Winter and the Future Moon
Sunday after zoom gratefuls: Mark, Tom, Bill, Paul. The technology. The years. The ease of understanding, of knowing. The always new: books, movies, personal learnings. Staying connected. All good, all special.
Thought as a way of preparing for my first class at the Kabbalah Experience, I’d summarize my reaction to starting Art Green’s book, Radical Judaism through to the Torah chapter. I’ve read the introduction, YHWH: God and Being, and the History of God. 78 pages out of 166. Almost half.
A slim, blue book, Radical Judaism contains a new (or, better, a newer) way of thinking about religion. Since I’ve had as a background project for many years now reimagining faith, then reconstructing and reenchanting faith, Green’s work spoke to me in a special, dialogical way.
Here’s an example. In the introduction he explains that theodicy, how can there be evil in the world if god is good? and critical history, the academic study of the Torah, the Hebrew scriptures, and, I would add, the New Testament, pushed him out of a faith he’d readopted in childhood. His parents were atheists.
In the 1980’s it occurred to me that Joseph would have been beyond the pale of salvation if he had been raised in Bengal by his parents, a Hindu. In this case theodicy relates to a god not big enough all of earth’s children. Not a true god, then.
In seminary I’d become fascinated by biblical study. I loved the stories. I loved the application of analytical thinking to sacred text. I saw the bare ground on which the claim of total inspiration rested. When I entered seminary, I was not a believer, and these courses pushed me further away from any normal faith.
I took my faith from the words of Jesus and the prophets about justice. This was the worldview that mattered to me. There was a lot of prayer, contemplative and petitionary. There were many meditative moments, visions, but even with lectio divina, a form of sacred reading of scripture, I never found my way to God, the father, or to God the general. I did have hints of God as immanent, but I found transcendence a bridge too far, taking me out of this world into one I suspected was really fantasy.
The realization about God and Joseph broke the slim rope connecting me to the Christian tradition, making ministry impossible. Christianity is not big enough, though Judaism is, to hold doubts about the central tenets of faith. Neither is Islam for that matter. Judaism is unusual in this regard.
Green made a comment in the introduction that taught me a valuable lesson: “I was no longer a believer, in the usual sense of that term, but I learned rather quickly that I was still a religious person…” p. 3, Radical Judaism. What was the lesson? Obvious to others, I imagine, but not to me. I am a religious person.
What does that mean? It involves a questing spirit, a questioning spirit, seeking through philosophy, poetry, religious texts, for answers to the big questions about life, death, our purpose. It also involves, I’m learning again, some sort of community.
So the first connection with Art Green was a remarkable similarity in our journeys. More on this later.