Saturday, August 04, 2007

Saturday Rock Show

If Jim Bush-Resko comes a-calling, he may remember that in the fall of 1986, we had tickets to see Steve Winwood in concert in Buffalo. Alas and alack, the concert was canceled, for reasons I cannot remember. Arc of a Diver was probably his best post-Traffic recording, but Roll With It sold a lot of copies. I always liked the song "Valerie"; it reminds me of the last dregs of the summer of 1982, right before I started my senior year of high school. I didn't have a "Valerie" at the time, but I identified with it anyway.

PS: You may have noticed I haven't blogged much (actually at all) today. Been busy with other things, and not really motivated to say much. Poor Mom2. I feel bad for her. Ah, well.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Thinking And Talking About God

A couple days ago, I wrote a short bit on Dick Cheney's Larry King interview. The comment section has metastasized in to a thoroughgoing theological discussion on the nature of God. I thought it would be better to provide a relevant forum for such a discussion. While I admire the way discussions can take on a life of their own, I much prefer comments to be on topic.

One of the interesting aspects of the discussion there are the assumptions on the part of Mom2 (welcome, by the way; come early and often, but bring your own coffee) that seem to come through. First, she seems to assume that the content of her claims about God - friend, savior, that his blood saves - are unknown here. At the same time, she seems to assume that repeating them to an audience that she seems to think is unaware of them will somehow make sense. In comments, Parklife makes the point that there seems to be a disconnect between Mom2 and the other commenters. I would have to agree and it is an obvious disconnect that can be missed if one is not looking for it. Mom2's claims concerning God are meaningless to others. Her words carry no emotional or intellectual weight for us. This is not to say they are inherently meaningless, or that she doesn't understand what she is saying, or that we are either so corrupt or obtuse here that we refuse what should be so obvious. On the contrary, as Parklife noted, and as Democracy Lover noted quite a while ago, we three are all acquainted with the religious vocabulary Mom2 is employing. We understand it, can give dictionary-like definitions of the way she is using the words. That does not indicate they have any meaning, however. They have no impact upon us at all.

I do not fault Mom2 here. This is the language with which she is familiar, these are the images of God that are useful for her, that guide her in her life, that comfort her when she is conflicted, and that serve as an anchor when doubts may assail (if they do). The problem, however, is that Mom2 seems to believe this is the only legitimate way of speaking and thinking about God in a way that is authentically Christian. All others are wrong.

I have tried to make a point, and usually have failed, but it is important to realize and recognize that there is no one normative Christian doctrine on anything. Different faith traditions may use the same words - the Trinity, salvation, the sacraments, whatever - but Coptic Christians in Egypt and Ethiopia, Marionite Christian in Lebanon, Syriac Christians in Damascus and Baghdad, Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed, Evangelical all believe very different things, and understand their faiths very differently. None of them are wrong; one of the blessings of the diversity of expressions of Christianity is its demonstration of the limited nature of humanity in the face of the ultimate mystery of faith.

When I said that Mom2's God was too small, I was not trying to be deliberately offensive or insulting. I was attempting to convey to her that, for me, such a description didn't capture the fullness of my own experience of and thinking through concerning the Divine. Her God is someone she can approach, to whom she can speak of her troubles. For me, God is an awesome presence, both loved and feared - the two parts of the feeling of "awe". For Mom2, Scripture provides all the information she requires to understand the God in whom she believes. For me there is scripture, but there is also two thousand years of Christian tradition (hardly a tiny bit of which, beyond certain generalities, I really understand fully), my own experience as well as the experiences of those who have gone before me in the faith (and some who have not been Christian at all), and understanding and the faculty of reason. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral is a wonderful way of checking oneself against a too one-sided approach to thinking and talking about God. Scripture is contradictory and fallible. The tradition is both too large and too diverse to be used definitively. Reason is limited and, being fully human, fallible as well. Experience is too myopic, which can lead to solipsism. Taken together, however, they all serve to check an individual, to remind him or her of the limitations we all face, and open one to the possibility that, no matter how many words we use, or how we use them, we are probably wrong anyway.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

