• Tag Archives bible
  • Humanism

    Fall                                                      Waxing Autumn Moon

    Spiritual Resources for Humanists.  Been thinking about this from an odd perspective.  Humanism is often characterized as anti- or post-Christian.  It is, of course, easy to see why this should be so in such Christian marinated cultures as those of the United States and Europe.  Easy, yes.  But accurate?

    Think about it this way.  If there were no monotheism, no polytheism, no reaching out beyond the natural world to a supernatural (anti-natural?) realm, then raising a Christian theology would be seen as anti-Humanist or, maybe, post-Humanist.

    If you, like me, find the idea of a God out there, beyond us and our world, no longer viable, then we have to consider that there has not been a God out there right along.  That means, further, that Christianity, Islam and Judaism, among many others, have never had their metaphysics right.  In other worlds there was no God in Israel, Ephesus, Corinth or Rome.

    In that case, humanism is counterpoised not to a deity, but to a story, rather stories, about deities; narratives that, like kudzu in the south, overgrew everything, changing their shapes and appearance until all that could be seen was a green, viny realm.

    These are narratives with a great deal of power, narratives that inspire devotion, sacrifice, even war, yet, for all that, narratives not substantially different from the very best fiction.  The difficult part to keep in focus here is the difference between the narrative as fiction and the history of the narrative’s power.

    In other words, even though the Biblical material, from this perspective, has the same metaphysical punch as Hesiod and Ovid, compilations of Greek myth and legend, the historical actions of those who imbibed this narrative from their birth and acted on it in complete confidence of its veracity is nonetheless real, just as are the actions of Periclean Athens, Sparta and Corinth.

    The historical depth and reach of Christians cannot be dismissed as fiction and reveals, in it all its vitality, the true force of myth and legend.  A story like the passion of Jesus, because it includes compassion, sacrifice, redemption and the defeat of death, resonates energetically with daily life, in particular the daily life of those on the wrong side of history.

    Nietzsche recognized this and called Christian morality slave morality, a morality meant to bring down the strong and the good, a morality meant to turn on its head the way to power. ***

    We do not have to give up the mythic power of the Christian story as humanists.  No, we can reach into the Biblical material and read these narratives with the same keen eye and open heart that Christians do.  We don’t have to buy the notion of Olympus to be inspired by the story of Hercules, saddened by the story of Orpheus and add depth to our understanding of  fall and spring through the story of Persephone.

  • The 4th of July

    Mid-Summer                                                     Waxing Honey Flow Moon

    Independence Day.  Celebrating our ancestor’s victory over the British army and considering how their enlightenment ideals apply to our time.  Happy 4th of July!

    For an unreconstructed radical like myself, these are trying times.  I wonder where the sense of communitarian spirit has gone.  Yes, we have a can do, go it alone spirit, too and I participate in it.  The ethical underpinnings of Western civilization, however, fed by the the deep springs of Athens and Jerusalem have always reminded us that we share this journey.   Our lives are not ours alone, but belong as well to the whole, to the commonweal.  When we establish a government of the people, by the people, and FOR the people, we make this claim a part of our countries essence.

    The rugged individualist, the objectivist, the capitalist have the inclination to see the community as a source for their betterment, which is fine as long as their betterment does not come at others expense.  In that case these same perspectives become exploitative and parasitic, not interdependent, mutual.  A 5-year old knows that if all you do is take and take and take, then the other kids will no longer want to play with  you.

    The atomistic viewpoints of groups like the Tea Party and, in an insult to the Christian faith, the evangelical right, make it clear that they want the government to enforce their bigoted views of morality:  no stemcell research, homophobia and respect for only one point of view in struggle over Roe v. Wade.  They want no government aid to the poor, no environmental review for corporate projects that threaten the long term health of our natural world.  They have a vast umbrella of negatives with which they hope to block the sunshine of equality and shared responsibility.

