Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Marilyn Sewell on the Presence of Evil and Pożegnanie z Marią

She writes, Do you believe that there are evil people in the world (aka Scott Peck's People of the Lie)? How do we best deal with them in an authentic, yet self-protective manner?

Read Tadeusz Borowski's Pożegnanie z Marią. One story translated here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Scot Giles is blogging

And it's a very good thing because I enjoyed his sermons back at Oak Park's Unity Temple. Here's his blog.

I served on the board with Scot. That experience convinced me to never again have anything to do with a historical-structure with a cult-following; but Scot's sermons were always insightful.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

David Warren on Islamica's publication of responses to Benedict: We have relgions because journalism cannot tell us what we need to know.

David Warren's conclusion on Islamica's publication of an open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI by 38 leading Muslim Scholars and Leaders.
Islam is thus, in the words of 38 of its most qualified living exponents, not merely "a religion of peace", but more essentially a religion of love -- of love, from and for the one God we all worship; the one true Lord we know by His works, and who is Love in all His actions. For what is done in hatred cannot be done in God's name, and will always be false religion.

Now take this in. In a moment of increasing worldwide violence and tension, Pope Benedict XVI issued a call, echoing his predecessor John-Paul II, for a real dialogue between religions at the highest level of reason. And authoritative spiritual leaders of the Islamic umma responded favourably to this, and declared, in a fine, noble, and open spirit: "Let the dialogue begin!" This is news of very great significance. It should have been the top headline in every newspaper in the world.

But our media -- West and East -- report this, when at all, as some kind of sidebar on the terror war; as if the Muslim leaders had merely accepted an "apology" from the Pope for having hurt some Muslims' feelings.

This is why we have religions. Because journalism cannot tell us what we need to know.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Moral Pride

An exchange on it and Nieburhr with A Religious Liberal.

Elizabeth Sifton on Neibuhr's Serenity Prayer

Read Elizabeth Sifton's The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War . My Amazon review below,
A disappointing book. Far too much opinion without analysis on today's politics and aggravatingly few recollections of the interesting people who filled Sifton's youth.

I had to keep repeating the prayer for serenity-of-mind to get through it; hoping I'd find a nugget or two of insight, or a story about some of these great thinkers in Sifton's life, before hitting the back cover.

Stephen Barr on Richard Dawkin's God Delusion

Barr reviews Dawkins latest book over at First Things and saves me the burden of haing to read it.

More evidence to me the argument between evolutionists and ID is between people who never made it past Calculus.
As one moves deeper into nature—to levels about which the natural historian and zoologist can tell us nothing—one encounters not less and less form but increasingly magnificent mathematical structures, structures so profound that even the greatest mathematicians are having difficulty understanding them. This is what Pope Benedict was referring to in his Regensburg lecture when he spoke of “the mathematical structure of matter, its intrinsic rationality, . . . the Platonic element in the modern understanding of nature.” It is what the great mathematician Hermann Weyl meant when he said, “[I]n our knowledge of physical nature we have penetrated so far that we can obtain a vision of the flawless harmony which is in conformity with sublime reason.” It is what the great astrophysicist James Jeans meant when he said, “The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.”

At the foundations of the natural world, we do not find merely slime or dust or some dull insensate stuff. We find ideas of sublime beauty. Dawkins looks at mind and sees atoms in motion. Physicists look at those atoms, and deep below those atoms, and see—or, at least, some of them have seen—the products of “sublime reason,” “a great thought,” a Mind.

In other words, in nature we see a different arrow: It moves from Mind to ideas and forms, and from ideas and forms to matter. In the beginning was the Logos, St. John tells us, and the Logos was God.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ayatollah Mohammad Kazemeini Boroujerdi's arrest

…Tell the world that Boroujerdi did not fear death…. He defended an Islam which promotes love and kindness not the Islam that these lot advocate which has brought poverty, corruption, prostitution, addiction ….I don’t want you to risk your lives for me, I just want you to tell the world what happened here,.

The video of his arrest here via PJ Media. The first part of the video is regime cleric asking Boroujerdi's supporters to disperse. The end is Boroujerdi's farwell and the above quote is a partial translation from it.

A little more about him and his arrest over at Open Democracy.

xp at Bill Baar's West Side

Update Aug 9, 2008: The link to the video is down so here is the youtube,

Rev. Kathleen McTigue interview with O'Reilly on torture

Just stumbled while flipping channels on The Unitarian Society of New Haven's Rev. Kathleen McTigue interview with O'Reilly about McTigue's bill board accusing Senator Lieberman of voting for torture.

McTigue admitted to O'Reilly she could neither define torture or agree if captured terrorists should be held to the Geneva Convention's standard of POWs only being required to give name, rank, and serial number when interrogated.

McTigue dodged the questions and did not do us proud, as a faith of razor-sharp reason.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Say what? liberal religion needs to reimagine a public theology that is historically faithful and culturally relevant.

