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More reasons to volunteer: 2-28-14

If you want to be impressed by how many Amerians do volunteer work and how much they contribute, have a look at this site, which tracks such stuff.

VolunteersVolunteer work, I can testify from personal experience, can be rewarding in many ways, as well as occasionally frustrating, such as when you wonder whether you're really doing any good.

But it turns out that volunteer work may help not just those who receive the assistance that volunteers provide but also may help the volunteers themselves -- perhaps even help them live longer.

Over on the "Our Values" section of the great site maintained by my friends at, you'll find this report about volunteers and how they themselves benefit from the work.

It's all intriguing stuff, but eventually it raises the question of why we volunteer. Is it for our own benefit, to soothe our own conscience, to look good in the eyes of others?

Well, those may not be deeply moral reasons for being a volunteer, but as Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn and I learned when writing our book about Jews in Poland who were saved from the Holocaust by non-Jewish volunteers, what matters is action.

At least some of the people who helped to save Jews were themselves morally repugnant people who were antisemitic. And yet they found themselves in circumstances in which they saved a life or two. Trust me: The people whose lives were saved did not care what the motivation was. All they cared about was that someone stepped up and helped.

In an ideal world, of course, all volunteers would have pure motives and their work would help people get to the point where they no longer needed help.

But perhaps, like me, you've noticed that this isn't an ideal world. It is, rather, full of fallible people who sometimes do the right thing, even if for questionable reasons. And perhaps the volunteer work they do is helping them live longer to do more of it. That ain't all bad.

(I borrowed the image here today from the Our Values site.)

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A new survey suggests that one big reason young people are leaving faith communities is that they disagree with the anti-gay teachings of those communities. This is one more area in which religion should be a leading voice for liberation but, instead, often stands for prejudice. How sad.

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P.S.: Sad news on the front page of The Kansas City Star this morning. The previous bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Raymond Boland, has died. He was a good, caring man and a bishop who cared about his people. And he always made himself available to journalists like me when called upon to do so.

What faith-based schools offer: 2-27-14

Although I'm a product of -- and supporter of -- public schools, from kindergarten through college (with the exception of two years of church-related schooling in India), there's no doubt that religiously founded schools have played an important role in this country.

Jewell-logoToday is a fine time to bring that up because it was on this date in 1849 that William Jewell College in nearby Liberty, Mo., was chartered.

Jewell was a Baptist enterprise, and the school still retains a Baptist heritage. But about 11 years ago the fundamentalists in the Missouri Baptist Convention found they couldn't control much of anything at the school any more so they defunded it.

That move cost Jewell at least an immediate $1 million. But Jewell was unwilling to bend to the convention's rigid control demands and, in the end, made the right choice to accept separation from the convention.

Today William Jewell is an educational bright spot in Greater Kansas City. You can get some sense of that by visiting the school's "distinctives" page on its website.

In addition to providing an excellent liberal arts education, the school is intertwined with the community in lots of ways, including its sponsorship of the prestigious Harriman-Jewell performing arts series of concerts.

And it plays host to such interesting and thoughtful events as the upcoming Restoration Arts gathering, which will focus on beauty in a broken world. That will happen March 28 and 29. Check it out.

So in the Kansas City area we are blessed to have institutions of higher education with religious roots that have become important parts of the social fabric. Think of such Catholic schools as Avila and Rockhurst universities, for instance.

In the end, the nation's future depends on the quality of public education, given that a vast majority of citizens are educated in the public schools. But we would be impoverished without such faith-based schools as Jewell.

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Like many people in the world, including me, you may have thought that when Pope Benedict XVI resigned last year amid signs of deteriorating health, he wouldn't be too long for this world. Well, he's not just still alive and kicking but perhaps also working to ensure that his legacy will be safe, Religion News Service reports.

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P.S.: It's time to sign up for a writing workshop I'm offering April 29-30 at Heartland Presbyterian Center in Parkville, Mo. It's called "From Pain to Hope Through Writing," and you can find all the details you need right here. Hope to see you there.

Problems with public prayers: 2-26-14

In a country with a changing religious landscape and a history of religious freedom, prayers to open legislative bodies have become increasingly problematic.

