If proof is needed that almost every new religious idea has its roots in a past religious idea, today is a good day to ponder that reality. Today, it turns out, is the 441st anniversary of the birth of the English poet and preacher John Donne (depicted here).
In his 1624 prose work, "Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions," he wrote what may be his most famous lines: "No man is an island, entire of itself. . . .Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind."
Donne, born a Catholic but a convert to Anglicanism, was expressing there something remarkably similar to what today Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa promotes as "Ubuntu Theology." It says, in effect, that if any member of my community is ill or suffering, we all are ill are suffering. It says, in short, "I am because we are." It says, in short, that no one is an island and that anyone's death or suffering diminishes me.
What is true of the commonality of Donne's and Tutu's approach to theology is true of many of the great religious stories and themes across various faith traditions. More than one religion has a story of a great flood, for instance. Same with virgin birth. Same with miracles of various sorts.
Each religion, of course, makes exclusivist claims that differentiate it from others. But there is something cyclical about at least some religious thinking. And the Donne-Tutu approach certainly is one that deserves to keep coming around and around.
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The Church of England has produced some suggested rules for use of social media. There are nine of them. Somehow No. 10 must have gotten lost: Invent Gracebook. Now someone get on that, please.