    They want the constitution, like the bible, to be an inspired document, written not by men and women, but by gods, inviolate and sacrosanct.  It isn’t true of the bible and it is even much less so true of the constitution.  Both of these documents live, that is, they get swept into new eras, with new challenges and demand a hermeneutics for understanding their relevance.  Always.  This is an iron law of human history, no document from the past means the same thing today that it did yesterday.  That is anachronistic thinking at its most damaging, its most infantile, its most destructive.

    My sister lives in Singapore and, up until very recently, so did my brother, Mark.  This makes accessible, in a personal way, the viewpoints of other cultures toward our country.  Many people don’t like us, see us as arrogant, uncaring and ruthless.  Of course, the big kid on the block often has that reputation, deserved or undeserved, but our recent actions, Iraq and Guantanamo among them, have cemented these opinions.

    Even so, I have this urge to celebrate our country.  We are a beacon of freedom, a beloved place of opportunity and real diversity.  We have committed ourselves to constructing a nation not on history or geography, but on founding ideals of freedom and equality and brotherhood. (sic) The number and variety of persons who come to this country from all over the world, the number and variety of them who become part of the patchwork quilt that is our history and our present at its very best, attest to the essential value of our presence.  We negotiate the boundary between sending cultures and our history and, again at our best, we do it with open hands and hearts.

    Have we slaughtered Native Americans and held slaves?  Yes.  Have we engaged in first-strike aggression?  Yes.  Have we often pretended that our nation, defended by two oceans, exists alone and isolated?  Yes.  Have we laid waste to our natural resources in the name of jobs and profits?  Yes.

    We should not be, cannot be, proud of these transgressions, but I submit that we are not the Great Satan.  We are not the only nation whose actions have transgressed human decency.  Further, I would submit that we are not even the worst, not even close.  Look at the Armenian and Jewish genocides.  The pogroms in Russia and the slaughter of the Stalinist era.  The vicious regime of the Khmer Rouge.  This is a long list and it runs deep in our world history.  No, we are a nation that has blundered and made arrogant mistakes, but we are neither all bad nor all good.  We are, rather, an imperfect nation with an imperfect history.

    As I look around the world, I find no country more committed to creating a united states of freedom, no country more committed to embracing the worlds refugees, no country more aware of its errors and no country more able to make amends.  We are a young nation, barely 240 years old, maybe an early adolescent in terms of our development.

    We must not give in to the petty, the self-aggrandizing, the screw the other guy mentality of our rising political movements.  We’re better than that.

  • Leave It Alone

    Samhain                                      Waning Thanksgiving Moon

    Coming home tonight from the city I encountered a traffic slow down.  It allowed me to get close to an older model GM car with a bumper sticker in letters too small for me to read from a distance.  The bumper sticker read:  Leave the Constitution and the Bible Alone.

    The world of such a person, that is a person who would both buy and display such a message, must have a lot of fear leaking into it.  Not surprising.  Job losses.  Uncertain economics at the national level.  A black President.  The furor stoked by the Tea Party folks.

    Think of it though.  A whole world bounded by two written documents, documents written by men, interpreted by men and now some women, too, but documents of humans nonetheless.  A world with absolute faith in those two written documents, a faith so necessary, so critical that if others tamper with them…  Well.  They’d better not.  Leave’em Alone.  This feels like such a lonely and fettered existence, cramped, perhaps like a one room apartment or a small economy car.

    Any conversation with such a person must not start with the constitution and the bible, it must start with the aspects of their life they believe protected by them.  Their sense of identity.  Security.  Safety.  Morality.  Only as people feel safe can they begin to question, until then, too much is at stake.

    So, for God’s sake, leave them alone.

