Comments: columns on Saturday

A lovely set of articles, I enjoyed all of them.

Grey's article brought to mind a recent article from Australia's Melbourne archbishop http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/let-us-listen-to-those-brave-enough-to-speak-the-truth/2007/08/13/1186857423046.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1 He writes "The truly prophetic are those who help us see the "not-yet" world within our current circumstances. Let me explain. Prophets point us towards possibilities that we can grasp hold of today, if we really want to. They offer an honest critique of the world as it is — a critique that often strips away the comfortable veneers we use to avoid facing the truth."

That is a role that Dawkins has failed to grasp in his blanket criticisms of faith. That criticism is justified when the supposedly gentle leaders of faith deny the realities of science or evidence to preserve the status quo, including its abuses.

Mother Theresa went into the desert, but lesser souls do not realise that God often allures us into the inhospitable in order to heal ourselves and others e.g. Hosea 2:14

Further, God will sometimes strike us in order to heal us e.g. Jeremiah 30:7-11 "It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it. “‘ In that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘I will break the yoke off their necks and will tear off their bonds; no longer will foreigners enslave them. Instead, they will serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. “‘So do not fear, O Jacob my servant; do not be dismayed, O Israel,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile. Jacob will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid. I am with you and will save you,’ declares the LORD. ‘Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpunished.’"

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 1 September 2007 at 11:43am BST

I suppose the puzzle for me is whether the shift towards commitment services in the churches has led to their relative emptying, or that the relative emptying has led to commitment services. I doubt that the language of obscurity or minimal responses are going to make services any more attractive.

The whole thing needs to be rethought. What I would do is have a series of groups that advertise on their own basis - for example a discussion group on open spiruitual religious topics, or there might be an art group to pursue spiritual themes. These then would develop, and then some of these people might come into services.

I would have a local church as a spiritual centre, so that it acts as an inner circle to lots of activities. It is how the Victorians did it, when their churches had a clearer educational and social role. In this case it would be more based on voluntary contact and social gathering.

As for Richard Dawkins, he just pushes the logi of his case as far as it goes. Moderate religion often shares the same words as those of traditionalist beliefs - so it is as much response as anything, and moderate religion is suspect in his understanding. Buthe is well aware of the artistic, the aesthetic and the appreciative, the reflective and wonder. He could examine these further.

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 1 September 2007 at 4:01pm BST

Hi Pluralist

I agree that Dawkins pushes his logic as far as it could go.

It again reminds me of the question, "What would a sensible God do about aggressive wolves?" Domesticate them. I have a little maltese that sleeps on my bed most nights. Lovely little thing, I just wish he wouldn't bark at the possums. Similarly with theologies, when a religion or priestly caste become too aggressive and inhospitable, they risk becoming a weed that chokes an ecosystem to death. At that point God moves to contain their rampant cruelty and greed, to put in place checks against their selfrighteousness and complacency. When God is particularly annoyed, God does so dramatically as a lesson not just for that particular caste, but as a warning to all the leaders of all theologies and philsophies.

Isaiah 11 seems appropriate as it includes "The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him... He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth... Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples... In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people... He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth. Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish, and Judah’s enemies will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim."

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 1 September 2007 at 9:46pm BST

I don't want to be funny, but the wolves are not domesticated by God. What happens is, if too successful (assuming aggression leads to success) they eat too much and then they go hungry.

The whole point about evolution is that a God is not involved, there is no hand on the tiller, that the outcome of species that once mutated into variation and had success-in-location, or the end of a species, is unknown. We are here because the dinosaurs are not, but we ourselves may go their way.

Questions of God, the direction of our lives, the inner lives we have, come about as reflection because of language and intelligence. We might make myth-stories of a God who is intervening, but the more interesting (for me) questions of God come when there is clearly no need nor no place in this understanding for an intervening God.

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 2 September 2007 at 2:54pm BST

But Pluralist, wolves WERE domesticated! That is where all dogs came from!

Humans are God's partners in helping heal Creation and making something wonderful out of something that is nothing or even horrible.

It is easy to take a perfect picture of a perfect scene. But it is truly amazing to take bland or nondescript ingredients and create something amazing that everyone enjoys.

Imagine a fantastic Thai chicken curry, laced with shitake mushrooms, wood fungus, galangal, home grown lemon grass and limes; served on steamed rice above wilted rocket laced with quality olive oil, lime juice and balsamic vinegar. Imagine a loaf of bread, seasoned with Sarah's yeast. Imagine a wedding caked, decorated with your great aunt's sugar sculptures.

God makes wonderful things out of seemingly nothing. Jesus fed five thousand with a loaf of bread and a few fish. Women taken nondescript ingredients and create mouth watering delights. Men deliver tadpoles and women create pooping babies that grow up to post wonderful threads on TA, just like you Pluralist!

God is not just found in the magnificent, God is also found in the mundane. God is not just found in the periods of miracles, God is also found in the darkest of times. We live as a legacy of miracles, without God's earlier interventions we would already be extinct, Judaism would never have occured, nor Christianity, nor Islam.

Next time you see a dog, contemplate the miracle that transformed a wolf into that cuddly companion that their owner dearly loves.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 3 September 2007 at 12:39pm BST

Yeah, that's so. This is the problem. Dogs are human domesticated wolves. Was I a what? Yes, humans make gardens, so your Adam and Eve had to do the gardening.

I just think that evolution is evolution, and that's it. We, as conscious, language-using, language storing people do the gardening and have dogs behave like babies all their lives (it makes a successful dog with us to stay babyish) to the pack leader that we are.

People also write good stories and myths for others showing miracle as justification connected with a central ritual in the early Churches as it defines where it is going. The relationship of calories to the food concerned is pretty much fixed. Well, you *could* do nuclear fission I suppose with some fish and bread to create a lot of energy, if the bodies have a way to harness it and we only have digestive systems. No, they were fed in a different sense, said writers, linked to the ritual life of the first Churches.

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 5 September 2007 at 1:39am BST
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