Transparent Eye (Old)

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A spiritual blog favoring non-doctrinaire, open-minded belief,
inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, and Carl Jung.


The Serenity Prayer by Elisabeth Sifton

The Serenity Prayer is associated with Alcoholic's Anonymous, but few know its origins, and it is sometimes misattributed as an medieval German prayer. In fact, it was composed in 1943 for a church service in Massachusetts by Reinhold Niebuhr, a German-American born in Missouri. It first appeared in print in the 1944 Book of Prayers and Services for the Armed Forces of the United States. The Serenity Prayer, by Niebuhr's daughter, Elisabeth Sifton, details the context of its creation. As originally written, the Serenity Prayer was

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Over time, it is been changed into the first person, and is more commonly recited as
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Niebuhr was one of the best-know Protestant theologians of the 20th century, and this book serves partly as a biography and memoir of her father by his daughter, Elisabeth Sifton. Niebuhr was a liberal, indeed a long-time Socialist, a friend of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and an influence on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He traveled frequently to Germany during the interwar years, and hosted German theologian Paul Tillich in New York when Tillich went into exile during the Hitler years. Tillich served as an inverse Tokyo Rose during the war, broadcasting anti-Nazi propaganda in German which were transmitted to Germany by the U.S. War Department. Niebuhr was also close to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who remained in Germany, and was executed in the closing days of the Third Reich. Niebuhr traveled to the Soviet Union in 1930, and returned an anti-Communist. He was also an early anti-Nazi, and broke with many friends who counseled pacifism during World War II, seeing in them a blind absolutist faith differing in content but not form from the right-wing fundamentalists who he also opposed. Niebuhr was one of the founders of the liberal Americans for Democratic Action, but he was no naive liberal. According to his daughter,
When the fatuously optimistic Unitarian Reverend John Haynes Holmes opined in 1931 that Europe was "slowly but surely approaching the longed-for goal of harmony and peace," a Niebuhr rebuke thundered back" "Let Liberal Churches Stop Fooling Themselves!"
Elisabeth Sifton writes with grace and wit, as befits someone who is a senior vice president at the publishing house of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. She relates that in his declining years
friends would send along ghastly samples of Serenity Prayer kitsch they'd encountered, for they knew the response would be disbelieving laughter, and they wanted to cheer Pa up when he was in his melancholic phase. Painted trays or crocheted hymn-book covers, say.
I've always thought that "less is more," and the serenity prayer captures a great deal of wisdom in a few short phrases. It is moving to realize that Niebuhr wrote it at a dark time when many lives were in jeopardy and it was no easy task to be serene.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/31/2004 10:43:00 PM    Link To This Post    


Muslims Need Not Stand In Line

Malaysian censors have approved The Passion, but only for viewing by the Christian minority.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/30/2004 05:46:00 PM    Link To This Post    

Steady Catholic

Beliefnet profile on John Kerry.

John Kerry was never a Prodigal Son. His faith journey contains no leave-taking and triumphant return, no revival, no conversion on the road to Damascus. Unlike President Bush--a Protestant who experienced a profound conversion at age 40 under the Rev. Billy Graham's tutelage--Kerry has been a steady, churchgoing Catholic literally since the day he was born.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/30/2004 01:41:00 PM    Link To This Post    


Kerry Talks Faith In Acceptance Speech

And let me say it plainly: in that cause, and in this campaign, we welcome people of faith. America is not us and them. I think of what Ron Reagan said of his father a few weeks ago, and I want to say this to you tonight: I don't wear my own faith on my sleeve. But faith has given me values and hope to live by, from Vietnam to this day, from Sunday to Sunday. I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side. And whatever our faith, one belief should bind us all: The measure of our character is our willingness to give of ourselves for others and for our country.
From Remarks of Senator John Kerry (As Prepared for Delivery) 2004 Democratic National Convention EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE UPON DELIVERY OF SPEECH, SCHEDULED FOR 10:03 P.M. EDT TODAY, JULY 29 Big applause for the line "I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side." Kerry actually said "I don't wear my religion on my sleeve." Update: For future reference. Andrew Sullivan quotes the same paragraph. He keeps the word "faith" in there where Kerry actually said "religion." That's fine. It makes it easier to write up a story if you can quote from the prepared text, and don't have to check that every word is the same. Here is a post-speech transcript of the Kerry speech as delivered.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/29/2004 10:52:00 PM    Link To This Post    


