Tag Archives: religion

Growth – Good or Cancerous?

I tried to read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, but couldn’t get into it, and I don’t think I really agree with all of his philosophy anyway. However, the following passage caught my eye before I stopped reading. It’s about our growth-based economy:

The unchecked striving for more, for endless growth, is a dysfunction and a disease. It is the same dysfunction the cancerous cell manifests, whose only goal is to multiply itself, unaware that it is bringing about its own destruction by destroying the organism of which it is a part.

Sacred Spaces: A 13.5-Mile Bike Challenge

Today I messed up. I didn’t even realize I’d broken my commitment to bike to destinations within two miles of home until I was on my second car trip of the day. Silly, because I certainly could have done at least one of those errands by bike (I still haven’t figured out how to carry a Papa Murphy’s pizza on a bike).  So tomorrow will be a day of renewed commitment.

My bike ride yesterday wasn’t part of the two-mile challenge. I had signed up several weeks ago for a Sacred Spaces East Portland Urban Bike Tour, sponsored by the East Portland Advocates and led by Pastor Brian Heron of Eastminster Presbyterian Church. I was nervous about the ride, and wasn’t entirely sure I was going right up until I left! I didn’t know if I could keep up with a group for 13.5 miles, especially going up certain hills.

I needn’t have worried. We had a terrific group of 17 people, and while I was occasionally in the back of the group, I never felt like I was holding anyone back, and I wasn’t the only one who needed to walk part of the way uphill from NE 122nd and Shaver to I-84.

The sites we visited were interesting, too. They included two Christian churches, a ghost bike (a white bicycle set up to remember someone who died in a bicycle accident), a labyrinth, a non-view of Mt. Hood (too cloudy), an Eastern Orthodox church, a Buddhist temple, a big tree, and an urban forest.

The Buddhist temple impressed me most. This was completely different from any other religious building I’ve been in. Having grown up Catholic and been in a variety of Catholic churches, I’m used to a fair number of statues and a fair amount of ornamentation. The temple is in another realm. There are statues, incense and candles everywhere, beginning with a huge golden Kwan Yin outside.  Hundreds of small Kwan Yin figures line the walls in the main room, and grimacing, larger-than-life statues guard the main shrine. Really. Someone asked who the “mean guys” were, and our guide said that they are guardians who are supposed to drive away bad thoughts. And then at the front are golden statues of the Buddha and Kwan Yin and someone else. And in front of them are piles of fruit and water bottles (offerings). The room is furnished with low sitting or kneeling benches and a padded floor (we were asked to remove our shoes).

This temple (it’s the Kwan Yin Temple in Portland) is definitely Chinese, although our guide was Caucasian. Nearly all of the printed or written materials in the building were in Chinese script, and most of the people there were speaking Chinese (chanting services are conducted in Mandarin). The building does include an office and a parish-hall-type room, which looked like those found in any Christian church (in fact, the building used to be a Christian church).

I’m sure there are Buddhist temples that look and feel different, too! But this is the first and only one I’ve been in. I felt both welcomed (our hosts were wonderful) and completely out of place.

I’m still kicking myself for not taking the camera along. I’m hoping to get some pictures from another rider. But meanwhile, you can see pictures on the temple’s website (it’s on Geocities, so hurry and see them before they’re gone!).

Bookish Quotes

I’ve usually got at least two books going at once — a novel for bedtime and fun, and some sort of non-fiction book. This week, I finished one of each, and in each I found a quotable quote that I really wanted to share.

The first is from The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, by Michael Chabon. If you haven’t read it, I do recommend it. This is a murder mystery set in a slightly alternate reality, in which a large number of European Jews were resettled into Alaska during World War II, and now in present day are about to be kicked out. It’s slowish in parts, but worth reading.

Landsman taps the wheel, considering his promises and their worth. He was never unfaithful to Bina. But there is no doubt that what broke the marriage was Landsman’s lack of faith. A faith not in God, nor in Bina and her character, but in the fundamental precept that everything befalling them from the moment they met, good and bad, was meant to be.

The second quote is from A Generous Orthodoxy, by Brian D. McLaren. McLaren is a leader in the emerging church movement, and is also considered a heretic by many. Personally, I like the way he writes about God and faith. I think there’s a lot of truth in there. For instance, this:

This insight into true “having” intensifies, by the way, the tragedy of consumerism; one acquires more and more things without taking the time to ever see and know them, and thus one never truly enjoys them. One has without truly having. The consumer is right — there is pleasure to be had in good things, a sacred and almost unspeakable pleasure, but the consumer wrongly thinks that one finds this pleasure by having more and more possessions instead of by possessing them more truly through grateful contemplation. And here we are, living in an economy that perpetuates this tragedy.

A Post is a Post

I’ve been writing down ideas for blog posts on sticky notes as I think of them, but somehow the notes always disappear!  Now I’ve got time to sit down and write, but I have no idea what I was going to write about.  Actually, that’s quite appropriate, given the current title of this blog.