VA-houseIn fact, we'd do better either to abandon the practice or to designate Monday for Christians, Tuesdays for Jews, Wednesdays for Muslims and so on through however many religions we think there are (a difficult number to determine).

Take for instance, the recent troubling experience in the Virginia House of Delegates (pictured here) as reported in this story.

Prayer before legislative sessions is an old practice, but it began back when pluralism, if the term was used at all, referred not to religion but to whether you came from England, from another European country or were recently born in the New World.

Now, however, Virginia (and nearly every other state) counts among its residents adherents of many religions.

The answer, if you ask me, is not to be "inclusive" in public prayers, which means saying a prayer to some sort of generic deity so as to offend no one. That's silly. It reduces religion to some syncretistic stew that satisfies no one and should offend pretty much everyone.

The answer, rather, is to acknowledge that it's impossible to say an opening prayer that will let the person praying feel free to follow his or her heart and theology if the one praying must be so general as to say nothing, in the end.

Once you acknowledge that you have two choices, as I have indicated: Designate a member of each religion to pray on a particular day and let people know that on alternate Thursdays, say, a Hindu will lead the prayer. If you don't want to hear a Hindu prayer, don't come.

The other, wiser, choice is to abandon the public prayer practice altogether. That would allow the Christians to gather with the Christians, the Jews with the Jews and so on a few minutes before the opening of the session and pray among birds of a feather with no holds barred.

The current alternative of having Christians preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in their public prayers while others feel manipulated and excluded is just wrong.

This ain't rocket science, children. It's just learning how to negotiate our way toward harmonious religious relations in a nation that is not your grandfather's Virginia (or Missouri or...).

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Here and there in the world you still can find brave people of faith willing to risk their lives to do the right thing. In the troubled Central African Republic, for instance, a Catholic priest and his church are protecting hundreds of Muslims from the angry mobs there who want them dead. We don't yet know how this will turn out, but the so-called Christians calling for Muslim blood are bringing shame to themselves and to their religion.

One pastor's column work: 2-25-14

Anyone who has been a member of a church for more than a few months knows that in the church newsletter -- whether it's done in print or comes via e-mail -- there's a column by the pastor.

PastorspageSome of them read as if they're a terrible burden to write. They are dull as a list of begats and of interest to almost no one, including the pastor herself or himself.

But now and then you'll find pastors who understand that the newsletter column is a marvelous opportunity to have some fun, instruct the faithful, challenge church members and start a spark that will lead to a hundred bonfires of interest burning.

My friend Russell E. Saltzman, who writes a regular column for First Things, is such a pastor.

And you can see what this Lutheran clergyman does in column form in his delightful little book, The Pastor's Page: And Other Small Essays.

Among the early sins Russ must confess to in his life is that he committed journalism for a time. But later he, unlike me, repented and became a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. More recently he has left the ELCA and now is dean of the Great Plains Mission District of the North American Lutheran Church.

Through it all, Russ has retained an ability to tell wonderful stories -- stories that illustrate theological points, stories that engage the heart, that engage the funny bone.

In this little book, Russ opens up his heart and his mind for others to see not just what makes him tick but why he has chosen a life of faith. We see him as a parent, a pastor and a wry observer of the life around him. And throughout it all he retains his sense of humor in such pieces as "Thou Shalt Fear No Weevil" and in "Memo to the Congregation," in which he accuses members of "grossly abusing their privileges regarding normal levels of cantankerousness" and then rations out for the rest of the year how many sighs of relief, groans, flutters, gasps, retorts and snorts various members may have.

Russ and I don't agree on all things theological. But in the end that's helpful because we can learn to appreciate how we each came to our conclusions, different as they may be here and there.

When he gifted me with a copy of his little book, I meant to read one entry per day to make it last. But I failed. I completed it quickly and now get to invite you to enjoy it.

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Pope Francis has told the college of cardinals not to behave like "a royal court." Maybe their traditional title of "princes" of the church should be changed to, well, something like "not-so-much-illustrissimo."

A Presbyterian-Jewish spat: 2-24-14

Once again some Presbyterians (my denomination) have waded into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and stirred up anger and passion.

