a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.
Process (i.e., note to interested first-time readers)
A series of 3-minute readouts [31, counting this one] regarding the United Methodist Church [UMC] and getting unstuck (beginning here) …. (‘reset’ here and here) …. (last edition) is meant to be generative, not definitive. Non-absolutism is key to “The 95% solution.”
—Scriptural underpinning for ‘The 95% solution‘ (getting unstuck) is Isaiah 43.19; Micah 6.8; John 17; and 2 Corinthians 5.19-20.
The fact is, I sometimes encounter readers who say they don’t really understand what I’ve written in a given instance. Obviously, to me, the author, on its face, that’s not a good thing. But, what’s going on with that? (Have they read the whole series? Is the comment passive-aggressive?) I mean, if all readers reported the same thing, then I’d know that my writing was not clear. But, what if, as is the case, some understand and others don’t?
My sense was that the piece I wrote/published last week, “[UMC] extremism in spotlight,” was simple, straight-forward, and very clear. And yet, an interlocutor wrote:
I tried to read the article, re-read it, and still am not sure what it said. It wasn’t well written, in my opinion.
Of course, constrained to a 3-minute read, explanation and elaboration are limited. It’s possible that the short-form of my blog (hoping to be generative rather than definitive) is just too terse for some readers who need more illustration and explanation. Fortunately for those folks, this past week I saw some resources that I think can helpfully expand the illustrative background content and further clarify my meaning. I’m going to share those this week to hopefully build more understanding around the point of last week’s missive.
Last Sunday morning, as is my usual daily practice, I read friar Richard Rohr’s meditation from the Center for Action and Contemplation [C.A.C.]. This meditation is entitled, “The Task Within the Task.” A convergent passage:
Various traditions have used many metaphors to make this differentiation clear: beginner and proficient, novices and initiated, milk and meat [my emphasis], letter and spirit, juniors and seniors, baptized and confirmed, apprentice and master, morning and evening, “Peter when you were young … Peter when you are old” (John 21:18).
Father Rohr is talking about the distinctions between first-half and second-half-of-life spirituality. For a wonderful exploration of those themes, please read “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.“
DW News (German public broadcasting) did a story last Monday that helps pull the Putin/Kremlin thread into clearer connection with our theme of imposing conformity. After all, criminalization is just an extreme form of imposing conformity. Please watch:
Some commentators on the pope’s recent decriminalization remarks have emphasized how the pope’s words impact Africa’s issues with LGBTQ people. That is crucially important. However, it’s also important not to miss that the same impulse is driving political machinations in Russia, in the Middle East, in Europe, in South America, and, yes, even in the United States — i.e., “The ACLU is tracking 258 anti-LGBTQ bills in the U.S.”
“Certainty addiction” … animating extremism
WYNC produced a story for The Takeaway that discusses a new book, “Preparing for War: The Extremist History of White Christian Nationalism — and What Comes Next,” by Brad Onishi. Please listen to the interview with the author:
Onishi’s “bloody our swords” “redoubt” story is over-the-top even when compared to criminalization meant to impose sexual conformity. To my mind, the application of “force” has no place in the portfolio of Christian influence. We can say that the form of Christian ideology that Onishi describes is on the ultra-extreme end of the imposing conformity continuum. This closely parallels the Taliban.
Clarification by summary
Forms of the meme featured in tl;dr below have been circulating for years. It offers a rather concise rendering of the problem I’m trying to expose. Religious liberty has appropriate boundaries that some folks have difficulty perceiving and respecting; i.e., they overreach with the arrogance of their false-certainty and thereby oppress their neighbors.
Where appropriate, having “certainty” can be a blessing. However, false-certainty (i.e., as I’m applying the term “certitude” here) is surely a curse. Most religious notions do not merit certainty, that’s why we call them ‘matters of faith.’ Being certain about things that have no certainty to offer is no bueno.
In terms of expressing religious belief, words matter. It is fair and appropriate to say, “I am certain that I have faith in the objective truth of my religion.” It is misplaced and unfair (and is definitely an overreach) to say, “I am certain that my religion is objectively true.” Much human suffering is attributable to the latter.
Action step: Let’s recall what Brad Onishi thinks might/could be helpful:
Next week: Come and see. [this post ~775 words (3-min. read)]
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