More on Prayer

I have been struggling recently to come to an understanding of the relationship between prayer and a critical reflection on faith. How does one square the pre-critical language of much of prayer with the critical language often involved in serious theological reflection? It occurred to me that they are different aspects of a larger, complex movement of faith in a person's life. Shorthand for understanding these different aspects is to say that prayer is the first movement, a subjective, emotive response to events. It is pre-critical because it is more reactive than active, a response rather than an initiative. The language of prayer is the language of poetry, as it were, not necessarily "rational" in the conventional sense. Rather, it is symbolic, full of grand images that deal in traditional ways of addressing the Divine.

Part of this emotive, reactive way of being in relationship with something outside oneself is the recognition of the conditionedness and contingency of human thought, language, life, and faith. We are always limited in what we say, think and do. Prayer is the response that comes from the confrontation between this contingency and the unconditioned that we encounter in religious life and experience. Resorting to traditional language in prayer is not a resort to pre-critical understandings of who and/or what God is; rather it is a response that emanates from the very core of our subjectivity. Prayer, in this understanding, is a form of religious art that uses the mytho-poetic language of Scripture and tradition as a starting point for engaging with the Divine Other who encounters us in all our transience.

To call the language of prayer "mytho-poetic" is not to deny its fruitfulness or truthfulness. I would as soon discard the latter notion all together anyway. Poetry is a way of understanding that is non-critical, symbolic (not necessarily metaphorical, however), and laden with subjectivity. It invites the reader or listener in to the mind of an individual, to see with his or her eyes, to hear with his or her ears. It is, in this sense, not so much objective (another word I would just as soon do without) as it is intersubjective. In essence, it gives us permission to be creative, to use our imaginative faculties in understanding the world around us, as long as we do not assume that it is either the end of reflection or constitutive of anything "real" (for lack of a better term).

These are just some initial thoughts, obviously, and have yet to be fleshed out more fully. For now, though, I think I am far more comfortable with what it is we are doing when we pray than I was even a week ago.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Refocusing On the Problem

Barack Obama gave a speech today in which he says that, if he is elected President, our national focus will return to the real al Q'aeda threat in Pakistan, rather than the made-up al Q'aeda threat in Iraq. He says he will cut off the free money to Musharaf. Further, if Pakistan's dictator doesn't put the kibosh on the Taliban and al Q'aeda, the United States will. In a quick review of Obama's speech at Swampland, under the title "Obama: The Toughness Primary, Continued", Karen Tumulty writes:
That's tougher than anything we have seen from the Bush Administration--which is not necessarily a good thing, as far as the liberal blogo[s]phere is concerned.(emphasis added)

First of all, this is just stupid. It assumes that (a) the "liberal blogo[s]phere" is some monolithic creature taking its orders from on high, shrieking with one voice; (b) all liberals are reflexively anti-war; (c) Obama is being "tough" to the wrong constituency.

The first is just ludicrous on its face.

On the second point, I think that Tumulty misses something that digby wrote about yesterday. This is not just a problem for Democrats, but for the nation as a whole - there needs to be a renewed focus on the reality of Islamic extremism and the real threats (and the way those threats have been made worse over the past six years) rather than the phony War on Terror rhetoric and the accompanying "Iraq Forever" mentality of the Bush Administration. I think Obama's assertions have the merit of drawing attention back to the source of the problem; there may be reasons to discuss and debate certain points, such as the role of the UN, the whole issue of Pakistan (unlike Iraq) possessing nuclear weapons, the possibility of an unstable Pakistan should the US take any military action there unilaterally, etc. However, this is one liberal blogger who welcomes both the speech and the possibility of returning our national discussion to the real world, rather than the fantasies of war-bloggers and our Commander-in-Chief.

