Showing posts from November, 2007

Christmas Joy

Americans are advised to focus on our marketability and security, but we have all heard and read anecdotes similar to this one: At a 25th class reunion of Yale Law School, half were unhappy or bored with their work as lawyers, despite making comfortably high incomes. I wish this comment by Bertrand Russell would invade our marketplace: “It is preoccupation with possessions . . . that prevents us from living freely and nobly.” John Stuart Mill said that those only are happy who are fixed on something other than their own happiness—on the happiness of others or some ideal end. Then, “they find happiness by the way.” Chinese Taoist Chuang-tse described happiness as “the absence of striving for happiness.” The renowned missionary Albert Schweitzer observed that real happiness comes from serving. Michael Lerner and T.S. Eliot observed that joy comes from sacrifice. William James wrote that to feel vitally alive we need to follow our inner voice, the one saying, “This is the real me.”

Holy Christmas

December 25, 2006 There was no feast of Christmas during the first two centuries of the Christian era. Our festival followed the model of pagan festivals observing the sun’s birth on the winter solstice. This information may stun Christians but it comes from Christian researcher Hugo Rahner, brother of Karl Rahner, one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century. He wrote that in 354 CE a calendar entry for December 25 listed the birth of Christ along with the birth of the sun. Following pagan example, Christians bowed to the east to honor the rising sun. Church Fathers accepted this, calling Christ the true sun, the light coming into the darkness, the "Dayspring from on high." Up to modern times, the preferred place for the altar in Catholic churches was the eastern side. Light imagery, such as “Light from Light” in the Nicene Creed, is sprinkled in our Christian liturgy. References to holiness “from on high” also reflect pagan cosmology, which imagined gods

Reader response

Most readers of God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky whom I hear from agree exuberantly with my content. I have heard from only two readers who disagreed, but the book must be disturbing for those who have never questioned the exclusive claims of Christianity—made in the past. What the vast body of Christians doesn’t know is that many deeply spiritual, well-educated Christians have abandoned those claims. The Christian right dominates the air waves at this time, but response to my book tells me a new spirit is afoot. Thoughtful individuals embrace the shrinking globe and welcome diverse beliefs. This can’t be done without relinquishing the simple assumptions pervading the faith of our childhood. Jeanette I promise I will get back to the subject of prayer.

How to Pray

I have been asked to write about prayer. How do I pray? What’s my response when I hear, “Pray for . . .”? If God is not a humanlike individual, an external deity, with whom or what do I communicate? Does it make any sense to appeal to Something for anything? What we call God is larger than, beyond anything we can imagine, but our minds and imaginations are what we have to work with. Particular images—let’s say an idea of Jesus—work very well for communing with the Grand Power of the Universe. The problem arises when we insist that our image is God and everybody better believe it and pray to the same image. I don’t pray to Jesus, but my weak humanity reaches toward a humanlike being who doesn’t have any gender—my Invisible Partner, my Inner Beloved. In the famous conversations of Bill Moyers with Joseph Campbell, they expressed compassion for one who has no “invisible means of support,” sympathy for one who’s unaware of help available from “hidden hands.” It was in this context

War fear & sharia

Discussing his documentary film on World War II, Ken Burns quoted a veteran who said, No war is good, but some wars are necessary. Unfortunately, Americans don’t seem to know this yet. I’m afraid even the Burns film left some viewers associating war with glory. Conservative columnist Cal Thomas criticized “outrageous statements about America’s inability to succeed” in Iraq, and proceeded to his own outrageous statement: The ability to successfully wage war against America’s enemies trumps everything else. It scares me. Few Europeans share America’s naïvete about war because their soil was stained with war’s blood. Will it take the same for our country? Peace activists see Americans giving more urgency to shopping than to countering our government’s war-mongering. Now we’re demonizing Iran’s Ahmadinejad in a campaign eerily similar to the one against Saddam Hussein. In Newsweek , Fareed Zakaria quoted President Bush “invoking the specter of World War III if Iran gained even the knowle