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Derek Penwell

Derek Penwell is an author, editor, speaker, and activist. He is the senior minister of Douglass Boulevard Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Louisville, Kentucky and a lecturer at the University of Louisville in Religious Studies and Humanities. He has a Ph.D. in humanities from the University of Louisville. He is the author of articles ranging from church history to aesthetic theory and the tragic emotions, as well as the forthcoming book from Chalice Press, The Mainliner’s Survival Guide to the Post-Denominational World, about how mainline denominations can avoid despair in an emerging world. He currently edits a blog on emergence Christianity, [D], and blogs at his own site. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.

Entries by Derek Penwell

The Bible's for Losers (And Why That's a Good Thing)

(3) Comments | Posted February 9, 2015 | 2:01 PM

Taking everything into consideration, the Bible was written mostly by losers for the benefit of other losers.

That’s not a value judgment, just an observation.

Think about it. The various authors of the texts we call Scripture, both the Hebrew and Christian versions, generally occupied the less aspirational end...

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Why Liberal Protestantism Should Quit Living in Fear of Its Own Death

(2) Comments | Posted January 5, 2015 | 11:46 AM

I’ve grown accustomed to the popular ecclesiastical trope, which argues that liberal denominations are dying because they’re liberal. As somebody who writes about this stuff, I can spot the whole liberals-are-killing-the-church thing from a mile away -- because of their love of gay people, and black people, and poor...

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Who Cares If It Works? Jesus, Torture, and Rectal Hydration

(7) Comments | Posted December 15, 2014 | 3:59 PM

We did what?

Rectal hydration? There's no way I'm Googling that.

Rectal feeding? I can't even...

The Senate released its report on torture on December 9. Turns out, we did some pretty horrific things to other human beings in the name of national security.

'You have to understand...

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Why You May Be a Racist (Even Though You Don't Feel Like One)

(26) Comments | Posted December 8, 2014 | 5:43 PM

I don’t understand. I just don’t.

I’ve watched the Eric Garner tape for what seems like the hundredth time, and I don’t understand how we not only tolerate, but go to great lengths to make excuses for, a system that disproportionately kills young black men. I saw the tape. And...

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Following Jesus and Annoying the One Percent

(6) Comments | Posted November 12, 2014 | 5:09 PM

In the aftermath of the recent elections in which candidates running on a platform that offered a perfunctory hat tip as it hurtled passed the middle class on the way to performing an unctuous curtsey before big money, I was once again struck by how the heavily metered halo of...

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A Pastoral Letter to Older Generations About Those Frustrating Millennials

(1) Comments | Posted October 23, 2014 | 6:36 PM

At a workshop in Ohio recently, I made note of the fact that emerging generations (Millennials and Gen-Xers), having grown up in a “disposable” world (e.g., sporks, iPods, their parents’ marriages, etc.) -- a world that, because of student loan debt and a lack of jobs, requires them to be...

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Does Declining Membership Mean God Thinks You Suck?

(1) Comments | Posted September 9, 2014 | 4:51 PM

I found myself tangentially involved in a Facebook flame war the other day. Invigorating.

I know that when ministers and theologians have a flame war it’s never as good as when everybody else does it:

“Barack Obama embodies everything that’s going wrong with America. He’s killing the economy, the...

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Why Knowledge of Injustice Without Action Makes You Part of the Problem

(4) Comments | Posted August 28, 2014 | 5:27 PM

Let us imagine that you live in a circle of eight houses, seven of which have fertile gardens in back -- enough to feed a family. Unfortunately, however, the eighth house has a patch of swampy land that makes growing a garden impossible. Consequently, the people that live there spend...

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7 Reasons Not to Freak Out About Protestant Mainline Decline

(11) Comments | Posted August 14, 2014 | 4:53 PM

I received an email from a friend of mine two days ago, after the 2014 Yearbook and Directory for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) came out, which contained some dispiriting numbers about membership decline. In the email my friend noted that, year-over-year, our loss of Total and Participating Membership...

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'I Like Jesus -- It's His Followers I Can't Stand'

(0) Comments | Posted August 6, 2014 | 3:32 PM

"If you follow Jesus and don't end up dead, it appears you have some explaining to do."

--Terry Eagleton1

There's a gap. I'm convinced of it. A Jesus gap.

There's a growing dissatisfaction with the traditional view of the...

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Breaking: The War Over Same Sex Marriage Has Been Won!

(26) Comments | Posted July 29, 2014 | 10:59 PM


The war for same gender marriage has been won. I received the news today. I didn’t read it in the newspaper, didn’t see it on the news crawl at the bottom of the screen on CNN. I heard the announcement from a 17...

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11 Questions for Christian Companies in Light of the Hobby Lobby Decision

(93) Comments | Posted July 2, 2014 | 11:52 AM

By now you’ve probably heard about the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The Christian owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of retail stores filed suit, seeking an exemption from paying for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act that covers contraceptive methods it deems in opposition to...

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Jesus Is the Worst Thing to Happen to Christianity in Awhile

(744) Comments | Posted June 26, 2014 | 11:08 AM


Jesus is the worst thing to happen to Christianity in awhile.

Want to know how I know?

I got another anonymous letter sent to me today. Actually, it wasn’t a letter at all; it was a tract. Turns out, they still make those....

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God Doesn't Need Our Protection

(6) Comments | Posted June 12, 2014 | 2:33 PM

Growing up in the evangelical heartland of America, Grand Rapids, Michigan, I came to believe that the highest calling to which one might aspire was apologetics ninja. That is to say, I thought that protecting God from the predations of the faceless hordes of the godless through the proper application...

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The Morse Code of Fear

(0) Comments | Posted June 5, 2014 | 3:34 PM

I remember after class one time in graduate school two of my classmates approaching me to ask if I were going to the parking garage, and if so, could they walk with me. I said, “Of course.”

The class got out well after dark, and the parking garage was across...

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Franklin Graham Is the Worst Thing to Happen to God in a While

(949) Comments | Posted May 29, 2014 | 4:58 PM

Franklin Graham is the worst thing to happen to God in a while -- well, OK, God’s reputation. I’m only slightly exaggerating.

You see, Franklin Graham is at it again, making life difficult for thoughtful Christians everywhere. In a speech at the Family Research Council’s Watchmen on the...

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Prophets in Stolen Bowling Shoes

(1) Comments | Posted April 15, 2014 | 5:04 PM

I got a call one time when I was 19-years-old from a friend of mine, who asked, “Could you do me a favor? Could you ride down to Kokomo with Rich Mullins, so he can pick up his truck?”

I was pretty stoked. I grew up in the Evangelical heartland...

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The Problem With Assuming That It's the Millennials' Fault for Abandoning Religion

(7) Comments | Posted April 4, 2014 | 4:30 PM

I used to work with a guy who had a gift for breaking up with girls. He was so genuine and kind that afterward the girls would invariably leave feeling affirmed and cared for, like George Clooney had just fallen apart on them, relating how unworthy he was of their...

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How's Kirby? Why the Church Has to Get Gay Marriage Right

(18) Comments | Posted March 19, 2014 | 5:34 PM

Not long ago, I had to come home to tell my children that Charlie died.

Back in the '70s Charlie had been ordained in the church where I serve. He soon left the ministry, however, after meeting Kirby -- the love of his life. In fact, he didn't last long in...

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Updating Common Sense: What Christians Really Believe

(10) Comments | Posted March 4, 2014 | 4:59 PM

As a kid I took for granted the fact that popping out of the womb as a male beat the hell out of the alternative. Any girl with half a brain, if given the choice, would obviously opt for checking “male” on the census form.

In fact, so clear...

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