Saturday, May 09, 2009
The Green Lantern family of comic books is rapidly becoming one of the most popular and well done in the DC line. GL has always been a staple of the DCU, but Hal Jordan et. al. seem to be taking over just about everything right now.
The renegade lantern Sinestro lies at the heart of this surge of all things Lantern. Reading through the last few years of Lantern titles is a lesson in watching a staple villain emerge as a superstar. It really started with the death and resurrection of Hal Jordan and the discovery of the real source of the "yellow weakness" suffered by bearers of the ring. Since that time Sinestro has emerged as a complex and richly motivated foe for the Guardians and their Corps of do-gooders.
Sinestro has alternately been pure evil and opposer to the rather overbearing Guardians that created the GLC. He has been a catalyst for the Guardians to discover their own flaws and served as a constraint on the near-god-like status of the Guardians and the power bestowed on the Lanterns. A really good villain shapes the hero(s).
As a former Lantern himself, the parallels to the fallen angel Lucifer are also fascinating with this character - though a point can be stretched too far, for the Guardians are not God. Where Lucifer cannot shape God for God is pure good, Sinestro has indeed helped the Guardians see their flaws.
This one supplies me with insight into modern culture, for I have heard comic geeks draw this comparison and use it to illustrate the supposed less than perfect nature of what they perceive as the Christian God. While the writers have been careful, if subtle, to make sure that the comparison is invalid, Sinesror has provided this writer with some interesting insight into how popular culture can affect religious thinking.
Friday, May 08, 2009
Don’t blame Li [ed. - inventor of the mathematical model in question]—he just made the model, he didn’t apply it. Those who did were unaware of its limitations, partly because they didn’t get the math, partly because they decided to ignore history, and partly because there was gold in them thar hills.There is quite an object lesson there when we have a president that wants to "restore science to its rightful place." What is the rightful place of science.
Any good scientist understands the limitations of his/her work. Anytime we do science, the first thing we do is draw a line around the system we are going to study - we start with the limitations. But the problem is when people want to use it to exercise authority, those limitations get fuzzy, or gone.
What is amazing to me is that the process is almost identical to what happens to religion. People co-op both science and religion for political ends, and both get warped and both get harmed. Religion has suffered this fate more than science mostly becasue it is older and has been more used in this fashion, but science is catching up in a hurry.
The public square requires simplification of message. We cannot count on the general populace to understand complexities like this mathematical model or complex ethical arguments about stem cells. But their votes are needed, so simple we get.
So what to do? How about make sure that who we elect, or in the case of this financial model, who we hire to run things, actually understands math, science and religion. Religious/ethical education is completely missing from public schools. Math and science is increasingly de-emphasized. And yet we see these things used as the basis for making decision that cost people their retirement and children their lives.
Home schooling has made tremendous advances in the religious/ethical area. They have brought it back to the curriculum. But I fear for science and math in such circumstances. Most home schoolers I know, while lovely people, lack a true understanding of math and science. Heck, most high school math teachers I know are more teacher than mathematician, they have reduced what is a truly creative process to mechanics. You simply cannot understand math mechanically.
I wonder about math and science at Torrey Honors?
Prepared by a friend - who says if you do not get this joke you are a "pygmy."
Thursday, May 07, 2009
A freshly born-again Christian, Lobdell was a husband, father, and journalist who saw evidence of answered prayer in his own life as well, a life that he felt had been transformed by faith. Covering the religion beat was the perfect job for Lobdell – until the day that his work began to destroy his faith.Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America – and Found Unexpected Peace is a compelling personal story of faith found, cherished, and then lost.I have not read the book yet, but I found the heart of the story, as described by CSM, all too familiar:
Instead, the eager reporter felt God had given him a special responsibility: to uncover corruption in religion in order to spur reform and healing. With equal fervor, he undertook in-depth reports on televangelists who were milking people of millions and using funds for themselves; one involved an exposé of the homosexual tryst and lavish living of the head of Trinity Broadcasting Network.I have a similar corruption story to tell, as does my wife, quite independently of me. I also have scads of stories I have collected from others. I consider it the one truly miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit in my life that I did not abandon faith decades ago. Too often corruption in the church is met with a shrug, and a "Well, we're still sinners." Lobdell pushes things a bit farther pointing out that in addition to being perpetually corrupt, the church appears to be ineffectual.
