Saturday, August 4, 2007

Friday Five on Saturday Morning

1. Have you ever been on a pilgrimage? (however you choose to define the term) Share a bit about it. If not, what's your reaction to the idea of pilgrimage?
When I first started going back to church, I began to visit Central American. The presbytery began a relationship with the Moravian church along the Rio Coco in Nicaragua. It was always amazing to me to experience the depth of faith of the people there. They who had so little were always willing to share so much with us. My experiences there were a major factor in my growth in faith. Ireland with my sister: an unexpected pilgrimage. Glendalough is a thin place and unbelievably spiritual. And always San Anselmo. I try to get back there at least once a year: Hiking in the hills and stopping at the lakes refreshes my soul and the joy of my first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge above Golden Gate Park on 19th Ave is amazing. The Bay shimmering from Sausalito.

2. Share a place you've always wanted to visit on pilgrimage. Camino de Santiago. Because it is there. And I love to walk.

3. What would you make sure to pack in your suitcase or backpack to make the pilgrimage more meaningful? Or does "stuff" just distract from the experience? I always take too much. So, just a toothbrush and a change of clothes. Leaving my laptop and camera behind would kill me.

4. If you could make a pilgrimage with someone (living, dead or fictional) as your guide, who would it be? (I'm about thisclose to saying "Besides Jesus." Yes, we all know he was indispensable to those chaps heading to Emmaus, but it's too easy an answer) A friend who teaches in seminary here. She is the wisest person I know.

5. Eventually the pilgrim must return home, but can you suggest any strategies for keeping that deep "mountaintop" perspective in the midst of everyday life? (don't mind me, I'll be over here taking notes) Those experiences should change our lives. If they do, then that change should stay with us over time. Jesus (and Peter and James and John) came down from the mountain top and continued to heal the sick, teach and then Jesus turned his face to Jerusalem. I believe we are to heal the sick, teach and make disciples and work for the kingdom here.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Battle for the Meaning of Everything

I am reading The Battle over the Meaning of Everything: Evolution, Intelligent Design and a School Board in Dover, PA. The aurtho Gordy Slack is a science writer in the Bay area. He is atheist and his father became a born-again believer in ID and creationism.slack covered the Dover, PA court case over the teaching of ID for Salon. The book is helping me understand the importance of creationism and ID for fundamentalists. According to Slack, they are premodernists who believe that materialism (in the philosophical sense, not the consumerist sense) of the last few hundred years has led to a moral decay which will destroy this country. They see God as the only authority which can restore morality. It's an interesting position. But, if the fundamentalists' argument is that we cannot be moral without a God who has established rules for our behavior, their real argument is that we cannot be moral without a very real hell. After all, it is not the existence of God, or even a belief in God which would enforce moral behavior: it is the fear of punishment. 

It seems to me that part of the issue, then, is authoritarianism: the need for clear rules to follow and for leaders to tell people what to do. I am not an authoritarian. In fact, I see authoritarianism as dangerous. It seems to me that authoritarianism is one of the roots of evil in religion: that leaders will tell people what they must do to be saved and people follow without questioning. Think of Jim Jones and other religious cults, Hitler, the slaughter of Jews in the Middle Ages. 

I believe that God gave human beings brains and that we are supposed to use what we have been given. I also think that there is merit to rules. I need to listen to people who disagree with me, because that's one way I learn and grow. There is a wonderful line in the Habitat for Humanity International mission statement about providing homes so that "people can live and grow into all that God intended them to be." That's what I hope to do and what I hope to lead others into.