ZU-cover_DVDAs you may have read over the weekend, the Israel/Palestine Mission Network has issued a new report called Zionism Unsettled (the cover of which you see pictured here). Thus far I have not had a chance to read the report. Rather, I have read about it and have read various excerpts from it. So don't imagine that what I'm saying here today is any kind of careful review of the details, proposals and conclusions of the report.

Rather, what I want to point out is what this piece by JTA, the Jewish news agency, points out, which is that not all Presbyterians are on board with the thrust of this latest report and that the report is causing sharp reaction.

My guess is that when I finally get a copy of the full report and have time to digest it, I will have a number of concerns and questions about its conclusions. In fact, I'm already not happy with some of the language the report is said to contain.

What I do know -- and have written in the past -- is that sometimes my denomination (or anyway parts of it) does and says things without enough forethought and enough consultation with either our Jewish brothers and sisters or our Palestinian brothers and sisters. (We Presbyterians as a body and individually tend to favor a two-state solution with justice and fairness for all, including security for Israel and a hopeful future for the Palestinian people. This new report seems to call into question the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state, however, which I think would be quite a minority position within the denomination.)

Some years ago, for instance, we authorized our leaders to look into divesting from companies that were profiting from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Such divestment tactics worked well in pressuring the former apartheid government of South Africa to abandon that odious policy of racial segregation and oppression.

But in the case of Israel, we Presbyterians seem not to have spoken at any length with Jewish leaders about our concerns and so our divestment action surprised and angered them. I felt that those Jewish leaders were mostly right about that. Our long-standing good relations with American Jews took a major hit from that experience. And the issue isn't dead yet.

Now, as you can see from the JTA piece, some Presbyterians have angered Jews again.

On this issue, as on so many other issues, the agenda gets driven by people who care most deeply about the issue -- in this case the issue of what's happening in the Holy Land and what the future there should look like. So various groups advocating this or that position come together and seek to set denominational policy.

Presbyterians are governed by representative democracy, and as can happen in such a system, when the broader electorate is apathetic, disinterested or simply ignorant, those in the know can guide the ship. It happens with lots of issues, including our long fight over whether to ordain otherwise-qualified gays and lesbians to be pastors and church officers. (We now do allow that and I am in favor of that position.)

So my caution for you is that when you read about "Presbyterians" saying or doing this or that (or, for that matter, any big group), please recognize that we aren't a monolithic, lock-step people.

As a Presbyterian elder, I may wind up thinking this new report is the cat's pajamas and may do what I can to promote its views (though, as I have said, I doubt it based on what I've read about it so far). But I also may find myself thinking it's a serious mistake that will cause more harm than good.

I'm free to take either of those positions as a Presbyterian because we are people who value both the wisdom of the whole community but also the prophetic voices of individuals within that community.

That may be more inside Presbyterian baseball than you bargained for today, but I offer it because my guess is that some of you soon will be hearing more about renewed Presbyterian-Jewish tension over this report and you'll be wondering what has gone wrong again.

A side question is whether it's possible to criticize certain policies and actions of the government of Israel without being antisemitic. My answer: Of course it is, just as it's possible to criticize policies and actions of the U.S. government without being unpatriotic. 

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Bible stories are being turned into a spate of new Hollywood films, it's reported. No surprise. People are drawn to stories with eternal meaning. The question is whether the film makers understand they are dealing with both history and metaphor -- and can they keep from turning one into the other.

The Plaza's teen problem: 2-22/23-14

I found it intriguing a few days ago when Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté said that rowdiness by uncontrolled groups of teen-agers on the Country Club Plaza no longer would be tolerated.

Forte-JamesWell, such scary hooliganism should not, in fact, be tolerated. The chief (pictured here in front of Mayor Sly James) is right to do what he can to stop it. (The photo was taken by my friend Fred Blocher of The Kansas City Star.)

But let's put this problem into a little perspective. And let's see what people of faith might be called to do when it comes to large groups of predominantly African-American young people looking to hang out on The Plaza.

First, let's acknowledge that The Plaza is a Kansas City jewel. Its beauty and its wide range of shopping and dining experiences draw people from all over the city, the region and even the world. But this is generally high-end retail. Once upon a time -- indeed when I moved to Kansas City in 1970 -- you could find among the ritzy stores on the Plaza a dime store, a bowling alley, a Sears department store.

