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Aug. 19-20, 2006, weekend


There's another group of people paying a price for war in Iraq -- clergy. They get kidnapped. On Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI appealed for the release of a recently kidnapped priest. He's a priest in the Eastern Rite Catholic Church, which is in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. (Just FYI: Eastern Rite churches allow married priests.)

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Speaking of religion and politics (well, I will be speaking of that below here), the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has written a commentary in which he worries about the impact conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family are having on American politics. Do you think he's, uh, right?

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You can bet that religion is going to play a large role again in the 2008 presidential race. In fact, reporters and analysts already are paying attention to it.

RudyA good example is found in the September issue of The Atlantic Monthly, which has a piece by Hanna Rosin about former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (pictured here).

Rosin attended a motivational seminar in Des Moines at which Giuliani spoke, and made some interesting observations and conclusions.

A few samples: "Americans expect their president to talk like them, especially when it comes to matters of faith. This has little to do with actually going to church; it's about the delicate art of mastering what speechwriters sometimes call 'evangelese.'

"About 13 percent of the population constitutes what we think of as the hard-core Christian religious right; beyond them are a vaster number of what could be called 'values voters.' . . . When they evaluate political leaders, they're often looking for different, more subtle cues. They might want to know that a candidate's faith was deepened by a personal experience, that his or her life can be summed up as a story of struggle, redemption and growth. Or they might just tap into a candidate's general sense of optimism and contentment -- a belief, rooted in Genesis and coloring all of life, that things happen for a reason."

Rosin suggests that Giuliani, a lifelong Catholic who, nonetheless, holds some positions in conflict with his church's teachings, is figuring out how to radiate this kind of appeal. His speech at the motivational seminar, she says, was "inflused with the kind of uplifting message that, these days, shares boundaries with preaching."

I don't know if Rosin has this right or has accurately portrayed Giuliani. I just know that between now and November 2008, we're likely to see billions of these kinds of religious analyses of candidates.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My Saturday column is about people who think Christianity has made Judaism null and void.)

Aug. 18, 2006


A federal judge has ruled that a Bible display outside a Texas courthouse is unconstitutional. It's further evidence that the church-state barrier continues to be a shifting target. But maybe having things a bit unsettled is a good thing in that it gives all sides reason to hope.

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One morning earlier this week, a water main break left our house -- indeed, I think our whole block -- without water. The problem was centered at the bottom of our neighbors' driveway two houses up.

Water2The crews arrived to assess and fix things pretty promptly, though they were delayed while waiting for the natural gas company to come out and identify the location of gas pipes so they wouldn't cut a gas line while digging up the ground.

As the waterless day wore on, I began to think again about how crucial water is to life and how religion uses and honors water in so many ways. Religious stories often focus on water -- from the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt to the baptism of Jesus.

The Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament are packed with water references and images. You find water in the Genesis creation stories, in the Psalms (see 1:3, for instance, or No. 23), in Isaiah several times (see 12:3 and 32:2), in Matthew's story (14:29) of Jesus walking on the water, in John's description of being born of water and the spirit (3:5) and on and on. Jesus even promised followers that they would never thirst because he would give them living water (John 4:10).

The Qur'an, too, talks about water as the source of life (11:7). The commentary on that verse in the Maulana Muhammad Ali version notes that "all life is produced from water, and hence the special mention of the extension of God's throne on waters along with the creation of heaven and earth, because wiethout water life would have been impossible."

It was odd that we had been left without water for much of the day because just a couple of days earlier I had been in Iowa with some of my family swimming in a lake. There was water galore. My four-year-old granddaughter especially enjoyed it, as you can see here, once she realized her life jacket would keep her afloat.

Iowa14_1And the day we got back from Iowa, my wife and I saw Oliver Stone's movie, "World Trade Center," with its image of Jesus bringing one of the trapped police officers water. (See yesterday's blog entry here.)

So I give special thanks for water, a simple gift that isn't simple at all, a purifying gift that is, in so many ways, sacramental.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My column tomorrow will be about a big, scary theological word, supersessionism. Yikes.)