Yet the results were disheartening: Catholic parishioners repeatedly took the side of abusive priests and railed against the victims; and the televangelists raked in millions more the year after the stories appeared. “In fact, my stories were used as fund-raising tools – evidence that TBN was doing God’s work and the devil (that is, yours truly) was trying to stop it,” Lobdell writes.
It wasn’t reaction to his stories, per se, that most distressed him, he says, but the fact that Christians who were in a position to stand for principle and clean things up, regularly chose to turn a blind eye to dishonesty, corruption, and hypocrisy.
At first Lobdell felt that corruption in religious institutions had nothing to do with God. But then he began looking for evidence of how Christians lived, and whether it differed at all from nonbelievers.
“If the Gospels were true, shouldn’t I be able to find plenty of data that showed Christians acted differently – superior in morals and ethics – from the rest of society? I wanted to see that people were changed in fundamental ways by their belief in Christ.” The data from many studies, whether on divorce, racism, charity, materialism, etc., showed otherwise.
There are two comments I want to make from this. First, I heard Lobdell on the radio a while back and lots of callers wanted to try and argue him back to faith. They wanted to present a theological reasoning behind the corruption and the ineffectiveness. I started screaming "Stop it!" at the radio. Argumentation will never reach this guy. Ultimately there is no argument for faith in Jesus, there is only meeting Him. We are not saved by our theology, but by Jesus Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can reach Bill Lobdell at this point.
Which is why the church should grieve corruption, and ineffectiveness, far more than it does. For such is where evidence of the Holy Spirit lies. I have seen far too many grow defensive in the face of corruption instead of respond with confession. Too often we have happy, clappy worship when we should be on our knees, crying tears of blood for those that are missing the point.
I come so close to agreeing with Lobdell that it is not even funny. I have yet to encounter Jesus in the church. I agree with Lobdell that statistically, I can never expect to. But I have been lucky. I have met Jesus in the lives of a few, oh so very few, that I have met in the church - which is the only reason I bother with the church at all.
I have also met Jesus because the still small voice of His Spirit spoke to me and drove me to church when all evidence and all desire sought to keep me away. I pray the the Holy Spirit will speak to Bill Lobdell in the way the he can hear it.
But more, I pray for the church and for Christians everywhere. I pray that rather than defend against Lobdell's story and arguments they will come to understand that this may very well be the book that Lobdell wanted to write all along, the one that "uncovers corruption in religion in order to spur reform and healing." He sure has found the heart of the problem.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
A Modern Parable
Welcome back. By the way, I'm not joking here - take a minute and go read it, or the rest of this will make no sense to you.
OK, good, now we are all on the same page.
What this parable illustrates, quite well, is that the gospel is not words, ideas, sermons or theology. It is people and their actions.
2 Tim 2:14-15a - Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless, and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed,How often do we "wrangle about words" and fail to be good workman. Sometimes it is just easier to argue Arminianism and Calvinism than it is to talk to the idiot next to you on an airplane.
But the parable not only teaches us this, it tells us something about the nature of the church. Pastors are called to be about the Word. They are bookish people, by definition. But that also means that they are not the best people to spread the gospel. You see, the world does not need more thoughts, words, or ideas - They flow aplenty. The world needs people that are filled with the Holy Spirit and live the gospel.
That's a lot harder work, isn't it?
There are two ways to approach hard work - avoidance and getting busy. I like the later. It is amazing how easy hard work becomes once you get to it.
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Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Science and Society
First off, it is my experience that there are two features found in many of the first rank scientists in our midst. First off, the best and brightest scientists in various fields don’t have the slightest interest in giving advice to politicians and in fact when they do offer political advice they offer very bad advice. I might add that theologians and religious leaders as well, for the most part, also are very horrible when they enter into the political world. There are some good reasons for this. Skills are involved in politics. The ability to read people, judge motivations and to have an estimate of the possible and so on are political skills. To become talented and to rise to the top of a scientific discipline requires three things: talent or genius, a love for inquiry, and a concentration on that field virtually to the exclusion of all else in life. Those people who are at the first rank usually have no talent, or frankly, desire to spend any time with exercising any authority. For them, their life is wholly given to the chase for the truths hidden by and in nature. To make an analogy with popular culture from cinema, while we might hope for our scientific authority to rise from the Mozarts in our midst, we’re going to get the Salieri’s who are the ones who will sully themselves with such matters.First off, the Mozart/Salieri illustration is informative, but one need look no further than Carl Sagan to get the picture. Sagan may be one of the most widely known names in science, ever, but beyond that fame he has contributed almost nil. But then, frankly, most people do not know science well enough to know what is and what is not a substantive contribution (and don't get me wrong, Sagan managed to attract funding which matters in big science.)