This leads directly to the third point, which shows that Tumulty frames the entire speech incorrectly. This is not an issue of "being tough" (as if running for President wasn't proof of a certain amount of personal toughness). This is about the substantive issue of how we deal with very real threats that exist, and how we move from where we are to where we should be. I assume there are Democrats and liberals who will criticize Obama's speech. I have certain reservations myself. On the whole, however, I believe this is not just a good first step, but a nice stroll down a path to reality that we need to have as a country if we are going to face up to the fact that Osama bin Laden is still out there, and thanks to George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, there are a whole lot more people willing to kill Americans (and a whole lot less of the rest of the world who will sympathize if it happens) than was true on September 10, 2001. For that, he should be thanked.

Why Do Christians Say Stupid Things?

Over at Newsweek's on-line site is this short piece by the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Religious Leadership Council, under the title, "America's Genome of Spiritual Pluralism". Among the things Rev. Rodriguez says are the following:
[O]ur nation thrives by presenting to the world this great idea, not just of American Democracy but of religious pluralism and tolerance.

At the end of the day, our greatest export may not be technology, popular culture or our brand of democracy but rather a commitment to religious pluralism, diversity and tolerance. A Hindu priest on the floor of the U.S. Senate may one day lead to a Christian pastor opening in prayer on the floor of Parliment in Iran and a Muslim cleric opening a session of the Knesset.

Apparently Rev. Rodriguez wasn't paying close attention to what happened when Chaplain Zed appeared in the well of the United States Senate to deliver his invocation. A group of Christians protested, interrupting the prayer, and had to be removed from the chamber. It was a moment of national disgrace and embarrassment (regardless of how one feels about the whole prayer-in-the-Senate thing). This demonstration of small-binded, ignorant bigotry is, sadly, a demonstration of the way most Christians view those of other faiths, and sometimes of different Christian denominations.

I also think it is important to let Rev. Rodriguez know that there are Christians, and one Jewish, members of the Iranian Parliament. Unlike Saudi Arabia, which is an authoritarian monarchy that the Unites States just can't seem to love enough, despite the willingness of its citizens to kill ours (including on September 11th), Iran has a democracy that, while imperfect, functions rather well. The "Islamic" in the official title of the country of Iran refers to the ultimate basis of Iranian identity as a Muslim nation, and the role of the Ayatollahs as final arbiter of certain aspects of Iranian law (they are a Pope-by-committee as it were). Whenever Conservatives carry on about Pres. Ahmedinajad, they seem to think he was appointed rather than elected by a majority of the citizens of his country. Of course, the US has a history of not liking the democratic processes in other countries so this may not be as unusual as it appears . . .

As for a Christian prayer before the Knesset, all I can say is the dispensationalists would be shrieking in triumph, looking to the sky for the descent of Jesus on a cloud should that day ever come.

In truth, we are a "tolerant", "pluralist" nation in name only. In fact, most of our religious citizens are narrow, bigoted, and exceptionalist. This is sad, but it is also true. On the other hand, most Americans are not seriously committed to any particular religious belief other than a bland affirmation that God exists. They are willing to give the benefit of the doubt to pretty much anyone who seems like a good enough Joe or Jane, as long as they don't claim too much for their religious beliefs. It is the very secular pluralists Rev. Rodriguez dismisses early in his piece who will be the saving grace of this country, retrieving us from the jaws of those who believe they have a channel to the will of God (kind of like the Iranian Ayatollahs).

Why oh why do Christians say stupid things?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Memory Problems of the Powerful

Along with Alberto Gonzalez, it seems that earl-stage Alzheimer's Disease has struck the Vice President. The nice thing about the "I don't recall" line is it keeps the person who uses it from having to take responsibility once it is revealed that perhaps recollection might have been warranted. It's a curiously legalistic dodge, the kind of thing politicians and mobsters have in common. For the party of personal responsibility, it always seems to be for other people.

