“realistic about religion”

7 04 2010

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From the review of a new movie on Lourdes taken from Titusonenine

It has become a tired debating point to think abut religion as being a battle between belief and practice, doxa and praxis. Lourdes brilliantly shows that religion is more usually not about either belief or practice, but an assortment of endless varieties of both…

Many characters in Lourdes don’t seem to have strong views on what they do or don’t believe. The way they relate to doctrine is just not primarily a matter of acceptance or rejection. Belief is therefore less a question of which are true and more one of which matter and why. So, for instance, many pilgrims are sceptical about whether miracles have actually occurred in Lourdes, but what matters to them is that they nonetheless believe God’s grace is somehow at work there. Others are indifferent to most, if not all, of the specifics of Christian belief, but embrace the compassion and support they feel at the shrine…

To respect religion properly we need to appreciate how different people relate to different beliefs in different ways, and that constant, sober piety is the exception, rather than the rule. It was a local priest who once told my father, “the problem with most people is that they take religion too seriously.” Rather fewer Catholics than you might think would be shocked or surprised by that. The rest of us need to understand better why they’re not.

On Death

7 04 2010

If the resurrection doesn’t sound like the Gospel, you haven’t really considered how great and powerful death is. An ordinary man might conquer a vice. He may fix a hole in his reasoning. But he will never defeat death. Even if he finds the Fountain of Youth, death will eventually blot out the sun and leave the earth a cold, lifeless shell. Should he escape the solar system and find another star, death will destroy that one, too. It will devour and devour until not a single wisp of usable energy remains in this universe to sustain life.

The easiest way to kill the Gospel in your church is to drive thoughts of death out of our minds. Hurry the old and the frail out the doors of your church, so the youthful and exuberant don’t have to see them. Distract people with self-help lessons and inspirational stories. Wrap people up in the institution, in the programs, and the politics of your version of the faith. Just don’t let them think about death. Don’t let them see the dying. Be sure to do this, and regardless of how “orthodox” your church is on paper, the Gospel will be the only thing that dies in your church. Only face to face with the ugly visage of death do we learn who Jesus is.

Read the rest here

On Newton

7 04 2010

A minor disappointment not to find
angels pushing the planets around their courses
as Leibnitz believed. A shame, but not a great one,
that the universe seemed less and less to hang
glimmering from God’s chain like a golden fob,
although a pendent weight shaped Newton’s thought.

Sitting alone there in that storied orchard,
he’d seen the apples drooping from their boughs;
until one formed, unplucked, a grand conclusion.
The apple fell because it had to fall,
as objects move toward objects, in accord.
It struck a dizzying tune into his head.

The clockwork of the heavens may make music,
but it was a grave music that he heard,
the whirl of mass, the hum of centrifuge,
and calculations on the page would prove
such motion both a falling and a flight.
Thus bodies spin each other round in space.

And gravity, too, becomes a kind of grace.

-Morri Creech, from “Some Notes on Grace and Gravity”, from the collection Field Knowledge