Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

David Brooks on Why He Has Become More Religiously Inclined

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

I’ve become much more religiously inclined. And that’s, I think, for three things.

First, for an awareness of one’s moral mediocrity. For example, you meet these people who radiate an inner light. And I was in Frederick, Maryland, I don’t know how many years ago, and I ran into these ladies. There were probably 30 of them, aged 50 to 80, who teach immigrants English and then how to read it. And I walk into the room, and they just radiate patience and goodness, Dorothy Day directness, just that calmness. They didn’t know me from Adam, but they made me feel funnier and smarter and special, and they just had that — they radiated that light. I remember thinking, “I’ve achieved way more career success than I ever thought I would, but I don’t have that.”

Second, would be the experience of grace. And the story I tell about that — these are just exemplar stories, but I have a million of them. I was driving home from the NewsHour about 10 years ago, and I pull into my driveway, and it’s 7:30 at night, but it’s summer, so it’s still light out. My kids, who are then 12, 9, and 4, were in the backyard kicking a supermarket ball up in the air. And they were running across the yard, chasing down this ball, tumbling all over each other, laughing, giggling, sort of shouting with joy. And I pull up into the driveway, and I see into the backyard. I get confronted with this tableau of perfect family happiness…..

…and so I just sit there staring at it through the windshield. And it’s one of those moments where reality sort of spills outside its boundaries, and time and life are sort of suspended, and you become aware of a happiness that you don’t deserve, which is grace. When that happens, your soul swells up a little, and you want to be worthy of that happiness. And it’s just a moment when the soul is swelling.

And then lately — one experience is love, deep love. And the nice thing — Christian Wiman, who is a poet I’ve quoted in your presence before says, “Love is always on the move. It’s never content to just love one thing.” So you want to love the person, you want to love — but then your flesh sort of gets opened up, exposing soft flesh below, and you realize your riches are not in yourself, and that sort of desire and even awareness of a fusion at that deep level sort of changes your view.

So when you go through these experiences, theology begins to make sense because it speaks spiritually, emotionally, and morally. So it’s not like I read it because I’m suddenly — well, it’s not an academic enterprise; it’s the way to see the world. And so it’s become an explanatory tool as much as anything else.



Reclaiming The Grand Narative

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Election season ended.  Data collection drives much of elections and most everything else these days.

We divide … into groups … which are then divided into sub groups … which are then divided sub-sub-groups ad infinitum.  Each gets its own “message”, slick, packaged, engineered to appeal.  What gets lost?  The Grand Narrative.  The big picture, the greater story, the common good.  We are left with this …

Instead of inner-directed leaders driven by their own beliefs, [we] become outer- directed people-pleasers driven by incomplete numbers.

That sits as a quiet threat to social fabric.  “All politics is local” … true.  But it is becoming more and more “All politics is personal.”  Hard to move beyond self-absorption in that world.

Faith.  Religion.  Church.  Spirituality.  God.  Pick the word that word that works for you but the above is a call I believe to recapture those Grand Narratives that faith clearly speaks to.  Those stories of self-sacrifice. Love. Suffering. Redemption.  The Common Good. What is actually bigger and more important than you, than me.  What lies beyond the tyranny of “preference.”

Lets not get lost in the numbers.  If there is a place to get lost, lets loose ourselves in the Story.

Why Religion Matters

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Religion matters.  It matters a great deal.  And the questions is “Why?”

I shy away from holding people’s eternal lives hostage to a declaration of certain prescribed religious pronouncements.  But I don’t shy from saying that religion can be one of the most wonderfully disruptive forces we can welcome into our lives.  We need, so badly, those disruptions.

This is a picture of our culture.  It is a photograph from a “Black Friday” checkout line.   It is us largely at our very worse.  We live deeply immersed in a consumer culture and consumer ethos.  The driving force then of cultural advancement then becomes material comfort.  Material comfort creates a bloated, satiated culture, one asleep but always with more tryptophan on the way to keep us in our happy daze.

