Incidentally, if you look at Jonah you'll find that the 'whale' - it is not really said to be a whale, but a big fish - is quite unimportant. The real point is that God is much more merciful than 'prophets', is easily moved by penitence, and won't be dictated to even by high ecclesiastics whom he has himself appointed.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
LOST ended last night, and we had a viewing party at our place (and us without a kitchen!) with friends new and old to celebrate/mourn the passing of a great show. I personally thought it was great.
I’m not going to start gushing theories about what the Island really is or what the deal with Walt was or how the smoke monster worked. I just thought I’d reflect a bit on the overarching themes and meaning of the show.
If you'd asked me before the finale what LOST, ultimately, was about, I'd have answered with an oft-repeated quote from the show: Live together, die alone. After last night, I'd amend it to (and this is vague but might be slightly SPOILER-y, so fair warning): Find meaning in life together, die together.
Lost is about many conflicts: science vs. faith, good vs. evil, self vs. community, free will vs. destiny, but mostly it's about finding connection with others in the chaos of life, and pursuing purpose together with them, even when the mysteries remain mysteries, or simply lead to more questions.
So far the internet consensus on the finale is mixed, and a lot of people seem genuinely not to understand it (no, it was not all a dream, nor were they all dead the whole time). But while I have some disappointments (I wanted more closure for Sawyer) , I thought it was overall pretty great, and a fitting end to a sure-to-be classic show.
Friday, May 14, 2010
There are four characteristics to the social power that Jesus exercised. First, his power was derivative—originating from intimacy and submission to his Father. Second, his power was humble—rejecting the privileges of status and reputation, suffering indignities with joy. Third, his power was compassionate—serving the good of all and not just the good of the community of faith. And fourth, his power was noncoercive—blessing rather than cursing "the other," as we can see from his encounters with Samaritans and Romans.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
So it’s really quite simple. My right to see your face is the beginning of it, as is your right to see mine. Next but not least comes the right of women to show their faces, which easily trumps the right of their male relatives or their male imams to decide otherwise. The law must be decisively on the side of transparency. The French are striking a blow not just for liberty and equality and fraternity, but for sorority too.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
The better way to talk about the end of the world is to lean on another meaning of the word “end.” What’s the world for? What’s its ultimate purpose and destiny? For those of us in Christ that destiny is one of hope: creation restored, sin erased, all creatures able to live into the future God wishes for them, all of it glorified and in communion with the God who created us in love. It’s especially good news for those who have it roughest now, and perhaps not such good news for those at the top now. The most basic of biblical prayers, like Miriam’s song and Mary’s Magnificat, witness to that basic Christian truth.
Even in biblical times, resurrection deniers who hoped for an afterlife took an alternative route. This is what scholars call "the immortality of the soul." Embraced by Plato and popular today especially among progressive believers (Reform Jews and liberal Protestants, for example) and people who call themselves "spiritual but not religious," the immortality of the soul is easier to swallow than resurrection. After death, the soul—unique and indestructible—ascends to heaven to be with God while the corpse, the locus of our senses and all our low human desires, stays behind to rot. This more reasonable view, perhaps, has a serious defect: a disembodied soul attaching itself to God in heaven offers no more comfort or inspiration than an escaped balloon. Consolation was not the goal of Plato's afterlife. Without sight or hearing, taste or touch, a soul in heaven can no more enjoy the "green, green pastures" of the Muslim paradise, or the God light of Dante's cantos, than it can play a Bach cello suite or hit a home run. Rationalistic visions of heaven fail to satisfy.Another popular way out of the Easter conundrum—"I want to believe in heaven but can't get my head around the revivification of human flesh"—is to imagine "resurrection" as a metaphor for something else: an inexplicable event, a new kind of life, the birth of the Christian community on earth, the renewal of a people, an individual's spiritual rebirth, a bodiless ascension to God. Progressives frequently fall back on resurrection-as-metaphor, for it allows them to celebrate Easter while also expressing a reasonable agnosticism. They quote that great theological cop-out: "We cannot know what God has in store for us."The intellectual flabbiness of this approach causes agonies for such orthodox Christians as N. T. Wright, the Anglican bishop of Durham, England. "People have been told so often that resurrection is just a metaphor," he once told my editor Jon Meacham and me in an interview for this magazine. "In other words, [Jesus] went to heaven, whatever that means. And they've never realized that the word 'resurrection' simply didn't mean that. If people [in the first century] had wanted to say that he died and went to heaven, they had perfectly good ways of saying that." The whole point of the Christian story is that the Resurrection really happened, Wright insists. The disciples rolled back the rock on the third day, and Jesus' body was gone. This insistence on the veracity of resurrection is no less sure in Judaism, where the Orthodox pray thrice a day to a God "who causes the dead to come to life," or in Islam. "I swear by the day of resurrection!" proclaims the Quran. "Yes, Indeed!"And so, the paradox. Resurrection may be unbelievable, but belief in a traditional heaven requires it. I think often of Jon D. Levenson, a Jewish scholar at Harvard Divinity School who hopes to bring the idea of resurrection back to mainstream Judaism, where it has been lost in practice for generations. I visited him one cold November afternoon because, as a literal-minded skeptic, I wanted him to explain to me how it works. How does God put bodies—burned in fire or pulverized in war—back together again? Levenson looked at me, eyes twinkling, and said, "It's no use to ask, 'If I had a lab at MIT, how would I try to resurrect a body?' The belief in resurrection is more radical. It's a supernatural event. It's a special act of grace or of kindness on God's part."