A Memoir Of Painful Vision in California

Last week, I completed a book-length memoir of my 26th year, when I was living in San Francisco and seemed to be going blind. It's entitled Transparent Eye: A Memoir Of Painful Vision In California. I've given the manuscript to members of my writing group for feedback. They've seen individual chapters, but this will be the first time they see the work as a whole. In addition to being a health memoir along the lines of Norman Cousins' Anatomy Of An Illness As Perceived By The Patient, it's a spiritual memoir, and would fit into the Amazon category which includes Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies and Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain. In tone, it's closer to Lamott's irreverance spirituality than Merton's witty but somewhat dogmatic writing. It's not just a "life" but a "life and times" memoir, so it serves as an idiosyncratic travel guide and profile of the Bay Area circa 1985.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/26/2004 08:12:00 AM    Link To This Post    


The Protestant Minority

For the first time since the Puritan settlement of this continent, Protestants will form a minority of Americans. Those claiming no religion is up to 14%. (via Nathan Newman)

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/25/2004 12:00:00 AM    Link To This Post    


Zen And The Brain

My review of Zen And The Brain by James H. Austin, M.D. is up on Blogcritics. This book is a weighty tome, literally a brick, coming in at 700 pages before footnotes. The density of the text varies from many passages that are accessible to the general educated reader to others which are extremely technical and chiefly of interest to neuroscientists. Still, I found much to underline, more than I could include in the review. I hope to come back to some of the issues raised in this work in future posts.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/24/2004 12:54:00 PM    Link To This Post    


Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

I've skimmed through G.K. Chesterton's 1908 book Orthodoxy, which is purportedly an account of his own conversion to Christianity. It's said to have influenced many others to follow in his footsteps, most notably C. S. Lewis. The full text is freely downloadable here courtesy of Project Gutenberg. I found Orthodoxy unsatisfying as a spiritual memoir, however, as it only gives the barest glimpses of his personal life, before wandering off into argumentation and apolegetics. Nor is it clear to me whether it is a personal intellectual history, presenting the arguments in roughly the same order as he wrestled with them on his journey to faith. As best I can determine, it was reading polemics by atheists which turned Chesterton into a Christian. Apparently, he felt these polemics overplayed their hand, and came to believe in what they tried to disprove. While he does mention Unitarianism and Buddhism, it does not seem to me that Chesterton gave alternative faiths much consideration during his exploratory period.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/23/2004 11:35:00 PM    Link To This Post    

Revealer Forum

Jay Rosen wonders how coverage would be different if religion writers rode the campaign bus and points out the Revealer Forum, which addresses that question.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/23/2004 05:24:00 PM    Link To This Post    


Desert Fathers

A friend sent a link to the Saying of the Desert Fathers, early Christian hermits.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/22/2004 03:49:00 PM    Link To This Post    

Terror In The Name of God

I've skimmed through Jessica Stern's Terror In The Name Of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. I'd like to come back to it when I have more time. It have case studies of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim terrorists, and it goes beyond the usual analytics to try to get inside the mindset of these people. I think it succeeds. Stern herself seems to be agnostic but spiritual: she cites Simone Weil and a nun who was a friend of her grandmother as influences which showed the positive side of religion, which is what made her so fascinated that religion also produces horror.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/22/2004 11:52:00 AM    Link To This Post    


Bush: God Speaks Through Me

Over at The Village Gate, Renee in Ohio points to a report of an appearance at an Amish community in which President Bush seems to have taken on the mantle of prophecy.

