Thursday, December 20, 2007

Solstice thoughts

One of my repeated themes in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky is playing out in my family.

The winter solstice in a mysterious way directs us toward spiritual awareness. My oldest sister died yesterday. She and her husband were the godparents of my niece who is pregnant with child expected on Christmas Day. This is the Paschal Mystery—death giving birth to new life.

I wish readers a blessed and reflective winter solstice, whatever the feast and tradition you associate with it. In connection with my tradition, I invite you to reread Christmas Commercialized on this page.

A Your Turn column of mine in the St. Cloud Times may interest you as well: “Romney wrong about religion, freedom: U.S. should embrace secular spirituality.”
http://www.sctimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071218/OPINION/112180009/1006

Saturday, December 15, 2007

On abortion

OK, I’ll dive into this issue. Both sides are right.

Scientific advances have personalized the fetus, so that we no longer consider her or him in the womb merely a blob of tissue. But let’s have compassion for the stricken girl or woman unable to nurture the new life growing in her. It would be as wrong to destroy her life as the life in her womb.

Abortion may be murder (depending on when it's done), but it should not be criminalized because banning it does not save any babies—the rate of abortions remains as high in societies that ban abortion as in societies that don’t. But banning abortion kills more women, who use desperate measures to end their pregnancy.

Let’s focus on what we all want—reducing the number of abortions. That means increasing the availability of contraception, and that means supporting Planned Parenthood, which maybe more than any other organization reduces the number of abortions by providing birth control. A stance against abortion loses credibility if it includes a stance against Planned Parenthood.

Recently, Congress made a technical error in writing a new law, which made the price of birth control skyrocket almost 900 percent. Women who were paying $5 to $10 a month now have to pay $40 to $50—impossible for low-income women. If we really want to reduce the number of abortions, correcting this is the place to start.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Buddhist Christian

A lecture by an ordained minister who calls himself a “Buddhist Christian” confirmed my ideas about God and the relationship between Christianity and Buddhism. At St. John’s University, John Butt described his experience of living with Theravada Buddhism in Thailand for many years.

Although Buddhists deny that theirs is a religion, John Butt calls Buddhism a religion. He explains that they have faith. They deny it because they identify faith with belief, as do many Christians—inaccurately.

Faith is trust. As I explain in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky, when my professors at the School of Theology separated faith from belief and gifted me with faith as trust, they liberated me. I could let go of anxiety, worry, fear.

And I could see that all spiritual traditions are based in trust. The 8-fold path of Buddhism begins with trust, said Butt. Christians are saved by faith, and Buddhists are saved by wisdom, but they’re the same thing. Both are based in trust.

Buddhists say they are atheists, but this also begs for elaboration. They are indeed a-theists with no belief in a god, no external deity, but they relate to a transcendent Ultimate Reality more beautiful, more powerful, more ALIVE than anything imaginable. Other names for this reality in Eastern spirituality are the Tao of Taoism and Brahman/Atman of Hinduism.

Butt disparaged the small Christian idea of God, the personal and childish image, which he said is destined for extinction because it is inappropriate to the modern world. Buddhists regard it as mere sophisticated animism. I add that Christian mystics and saints have always known that what we call God transcends, infinitely, the puny image worshipped by many Christians.

It was satisfying to have a “Buddhist Christian” affirm me so fully. He went so far as to refer to “the big guy in the sky,” echoing my title.