A Luthern friend who calls herself a traditional Christian (not a conservative because that's too linked to the secular and politics) read Mike Hogue's call for a reformation of Liberal Relgion and asked,

Bill, I don't understand what he is saying here, "liberal religion needs to reimagine a public theology that is historically faithful and culturally relevant."

How would he define historically faithful? And, how does a person marry the culturally relevant with the historically faithful since they are often diametrically opposed?

Hogue wrote back,
I would argue that the idea that the histories of traditions, Christian or otherwise, have little contemporaray cultural relevevance is a symptom of our late-modern historical chauvinism. History has a great deal to teach us. Especially in a time of the increase of global dynamics, it would reward us to investigate the world's religious traditions as carriers of global impulses, inquiring into their constructive possibilities venues for the increase of intercultural understanding, justice, and love.

I think it is crucial to recover a sense of humility before the historic narratives and symbols of the traditions that form us. No tradition, if it is a genuine tradition of thinking, is ever static but is always dynamically bringing its historic resources to bear on contemporary issues. The contemporary cultural anemia of UUism is in some measure the result of many in our movement abandoning the cognitive and practical moral depths of our historical roots.

More specifically, I think contemporary UUism needs to recover, and through recovery to integrate, the insights of the humanistic and theistic patterns of thinkng that are at the roots of religious liberalism. That UUism seems to have spun off from its historical theological framework, and embraced an the politics of identity as its reason for being, is a particularly pernicious instance of the charge that liberal religion is culturally capitulative rather than culturally prophetic. The liberal religious life, if true to its original prophetic origins, needs to be about much more than appeasement of our existential definitional anxieties. If we're not a constructive cultural-political movement, engaging the politics of culture from distinctly liberal theological perspectives, enacting church in a particularly liberal prophetic way, then we'll continue to shrink ourselves into obsolescence.
Culturally capitulative rathar than culturally prophetic is exactly the problem CUUMBAYA surfaced here.

Mike Hogue on recovering the roots of Religious Liberalism

Some quotes from email exchanges with Mike Hogue, Assistant Professor of Theology, Meadville Lombard Theological School.

I quoted Hoque,
I think contemporary UUism needs to recover, and through recovery to integrate, the insights of the humanistic and theistic patterns of thinkng that are at the roots of religious liberalism.
and I asked,
How exactly, does one go about the recovery? How does a lay person, a Church member; go about that?
He wrote back,
I have several ideas. Keep in mind that there are multiple spheres in which this recovery and reintegration needs to take place: individual, communal, and institutional. What I take you to be asking about are what individuals and particular church communities can do. Within these spheres, I think it would be helpful to encourage reading/discussion groups around a couple of issues.

First, at the most abstract, consider the question "what is theology"? If theology is systematic critical reflection about ultimate concerns, often construed symbolically as "God," what are the various ways of construing ultimate concern? Asking the question in this way, I think, opens the meaning of "theology" to a great deal of comparative work, rather than isolating it to reflection on and within particular traditions. But, one needs also to ask, what are the sources for our ultimate commitments? Are they sourced strictly in individual experience? In the traditions we inhabit? In rational inquiry? In sacred texts? And third, in what ways does the object of our ultimate concern organize our lives? Are we actively faithful to such ultimate concern? Do our lives correspond in behavior and character to the commanding meanings of our sacred center? Asking "what is theology" and addressing these three angles on the question (what "are" our ultimate commitments, "where" do they come from, and "how" do our lives correspond to these commitments ) are important basic moves in reflectively engaging our religious and spiritual depths. I think, too, that through such engagement it will be likely that theists and humanists will discover that each has much to learn from the other and that neither pattern of thinking exhausts the insights of the other. In other words, they can be complementary ways of being religious.

Second, to guide this kind of deep individual and communal dialogue, it might be good to have some focal texts. I would recommend reading pairs of books together, such as John Dewey's "A Common Faith" and some of James Luther Adams' writings, as collected in "The Essential JLA". First of all it is crucial to understand what each is really saying, reading the books charitably as best as one can for the authors intent, asking questions about the contexts out of which each author was working, and how these may be shaping his insights and questions. Second, initiating a conversation about the internal consistency of each vision presented and then pursuing their pragmatic moral effects if lived.

Just some very rough thoughts about this...

In my "intro to liberal theology" class I organize lectures and readings around particular tensions within the liberal religious tradition, pairing one thinker with another and using each to interrogate the other. The aim of this is to lead students through the kind of integrative recovery of seemingly disparate patterns of theological thinking in order to enrich their own theological self-understandings.
Mike gave me a plan. It's got the pieces I need; that fit with my way of thinking (which may set me up for a charge from some wag that they see little thinking in anything I blog!), but the dialectic process of contrasting two opposites, two conflicting thoughts, to get a synthesis, is how I prefer to think about all things.

Mike also outlines an approach to recover Religious Liberalism based on history. Which takes me to my next quote from our exchanges.