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AND a P.S.:

I'll be teaching a weekend writing class Oct. 6-8 at the Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center in Bangor, Pa. Come join us. For a description of the class, click here. It's called "From Pain to Hope through Writing." In it, we'll spend some time thinking about what Christianity means by hope and then we'll go to those places of personal or collective pain in our lives and write about them, remembering what it means to have hope. We'll also share some of that writing with each other. Writing about pain can be a healing process as we write toward the light. The weekend begins with a Friday evening dinner and session and ends with lunch on Sunday. An Autumn weekend in the Poconos spent with words. What could be better? Hope to see you there.

Aug. 17, 2006


Religion gets a good word and some marching orders at the International AIDS Conference. That's encouraging for groups like the AIDS Ministry at my own church, which has been at work for nearly 17 years now.

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I had a chance the other day to see Oliver Stone's new movie, "World Trade Center," and although there is much one could say about it, I want to focus on a seemingly minor point and not go into what it was like to relive the loss of my nephew, a passenger on the first plane to hit the WTC that evil day.

Transfiguration(By the way, I thought the film was surprisingly well done, was restrained, focused on the right thing and well worth seeing. A much, much better piece of work from Stone that some of his previous nonsense.)

Rather, I want to raise the question of whether filmmakers know what to do with Jesus.

Twice in WTC, Jesus makes an appearance to one of the trapped Port Authority policemen trapped in the collapsed buildings. Both times the screen starts to glow, and from the glow Jesus (wearing white and a cross) comes slowly into view. It reminded me of the Transfiguration story.

Jesus is holding out a bottle of water to the parched police officer, who would, at this point, give anything for a drink.

Later, after the second Jesus appearance, the officer tells his also-trapped sergeant about his vision.

My question is why Stone felt it necessary to have Jesus appear all glowy and surreal. Was that, in fact, the trapped officer's true experience of him there or was it simply a way to let viewers know that the person holding the bottle of water (not a clay jar, say, or a ladle but what seemed to be for all the world a plastic water bottle) was, in fact, Jesus?

How would you portray Jesus on film? We've had lots of attempts in many pretty famous movies, including Mel Gibson's 2004 film, "The Passion of the Christ."

I guess I raise this question because I found Stone's Jesus to be a little too stereotypical, a little too simplistic. But tell me what you think.

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A P.S. from the other day's entry: In posting the story about the pope leading a seminar on evolution I did not mean to suggest that he should keep his mouth shut about science. Not at all. Rather, I was simply trying to raise the question of how and when science and religion should most effectively and appropriately address each other. If the pope keeps silent on science, he's abandoning part of his responsibility.

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

PS: Baptist Press has put together an interesting piece on the religious makeup of Lebanon. It's more complicated than just Christian and Muslim.

Aug. 16, 2006


A well-known opera singer of our era, Luciano Pavarotti, says he's getting God's help in recovering from cancer. I'm curious: What role do you think God plays in healing disease?

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The first time I was asked to speak to an adult education gathering at a congregation in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America denomination some years ago, a woman asked me this question:

Elca_1"Aren't you Presbyterians the ones who think you're right and everyone else is wrong?"

It sort of startled me. (I was right to be started, of course, and she was wrong.)

Today the ELCA and the Presbyterian Church (USA) are in full communion with one another, meaning they can share ministers, mission, worship and sacraments. There still are differences between them in polity and approach on some matters, but, in effect, we're partners. I hope the woman who asked me that odd question is aware of this.

The Christian ecumenical movement is about 100 years old in its modern form, but it's been a long, long, slow process to get anywhere. And when there is progress on bringing denominations into some kind of cooperation or partnership, often word of that doesn't get to the people in the pews.

The ELCA, to its credit, now is trying to do something about that. It has created resources for its local churches to use to help members know more about the denominations in which the ELCA now shares full communion relationships. These include worship bulletin inserts that describe each of the five full communion ELCA partners -- The Moravian Church, the Episcopal Church, the PCUSA, the Reformed Church in America and the United Church of Christ. It also has one "interim Eucharistic agreement" -- with the United Methodist Church.

When we isolate ourselves, we grow in ignorance and, usually, prejudice. The ELCA has done a good thing here, and I hope other faith communities will take note and follow -- whether they're in full communion or not.

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

Today's religious holiday: Krishna Janmashtami (Hindu)

Aug. 15, 2006


The Israel-Hezbollah war and the current fragile cease-fire has raised this question: What, if any, is the relationship between Hezbollah and al-Qaida, beyond the fact that they both represent a radical approach to Islam -- an approach many Muslims would say is not Islam at all? The Council on Foreign Relations has put together some information to try to answer that question. It's pretty detailed. Tell me what you learn there or what you think the CFR got wrong. And click here for an interesting commentary on Hezbollah's claim that it has won a victory over Israel. Also: Saudi Arabia's Cabinet says it's wrong to link Islam with terrorism and facism.

