Sunday, November 30, 2008


This past week, the Vatican decided to forgive John Lennon for remarks he made in the early days of Beetlemania -- remarks to the effect that the Beetles had become more popular than Jesus.

I find myself deeply tempted to rant. About how ridiculous it is that the Vatican took offense to something so insignificant to begin with. About the utter insanity of a religion supposedly based on love and forgiveness taking over 30 years to forgive a comment by a popular young musician. About how the Vatican might have better uses for it's indignation.

I suppose part of my reaction is that this is the kind of thing that drives me absolutely insane about religious belief sometimes: how elevating something to a religious belief somehow means that it should be exempt from critique or criticism. How questioning or criticism of religious belief turns some otherwise rational people into thin-skinned idiots making mountains out of molehills.

It seems to me that it is one thing to have an opinion of what is good, because if I have such an opinion and you question it I can change my mind, modify my opinion, change and grow. But elevating such an opinion into the will of God (as if such a thing were possible!) makes it into eternal truth, makes me condemn as heretic those who would disagree, prevents me from growing, learning, adapting.

All of this makes me wonder the extent to which this kind of reaction is due to a sense of threat to that which is highly valued. And so I try to imagine how I would react if someone were to make a kind of threat to something I value. For instance, I think of the hurt I felt when a young child at a daycare center heard that my son Patrick was coming that day and said "oh, no! Not Patrick! I hate Patrick!" To paraphrase Pema Chodron, that experience freed me of the notion that I have relatively little in the way of aggression in me.

Still, I do not elevate my belief in the value of my son into divine Truth. After some reflection, I can see how other kids would find Patrick's eccentricities strange or difficult. I am able to broaden my view of my son to see how other children might see him.

So I have a proposal: let's do away with doctrine. Let's have teachings, ideas, and beliefs -- but let's stop imbuing them with divine providence (even the implied divine providence of being official church doctrine). Let's focus instead on ensuring that any teaching, any belief, is ultimately in the service of promoting love, compassion, understanding. And let us explicitly state that we should hold no belief so strongly that it prevents us from showing love, compassion, or understanding.

Any thoughts?

Saturday, November 22, 2008


One of my favorite blog authors, Katherine, of "Meaning and Authenticity" has been so kind as to give me the "Superior Scribbler Award." I am delighted and honored, of course -- in no small part because I find Katherine to be so profound, kind, and honest in her writings. Thank you for this recognition, Katherine. I'm honored and will do my best to start posting a bit more often.

Here are the rules as I understand them:

*Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

*Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

*Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to this Post, which explains The Award.

*Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

*Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

For my part, I choose to honor the following blogs:

Seeking to Build Bridges. Sarah's writings are honest, intelligent, and compelling, whether she's describing daily concerns, theological issues, or social concerns.

Magdalene's Musings. She has one of the first blogs that I discovered, and was one of my early inspirations for starting a blog myself. I admire the love for her children and congregation that come through in her writings. She is generous in sharing her sermons on her blog, and these never fail to make me think about the scriptures from a new perspective.

Faith in Community. Diane's writings are smart, charming, and insightful. And we both have connections to both South Dakota and Minnesota. I enjoy her writings in part because her blog is about having "faith in community" -- which is something I wish I could have more of.

Velveteen Rabbi
. I once heard an episode of "This American Life" where David Sedaris commented on a performance by Sarah Vowell (who, coincidentally, is one of my favorite authors). His comment ("she must be stopped!") was described as the pinnacle of praise by one comedy writer to another. I can relate to Sedaris' sentiments when I read Rachel's blog. She writes so well, with such beauty and grace, that I sometimes feel as if I should just stop trying.

A Boyd's Eye View
. This is a relatively recent find for me, a blog by one of my oldest friends and my debate partner during our Freshman year. It had been many years since we'd talked before we found each other on Facebook -- and from there I found his blog. It's cool to find that the humor, quirkiness, honesty, and intelligence I remember him for is still there.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Prop. 8

Just so very well said. I particularly love his commentary on those using their religious views to support their vote in favor of Prop. 8.

Friday, November 07, 2008

on "politics," a post script

After I wrote my "politics" post, I came across people commenting on some similar ideas. Interestingly, several discussed Lincoln's address to a nation much more divided than ours is currently. These words express what I think I was getting at far better than I could:

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."

- From Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

Oh, how our politics might be different, it seems to me, if we could proceed with "malice towards note; with charity for all...."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I heard an interesting exchange today on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." Joe Scarborough was talking about his sense of how insulting some commentators have been in describing Obama's victory. He pointed to comments such as that Obama's election was a victory of hope over fear, arguing that it is insulting to insinuate that right-wing conservatives vote as they do simply based on fear (vs. voting on heartfelt convictions, differences in worldview, etc.).

It was a humbling topic for me to think about, in large part because I've found myself agreeing with the commentators Joe was troubled by. I believe that the RNC and McCain's campaign was trying to scare the American electorate by pinning emotionally laden labels on now president-elect Obama. They called him "socialist." They made inferences about how he "worked closely" with Bill Ayers. They called him a "celebrity."

It is difficult for me to see these attacks as anything other than an attempt to spread fear, an attempt to play into people's prejudices.

And yet, Joe's point is something to consider. The fear that came out of the campaign must stem from their sense of threat to something they consider dear -- be it conservative values, a candidate they trust and admire, or a hawkish foriegn policy that they feel protects our country.

It feels odd to consider that the policies and worldview I espouse could be considered a threat to anyone. And yet my acceptance of things like gay marriage, my very refusal to condemn such arrangements, feels threatening to people who wish for a society that defines marriage more narrowly. I do not have to be, feel, or act angry in order for them to feel threatened by my point of view. Perhaps I would be considered all the more threatening by staying calm.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not questioning my positions. I hold them proudly. But I think the larger point I'm pondering is one of how we relate to those with whom we disagree. If those of us who consider ourselves Obama supporters seek to follow his call for unity, then perhaps we must take extra care in how we express our joy at this election. Perhaps we must take particular care to assert our perspectives without gloating or shaming or assuming negative motivations in those with whom we disagree.

Peace to you all.