Sunday, April 22, 2007
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
I started by looking at where the visitors to this blog are located. Not too helpful, since I think I know the folks who visit from certain cities. The visitor from China has to be lost, eh? But what about the occasional hits from exotic places like Queensbery Fife, Singapore, and New South Wales? Could be robots, the dh says.
So then I looked at what search strings bring people here. This is not an exhaustive list, just the most interesting:
Interdependence of little blue penguins (huh???)
Spirit guides night in armour (another huh?)
Armor helmets (OK, this has to lead to the armor of god pajamas post…)
I want to see spirit of my father (Me, too. Sigh.)
Celebration of non-belief
Symbiotic relationship with penguins (OK, no more penguin posts, I guess)
“Love will guide us…” lyrics
Prayers to help earthbound spirits
Fascinating! I haven’t checked them all out to see which specific posts they link to, but I think it’s hilarious that ‘Interdependence of little blue penguins’ brings up TWO links to my little blog when you enter it into google. I had to look them up - they really exist, and are also known as fairy penguins! And, for someone who doesn't like to pray much, I sure seem to write them - or write about them - frequently enough.
As for the others… I don’t have a particular interest in armor or helmets, or prayers to help earthbound spirits (which are – according to one definition – spirits unable to “cross over” to the other realm after death).
However, if anyone out there has prayers to offer for my success at writing the paper on Aquinas and Luther I need to finish today…
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Please call the
We never know what’s waiting for us when we receive this page:
An accident victim, whose family needs to be contacted and comforted?
The family and friends of one who has died, requesting prayer and ritual?
Ambulances bringing the wounded from an industrial accident?
Friends of a gang member, closely watched by police?
An attempted suicide’s family, who need to be handled carefully?
A delusional homeless person asking to speak to a priest?
A child being stitched up after a playground mishap – or her hysterical parents?
A woman in the midst of laboring to bring forth an already dead fetus?
Whoever is lying on the gurney or sitting in the waiting room…
We encounter ourselves,
our own tender places,
our own growing edges,
our own fears,
our own insecurities,
our own beliefs,
our own knowledge of the divine
and how it manifests through us.
They see us as the face of God.
We try to be the hands of the holy,
Helping to shape meaning and order from chaos.
What terrible responsibility.
What holy work.
Friday, April 06, 2007
This is from the last “Dialog” installment. I separated this from the general issue of Universalism, because I think it deserves a little spotlight of its own – though we may wend our way back to Universalism in the end, or not...
As for justice, does this have to include retribution – that is, someone "paying a price?" Why is it justice if someone dies because they killed someone? Why is it justice if God sends perpetrators of heinous evil to hell, but gathers all the victims to heaven? And, my big question: why must there be an "in" crowd and an "out" crowd? Isn't there room enough for everyone in heaven?
This is something I’ve thought about a lot – this issue of paying or retribution and justice. I understand that the Hebrew scriptures are full of sacrifices – payments for sins – the priests offer birds and animals on the altar, Abraham nearly sacrifices his own son, etc. For some Christians, that’s exactly what Jesus’s suffering and death by crucifixion was all about – paying by sacrifice for the sins of humanity. That’s a huge burden to place on the life of one human being – even if you believe he was God’s son (or God, or both, depending). If I understand everything I’ve read so far correctly, it’s the basis of the Universalist viewpoint: one person chosen by the divine (by whatever means) to restore the balance destroyed by the first humans in the garden (I’m not getting into who sinned first, NOT going there).
But, here’s the thing: If Jesus did die for all humanity, then why does divine justice still require punishment (or eternal damnation)?
Meg’s views were interesting to me, here is some of her original text which addresses these specific questions.
In order for forgiveness to really take place, the wrong must first be named, honestly confessed. In a way, this is the justice component. So, working at a domestic violence shelter, I see this a lot when women tell me that they've forgiven their assailant and they are going back to him. That is, in Bonhoefferian parlance, cheap forgiveness because it has never honestly accounted for the wrong that has been done. My concern with universalism is that it doesn't hold people accountable for the way they've lived their lives. Justice requires an honest recounting of wrongs committed. Without that, neither justice or forgiveness are possible.I already addressed the unaccountability problem Meg raises in the previous post. And I do understand Bonhoeffer’s cheap forgiveness. From my point of view, though, forgiveness is really more for the benefit of the one wronged, not the wrong doer – forgiveness allows the one wronged to move on. The very human ideas of confession and payment are tempting – we want to be able to blame someone for bad things that happen, and seek cheap retribution by demanding “an eye for an eye.” I can even buy into the “paying one’s debt to society” notion of justice – except that human justice is notoriously weighted in favor of the privileged. In addition, I oppose capital punishment, for example, and I believe very strongly in the concept and practice of mercy, as well as the possibility of redemption.
So, what kind of atonement is required? I kind of like the moral inventory popular with 12-step programs, and making amends directly with those one has wronged. That has a nice sort of Hebrew Scriptures flavor about it, without the stink of fire and brimstone. This is the message I think most Christians miss when they read, or preach on, the book of Jonah – the whole point is forgiveness, not punishment. Okay – the Ninevites acknowledge wrongdoing, but it’s Jonah who demands further retribution! In the text, Jonah doesn’t seem to get the point that punishment is not necessary; and most Christians I know miss it too preferring to focus on the message of obedience to God.
Interestingly, I’ve been told that Jonah is one of the texts read for Yom Kippur services, Yom Kippur being the Day of Atonement. The dh and I used to live in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, and when we did he also had a number of Jewish co-workers. Many practiced a form of that moral inventory every year in the days leading up to Yom Kippur, recalling disputes and arguments of the past year and approaching people individually to ask forgiveness. This sort of atonement, to me, opens the way for real healing of both parties as well as the very real earthly grace of compassion and forgiveness – far more than paying a fine, serving a sentence, or an eternity in hell.
I think that’s about all for now. Happy Easter (or other spring holiday).
(Image found through Google at eurowarrant.net)