But here is the real point I wanted to get to. It's about the political skill set as opposed to the science or the religious one. There is an old adage - Anything about which we lack sufficient understanding appears to be magic. That can apply to both religion or science. And the political skill set uses that fact to claim authority. Which leads me to two important points.
One, both religion and science are being "used" in a political science. Which means both religion and science need to train the people they want to represent them politically or they will allow themselves to be pawns.
But my second point is the one I want to concentrate on. Religion is waning in its political influence because it has lost much of its mystery. It has done so through two things. One is the simple lowering of the bar for what it takes to be a religious professional and the other is scandal.
Evangelicalism has been a brilliant move in American religious expression, but the ebb in gate-keeping institutions that has accompanied it (denominations) has been horrendous. Virtually anyone can hang a shingle and call themselves "pastor" now. For centuries, religious professional were the best educated people in the world. No more is that the case. Having said that, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Many people have experienced genuine faith that otherwise would not have. Faith is not about education. Which brings me to the second point.
Because the point of religion is to make better people, when religious leaders fail morally, religion generally fails. The fact that any door was left open for Ted Haggard to experience a return to ministry, forfeits religious authority - and so it is with every scandal from Jim Bakker to the pedophile priests.
Science has an advantage when it comes to using its mystery for gaining political influence - it has no moral requirements. Back in the day when education marked the religious professional, morality mattered less. But any schmuck with a few bucks gain now by an intra-linear and appear as well educated as the next religious professional. Morality is all we have to set us apart - and maintain our mystery.
There always have been and there always will be religious professionals that fail morally. If religion wants to maintain itself as a source of political authority, then it needs to learn, relearn actually, how to deal decisively and permanently with that fact. God forgives - and that poor lost soul will likely join us in eternity, but temporal leadership, even of the church, must be lost to such people for the rest of their lives.
This is the heart of the religion/science debate. It's not about creationism and evolution or stem cells and abortion - its about authority. The church is giving its own away in vast quantities when it transfers "problem priests" to a new diocese or tries to help drug-addled whore-mongers be "restored to ministry." Personal and spiritual restoration for such people is our call, but restoration to ministry is out of the question.
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Monday, May 04, 2009
Politics and Church
"In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock."and then notes:
In matters of style, the church has to swim with the current. We must be able to communicate and relate to people (both saved and unsaved) in a language they understand. Yes, we must be relevant to the culture and communities in which they live. That is why we have cowboy churches; Asian, Hispanic, and Chinese churches; hip hop churches; churches for men; contemporary churches, and traditional churches. It is a matter of style. It is a logical conclusion that to reach certain segments of society, the church needs to speak their language or relate to their style. As Jefferson said, in matters of style, you have to (HAVE TO) swim with the current...Are they really as separable as we would like to think? If they were completely separable would it be necessary to learn Hebrew and Greek to "really" understand scripture? -- OK, argue that language differences are more substantive than style and then try to define the "substance" of the gospel. Heck, the English speaking church cannot agree on that - how are we going to define it for others?
In matters of principle, the church must stand like a rock. In areas of doctrine, right and wrong, and sin—the church must stand firm. It cannot waiver. It must stand like a rock.
The confusion comes for some when they try to make style and principle the same. They are not.
I am not sure that we ever really understand how deeply "style" affects us. I was reflecting on a walk the other day about the group of young people that my wife and I help lead at church - how extraordinarily different their lives are than mine was at their age. My thoughts centered on how technology has enabled them to live far more chaotic lives than I have ever dreamed of. Because they are always "in touch" a simple decision to go for ice cream is actually simple - unlike when I was a kid it required a search for a pay phone and the time for everyone in the group to use the same one. They do not need to look more than about 10 minutes into the future, technology enables then to live right here. And as I say, the effect feels to me like chaos.
That is going to have a radical affect on the gospel. It better matter - RIGHT NOW - or it is not important. Discussions of heaven and hell and the future are pointless, they'll just text someone then and work it out.