  • Grounded

    Lughnasa                               Waxing Back to School Moon

    Finished digging the potatoes.  The crop seems smaller than last year’s, but I can’t tell for sure.  Still, we don’t eat potatoes often and we have enough to last us quite awhile.  Kate made an early autumn roast vegetable medley with onions, carrots, leaks, garlic, beets and one potato I pierced with the spading fork.  It was delicious.  So was the raspberry pie–of which we have two.  Our raspberry bushes have been exuberant.  We’ve still got leeks, greens, beets, carrots and squash in the ground.  Some of it will stay in the ground until the frost and freeze gets serious.  I made a mistake last year with the carrots and didn’t get them out before the ground froze.  They became organic matter for the soil.  We also left our entire potato crop out in our garage stair well.  When the temps dropped down, way down, the potatoes froze, then thawed.  Not good for potatoes.  We’re trying to not make those mistakes this year.  We’ll make new ones!

    Working with Leslie today reminded me of the punch there is in ministry.  Yes, the institutional confines squeeze life out of faith, but the individuals, the people can put it back.  She asked me an interesting question.  We got to talking about Christianity and she wondered, “Do you miss it?”  I’m not sure anyone has asked just that question of me.  I don’t, not at a faith level.

    I miss the thick web of relationships I once had there.  I miss the opportunity to do bible study.  That may sound strange, but higher criticism of the bible is a scholarly affair requiring history, language, knowledge of mythology and tradition, sensitivity to redactors (editors), an awareness of textual differences, as well as a knowledge of the bible as a whole.  I spent a lot of time learning biblical criticism and I enjoyed it.  Not much call for it in UU or humanist circles though.

    By the time my nap finished it was too late to put the shims in the hives.  I hope there’s some clear, sunny time tomorrow.  Also need to put the feeder back on the package colony.

    The Vikings.  Not sure.  Favre needs some better wide receivers, yes.  The defense played well.  Adrian Peterson did, too.  It felt as if we were outcoached the last two games.  Not sure about that, that’s a murky area to me, but something doesn’t feel quite right.

  • Miracles.

    Lughnasa                                              Waxing Back to School Moon

    Nap.  Off to Ace Hardware for chemically resistant gloves.  Really.  Why would I use anything that required them?  Normally, I wouldn’t.  But the varroa mites compromise the divide’s ability to survive the winter and the U says to do this until IPM begins to work.  If I didn’t have a strong recommendation to go ahead from people whom I know share my overall perspective on medication, I would just chance it.  Kate made shims for me to put on the hive boxes to give bees enough space to walk around and get in the Apiguard.  She made them in plenty of time.  I forgot to take them out with me.  Sigh.

    I have to go out again tomorrow and put them in place.  Didn’t realize I’d forgotten them until I came inside and saw them still there on the dog crate.

    The garlic is in the ground.  This is the first year I’m planting only garlic I have grown.  In previous years I’ve always bought a few bulbs of a variety I haven’t tried.  The planting of garlic grown here both naturalizes the plant to our locale and gives me a sense of a circle closed.  Satisfying.

    Dug potatoes, too.  One row of three.  Not as productive as last year so far, but not bad.  I planted these at ground level in the oldest of the raised beds, one almost flush with the garden floor.  I will not do that again.  Way too much bending over.  Still, the thrill of digging a potato out of the loose soil constitutes a miracle as far I’m concerned.

    The older I get the more I have the opposite problem from the early advocates of higher criticism of the Bible.  They thought miracles were problematic in the biblical narrative and went about finding natural explanations for them or chalking them up to mythologization.  Not me.

    Miracles are everywhere in my world.  Those pale yellow roots against the darkness of the soil.  Edible!  Planting garlic in the fall so I can harvest it next June.  Cooperating with insects to produce a sweet, delicious liquid that I can share with friends.  How about that!  Being part of a young woman’s search for her vocational path.  A person mutating from young adult to a professional.  Getting up in the morning with energy and eagerness for the day.  Greetings from Vega and Rigel with tails thumping and bodies quivering.  Knowing that we get our food from the energy of a star 93 million miles away from us.  Having a modest grasp of quantum mechanics.  The absolute, dumbfounding miracle of love between Kate and me, our kids, our grandkids.  Friendships that have endured for years and years.  Life is so full of miracles I have to fight through them to get to breakfast.