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Some days, apparently, simply are more important than other days. Today is one.

Wdtnehru_1Well, no, I'm not talking about what would have been my parents' 69th wedding anniversary, were they still alive, though they made it just past 54 years together before Dad died. And that's quite an accomplishment.

I'm talking more about the fact that this is India's Independence Day (No. 59); that it's the 910th anniversary of the date on which the armies of the First Crusade set out from Europe to free Jerusalem; that it's the date on which the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) was founded in 1534; that it's the date on which the first Christian missionaries reached Japan in 1549, and that it's the date on which the second assembly of the World Council of Churches gathered in 1954 in Evanston, Ill.

Speaking of that WCC conference and my mother (weren't we?), I still remember that she drove us kids into Evanston (from our hometown in Woodstock, Ill., some 40-plus miles away) to try to attend some of the sessions, but, as I recall, her efforts failed. Or we ran out of time. Or something. Hey, I was nine years old. What do you expect me to remember?

Of all of those events that occurred on this date, the one besides my folks' anniversary that I think about most is India's independence. And that, of course, is because I lived in India for two years when I was a boy. In fact, we arrived in the eighth year of independence in early 1956, and my father once heard Prime Minister Nehru (the picture here today shows me and my sister Mary talking to Nehru, with American Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker in the background) talk about how India had no interest in becoming a satellite of the Soviet Union (quite a Western concern then) because, after all, India had just gotten rid of the British colonialists.

I  spent time in India as a boy playing with other children who were Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jain and who knows what else. And it taught me that it's possible to respect people of different religious beliefs. That is not an argument for syncretism or Rodney Kingism. But it is an argument for harmony and survival.

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

Today's religious holidays: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Catholic Christian); Dormition of the Theotokos (Orthodox Christian); Sri Krishan Jayanti (Hindu)

Aug. 14, 2006


Various Muslims from around the world have told the Arab News that President Bush should not have used the term "Islamic facists" after the arrest on terrorism charges of the men in England. Do you agree?

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The Dalai Lama (pictured here) will be in Colorado next month to bless a large Buddhist site.

Dalai_lamaIn fact, it's billed as the largest Buddhist monument in the United States. It's at the Shambhala Mountain Center in the Rocky Mountains.

The Dalai Lama travels a lot, and seems to be in the U.S. frequently. Which, I suppose, is what happens when you are exiled from your native land, Tibet. (The link in the first sentence of the paragraph, by the way, connects you to the Tibet government in exile.) Almost the first place the Dalai Lama came to after he escaped Tibet in the late 1950s was to Landour-Mussoorie, the mountain station in northern India where I attended Woodstock School for a time in 1956.

The Dalai Lama got there after I'd left, however. Darn.

Buddhism, it turns out, has been, in recent years, the fastest-growing major religion in the U.S. And it's hard to imagine a more engaging representative of Buddhism than this gentle man.

Well, I won't be going to Colorado for his visit (I've got relatives in town that weekend) but I'll try to stay tuned to see if he says anything interesting, intriguing or contentious while he's there.

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

Aug. 12-13, 2006, weekend


Speaking of science, as the main entry in this weekend's blog does, the pope plans to lead a conference on evolution soon. In turn, will a scientist get to lead a seminar on theology? Hmmmm.

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In Indiana, you'll simply have to look at a state-approved licence plate to tell. Is this a good idea?

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It's pretty clear by now that the U.S. Senate seat race in Missouri will be among the most interesting and important in the nation this fall. It will be Claire McCaskill, a Democrat and current state auditor, against Sen. Jim Talent, the Republican incumbent.

Stem_1And it's also clear that one of the major issues in the race will be stem cells (one of which is pictured here). McCaskill has expressed support for a state constitutional amendment, which will be voted on in November. It would allow continued and expanded research using early, or embryonic, stem cells. Talent opposes the amendment, though the way he has approached the issue hasn't pleased strict conservatives who view research using early stem cells as immoral.

But before this campaign heats up -- in Missouri and in the nation as the race gets national attention -- we all have another chance to educate ourselves about this complex issue. It's one that calls on all of us to understand our own moral values and how they should play into public policy.