Now, set aside for a minute the question of whether that is a good or bad and ask yourself what in that equation is style and what is principle? It's not easy. At a minimum, different style changes emphasis in the message if not alters the message completely.
Try this on for size - communicate the gospel over Twitter - not as easy as you might think at first pass.
My point - separating style and principle is easily said, but almost impossible to do. These are ground to be tread upon lightly.
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Sunday, May 03, 2009
Sermons and Lessons
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” - MATTHEW 5:43-48, RSV
My text is taken from the New Testament lesson: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
This text has been preached upon many times in the memory of all of us. Usually, however, the emphasis has been upon the moral admonition that we should love our enemies, and not much attention has been paid to the justification of the love of the enemy that Jesus gives by reference to the impartial character of God’s love. It is on the second theme that I want to speak this morning.
There are many things to say about the first theme, for Jesus is suggesting in his Sermon on the Mount that you cannot be moral if you are too strictly moral. The highest morality of forgiveness is, as Berdyaev says, “the morality beyond morality.” Nobody who is strictly moral can forgive, because forgiveness is at once the fulfillment of every concept of justice, and its annulment. Jesus justifies this “morality beyond all morality” by saying God is like that. The love of God is an impartial goodness beyond good and evil. The providence of God is an impartial concern for all men without any special privileges in it.
Thus, the structure of meaning for the Christian faith is completed against all the contradictions in history, where there are no simple correlations of reward for good and punishment for evil. God is like nature, says Jesus, like the impar¬tial nature which you could accuse of not being moral at all, because the sun shines upon both the evil and the good, and the rain descends upon the just and the unjust. A nonmoral nature is made into the symbol of the transmoral mercy. Here is a very radical concept, and one of those words of Scripture that we never quite take in. It is a word of Scripture that has particular significance because it is set squarely against most of our religion, inside the Christian Church as well as anywhere else.
When we say that we believe in God, we are inclined to mean that we have found a way to the ultimate source and end of life, and this gives us, against all the chances and changes of life, some special security and some special favor. And if we do not mean that - which is religion on a fairly adolescent and immature level - at least we mean that we have discovered amidst the vast confusions of life what is usually called the moral order, according to which evil is punished and good rewarded, and we could hardly feel that life had any meaning if we were not certain of that.
The Bible is full of this debate between what might be called the instinct of religion and the gospel of Christ. The natural instincts of religion demand that my life be given meaning by a special security against all of the insecurities of life. If it should seem as if goodness and evil - punishment for evil and reward for good - were not being properly correlated in life, then God will guarantee finally that they will be properly correlated.
Thus, in the Scriptures the words of the Psalms, “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” Or the many intercessory prayers, the intent of which is “A thousand at your side, ten thousand at your right hand,” let it not come to my loved one. What a natural prayer that is and finally how impossible! “For in the time of trouble He shall hide me, and he shall set me upon a rock.” In a word, plead my cause, 0 Lord, against them that strive with me, fight against them that fight against me.
Examples can be multiplied and it must also be realized how very natural are these kinds of prayers. Has there ever been a conflict in the human community where we have not felt we could not fight the battle were not the Lord on our side? Perhaps, as Abraham Lincoln said, we did not as frequently ask the question of whether we were on the Lord’s side. These are natural religious instincts, the natural efforts to close prematurely the great structure of life’s meaning. Much more justified is the other aspect of this sense of special providence not that God would give me special privileges, special securities against the other man - but that in a very hazardous world where it is not certain that good will be rewarded and evil punished, at least God should set that right.
“Blessed is he who considers the poor!” to use another word of the Psalm, “The Lord delivers him in the day of trouble.” Many years ago, tithing was popular in some of the churches. A member of my congregation had started tithing as a twelve year-old boy and had become a millionaire. He was quite convinced that the millions were the reward of his tithing.
“Blessed is he who considers the poor! The Lord delivers him in the day of trouble.” I was never much convinced by this millionaire businessman because of my first pastoral experience when I took the church of my deceased father for six months. The first pastoral problem I had was dealing with an old man whom I greatly respected, who really had the grace of God in him. He had considered the poor to the degree of giving striking miners so much credit at his grocery store that he lost his business. In the seventy-eighth year of his life, he had to face the problem of bankruptcy, and the fact that there was no simple correlation between his goodness and the fortunes of his life.
