Wednesday, December 26, 2012

God is Love in the New York Times

My husband and I have an ongoing conversation about the New York Times.  I contend that it is editorially anti-religious.  He regularly shares opinion pieces that contradict that claim. (I respond that the odd opinion piece doesn't change the fact that the editors, on the whole, are anti-religious.  But that isn't really the point of this post...)

So it was this morning.  Nguyen showed me two opinion pieces that any Christian would appreciate.  The first was a guest piece in Maureen Dowd's column.  She invited a priest friend to write about the nature of suffering and death and God's role in it.  It is a beautiful column.

The second ran in the paper on Christmas Eve about a physics teacher who takes one class period per year to discuss some of the bigger issues of life that the study of physics doesn't address.  What is the meaning of all of this?  Why are we here?  His answer is humble.  It is about love.  To illustrate his point, he shares with his class about his disabled son and his son's ability to communicate love regardless of his inability to speak.

So what do these two love-filled columns have in common?  

The vitriol and anger with which they were received by the readers of the Times.  

This comment is from the essay about God's role in suffering:

I guess you haven't noticed, there is no god.
Believing in one is no different from believing in Santa, or the tooth fairy.
They are psychological construction of the mind, to bring comfort in distress, nothing more than that and nothing less.

    About the physics teacher, T of London wrote:

    This is religious indoctrination in disguise. Love is a physical phenomenon, a direct result of evolution and not some magical force of the universe. The universe doesn’t care about us, and our emotions are all tools evolved to enhance our probability of survival. A shame that a physics teacher doesn’t understand what he teaches and chooses to bring into the classroom a dose of good old, irrational, misguided and factually wrong sermoning.

    Apparently we are no longer even allowed to discuss emotions, never mind faith.  Love is now the enemy. Love must be reduced to a chemical reaction and nothing more... and if you believe there is even a tiny bit of mystery to it, you have gone off into the realm of dangerous mythology.  

    For all you garden variety atheists and agnostics who still believe in the power of man's goodness, beware.  Pretty soon you, too, will be villified in the public square for believing in something as irrational as kindness or love.

    The snarky sarcasm that runs through the responses to both columns might be enough to scare anyone from writing about love or faith in the Times.  I hope and pray that will not be the case.  It takes courage to speak about faith, these days.  And I pray that the haters will not be so loud that they silence those who speak love.

    Wednesday, December 19, 2012

    Advent vs. Christmas smackdown

    Ok, the truth is I have never been that good at Christmas.  And when I say Christmas, I really mean the XmasHolidayBlueLightSpecialSuperDiscountEverythingONSALENOW cavalcade that is Christmas in America.  Even before becoming a Christian, the Christmas season was, for me, a challenge to my wait til the  last minute then rush around like a maniac vibe.

    But since becoming a Jesus Freak, Christmas has been way MORE of a challenge.  I mean, here we are in Advent, a season of penitence, self reflection, meditation, and yes, I will say it, darkness.  For those of us in the liturgical tradition, it isn't even proper to sing a Christmas carol until Christmas Eve.  This is a time for preparing, not in the 'gotta get a tree and decorate it' sense, but in the far more spiritual sense.  If Jesus came back TODAY, am I ready? The gospel readings have all been about being ready, spiritually, to meet our maker.  These are strident John the Baptist readings.  Get it together, people.  Don't stand around waiting until it is too late.  NOW is the time to repent and change your ways.  John pulled no punches, then or now.

    For me, this year has been a delicious Advent.  I have spent time in deep reflection.  I have been grappling and letting go.  Jesus has been calling to me.  Unlike his cousin John, his is not a strident voice, but a gentle one.  He isn't demanding anything, but inviting me, ever so quietly, to trust him.  Trust him.  Which is, perhaps, the hardest thing any Christian can do.

    I have been reading scripture.  Like a thirst that only the word of God can quench.  Every day I wake up and  sit at my dining room table and start my day in the word.  And it is delicious.

    And I have been going to church.  Lots of church.  Weekdays and Saturdays and Sunday.  Quiet, rhythmic, freezing cold, or bright and vibrant and filled with beautiful music.  Sitting and letting the presence of Our Lord wash over me.  

    And I have been reading Teresa of Avila and a book about the Exercises of St. Ignatius and the Desert Fathers and St. Ignatius of Antioch and a whole bunch of other really amazing Christians. (The letters of Ignatius of Antioch were written while he was being taken to Rome to die in the Colosseum.  Which makes me cry to think of it.)

    And meditating on The Virgin.  

    And none of this helps me to prepare for the Big Day, which for us stretches from church on Christmas Eve until the last moment of collapse from exhaustion on Christmas night.  

    Because maybe the Big Day is actually already starting to happen in my heart.  

    Blessed Advent.  You win.

    Saturday, December 08, 2012

    Time is running out!

    Every day in my email inbox I receive frantic emails from retailers trying to get me off my Advent duff and start shopping in earnest.  Last Chance!  Don't miss out!  Time is running out!!!!!

    But this year, Advent is another time in another country.  My heart and head are about love.  About preparing myself and my family for the celebration of Christmas and, indeed, the second coming.  Our house is yet bare.  We haven't bought a tree... and maybe won't until Christmas Eve.  We are embracing the beauty and slightly bittersweet sense of anticipation.

    I love the Gospel readings that go with this time of year.  Tomorrow we learn of John, the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.

    I am crying out to you, Lord.  I lift my voice with countless others and cry to you, Come, Emmanuel, Come.

    For in a strange way, time really IS running out.  We must always be prepared for Him.

    Tuesday, December 04, 2012

    Hurry, slow, go, stop, go

    Shifting taking place, and as things get clear, my normal response is to plow ahead, headlong.  But these things take time, don't they?  Like a marriage, there is a long engagement time.  Partly that is for planning for the wedding.  But partly it is to get used to the new reality that once those vows are spoken, you are transformed.  You are different.  You will never be single again.

    So it seems to be with all spiritual landmarks.

    Sunday, December 02, 2012


    This is such a Holy and mysterious time in the church year.   The gospel reading today was apocalyptic.   Christ says that people will literally die of fright when the end is near.

    This morning happened to be the day for healing prayer at Grace Church.  Every month, on the first Sunday, our little team of prayer warriors head over to the Messiah chapel with our anointing oil and pray for folks who come after they have taken communion.  Most months we get one or two folks.  Some months we haven't had any.  Today, we had a line.  So much fear, sadness, despair, pain.  It was unusual to have so many in need of prayer.  I wonder if the beginning of Advent has brought things to the surface.  I know it has for me.  I have found myself very close to God lately.  Which by definition is a very vulnerable place indeed.

    Saturday, December 01, 2012

    Standing on the banks

    When I first became a Christian, I remember the point when I was about to take communion in the Anglo-Catholic church for the first time.  There was a sense that I was standing on the banks of a river and to dip my toe in was to enter the stream of the church, which was at once history and present for thousands of years.  I could see my friends Peter and the apostles.  I could see the dusty, cold, wet monasteries, the huge cathedrals and the tiny home churches.  Candles and incense and the voices of the faithful singing to God, HOLY HOLY HOLY.  Perhaps I could even see the liturgy happening in Heaven at that very moment, beautiful and terrifying and full of LOVE as it is described in the scriptures, with the angels and saints falling down before his throne.  I remember knowing that once I dipped my toe into the stream, there was no turning back.  I would, forever more, be a tiny part of a magnificent stream of Christendom, which has existed for centuries, forever, and right this very moment.

    And so, I stand on the banks, having dipped my toes for years.  Wondering if it is time to dive in head first.