Even Though I Ignore It It Won't Go Away

For the past couple weeks I have been rather, um, self-absorbed (in case you haven't noticed it) in matters religious. Wrestling with certain angels has left me too preoccupied to deal with much else that is going on in the outside world. This is not to say that I haven't been keeping an eye and an ear open. It just means the bulk of my own mental energy, when not engaged in the very important task of struggling with working third shift, is dealing with my own stuff. I have been, as my wife calls it, processing in public. I think I have reached the point, however, where certain items of the day are starting to intrude upon my consciousness, disturbing the pleasant fiction that I can hide behind the covers of books and my own (not very) deep thoughts.

A couple pro-war hacks have been parading around as critics of the war even as they give all sorts of love to Bush and Petraeus (I link to Glenn Greenwald because he is the most thorough; I could have gone anywhere, though). The lefty blogs have shrieked with one voice as the Washington Post printed an op-ed the other day claiming the surge is working, we need to continue doing what we're doing, and that Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack are war critics whose minds have changed due to a whole week spent in the Green Zone in Baghdad. OK, the last part of that sentence isn't made up. The rest of it is pretty much craptacular nonsense. As Greenwald says in one of his numerous updates to one of the posts linked to above:
Pretending to be a war opponent notwithstanding one's support for the war seems to be a trend today (though not only today). And it is amazing, though it should not be, how easily manipulated the media is by this tactic.

Attention: journalists and news producers: they have these new things now called "computers" that record what people say and write and keep all of that stored. So if someone claims to be a "war critic" or "war opponent," you can actually look and find out whether that is true.

SOP, some may say. Indeed, I believe this to be true. With all the horror stories coming out of Iraq, and most of America wanting to end our occupation as soon as possible, if not sooner, it would seem necessary for the Administration to get people to shill for their line. Advertising them as long-time critics would appear to give them legitimacy. Before the advent of the Internet, it would be much more difficult to research and discover that those posing as critics were in fact supporters of the war. Now, it takes the ability to type the word "O'Hanlon" in to Google, and presto, we have a Glenn Greenwald column.

Of course, there are many in the mainstream who are rending their garments, waling and gnashing their teeth over the "vicious attacks" upon the poor, beleaguered war critics-turned-war-boosters. How dare a bunch of bloggers sit around and do the leg work for journalists, discovering that serious, thoughtful war critics have a long history of supporting the very occupation they now claim to have been critical of. According to Joe Klein, they aren't journalists because . . . I'm not really sure how the bloggers' work of unmasking these hacks as hacks doesn't count as journalism, except to say that it really looks like the kind of elementary research most news organizations should have done before pimping these guys as critics. Oh, that's right, Greenwald didn't talk to anyone. He just used Google to find out if these guys were who they advertised themselves as being. Research, journalism, tomato, tomahto. . .

I'm not at all surprised by any of this. The reaction among the lefty blogs shows the power we wield to shape our public discourse. The fact that these men have to push back against attacks on their alleged credibility is a demonstration of something that should have been obvious to the Bush Administration for over a year now - they can no longer shape the public dialogue through the mindless repetition of nonsense, because there are hundreds of people out here who know how to put the kibosh on nonsense very quickly. And I know it irritates the bejesus out of people like David Broder, Joe Klein, Tom Friedman, and other nonsensical pundits, but the left-wing blogs really do represent the opinions of a majority of Americans. Washington may be the last place to get it, but it will eventually sink in that we are witnessing real democracy in action. The people have found their voice, and the elites are scared out of their collective pin head. Hurray for us.

I have been silent on these topics due mostly to my own pre-occupation. I have also felt a bit tired day after day pointing out how ridiculous our political discourse is, at least at an official level. I must also admit that I am frustrated by the preening of public officials on the various Sunday shows - why does no one call out Arlen Specter on his obeisance to Bush, talking tough but doing nothing? - because the "journalists" who run the Sunday propaganda shows refuse to ask questions, but provide opportunities for these men and women to look good for their constituents. The whole dog-and-pony show of our mainstream media is as phony as the anti-war credentials of O'Hanlon and Pollack. Having discovered something to occupy my mind, I have preferred to pay attention to that.