So, again, I want to give you some resources to start learning about all of this, if you haven't already. These resources also will be a good refresher course if you think you know everything. I'm trying to give you a variety of points of view here, though you may already know that I personally favor continuing to use early stem cells in research. I'd also like to see a greater emphasis put on the use of adult stem cells or stem cells drawn from such non-controversial sources as placentas.

I'll be repeating some of the information I gave you in my Aug. 2 blog, along with some new sources:

First, here's a white paper produced by some stem cell research advocates. It's from the Center for Inquiry, a nonprofit educational advocacy group. You can learn more about the group at the Web site I've linked you to.

For an opposite point of view, click here to read a statement about President Bush's recent veto of stem cell enhancement legislation from the Pro-Life Activities department of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. And click here for that group's extensive material on stem cell research from a Catholic perspective.

Click here for a link to the main Missouri group pushing the pro-stem cell ballot initiative this fall, the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures.

And click here for a link to Missouri Right to Life, which vehemently opposes the stem cell ballot measure.

If you want simply basic scientific information about stem cells, one good place to look for it is this site from the National Institutes of Health. Here's another site, which has basics on stem cells from a Swarthmore professor who confesses he disagrees with the president on some aspects of this issue. And click here for a primer on stem cells from the Stanford Medicine Magazine.

Finally, here's an interesting commentary about stem cells from Michael Kinsey of Slate, along with a rebuttal from

Don't imagine for a minute that even if you read all the things I've given you here, you'll know it all. But each of us must know enough to know when McCaskill and Talent are telling the truth about this matter and when they're trying to fool us in this race. And if you're not from Missouri, this issue will affect you in other ways and you'll want to be as prepared as we Show-Me Staters need to be.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (By the way, my Saturday column this weekend is about why the Israel-Hezbollah war is driving me crazy.)

AND a P.S.:

I'll be teaching a weekend writing class Oct. 6-8 at the Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center in Bangor, Pa. Come join us. For a description of the class, click here. It's called "From Pain to Hope through Writing." In it, we'll spend some time thinking about what Christianity means by hope and then we'll go to those places of personal or collective pain in our lives and write about them, remembering what it means to have hope. We'll also share some of that writing with each other. Writing about pain can be a healing process as we write toward the light. The weekend begins with a Friday evening dinner and session and ends with lunch on Sunday. An Autumn weekend in the Poconos spent with words. What could be better? Hope to see you there.

Aug. 11, 2006


In view of the thwarted terrorist plot coming from the United Kingdom this week, I thought you might find it helpful to be connected to some sources on the way Muslims are becoming integrated (or failing to become integrated) into British life. Understand that there was no immediate confirmation of the religion or ethnicity of those arrested or of their motives. But officials did suggest they had ties of some kind of Pakistan, a predominantly Islamic nation, and others suggested the plot had the hallmarks of al-Qaida, which, of course, has misused Islam as a cover. Click here for an opinion piece suggesting British Muslims are not radicals or separatists. Before the Thursday news about the airline plot, a police official called for an investigation into the radicalization of British Muslims. British Muslims were reported feeling very edgy after news broke Thursday about the plot. Some Muslim leaders in Britain were reported to be shocked at the scale of the terrorism said to have been planned and grateful that police stopped it. For a dated (with recent comments), but quite thorough, background report, click here for the Guardian's 2002 series on Muslims in Britain. And for an online British Muslim newspaper, click here. Finally, click here for the Web site of the Muslim Council of Britain. By the way, an American Muslim group has expressed dismay at language President Bush used to describe those arrested in Britain.

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It happens among commenters on this blog just as it happens in many other places -- differences of opinion rooted in the different ways we read holy writ.

SacredtextsThe fancy name for describing the ways in which one reads and studies scripture -- the -ology, or science, of it, if you will -- is hermeneutics. One can read scripture as a complete literalist, at one end of the scale, or read it as if it were merely literature, at the other end. In between are all kinds of shades.

The question of authority is one that must be considered with all of this, too. Am I reading something that is binding on me in all ways or, rather, something that was written to guide people thousands of years ago but must be placed in today's context to have any real meaning?

