This fridge magnet, and several other equally awesome ones, apparently adorn Rick Diamond‘s refrigerator (photos taken by Gordon Atkinson). Seeing the magnets and visiting his church‘s web site, I dropped by his office and had a nice chat with him. I’m really intrigued by the approach to their faith that Rick and his fellow ‘journeyers’ take, and I plan to visit their worship service soon.
I caught this morning’s This I believe essay by Episcopal priest Richard Rohr. In his essay, Rev. Rohr explains that his “religious belief has made [him] comfortable with ambiguity.” He continues:
Whenever I think there’s a perfect pattern, further reading and study reveal an exception. Whenever I want to say “only” or “always,” someone or something proves me wrong. My scientist friends have come up with things like “principles of uncertainty” and dark holes. They’re willing to live inside imagined hypotheses and theories. But many religious folks insist on answers that are always true. We love closure, resolution and clarity, while thinking that we are people of “faith”! How strange that the very word “faith” has come to mean its exact opposite.
I read that as a more eloquent statement of what I always say: for me, faith is about the journey, not the destination.
Ironically, at the end of the essay, Rev. Rohr makes an absolute statement:
People who have really met the Holy are always humble. It’s the people who don’t know who usually pretend that they do. People who’ve had any genuine spiritual experience always know they don’t know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind. It is a litmus test for authentic God experience, and is — quite sadly — absent from much of our religious conversation today. My belief and comfort is in the depths of Mystery, which should be the very task of religion.
So, according to Re. Rohr, if you think it’s about the destination, not the journey, then you just haven’t had a ‘genuine spiritual experience.” This is where my belief differs from that of Rev. Rohr. I’ve thought long and hard about how a belief in God can mean such diametrically opposed things to different people. My conclusion is that there must be some reason that I can’t comprehend. For me, that remains a mystery.
When the issue of evolution comes up, I always say that I think a God who can set evolution in motion is much more impressive than one who can just zap everything into existence as is.
Well, once again, Gordon Atkinson expresses my beliefs but in a much more elegant way than I ever could. Go read his new essay Your Uncle’s Third Nipple.
The Episcopal Church USA has elected a woman, Katharine Jefferts Schori, as presiding bishop, sending a great big fuck-you to ‘traditionalists’ in the US and around the world.
In a nice essay in Time Magazine, Andrew Sullivan argues that we should not let the politicized Christian right co-opt the term ‘Christian,’ as their belief in the intermingling of politics and religion reflects neither the true message of Christ nor the beliefs of most Christians. Instead, he coins a new term for them–’Christianist’–defined as follows:
Christianism is an ideology, politics, an ism. The distinction between Christian and Christianist echoes the distinction we make between Muslim and Islamist. Muslims are those who follow Islam. Islamists are those who want to wield Islam as a political force and conflate state and mosque. Not all Islamists are violent. Only a tiny few are terrorists. And I should underline that the term Christianist is in no way designed to label people on the religious right as favoring any violence at all. I mean merely by the term Christianist the view that religious faith is so important that it must also have a precise political agenda. It is the belief that religion dictates politics and that politics should dictate the laws for everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike.
He described creationism, whose supporters want it taught in schools alongside evolution, as a “kind of paganism” because it harked back to the days of “nature gods” who were responsible for natural events.
Brother Consolmagno argued that the Christian God was a supernatural one, a belief that had led the clergy in the past to become involved in science to seek natural reasons for phenomena such as thunder and lightning, which had been previously attributed to vengeful gods. “Knowledge is dangerous, but so is ignorance. That’s why science and religion need to talk to each other,” he said.
“Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism – it’s turning God into a nature god. And science needs religion in order to have a conscience, to know that, just because something is possible, it may not be a good thing to do.”
Man, I envy the Catholics. I wish that we United Methodists had an official astronomer. I’d even be happy with an official entomologist.
I read yesterday that Bart D. Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why is selling briskly. In the book, Dr. Ehrman presents some reasons why we can’t just take the Bible at face value: a plethora of conflicting source documents, errors in translation, the politics of canonization, etc. Or, as the Washington Post article says, his book “casts doubt on any number of New Testament episodes that most Christians take as, well, gospel.”
I haven’t read the book yet, but it sounds like New Testament 101 type stuff to me. I’m really happy that Ehrman’s book is presenting these ideas to people who are not familiar with the complex processes which have resulted in the book we call the Bible. Maybe I should keep a copy or two on hand to give out.