I just wanted folks to know I haven't divorced myself from what is going on around us. Whether it's another Senate hearing where Alberto Gonzalez lies or another military commander telling us we have to stay in Iraq forever, I do know about it. I prefer to leave the debunking to others, that's all.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Music Monday

I mentioned Inside Out Records the other day. They are a German-based record company that specialize in, but is not limited to, a revival and sustaining of progressive rock, progressive metal, heavy metal, and other real alternative musics (unlike the phony, industry controlled "alt rock" from the 1990's). I thought that, along with a link so people can check them out on their own, I would showcase the diversity of their catalog.

They do have a lot of prog and prog-metal. Mostly European, like Sweden's Evergrey, Germany's Van Den Plas, they also have a few American performers, like California's Enchant, and Derek Sherinian (former keyboardist for Dream Theater). The following is from Austria's Dead Soul Tribe, called "Flight on an Angel's Wing".

They also do more traditional prog, such as Spock's Beard. The Tangent was originally a "supergroup" - members of other bands getting together in a side project, in this case to pay tribute to the Canterbury sound of mid-1970's British rock. Not quite prog, the Canterbury sound included elements of jazz and a lighter approach to writing and arranging. The Tangent evolved, even though most of the original members split off. Here they are doing a rare live performance.

They also include on their roster the California Guitar Trio. Here they are with Tony Levin and Pat Mastoletto from King Crimson, with "Train of Lamy".

What Is Jesus to Me?

In comments on an earlier thread, Democracy Lover offers his view that there seems to be no reason to construct a huge, mostly false, religious framework around the teachings of Jesus. The teachings in and of themselves are worthy of study and remembrance without the trappings of religion to give them authenticity. What follows is my own, still-tentative response, and I hope that you recognize it as still in process, rather than final.

First, I believe that the views he expresses are legitimate. The Jesus-phenomenon does present the modern consciousness, and the post-modern consciousness for that matter, with the begged question of, "Why all the fuss?" Any return to metaphysics, or an appeal to tradition as tradition misses the depth of the question. Why should contemporary people assent to the claim that a human being was also Divine, came back to life after being dead (and his followers claim he will never die again!), and flew up to the sky promising to do the same for those who believed in him? Not only are such claims ludicrous on their face, they reduce the moral and ethical component of his teachings to second-tier status, reducing the power of Jesus as teacher.

A partial answer, I think, is a recognition that such a literal interpretation of the New Testament writings is belied not only by two centuries of historical-critical research, but by a common-sense discussion of reading. While having many reservations about certain aspects of his method, N. T. Wright is correct when he states that such a facile, literal approach to the texts in question belies the layers of metaphor and symbolism behind such claims. When Jesus used apocalyptic imagery, he was no more talking about actual historical events than when he told the parable of the rich man and Lazarus he was describing the after-life. He was using imagery that was current to describe the mystery of God's actions for the Jews then either in exile or in the captivity of Roman occupation, in and through the life and work of himself and those who followed his example. Unpacking that imagery takes volumes and volumes, but suffice it to say that we consider such views literally to our peril.

More to the point, I believe it is disingenuous to insist that we take the Gospel accounts literally on these issues, or the Bible as a whole literally. Do we ever take anything we read literally? I have asked this question before, and I think it is important to address it again. One can not accept the ideology of the Biblical authors, yet still consider what they have to say important.

I also think that to describe certain aspects of the Biblical narrative, or the narrative as a whole as "myth" is confusing and misleading. What, after all, is myth? Whose definition of myth do we use? Do we use Rudolf Bultmann's? Paul Tillich's? Reinhold Niebuhr's? Joseph Campbell's? Mericea Eliade's? Does "myth" equal "falsehood" or does it equal "story conveying meaning through a fanciful narrative construct"? I believe that the word myth, like the word supernatural, should be discarded because it is no longer useful as an analytical tool. One can say with all seriousness that there is truth behind the creation stories in Genesis, for example, but refuse to accept them as a description of events that actually occurred. There is no reason why anyone should consider this intellectually dishonest, unless one believes it necessary to have a prior commitment to a literal interpretation of the Bible.

