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Nazi 'Deadly medicine': 2-27/28-10

The abominable medical work carried out against the mentally and physically disabled under the auspices and direction of Hitler's Nazi regime was simply -- indeed, literally -- breathtaking. It was a precursor to the genocide we know as the Holocaust.


And now you can get an up-close sense of what all that was about at an upcoming exhibit in Kansas City called "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race." (Scroll down a bit after you click on that link.)

The exhibit runs March 16 through June 10 at the National Archives facility at 400 West Pershing Road, near Union Station. It is being presented by the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education with help from the Archives and the Center for Practical Bioethics.

The exhibit was organized by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. To view that museum's excellent Web site about the Deadly Medicine exhibition, click here. (And be prepared to spend some time surfing around and preparing yourself to see the Kansas City exhibit.)

The most distressing part of this story to me is the way Hitler's government worked with medical professionals who, on ethical grounds, should have refused to have anything to do with the idea of creating an "Aryan master race." Yes, times were different then and there wasn't as much genetic knowledge, but providers of medical services should have known they were crossing all kinds of clear ethical boundaries. And yet they did it, sometimes gladly.

There are countless aspects of the Holocaust that must be covered in any comprehensive study of what happened and how it happened at all. My co-author, Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn, and I feel good about being able to contribute a little bit in our new book to the story of non-Jews who helped to save Jews: They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust. But there are many other pieces of the Holocaust puzzle that must come together to achieve anything like a full view.

The "Deadly Medicine" exhibit will help to fill in some of early pieces of that picture, and I hope you will make an effort to see it while it's in Kansas City. The exhibit is free and will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. You may get more information by calling 816-268-8000. The archives facility here houses more than 50,000 cubit feet of historical records dating from 1820 onward.

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In a laudable attempt to understand a wide range of religious commitment -- from staunchly faithful to unbelievers -- the Obama administration has reached out to and met Friday with a group of nonbelievers. Click here for a story written before the meeting. And for a not terribly informative story written after the meeting, click here. Interfaith, or interreligious, dialogue is not complete if people who call themselves atheists, secular humanists, agnostics, freethinkers or some similar label aren't included. I'm glad this administration knows that.

Religion news aplenty: 2-26-10

Interesting stuff has been piling up on my desk, so today I'll unload an in-basketful of items for you to ponder. And I suggest you give yourself some time to read the first longish piece if you want to get a much better understanding of the challenges facing Islam and Europe as they seek to find a way of living together in harmony.


* The article is about Tariq Ramadan (pictured here), an innovative Islamic scholar whom the Bush administration elected to prevent from coming to America because of his alleged radical ties. The Obama administration has lifted that ban, and Ramadan -- “I am Swiss by nationality, Egyptian by memory, Muslim by religion, European by culture, (and) universalist by principle,” he says -- has written a new book in which he seeks to explain his beliefs. I think it will be important to try to understand the vision of Islam that Ramadan is offering (though not uncritically) because I think it points to a way forward that can make sense.

* Next, I want you to know about an intriguing new report out about how the U.S. government should take religion into account as it conducts foreign policy. The report is sponsored by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and was written by a task force chaired by R. Scott Appleby, the John M. Regan Director of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and professor of history, and Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. In summary, it concludes that "the United States government will not only need to develop a far greater understanding of religion’s role in politics and society around the globe — including a detailed knowledge of religious communities, leaders, and trends—but it must move beyond traditional state-to-state relations to develop effective policies for engaging religious communities within and across nations." This looks like the kind of report that everyone in the State Department and in Congress should read carefully. Religion is a power and force in the world that is not going to disappear, and we need to know how to incorporate its reality into our global thinking.

* An annual conference on the Holocaust and Christian churches will take place early next month at St. Joseph's University in Phiadelphia. The conference is designed to teach and remember lessons of the Holocaust while examining the failure of Christianity to confront Nazi antisemitism and “the Final Solution.” The conference was founded by the late Franklin H. Littell, a pioneer in Holocaust studies. I interviewed Littell the year after the fatal Branch Davidian fire outside Waco, Texas, for his thoughts on the ways in which our government agencies then failed to respect religious freedom. He was the author of The Crucifixion of the Jews: The Failure of Christians to Understand the Jewish Experience. In my experience, many American Christians are woefully ignorant of the long history of anti-Judaism in the history of the religion and what that mean for creating an atmosphere in which the Holocaust could happen. For my longish essay on that subject, look under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page.

