On a recent road trip to through the South, I saw a series of billboards with religious message. These billboards were clearly part of a single theological viewpoint. And that theological viewpoint is terrible.
If I'm going to be honest about what my true religious tradition is, a tradition that embraces faithful doubt and metaphor, then I have to acknowledge that I am a Christian Agnostic.
“I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?” — Sir Walter Scott
But even more so, I am blessed by having had the experience of a friendship in which all our political, theological, and ideological differences did not become a barrier to relationship, they enhanced and enriched a relationship that was built on mutuality of respect and a healthy dose of authentic Christian love.
We want to build a community where doubt can be safely expressed, where love is the dominant ethic, and where people feel supported in times of great challenge. There is a need for such spaces in our world today, and especially in our churches.
Few people realize that in the Book of Genesis, the world is made twice. In this video, we explore both the meaning of that curious fact and how it helps us understand both the nature of scripture and the messages it contains.
The solution to the madness wrought by those wielding absolute certainty is not to respond with competing certainties, but to embrace uncertainty and doubt. But to do this, we need to create spaces where uncertainty and doubt are affirmed and welcomed. Houses of worship where admitting that you're unsure about a tenet of faith is welcomed rather than demonized and rejected as faithless. Political climates where acknowledging that your political opponent might have a good idea every now and then is not tantamount to treason. Social spaces where admitting unknowing is understood not as a weakness, but as a strength.
Today is a tragic day in the history of our republic. We have witnessed an assault on the rule of law and on the hallowed traditions of our democracy. It is a violence rooted in ignorance and fear, and driven by hate, racism, and White Supremacy. Such violence and lawlessness must be denounced and opposed. And it must also be countered by providing a foundation greater than hate and ignorance, violence and lawlessness.
But if we would really honor our veterans, then we would honor what it was they fought and sacrificed for. We would throw ourselves into the struggle for democracy, justice, equality, and the rule of law with the same energy and passion.
September 11, 2001 is a date that causes many of us to reflect. That day—for good and for ill—has had a serious impact on the psyche of our nation, and it is only fitting that we take the time to do some reflection and remembrance. These reflections acknowledge the fact that we would be shaped by the events of September 11th, but we need not be defined by them, nor shaped in a particular way.
At the heart of all euphemisms is a desire to avoid a painful reality. But here's the thing: it doesn't help. Indeed, it may actually make the problem of grief worse. But honesty is not only for the sake of those who mourn. Honesty about death is the only way to speak meaningfully about life.
It is sometimes assumed that those who would critique their country have no stomach for patriotic displays like the Fourth of July. And to be fair, it is hard to overlook Frederick Douglass’ scathing indictment of American hypocrisy in “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” But perhaps it is in this very tension between the already and the not-yet that true patriotic observance can take place. Neither the rah-rah “We’re #1!” cry of the jingoist nor the sentimental rosy-colored view of the US as the haven of true liberty and freedom, but the deeper patriotism that remembers the best of what we can be, and in love, calls us to be better than we are.
Religions that are simply about otherworldly salvation, that are about perfecting one's inner self, that are about humble acceptance of the ills of the world—those are perfectly compatible with the status quo. And the Empire will never suppress a religion that supports the status quo.
These communitarian values help us to make the decisions necessary to prevent the spread of the pandemic. They help us to recognize when to subvert our individual desire to do whatever we want into efforts to preserve the common good—a good, it turns out, that we participate in. They help us to orient ourselves to positions of self-sacrificial love that may bring painful consequences on ourselves in order to protect and preserve the lives of others. These are the very values that inform decisions that the state must now compel so many of us to do.
In our global fast, brought on by the necessary responses to a pandemic, we are deprived of this essential human connection in community. And while we make accommodation to gather virtually in online meetings or streamed ceremonies, we know that in the end, we are still fasting from the most important resource we have as human beings: one another. But as with all times of fasting, we have the opportunity to practice and to perfect some spiritual disciplines that can refresh not only our souls, but the world itself.