All of this is by way of a point specifically about Jesus and the Gospel narratives. I think it important to consider the following point: there are few Scripture scholars of whom I am aware who would take most of the Bible's stories, whether in the Old Testament stories of the history of the two kingdoms, or of the narrative accounts of Jesus' life, as accurate descriptions. The general recognition that most of the Old Testament accounts (except for a couple of the prophetic books and bits and pieces of what was once known as the Priestly account, including the second creation narrative in Genesis 2) were written after the exile as reflections upon these events and what they meant for the life of the people makes them not so much about God and God' relationship with this Kingdom or Kingdoms, but about the people and their sense of themselves. That they included cultic references in their discussions should surprise no one; what is surprising is the communal decision not to abandon their national cult once the nation disappeared. Greater kingdoms and empires than they have come and gone, and we know only fragments of their religious beliefs and stories. From this little kingdom we still have a very real line of descent, not just religiously and literary, but as a people as well.

All of this is to say that I do not believe it is necessary to make of Jesus more than he was. One can reverence his words and acts without assigning divine status to his person. One can be a good Christian and make of the resurrection narratives either poetic descriptions of a cultic renaissance in the wake of his death, without making the claim of bodily resurrection. As far as I am concerned the issue of the resurrection as historical event has been bracketed far too much both by theologians and by Scripture scholars out of fear that an honest discussion would present them as professing what is contrary to Church teaching, viz., that Jesus was in no way bodily raised from the dead. Some would say the Church stands or falls on this issue; others say it is of no consequence. Personally, I think the Church is both less and more than any particular claim concerning the acts of Jesus, including the resurrection.

Finally, I think that the traditional formula describing Jesus as God Incarnate, and all the accompanying metaphysical fine-tuning - the two-natures theology, discussions of the hypostatic union - is so much junk that can be discarded. Indeed, relying upon meaningless philosophy, and insisting that it is a description of something real, makes Christian claims even less credible than if we are to ask the serious, even threatening questions that the contemporary secular critics of Christian belief continue to press upon us. I believe that it is a sign of what German theologian Jurgen Moltmann calls a "pusillanimous faith" to dodge the very real concerns, questions, and disbelief of the contemporary world because deep down inside, I believe that those possessed of such a weak-kneed "faith" actually accept the truth of the critics.

All of these ramblings - and I just now realize that I never really answered the question in the title! - put me somewhere on a road the end of which I really can't see. I do know, however, or believe that despite all my misgivings and feelings of inadequacy there is something real behind the masquerade of much of our religious life and language. Finding a way to talk about it, to make sense of it is where I am right now.

Religion and Politics

I just want to make some general comments on the relationship between religious belief and political ideology. Take them for what they're worth. . .

First, I do not believe it is possible to draw any connections between one's religious beliefs and political preferences. I know pretty liberal Christians who are quite conservative in their politics. I know people who can only be described as fundamentalist who lean quite far to the left. I know people who think religion is bunk who are die-hard conservatives. The list goes on and on. I honestly believe that each individual makes his or her peace with his or her religious beliefs and political ideology as time goes on. To base political persuasion and policy preferences necessarily upon religious beliefs is a fool's game. While generalizations can be made, I honestly believe that the two are, for the most part, separate bits of an individual's way of living in the world. We draw lines between them only when pushed to do so.

Second, I am still not convinced it is good strategy for the Democrats to be busy courting "religious voters". Based partly upon my first belief, I think that identifying a certain block of voters as "religious", and open to appeals to religious rhetoric creates the impression that religion is the only thing in these voters' lives. In fact, I believe that most voters, even rabid right-wingers, make decisions based more upon an appeal to political utility and ideology, with religion being a prop to political ideology, rather than solely upon religious belief. The fact that most conservatives consider the Democratic Presidential candidates' appeal to religious voters disingenuous would seem to prove that point.