* The Huffington Post has created a new section called HuffPost Religion. To read the announcement about it, click here. See what you think.

* People in Tennessee charged with the death of their 7-year-old child have said they were just following the child-rearing advice of "No Greater Joy" ministry. If this is the parents not understanding that advice and running amok, that's one thing. If, however, the ministry is leading people into this kind of behavior, that's another, and, if the latter, I hope authorities throw the book at ministry leaders.

* I don't yet know quite what to make of this, but a prominent Jewish group again has expressed distress over something that's happening in my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA). The last time something like this happened -- when the church's national governing body voted to consider disinvesting from some companies that do business in Israel -- I wound up criticizing the PCUSA for the way it was handled. This time I don't yet know enough to have an informed opinion, but I wanted to alert you to the controversy. Officials from the Simon Wiesenthal Center have criticized an upcoming report from a special PCUSA committee that is looking at what positions to take in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Wiesenthal center declared that adoption of a document known as the Kairos Palestine Document -- which it called "poisonous" -- "will be nothing short of a declaration of war on Israel and her supporters.” Here is an early February story from the PCUSA's news service describing the workings of this special committee and its upcoming report. For the story on all this from The Presbyterian Outlook, an independent publication that covers the PCUSA (and for which I write a monthly column), click here. Although I am withholding my opinion about all of this, I do know that it's easy to walk into the middle of this conflict and stir up bad blood needlessly. I also know that not all criticism of Israeli policy is antisemitic. And that not all sympathy for the Palestinians is clear-headed. But maybe in this case everyone is wrong. We'll see. To read the Kairos Palestine Document, click here.

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Ah, yes. Let's learn our theology from beauty queens. "Miss Beverly Hills" now says the Bible hates homosexuality. If you'd prefer a reasoned, exegetical and therefore different approach to this subject, see the text of my speech on this under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page.

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P.S.: I'll be leading two retreat seminars this year, one at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico in July and one at Kirkridge Retreat Center in Pennsylvania in early November. I'd love to have you join in. For details, click on the link to the "Where's Bill speaking?" page on the right side of this page.

Clergy Beyond Borders: 2-25-10

In yesteday's post I mentioned getting to hear Imam Yahya Hendi (pictured here), who serves as a Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University.


While I was at the event at which Hendi spoke, I also learned of a new organization that he's heading up as president -- one I'd like you to know about because I support its goals. It's called Clergy Beyond Borders, and its hope is to get Muslim, Christian and Jewish clergy working together in various ways.

I invite you to explore the new group's Web site to see what it's up to, but here, from that Web site, is a brief outline of the organization's mission:

"Empower religious leaders to explore and utilize the resources of their diverse religious traditions in the advancement of world peace.

"Clergy Beyond Borders

  • Incorporates classical spiritual texts, traditions,and rituals

  • Utilizes contemporary conflict resolution disciplines

  • Respects and embodies religious pluralism

  • Works domestically and internationally"

As Hendi told those of us who heard him speak in Kansas City this week, his goal is not to destroy walls between people of different religious traditions but, rather, to transform those walls into tables, where people can join together for conversation and spiritual sustenance.

My hope is that some clergy from the Kansas City area will join up and support the peacemaking goals of Clergy Beyond Borders.

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Various religions and religious leaders are voicing opinions about the move by airport security personnel to use body scanners. The pope is turning thumbs down on the idea and some Muslim leaders suggest adherents ask for a pat-down instead of going through the scanner. Here's one more interesting example of how the theology drawn from sacred texts can guide thinking today even if scripture written centuries and centuries ago could not possibly have anticipated needing to say something about body scanners at airports.

Interfaith challenges: 2-24-10

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a persistent advocate of interfaith, or inter-religious, dialogue and understanding.

It's my belief that the call of the 21st Century for Americans is to learn to live together in harmony despite being adherents of many different religious traditions. My hope is that we can be a model for a world often ripped apart by sectarian strife.

Someone who shares my vision is Rabbi Alan L. Cohen, director of interreligious affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Bureau/American Jewish Committee of Kansas City. In the past year or two, he has created several seminars for area clergy to learn how to help their congregations become engaged across religious lines.

