Zip-line Nirvana

The following quote accompanied a picture of an obviously western woman wearing traditional Indian religious garb. I like the part about zip-lining to nirvana, but the tension raised between religious appearance and religious practice lands in my sweet spot too.

There is, of course, a difference between delving seriously into the practice of meditation—something the world’s population would no doubt benefit from—and donning another culture’s clothing in what could be perceived as an effort to zip-line one’s way to nirvana. It’s as if the holy experience is in the costume rather than in the practice…

via Face Of The Day « The Dish.

Coffee Sings its Bittersweet Song

Joshua Clover in TheNation.com, writing about storytelling arcs in Country Music:

The other cycle is much shorter, but no less prevalent. Punching in on Monday, it trudges toward the Friday whistle; the weekend runs from paycheck to the local bar, the working man’s church. Maybe a moment of romantic or domestic happiness, maybe just a hangover; then Monday coffee sings its bittersweet song as all begins again.

via Songs Of Love And Money « The Dish.

Treatments for Doubt

Most treatments for doubt are palliative rather than curative.

via Experimental Theology: Search Term Friday: Diagnosing Doubt.

Make a Better Universe

James McGrath considers a litany of “design problems” with the universe, including natural evils, exploding stars, dark matter, and the all-encompassing weirdness that quantum mechanics and relativistic physics both work but can’t be unified.

I am inclined to respond in the manner that I think the author of the Book of Job was getting at in the speeches towards the end of that book. If you can make a better universe, be my guest!

via Big Bang Construction Company.

Life is Hard

Andrew Sullivan, quoting from Richard Rodriguez’s book, Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father:

Life is hard. Flesh is weak. Consolation is in order.

via Quote For The Day « The Dish.

I have lingered too long on this threshold

Threshold by R. S. Thomas : The Poetry Foundation.

I emerge from the mind’s cave into the worse darkness outside, where things pass and the Lord is in none of them. I have heard the still, small voice and it was that of the bacteria demolishing my cosmos. I have lingered too long on this threshold, but where can I go? …

What to do but, like Michelangelo’s Adam, put my hand out into unknown space, hoping for the reciprocating touch?

This gets to my problem. All of my still, small voices are shrieking in terror about the many horrible ways we might die. The threshold I struggle to cross is the question of whether a friend who stands by while you die can really be considered a trustworthy friend.

This plucked music has come to stay

Perspectives by R. S. Thomas : The Poetry Foundation.

The young are not what they were, smirking at the auspices of the entrails. Some think there will be a revival. I don’t believe it. This plucked music has come to stay. The natural breathing of the pipes was to a different god.

This snippet of poem resonates with the part of me that realizes I’ve broken with the religious understanding of my past, and I won’t be going back to it. It’s not just that my religious practices are different, but my understandings of God and of religion are different too. The “naturalness” of breath in worship juxtaposed with the thought-out, crafted, and manufactured sound of the plucked music makes me think of another juxtaposition: that of interpreting natural disasters to tell us God’s mood vs. using science to understand God’s universe.

Woodwinds are good, but the music is made richer by the addition of strings. Promising to do what God wants if he will please not kill us in flood or earthquake is a starting point, but once you’ve observed a supernova 70 million light years away (SN2012ec) I think you need to revise the story you tell yourself about the role natural disasters play in the universe, and how they relate to you individually.

Our fundamental identity

RJS quoting from John Stott’s book The Message of Romans:

The vital truth we cannot surrender is that, though our bodies are related to the primates, we ourselves in our fundamental identity are related to God.(p. 164)

via The Historical Adam RJS.

Use your mind to interpret and apply the Bible

Brian Mclaren — though discussing the church in general and not me in particular — does a good job articulating why I left my previous church:

The author makes an accusation almost all fundamentalists make, one I used to make in my more conservative days: that when people use their minds to interpret and apply the Bible, they place their own “authority over the Bible instead of placing [themselves] under its authority.” That dichotomy is very simple and popular, but I find it highly problematic.

Texts don’t exercise their authority until they are interpreted, and all interpretation involves the mind, values, and interests of the interpretive community in and for which the text is interpreted. So when people claim to be under the authority of the Bible, they may in fact be under the authority of an interpretive community’s interpretation of the Bible, whether they realize it or not. It’s far easier to say, “The Bible says!” than to say, “The leaders of our interpretative community say that the Bible says…” That’s one reason why it’s so hard to change one’s interpretation: doing so often means one is no longer welcome in the familiar community where one has been nurtured and to which one belongs.

To be “under the authority of the Bible,” then, presupposes the authority of this or that interpretive community and its rules of interpretation. That’s why the existence, assumptions, and vested interests of any interpretive community should be made explicit and critically scrutinized, because fundamentalists of all varieties have an interpretive agenda, assumptions, and interests they bring to the text – just as “liberals” and “moderates” in all their diversity do.

via Q & R: A nasty piece about you – Brian McLaren.

Enough to make one wonder

Fred Clark expresses concern that Jesus might have been motivated by something other than Christianity.

“It is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile,” Jesus’ disciple Peter said. And that was true. That was law. That was Bible.

But Jesus doesn’t mention any of those clobber texts. Nor does he heed them. Instead, Jesus heads directly to the unclean home of this unclean outsider. He exhibits an appallingly low view of the authority of scripture by — what’s the word they always use? — trampling on the clear, authoritative teachings of the Bible. …

It’s enough to make one wonder whether Jesus was even a Christian at all.

via Jesus, clobber-texts, and the centurion’s ‘companion’, emphasis mine.