Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Last week I spoke about the tension within the Christian tradition between the recognition of the ways in which friendship can deepen our love of God and can be seen as a gift of grace from God and the commitment to a more universal, non-exclusive love of neighbour. This dance between exclusive, particular committed relationship and an openness to others plays itself out in so many places and in so many kinds of relationships. Here's to being light on our feet.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Last night we began our lecture series on friendship. Bill Cade, the president of the U of L, gave a very funny and interesting introduction to the series using examples of friendship from the insect realm and then I gave my talk on whether it is possible for Christians to be friends. More on that later.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Last night's episode is a case in point. One story line saw a prison doctor save the life of a young boy from drowning. It turns out that he was responsible for executing 17 prisoners including the boy's father. He has come to the conviction that he was wrong to execute these prisoners and is now doing everything he can to make amends to the families before he dies. He is convinced that what he has done isn't enough and that he will be condemned to hell for killing the inmates. The doctors call in the chaplain to help relieve his torment and she is as helpful as spitting on a forest fire.
She says nothing of significance, doesn't understand his fear, and walks away distraught because she was able to bring no relief. In a scene with one of the doctors she says that she was ordained, she studied Buddhism, she went to an ashram, she thought that kind of synthesized approach would be good in a hospital but what people want when they are suffering is certainty and she can't provide it. Well, duh.
The issue of how to provide spiritual care in secular institutions is a complex one but I don't think the answer is to create some kind of weird esperanto of religious language that speaks to no one and for no one. There is an implicit criticism of the patient in describing what he wants as certainties. I think that what is at the base of this is the idea that people who are firmly within a religious tradition and take the worldview seriously are really people looking for fixed answers because they can't handle ambiguity or uncertainty. Someone who is satisfied by her vague, contentless reassurances is obviously much more spiritually mature.
The patient is tormented because he believes he is a moral agent and that his actions have consequences. Her platitudes aren't just useless, they are insulting, because she fails to take him seriously. She is in effect dismissing his ability to earn damnation, not for theological reasons - she isn't arguing that his repentance is all God needs to forgive him or that God does not condemn people to hell - she is neither a Lutheran or an universalist - but because no one would take the idea that human beings can do things worthy of condemnation seriously. When she concludes that she has nothing to offer patients I responded - ain't that the truth!
How different was the story line a few years ago when Luka treats a bishop dying of Lupus. The bishop sees Luka's torment over the death of his family and speaks words of absolution with authority.
Friends would say to me, it is just a tv show, and it is of course. But the issues raised by this episode get played out in chaplaincy programmes in many places. And you have to wonder how many struggling patients/students/prisoners get offered this kind of spiritual pablum.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I am so looking forward to this term!
(Real Live Preacher got me hooked on the wonderful clipart of Steve Erspamer and I recently purchased the three volumes of clipart for the lectionary. For reasons I don't understand only years A and C had accompanying cds so don't expect to see images from year B).
Sunday, January 13, 2008
It is the story of Chase Falson, a pastor of an Evangelical megachurch in New England who goes on pilgrimage to Italy with his uncle, a Franciscan, when his faith goes off the rails. Spending time in the places where Francis ministered in the company of Franciscans helps Chase reimagine and rediscover his faith.
There were a number of things I appreciated about the novel. I too have found that old certainties have become less solid to me over time in ministry. People's lives and God's grace just don't seem to fit all the nice categories I used to have. And I too have found comfort, challenge, new insight from returning to the lives of the saints. I say returning because unlike Chase who is thoroughly shaped by a Protestant evangelical sub-culture my early formation took place in Catholic communities.
There is a lot of good material about Francis and Franciscan spirituality as well for people, especially folks interested in the Emergent Church movement. But if I had a basic criticism of the novel it is the same one that Maggie made:
There are pages where the story has to stand still while a sermon is preached or a lesson delivered. I wonder if there isn't something inherent in the form of fiction that demands that you can't absolutely make a point and still have fiction that lives and breathes.
