Quote of the Day

From Drew Tatusko:

Jesus became a heretic to the religion of his day. Perhaps part of what he revealed is that we are all heretics in the eyes of God. This is why faith is the ground of religion, not some puppet human authority that has the gall to claim sole possession of the Truth.

God's involvement

An article was published on Yahoo's website today about a survey on American religious attitudes. The article begins by stating that "most Americans believe God is involved in their everyday lives and concerned with their personal well-being."

Four highlights were mentioned in the study:

  • 82 percent of participants reported that they depend on God for help and guidance in making decisions.
  • 71 percent said they believe that when good or bad things happen, these occurrences are simply part of God's plan for them.
  • 61 percent indicated they believe God has determined the direction and course of their lives.
  • 32 percent agreed with the statement: "There is no sense in planning a lot because ultimately my fate is in God's hands."
Of those four, I would categorically disagree with the last three, since all of them presuppose not just that God intervenes omnipotently in the world, but that God does so in such an overwhelmingly pervasive fashion that there is no room whatsoever for free will.

The first one, though, is more interesting. Maybe it is the old Quaker mystic in me, or maybe it is the influence of process theology in my thinking, but in any case, even as I reject the idea of divine omnipotence, the idea that the Divine is in some sense "speaking" to us is not a concept that I have a problem with. I think that many people, when they describe divine intervention, may tend to conflate omnipotent coercion with divine communication and describe both of those as "divine intervention". But in my view, they are quite different activities. "Speaking" to us, or offering us possibilities, or luring us towards greater creative and loving possibilities--that represents one way of describing the expression of divine activity in the world. But to say that God is actively involved in the world is not the same as saying that God coercively intervenes, or has some "plan" that ensures that everything will work out a certain way. The former describes the creative and open-ended potential of the universe; the latter describes an omnipotent force that controls the universe. I lean towards the first; I do not accept the idea of the latter.

A Church for People Like Us

A nice column by Norman Lear on religious faith appeared on the "On Faith" web site recently.

A lot of people may associate Norman Lear with certain edgy and politically charged 1970s sitcoms such as "All in the Family" or "Maude". He is probably less well known for his religious faith, but in fact he was the producer of a very short lived 1991 sitcom with a religious element called "Sunday Dinner" (unfortunately, the reason for its short duration is that it actually wasn't very funny). One feature of "Sunday Dinner" was that one of the main characters sometimes held conversations with God.

In the "On Faith" column, Lear says:

I like the metaphor of the thousand-mile river. It passes through time zones and climate changes occur along its path. Responding to the changing climate, the trees, shrubbery and vegetation along the riverbank changes also. But it is the same water responsible for nourishing every bit of growth. There are spiritual waters, call it the River of Reverence, that nourishes all of us who grope for understanding on a journey that will last all our lives and beyond.

There should be a Church For People Like Us.
I agree with that sentiment, although, alas, I have come to the conclusion that there is no church for People Like Me.