral research fellow in early Christianity at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. His 2013 book, Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept, offers a corrective to the conventional modern uses of the term “religion.”

Before Religion, by Brent Nongbri

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“Do not be afraid” – Stephen Finlan (excerpt)

Originally published on Quaker Universalist Conversations, 6/13/2014.

Stephan Finlan is pastor of Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Providence, Rhode Island. He has taught theology at Fordham, Drew, Seton Hall, and Durham Universities. He is author of The Apostle Paul and the Pauline Tradition (2008), Options on Atonement (2007), and Problems with Atonement (2005).

The follow is an excerpt from The Family Metaphor in Jesus’ Teaching

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A sweet metaphor…and one not so sweet

Two simple metaphors to enrich the meta-conversation about faith and practice across the boundaries of religious language.

In the first, Hystery on Plainly Pagan writes about why she “resists theism”:

For me, what some might call “God” is that which is both intimately real and even commonplace and wholly Other and Ineffable. If I use the word “God”, people think I mean what I do not mean.

The butterfly is pinned and people think I mean wings and legs

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Living in between

Note: I deleted an earlier version of this post (see comment on “Apology to Quaker Quaker and its host”).

In recent years I’ve been reading and corresponding with a whole spectrum of individual Quaker bloggers, folks who share, in their own posts and in their comments on each other’s posts, an on-going meta-conversation about Quaker faith and practice across the boundaries of religious language.

These Friends write about their efforts to do something highly peculiar: to self-identify as Evangelical

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Listening

Within the past few weeks, I have witnessed too many cases of misunderstanding and hurt feelings over language and the unreadiness to listen beyond language.

Overtly, the struggles are framed as being between “non-Christians” and “Christians,” between “secular” and “religious,” between “liberal” and “orthodox.”

They are framed as being over who has been hurtful, disrespectful, hostile or even exclusionary toward whom.

The sad irony is that all of these people are passionate about lifting up loving kinship as the highest

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Weeds (Part III)

Part I: The parable of the weeds in the field
Part II: Religion or belief
Part III: Wilderness and cultivation

Wilderness and cultivation

“Religion in its purest form is a vast work of poetry.” (Carse, 111)

The first draft of “Weeds” was one long post. It began with my reaction to Matthew’s version of the weeds in the field parable, proceeded immediately with those insights from James Carse which now comprise the second half

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Weeds (Part II)

Part I: The parable of the weeds in the field
Part II: Religion or belief
Part III: Wilderness and cultivation

Religion or belief

In Part I, I laid out a problem—really a faith challenge—presented to me by the parable of the weeds in the wheat field, as told and interpreted in the book of Matthew (13:24-30, 36-43). The significance of this parable for me is that it sets up an irresolvable contrast

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