Monday, November 7, 2011

7 Billion

It's been a week since we the world passed the 7 billion mark, but I thought this graphic was informative and well-done.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In Syria, A Modern Day Story of the Good Samaritan

Like many others, I've been keeping track of the Arab Spring as it has spread from Tunisia to Egypt and beyond.  Now that the rebels have seemingly taken control of Libya from Gaddafi, the situation in Syria becomes all the more pressing.  I came across this story on CNN of a famous Syrian cartoonist abducted by thugs, beaten to a pulp (with a focus on his hands to prevent him from ever drawing again) and then thrown in the ditch of a Syrian city.  Some fellow countrymen found him and brought him to the hospital.

While this horrific story has been repeated all too often in far too many countries, it made me realize what a poignant and interesting twist it is to the Good Samaritan story.  What if the robbers who leave the man for dead weren't just thugs looking for an easy steal... but were in fact agents of an oppressive state?  In occupied ancient (or modern, for that matter) Palestine, it's not too far-fetched.

Often people must come together to do what is right when the will of the people has been hijacked by a secretive state.  Sedition has many forms.  So does freedom.  Let freedom ring, not just in Syria but wherever the oppressed are beaten to a pulp for exercising their right to freedom of speech.

the least, the lost, and the left behind

I've always been a big fan of alliteration, probably even before I knew what the word meant.  So whenever I read a particularly good one, I like to share it.  I was on the website of The Fellowship of Presbyterians (trying to find out more of the gathering they've had these past few days) when I came across this description in their mission statement: "the least, the lost, and the left behind."  What a beautiful alliteration of "the poor, the widow and the orphan" we find in the Bible... even if it has some conservative theological allusions (ooo! another big 'a' word).  Perhaps if there's a Message Take 2 it can use this phrase...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Human Destiny & Dignity

My seminary library has old books they give away and every once and awhile I pick one up.  Much less often do I get around to reading them.  But today I was reading this old book (published 1947) called "Human Destiny," and had some thoughts to share...

Lecomte du Nouy wrote a book in 1947 called "Human Destiny."  I probably never would have heard of it except it appeared on a used book shelf marked "free" and I'm a sucker for books that (a) have a title with "destiny" and (b) have this quote on the front jacket: "a book of such fundamental grasp and insight as cannot be expected to appear more than once or twice in a century."  I wouldn't go so far, but here's my quick summary and thoughts.

Du Nouy's thesis: Humans have biologically evolved up until this point (so, through World War II), and now it is our moral imperative/challenge to evolve psychologically/mentally.  Just like evolutionary biology, this psycho-evolution should be done together and not just individually.  He claims (like many others at his time) that humans are the finish line for biology, the end of evolution.  But we're not the end of the story.  We were made for something greater, and now is our chance to participate in evolving into something greater.  It is, as the title indicates, our "human destiny."

He puts a great deal of emphasis on our free will and choice between good and evil.  We must be free to improve ourselves, "since [our] contribution to evolution will depend on the use [we] make of [our] liberty" (226).  The choice between religion and science is a false choice (239-40).  We must strive to integrate the two fields so that we do not make such terrible choices such as the Inquisition on the religious side and the Holocaust on the (arguably) scientific side.

He urges Christians specifically to live out the Christian ideal, and muses that scripture and sermons "have lost their power of conviction and that, consequently, other paths of access tot he heart, the intelligence, and the conscience of [humans] must be found " (241).  He says that whatever is noble and true must be of God and as truth cannot contradict God, who is Truth.  "Therefore, any [hu]man who is afraid of science does not possess a strong faith. (This is an answer to the religious extremists.)" (243).  The pursuit of truth should be expansive and unlimited, yet he also states our goal "should be the attainment of human dignity with all its implications" (244).
I would say Du Nouy is thus a humanist who is very hopeful about the future: "He [any person] must overcome his dislikes and fix his vision on the beauty that drains from within; for that beauty is perhaps an illusion today, but it is the truth of tomorrow" (244).  That's a pretty bold statement written on the heels of WWII.  Also: "Let him combat and persuade himself before trying to persuade or combat others.  Let him, by all the means of his disposal, concentrate his will on the construction of an unshakeable faith even though it be only a faith in the dignity and destiny of man" (245).  And finally: "there is not other way toward human solidarity but the search and respect for individual dignity" (245).

I agree that our human dignity is tied up with our human destiny.  Amnesty International's Director, William Schultz, edited a book recently called "The Future of Human Rights."  I believe that we do not do enough to treat our fellow brothers and sisters in the human family with the respect and dignity that they deserve, not as the epitome of evolutionary success, but simply being created in the Image of God.  May the Spirit of God direct our hearts, minds and bodies to honoring the larger body of humanity.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Who Hears Our Prayers?

I've been thinking a lot about prayer lately.  Recently, my wife and I have been praying for a family friend who went into a coma due to carbon monoxide poisoning.  After two weeks in a coma and all the doctors having given up, he awoke (!).  He continues his long road to recovery (full recovery is still far from certain), so prayer continues as the doctors rejoin the effort.

It makes me think: Was our praying effectual?  How so?  Did God hear our prayer?  I came across this quote by Kierkegaard today:
 "the true relation in prayer is not when God hears what is prayed for, but when the person praying continues to pray until he is the one who hears, who hears what God wills."  (Journals, 154).
Donald Bloesch tells us that the "give me" prayer should always be subordinated to the "make me" prayer, as prayer isn't always "driven by need" but rather "kindled by grace" (The Struggle of Prayer, 75-76).  Anne Lamott says there are really only two kinds of prayers: "Please, please, please" and "thank you, thank you, thank you."

I agree with all of them and would summarize that prayer has to do with molding our hearts to the very will and heart of God.  For the ancients in the Mediterranean, the heart was the "seat of intention."  May we dwell at the seat of God's intention in prayer, whatever form it takes.

What are your thoughts on prayer?  What do you pray for?  What does prayer mean for you in your life?

May we all hear the prayers of our heart and the hearts of others, and in so doing hear the very heartbeat of God in this raucous world.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

From an Army of One to an Audience of One

Something you may not know about me: I dabble in punk rock (A few of my favs, in case you're curious: Punchline, ).

Like any good SciFi (another genre I love but am no expert in - love the Ender's Game series), punk songs are at their best when they provide acute, poignant social commentary.  Such is the case with Rise Against's "Audience of One."  While the lyrics might seem a little obscure or vague, the music video is quite striking:

I'm not sure if this was the band's intention, but the song's title reminds me of the military's slogan, "Army of One," a while back.  The video shows how we've lost our way, or rather runaway, either to war or our 9-5 jobs, and we've lost all connections to those we love.  The closing bridge:
We're all ok, until the day we're not
The surface shines, while the inside rots
We raced the sunset and we almost won
We slammed the brakes, but the wheels went on
The end result?  We're left alone in an "audience of one."  May we remember how we got here - by running away from tough decisions and passing the buck to future generations... or so we thought, when really we were passing it off for 5, 10 years down the road.  May we find our way again, together, before it's too late.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

streams in the air: a poem

streams in the air
falling sideways
in rhythmic pattern
rivers of thought
going where

with purpose
in togetherness
close overlapping
distant journeying
here yet
already there

a lone figure
walking in the night
a beautiful landscape
encroached by cars
ripples in the water
streams in the air
where have I come
where do I go
where am I now