There must be something legalistic in the human makeup, because cold, rigid, unambiguous, unparadoxical belief is common, especially considering how fervently the Scriptures oppose it.
And yet there is a silent majority who experience a faith that is attractively marked by combinations of fervor and doubt, clarity and confusion, empathy and moral demand.
For example, Audrey Assad is a Catholic songwriter with a crystalline voice and a sober intensity to her stage presence. (You can see her perform her song “I Shall Not Want” on YouTube.) She writes the sort of emotionally drenched music that helps people who are in crisis. A surprising number of women tell her they listened to her music while in labor.
She had an idyllic childhood in a Protestant sect prone to black-or-white dichotomies. But when she was in her 20s, life’s tragedies and complexities inevitably mounted, and she experienced a gradual erosion of certainty.
She began reading her way through the books on the Barnes & Noble Great Books shelf, trying to cover the ones she missed by not going to college. She loved George Eliot’s “Daniel Deronda” and was taken by Tolstoy. “He didn’t have an easy time encountering himself,” she says, sympathetically. “I was reading my way from darkness into paradox.”
She also began reading theology. She’d never read anything written before 1835. She went back to Augustine (whose phrases show up in her lyrics) and the early church fathers. Denominationally, she went backward in time. She became Baptist, then Presbyterian, then Catholic: “I was ready to be an atheist. I was going to be a Catholic or an atheist. “
She came to feel the legacy of millions of people who had struggled with the same feelings for thousands of years. “I still have routine brushes with agnosticism,” she says. “I still brush against the feeling that I don’t believe any of this, but the church always brings me back. ...I don’t think Jesus wants to brush away the paradoxes and mysteries.”
Her lyrics dwell in the parts of Christianity she doesn’t understand. “I don’t want people to think I’ve had an easy time.” She still fights the tendency to go to extremes. “If I’d have been an atheist I’d have been the most obnoxious, Dawkins-loving atheist. I wouldn’t have been like Christopher Hitchens.”
Her life, like all lives, is unexpected, complex and unique. Her music provides a clearer outward display of how many inwardly experience God.
If you are a secular person curious about how believers experience their faith, you might start with Augustine’s famous passage “What do I love when I love my God,” and especially the way his experience is in the world but then mysteriously surpasses the world:
“It is not physical beauty nor temporal glory nor the brightness of light dear to earthly eyes, nor the sweet melodies of all kinds of songs, nor the gentle odor of flowers, and ointments and perfumes, nor manna or honey, nor limbs welcoming the embraces of the flesh; it is not these I love when I love my God. Yet there is a light I love, and a food, and a kind of embrace when I love my God — a light, voice, odor, food, embrace of my innerness, where my soul is floodlit by light which space cannot contain, where there is sound that time cannot seize, where there is a perfume which no breeze disperses, where there is a taste for food no amount of eating can lessen, and where there is a bond of union that no satiety can part. That is what I love when I love my God.”
That's... beautiful. And in the New York Times... amazing.
(And tim... yes, you tim oh loyal reader... the way I read this... my interpretation... is that you, Mr. Godless Heathen, and I... there's a fine line that separates us... kinda sorta... think on that.)
Daily Caller: A Buffalo, N.Y. community activist who is well known locally for pushing for a highly restrictive 2013 gun control law has been arrested for — wait for it — carrying a gun illegally at a public elementary school.
The arrested gun-control advocate, Dwayne Ferguson, caused quite a scene at Harvey Austin Elementary School, reports local CBS affiliate WIVB.
At about 4:15 p.m. on Thursday, police acted on a pair of anonymous 911 tips. A battalion of cops quickly swarmed the school. The brigade included over a dozen squad cars, the SWAT team and K9 units. The Erie County Sheriff’s Air One helicopter and what appears to be an armored vehicle also turned up. ...
He said he frequently carries a pistol. He has a license but the license does not matter under the strict state law Ferguson helped pass.
Among much else, the 2013 law, deemed New York’s SAFE Act, made it a felony to carry a gun on school property, according to The Buffalo News.
While it was always illegal to carry a gun on school grounds, the new law bumped the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The New York Times reported: A group of Sunni militants attending a suicide bombing training class at a camp north of Baghdad were killed on Monday when their commander unwittingly conducted a demonstration with a belt that was packed with explosives, army and police officials said.
The militants belonged to a group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, which is fighting the Shiite-dominated army of the Iraqi government, mostly in Anbar Province. But they are also linked to bomb attacks elsewhere and other fighting that has thrown Iraq deeper into sectarian violence.
Twenty-two ISIS members were killed, and 15 were wounded, in the explosion at the camp, which is in a farming area in the northeastern province of Samara, according to the police and army officials. Stores of other explosive devices and heavy weapons were also kept there, the officials said.
Eight militants were arrested when they tried to escape, the officials said.
The militant who was conducting the training was not identified by name, but he was described by an Iraqi Army officer as a prolific recruiter who was “able to kill the bad guys for once.”