On Monday, I attended another of these sessions. It was held at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Kansas City, and it reaffirmed me in my belief that interreligious understanding is crucial but also in my conviction that it's not easy.

Alan had brought together three speakers to help us think through the need for -- and implications of -- interfaith understanding, and I found each of them helpful: Molly T. Marshall, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kan.; Emily D. Soloff, an American Jewish Committee staff member from Chicago; Imam Yahya Hendi of Georgetown University, and Father Dennis D. McManus, formerly of Georgetown but now on the staff of the archbishop in New York City. (In the photo above, left to right, are McManus, Hendi, Cohen, Soloff and Marshall.)

In his introduction to the morning event, Dennis gave a good picture of why all this is important and of what each speaker would bring to the table. if you want to hear that good summary, click on this link (it runs just under 10 minutes):

Download McManus-1

And if you want to hear just a brief excerpt from what Imam Hendi had to say about all of us being passengers on the same ship of life and how the clergy are the hope of the interfaith movement, click on this link (it runs about 4.5 minutes):

Download Hendi-1

One small thing that I understood better as a result of the morning was the idea that Muslims consider Abraham, Jesus and others Muslims even though they lived before the Prophet Muhammad introduced Islam to the world.

That's because, Hendi said, that Muslims believe that "you become a Muslim when you submit yourself to the will of the Lord." So whoever does that is a Muslim, in the Islamic view. I'd never heard it explained in quite that way before.

The true struggle in interreligious understanding is to be able to maintain a deep commitment to one's own tradition while respecting the traditions of others -- and even learning from them. Often people are so fearful of other paths that they won't engage the followers of them in conversation at all. And often people are so convinced that they have all the truth and all the light that they think talking to people of other beliefs amounts to dancing with the devil.

But in my experience people who engage in interfaith work become even more committed to -- and understanding of -- their own tradition.

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Are young people shunning religious belief or, rather, the institutions that promote such belief? This good analysis of a recent study on the subject suggests it's much more the latter. And I suspect that's the right way to view things. To read the full report on "Religion Among the Millennials" by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, click here.

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P.S.: My latest Presbyterian Outlook column now is online. To read it, click here. To read previous Outlook columns, look under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page.

A theology of community: 2-23-10

For Lent this year, a friend who is an Episcopal priest is leading a seminar series called "Real World Reconciliation." My wife and I came to the first session and hope to get to the others, too.


I want to share with you two notions that I've been thinking about since that first gathering this past Sunday.

One is the idea of "ubuntu theology." It's the theology adopted by South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and it emphasizes community over individuality. The link I've given you in this paragraph is a review of a book by Michael Battle called Reconciliation: The Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu, and it will give you a pretty good sense of how this theology approaches life.

In material our priest friend handed out to people attending these session, she said that ubuntu refers to people who are affirming of others, who aren't threatened by the success of others, whose true sense of themselves comes from knowing that they belong to a greater whole and who know that they are deminished when any person is humiliated, diminished, tortured or oppressed.

As she pointed out, in the Christian tradition, this description comes very close to describing people who are members of the body of Christ, which is the church.

The idea of humans being the body of Christ on Earth is quite counter-cultural in that it places a high emphasis -- as does ubuntu -- on the well-being of the community. Yes, it values individuals for sure, but it doesn't become mindlessly individualistic as though somehow community doesn't matter.

I'd love to sit in on classes on various churches when this idea of the body of Christ versus American culture is discussed. I'm betting lots of Christians don't understand the difference. But maybe I'm wrong.

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A legislator in Virginia says that when women have abortions, God punishes them by giving them later children with disabilities. Now do you see why it's so hard to write comedy? It's because it's almost impossible to be funnier and more bizarre than stuff people actually do and say.

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P.S.: There's more progress to report about gays and lesbians in Christian ministry. Nearly 10 years ago a small Lutheran congregation in North Kansas City, Mo., called Donna Simon as pastor. Before long, that resulted in the regional bishop putting the congregation under censure and admonition because Donna was in a same-sex committed relationship and that was a no-no under church rules then in effect. But as of this yesterday, that censure has been removed and the church has been welcomed back into full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America -- not because Donna has changed her sexual orientation or left the post of pastor there but because the denomination has changed its stance on whether gays and lesbians can be ordained to ministry. I've written about Donna before and know that she has a wonderful pastoral heart, so I'm really pleased that her denomination is moving in what I consider to be the right direction on this.

