I received very polite and thoughtful email from several people who described themselves as Interfaith Ministers. They wrote to tell me that I didn’t understand what was happening in the Interfaith world, and that if I did, I would be hopeful.
I split this blog post into two sections so as to not lose the import of the second part. In “I Have Failed, Part 1” I bemoaned the fact that try as I did to get my students to think critically about the Bible and the God it offers, they still held to their belief that God can do no evil, and all apparent evil done by God and in God’s name is just that, apparent evil, and in fact, when we learn the truth, isn’t evil at all.
I’m grading papers this week. One assignment in my Bible class was to rewrite the end of the Book of Job beginning with the premise that God actually tells Job the truth about Job’s suffering: that it was the result of a wager God made with the Devil to see how much punishment and horror Job could endure before losing faith in God. In the Bible, God never fesses up to Job about this bet.
I spent the last three days with my friend and teacher, Andrew Harvey, at Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville. He was our guest speaker for Wisdom House's annual Mystic Heart Retreat. (Next April we are hosting Matthew Fox).
One of the things Andrew asked us to do is discover what we were most passionate about and then engage with that passion for the good of the planet. I have two passions: books and dogs. I chose to begin with books.
I found this online and wanted to share it with you. I wrote my MA thesis on the work of Rabbi Kaplan, and learned from him privately in Jerusalem in 1976. I had not seen this text before. It only enhances my appreciation of this great sage.
THE THIRTEEN WANTS
A prayer composed by Mordecai Kaplan in 1926 for the dedication of the new headquarters of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism (SAJ).
Posting the Ten Commandments in government buildings may soon become legal in Tennessee, and I for one am all for it. After all this is a central Jewish document, and if Tennessee wants to honor my people and our faith, well, bless their little hearts.
What I don’t understand is why Christians would want the Ten Commandments posted. The text never mentions Christ and actually commands things that Christians have long since abandoned.
War is hell. And hell—or at least heaven—makes war all the more hellish. Mohamed Merah the Islamic terrorist who recently murdered three French soldiers, three Jewish children and their rabbi was a person of faith. After considering surrender, Mr. Merah opted for a fight to death saying, “If it’s me [who dies], who cares? I’ll go to paradise.” And that’s where religion comes in.
America is an ideal that can never be completely fulfilled. That’s not something to be disparaged but celebrated: we are always looking to live our values in more and more expansive ways.
One of the great freedoms that makes the United States exceptional is the First Amendment, especially the clause against the establishment of religion. It is a value under siege in our own country, often lacking altogether in many others.
Free will was a hot topic this morning. I was sitting in the Springfield, MO airport watching the news accounts of an American soldier’s murderous rampage through an Afghan village when the fellow next to me mutter, “poor bastard.” I glanced over at him and he took it as a rebuke.
“I’m not saying I don’t feel bad for the people he killed and their families, I’m only saying that we should have compassion on the guy: four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the guy just snapped. The system killed those people as much as this sergeant did.”
I am often told to keep the faith. The truth is, however, I prefer doubt. Faith is about clinging to answers that cannot be proven, while doubt is about wrestling with questions that just won’t go away. Of course I have faith in the value of doubt, so maybe I can keep both, but forced to choose I choose doubt.
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