Saturday, April 25, 2009

Truth, God with us, and Compassion

I had to lecture about the spirituality of the Gospel this last week at Gonzaga. Being shaded by the birth of my son, I have been meditating on the nature of Truth. When Rene Descartes declared that his thinking was the basis of establishing his existence, we have become a people who love propositional truth and have become people uncomfortable with suffering. I heard on this American Life a piece (listen here) about how a young woman, Trisha Sebastian had lost her faith due to death of a close friend. Ms Sebastian heard about Coach Hogan and his story about helping an opposing team of down and outs. She wrote to him to say he did a good thing. He wrote back and then they got into the question (or debate) about God and God's existence. What I heard was a battle of propositional truth, where each made a claim on answers. It was sad as what Ms. Sebastian wanted was a reason to believe and share her pain of losing a good friend. She needed compassion and not Apologetics.

The Gospel of Matthew’s spirituality finds itself in the Emanuel (God with us) or Jesus being with us until the end of the age. It is a faith of compassion. Ms. Sebastian needed compassion and not answers to her question. She needed a space to let her questions breath and not to contained in a small container of our answers. She needed to know God shared her pain and still loved her. Coach Hogan is a good man, who misunderstood this need for Emanuel. With the birth of my son, I better understand the need of presence. I understand God as I understand my little boys need of my and his mothers attention. As I lectured on how for Matthew, we become better humans the more time we spend with God. God's presence transforms us. I know I would leave most of Ms Sebastian’s questions unanswered. They are beyond me, or most people to answer. This despite that I know most of the answers from the past reflections of other theologians and thinkers. There is place for Apologetics, just not in the face of suffering. In the Book of Hours, Rilke's love poems to God, he wrote an answer to Ms. Sebastian’s longing:

It's possible I'm moving through the hard veins
of heavy mountains, like the ore does, alone;
I'm already so deep inside, I see no end in sight,
and no distance: everything is getting near
and everything getting near is turning to stone.

I still can't see very far yet into suffering,—
so this vast darkness makes me small;
are you the one: make yourself powerful, break in:
so that your whole being may happen to me,
and to you may happen, my whole cry.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More Baby pictures

Here are some more photos of our little one. It is amazing watching him everyday. I can start seeing his personality forming. He is very laid back and can sleep through the chaos around him. I do remember one of the Nurses at the Hospital had a large voice and a piercing high pitch cackle. He did not like that.

The unfolding of New life is profound.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Being in the World and not of it

Was Jon Meacham really surprised by the response to his article and latest Newsweek cover? He says it was not an attack on the faith. There is an old description of Christianity and its spread that is both pithy and brief. It does contain a grain of truth.

In its beginning in Jerusalem, Christianity was about God's relationship to man. When it moved to Greece, it became an idea. As it traveled to Rome, it became an institution. In London, it gained a stiff upper lip. In Wittenberg and Germany, it went into the Universities and become a library. It came over the great Atlantic and became a pioneer. It found a home in the slave quarters and became hope. Then in America, it became a marketing ploy. Oh, how it longs to return to Jerusalem, and be a relationship once more.

Jon Meacham claims that in his recent article about Chistianity, he was pointing to the demise of Religous Rights attempts at politcal power. He certainly did not want to attack the faith itself. Maby that it is true, except why use a cover that clearly echos back to Time's infamous April 8, 1966 cover and a title which could easily taken as such. I know that it is good marketing to promote conterversy, but then to act shocked that you are misunderstood. Then the question he says he is dealing with is how will the church handle no longer being a prime mover in the society. He says that it is good that the Church will play a declining roll in the larger society. While he does not state it, the implication is again that faith should be a private matter between believer and God. It should not influence public policy.

Unfortunitly for Meacham's arguement, Christianity has long since lost its roll. The Church has has had to fight and has to continue fighting more secularization, though the fight is now within the church's wall. Marketing and its influence have marked the church so much in the last fifty or so years that few Christians have understanding of Christian theology or Christian worldview. Many times I have gotten into discussions with Christians, only to find that their oppinions of their faith comes from their pastor or other sources other the Bible and tradition. There has been an progression of what Miroslav Volf calls Christian lite or a thin superfical Christianity. Christian lite is less a faith than a set of propositions to agree with. Faith is that which challenges us, as it does everytime I read and reflect on Scripture. Christian faith is faith in Jesus, which is lacking in the church today. Mr. Meacham continues throughout his article to claim that he is believer, though not much of one, and he is more representive of the Church at large.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Good Friday, and the Crucifixion of Jesus, Again.

It is Good Friday. The day the Church remembers the crucifixion of Jesus in preparation for Easter. Usually around this time, there is a story about the historical Jesus or the demise of the faith. Jon Meacham's Newsweek article follows in this tradition. He does makes some intersting points, but he seems like a flame inside of a hurricane. Using polling data, he writes a polemic of how it is a good thing that Christianity's influence is waning. The cover features a the words, "The Decline and Fall of Christian America" in the form of a red cross. He gets into the whole idea of America entering a Post-Christian era. (I must have missed the Christian era. I must have been sleeping or something.) Arguing the God-is-dead theologians of the sixties were prophetic in their trailing after a Godless Christianity. (Isn't Godless Christianity like a sunlightless sunny day or a cool drink of waterless water?) The fact that America has never been a Christian country, but a Christian influenced country never is clarified in the article. His arguments left sad more than anything else because about how he defines Christianity.

My thinking is that we are again trying to crucifix Jesus on new cross. Nothing changes and just think of the different crosses tried before, be they the cross of history (the Jesus Seminar), the cross of historical materialism, (Marx) the cross of politics or the cross of polls (Meacham). We have no problem putting Jesus on the Cross, we have been doing that for two thousand years. Our problem is that Jesus keeps ressurecting on whatever cross we nail him to. Easter always returns.

Finally, being a new Dad, I have to share photos. My new son has taught me the meaning of new life, and God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Poem, Jesus and new life

The Power of a Newborn

The utility of a baby comes
into question. We who value
success, medals and honors,
What does a week old
infant offer. A glimpse of God
comes only from perfection, or
so we think. Therefore we are

sure to chase gold, money
and things we hope will give us
the world. Moving to the future
or chewing on the old gum
of the past, we walk on tiny
imaginations and to the path
regretting our led life. And

yet God chose to begin
the Easter trail as an infant.
A baby lights up a room,
because they are closer
to the source of life, coming
through the pains and groans
into the sun. After a week of life

my new son comes to his
first Palm Sunday. Triumphant
he entered our lives, and
our temptation is to forget
the daily bread, daily feedings
the hourly poops, and speculate
as to his future. Today, only Hoshana.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Structure of Life, Poem and the birth of my Child

On March 27th came Ernesto Tinajero II

Welcome friend of expectant joy,
Like a seed in the earth bearing
bearing sprouts bearing trees
bearing peaches carrying pits when planted
bear new life. And so on.
And so on.
What you brought us is the unimaginable.
You have taught us is the structure
of life is the Cross: Anticipation,
suffering and then new life.
The smell of you mingles with the smell
of us and fills us with the most unique
and common experience of life.
You came two weeks early
and right on time. To make us happy,
you came with two eyes, two feet, two hands,
and hair. We are left speechless.