Thursday, October 25, 2012

Quotes to Ponder

This quote was on my page-a-day calendar recently:

"As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything...keep it." --Mahatma Ghandhi

That quote best describes the reason I chose the title "Patchwork Quilt Spirituality."
Sometimes our spirituality comes down to what helps us make it through the day.

But what worked yesterday, sometimes does not work for today.

Then I found the following quote in an e-newsletter a few days ago:

"When we consider yesterday's answers more important than today's questions,
we fail both the past and the future."  --Sister Joan Chittister

When Jesus told Nicodemus, "You must be born again!" I believe he meant daily.

As I have moved through life's joys and sorrows, I have often found yesterday's spirituality insufficient for today's struggles. So I "patch" yesterday's weak spot and try to move "faith" evolving as I go.

To quote the Apostle Paul:

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put away childish I know in part" -- I Corinthians 13

Rape and God's Will

     "Rape and the Will of God" was the title of yesterday's (10/24/12) blog by my favorite blogger, Rami Shapiro ( as he commented on  Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's statement that if a rape victim became pregnant, "it is something that God intended."

     Despite the outcry from all sides over Mourdock's remarks, Rami points our that if you believe (as many Americans do) that God "runs the universe," this is the logical conclusion: if God intended the pregnancy, then God intended the rape.

     When I was in seminary, this kind of discussion fell under the rubric of "Theodicy"--the theological enterprise that seeks to address the "Problem of Evil." Simply stated, how can an all-powerful and all-loving God allow evil to exist? Either God has the power to to eliminate evil and chooses not to do so (where is the love?) or God does not have the power to eradicate evil.

     During my pastoral days, the best discussion I came across was found in a little book by the great pastor/theologian Leslie Weatherhead entitled The Will of God.  He sees God's will in 3 phases: from the beginning, God had an Intentional Will; but because Humans had free will and 'sinned', God developed a
Circumstantial Will; yet God would prevail in the end with God's Ultimate Will.  This model was helpful in showing the complexity in the use of the term "God's Will," but it does not solve the problem of evil.

     More recently, the esteemed New Testament scholar, Bart Erhman, and professor of religion at the University of North Carolina, published a book entitled God's Problem.  I have not yet read the book, which discusses the problem why an all-powerful God allows human suffering. It is my understanding that after dealing with the contradictory biblical explanations, he arrives at atheism, which is, as Rami points out, one possible logical conclusion to the problem of evil.

     In 1949, my sister Betsy was born with cystic fibrosis, and died in 1951 when I was 4 years old, The 'theology' of my parents' fundamentalist Baptist church, simply labelled her life and death as "God's will," and I was "comforted" with the pronouncement that she was "too good for this world!" and that Jesus took her to be in heaven. Years later, I realized that even at age 4, I was able to question this (to myself) and come to the conclusion that I was bad enough to stay around. I guess this was my introduction to what psychologists call cognitive dissonance.  I want to believe that there is a cosmic life force and energy that is Light and Love, and that the "Holy Mystery" is stronger than evil. But so often it seems that evil is winning.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Searching for Community: "Cheers"

A few years back, I identified myself in a letter to the editor of a state Baptist journal as:
"a liberal ex-Baptist contrarian heretic."

Actually, I despise labels.
As the great Syracuse University educator Sol Gordon said:
"To label is to disable."

But I probably fall somewhere on the broad spectrum of "Christian" ('fall' being the operative word.)

That being said, I realize that my spirituality is not simply a solitary matter.
No one is responsible for my spirituality but me; but I need the support of others on this journey.
I have that support in Janice, my life's partner...and she in me.
But we both need more.

Over my lifetime, I've been a member of 8 different Baptist  churches,  two Congregational churches, and  one Unitarian Universalist fellowship. Of those, I've served on the staff of 6.
But the spiritual community I seek I have only found sporadically in small groups...and the old denominational labels were irrelevant. What was relevant was mutual acceptance and support.

So, for better or worse, the best picture of the community that I seek can best be described by the theme song for ...

wait for it...

the classic tv sit-com about a bar in Boston titled "Cheers:"

Making your way in the world today
takes everything you've got.

Taking a break from all your worries
sure would help a lot.

Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name.
And they're always glad you came.

You wanna be where you can see
our troubles are all the same.

You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

Friday, October 5, 2012

"Holy Mystery"

While visiting a new church, I was struck by the congregation singing the repetitious refrain:
"We praise your name!"

I wondered to myself: What name is that?

Later in the day, I realized how much that 'praise song' irritated me.

Even if you believe Moses was given  the Ten Commandments "carved in stone," you must admit that he was not given the name to his query of the divine, but only an enigma: "I am that I am" (as rendered in the King James Bible.) So what does it mean to sing the phrase "We praise your name!" over and over?

In recent days, continuing on with The Daily Message~Through the Bible in One Year, I have been plowing through the book of Jeremiah, where Peterson uses his wording, "God-of-the-Angel-Armies" -- which disturbs me each time I see it. Try singing that: "We praise your name, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!" Yuck!!

This issue of the name came back to me as I read Sister Joan Chitttister's e-newsletter for October. A letter from a reader used the term "Holy Mystery" which seems far more honest. I, for one, do not want to praise a "God-of-the-Angel-Armies." But I can relate to an effort to embrace the "Holy Mystery."

The reader's letter ended with this benediction to Joan:

May the Holy Mystery
continue to bother,
bless, and bolster you.

Amen and Amen.