Monday, April 12, 2010

Yom HaShoah and Active Love

"How are the Jews to believe in Jesus? Have not we ourselves blindfolded them? They cannot see Jesus because of our conduct.  They cannot believe in Him, because in our lives we have not presented to them the image of Jesus; rather we have shown them the image of mercilessness. "Your deeds in Germany talk so loud that I cannot hear your words," a Jew of our times comments. Our words about Jesus must cut Jews to the heart, considering the cruelties we have perpetrated against them in the name of this Jesus from the time of the Crusades up to the present day. And not only that. How many acts of love have we neglected to do? Thus we share in the horrible guilt of our people in murdering six million Jews. This guilt still hovers over us like a cloud. . . .

"We all have to admit that if we, the entire Christian community, had stood up as one man and if, after the burning of the synagogues [on Krystallnacht], we had gone out on the streets and voiced our disapproval, rung the church bells, and somehow boycotted the actions of the S.S., the Devil's vassals would probably not have been at such liberty to pursue their evil schemes. But we lacked the ardor of love--love that is never passive, love that cannot bear it when its fellowmen are in misery, particularly when they are subjected to such appalling treatment and tortured to death. Indeed, if we had loved God, we would not have endured seeing those houses of God set ablaze; and holy, divine wrath would have filled our souls. . . ." (Basilea Schlink, 1958, taken from Michael Brown, AJOJ Vol. 1, 2.10, 189)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Debate: does the Bible provide an adequate answer to the problem of suffering?

In light of Yom HaShoah this coming Sunday and considering responses to and speculation about suffering, I'd like to let you know about this debate, April 15th, between Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Bart Ehrman (for those of us not in Ohio, it will stream from the site).

We the New Pornographers, in which I attempt to answer a question about porn and "sex work"

A feminist acquaintance who understands how little I know about feminism, of any degree of radicalization and of any wave, asks:
Hey Matt, what is the take on Pornography and Sex work, from a religious perspective? I'm looking at these issues for my Feminist Methods class, so if you give me your perspective with your reasons for it, it would help. Thanks! Hope all is well.
Yes, I believe pornography is degrading and disrespectful to a person's humanity. It treats a person as instrumental to some goal of pleasure sought, no longer treating them as ends in themselves (that might sound philosophical in a classical way, and not religious qua religious, but maybe, its that too). Yes, sex work is then also degrading. Without wanting to simply jump into the middle or end of a conversation, yes, a religious position like mine might suggest that porn and sex work are deeply anti-feminist or anti-woman as such. So, yes, to the degree one truly values femininity and the rights of women, to that degree he will oppose pornography and sex work (and live that out, not just use the right rhetoric as do most religious people).

the theistic implications of vastness

Last night my housemates were watching a special on NOVA called Hunting the Edge of Space. Now, it is known that the producers of the PBS series are allergic to theistic reflection - even in this episode, which wasn't about bashing design inference, they had to casually misrepresent the Galileo affair in the normal "science vs. faith deathmatch" fashion so as to show us that science had moved on from the shackles of clerics via better telescope technology. It might be nice to play along with the charade; but see, I can't. Its not that I just was educated out of a myth about the medieval-to-early-modern relationship between science and religion. Its something more primal: neither I nor my housemates could escape our sense of profound awe at the numinous unfurling of the universe lovingly rendered through NOVA's photographic exploration. And on a primal gut level, our sense of awe defeats blank scientism. On a more reflective level, the notion that that same sense has no theistic implications is simply question-begging, in that it assumes the non-reality of that which is naturally and perhaps even pre-theoretically inferred from sense: the Divine, Being of beings.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

respecting the eighth day of a Diaspora Passover

Someone raised a discrepancy today: Unleavened bread is commanded to be eaten in the Laws of Moses for seven days (Exodus 12:14-16). Yet contemporary observance in the Diaspora goes for eight (thus ending tonight and not last night as in Israel). The conversation which followed was enriching for me at least, so thus I am producing some of my findings.

So how did this tradition come about? I had ideas but was not sure, so I googled to get concise truth.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

On the facticity of firstfruits;

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell's dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That--pierced--died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

- the late John Updike, "Seven Stanzas at Easter"