An African-American lectionary: 2-22-10

People who understand African-American history (and Black History Month is exactly the right time to pay attention to this) know that the historically black church has in many ways been the glue that has held together the black community.

Now there's a new liturgical tool to help pastors of such churches as they wrestle with the weekly biblical texts from which they preach.

It's called the African-American Lectionary, and is designed to help preachers in historically African-American congregations understand "what it has historically taken for the African American community to strive and thrive in challenging situations," says Rev. Martha Simmons, creator and director of the lectionary.

A lectionary is a collection of biblical texts that run in yearly cycles. For instance, in the Revised Common Lectionary used by many Mainline churches, there are three-year cycles that take the preacher through four texts each Sunday -- one from the Hebrew Scriptures, one from the Psalms, one from one of the gospels and one from another New Testament book. The preacher generally picks two of them to use as the basis of the sermon.

The lectionary has its drawbacks, but in some ways it is designed to prevent preachers from relying  solely on their favorite biblical texts. It requires them to exegete passages they might not otherwise tackle.

This cyclical scriptural reading is not unique to Christianity. For instance, in Judaism there's even an annual holiday, "Simchat Torah," which marks the end of one year's cycle of reading and the beginning of the next. As Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn, the co-author of my new book, They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust, writes in his book, Accessible Judaism: A Concise Guide, Simchat Torah "is in many ways the most joyous celebration of the year. . .The services are characterized by dancing and singing with the Torah and playful pranks and jokes are acceptable parts of the celebration."

At any rate, the new African-American Lectionary site also provides commentaries that are "designed to address the liturgical moments of significance to most African American Christians."

In all, it's an intriguing idea, though I'd issue the caution that such tools, if misused, can further divide the church at a time when its divisions already are shameful. But instead of that I hope it's used as a way to appreciate and celebrate a particular heritage.

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I mentioned here the other day that I was intrigued by Tiger Woods' mention of his need to return to Buddhism in his mea culpa speech. This piece from MSNBC is one of the few I've seen since then that has taken that part of Woods' remarks seriously and has helped non-Buddhists understand that tradition in more depth.

Rescuing Islam's heart: 2-20/21-10

As I have been writing about Islam since 9/11, I have gone through many of the same emotions, hopes and fears that all Americans have.


One of the people who has guided my thinking through much of this time has been Fareed Zakaria (pictured below on the right), the wonderful writer/editor at Newsweek, whose weekly news show on CNN asks all the right questions and seeks answers from people who should know.

Fareed's cover piece in the current issue of Newsweek is another example of his insight. He suggests to us that the Osama bin Laden camp of extremist Islam already has lost the struggle for the heart and soul of the religion and that our fight against terrorism must of necessity take into account such changes in the world in the past few years -- changes for the better.

Fareed is a bit more optimistic than I am about all of this -- but for sure he's more realistic than the editors who wrote this cover headline: "How bin Laden Lost the Clash of Civilizations." That oversold the story inside by plenty.


Still, I think Fareed is right that the trends are heading in the right direction and that the politicians who continue to seek advantage by scaring the American people to death need to stop.

Well, it's not just the politicians. It's also some of the radio talk show fools who continue to demonize Islam and to try to get Americans to believe that all Muslims in this country are dangerous and should be isolated. What Wild West cowboys used to say of Indians, these rabble rousers now think (if not say) of Muslims -- the only good one is a dead one.

When I returned from a visit to Saudi Arabia in 2002 and tried to suggest to some people that there are real reformers in the land and that one of them was Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah, I was met with great skepticism -- and that was understandable considering the entangled relationship the House of Saud historically has had with religious radicals there.

But I have continued to see genuine efforts at reform and openness in Saudi Arabia, though at a frustratingly low speed. So I was glad to see Fareed Zakaria acknowledge as much in his Newsweek cover piece. Indeed, he referred there to King Abdullah as "a man of wisdom and moderation." And although the problems in the Middle East and in Saudi Arabia itself are far from solved, I will be shocked if Saudi Arabia produces terrorists at anything like the rate at which it produced them in the 1990s and early 2000s -- terrorists who included 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9/11.