Both kinds of faith were wrong. First, that if we pray to God fervently enough he will establish some special security for us against the security of the other person. Or secondly, the belief that there are simple moral correlations between the vast processes either of nature or of history and human virtue. The history of our Puritan fathers in New England illustrates how wrong are both of these propositions. There were some very great virtues and graces in their lives. But the doctrine of special providence represents the real defect in our Puritan inheritance. These Puritan forefathers of ours were sure that every rain and every drought was connected with the virtue and vice of their enterprise - that God always had his hand upon them to reward them for their goodness, and to punish them for their evil.
Their belief in special providence was unfortunate, particularly so when a religious community developed in the vast possibilities of America, where inevitably the proofs of God’s favor turned out to be greater than the proofs of God’s wrath. It may be the reason why we Americans are so self-righteous. It may be also the reason why we still have not come to terms, in an ultimate religious sense, with our responsibilities; with the problems of the special favors that our nation enjoys compared with other nations. But first of all we have to realize that this picture of God’s love is not true. The Scriptures also are full of testimony that it is not true. Certainly it is the point of the Book of Job. Job first hopes that God is a God of simple justice, but it is proved to him that this cannot be the case. Then Job protests against the fact that if he does wrong he is convicted as a sinner, but if he does right, he is no better off. “I cannot lift up my head.” Ours is a confused kind of world, says Job, in which there is no guarantee that the righteous man will prosper. Is there a God in this kind of world?
These are the protests that run through the Scriptures as they run through life. “My feet had almost stumbled,” says the great seventy-third Psalm. “My steps had well nigh slipped . . . when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. . .Their eyes swell out with fatness, . . . and they say, ‘How can God know?’
“When I saw the prosperity of the wicked” - here is man in history involved in the web of relationships and meanings, but not of simple ones. There must be some moral meaning here. Is there not some punishment of wickedness in life? And I do not mean any of the arbitrary punishment which we inflict by our courts. For life is not completely at variance with itself. There is reward for goodness in life, and there is punishment for evil, but not absolutely. The same law which punishes the criminal punishes the Savior. And there are three crosses: two for criminals who cannot meet the moral mediocrities of life, and one for the Savior who rises above it. This is life.
Martin Buber, some years ago, made a remark about the special spiritual problems that we face in our world, where we cannot bring to any simple end the structure of moral meaning in which we stand. “When the Nazis ruled,” he said, “even when they were at the height of their rule, I knew in my heart that they would fall, that they would be punished.”
But now we face a future with greater threats of destruction than during the Nazi period. And this will continue partly because it is a problem that involves all the confusions of modern history against which our own goodness is not adequate. There is no simple moral resolution of the nuclear dilemma. These are the facts of our historic existence; life cannot be correlated easily into simple moral meanings; nor can the Christian faith be validated by proving special acts of providence in your own or somebody else’s favor.
I have a certain embarrassment about this issue in the great debate between Christianity and secularism. I am convinced of the Christian faith in the God revealed in Christ and whom Christ says is partially revealed in the impartialities of nature. Yet it seems to me also true that a certain type of secularism has advantages over us on any point where, to quote William James, Christianity becomes “an effort to lobby in the courts of the Almighty for special favors.”
Against this lobbying for special favors, one must admit that there is an element of nobility either in modern or ancient Stoicism. Marcus Aurelius said: “If so be the gods deliberated in particular on those things that should happen to me, I must stand to their deliberation, but if so be that they have not deliberated for me in particular, certainly they have on the whole and in general deliberated on those things which happen to me. In consequence and coherence of this general deliberation, 1 am bound to embrace and to accept them.” There is a certain nobility in Stoic courage. It has no sense of an ultimate relationship to God as a final expression of the Christian faith, but as far as it goes, is it not true?
Modern man, under the influence of natural science, sees the problem more critically than it was seen before. We see that nature, whatever may be God’s ultimate sovereignty over it, moves by its own laws. Even so good a theologian as the late William Temple did not understand this. He tried to solve it b saving the laws of nature are merely God’s habitual way of doing things. If he does not want to act in the habitual way, he will choose another way. Surely this is too voluntaristic a conception of how the forces of nature work.
An analogous proposition would he that my heart beats in a habitual way, but if I choose, I could have it do something else. No, my heart has its own automatic processes do the forces of nature. Many in our modern world have come to despair about this vast realm of seeming meaninglessness.
