Thursday, April 27, 2006

Swedish Eccentrics

This afternoon as my son played his Little League game, his little sister and I flew a kite on the adjoining field. We were soon joined by other tots too restless to sit in the bleachers; they took turns running with and after the kite, giggling and yipping like puppies. More than once I was tangled in string as they circled around me, and I thought of the kiterunners in Kabul who glue glass bits to their strings in order to cut loose other kites. Glad I'm not in Kabul, I thought.

Occasionally a freight train rumbled by and the children would wave and chase it. Our local ballfields are scenic. Recently at a game near the ship canal, a NOAA vessel floated past, causing everyone to turn and stare as the bridge lifted and the cormorants circled and the aspens quaked.

But no one blinks when our former governor shows up. He's here for his kid, like the rest of us, and no doubt he winces inside when his kid strikes out, like the rest of us. There's a lot of striking out among 7-year olds.

One of the smallest kiterunners introduced me to his dad, a dapper black guy who avoids the cheering section and brings reading material. I figured he was either (1) shy, (2) tired of white people, or (3) not a baseball nut. After a few minutes of conversation, I decided it was the latter, as he was friendly and eager to talk. We covered a wide variety of subjects, including architecture, happiness, the legal profession (he is a law prof at the UW), our neighborhood, home renovation, music instruction, and religion. Isn't it crazy how with some people you can get to the heart of things?

When his lovely wife arrived, I was charmed to learn that her heritage, like mine, includes an unusual religious sect started by an eccentric Swedish scientist. Swedenborg, that is.

Lucky her! Her eccentric scientist inspired Blake, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Jung, and Johnny Appleseed.

Well, the game ended too soon. Our boys made their first base hits of the season and were very pleased. The rest of our conversation will have to wait.

Meanwhile, can anyone tell me more about Swedenborg? What do you suppose was his impact on Laestadius?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Further Thoughts on Faith

I just finished Anne Lamott's latest book, "Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith" and heartily recommend it if you (1) are not easily offended, and (2) enjoy learning how others live their faith. Follow the link above to hear Lamott on NPR.

Wouldn't it be great if Julia Sweeney and Anne Lamott interviewed each other? They are both thoughtful, sincere, and loving truth-seekers, yet where Julia finds absurdity, Anne finds inspiration (as well as absurdity).

There is nothing to fear in exploring differing points of view. To quote Lamott:

"The opposite of faith is not doubt: It is certainty. It is madness. You can tell you have created God in your own image when it turns out that he or she hates all the same people you do. The first holy truth in God 101 is that men and women of true faith have always had to accept the mystery of God's identity and love and ways."

When you're absolutely certain you have nothing to learn. There is no mystery. There's no risk.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Letting Go of God

Today on NPR there was a brief blurb about Julia Sweeney coming to Seattle. I was intrigued, as she was raised in Spokane and went to my alma mater (UW) before making it as a comedian. When I googled her name, this link (click title above) came up, to a "This American Life" segment in which she talks about her loss of faith. There are some very funny bits. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Was Laestadius a Racist?

Laestadius stated unequivocally that his own Lappish race was superior to Swedes and Finns. It is beyond ironic that his modern-day followers act as if their race ("white") is superior to all others. (If a Laestadian encountered the real, historical Jesus on the street, would he cross to the other side?)

I am appalled at the racism that is still prevalent in OALC circles.

Last year at a family event, I got up and left the room when a male relative began comparing the qualities of his African-American and Mexican subcontractors. I didn't want to hear whatever he was going to say, because I knew I would call down the wrath of God upon him and the evening would end in harsh words. I have not yet found a way to lovingly correct bigots.

Have you? Please share your experience.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Bedside Thoughts

I can't post about recent events in my life because they are too personal for a public audience. But I want to tell you, friends, that I have just experienced a kind of Easter at the bedside of a loved one, someone with whom I've argued many times about God and life and justice and truth, and with whom no real understanding seemed possible.

It still seems impossible. But the spectre of death, and the beauty of life returning, was like a fire burning away my ego, habits of thought, and attachment to my truth. I found myself incapable of anything but compassion.

Love is enough. Love is all.

***

Leaving the hospital late one night, I noticed that the moon was full. Most of us do not ask on viewing a full moon, "is this the last one I will see?" But our full moons are numbered. How can we remain conscious of death in our day-to-day existence? (Should we even try?) How would our actions change if we thought they were the last things we would do in life? What would our words be?

Perhaps that consciousness is what it means to live out the depth and breadth of life, not just the length of it.

***
According to Tillich, people exhibiting pathological anxieties, arising from their many fears, construct their world and carefully and forcefully defend their positions because the purpose is to prevent having to come to face their existential anxiety. Their purpose therefore is not to further the discussion but to prevent it. "Neurosis is the way of avoiding nonbeing by avoiding being."

Those who dare to live beyond fear hunger for that spiritual experience where "Man realizes that no absolute and no final security is possible; he also realizes that life demands again and again the courage to surrender some or even all security for the sake of full self-affirmation."

***

I was greeted warmly this week by my OALC kin at the hospital and realized after a couple of days that no one invited me to go to church, although meetings are going on every day. Neither was there any exclusionary talk about "the Christians" and "worldlies."

Were my relatives also inspired by compassion to focus on commonalities instead of differences?

Or do they consider me a lost cause?!

***

May your Easter be suffused with the Divine. God's peace to all.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Gospel of Judas

National Geographic has released a translation of the Gospel of Judas (follow link above). You may want to watch the NGC special this Sunday (9 PM PST). Here's the blurb.

"Discovered by chance in the 1970s, a document that lay hidden for some 1,700 years, emerges today as The Gospel of Judas. Trace the story of what has happened to the document since it was found, explore the recent authentication process and analysis, and discover key insight gleaned from its laborious translation and interpretation. Dramatic recreations portray and clarify the complex story of intrigue and politics of the earliest days of Christianity, and reveal the contents of the Gospel itself."

I don't have cable, so if you watch the show, let me know what I missed. Personally, I hope the public discussion of these ancient documents increases lay appreciation for the gospels as literary, not literal. One can also hope that Christian anti-Semitism that found support in the story of Judas will diminish.