Fareed is proving himself to be a journalist of wisdom and moderation, and I wish people would start paying more attention to him and to other voices of reason and balance than they do to politicians and broadcasters who exploit hot-button issues for political or commercial gain.

(By the way, President Obama recently named a special envoy to Muslim nations. It was the right thing to do even if it gave the talk show hosts, bloggers and others more excuses for trying to scare us.)

(The photo of Fareed Zakaria here today is by Sigrid Estrada.)

* * *


I was intrigued by how much of a role religion played in the statement of apology Tiger Woods issued Friday. Tiger said he had been raised a Buddhist by his mother but had drifted away from its approach to life. Now, he said, he intends to get back to that. One primary tenet of Buddhism is that life involves suffering but by ridding ourselves of selfish desires, such suffering can be mitigated. Clearly Tiger has been giving in to selfish desires in recent years. So I wish him well -- but even more, I wish his wife and children well. For some helpful additional information on Buddhism -- relative to Tiger as well as the Dalai Lama -- click here. It will get you to a resource page from the Religion Newswriters Association.

An early Bible translator: 2-19-10

As I like to do from time to time, today I'm going to move us back in time to consider some history in the field of religion.


For it was on this date in 1568 (by most but not all accounts) that Miles Coverdale (depicted here) died. (Sometimes his first name is given as Myles.)

Miles who?

He was the translator and publisher of the first complete Bible to be printed in English. That happened in 1535, as the Protestant Reformation was roaring ahead and as the newly founded (1534) Church of England was finding its sea legs.

Why does any of this matter? Well, it says to me that Coverdale understood the importance to faith of people being able to read scripture in their native language. Since Coverdale's time there has been an explosion (especially in the last 60 years) of translations of the Bible into many languages, but especially English.

I have a collection of different translations, and although it amounts to quite a few books it comes nowhere close to being an exhaustive gathering of all the English versions.

Which brings up another point about the Bible and how to read and study it. It is inevitable that every translator or translation team makes certain assumptions and choices about how to render the original Greek and Hebrew words of the Bible (I'm speaking here of the Christian Bible, but the same is true of the Hebrew Scriptures) into English. And that process inevitably reflects to theological leanings of the translators. Thus, people who know Bibles understand that the New International Version is favored by people who call themselves evangelical while the New Revised Standard Version is favored by people in churches described as Mainline.

Or, as Emergent Church movement guru Tony Jones would say, all Bible readers are therefore relativists.

At any rate, a tip of the hat today to Miles Coverdale, whose name and whose accomplishments should not be forgotten.

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There are two new national religious studies out that should continue to bother faith communities. They suggest that young people increasingly don't identify themselves with any particular religion, though high numbers profess belief in a god of some kind. This is exactly why, in Christianity, there's an Emergent Church Movement. That movement is a way of seeking to respond to this phenomenon. Churches can't keep doing church just for the churched. If they keep that up they've signed their own death certificates.

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P.S.: When I first published this blog entry last week, an article by Paul Anderson on the scholar use of the gospel of John to study Jesus was not yet available on the "Bible and Interpretation" Web site. It is there now. To read it, click here.

How religions change: 2-18-10

From time to time I hear a call for a "reformation" of Islam, similar to the Protestant Reformation of Catholicism in the 16th Century.


The term reformation in this context bothers me because usually it comes from someone in the Christian tradition trying to overlay Christian history on Islam. It's arrogant and historically imperialistic.

And yet it is important to acknowledge that all religions undergo changes in how they are understood and practiced -- including Islam. Indeed, nowadays there is a struggle for the heart and soul of Islam, with voices of reason and moderation seeking to dislodge voices of rigidity and extremism.

As that happens, change is inevitable.

But it's also true that people have, over the centuries, acted as change agents in various religions, including Islam.

The other day, for instance, I was reading a passage in Vincent A. Smith's The Oxford History of India when I ran across an account verifying what I just said.

