I did a few of these a while back, and then, as usual, sort of stopped posting on the subject. There are a limited number of articles on science, religion, and culture wars that actually catch and hold my interest, so it’s hard to populate a regular links dump.
Of course, I could always just mirror the RSS feed from Slacktivist, which is, week after week, month after month, year after year the best writing on the Internet about religion and politics. I’d particularly like to note his recent post on an antidote to the Left Behind books, in which he celebrates nearing the end of volume one by supporting reforestation:
Left Behind is based on the idea of spiritual self-preservation in a world that’s going to end any day now. Floresta is based on the idea of serving others and investing, tangibly and incarnationally, in the future of this world.
LB alternately ignores or rejoices in the suffering of the anonymous millions; Floresta seeks to help them, one by one, community by community.
In LB, Jesus is a weapon of mass destruction; Floresta’s Jesus says that the reign of God is like a seed.
LB revels in its prophesied calamities and its apocalyptic nightmare world where the Wormwood-poisoned water is undrinkable and the trees of the fields all perish. Floresta looks at Haiti, a place where such calamities seem already to have occurred, and they roll up their sleeves and set to work trying to rebuild and restore.
Religious experience begins with an encounter, which is then given form by the imagination. We then turn this form into texts, prayers, rituals, and of course, myths. Communities gather around these stories and continue to use the religious imagination to keep them relevant. The very notion of being in communion with God, whether through prayer or ritual, in believing that a man died and was resurrected, or in eating unleavened bread for a week, is the least rational of endeavors. But this is where its power lies. If the moments we commemorate through our rituals had simply occurred in history, there would be little possibility of giving them new meaning in the way, for example, the American slaves saw in the miraculous moments of the Jewish Exodus story a vision for their own liberation. When ritual is seen as the retelling of a mythological event, then its ability to function as a metaphor is enlivened each time. A purely historical event is static. While it might offer a moral lesson, there is nothing inherently symbolic about it. The mythologizing of events makes them part of our ritual and liturgy and allows us to reimagine them. But the religious imagination has been replaced by a need to rationalize religious faith. The motto of the Creation Museum is “Prepare to Believe,” but revelation is not the intent of the exhibits. The purpose of the museum is to prove that the Bible is truth, and to induce religious stupor it plays on an ignorance of science and what the doing of science really means.
Religion functions because we do and say the same things over and over again, not to prove them, but to keep them alive in a world that demands we respond rationally most of the time. Even the most fervent biblical literalist usually goes to the doctor when he or she gets sick, and is happy for the medicine offered, medicine that was discovered and developed with that old stick-in-the mud, science, the same discipline that helps us to understand our world in all its complexity. Prayer might make the ill feel less hopeless, but it’s reason that gets the healing chemical compounds into the bloodstream.
It’s unfortunate that that second paragraph will likely provide a hook for really snide comments, but that’s the most readily quotable bit I saw on a quick skim. The piece as a whole is really very good, and worth reading whatever your feelings about the culture wars.
And that’s about it from the last couple of weeks.