In truth, I do remember one thing that I made a note of.  Thom Hartmann mentioned on the (local) radio that a certain libertarian politician thinks paper money is unconstitutional.  That intrigued me — why would someone think that?

Well, after searching online for more information, I’ve decided I’m no longer interested.  There are, apparently, a number of people and organizations that believe paper money is unconstitutional in the U.S.  Their reasons are not particularly exciting.

So, here are a couple of things that I am interested in right now.

1.  Detoxing from Church.  I’m still definitely a Jesus follower.  I just find that I’m less and less interested in the institutional church.  My husband and I are seriously considering a detox.   The author of these articles details the process his family went through in detoxing from what we know as church.

2.  On the other hand, Pastor Becca’s blog entry about her United Methodist Annual Conference tells about something that I do value in the traditional church.  Does this “tingly feeling” only happen inside churches?  Probably not — but I don’t imagine it’s quite the same, either.

Obama and Wright: Feel free to think for yourself

If you know me, you know that I’m a strong believer in people getting the information and thinking for themselves.  Don’t just listen to sound bites and pundits and believe what they say!  Don’t even listen to what I say and believe it without question.  Use your brain — that’s what it’s there for.

That said, here are links that could help you make up your own mind about Rev. Jeremiah Wright.  I suggest you also consider whether the statements in Rev. Wright’s sound bites really mean anything at all about Barack Obama.

Rev. Wright at the Press Club — transcript
Yes, the whole transcript — not just the clips you’ve seen or heard on the news and talk shows.  Find out what he really said, and in what context.

Rev. Wright’s “God d— America” sermon
Not the whole sermon, but a heck of a lot more than you get on TV

Here’s the transcript of his speech to the NAACP.  It’s the one with “if you got some white friends, they’ll be clapping like this.” (which, incidentally, I think is hilarious — but it, too, is part of a much larger context)

And just because I can’t get enough of watching it…here’s the video of that portion.  But really, you don’t get the full effect of any of this unless you watch the whole videos — they’re on You-Tube if you have time.  He’s quite an entertaining speaker.

Anyway, check it all out — and think away.

Theology Quiz — I’m still Catholic?

Okay, I’m a United Methodist. I have been for about 8 years now. I was raised as a Roman Catholic, though, and I didn’t leave the Catholic Church because of strong theological or philosophical differences. My husband was raised as a United Methodist, and has never been comfortable in a Catholic Mass, so when we finally decided we wanted to attend church together, I agreed to try the Methodist church.

The one in our area at the time (United Methodist Church of Rancho Cordova, near Sacramento), was awesome. They had a woman pastor (nonexistent in the Catholic church). She left soon after we started attending, but the next pastor was a woman also, and became a good friend. We formally joined the church. I still missed things about the Catholic church — the familiar hymns and rituals and the weekly Communion especially, but eventually the Methodist traditions became familiar as well.

Today, I took a quiz that I found through this blog entry, which was in my Tag Surfer today. It measures something called your “theological worldview.” I’m not sure how to define that. I was surprised, however, to find that I still scored primarily as a Roman Catholic! My second worldview is Emergent/Postmodern, which is more where I see myself these days — and really, the two go together a bit, because one characteristic of emergent/postmoderns is that they like getting back to the ancient rituals of the church.

My third worldview is Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan, which is the United Methodist part of my background. Apparently, however, the faith I was raised in still has a huge impact on my theology and practice.

The full results are below, along with a picture representing Roman Catholicism. Very formal. My husband, who scored fully emergent/postmodern, got a picture of Brian McLaren.

What’s your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Roman CatholicYou are Roman Catholic. Church tradition and ecclesial authority are hugely important, and the most important part of worship for you is mass. As the Mother of God, Mary is important in your theology, and as the communion of saints includes the living and the dead, you can also ask the saints to intercede for you.

Roman Catholic
 
75%
Emergent/Postmodern
 
71%
Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan
 
64%
Neo orthodox
 
61%
Modern Liberal
 
50%
Charismatic/Pentecostal
 
50%
Classical Liberal
 
50%
Reformed Evangelical
 
32%
Fundamentalist
 
0%

Theology Quiz — I’m still Catholic?

Okay, I’m a United Methodist. I have been for about 8 years now. I was raised as a Roman Catholic, though, and I didn’t leave the Catholic Church because of strong theological or philosophical differences. My husband was raised as a United Methodist, and has never been comfortable in a Catholic Mass, so when we finally decided we wanted to attend church together, I agreed to try the Methodist church.

The one in our area at the time (United Methodist Church of Rancho Cordova, near Sacramento), was awesome. They had a woman pastor (nonexistent in the Catholic church). She left soon after we started attending, but the next pastor was a woman also, and became a good friend. We formally joined the church. I still missed things about the Catholic church — the familiar hymns and rituals and the weekly Communion especially, but eventually the Methodist traditions became familiar as well.