These questions are pretty much in play no matter whether one is reading the Bible, the Qur'an or any other sacred texts, though, of course, there are differences. For instance, Muslims believe the Qur'an was dictated to the Prophet Muhammad and that an exact copy exists in heaven. So there would seem to be less room for interpretive techniques in Islam. Nonetheless, there are different schools of thought about the Qur'an within Islam and they wind up with different approaches to understanding the book.

I think it's vital that people who make arguments from scripture about any subject be clear in their own mind how they read and understand scripture and be clear in explaining that to others. Arguments between extreme literalists and extreme literaturists (I just made that word up) tend to be like ships passing far apart in a very dark night.

I am a Christian but would not describe myself as a literalist when it comes to reading scripture. Rather, I affirm the vow I took when I became first a deacon and later an elder in my church: "Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God's Word to you?" To which I replied, "I do."

I also have found Donald G. Bloesch, a former seminary teacher and author, to be helpful to my understanding in this regard. His book, Essentials of Evangelical Theology, says, in part, this:

"(John) Calvin, too, upheld biblical infallibility and inerrancy without falling into the delusion that this means that everything that the Bible says must be taken at face value. . .

"Many latter day evangelical Christians have felt the need to extend the meaning of inerrancy to cover purely historical and scientific matters, even where the treatment of these in the Bible does not bear upon the message of faith. It is no longer sufficient to declare that Scripture is the infallible standard for faith and practice: it is now regarded as totally inerrant. A view of error is entertained that demands literal, exact, mathematical precisions, something the Bible cannot provide. . .

"Such persons mistakenly believe that this approach insures the canons of orthodoxy whereas in reality it is a suicidal position that rests the case for Christianity on the shifting sands of scientific and historical research. The discovery of one discrepancy in Scripture can then discredit the entire Christian witness."

As for the idea of inerrancy, Bloesch says, it's the message of faith in the Bible that is inerrant, not the precise words: ". . .we must not identify the precision of journalistic reporting with the trustworthiness of the Gospel records."

And he adds this: "The simplest believer who comes to the Bible emptied of his own understanding and truly seeking the will of God for his life will discover what the Bible is really saying more quickly than an exegete trained in the latest biblical scholarship who nevertheless tenaciously clings to his own preconceptions."

I also have learned from a book called Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, by Daniel L. Migliore, who writes this: ". . .a church with an infallible teaching office or an infallible Bible no longer allows Scripture to work as liberating word in its own way."

And this: "Christians do not believe in the Bible; they believe in the living God attested by the Bible. . . The Bible is the Word of God only in a derivative sense. The living Word of God is Jesus Christ, and it is with him that we are brought into relationship by the witness of Scripture."

And this: ". . .the Bible is faithfully interpreted when it is read as a source of freedom in Christ to overcome every bondage, including the use of the Bible itself as a weapon of oppression."

And my, oh, my, how often I've seen the Bible used that way.

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

Aug. 10, 2006


Pastor John Hagee of Texas is making a name for himself among Christian evangelicals and others by being staunchly pro-Israel and a leading spokesman for Christian Zionism. Here's a story from an Australian source about Hagee. (Hagee, by the way, is scheduled to speak at First Family Church in Overland Park, Kan., on Sept. 6.) Click here for a Christion Zionist Web site, and click here for a Web site of a group that opposes Christian Zionism and describes it as a distortion of the biblical witness.

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From time to time one hears about the "Angel of Death," especially in certain passages of the Hebrew Scriptures. (The link here will take you to some information from the Jewish Heritage Online Magazine.)

DeathIt's also a name applied to Josef Mengele, the evil Nazi doctor.

I've never given a lot of thought to there being an actual Angel of Death. I suppose that's because death seems so certain and powerful -- though, in Christian theology, ultimately defeated -- that I'm not sure why it needs an angel to do its work.

But I ran across a wonderfully entertaining description of the angel recently when I finally had a chance to read the last novel Stanley Elkin ever wrote. Elkin, one of my favorite authors, died in 1995. He used to teach English at Washington University in St. Louis, and I know of no one who can match his ability to create richly layered text. He's simply amazing. He was Jewish and his work often reflects Jewish culture.

His last book, Mrs. Ted Bliss, is about an elderly Jewish widow living in Miami. Well past the halfway point in the book, Elkin describes the scene in the waiting room of the hospital where Dorothy Bliss's son Marvin is dying of leukemia. A rabbi chaplain, Solon Beinfeld, urged her not to say her son's name out loud. Rather, he said, she should use his Hebrew name, Moishe Schmuel, so as to fool the Angel of Death.

