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Archive for May, 2011

Many whom God has the Church does not have; and many whom the Church has, God does not have
— St. Augustine, paraphrased by Karl Rahner

(h/t: The Very Rev Samuel T. Lloyd III, Washington National Cathedral; the sermon, on inclusivity, touches some of the same points as an earlier sermon by the Orthodox Very Rev. Archimandrite Ambrose Bitziadis-Bowers)

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In the latest Point of Inquiry podcast episode, regular host Chris Mooney, the science journalist, is interviewed by Ronald A. Lindsey, a bioethicist, lawyer and CEO of POI’s parent organization Center for Inquiry.

Chris is his usual well-balanced self, but Lindsey, whether he’s just being a devil’s advocate or, as seems more likely, actually believe in strong neo-atheism, displays a rather… disconcerting attitude. He reminds me of a friend’s observation that some Mensans have a hard time accepting that the average person is less rational than them (which itself is a flaw on their rationality — insisting that everyone else sees thing the way one does, rather than more dispassionately trying to understand belief formation) — first by assuming that any non-confrontational dialogue between religion and science is a subtle attack on science itself (and assuming that organizations such as the Templeton Foundation are immutable and thus their past flaws are proof of a continuing sinister intent), then by, incredulously, asking if, indeed, getting religious believers to accept scientific findings has to involve an appeal to emotion as well as to reason, whether atheist scientists should not *shame* religious people into abandoning their beliefs!

With the display of hubris, lack of empathy, and misunderstanding of basic psychology on offer, neo-atheists like Lindsey (and Richard Dawkins) are really doing themselves and science a disservice — perpetuating a distrust between atheists and religious people, and making it harder to engage and change the mind of people on important, time-critical issue such as climate change. Because to them, irrationally, nothing is as important as first wiping off religious belief from existence. Which begs the question — why the irrational hatred?

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Today marks the feast of Dame Julian of Norwich in the Anglican and Lutheran churches, and by blessed serendipity, my one year of affiliation with the Order of Julian of Norwich — the feast day is actually on May 8th, but as a minor feast it is moved when the feast day falls on a Sunday.

She was believed to be an anchoress attached to the church of St. Julian in Norwich, England — of her personal life we know almost nothing, save from her visions and her remarkable theological explorations of them — in a near-death experience, Blessed Julian received visions of Jesus Christ, which she wrote down as what we now call the Short Text; the expanded version, which she wrote several decades later, the Revelations of Divine Love, is believed to be first book written in the English language by a woman.

This fact alone is quite remarkable — what makes it even more so is how hopeful and progressive her vision was. Amidst Black Death epidemics and revolts, her vision is that of a God of Love, not one who punishes the wicked. In a patriarchal society, she casts Jesus as a universal mother. This love is expressed in her most oft-quoted line: All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well — a remarkable and soothing expression of trust!

The collect for the day, from the Episcopal church’s Holy Women, Holy Men. In Rite II (contemporary language), since that’s what the Order uses (those who, like me, have an attachment to the language of the King James Bible can find that version in HWHM):

Lord God, in your compassion you granted to the Lady
Julian many revelations of your nurturing and sustaining
love: Move our hearts, like hers, to seek you above all
things, for in giving us yourself you give us all; through
Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Find out more about Dame Julian on the Episcopal Church’s HWHM blog — and if you feel drawn to the vision of this remarkable woman for the church, the Order of Julian of Norwich and the Friends of Julian would love to hear from you.

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