Winter's End

Garrison Keillor, of whom I have long been a not so closet fan, begins one of his books by saying he once wrote two really great short stories, his best ever, then lost them while travelling with his family. Since then, he's been trying to find that level of art in his fiction. It's a joke of course, but I feel the same. More than a week ago I wrote what I thought was a pretty artful post I called 'turning winter,' and when I went to post it blogspot blipped and zip zap gone. All I have is the first couple paragraphs.

Oh well.

It has been snowing at my house for almost three weeks. We get little breaks between storms, but the temperature has not been going much above freezing, if at all, and each storm has brought a foot or more. My yard, my deck, completely buried. It looks like we'll get a break this week finally, with temps getting into the forties for a couple days. We don't get four true seasons in the Sierra the way the midwest gets them, or the northeast, but we do get bouts of real winter weather. This last has been intense. As much snow as we get in a season, almost, in three weeks.

My back hurts from all the shovelling.

Also, I spent four days in Long Beach attending a wedding of an old friend of Steph's. This was very nice. S and I love to dance, and we did plenty that night. The woman who got married is also the mother of Mikey's cousin, a girl the same age he is, and it was great to see her getting a wonderful stepfather. When she read her letter to her parents at the reception we wept openly.

Sometimes in this world, things do go right, at least for a period of time. The woman who was married was addicted to meth less than a decade ago. To see her so healthy now, with a wonderful relationship with her daughter and new man...this is true beauty. Of course, life presents that unpredictable mix of joy and despair, the alternating sense of all-things-rightness and the certain knowledge that the world is full of tragedy and irresistable discomfort and routine. These things change place in my own head and heart in less than a day sometimes.

***

I know I may have been out of my range in my last post, but hearing Bush hold a press conference this morning on the radio I am struck again by his apparent arrogance, his bristle when challenged, and at the danger of his ideas. His incompetence is hidden under astounding conviction; he seems to believe his own changing stories. Meanwhile, more die. History will judge. Even if Iraq becomes a democratic bastion for free thought in the Arab world, the fact remains we invaded a country which posed no threat to us in response to a very real attack from another faction. Hussein was not up to much when we finally did go in; his great atrocities having occured earlier in history, and we took him out in the midst of almost unanimous international outrage which turned sympathy for the US after 9/11 into hatred. Also, it is quite possible Iraq will not become a pro-western state when we finally do stop occupying it.

Was Hussein a terrible person? Yes. Do civil rights need to be enhanced in the Arab world. Sure. But was this the way to do it? Time will tell.

***

Since I was out of town for four days I have lots of work to catch up on. This semester is easier than last, but it doesn't mean I don't have plenty on my plate, with church work, EFM, my career and family. My faith, like my mood, continues to vacillate for no apparent reason. I have not forgotten my need to dialogue with my own skeptical self, to understand what I can, to believe my faith is not based on rationally plausible constructs, to integrate what science now tells me about the natural world.

I mentioned a while back that my brother was going to connect me to a NT professor. He did so. And when I emailed with this person one thing he complained about was the anti-intellectualism in evangelical circles. Perhaps this spreads across much of American Christianity (though not all by any means). According to him, Christians hear about a new book by Crossan or Ehrman and shake their heads at the poor misguided souls who wrote them (others would go farther, and simply consider these scholars tools of the devil in open rebellion against God). This anti-intellectualism goes even farther in attitudes towards science (again, not for all; no one less than B.B. Warfield, long ago, considered evolution compatible with what he felt was innerrant scripture).

Science does take its own leaps of faith. While debate is ongoing, the Miller-Urey experiment, included in textbooks all the years I was in school as proof of the replication of organic building blocks from non-organic compounds, is now under criticism from scientists. Life may have begun not in Darwin's pre-biotic warm pool but near ocean vents, or under many feet of sea ice, or even in outer space. The fact is we don't know what the ancient earth was like, nor do I believe we know how non-organic matter became organic matter; this has never been replicated in a lab or observed in nature. We have good guesses, dare I say theories, but there are many gaps and non-understood portions to our evolutionary model.

