Monthly Archives: March 2011

I Acted and, Behold!

Quote from Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. Found at blog A Holy Experience

I slept and dreamt life was joy, I awoke and saw life was service, I acted and, behold, service was joy.

Rolled Into One

From James McGrath regarding the Japanese tsunami and whether or not God “did it for a reason.”

In my Sunday school class last week, the subject [of the Japanese earthquake] came up, and as we were up to Romans 1 in our study of that letter, we discussed what it means to think of God as in some sense plainly visible in the natural world. I emphasized that we cannot help but think differently than people did in bygone ages about these matters, and that theists should not simply have all the gods of polytheism, personifying forces of nature, rolled into one, but must find a way of acknowledging that things happen which simply ought not to be interpreted in terms of divine action or theological significance. If science offers anything helpful to religious thought, it is to free us from needing to interpret meaningless accidents and tragedies as though they are the acts of a malevolent deity who, although supposedly omnipotent, chooses to vent his frutrations using blunt, indiscriminate instruments of harm, fors [sic] of nature that seem perfectly capable of doing that on their own. Attributing them to supernatural agency is to make the tragic into something even worse.

How Souls Get Sorted

Brian McLaren in a post about the Rob Bell universalist controversy.

… [T]he biblical story is bigger and better than a narrative about how souls get sorted out into two bins at the end of time.

It Will Be Different Tomorrow

This article from Experimental Theology talks about whether people are still Christians when they are having struggles with doubt but continue to “practice” the Christian life in how they follow Jesus’ teachings and treat their neighbors. I’m not sure what to say about it, but I recognize myself in it.

Now I’m not suggesting that belief or orthodoxy are unimportant. I’m simply suggesting that most Christians have an anemic vision of Christian practice or Christian observance. Given my struggles with doubts, for much of the time I’m basically an observant Christian. Specifically, I believe all kinds of weird things. And I doubt a lot. And this chaotic mix of “belief” in my head is constantly shifting and changing. Thus, my Christian identity is anchored in my practice rather than my beliefs. In sum, a good portion of the time I’m an observant Christian, a practicing Christian. What do I believe? Well, who knows? What day is it? Because it will be different tomorrow…

I’ve encountered lots of people who are in a similar situation. And, because Christianity has de-emphasized practice, these people tend to feel marginalized, like they really aren’t “Christian.” Well, if they follow Jesus (i.e., orthopraxy), I think they get to own the title Christian even if they are agnostic or heterodox. For me, beliefs are like the tides, they ebb and flow. But how I treat my neighbor, how I practice my faith, should be constant and unchanging.

Look Into All That Space

Phil Plait, of Bad Astronomy fame, sums up how the universe is both incomprehensibly vast and quite personal.

In my time on Hubble we’d routinely see background galaxies that were well over a billion light years away. Routinely. Mind you, each of these background objects is itself an entire galaxy, containing tens or hundreds of billion of stars, perhaps as big, rich, and diverse as our own Milky Way.

Some people feel small, insignificant, when they look out into all that space, all that blackness. It’s easy to feel that way, but it’s not a fair assessment. It can be a struggle, and a mighty one, but it’s worth the effort to seek out the awe and the grandeur in it as well. In all that vastness, all that depth, it’s entirely possible there are trillions of planets like Earth, and maybe more. But none is this Earth. Nowhere else is there another you, another me.

In the end, when you make that effort, this is one of most important lessons you learn: we’re a part of all this. A unique part. And that’s a fine thing to know.

Other People Have Different Questions

That’s all. Other people have different questions.

I heard that spoken by a man who was on an economics panel talking about why gathering a group of diverse scholars was beneficial. Because even though each was a giant in his own field, some of the others would phrase the questions differently than the giant would. When we know all the answers, it’s good to remember that other people have different questions.