In writing about the period from 1858 to 1905 in India, Smith notes that "there were others who were either more or less far-sighted than the mass of lovers of the old ways. . .There was a short-lived movement among young intellectuals to renounce Hinduism and all its works whose outward signs were Christian baptism and beef-eating clubs. As a movement this died away after 1840. The larger movement contained those who, though anxious to remain loyal to their cultural and religious past, realized that religion in its existing state could offer no antidote to the foreign influences. They thus sought to strengthen the old by purifying it, and they would purify by going back to the sources to their faith. They were the Protestant reformers of Hinduism and Islam."

Smith then goes on to detail some of those "reformers."

The impulse to adapt, purify, modernize or adjust seems to be universal in most aspects of life, including religion. As Smith notes, it could be found in religion in 19th Century India, and it can be found today, for as Emergent Church guru Tony Jones notes, all theology is local and contingent (which is not to say that it suffers from relativism).

The trick is in knowing which change movements are healthy and which lead to more trouble.

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A Chicago couple, in the midst of a divorce, is fighting over what religion their child will follow. And even the courts have become involved in this Catholic-or-Jewish decision. Oh, my. The implications of this are many. But any parent who would inflict this sort of conflict and damage on a young child deserves wide condemnation. Why do some parents put their own selfish needs and desires above the welfare of their children?

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P.S.: What appears to be an important new civil rights era film, "Blood Done Sign My Name," is being released tomorrow. It focuses on a North Carolina pastor and is based on the book of the same name by Tim Tyson, whose sister, Boo Tyson, directs the Mainstream Coalition in Johnson County, Kansas. I don't yet know where in the Kansas City area it will be screened, but watch for it.

Ash Wednesday faith: 2-17-10

I want to use this Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian season of Lent, to share with you a few thoughts about the nature of faith from my friend Father W. Paul Jones. (The Jones page to which I've linked you here lists books by three people of this name. My friend Paul is No. 1 on the list.)


Paul just turned 80 this past weekend and his five daughters (yes, he's a Catholic priest with five daughters, and therein lies a wonderful story I won't tell today) threw him a surprise birthday party. Paul is a Trappist monk and lives as a hermit in rural Missouri, so it took some planning to gather not just Paul but his many friends together for a party in Kansas City, where, back when he was a clergyman in the United Methodist Church, he used to teach at St. Paul School of Theology.

Anyway, one of his daughters asked me to read a brief excerpt from a recent article Paul wrote for the magazine Weavings. I can't find the piece online to share all of it with you so I'll just quote what I read. It has wonderful insight into what faith really is and it goes like this:

"Faith is unavoidable, for to live entails wagering on some 'vision.' No matter how shallow or deep, how narrow or expansive, whether chosen or imposed, something that renders it better to live than to die must engage our trust. The 'proof' of our vision is the quality of life that results from risking our life and death on it. Faith resides in the deep human need for a unifying passion in the face of all objective uncertainty. It follows that the heart of Christian living is the single-mindedness of an undivided heart, a heart so completely gambling on its vision that nothing makes sense if God does not exist. Faithfulness means living this vision 'as if' it were so, in order to make it so."

Many people seem to think having faith means having all the answers -- or at least enough answers to be certain about eternal things. That's not faith as I understand it -- and clearly it's not faith as Paul Jones understands it. Rather, faith means the ability to live confidently without all the answers, trusting that your destiny, the destiny of others and the destiny of all creation is in the hands of a God whose very heart is love.

(By the way, for the resources on Lent made available to religion reporters by the Religion Newswriters Association, click here.)

* * *


You may recall the heartbreaking murder in Kansas City a few months ago of a young man with a college application in his pocket. His father, Nelson Hopkins Sr., has chosen to work hard to save other young African-American males from the same fate. The Kansas City Star wrote this story about his efforts this week. In e-mail correspondence I had with Hopkins after his son's death, he told me he wanted to make sure churches and other communities of faith were involved in this work. So I was pleased to note that The Star's story makes several mentions of churches joining the battle. In addition, the person working directly with Hopkins is Ernest Jones, director of correctional services for the Salvation Army in Kansas City. My point in raising all this is that almost any time you find injustice being confronted and healthy values being promoted you also find people of faith involved.

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P.S.: I noted here earlier this week that Irish bishops were meeting with Pope Benedict XVI to talk about the sex abuse and cover-up scandal in the church in Ireland. To read the final statement issued by participants after the meeting, click here.