COMING INTO THY COURTS
Members of some churches in Kentucky are spending time as volunteers in courts of law to try to help cut down on drug use and trafficking in their area. Isn't this exactly the kind of life-affirming action that faith communities should engage in? Or do you think that in this case they're going beyond what's appropriate?
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RELIGION AND NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES
I cannot recall having a near-death experience. Well, unless you count the time when I was a teen-ager and my parents came home before we had cleaned up from an unauthorized party.
But NDEs, as they are called, have become the source of much conjecture and attention. Even Newsweek devoted part of the current (July 23) issue to the subject.
Caution, however, is the right theological stance to take, I think, when pondering NDEs. In that, I pretty much agree with this online Newsweek commentary from Rabbi Marc Gellman.
Science, Gellman writes, is about how we are here. Religion, by contrast, is about why we are here. Although there are areas of mutual interest for the two fields, it's finally true that there are some questions science can't answer and there are different questions religion can't answer.
Still, it's fascinating to hear about what people report about their NDEs. And I think we would do well to listen to these stories and to try to make sense of them in the context of the broad range of human experience. There might be even something theologically significant that NDEs can help us learn.
But Gellman is right to suggest that we not fall into the trap of thinking that science can figure out all of the death questions that religion wrestles with. Religion should not get seduced by science, nor should science imagine that it has ultimate religious answers.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My column tomorrow is about how religion and politics should interact, based on a new book by a Kansas City native.)