No more.

So people of means, most of whom are white, tend to think of The Plaza as their home territory. And throughout its history it has been a wonderful place for everyone -- rich or poor -- to walk, relax and to admire the Spanish architecture and for those who could afford it to dine, to shop.

In recent years, however, groups of teen-agers, most of them black, have congregated on The Plaza, especially on weekend nights, and sometimes the result has been rowdiness and occasional violence, including shots being fired.

It's been going on for several years. As The Kansas City Star story to which I linked you above reported a few days ago, "The violence peaked in the summer of 2011 with a shooting that injured three youths and sent the mayor diving for cover."

For you non-Kansas Citians reading this today, it may help you to know what you can see in the photo here today: our mayor and our police chief are both African-Americans, and both are excellent public servants.

The deeper question, however, is whether Kansas Citians are more worried about protecting their beloved Country Club Plaza or about the direction of the lives of minority teen-agers in the city. The evidence suggests Kansas City's priority is not the latter but the former. How sad.

Among such evidence you see the decades of decline and failure of our public school system, which now is not even accredited by the state of Missouri. If we really cared about the future of all -- all -- of our young people we would be working hard to rescue our public schools, which in turn would be working hard to open up the future for students.

Some of that is happening, but not nearly enough.

My congregation, for instance, is part of an 8-church coalition that works with the Southwest Early College Campus, once known as Southwest High School and once one of the best high schools in the nation.

As part of that current work, I help with a book club for 9th and 10th graders. It makes a difference in a few lives but the needs are many and the resources of money and volunteers are not nearly enough.

I'm not suggesting that we quit patronizing stores and restaurants on The Plaza. Or that we demand that the police set up barricades to keep out teens. No. We can have a successful Plaza as well as successful schools and successful teens.

We just need to step up and help And people of faith, who pledge allegiance to the idea that every single human being is precious in God's sight, should be among the leaders. So find out what your congregation is doing to help. If the answer is nothing, change that.

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OK, quick civics quiz: Who wrote the U.S. Constitution? No, silly, not any of the Founding Fathers. It was God. At least that's what former Congressman Tom Delay says. But wait. If God wrote it, how come it's had to be amended so much? Maybe it's like someone said of the whole world: It was God's Science Fair project -- on which God got a D.

On FDR, Jews and the Japanese: 2-21-14

Although I love my country, I am aware that there are parts of our history that shame us, parts that we wish we could rewrite, parts that make us remember why we need forgiveness.

FDRSurely one of those chapters was written when, in World War II, we sent Japanese-Americans to internment camps at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (pictured here). In fact, one of my brothers-in-law was born in one of those odious camps.

What we did to our Japanese-American neighbors, of course, was nothing like what Hitler did to Europe's Jews in the Holocaust. And yet, as this fascinating piece in Tablet Magazine suggests, there may be a connection between the attitude that allowed FDR to overrule some of his aides and order the internment and his attitude that resulted in him not doing nearly all he could have done to rescue Jews from the Nazi death machine.

It turns out that FDR privately had expressed negative views of both the Japanese and the Jews.

As the Tablet piece then notes, "Roosevelt’s views about the Japanese dovetail with his privately expressed opinions about Jews. . .FDR’s writings and statements indicate that he regarded both Jews and Asians as having innate biological characteristics that made it difficult, or even impossible, for them to become fully loyal Americans. Certain individual, assimilated Jews could be useful to him as political allies or advisers, but having a substantial number of Jews, especially the less assimilated kind, was—in his mind—inviting trouble."

It almost never fails: When we think of people who are different from us in some way as "the other," as the rejected, the inferior, the to-be-resisted, we wind up doing enormous damage of one kind or another. What FDR's Christian faith should have taught him is that all people are precious in God's sight and because of that we are to treat all people with dignity and respect.

Of course, Christianity for century after century stood against the Jews, so it's not surprising to find Christians even today who carry anti-Jewish prejudice. But clearly it's past time for all that to end. And the FDR story of the Japanese and the simultaneous Holocaust can help teach us that lesson.

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Time Magazine has done this interesting interview with the Dalai Lama. Turns out this Buddhist leader and I share something in common -- we've never smoked pot. Imagine that.

