“I came to ruefully and bemusedly understand that once you’re a Catholic, you’re always a Catholic…This was the world where I found the beginnings of my song. In Catholicism, there existed the poetry, danger and darkness that reflected my imagination and my inner self. I found a land of great and harsh beauty, of fantastic stories, of unimaginable punishment and infinite reward.” ~ Bruce Springsteen
There is, after all, something revolutionary in Christianity — a tendency to upend, reverse, and radically transform. In Mary’s magnificat, the song of praise, she offers at her meeting with her cousin Elizabeth, she proclaims, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant . . . He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” This list of upsets issues from the mouth of a peasant girl who has been promoted to an almost unimaginable status. That the radical reversals of Christmas are enumerated to us by a young woman of no particular social standing is itself an incredible bit of turnabout.
The revolutionary character of Christianity is usually washed out and mostly confined to specific political moments when it’s useful to refer to it. But this selectivity, too, should be upended. Christianity is at all times concerned with the poorest, the most vulnerable, the most oppressed; it is permanently interested in reversing this order, in aiming at and accomplishing the unexpected.
Yesterday (December 6) the festival’s co-founder Larry Harvey made clear that Burning Man is now closer to becoming a religion than ever before. In a blogpost, he announced that the 2017 theme would be “Radical Ritual,” writing that “beyond the dogmas, creeds, and metaphysical ideas of religion, there is immediate experience. It is from this primal world that living faith arises. In 2017, we will invite participants to create interactive rites, ritual processions, elaborate images, shrines, icons, temples, and visions.”
For those interested/baffled/angered/betrayed by the evangelical support for Trump, here are some thoughts in the Washington Post by one of the editors of Christianity Today, Katelyn Beaty. I think she’s putting it very mildly here, being much more sympathetic than is deserved, but I have too many thoughts and emotions on this issue to even begin to comment on the so-called “Christian” born again evangelicals. Here’s an excerpt from this short op-ed:
After an election in which 81 percent of my white coreligionists supported Trump, the faith that has been my home for 20 years seems foreign, even hostile….
It’s like the way you love your offbeat uncle — the one who rambles at Thanksgiving dinner about threats to his freedoms and political correctness run amok. You understand why he feels the way he does. You sympathize with him on many points. But when he starts in with racial slurs and sexist jokes and complaints about “illegals,” at some point you have to get up and leave the table.
I’m not typically the guy with the Facebook updates sharing what I ate for breakfast. I don’t mind seeing what you or others eat for breakfast, and I certainly don’t have anything against breakfast, per se. Breakfast is a wonderful time of the day, so rich with potential, our bodies are on the verge of great creativity and productivity, if only it were given the fuel necessary to energize it. For my part, I had a bagel with cream cheese. That was my breakfast. And I sprinkled some sugar on it and added cinnamon. That’s not my typical breakfast. Usually it’s just fruit. Fruit and perhaps a handful of almonds. Why is this my normal breakfast? Well, if I told you, then this would start to seem like a story. Read more
I’ve redesigned my blog, simplified it a good deal. I’ve always been excited about the Internet, and I realized the other day I’ve been blogging and whatnot for something like more than 15 years now. The first time I really plugged myself into the World Wide Web was while I was working my second corporate gig, a job that had a boat load of inspiration for a satirical writer of comedies like Dilbert or The Office. Read more
I’m on a train, public transportation in the South Bay area, i.e., Silicon Valley. Typically it’s a fairly dull ride with the typical variety of office suites and manicured bushes passing me by. The passengers getting on and off are, by and large, heading to their tech jobs, Macbooks on laps, buds wedged in ears, and phones at the ready.
Bill McKibben has written a short response to the Pope’s encyclical on climate change, the environment, and economics. For most of us, what the Pope says is more or less obviously true, but as McKibben notes, few people in power are willing to truly take it on. Here are a few of McKibben’s thoughts on the Pope:
“…he’s [the Pope] brought the full weight of the spiritual order to bear on the global threat posed by climate change, and in so doing joined its power with the scientific order. Stephen Jay Gould had the idea that these two spheres were “non-overlapping magisteria,” but in this case he appears to have been wrong. Pope Francis draws heavily on science—sections of the encyclical are very nearly wonky, with accurate and sensible discussions of everything from genetic modification to aquifer depletion—but he goes beyond science as well. Science by itself has proven empirically impotent to force action on this greatest of crises; now, at last, someone with authority is explaining precisely why it matters that we’re overheating the planet.
“It matters in the first place, says Francis, because of its effect on the poorest among us, which is to say on most of the population of the earth. The encyclical is saturated with concern for the most vulnerable—those who, often in underdeveloped countries, are breathing carcinogenic air, or are being forced from their land by spreading deserts and rampant agribusiness. This comes as no surprise, for concern—rhetorical and practical—for those at the bottom of the heap has been the hallmark of his papacy from the start. “A true ecological approach,” he writes, “always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”…..
“But the heart of the encyclical is less an account of environmental or social destruction than a remarkable attack on the way our world runs: on the “rapidification” of modern life, on the way that economic growth and technology trump all other concerns, on a culture that can waste billions of people. These are neither liberal nor conservative themes, and they are not new for popes: what is new is that the ecological crisis makes them inescapable. Continual economic and technological development may have long been isolating, deadening, spiritually unfulfilling—but it has swept all before it anyway, despite theological protest, because it has delivered the goods. But now, the rapidly rising temperature (and new data also released Thursday showed we’ve just lived through the hottest May since record-keeping began) gives the criticism bite. Our way of life literally doesn’t work. It’s breaking the planet. Given the severity of the situation, Francis writes, we can finally leave behind the modern myth of unlimited material progress. A fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing, and limiting our power.…..”
Interesting article written by a Christian whose encounter with Buddhism actually softened him to religion, leading him back to Christianity. That’s a similar story to my own.
Quote: “The notion of dominionism falsely teaches within some Christian circles that the planet is ours to use as we please. And some even go so far as to suggest that anything we can do to help hasten the end-times gets us that much closer to heralding God’s kingdom on earth.
Buddhism, however, teaches simplicity, humility and intentional care for all of creation. Practices of mindfulness and humility help us loosen our grasp on personal desire and avail ourselves to the excesses and insensitivity of our habits. When we regain a healthier sense of our own places within a much larger, very delicate ecosystem, we not only treat our surroundings with more care; we treat ourselves with greater care as well.”
Photo is mine, from my recent trip to the Nizina River, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.