I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job.’’
It's the word "through" that I have the most trouble with in W's speech. I pray, and I think God answers sometimes, speaking "to" me. But I wouldn't say that God speaks "through" me. That would imply that I accurately reproduce God's communication in my own speech, which I think would be presumptuous. I recently listened to a biography of Dorothy Day, which I described in a previous post. There are many good things about her, but I was troubled (and the author, Robert Coles was too, I think) about her pacifism during World War II. I don't want to digress into a separate debate about that, but I would argue that the best of us (e.g. Dorothy Day) are imperfect vessels, and lesser souls (e.g. George W. Bush) are even more imperfect vessels. God may speak "to" us, but when it runs "through" us and comes out the other end, there may be a lot more of us than God remaining in the text.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/20/2004 09:58:00 AM    Link To This Post    


Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor

I've come across a curious book called Buddhism Without Beliefs which may appeal to people who are interested in the practices of Buddhism, but are skeptical of anything which smacks of supernatural. Batchelor not only dispenses with God, which does not seem to be a core Buddhist belief, but also with karma, which he argues is a relic of Buddhism's cultural origins in India. What he's left with is practice, without any philosophical or metaphysical beliefs to go along with them. This seems like a reasonable approach for many agnostics. It is clear that some spiritual practices, like breathing exercises, and clearing the mind, are beneficial. They can be fruitfully pursued whether or not one believes in the metaphysical philosophy which frequently accompanies it. Update: I found a Salon piece on Boomer Buddhism which discusses this book, and reports the criticism that this is not Buddhism but rather humanism with a Buddhist face.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/19/2004 11:14:00 PM    Link To This Post    

Free Inquiry June/July 2004

The June/July issue of Free Inquiry, which is put out by offers the following articles free online:

One of the most interesting articles in the issue, "What Use Is Religion?" by biologist Richard Dawkins, is not available online. Dawkins discusses the "problem" of why religion evolved when it is not clear it has survival value
Why do we pray and indulge in costly practices that, in many individual cases, more or less totally consume lives? ... Religious behavior is Darwinian business only if it is widespread, not some weird anomaly. Apparently, it is universal, and the problem won't go away just because the details differ across cultures.
Dawkins argues that the notion that religion is a "medical placebo" reducing stress, is not a "big enough theory" to solve the puzzle. I don't have an answer to this myself, except that faith, by which I mean the feeling or emotion when one has faith, is deeply tied to how we set goals and make decisions. Neurologist Antonio Damasio's The Feeling Of What Happens discusses examples of brain damaged people who've lost emotional affect, and can no longer make decisions. Faith is part of the emotional spectrum. The theme of the issue is "Upgrading Humanity," which speculates how machines may be grafted onto humans to create post-human cyborgs. As atheists, the writers in this magazine don't believe in personal salvation, but look for it in the development of the human species. The article on President Bush's religious views is scary, but I'm not sure how much to credit it. The article states that Bush is close to evangelist James Robison, who, in a manner similar to the Taliban, joined a convert in destroying Asian religious art which he deemed idolatrous. There is also discussion among the letters about the use of The Brights as a euphemism for atheists, and whether it is condescending with respect to the intelligence of non-atheists ( I think so!) If any of you are going to be in the Finger Lakes region of New York this summer, you can visit the Robert Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, which honors the most prominent American advocate of atheism of the 19th century.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/19/2004 01:46:00 PM    Link To This Post    


Does Liberal Religion Require Liberal Politics?

Over at Coffee Hour, Chris Walton asks about whether liberal religion must come with liberal politics.  Tom Schade responds

