In what is now becoming something like a sacred ritual of the digital age, the following scenario unfolded this week. 1) Something bad happened—in this case, the suicide of a famous celebrity who had long struggled with addictions and depression; 2) People flooded to the Internet to give voice to their opinions about what (if anything) this bad thing meant and what (if anything) we ought to learn from it; 3) Someone wrote something that was perceived to be inflammatory/controversial/insensitive/wrong about the nature of this bad thing (in this case, conservative Christian blogger Matt Walsh, who wrote a post called “Robin Williams Didn’t Die From a Disease, He Died From His Choice” which has generated well over three million views and over four thousand comments at the time of this writing); 4) The Internet heaved and lurched in a maelstrom of fury and passion, whether in opposition to or defense of said article/writer (in this case it seems to be mostly the former; Walsh has apparently even received death threats over this post); 5) After collectively marinating in this unedifying, soupy mess for a few days, we all moved on to other more fertile pastures in which to expend our self-righteous energies. Read more
Posts from the ‘Tolerance’ Category
Earlier this week I turned the last page of Joseph Boyden’s highly acclaimed third novel, The Orenda, recent winner of CBC’s Canada Reads and, to the great consternation of many, long listed, but not shortlisted, for the prestigious Giller Prize. It is, as many have said, a remarkable book about the seventeenth century Huron-Iroquois wars in what is now Eastern Canada, and the French Jesuit colonial missionary enterprise that inserted itself into the mix. It is gripping, insightful, heartbreaking, and, yes, at times almost unspeakably violent.
It’s a strange thing that, as followers of Jesus, we are dwellers in a story.
Religion is often conceived and described as ideology or a philosophy or an ethical system that provides answers to deep questions about the meaning of life and the nature of salvation. But as Christians, we are not given a generic, universal set of principles or techniques or transcendent truths or ethical absolutes by which to live.
We are, rather, thrust into a story—and a grubby, disheveled story, at that. Read more
I think that the main problem with our world right now is that there’s just not enough spirituality.
I had gone to a local café to get out of the office and try to get some reading done, but I quite literally couldn’t help but overhear the preceding assessment/diagnosis of the plight of the planet and its inhabitants taking place at the table beside me. It was a couple of university students, if their meticulously dishevelled and painstakingly ironic appearances were anything to go by. The more enthusiastic of the two—the one doing most of the talking—had evidently taken a few introductory philosophy and religious studies courses, judging by the peppering of his discourse with references to Gandhi, Jesus, Plato, and the Bhagavad Gita (not to mention a reference to that most estimable of Zen masters, Phil Jackson). The other young man seemed more interested in the Shakespeare he was trying to read, but he seemed content enough to allow the spiritual wisdom to pour forth unabated from his friend. Read more
I’ve been thinking about Richard Beck’s piece from yesterday about how being offended by the Bible seems to be the unique province of educated, liberal folks, and about how those “on the margins” seem not to be nearly as scandalized—even by the really nasty parts. I’ve been thinking about this in no small measure due to the fact that our church has spent a bit of time in “nasty” texts in our preaching and worship this summer (Leviticus and Joshua, for example), and I have, on occasion, found myself almost apologizing for the Bible, almost assuming people will be offended by it. I know that people in our church struggle with the Bible. I struggle with the Bible. It this merely a function of my/our social location? Read more
I listened to the story of a gay man yesterday. It was a story both tragic and tragically typical. It was a story of knowing he was “different” from his very earliest memories, of being mocked and ridiculed throughout his school years, a story of confusion, anger, and pain, a story of desperately trying to come to terms with an identity that just didn’t fit, a story of a string of unsatisfying relationships, a story of isolation and deep loneliness that persists to the present day.
