Beyond Right and Wrong: A Maundy Thursday Appeal

Owing largely to my upbringing in Christian fundamentalism, until just a few years ago, I was completely convinced I had everything figured out when it came to matters of faith and doctrine. Oh, I had made some changes to my thinking in a few areas—as when I embraced the Anabaptist view of biblical nonresistance—but, for the most part, my beliefs and convictions were firmly established on conservative evangelical presuppositions. Continue reading

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A Fear of Geese

Dear Kathryn:

I’d like to pick up where I left off in my last letter, if I may, and to do that I’m going to draw on a blog post I published a year and a half ago. It’s pertinent, especially in the current political climate. I hope it’s also helpful.

The nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once said that being subjected to verbal criticism on a regular basis—what he called the martyrdom of ridicule—is much like being trampled to death by geese. Continue reading

Between The Trapezes

One year ago my daughter and I were sitting at my kitchen table carving silly faces and other designs into pumpkins, which has become something of an annual ritual for our small family. As usual, our wide-ranging conversation touched on everything from health-care (she is a nurse) to religion (I am a recovering ex-clergyman).

At one point, the discussion centered on Cirque du Soleil. Some months earlier, thanks to a Christmas gift from our daughter, her mother and I had attended a concert by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra which featured a few members of the Cirque troupe performing their dazzling acts of aerial acrobatics while swinging from ropes and trapezes high above the stage. It was, to use an overworked word, breathtaking. Continue reading

Honest Doubt and Healthy Faith

I enjoy listening to a radio program called On Being every Sunday morning on our local NPR station. I began listening many years ago when the program was called Speaking of Faith. Despite the name change, the format has remained fairly constant. The host, Krista Tippett, interviews people from a wide variety of backgrounds and vocations and academic disciplines about truth and faith and their general philosophy of life. Most weeks it is fascinating, stretching, and stimulating.

A few weeks ago Krista’s guests were two scientists—astrophysicists, I believe—who were also Jesuit priests. I found their conversation unusually informative and enlightening. I thought I would mention it here, since the theme—belief and doubt—ties in well with the post I published yesterday. Continue reading

The Arrogance of Unwarranted Certainty

Picking up where I left off yesterday, I want to consider further the first of three important truths I mentioned at the close of that post. There I noted that the older I get, the less certain I am about a lot of things, and I am not troubled by that. In fact, unwarranted certainty very often breeds arrogance, while honest doubt encourages humility and deepens faith.

I have a theory. It is not something I have read anywhere, at least not that I recall. It is the product of gut feeling and personal observation, not surveys or scientific testing of any kind. I may abandon it tomorrow, but for today, here it is. Continue reading