Standing against antisemitism: 11-6-13
Did God planet this way? 11-8-13

What if we're not alone? 11-7-13

One reason I used to love to write about new developments in science is that science seems to be full of endless surprises.

CosmosThe post here today and the one tomorrow will be about two of them, and I'll do my best to tie those surprises to the concerns of faith.

Perhaps you saw this Associated Press story earlier this week reporting that scientists now believe there are at least 8.8 billion "stars with Earth-size planets in the habitable temperature zone."

The finding does not answer the ancient equestion of whether we're alone in the cosmos, but it certainly seems to increase the odds that we are not.

If we're not, what does that do to the Earth-centric religions that have very little to say about the possibility that God has other children on other planets?

The question, of course, takes different forms for different religious traditions. For Jews, it might be this: Does each planet with living beings have a particular chosen people to show others what living in full community with God looks like?

For Christians it might be: Did Jesus go (or need to go) to 8.8 billion to 20 or more billion planets in addition to Earth? And do folks on those planets celebrate a different Christmas? And Muslims might wonder whether either Muhammad or someone else became the seal of the prophets on each of those other planets.

Imagining billions of planets full of active and thoughtful residents can be humbling for residents of Earth. But a little humility is good for us.

What people of faith would do well to avoid is what they haven't been very good at avoiding in the past: Trying to make the findings of science either go away or fit neatly into a previously created theology. Better to let science be science and then see how our theology might take what science is finding into account.

Tomorrow: A surprising little planet that shouldn't exist and soon won't.

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Marvel Comics plans to issue comic books next year featuring a New Jersey Muslim girl as a superhero. Finally -- something for New Jersey to feel good about.

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Faith Shaping Ministry, by Paul E. Hoffman. This short (116 pages) book is full of ideas that many Christian congregations will find valuable enough to borrow. It's written out of the experience of a Lutheran congregation in Seattle that decided to shape its ministry around the sacrament of baptism. It's a decision that made a lot of sense for Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church and that also may make sense for many congregations because baptism, after all, is the gateway into church life. If everything that happens after that is in some way tied to that life-affirming (and death-affirming) act, the whole of ministry may be more understandable. Many congregations are struggling with what membership in them really means and where to set the bar (if any), as I described in this Presbyterian Outlook column. This is a book that can help shape not just ministry but also any congregation's or denomination's discussion of how to handle issues of membership. People in charge of adult education in any Christian congregation can benefit from this book.

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