Is this what death looks like? 2-20-14

The other morning as I waited for worship to begin at my congregation, Second Presbyterian Church (pictured here), I looked over the worship bulletin and marveled at all that's going on.

2nd-Pres-2There was a luncheon scheduled that day for people in the over-50 age category. Before the lunch there was a "Meet Your Deacon" event as well as a gathering for people interested in membership at Second. I also saw an announcement about a Bible study group focusing on the parables, a request for material to donate to the inner-city mission work of Cherith Brook, an invitation to join our members helping out at Harvesters, a note about a coffee sale to benefit our Early Childhood Learning Center, an invitation to attend our upcoming end-of-life discussion series and a note about prayer requests for two families who had just experienced the death of a member.

If you visit our church's website you'll see much more, from those of us who help out as part of the Southwest Early College Campus Faith-based Coalition to members who just returned from another in a long series of mission partner trips to Guatemala.

In the midst of the decline of mainline churches (including in our Presbyterian denomination), it's easy to get discouraged.

But, as this insightful Alban Institute piece notes, congregations are adapting to new times and if you "remove them from the fabric of our society. . .the garment just might fall apart."

Indeed, imagine how impoverished our social fabric would be without the countless ways in which people of faith of all religions contribute to the general welfare. Just in our church's neighborhood there are marvelous contributions coming from Visitation Catholic Church, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Central United Methodist Church, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Wornall Road Baptist Church, Christ Community Church, Country Club Christian Church, Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ, the New Reform Temple, Community Christian Church and many more.

If religious people didn't exist we'd have to invent them.

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Should people of faith have the duty or at least opportunity for public confession of sins? This blog entry raises that intriguing question in a Mormon context. What's your experience?

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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.

Avoiding charity that's toxic: 2-19-14

When a book-reading group (pictured here) in my congregation recently choose to read and discuss Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It), by Robert D. Lupton, I was a bit skeptical.

Toxic-charity-talkMy concern was that this might turn out to be some kind of semi-sophisticated rant about welfare queens and maybe even about why we should cut expenditures for food stamps so all those lazy children would know what it's like to work for their supper.

But I was wrong. And I'm glad I was.

Lupton writes from the charity trenches about the various ways in which well-meaning people, often people of good-hearted religious convictions, wind up doing the wrong things when they want to do the right things.

Toxic-charityThe sad reality is that too often our charity doesn't lead, as it often should, to an end of charity. Which is to say that we often don't give in ways that will allow recipients to develop skills and approaches that can make them self-sufficient and independent. Instead, we give without much thought just because it feels good to give and, in the process, we encourage in the recipients the expectation that our giving will continue. That, in the end, leads to anticipation on the part of the recipient and eventually dependence instead of independence.

We've all seen this in our personal relations, so it shouldn't surprise us when we see it in our charitable work. My grandchildren, for instance, know that I usually carry a pack of mints, and they have come to expect that I will give them one from the pack soon after I see them. I insist that they ask with the "please" word and that they say thanks. But in some ways I feel as if I've created an expectation that borders on entitlement. My own grandfather did the same thing with me and my sisters when he would give us a nice crisp dollar bill whenever we left to head home from having visited him and Grandma.

My parents tried to teach us not to expect that each time, but it was hard not to.

Those may be silly examples, but when you write such stories on a larger scale, you find churches making so-called mission trips to other countries and painting a building in Nicaragua that six other church groups already have painted that year. What is needed, instead, Lupton argues, is to spend time listening to those in need and figuring out what they think they need and how we might help them reach their goals -- their goals, not ours.

The ultimate goal should be to create independence, not dependency.

"Service," Lupton writes, "seeks a need, a problem to fix, an object to pity. But pity diminishes and respect emerges when servers find surprising strengths among the served, strengths not initially apparent when the served are seen as the nameless, needy poor. . . .

"Authentic relationships with those in need have a way of correcting the we-will-rescue-you mind-set and replacing it with mutual admiration and respect. . ."

There is, of course, a difference between responding to a crisis, such as a hurricane or tornado, and responding to a long-term situation, such as poverty and ignorance. Crisis intervention and help will be short-term. But if we don't help move the needy to a place where they are better able to fulfill their own dreams, our charity becomes toxic -- even though it's often easier on the giver to do things the old way.