Religion consistently reminds me …

  1. There is more than me
  2. Sin is actually real.  I am an asshole at times – a lot of the time actually.  I need to forgive when others are the same.
  3. Getting down on my knees in prayer helps me to stand as a man in areas of need
  4. Money is a tool but it is not my God
  5. Courage means “where the heart lives.”  God has more courage than I do – HIs heart is a lot bigger – and has helped me do things I could never do myself.

The consumer culture reaches its end one of two ways.  Either we come to realize, after trying its faltering promises, that is has nothing to offer or we simply run our planet into the ground in the relentless pursuit of stuff.   It does not end because we come to find contentment in consumerism’s arms.  Religion critically wakes us up to the “More” – a different kind of “More” – one that is disruptive, powerful, and ultimately healing.

Why Rejoin “Church?”

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Strange question, because in a sense I never left, I never let go of denominational affiliation or festival services.  But in a sense I was “gone”, church having moved from a heart song to an obligation.  Since, I rejoined it all, in ways that are surprising for me at times, the question is why?

Why? Probably for many of the same reasons that others reading this blog have rejoined or re-engaged or who are reading it wanting to rejoin/ re-engage.

#1: It stopped being about attending a church service and it starting being about joining a movement

There is a wider movement – something I could repeat to myself 20 times a day.  Churches tend to make a “religion” an increasingly small experience, one focused on looking in.  But it is really about a movement, period.  Therefore “belonging” takes it rightful place at the head of the table, displacing “belief” as the key differentiator of acceptance.  That mission of belonging – ah – boy I know that mission when I hear it.  At a recent wedding I was talking to a couple who spoke movingly of their passion around the revitalization of Christianity and that this had to be bigger than any one church.  That is it!  I read in the words of Emanuel Swedenborg as well as other spiritual thinkers this very same disruptive and blessed call.

#2: But I thought the church was all about casseroles

For most churches the issues are pedestrian.  For the New Church the burning issues of budget and “Who will the next bishop be?” are foremost within denominational circles.  It is not that those questions and concerns are without merit.  But they are not THE questions of a church.  However, they are the questions that generate the most heated discussions.  I know this controversial to say but even questions around the ordination of women, divorce, and homosexuality are not THE questions of church either.  Again, critically important, but not THE questions.   If they were, Jesus would have spent chapters giving us answers.  But He did not.  Instead He consistently calls us to love, compassion, hope, service.  That is where the questions lie.   I believe firmly that if we get clear on “first things first” – asking the right questions – the answers to the above issues will become clear.  However, if we get mired in the small stuff and confuse it with the “work of church” we make church petty, childish, and frankly a playground for our vanities and agendas, not God’s work.  Viewing issues like the ordination of women through love, compassion, hope, service creates a rich and textured conversation that will yield answers.

#3: We are all searching for meaning

Everyone wants to live a life of meaning and purpose.  Some will be concerned with the afterlife – heaven and hell.  Others won’t.  Some will be concerned with the exact definition of God.  Other’s won’t.  And yet within all that lies a deep human desire to find meaning and purpose.  A church can share that and let go of much else, leaving others in the freedom so precious to God.

#4: Christ, even if you think of Him as just a human being, is incredibly cool!

I really like Christ.  I find Him very funny.  I find Him wise.  I find Him insightful.  For me He is the Divine Human – God incarnate.  I have dear friends who see Him differently – not as God but as an incredible human being.  Even from that position – in simply living His life as an exampled pattern of life lived to the highest standards of humanity – lies transformation not just for the individual but for society.  If one sees in Him a model- Divine or otherwise – and lives according, I suspect we all can find a way forward in the world!

So to close, we can find in church new definitions of what church even means.  We can likewise find our voice as well as a deep sense of purpose and community.  Maybe this Easter, just give it a try.  Don’t reject church out of hand because maybe what you are rejecting is a was and maybe you are supposed to play a role in what will be.