I do believe that there is a political programme that flows naturally from liberal religion, and it is traditional liberalism. After all, we shared a crib in the intellectual nursery. In short: an affirmation of cultural pluralism, secular states, free institutions of religion, separation of church and state, consensual, constitutional government, democratic republicanism, human rights, including the right to private property, and equality of the sexes.
Are the bullet points Tom lists necessarily liberal in 2004? I think libertarians, who find themselves allied with conservatives in many cases, could subscribe to the points above. And yet they might well feel doubtful whether they belong in a UU Church. What attracts me to the Unitarians is the idea of spiritual liberty, that I need not subscribe to a creed. I am a theist, but I don't believe in Jesus. I am a Jewish-American, but I find even liberal Jewish services too tied in to a single tradition. However, I don't think Unitarians honor political diversity the way they honor spiritual or cultural diversity. I'm a centrist rather than liberal or libertarian. There frequently is a point in a service where politics comes up and I wonder whether I belong there. People, and ministers, should be free to express their opinions, but it sometimes seems like political views are expressed ex cathedra, as if everyone in the pews can be expected to share them. One specific instance which I recall from some years ago was when as assistant minister announced her participation in a protest against the Welfare Reform initiative which President Clinton was considering. It's a free country. She's free to take that position. But the way it was announced made me feel like it was an "a position we all share, of course" and that I'd best keep quiet about my own views which favored Welfare Reform. Now, I don't see why asking welfare recipients to work in exchange for benefits is inherently in conflict with the principles of UUism. In fact, the culture of dependency which welfare produced was antithetical to the philosophy of Self-Reliance of Ralph Waldo Emerson which was once a Unitarian staple. From what I see, the highest principle of the UU community is not liberty, but compassion. That, I think, is unfortunate. There are many other religious organizations that do compassion quite well. The Catholic Church does it. So does the Salvantion Army. But they fall short when it comes to liberty. I don't mean to be flip about compassion. It's a good thing--most of the time. But as in the example of welfare, it is possible to take compassion so far that one becomes co-dependent, and an enabled of destructive behavior that is not compassionate in the long run. It's not unreasonable for UU's to hold gay rights as dogma. The contemporary prejudice against gays is inspired mostly by appeal to the authority of Biblical text. The Unitarian committment to spiritual liberty has a consequence of devaluing the texts which condemn homosexuality. But when it comes to free markets, globalization, NAFTA--is there an inherently UU view? It seems to me that being a Wall Street trader is not antithetical to spiritual liberty, and one can argue both ways whether efficient markets make for a prosperous and compassionate society. One should not assume that liberal religion inherently demands liberal politics. There may be some points where the philosophy of liberal religion leads to conclusions of a political nature. But in other cases, both sides of a political debate may be consistent with liberal spirituality, and the assumption that one side is correct may be simply be groupthink.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/18/2004 03:27:00 PM    Link To This Post    


Christian Libertarianism

Joshua Claybourn describes himself as a Christian Libertarian.

At the root of Christian libertarianism is the biblical conviction that God grants men the freedom (never the permission) to sin. It allows Christians to transform the culture through the church and the family. This transformation is no business of the state's. The early Christian church, and America's Founders, saw this and kept the church and state in two different spheres, permitting the church to influence the populace (and the state) freely. The church best flourishes in that sort of environment. The virtuous life cannot be brought about by government.   The state should not be called upon to bring about the virtuous life. The price is subservience to the state. Many will view this as a cop-out or shirking from God's wishes, but I am a libertarian precisely because I wish to protect traditional values and culture from the state.
If God has granted us freewill, why should the state compell our behavior, when what we do harms no one but ourself?

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/16/2004 08:03:00 PM    Link To This Post    

Kerry's Faith

The Washington Post has a long article on Kerry's faith, which he mostly keeps quiet about--except in front of African-American audiences.   Unlike Bush, he seems like a secular person.  But he is in fact religious.

On the road, Kerry carries a rosary, a prayer book and a medal with the image of St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers, which he wore during the Vietnam War, according to a longtime associate who demanded anonymity to discuss an issue the candidate did not want to discuss. Kerry prays, sometimes with friends, including in 1999 when he helped former Vietnam crewmate Del Sandusky through hard times, the associate said.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/16/2004 09:24:00 AM    Link To This Post    


Dorothy Day

I'm listening to Robert Coles biography of Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, which I'm surprised to learn still exists. She seems like she was a spirited, interesting person, and a doer of good deeds, but it's the Catholic part I don't get. She started as a bohemian Greenwich Village writer. Her conversion came after the birth of her child, and actually broke up her marriage. Before her conversion, she felt she was "drifting" and the church gave her focus. Anyone trying to figure out how to be a religous liberal in a conservative institution will be interested in her life. Listening on tape, it's sometimes confusing whether the author's voice is that of Coles or Day, since the biography contains large excerpts from her writing, and because the reader is a woman.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/15/2004 04:13:00 PM    Link To This Post    


Kleiman On Mysticism

Mark Kleiman has just returned from a conference on the scientific study of mystical experiences. I note with approval that he has the domain I'm tantalized by his posts so far. I hope he publishes more details.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/14/2004 09:35:00 PM    Link To This Post    