Tomorrow I’ll be celebrating my 50th birthday with a few of my close friends and family. My life has been an adventure so far and I’m looking forward to whatever and whoever comes along next.
Here’s a brief snapshot of some of what I’ve seen, done and experienced, good and bad, during my yesterdays. Hope you enjoy. Questions/comments welcome and encouraged.
Seen both full solar and lunar eclipses, the space station streak across the night sky, the aurora borealis and the Perseid Meteor Shower in the crystal clear, mountain skies of Stowe, VT.
Lived through a devastating ice storm and crippling blizzards.
All separately, I’ve broken my kneecap, dislocated my shoulder, got a bottled thrown in my face gashing my lip and got attacked by a gang of punks.
Seen some of greatest bands and musicians in concert such as - The Who, Eric Clapton, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Neil Young, Stevie Ray Vaughn…Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (together and separately). B.B. King, Buddy Miles and Miles Davis. Bonnie Raitt, and Alison Krauss. And many, many others.
Have partook of marijuana, hash, opium, cocaine, LSD and magic mushrooms.
Rode the Staten Island fairy, hiked up the Statue of Liberty and peered out her crown, viewed NYC from atop the Empire State Building, took a carriage ride through Central Park, rode the roller coaster at Cooney Island, watched the Yankees play at the old, pre ’74 Yankee Stadium and saw Derek Jeter wish Yogi Berra a happy birthday at the brand new stadium.
I’ve been in the Anchorage, AK airport, seen the Arch of St. Louis, the southern most point of the U.S., The White House, all the monuments, Ford’s Theatre and the rest of D.C. I marched down Pennsylvania Ave. and protested right in front of the Capital Building. I ran by Arlington Cemetery and stopped at the Iwo Jima Memorial.
I’ve driven and worked throughout the Rocky Mountains of Colorado (snowboarded Keystone). I drove past mile after mile of the farmlands of Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas.
I stood below the CN Tower in Toronto and took in the wonder that is Niagara Falls.
Now do you believe
In the one big sign
The doublewide shine
On the boot heels of your prime
Wore the uniform of the United Sates Marine Corps.
Visited the Suicide Cliffs and caves of Okinawa.
Walked amongst scurrying coyotes in the predawn hours in Camp Pendleton and stole C Rations with an MP from a supply tent lined w/barbed wire in the still of the night in South Korea. Ha!
I’ve shot/felt the concussion of a M2 .50 cal. machine gun. Rode in the belly of a C130 alone guarding a connex box full of weapons. Heard the roar of howitzers, the thumping of a Warthog’s 30mm Gatling gun. Seen fly overhead the majestic SR72 Blackbird, Harrier/fighter jets, Apache/Huey helicopters. Saw a formation of Ospreys while standing in front of the Pentagon.
Got a tattoo in downtown Baltimore.
Visited brothels in Japan, Korea and Tijuana.
Been to every town and beach in CA between Oceanside and LA. Seen the freaks of Hollywood , the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano, felt the warmth of the Santa Anna winds, the twisted, outstretched limps of the Joshua Trees, and endured the overwhelming heat of the Mojave Desert for weeks at a time.
I’ve watched football at the LA Coliseum, a Monday Football game at Mile High Stadium and Notre Dame in Boulder, CO.
Saw Reggie Jackson hit a grand slam against the Yankees in Anaheim.
Went to a Padres game and a Beach Boys concert broke out (We had no clue.)
Been on the sidelines, press box, locker room and press conferences of NFL games. Saw play, amongst many other greats, - O.J. Simpson, Bert Jones, Jim Kelly, Jim Harbaugh, Marshall Faulk, Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning.
He says - Do you believe In the one true edge
By fastening your safety belts
And stepping towards the ledge
I’ve been to parties with bikers who barbequed poached venison and the next week another where two of us were the only white people present. (Try and guess which one I had more fun at.)
Went sailing on a 80’ catamaran off the coast of St. Maarten for a wedding reception, ate the finest French cuisine, danced on the deck at sundown and snorkeled off the coast of a deserted island. Returned five years later…oh the stories…
I’ve driven U.S. Highway 1 from Fort Lauderdale to Key West.
Slammed through the gears of a refurbished ‘69 Road Runner, did 70 mph on my jet ski and rode in a cigar boat.
Walked the pier at Santa Cruz, rode the trolley in San Fran and gazed upon the magnificent Golden Gate bridge and the stunning Presidio.
Have parasailed, flew in a two seat Sea Plane and got knocked out of kayak by a wave caused by a storm w/70 mph winds, hail and lightening.
Fished king mackerel, barracuda and groper off the coasts of Florida’s Key West & Largo. Additionally I’ve caught trout, bass, pike, perch and five other species in NY’s Finger & Ontario Lakes.
I successfully ran a 10k after having not run for 20+ years and only trained for 4 months.
I met, hung out backstage and joined him and his family for dinner with a leading conservative celebrity who you would recognize if I mentioned his name.
