May 20-21, 2006, weekend
May 23, 2006

May 22, 2006

THE FOUNDERS' VIEW OF RELIGION?

The judge in the recent "Intelligent Design" case in Pennsylvania was the Dickinson College graduation speaker this past weekend and had some thoughts about religion and the Founding Fathers. Do they match up with your thoughts about this? At first glance, his description of religion seems to me like a pretty narrow view.

* * *

IT'S THE PEOPLE, NOT THE HARDWARE

Yes, of course congregations in any religious tradition require what I like to think of as the hardware of faith, which might be a church, synagogue, mosque or temple, along with all of the other material things that help to define the group.

StjamesBut, in the end, congregations are not the hardware but the software, which is to say the people. And the time to remember that is when congregations celebrate special dates, such as anniversaries of their founding.

St. James Catholic Church of Kansas City (the picture here shows the interior before 1965), a central city congregation at 3909 Harrison St., is observing the 100th anniversary of its founding this year. And part of the celebration has been publication of a small book: St. James Catholic Church: Centennial Stories, 1906-2006. The lovely thing about this -- from which all of us can learn -- is not just the gorgeous watercolor painting of the church by parishioner Bob Ferron but the fact that it is simply packed with memories by people associated with the church.

The book almost literally sings of the church's humanity.

Some brief statements are quite simple: "When I first came to St. James," said Becky Nelson, a current parishioner, "I was looking for a personal relationship with God, but what I didn't expect was this huge communal relationship with God."

Some are very brief but quite specific: "I remember Ione Sheffield dancing at Culture of Peace, cane in hand," said Dave Cozad.

And there's even a little in-house humor: "(Msgr. John W.) Keyes kekpt us all out of jail," Paul Lillig writes of the founding pastor, who served until 1950.

Well, the thing to remember is that in any faith community, it's the people who are crucial -- even more than the buildings or the clergy or the time of worship. And the new St. James book has captured that.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

Comments

SC in KC

Both of these issues involve the same question...

Is religion an institution and, if so, is it JUST an institution?

Obviously, the answer is no. Religion is much more than an institution. It is more than a codified system of theology. It is more than a socio-political engine of comprehensive morality. It is more than a museum of good thoughts, feelings, and deeds.

Religion is a testament by which we have a relationship, individually and corporately, with God. It is an unbreakable covenant between people, communities, nations, and God. It is the benchmark by which we relate to one another, and the standard by which we will be judged. It is the perfect foundation upon which a perfect communion can exist between a perfect God and His perfect creation.

Unfortunately, imperfect people are involved. Still, it's a great vehicle for loving one another.

Dave Miller

From the article to which Bill referred us: “Intelligent design holds that living organisms are so complex they must have been created by some kind of higher being.”

Once again, the reporter doesn’t get it quite right. “Intelligent design” has to do with detecting design, rather than detecting creation. The reporter would have it right if s/he said, “Intelligent design holds that living organisms are so complex they must have been designed.”

Interestingly, the vocabulary of design seems to be appearing with increasing frequency in the biological literature, even though no attributions to “intelligent design” are made. A paper in the most recent issue of Science, for example, is titled, “Genomics and the Irreducible Nature of Eukaryote Cells.” (Followers of the debate will recognize Behe's notion of "irreducible complexity" here.) Interested readers can find out more about the article at http://tinyurl.com/pvd9o .

Ironically, Judge Jones has ruled that teaching intelligent design is illegal in U.S. classrooms...even if it turns out to be correct! :-)

Dave Miller

Oh, and P.S.: No, I'm not comfortable with Judge Jones' definition of "religion," either...

Kansas Bob

I love this ...

"huge communal relationship with God"

... church is truly a communal life ... if we are open to it.
.

Dave Miller

For those who might be interested, Judge Jones' commencement speech was picked up by William Dembski's blog, as well. Dembski, as readers may know, is one of the foremost proponents of "intelligent design." He writes:

"Who among our nation’s founding fathers believed that the essence of religion is an Enlightenment rationalism that eschews design? None of them. Even Jefferson would be on the ID side in the current debate (inalienable rights conferred on us by a creator is not the language of the French philosophes)."

Those who are interested are welcome to read more about this at http://www.uncommondescent.com/ .

Dave Miller

P.S. Bill, I like your new picture!

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