This is fine. Science has to proceed whether it knows or even can know all the facts in a puzzle. Yet evolution is presented as absolute, unquestioned science. This is odd for me. Yes, the circumstantial evidence for shared ancestry is very strong, and I don't have religious problems with this, but science, while believing itself to be ultra skeptical and fully empirical, does not play out that way when it comes to science textbooks at least.

Still, Christians go too far when they dismiss evolutionary science as hogwash. Those who have written against the theory of evolution so far, Johnson and Behe, are powerfully contested. We may very well have evolved even without supernatural intervention (but how can this be known?). But does that mean evolution had no higher purpose, served no larger creator? That science cannot answer. We can see the suffering and random death scattered throughout earth's biology and say no, God does not exist or he is not good or he is not involved with us. We can also look at the place evolution has taken us, the human mind, as well as the physical and chemical order of the natural world, and say yes, we have evolved, and not by mere chance, to know God himself.

The fact is we don't know how God made things if he did make them. I've said it before, but scientists who focus on the suffering in biological life and what appear to be random mutations have to also face the nature of the human being, our need to live beyond death, to be loved unconditionally, to have what Francis Schaeffer calls an infinite reference point. Are these proofs of God? For some, yes, for me, I'm not so sure. On some days! Mostly, I get back to the gospel record, the place my interest truly lies.

My experience with NT scholars is that two good minds look at the same data and simply have a different experience. One sees the Son of God, one an itinerant apocalyptic; one sees strong evidence for the miraculous in Jesus' life, while another doesn't; one sees overarching themes of love, redemption and salvation, another sees the disagreements between the writers. I'm talking about good scholars, not those with open agendas (though who approaches the gospels without one?). There are individuals who actually consider themseves Christian in some sense, like Crossan and Schweitzer, who deny the resurrection and the miracles.

Does this mean I should join a monastery, wait, forgot my family and need for a love life...throw myself into my faith with more faith and worry less about a rational support for my religion? Maybe, but that just isn't me. I need to keep looking at both sides. I am very, very grateful to be in the church I am, the Episcopal church, which encourages higher criticsm of the bible texts (and they are plural) and an open mind toward science; but also with the priest I have, a very modern-minded Christian, yet still a Nicene creed man nonetheless. I don't know if I'll go anywhere he hasn't gone in his thinking or isn't willing to go, and his faith is quite real. This does give me hope.

It feels good to blog again, even if I presented yet another ramble. I must write about the night in EFM when we all shared supernatural experience. Most in the group had one, including me (and I've shared mine here before). Some were quite compelling. All my religious, skeptical speculation is so much gesturing in the dark compared to a few experiences I heard that night I cannot explain. According to Hamlet, himself a thoughtful soul:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.


Benjamin Franklin writes that Jesus began a great religion, the finest he knows of, but that he doubts Jesus is divine. He may be, and Franklin says he hasn't actually bothered to research the question. But then Franklin notes he'll know soon enough. Meaning Franklin's own death will answer every religious question humans have posed, including the Jesus question, one way or the other. For a Christian, I know, this is an ominous point of view. For me also, it's one I just haven't been able to accept, humorous as it can look in some lights.

I don't know what, if anything, Franklin would add now.

***

I'm doing better in other ways, my anxiety and depression are better, the exposure work I'm doing (not as much as I should, but still doing) for my ocd is already paying off. It's an amazing tool. Some day I'll write something organized up here about tools for depression and obsession. I do believe my experience could help those who still suffer as I still sometimes suffer though to less and less degree.

Now back to the real job! Peace and God's love to all who read.


Comments

Funkiller said…
It is good to hear your voice again. I've been out of the ether myself of late. I go to work when it is dark and leave as the sun sets. Hope summer comes soon.

I listen to the news in my classroom in the morning and I think I caught the same news conference. Isn't arrogance a deadly sin?

Thanks for sharing that wonderful story of recovery. It is comforting to know that there is life after addiction.

Peace, brother.
Troy said…
Bro,

I don't know if you'll get to read this, but sincere thanks for posting. Yes, there sure is life after addiction.

t

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