I LOVE comments. Please leave some even if they are brief half-formed ideas
that you aren't even sure you really believe. I just love comments.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Reason Alone

We cannot live by reason alone. This is why no quantity of reason, applied as antiseptic, can compete with the balm of faith, once the terrors of this world begin to intrude upon our lives. . . . This has led many of us to conclude, wrongly, that human beings have needs that only faith in certain fantastical ideas can fulfill. It is nowhere written, however, that human being must be irrational, or live in a perpetual state of siege to enjoy an abiding sense of the sacred. On the contrary, I hope to show that spirituality can be--indeed must be--deeply rational, even as it elucidates the limits of reason.

End of Faith, Sam Harris.

Amen brother.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Liberal Christian

It occurs to me that describing oneself as being liberal AND Christian means something different from being a liberal Christian. For example, a person could be a conservative Christian in the sense that he or she believed things like Christianity is the only path to salvation, the Bible can only be read literally, etc. yet be a political progressive in the sense that he or she wanted to see the government care for the poor and protect God's creation. Indeed, as I've mentioned elsewhere there are pretty clear mandates from Jesus to help the poor. Even advocating for government to stay out of private affairs such as end of life and beginning of life issues would not be inconsistent with a conservative christianity.

I happen to be a liberal Christian in that I believe that the faith should evolve over time, we cannot read the Bible literally, and that Christianity is one of many paths to God. I am ALSO politically progressive. Because I hold the poitical opinions that I ascribed to my hypothetically conservative Christian.

Anyway. I think it is an interesting distinction.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

This sounds good to me

It seems the Senate has crafted a good immigration bill. It seems to recognize that people from Mexico who sneaked into our country to work are actually people. I would want to see how significant the fines are for employers and how easy it is to claim you didn't know your employee is undocumented. But it sound good.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Is the Bible Literally True? (Part III)

In two earlier posts I talked about myths & histories. Another big chunk of the Bible includes regulations, or admonitions, or conduct requirements, or something. We remember the big 10 (although there is much disagreement about how you count them--awesome wikipedia chart on the four different numbering schemes.)

I'm not sure how Joe Average does on keeping the Sabath holy or avoiding coveting or bearing false witness, but there is pretty close to universal agreement among Christians that these are all MUSTs. Then you have the Sermon on the Mount from Jesus. Pretty hard core. Don't even think about bad stuff, and, don't just love your brother but love your enemy. (That doesn't mean you don't criticize your enemy, btw.) I don't spend a lot of time avoiding breaking the Ten Commandments, but the Sermon on the Mount is surely an important tool in shaping my behavior, as well as maturing my faith.

Then you've got Old First Testament crazy--what to eat and wear and so on--plus New Second Testament crazy (mostly from Paul)--how long to wear your hair and no women speaking in church.

This is all much more directive than the other two sections--or the praise and poetry bits, or the social commentaries. But, I do not lose sleep at night worrying that maybe I should eat Kosher. (Although, if I was raised Jewish, I surely would be eating Kosher.) I don't think women should be silent in Church. I guess I think these are specific instructions given to specific people. But ultimately, I think there is something less intellectual involved in my cherry picking. I'm not moved by these passages. They don't seem alive to me. Maybe that's silliness. I'd be interested to know what others think--particularly Christians who like me feel free to ignore these sections of the Bible.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Telling it like it is

Here are a couple of things that happened. Jerry Falwell died. Europeans slaughtered millions of indigenous people in an effort to convert them to Christianity.

Should we take a long look at these things? I want to. I want to feel sorrow for Falwell's family and think this is a man who tried his best to invite God into his life and transform the world according to that vision. I want to judge the Spanish missionaries with kindness and realize that in their hearts they were bringing civilization to an uncivilized people. That's what the Pope was doing in postulating that the native people of Brazil had been "silently longing" for the Gospel.

Unfortunately, that is ridiculous. Unfortunately, the manner in which Europeans invaded and destroyed the people on this continent five hundred years ago was a terrible and evil thing. Unfortunately, Jerry Falwell was a horrible hateful person. Good intentions are not enough. These people spread evil and hatred through our world. They are dead. Their lives were devoted to creating ugliness. And the best we can say of them is that they provide a cautionary tale, reminding us that it is not enough to want to do the right thing.

I wish it were otherwise, but it's not.

A Cool Study

The Pew Forum has a really cool study, or probably several, about the attitudes of Americans toward Religion and Politics. If you are like me and have decided to kill some time because you're too hungry to think and are meeting someone for lunch, you should check it out.

I found it full of surprises, but this was not surprising. In its introduction the study presented some national barometer questions to see how the country feels about religion in general. It said, have liberals gone too far to keep religion out of government and have conservatives gone too far to impose their values on the country. I dream of a day when the questions will be, "Have religious liberals gone too far in advocating for the poor?" and, "Have religious conservatives gone too far in advocating against abortions?" Or switch peace for poor and pornography for abortions. I'd like that because (1) I don't think liberals or conservative are inherently more religious, and (2) I wish liberal religion tried to impose its beliefs on the country a little more.