Friday, February 17, 2012

Notes 2/17/12

1. I suspect that none of us dispute the idea that the earth travels around the sun. We take this scientific theory as a fact. Yet just 400 years ago Galileo was put under house arrest for defying the church by stating this belief. I suspect that we all accept the idea of the relationship between virus and bacteria and disease… yet these ideas are never once mentioned in the Bible. Why is it that many people are so slow to accept the idea of evolution?

Point Reyes - N. California

The simple principles are evident in the world around us. Organisms produce more offspring than the environment can support. Offspring contain small differences due to variations in the genetic code. Those organisms best suited to an environment will be most likely to survive and pass on their genetic variations. Over vast periods of time the variations add up to produce major changes in organisms – in some cases leading to new species.

Clouds and water - Tuolomnie

Such an idea does not deny the existence of a creator God, any more than a belief in the sun-centered universe does. In recent years it has been demonstrated that evolutionary changes occur much more rapidly than first expected… Just look at the development of drug resistant bacteria and development of new varieties of weeds that do not respond to weed control agents.

Church in Chamula - S. Mexico

2. I recently had a conversation with a friend who is angry at the Christian church – listing all the beliefs and atrocities over the years condoned by the church. It’s true the church, as an institution, has often been resistant to accept reasonable change or has chosen the politically expedient route. I tried to explain to my friend that there is a whole spectrum of “Christians” – from those who are totally resistant to change – attempting to hold on to an ideal from the distant past and those who are seeking to interpret what it would mean to try to follow the teachings of Jesus.

Dietrich Bonohoffer, a progressive theologian, who became a 20th century martyr killed by the Nazis

Jesus has a deep sense of his relationship with God. He lived to alleviate suffering in others – He was a friend to the poor and the socially and economically ostracized. He did not turn his back on the outcasts of society. He ministered to the oppressed and responded to the sicknesses of mankind… He gave to all people a new way of being in relationship with the Divine. And he gave us the call to go and follow in the example he set for us… This does not seen to be the Jesus that many "Christians" proclaim to follow.

Ironically, some of the most caring people that I know have no connection with the church.

Be Kind

3. I have had to deal with a certain duality in my life – I believe strongly in the scientific method of problem solving. Observe, Hypothesize, Test, and form Tentative Conclusive. I also have a belief that reason alone does not explain the totality of all there is. The older I become, the more comfortable I am with living with unanswerable questions. Everyone encounters “ the Great Mystery” in different ways – True of those in the Christian faith and those of other beliefs.

Good Friday - Chiapas Mexico

The Bible is a collection of writings by many different authors, written at many different times in human history- since the early Agricultural revolution – back into the times of tribal herdsmen in the semiarid lands of the Middle East. It is the story of the evolving understanding of how different groups experienced “The Holy” in their lives.

Art Print found in a small Kansas church

Today we do not take seriously for out lives some of the rules laid out for the early Hebrew people. ( the Biblical book of Leviticus tells not to mix two different types of fiber together when making cloth, also not to plant two different kinds of seeds in one garden field, etc,)

4. Since the “age of enlightenment, we “modern people” generally believe that reason can explain everything. But we all experience “holes” in our reasonable worldview.

The elements of the Christian communion

Many people today are somewhere between accepting a scientific world world view and trying to hold on to a traditional view that rejects much of science. The question is how do you seek to grow spiritually and remain honest to what we know to be true of the world. In recent years there has been a growing movement of "Progressive Christians" who cut across many different denominational lines. Those of this belief say that "We take the Bible seriously but not literally."

The central place of the church in traditional European life

The Bible can best be understood by looking at the historical context and political events of each portion. There are many portions of the Bible that can help us in our search for connection with "The Holy" today... but some portions are only of historical interest. Progressive Christians attempt, as best we can, to take seriously the attempt to follow the examples set in the life of Jesus... An integral part of attempting to lead a Christian life is to be in community with fellow seekers after the way... That's why I am a member of a Progressive Church.

The Center for Progressive Christianity is one of the sources used by many churches that subscribe to these beliefs:

Saint John represented by a Czech peasant figure