Friday, October 29, 2010

Nietzsche I

But an attack on the roots of passion means an attack on the roots of life: the practice of the church is hostile to life.
Frederich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Is Nietzsche right, even partially so? Yes. Too many have experienced the church and Christian faith as something narrow, rigid, life-constricting. I have had some of those experiences myself but have found them antithetical to my deepest and most profound experiences of Christian faith. My faith, at its best, opens me up to the world and to life – to joy and suffering, hope and disappointment, mystery, complexity, questions, beauty, love – and even passion. Jesus is to have said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). It is when we know and can share such a faith that others might be attracted to it.

With Faith and With Feathers,


Friday, October 22, 2010


Having internet connection problems at home. Blogging is not much fun when those issues arise. In the words of that great theologian Charlie Brown, "Aaaugh!"

Still With Faith and With Feathers,


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Weaving New Life

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. II Corinthians 5:17

It has been awhile since my last post in part because of a busy schedule – travel to Nashville for six days for two United Methodist meetings, and in part because of internet problems at home. I arrived back home earlier this week to find that television service had been lost – missed the Vikings game on Monday (as did the Vikings themselves in the first half), and then once that was repaired to have sporadic outages in our internet even after replacing the modem and router. Anyway, on to other thoughts – thoughts conceived on a hotel treadmill and jotted down on paper in airports.
There is a type, probably no person fits it perfectly, but a type - - - the person who inside never graduates from high school. There is the athlete whose best time in life was sinking the winning basket, scoring the winning goal, throwing the winning pass. There is the homecoming queen who has never felt as adored since. There is the A student never again able to replicate her or his success.
High school for me was a mixed bag. I look back with a certain fondness, but also recall the pain, awkwardness, disappointment. Perhaps this is a type, too, one who too easily looks askance at those who hold too closely to high school.
In reality we all weave and weave again our past experiences into our present reality. A healthy weaving allows us to appreciate the past but live in the present, neither holding on to the past too tightly or rejecting it too severely. New life, even in Christ, is a new weaving, not simply a letting go, and the work of the Spirit is toward creativity and freedom as we do our weaving.
I thought of all of this on a treadmill in Nashville. While at meetings, I was on the treadmill every night and one night this fascinating sequence of songs shuffled through my ipod:

Dan Fogelberg, “Same Old Lang Syne” – song about running into an old class mate –
“felt that old familiar pain”
The Eagles, “I Can’t Tell You Why” – song about love fading away, popular when I was
in high school/college, great slow dance song if you could find a partner
Hall and Oates, “Sara Smile” – enormously popular song in high school, I could
almost feel myself driving wearing my letter jacket on a crisp fall day
Lou Reed, “Coney Island Baby” – the glory of love and playing football for the coach
Herb Alpert, “A Taste of Honey” – a song I remember from childhood. My dad had
this record with a rather unforgettable cover.

And so we live, weaving and reweaving our past – joys and sorrows, desires, dreams, disappointments, accomplishments. Newness of life is a new weaving made possible by a Spirit of creativity and love.

With Faith and With Feathers,


Saturday, October 2, 2010


In the September 17 issue of the Duluth newspaper, the News Tribune, there was an article about a recent survey conducted of Americans (Associated Press National Constitution Center). “Glum and mistrusting, a majority of Americans today are very confident in – nobody.” When asked about their trust in people running major institutions, 43% said they are extremely or very confident in the military. That tops the list. 39% expressed confidence in small or local business leaders; the scientific community came in at 30%, and next, at 18% organized religion.
That religion is in the top four should bring a modicum of comfort to those of us whose lives are deeply intertwined with organized religion. That the figure is 18% is a bit disheartening. There are many reasons for this, I am sure. Scandals surrounding Roman Catholic priests and other prominent clergy have been reported regularly in recent years. The face of organized religion is sometimes the face of a pastor of a small church who suddenly becomes famous because he plans a Quran burning (and I am pleased he changed his mind). A few Christians can be seen carrying signs that read: “God hates fags” or “Jesus hates sin.” Most of these actions are not the kind that promote confidence in organized religion.
When I read these numbers again, however, I wonder if there is another factor also involved. I notice that the scientific community rates higher than organized religion in evoking confidence. There is little question that scientific discoveries have enhanced our lives. We need to think only of the dramatic advancements in medical technologies to be grateful for the work of scientists. Perhaps one factor that erodes confidence in organized religion is the way some forms of faith have publically battled science. They have tried to substitute poetic bible passages for scientific literature and in the process give the impression that people of faith cannot contend in an intellectually sophisticated manner with the work of scientists. The most blatant example is the insistence of some in the Christian faith community on reading the first chapters of Genesis as science rather than as theological poetry. To do that is both to misread the Scriptures and to create a false battle against scientific work that helps us understand the processes by which life emerges and changes. If we read Genesis as significant theological poetry that grapples with existential questions about the meaning of life in relationship to God, then there is no tension between it and most scientific work on evolution.
This is not to give science a free pass on all its work. Science cannot answer some of our most basic questions, and some scientists reach too far in some of their statements. To claim that evolution proves there is no God is to go beyond science just as to claim that Genesis is science is to misunderstand the nature of Scripture. Furthermore it is important to remember that a scientific description of hormonal changes, blood vessel changes, heart rate changes is not the same as the human experience of being in love. Science worth its salt is open to data of all kinds, including the data of human experience which does not seem adequately captured by the biology of the brain. And some of the data of human experience is poetic, literary, religious. And again we are aware of scientists so narrowly focused on a particular study that they miss the moral implications of their work.
Perhaps if we in organized religion were willing to have some of these kinds of conversations, the confidence level generated might rise. I kind of hope so.

With Faith and With Feathers,