There is a certain irony when Chase returns to his church and tells them that they need to stop treating the faith as if it is principally a matter of the head instead of something transcendent because much of the novel does read like a lecture on Franciscan spirituality. He says that they have to show people the faith and not load them up with books and yet the first thing his uncle does when he arrives in Italy is load him up with books. His journal which runs through the novel reveals much more about what he is reading than it does what he is experiencing. The most compelling parts of the book for me are instead when Chase goes to Mass and when he serves in a soup kitchen and then AIDS hospice.
It strikes me that there is a difference between Christian fiction and fiction written by Christians that has to do with whether or not the primary focus is make a point or to tell a story. In Chase's words:
"I'm beginning to see that there's a difference between art that trusts beauty's simple power to point people to God and Christian art that's consciously propagandistic. My Uncle Kenny, with whom I spent most of my time in Italy, said something profound--that you can make art about the Light, or you can make art that shows what the Light reveals about the world. I think the latter is what we want to do."
Yet I think in many ways Chasing Francis is still an example of the former. Graham Greene and Frederick Buechner would be better examples of the latter.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com
|You scored as Jürgen Moltmann|
The problem of evil is central to your thought, and only a crucified God can show that God is not indifferent to human suffering. Christian discipleship means identifying with suffering but also anticipating the new creation of all things that God will bring about.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
"Why Can't We Be Friends? possibilities for friendship in the 21st century"
Eight Annual Lecture Series
Lethbridge Public Library
Jan. 23rd Erin Phillips, Ecumenical Campus Ministry,
"Can Christians be friends?"
Jan. 30th John von Heyking, University of Lethbridge,
"Can Canadians be friends?"
Feb 6th Bruce MacKay, University of Lethbridge,
"Can people with disabilities be friends?"
Feb 13th Marko Hilgersom, Lethbridge College,
"Can e-Friends be friends?"
Co-sponsored by Ecumenical Campus Ministry, Office of the President,
Lethbridge College, Office of the President, University of Lethbridge,
and Lethbridge Public Library
When I'm not anxiously watching over him I'm trying to get everything started for the new term. We start our annual spring lecture series in a few weeks and I have to get my head around my talk. And then there is the Newfie supper we are organizing in the parish. Gotta love it! So life is full right now.
One quick film review - friends and I watched The Cemetery Club Sunday and it was very odd. This wasn't the American film from the early '90s about a group of widows meeting at the graves of their dead husbands. This is a new Israeli documentary about a group of seniors who meet weekly for discussion and community at the Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem. At first it seemed so disjointed and all over the place that I was inclined to turn it off but after a bit we got sucked in to the story of two sisters-in-law who have been friends since before the war. One of the women was a lawyer and much of the focus in on her. Her story is an unhappy one despite significant honours in large part because it seems that growing up in the ghetto and then surviving the camps has left her emotionally really damaged. She is very self-absorbed and her sister-in-law takes the brunt of it. It was in the end a very difficult film to watch. As an older friend said to me recently after discussing Robbie's old age health issues, 'growing old is not fun.'
Thursday, January 3, 2008
On a totally different note Little Mosque on the Prairie episodes are now available on itunes!
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
|What Your Latte Says About You|
You don't treat yourself very often. You find that indulging doesn't jibe with your very disciplined life.
You can be quite silly at times, but you know when to buckle down and be serious.
Intense and energetic, you aren't completely happy unless you are bouncing off the walls.
You're addicted to caffeine. There's no denying it.
You are responsible, mature, and truly an adult. You're occasionally playful, but you find it hard to be carefree.
You are complex and philosophical, but you are never arrogant.
Best read: Eat, Pray, Love
Reasons to be glad for this New Years :
dinner and a movie with my best friend
Robbie still kicking
going to the movies in the afternoon with a great kid
Life is grand!Robbie in his Christmas sweater