Friday, November 07, 2008
An old friend told me that, when he left for the college from which both of us later graduated, his father told him in no uncertain terms to be careful, to beware of the religious fanatics. I'm not sure whether anyone here other than he and I can chuckle at that warning, but I can, and do--often.
Not that there are so many religious fanatics hereabouts, then or now. Not that there are any more, per capita, than there might be at any other college that clings steadfastly to its Christian character the way this one does--and I do.
But even though I think I understand the warning, I don't think I understand all that much about the balance I need to maintain between faith and reason; between reading the Bible literally and reading it, well, ethically; between the loyalties and reverence due, for instance, to a flag on one hand and a cross on the other. Jesus told us all to give Caesar his due, but gather any 12 preachers from different theological strains, and you'll have a dozen variations on the theme.
This morning my in-box had three e-mails from people who believe Obama's election means the apocalypse. While I think that attitude is misguided, sometimes I wish I was so defiantly sure as they are of their version of the unsullied truth about time and eternity. The faith of these folks is deep and rich, immensely abundant; it grows like sumac. They likely pray more richly than I do and read the Bible more studiously. All three are loyal warriors in the religious right.
The problem is, I think they're wrong. I think faith has made them something akin to those fanatics my friend's old man warned him about nearly a half-century ago, even though none of them live anywhere near this neighborhood.
But who's right? Are they right or am I? I wish I knew.
Balancing the significance of reason and significance of revelation is an immensely delicate matter for all of us, isn't it? When, reason wins in a romp, we erroneously believe we can think through everything; when we abandon revelation, our own cynicism can make us bitter fools. I can get that way--I admit it. In the last few days, in fact, I've felt it in spades.
But when we rely totally on what we know in our hearts, we could just as well cut off our heads. We lose our way on the paths through this world, God's own beloved creation. We don't become bitter fools, but holy fools--which is simply another breed.
There really is some truth in what the old man said, isn't there? Beware of fanatics--in whatever garb they dress.
There's a storm outside this morning--our first snow. That phrase has a romantic sensibility, doesn't it? But there's nothing romantic about this mini-blizzard. The great wind is swirling.
If you live out here on the plains, you come to understand that the best way to stay up in this kind of wind is stay low. To keep your balance means keeping a low center of gravity, which is to say, here or anywhere, to get on your knees--not just in prayer either, but in humility.
Old knees don't always bend all that well.
Lord, help me keep a low center of gravity.