Elkin writes: "When a person is supposed to die, (Beinfeld) told her, God sends out the Angel of Death to look for the person. Now the Angel of Death is the stupidest of all the angels, and sometimes, not always, he can be fooled.

"Doctors often fool the angel with certain operations, or at times with special medicines. He's a stupid angel, yes, but not a complete idiot. He's been around the block and he's picked up a thing or two. Only the thing of it is that of all God's angels he's not only the stupidest but the busiest. He hasn't got time to hang around trying to figure out how to undo all that the doctors have done for sick people with their operations and special medicine. Which is why certain patients go -- swoosh -- just like that, and others, like Moishe, linger on for a year or more.

"All he had to go on, Beinfeld told her, was a list of names. In certain respects he wasn't all that much different from a postman who has to match up the name of the addressee with the name on the mailbox."

In Mrs. Bliss's son's room, the rabbi then prays, using Marvin's Hebrew names. Mrs. Bliss later relays the story to her grandson, the son of Marvin:

" 'Excuse me, rabbi,' your grandfather said.

" 'Yes?'

" 'That prayer you prayed.'

" 'Yes?'

" 'Didn't you pray it to God?'

" 'To God, yes. To God.'

" 'And this Angel of Death, ain't he God's angel?'

" 'Of course, God's angel. So?'

" 'So,' said Ted Bliss, 'don't the left hand know what the right hand is doing?'"

How would you have answered him?

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

AND a P.S.:

I'll be teaching a weekend writing class Oct. 6-8 at the Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center in Bangor, Pa. Come join us. For a description of the class, click here. It's called "From Pain to Hope through Writing." In it, we'll spend some time thinking about what Christianity means by hope and then we'll go to those places of personal or collective pain in our lives and write about them, remembering what it means to have hope. We'll also share some of that writing with each other. Writing about pain can be a healing process as we write toward the light. The weekend begins with a Friday evening dinner and session and ends with lunch on Sunday. An Autumn weekend in the Poconos spent with words. What could be better? Hope to see you there.

Aug. 9, 2006


We now learn that Hitler rewrote (or had rewritten) the Bible to remove the Jews from it and to add two commandments. The Nazi leader, who died still a member of the Roman Catholic Church, apparently distributed copies to many churches in Germany, though most were destroyed. The story, reported by the foreign editor of The Mirror in the United Kingdom, leaves many unanswered questions, including why the world hasn't known about this for decades. At any rate, if the story is accurate, it's more evidence that even people who violate the very heart of religion understand that it has great power and (mis)use it when they need to.

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When I was on the editorial page of The Kansas City Star, I used to love to write columns about developments in science -- especially, believe it or not, cosmology and subatomic physics. Which is to say, the big end and little end of scientific research.

TriangulumI'd mostly do it in a humorous way because I found that it's pretty difficult to get non-scientists interested in String Theory or the Hubble Constant if you treat it as if you were reading a eulogy at a funeral.

Since I moved over to the Faith section and focus my column on religious matters, it's harder to find the time and opportunity to follow scientific developments. And it takes more work to tie them to faith matters.

But recent science news about the cosmos seems to fit right in. The universe, it turns out, may be 15 percent bigger and 15 percent older than anyone thought. That's the conclusion of an Ohio State University astronomer and his colleagues, based on recent measurements they've made.

Fine, you say. But what does that have to do with faith matters? Well, I see it as one more bit of evidence that there is a huge amount about the creation that we don't understand or even know. For sure we know more than people did hundreds and thousands of years ago, when no one had heard of an atom, to say nothing of the Theory of General Relativity.

But if we're still as much as 15 percent off (maybe more) in our estimates of how big and how old the universe is, what do we really know for sure? And what does what we know have to say, if anything, about the creator of the universe?

The OSU astronomers, by the way, came to their conclusions when they worked out a more precise way of measuring intergalatic distances. I could explain it all to you, but your head would explode. If you're willing to risk that, click here for an OSU press release describing the research.

When we consider the size and age of the universe (unless you're a creationist and you believe the whole shebang is about 10,000 years old), I think it should humble us. It should leave us in awe. And what is worship if not the expression of awe?

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

Today's religious holiday: Raksha Bandhan (Hindu)