In the end, however, doing things the old way probably won't help in the long run.

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Pope Francis, a citizen of Argentina, automatically became a citizen of Vatican City when he was elected pontiff last year. But now he's renewed his passport from Argentina, thus making him, in effect, a man with dual citizenship. Which means he's in harmony with Christian teaching, which suggests that followers of Jesus are citizens of both this world and the next. I think, however, that taxes are cheaper in heaven, but we'll see.

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P.S.: After a false start or two, the old Truman Road campus of St. Paul School of Theology has been sold to the Guadalupe Center -- a good choice. Lots planned for the site. The news release to which I've linked you will give you details.

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ANOTHER P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.

Overcoming rigid dogmatism: 2-18-14

A major plague of religion today has many names -- fundamentalism, false certitude, rigid dogmatism and doubtless faith.

Against-dogmatismWhatever name this destructive condition gets, the result is almost always the same no matter what religion we're looking at: Needless division, prejudice against "the other" and a willingness to use almost any means, including violence, to insure that those who disagree with the rigid positions outlined do not succeed in questioning orthodoxy.

One need not go to the far extremes of religion to find this tendency toward keeping doubt and uncertainty outside a faith's high walls. So although you can use, say, Fred Phelps and his virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church or the followers of bin-Laden theology among those who call themselves Muslims, the desire for unswerving certainty exists in almost all faiths to varying degrees, and it is almost never an attractive quality.

In Against Dogmatism: Dwelling in Faith and Doubt, religious studies teacher Madhuri M. Yadlapati does an intriguing interfaith survey of this dogmatic tendency, drawing on some of the best thinkers in various traditions to show the harm rigid dogmatism causes.

"Today," she writes, "we are haunted by a postmodern inability to know things with certainty. This lack of certainty frightens many into retreating behind straightforward formulations of faith and scripture. However, this lack of certainty is precisely the contemporary challenge to embrace the freedom of spirit that lies at the heart of many traditional religious prescriptions.

"The ancient bibical condemnation of idolatry does not simply criticize prayer that uses stone images; it attacks the elevation of what is human-made above God. Retreating from the abyss of nonknowing is a failure of religious nerve. Rejecting the mystery of the sacred in favor of straightforward human interpretations is idolatrous in the classical biblical sense because it limits the sacred to human manipulation."

I have said before that it's arrogant of us to say anything about God, given that God is infinite and unknowable and that we are finite and limited in what we can know. And yet we say a great deal about God and sometimes insist that our words and thoughts are the very words and thoughts of God.

The sacred, the ultimate, the transcendent is too far beyond our reach for us to think we can exhaust the meaning of the divine with our words -- especially given the reality that words are always metaphorical, in that they always point to a meaning beyond themselves.

Absolutism in religion rejects that and makes an idol of its own language, its own thoughts, its own formulations of what faith means.

Yadlapati makes a strong argument that we must be on the lookout for such dogmatism and turn away from it when we see it. And as we adopt that stance, she writes, we are required to ask some hard questions. Among them: "If faith is not primarily about certitude, then what is it? If religious faith does not consist primarily of assent to a set of belief propositions, then what is it? How are faith and doubt related?"

You will find her drawing here on such theological giants as Paul Tillich and Jurgen Moltmann to make her points about Protestant Christianity. I especially like this quote from Tillich: "When (religion) defended its great symbols not as symbols but as literal stories, it had already lost the battle."

She also considers Hinduism, among other faiths, and notes that the god Shiva "threatens to destroy our false expectation. The worship of Shiva articulates a clear sense of ambiguity, by which worshipers are forced to actively question all that they understand in order to liberate themselves from these trappings and realize enlightenment."

In the end, the author calls us to face our "ever-growing opportunities to dwell in the uncomfortable space of uncertainty. . .and seek to act faithfully and hopefully in the world today without retreating into the false and lazy security of certitudes."

Would I invalidate her point if I said I was pretty certain she's right?

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I was glad to see my former Kansas City Star colleague Mary Sanchez weigh in yesterday on the effort to get the Vatican to get rid of Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. The work she describes there is in harmony with this open letter to Pope Francis that I wrote for The National Catholic Reporter not long ago.