Though we have some sympathy from a modern scientific culture which says such special providence is not true, what concerns us more as Christians is the protect of Jesus against the underlying assumptions. It is not true that God gives special favors, and it is not true that there are simple moral meanings in the processes of history. We cannot speak simply of a moral order which if defied, would destroy us. Though Jesus is concerned about the whole dimension of the gospel, it is not so much whether these things are true or not upon their own levels, but whether they would be right. God’s love would not be right if it were this kind of a love. This is the point that Christ makes in the Sermon on the Mount, that God’s love would not be right. The Christian faith believes that within and beyond the tragedies and the contradictions of history we have laid hold upon a loving heart, the proof of whose love is first impartiality toward all of his children, and secondly a mercy which transcends good and evil.
How shall we appropriate this insistence of Christ in our life? All of us, including some who are not conventionally religious, have a desire for an ultimate security. Even people who are not conventionally religious often pray in the hour of crisis. In that sense, all men are religious. Yet under the discipline of the gospel, we should bring each one of these prayers under scrutiny.
This does not change radically the problem of intercessory prayer. Perhaps we have to consider lift in three different dimensions. First, there is the vast dimension of nature where we cannot expect that God will put up a special umbrella fur us against this or that possible disaster. In the realm of nature, we face the problem of natural evil. Jesus was asked, “Master, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus’ answer repudiated the idea of special providence: “It was not that this man sinned or his parents have sinned but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.” There is no meaning to this blindness except the ultimate possible meaning of how the blindness might become a source of grace. It is a most terrible thing to correlate natural evil immediately to any moral and spiritual meaning, and yet it is a wonderful thing to correlate it ultimately. Likewise Jesus replied, when asked about those killed by the fall of the tower in Siloam, “Were they worse offenders than all the others who dwell in Jerusalem? I tell you, no!” Do not try to relate natural catastrophes to moral meanings. Do not ask the question whether people killed in an earthquake are more guilty; more sinful, than others. “I tell you, no!” Ask the question, rather, what ultimate use, what final point for the grace of God is there in this calamity? But do not correlate it in such a way that it ceases to be a calamity, fur this belongs to the realm of nature.
In the realm of history we have another problem, of course, because history is a realm of human freedom and human agency, and if it did not have any moral meaning at all, it would be intolerable, If there were not some reward fur goodness, life would be absolutely askew If there were no likelihood that forgiveness would produce the spirit of forgiveness, and mutuality the spirit of mutuality and reciprocity; it would be hard to love and trust each other. Yet in the processes of history these things are not simply correlated. The suffering of the innocent is one of the most terrible things in the collective enterprise of man. When, towards the end of the Second World War, we started to bomb the Germans into submission, we bombed Hamburg first, the city that had more anti-Nazi votes than any other German city. These anguishes are the facts of life as we find them in history.
There are no simple correlations. This does not mean that we will not pray for our loved ones in the hazards and tumults of history, when so frequently their destiny is a curious combination of the physical and the spiritual. We certainly will not stop praying for their health, particularly in view of what we know about psychosomatic characteristics in the human personality today. We will pray for the health of other people and pray for their healing.
This is the realm of history which is a vast middle ground between the realm of grace and the realm of nature. But ultimately, of course, our Christian faith lives in the realm of grace, in the realm of freedom. This is God’s freedom and my freedom, beyond the structures of my body; the realm of grace where I know God and am persuaded, as St. Paul says, that he knows me.
In that realm, finally, all concern for immediate correlations and coherences and meanings falls away. The Christian faith stands in the sense of an ultimate meaning. We may be persuaded that God is on our side - not against somebody else - but on our side in this ultimate sense. We are “sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It is on that level of meaning that the Christian faith makes sense. The lower levels are a threat, not only to the sense of the meaning of life, but finally to the morals of life. We must not deny that there is a kind of religion that enhances the ego and gives it an undue place in the world. But from the stand¬point of our faith we should take our humble and contrite place in God’s plan of the whole, and leave it to him to complete the fragmentation of our life.
O God, who has promised that all things will work together for good to those that love you, grant us patience amidst the tumults, pains and afflictions of life, and faith to discern your love, within, above, and beyond the impartial destinies of this great drama of life. Save us from every vainglorious pretension by which we demand favors which violate your love for all your children, and grant us grace to appropriate every fortune, both good and evil, for the triumph of the suffering, crucified, and risen Lord in our souls and life. In whose name we ask it.