It was also, of course, a story in which the church played a role. I wish I could say that it was a positive role—that the community that bears the name of the Friend of Sinners had provided a place of refuge and peace for this person… I wish I could say that. But I can’t. We all know that this isn’t how the story usually goes. We know that “rejection” and “guilt” and “judgment” and “fear” and “misunderstanding” are among the words that appear at this point in the story. Read more
I’ve spent the last two days in Montreal attending the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada’s Québec National Event. This is one of seven national events held across Canada to provide a space for listening and truth-telling about the history of residential schools in our country. Events have already been held in Halifax, Winnipeg, Inuvik, and Saskatoon, and there will be future events in Edmonton and Vancouver. It has been a sobering few days. So many stories of abuse, neglect, and prejudice. So many stories of families torn apart, of addiction and violence and dysfunctional relationships. It was a hard, but good day of listening. Read more
I have spent a good chunk of this week reading. About controversial topics. Online. This is a very dangerous and probably not very bright thing to do. I am not naïve enough to think that there was once an idyllic time where people consistently and patiently reasoned calmly with one another about issues of deep import, but I also know that while the internet has certainly made human discourse possible on a much broader level that at any other point in human history, it has almost certainly not improved the quality of said discourse. Pick your issue and you will almost certainly find that you can quite literally drown in information and opinions, much of it mean-spirited, polarizing, intemperate, and simplistic. Read more
A bit of a mixed bag this morning, but here are a few things that have caught my eye over the last few days and have me thinking (and avoiding sermon-writing!) on this crisp September morning. These are mostly unrelated themes, but if pressed for a connection, I suppose I would say that they deal in turn with the nature of religion, the purpose of religion, and the practice of religion. Read more
Like most of the rest of the world, I spent part of yesterday watching the closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics (yes, I realize that I was critical of these kinds of spectacles in a post I wrote a few weeks ago. I also admitted that I was a hypocrite, right?). Last night’s ceremony was, as expected, a spectacle for the ages.
Today is National Aboriginal Day here in Canada. It is a day which, since 1996, has been set aside to learn about and honour the diverse cultural heritage of Canada’s First Nations, to recognize their ongoing contribution to Canada, and (hopefully) to remember that there remains much work to do in addressing the many problems that remain from Canada’s mistreatment (past and present) of its first peoples. Southern Alberta has a significant aboriginal population, with the Blood and Peigan tribes to the east and the south and the Siksika to the north, all three of which, along with the South Peigan in Montana, are part of the Blackfoot Confederacy. It is a region of Canada blessed with a rich and diverse aboriginal heritage. Read more
You shouldn’t judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes.
The phrase is often consigned to the dustbin of well-worn clichés, even if most of us would basically agree to the sentiment it is attempting to express. Behind every destructive or harmful or just plain irritating behaviour or set of behaviours that we seek to “correct” in others is a human being with a story. Rather than resorting to judgment and easy labels (“addict,” “psycho,” “loser,” etc), we ought to take time to get to know the story behind the behaviour—to make some attempt, however minimal, to understand the journey that has led someone to where they are now. Read more
Over the last few months, one of our adult classes at church has been reading through Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity. We’ve had some very interesting conversations, a few of which have revolved around the issue of what the Christian approach to pluralism ought to be. Is McLaren endorsing universalism? Relativism? Do all paths somehow lead to the same God? Is he advocating the abandoning of religious particularity in favour of a kind of fuzzy quasi-Christian humanism? These questions and others have animated some lively discussions about how we ought to live and think in our pluralistic context. Read more
A number of conversations and experiences over the last few days have me thinking about the Bible and how we use it. Maybe “lamenting” would be a more appropriate word. The Bible is, regrettably, a book that has throughout history proved eminently usable and abusable. Read more
One of the “joys” of driving around town with my kids has been my forced reacquaintance with top-40 radio. For some reason, my children don’t seem to appreciate listening to CBC Radio One, and it usually takes approximately thirty seconds of time in the car before we’re bouncing along down the highway to the latest offering from whatever band or artist is currently enjoying/milking their moment in the sun. It’s been remarkable to hear the many different ways in which the same four chords and the same two or three themes can be employed to produce an astonishing amount of truly abysmal music. Read more
A few years ago, I remember taking one of those online “spiritual gifts” tests with several co-workers. Needless to say, I am fairly suspicious of these sorts of things in general and particularly when they claim to be discovering something as open to abuse, misunderstanding, and misappropriation as spiritual gifts. I have always been of the opinion that spiritual gifts are the kinds of things that are discovered in community via the wisdom of mature Christians, not as a printout generated by responses to a handful of formulaic online questions. Read more
A very interesting article from Julian Baggini in The Guardian came through the reader this morning (h/t: Jesus Creed). Baggini talks about our tortuous relationship with “certainty” in the postmodern west, and questions the notion (set forth by fellow Guardian columnist Mark Vernon) that uncertainty is a virtue. Baggini’s article is worth quoting at length: Read more