Skip to main content

precisely

I occasionally participate in a discussion forum online and one of the threads I frequent is the one on religion. I have noticed a trend among many of the participants that is rather disturbing to me: they base their assumptions on the viewpoint that science as we know it today is the ultimate gauge of truth and precision is its essence.

While I agree that science and precision are definitely included within the spectrum of truth, I do believe it is a rather small worldview to parade facts as equal to truth. Truth is so much larger than accuracy. While you can freely discuss music and movies and relationships and art and even politics on this forum with emotion and a certain amount of ambiguity (i.e. admitting you only know a part), once you enter the realm of religion, it seems that to a majority of participants, everything must be scientifically proven and free from any hint of wonder or uncertainty or mystery and even reliable ancient Hebrew and Greek texts are not sufficient to substantiate anything since they are not scientific documents and therefore, obviously biased.

I just want to know…when did religion become a science? A course of study you take alongside calculus and chemistry? Why can there be only one answer for every question? What happened to the exploration of ideas, the mystery of profundity, the beauty of words and images, and the fluid development of relationship?

These well-read and informed and intelligent people that offer their opinions online often accuse religious people of being ignorant and intolerant, yet they are some of the most closed-minded and biased people I have ever encountered. I want to have a meaningful discussion with them, but most of the time our worlds and values seem too far apart to even find a common language and all too often, anger and degrading words enter into the picture and then I am truly sad that I have not been able to understand and be understood.

This past week we were at a gathering of Vineyard Churches in the East Coast and what struck me in many of the meetings and talks and encounters was a conviction that how I deal with those “other” than me, those I do not easily identify with, is an important test of how strong and healthy and loving and real my faith is. And I am not sure I pass this test at all. My compassion seems low for those who treat me with disdain. Understanding is something I would admittedly rather not bother with when I encounter a person who repeatedly does things to make myself and others cringe. Love is easier when I don’t have to work side by side with an abrasive personality. Faith is safer in an anonymous setting.

The challenge for me has always been to be a real Christian in a real world – not a religious caricature, but a living, breathing, human being with strengths and weaknesses, thoughts and emotions, good days and bad, struggling to get my motivations right more than wrong and my compassion larger instead of smaller. I do not hope to live my life with precision, but with love. I do not aspire to answer every life-question correctly and completely but in the process of life-long learning, to always enjoy the mystery and wonder of the gift of living. My desire is to be a great friend and lover, not a noted scientist.

And how does all of this apply to online forums? I guess that is what i have to learn.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

what binds us together?

For the past few weeks, I have been reading a book by famed psychiatrist M. Scott Peck which chronicles his travels (together with his wife) through remote parts of the UK in search of prehistoric stones. The book is part travel journal, part spiritual musings, part psychology, and part personal anecdotes. A mixed bag, to be sure, and not always a winning combination. At one point, I considered putting the book aside, not finishing it, but then Peck started writing about community. He is no stranger to the concept. He has led hundreds of community-building workshops over the years, helped start a non-profit organisation dedicated to fostering community, and written a compelling book about the topic, one which greatly impacted me when I read it oh so long ago.[1]

In preparation for a course I am teaching next year, I have been doing quite a bit of study on unity and community. Once you start thinking about it, you see and hear evidence of it everywhere. (See my blog on the impact of b…

job hunting

I am on the hunt for a job. PhD in hand, I am a theologian for hire. The thing is, not a lot of places are hiring theologians these days, and if they are, they are usually looking for scholars with skills and experience outside my area of expertise. Today I found job opportunities for those knowledgeable in Religion, Race, and Colonialism, Philosophy and History of Religion, Islam and Society, Languages of Late Antiquity, Religion, Ethics, and Politics, and an ad for a Molecular Genetic Pathologist. Not one posting for a Dramatic Theologian with  a side order of Spirituality and a dash of Methodology.

I know, I know. My expectations are a bit unrealistic if I believe I will find an exact match for my particular skills. I know that job descriptions are wish lists to some extent, so no candidate is ever a perfect match. I also realize that one must adapt one's skill set according to the requirements of the job and be flexible. But there are so few jobs which come within ten or even…

building the church

Imagine two scenarios: 1) Give every person in the room a popsicle stick. Ask them to come together and put their sticks onto a table. Invariably, you end up with a random pile of sticks on a table. 2) Give every person in the room a popsicle stick. Show a picture of a popsicle stick bird feeder and ask people to come together and put their sticks on a table according to the picture. You will end up with the beginnings of a bird feeder on a table.

What is the difference between the two scenarios? In both, each person brought what they had and contributed it to the collective. However, in the first scenario, there were no guidelines, no plan, and no right or wrong way to pile the sticks. People came, placed their sticks on the table, and walked away. In the second scenario, people were given a plan to follow and as a result, something specific was built. Instead of walking away after they made their contribution, people huddled around the table to watch what was being built. Some were…