Harvey Cox

Common Prayers by Harvey Cox describes his unusual position as a Protestant theologian whose wife is Jewish, and who have raised their son in the Jewish faith. I have met Cox on a few occasions (a nice man). His wife, Nina Tumarkin, taught a class at Wellesley that I took as a cross-registered MIT undergraduate in the mistaken hope I could meet girls (it was a seminar on Russian History that attracted juniors and seniors, while I was merely a sophomore). The book is structured to follow the Jewish calendar through a year, with each holiday evoking Cox's reflections on similarities and differences between Judaism and Christianity. His observations are of interest, but if anything, I find that he goes too easy on both religions, too easily affirming traditions rather than viewing them with a critical eye. The section I found freshest was the discussion of Christian Zionism, or restorationism, the view that the return of Jews to the Holy Land is a sign of the millenium. Cox himself as a boy received a Scofield Reference Bible, which contain notes explaining the biblical text from this perspective. Cox points out such works as W.E. Blackstone's 1878 book Jesus is Coming which preceded Jewish Zionism. Overall, Common Prayers is an interesting work, but it leaves me somewhat unsatisfied, because the dissonance is not resolved. Husband and wife agree to love each other but disagree at what still seems to be a fairly fundamental level about religion, though I suppose, that is common enough in life. Cox's approach of respecting difference is certainly to be preferred over the triumphalist strategy of one faith trying to obliterate the other. But why must religion be so static? Why can't we attempt to resolve the contradictions between faiths with a new synthesis?

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/12/2004 08:47:00 AM    Link To This Post    


The Twilight Of Atheism by Alister McGrath

My review of The Twilight Of Atheism is up on Blogcritics. I note that the reviews of the book on Amazon, at this writing, are mostly negative. I think the negative reviewers are reacting polemically. The title of the book attracts atheists, who react with hostility when they actually read it. However, by being theistic without being especially Christian, the book does not attract much support from religious conservatives. Update: Salon has a mostly negative review of this book.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/11/2004 02:00:00 PM    Link To This Post    


The Unitarian Universalist First Parish in Cambridge had an ecumenical service with the First Church In Cambridge, Congregational down the street. As you can see, they are a little competitive with the "firsts" both being churches founded by Puritans in the 1630's. Since the Unitarian Service normally starts at 10:30, I arrived at that time, only to find that the Congregationalists had started at 10:00 AM. I arrived during the sermon, and sat in the balcony near the choir. I missed the point of the ecumenicalism, as the service seemed like a standard Protestant service, without any bows to the Unitarian. Perhaps those were in the first half-hour I missed. An infant was baptised, sprinkled with water from a basin recessed into a table. While the United Church of Christ is known for being very liberal politically, the part of the service I witnessed seemed very traditional theologically, with plently of Father, Son, and Holy Spirits. There was one reference to a Mother, which seemed like an innovation. The sermon I heard is not online, but a recent sermon, which embraces the myth of Jesus as the crucified and rised god is online. It was interesting to witness the service, but held no appeal for me, being all together too conservative in theology as expressed in its liturgy.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/11/2004 01:22:00 PM    Link To This Post    


People Of Faith - For Kerry

Amy Sullivan points to People of Faith For Kerry. The signup form asks:

Sign me up as (check as many boxes as apply): Christian Catholic Eastern Orthodox Evangelical Historic Black Church Mainline Protestant Mormon Pentecostal Jewish Muslim Ba'Hai Buddhist Hindu Sikh Unitarian Universalist Other:
I like the multiple checkoff. I don't think religions should be exclusive. I checked Jewish and Unitarian Universalist.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/10/2004 09:49:00 PM    Link To This Post    

Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan (In Memoriam)

The founder of the Omega Institute, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, died last month.

Pir Vilayat, born in London in 1916, was the spiritual successor of his father, the pioneer Sufi teacher in the West, Hazrat Inayat Khan, who had been a celebrated musician in India. Pir Vilayat became a musician himself, playing ‘cello, and studying composition with Nadia Boulanger. He took a degree in psychology from the Sorbonne. During the Second World War he and his older sister Noor served the British war effort. Noor, known as Madeleine, was a heroine of the Resistance, executed at Dachau. Pir Vilayat served on a minesweeper that was torpedoed in the D-Day invasion in Normandy. In the 1950s, Pir Vilayat began teaching through the Sufi Order, and particularly in America he drew a large number of people. More than 100 local centers for the study of Sufism exist in the United States, as well as many in Germany and in many other countries around the world. In 1975, he founded, in upstate New York, a spiritual community, the Abode of the Message, and also Omega Institute, a flourishing learning center embracing many teaching approaches.
I spent a weekend at a conference on Virtual Reality some years ago at Omega. It's located in a pleasant rural setting in the Hudson Valley, not far from the FDR Presidential Library. It's very wide-open in terms of the various philosophies that are presented there, and it was only incidentally that I even learned there was any connection to Sufis.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/10/2004 09:09:00 PM    Link To This Post    

Leaving Fundamentalism

Philocrites points to this chewy post about former fundamentalists at myirony.