Third, I believe it is possible to make a coherent political ideology out of an appeal to religious belief. Simply because it is possible, however, I am starting to lean back toward the position of Richard Rorty that, in public debate and discourse, such appeals, resting as they do upon a sense of ultimacy, tend to stifle debate rather than encourage it. It is fine for someone to say, "I think such-and-such a policy position is correct because of my prior religious commitments"; unless there are other reasons for holding this position (social utility, prior ideological commitments based in secular philosophy, an appeal to history or the Constitution) there is no answer to such a position, quieting debate rather than encouraging it.

Finally, I believe that efforts by religious progressives, including myself, to enter the political fray as self-identifying religious progressives is fine, as long as we are clear that by doing so, we open our religious beliefs to scrutiny and ridicule. It is incoherent to say, "I hold this-and-such a political position because of my religious beliefs", and then turn around and say, "You cannot question my religious beliefs, or insult them, or dismiss them". For one thing, such criticism is the only way to keep the conversation going. For another, religious beliefs are not above criticism, and if we refuse to address such criticism, or fear it because we fear there is more truth in the criticism than in our beliefs, then we are being disingenuous at best.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

. . . And Then There Is A Mountain

I don't know if it is an actual Buddhist legend or not, but someone once told me this: One of the Buddha's disciples asked him to explain the path to Enlightenment. The Buddha said, "First there is a mountain. Then, there is no mountain. And then, there is a mountain." I have always liked that because it shows the path to wisdom usually lands one back where one begins, only moreso, or perhaps less-so. I have felt that way recently in my own struggles over making sense of my own Christian faith.

In 1991, as part of a class, I was asked to write a creed and set out a defense of that creed. At the time, I was only just beginning to digest a plethora of sources, both philosophical and theological, and trying to "fit" them in to my own understanding of this whole mystery we call faith. The result embarrassed me for years, not for the least reason that the professor gave me an "A" on it, which I believe it did not deserve. I have been wanting to return to it off and on over the years, toss out this part, toss out that part. Now, however, I think I wouldn't change much of it at all, except perhaps tighten the prose a bit, and make certain points more clear that I left murky due to ignorance or my own inability to present the ideas clearly.

Having said that, this begs the question, "why". To that there is no good answer other than to say that I have always tried to make sense out of the nonsense of life. We human beings much prefer to order our experiences after the fact, pretending that such ordering makes them intelligible. There is much truth in that; there is no way any account of the events of each nanosecond of existence could possibly be coherent if we scribbled them down. what we do is we assign particular importance to certain events, downplay others, give meaning to some, insist that others offer no meaning whatsoever. Providing some kind of rational framework for understanding is a deeply human enterprise. Religious belief is no different.

I have come full circle in many ways, rediscovering the mountain for the first time, recognizing that it is, in fact, just a mountain, but benefiting from my time doubting that it was ever a mountain, or even that such a thing as "mountainness" existed at all. Perhaps I will share one day with others what, exactly, I am talking about, but for now, I must say that it is good to stand before a mountain and allow it to be . . . a mountain. Nothing more. Nothing less. What it is.

Sunday Morning Music

I'm feeling like sharing something peaceful this A.M. Here's someone I first saw on C&L's "Late Nite Music Club". This is the kind of song that reminds me of early mornings, sitting and reading the paper with a cup of coffee with my wife. This is Andy McKee, "Into the Ocean" played on a harp guitar.

I have been given a whole lot of food for thought, to which I shall turn in due course. For now, I think it is enough to say that my crie de couer last night was the result of my own sense of frustration due to my own inability to move beyond my own sense of the limits of relating what is highly personal. I thank both ER and Goat for understanding what I was trying to convey - and for allowing me to be vulnerable without taking advantage of that vulnerability.

Happy Sunday, and God Bless.

Virtual Tin Cup

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