Today, I took a quiz that I found through this blog entry, which was in my Tag Surfer today. It measures something called your “theological worldview.” I’m not sure how to define that. I was surprised, however, to find that I still scored primarily as a Roman Catholic! My second worldview is Emergent/Postmodern, which is more where I see myself these days — and really, the two go together a bit, because one characteristic of emergent/postmoderns is that they like getting back to the ancient rituals of the church.

My third worldview is Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan, which is the United Methodist part of my background. Apparently, however, the faith I was raised in still has a huge impact on my theology and practice.

The full results are below, along with a picture representing Roman Catholicism. Very formal. My husband, who scored fully emergent/postmodern, got a picture of Brian McLaren.

What’s your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Roman CatholicYou are Roman Catholic. Church tradition and ecclesial authority are hugely important, and the most important part of worship for you is mass. As the Mother of God, Mary is important in your theology, and as the communion of saints includes the living and the dead, you can also ask the saints to intercede for you.

Roman Catholic
 
75%
Emergent/Postmodern
 
71%
Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan
 
64%
Neo orthodox
 
61%
Modern Liberal
 
50%
Charismatic/Pentecostal
 
50%
Classical Liberal
 
50%
Reformed Evangelical
 
32%
Fundamentalist
 
0%

What I’m Reading: The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

Reading The Dark Is Rising is a holiday tradition for me. This is when the book takes place. It begins on Midwinter’s Eve. For us, the winter solstice is considered the official beginning of winter, but in the pagan tradition, it’s Midwinter. So, the book begins on the night before the solstice, and ends on Twelfth Night (January 6).

The Dark is Rising is a fantasy-type story, like the Narnia books, Harry Potter books, and the currently controversial Golden Compass. It is a Newbery Honor Book, and one of its sequels, The Grey King, won the 1976 Newbery Award.

Like The Golden Compass, and unlike Narnia, The Dark is Rising is not intended to be a Christian book. It focuses on a conflict between Light and Dark, or good and evil. It recognizes these two sides, plus a High Magic that is above both. God is not in the picture. The book doesn’t criticize the organized church, like The Golden Compass does, but the author doesn’t seem to think the church is particularly important, either.

Some Christians have a problem with the Cooper books (there are five of them in The Dark is Rising series) because they think they promote paganism and magic. I think they are stories. Good ones. I don’t think they’re intended to promote anything.

Like Philip Pullman, Cooper based her stories on older texts — the Welsh Mabinogion and other sources of Arthurian material. Pullman drew on Milton’s Paradise Lost in his stories.

The Dark Is Rising focuses on the story of Will, an ordinary boy who finds out on his eleventh birthday (Midwinter’s Day) that he’s actually one of the Old Ones, those who fight for the Light, and who have special powers they can use in that fight. His task, in this book, is to find six signs, made long ago for the Light, which must be joined together to help in the fight against the Dark.

Yes, the Old Ones can do things that we might term “magic.” And yes, there is pagan imagery, of Celtic origin — most obviously in the case of Herne the Hunter, who has an appearance like the “horned god” in Celtic traditions:

“The head from which the branching antlers sprang was shaped like the head of a stag, but the ears beside the horns were those of a dog or a wolf. And the face beneath the horns was a human face — but with the round feather-edged eyes of a bird.”

Cooper herself says that she turned away from Christianity at age sixteen, but does not criticize Christianity as openly or flamboyantly as Pullman has been known to. She does say, in an interview for Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children, that she tried to stay away from “the Christian story of the leader who dies for salvation.” Instead of returning to save the world, her King Arthur (who does eventually appear) helps win the final battle of the series, but then sails away, and “saving the world is up to the people in it.” Those who live on the earth have the responsibility to choose good or evil for themselves.

This is actually pretty close to my own theology as a Christian. Yes, Jesus came to “save” us. He shows us that God’s love is infinitely strong and never-ending — even dying to make that point. He also told us, and showed us, how to live a life in the Kingdom of God — a Kingdom where we love one another, and take care of one another, with mercy and justice. He told us that we have the Kingdom of God within us, and it is our responsibility to help create that Kingdom, here on earth — not just to wait for Jesus to come back to take all the believers to heaven.

I like The Dark Is Rising, and its companion books, better than The Golden Compass (part of the His Dark Materials trilogy), but that’s just because I think it’s a better story, not because of any theology (or lack thereof).

If you read The Dark Is Rising series, be sure to begin with Over Sea, Under Stone. That is actually the first book in the series. It introduces a different set of children, and does not include Will, but eventually the whole thing comes together.

I also enjoyed Susan Cooper’s book Seaward. It doesn’t take place in the world of The Dark Is Rising, but is an enjoyable fantasy.

As for the movie version of The Dark Is Rising — yes, it was released this year, although you might not have noticed it. At first, it was promoted as The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising, but by its release date it was simply titled The Seeker, and apparently it is quite different from the book. I haven’t seen it, and don’t plan to, but word is that Arthurian and pre-Christian references were stripped out, and Cooper doesn’t sound happy about it.

I will, however, be continuing to read the book in snatches during these hectic, pre-Christmas days.