Leaving religious addiction is traumatic, whether the process is gradual or sudden. Dealing with that loss of meaning and support is no mean thing. Now you have to learn life skills that the fundamentalist community didn’t require, that it maybe said were sinful even. Dating? Your bible study leader was against it. Financial planning? Just make sure you tithe. Career planning? Just trust god. And the rapture is coming soon, after all.
I can relate to this, having been a strictly Orthodox Jew in my teenage years. It takes the pressure off dating when there is no clear demarcation between dating and just being friends, in as much as it is not permissable to touch a member of the opposite sex.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/10/2004 08:57:00 PM    Link To This Post    


Tikkun's Jewish Jesus

I like Michael Lerner's take on Jesus The Jew in Tikkun Magazine -- human, imperfect, and an important teacher of humanity:

As I've argued in Jewish Renewal and elsewhere, it is always flawed human beings who get the spiritual message (because that's all there is on the planet), and so the way we hear the message is limited by our own spiritual, intellectual, and psychological capacities. Tarnished by living in a world of oppression and cruelty, we sometimes hear God's voice as the voice of cruelty, embodying a message that is in line with our experience of "reality" as harsh and cruel. Similarly, it's no surprise to hear that same voice in the gospels when Jesus speaks of his family in dismissive language (when he says "If anyone comes to me and doesn't hate his own mother and father and wife and children and brothers and sisters and even his own life, he can't be my disciple").
I am of Jewish ethnicity, but I no longer consider myself Jewish by religion. I consider myself post-Christian rather than pre-Christian in that I "get Jesus," that is, I take to heart Jesus critique of the legalistic Judaism of his time. However, that doesn't mean I put Jesus himself on a pedestal. My take on Jesus is outside the traditional Jewish vs. Christian dynamic. It's more like how Muslims or perhaps Buddhists view Jesus, as a prophet, but not the last one, nor one whose word trumps all others. Lerner concludes:
To the extent that we Jews feel safer today than we have in the past, we should finally allow ourselves to open to Jesus the Jewish renewal revolutionary and prophet, treating him with the same respect, and the same rough-and-tumble criticism that we give to all our great teachers.
Actually, post 9/11, I feel quite a bit less safe, both as a human, and a Jewish-American. But those of us who prize intellectual coherence owe it to ourselves to move beyond traditional taboos and recognize the positives and negatives of Jesus, the human teacher.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/08/2004 03:13:00 PM    Link To This Post    


I'm listening to Shadowlands, by Brian Sibley, the basis of the later movie. I'm not at all impressed by C.S. Lewis or this thought. I'm giving up on this work. I haven't even gotten to the "tragic romance" with Joy Davidman yet. C. S. Lewis conversion to theism and Christianity seems to be the result of an aesthetic preference for mythology. I especially dislike what I see as his "totalitarian" view that Jesus must either be God, a madman, or a bad man. This is quite Manichaen, and doesn't even take into account that Jesus never made the claims that the church fathers made of him. Even if he did, it is quite possible for people who are eccentric to enrich our lives.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/08/2004 02:40:00 PM    Link To This Post    


Hollywood Religion

Amy Sullivan, "recovering-Baptist-turned-liberal-Episcopalian" discusses Christian fiction and bemoans the fact that Hollywood abandoned the vaguely liberal Bible epic.

This is a problem because when the only Christian-themed entertainment in the marketplace is laced with conservatism, Christianity itself will increasingly take on a conservative cast. The faith of Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King Jr. and Reinhold Niebuhr is not the faith of Tim LaHaye and Mel Gibson. Yet the more that single interpretation of Christianity dominates airwaves and bookshelves, the more people of faith are tempted to believe that the only way to be a "good" Christian is to be a conservative.

Posted by Rick Heller @ 7/07/2004 08:36:00 AM    Link To This Post