Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Proof of a sinister force

Some happy-go-lucky religionists--Unitarian Universalists, for example--and some 'born with two bottles of champagne to their credit' (Wm James) secular optimists dismiss the idea of a sinister force, one which constantly and in all things fights against the oh-so-subtle work of the divine. To them, I offer the following as conclusive proof that a sinister energy is at work in the cosmos: despite a multi-week slide, the cloven-footed Yankees have earned a playoff berth again this year.

Don't know about you, but I'm going to force my kids to give up Halloween. One shouldn't toy with these malign spiritual energies.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Giving while it hurts...

Samuel Freedman reports today for the New York Times that tithing and other forms of religious giving are in steep decline. Two reasons appear to be at the base of it: the national recession has led many to see religious giving as discretionary, and the Boomer generation is less inclined than the Greatest Generation to give to organized religious groups.
I can hear the New Atheists issuing woop woops and cat calls. This will confirm their view that the secularization hypothesis eventually will be vindicated. This view holds that as modernity advances, organized religion will decline. On the other side, I can almost see the hand-wringing of the church boards and deacons.
My hunch is that the recession will continue to impinge upon religious giving. It also seems likely that the Boomer generation will continue its navel gazing habits, with its lionizing of spirituality and disdain of organized religion. But I don’t think the secularization hypothesis is given further credence by either of these data points. Nor is that discussion the most interesting.
In the longer run, it will be interesting to see what becomes of the generation being born now, whose parents are being marked by the recession. Their lives are being altered by a tremendous force outside their control. The previous generation’s confidence that all is well, that America always wins, and that the world is their oyster has been forever shattered. What will happen to the children who are raised by this crestfallen group? Only time will tell, of course, but it’s interesting to contemplate the possibilities.
It’s also worth remembering in these tough times that the social contexts in which the Hebrew Bible and New Testament were written were not ones of pre-recession American-style dominance. Some parts of the Hebrew Bible, with its glorious celebration of divine power, can lead one to a very mistaken historical impression. It may seem as if Israel was a world power, but it was not. The New Testament context of social marginalization is more front and center, so harder to miss. The Roman state, with its immense power, looms as a diabolical and threatening presence. By comparison Jesus and his small group of disciples are a rag-tag bunch. The early Church was at odds with the Roman state. Christianity was a small, and illegal, new religion. Thus, its language and assumptions are crafted from the standpoint of social powerlessness.
What’s interesting for American Christianity is that these ancient texts, with their background of powerlessness, are read in a new context in which dominance prevails. The new assumptions shape how the texts themselves are read. Ancient meanings become reborn in the new context. A task of theology is to actively shape this process.
The recession and its implications will open up dimensions of these ancient texts that have remained hidden. Where this will take us is hard to say, but at the least we should be aware that the implications of the recession go far deeper than a dip in tithing.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Looking for a way to understand the power of destructiveness--war, hatred, self-abasement--Freud referred to the death instinct. Whatever one thinks of Freud and of this particular idea, we have to admit that human beings have an astonishing capacity to destroy. We also have an astonishing capacity to create: city skyscrapers rise from nothing to "touch the face of God;" saints resolve their passions so completely they can love in the face of hellish despair; scientists can comprehend the biophysical properties that account for the possibility of life. But each of these creative capacities contains the seeds of its own destruction.

We should grapple with the various interpretations of this destructiveness. Especially important in our time is evolutionary naturalism, but it is worth pondering why other creatures lack the destructive range of human beings. Does not the human capacity for self-destruction and strictly wanton destruction point to the need for some sort of extra-natural account of destructiveness?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Never and Always

Never say never.
Never say always.

But 'never' and 'always'
frequently are used to qualify purported actions of God.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

God, ancient mind

God might be more, but God is ancient mind. Deep, unconscious, darkness, in these God dwells. There is every activity of mind here, save consciousness. This is the ancient of days. Beware.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jeffrey Johnson's Sonic Labyrinth

Readers/listeners, near and far, check out Jeffrey Johnson's "Joy, sent from above;" a song of complicated love from Die Tote Stadt."

Funny Religion

From Heather Abraham's religionerd.com.



Belief in God is to see the world as poetry.

What effect would it have to live a Kantian 'as if'
in which we

read the world as a poem,
and lived to complete its rhyme.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Freedoms, ancient and modern

Join me at Creedible Freedoms, ancient and modern, wherein Paul's view of eating meat offered to idols is applied to burning the Quran and building a mosque near Ground Zero.

Monday, September 6, 2010


I was at the park today: New England's most glorious weather enlivened God's handiwork. Cool, slightly crisp, low humidity, kids of all sizes and shapes were bubbling with joy. The sky seemed big.

At least a dozen adults kept their eyes glued to the 2x3" lcd screen of their handheld device. Some never seemed to look up.

Plato and Paul combined couldn't explain this startling captivity to digitized images, nuggets of information, when the real thing is there without mediation.

But we're happy and free! God Bless America!!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A task for (theologically inclined) animals

Darwin's 1837 Sketch
Evolutionary Tree
About evolutionary science, there is little doubt; yet we have the 'just a theory' crowd...

About much else, such as what we should do to teach the inner-dog not to bark at night, to roll over and play dead, and to enter upon the path of saintliness, would that doubt were more abundant.

The beguilement of certainty lies deep but drowns us in the shallows.

In each moment, the ancient past lives, tugging and pulling, pushing, guiding, without being known or knowable. The dark parts of psyche contain the at-once fragmented, all-at-once single, cosmos; but the cosmos contains the psyche.

All-time might come rolling out as the Holy Spirit wherein every known and unknown tongue resounds; she might fiercely reveal the cosmos's end-point and fiery destruction; it might cool the embers of hate with unfathomable compassion.

Theology works to untangle the known but denied and unknown but proclaimed.

Two concluding meditations/riddles:

Denis Diderot: "Wandering in a vast forest at night, I have only a faint light to guide me. A stranger appears and says to me: 'My friend, you should blow out your candle in order to find your way more clearly.' This stranger is a theologian."

The Ramones:. "I wanna be sedated."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The truth abides

No religion is more heartfelt than a religion forsaken, nor any more practiced than a youthful religion rejected.


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