Experienced both sides of the ‘love but not loved” scenario with women. (Both suck.) Been married, divorced and also cohabitated with a girl who turned out to be psychotic. Had younger women, older women and a friend’s sister.
Last night I benched pressed more weight than most men half my age can.
Want, need and have to do before I die - kill a Red Stag in New Zealand, rebuild my Ford 302 engine, catch a marlin, meet the love of my life, attend the 24 Hours of Le Mans, learn guitar, get arrested…all starting today tomorrow or tomorrow today, or even yesterday.
Yesterday Rick posted a beautiful video that I subsequently commented in part - “There’s plenty of mainstream rock, in particular, that mentions religious themes that probably go right over most listeners head. Including us atheists.”
Few would deny that rock and roller Bruce Springsteen is a national icon. Fans often associate his music with American pastimes, youthful romance — and the rebellious soul. But some scholars are convinced that there’s something deeper to be learned from Springsteen’s four decades of musical success.
Rutgers University recently announced that it will offer a new course exploring the career and theology of The Boss. The seminar, titled “Rock and Roll Theology,” will explore Springsteen’s entire anthology of lyrics from “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.” (1973) to his most recent album “Wrecking Ball” (2012).
Rutgers Today, the school’s official news outlet, said the one-credit freshman seminar will be taught by associate professor of Jewish studies and classics, Dr. Azzan Yadin-Israel.
In an interview with Rutgers Today, the professor of theology described the songs and ideas that inspired this unique course. “In some songs, Springsteen engages biblical motifs explicitly, as the titles indicate. For example, ‘Adam Raised a Cain,’ ‘Jesus was an Only Son,’ ‘In the Belly of the Whale’ (referring to Jonah). But concepts with biblical resonance appear throughout his works (the Promised Land, redemption, faith), and it’s just a matter of taking the theological overtones seriously,” Yadin-Israel said.
“Its called Kuru, an extremely rare disease which virtually became extinct after extinguishing cannibalism in Papua New Guinea. Amazingly Kuru has now been found in 8 to 20 people, out of all places, in war-torn Syria, and the only way it could have come about, doctors confirmed, is through cannibalism and the consumption of human brain, as first reported by Arabian news source Zaman al-Wasal and substantiated by Orient News Television.”
The rest here , including links to how it all relates to Islam.
In a shocking case of “grotesque” misconduct by federal prosecutors, a federal judge in Louisiana has ordered a new trial for five New Orleans police officers convicted for a shooting on the Danziger Bridge on September 4,
2005 — in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina — and for a subsequent cover-up. This is another black eye for the Holder Justice Department that the media have barely covered.
Participating in the misconduct that the judge said had created an “online 21st-century carnival atmosphere” was Karla Dobinski, a lawyer in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department and the former deputy chief of the section. The reversal of the convictions is what Judge Kurt Engelhardt calls a “bitter pill” for Hurricane Katrina survivors, but his investigation of the matter provides an intensive inside look at the unprofessionalism of some of the lawyers at the Holder Justice Department, and also at the department’s attempts to obscure its misdeeds. Advertisement
Last December, I reported on what Judge Engelhardt called the “skulduggery” and “perfidy” of DOJ prosecutors in a scathing order issued on November 26, 2012. At the time, the lawyers for the defendants had filed a motion for a new trial. They claimed that the prosecutors had leaked secret grand-jury proceedings and engaged in a public-relations campaign to inflame public opinion and sway the jury through anonymous postings on nola.com, the website run by the Times-Picayune.
As a result of the judge’s findings, those two senior prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Salvador Perricone and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Mann, the chief assistant to U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, resigned. Letten himself resigned two weeks after the November order was issued, although he was not accused of making any of the postings himself.
Incredibly, Judge Engelhardt’s latest order, issued last month, indicates that Letten may have had knowledge of Mann’s blogging much earlier than first reported but didn’t inform the judge about it. Mann claims that she told Letten prior to March 2012 that she was also blogging anonymously, but tried “to downplay it.” This was six months before Judge Engelhardt’s November order. Yet Letten made no effort to inform the judge, even though, according to the judge’s opinion, Mann believes that Letten “reported [her blogging conduct] up to other supervisors at DOJ.”
When he issued his November 2012 order, Judge Engelhardt reserved his decision on the motion for a new trial and asked DOJ to do a further, intensive investigation to find out whether anyone else had been involved in these anonymous postings and illegal leaks in addition to the two lawyers who had resigned. The judge suggested that Attorney General Holder “seriously consider appointment of an independent counsel,” a suggestion that Holder “chose to disregard.”
Trying to figure out what the prosecutors had done sent the court “on a legal odyssey unlike any other.” But that legal odyssey led the judge on September 17 to grant a new trial to the New Orleans police officers. It is the first time, according to Judge Engelhardt, that federal “prosecutors acting with anonymity used social media to circumvent ethical obligations, professional responsibilities, and even to commit violations of the Code of Federal Regulations.”