Thursday, November 29, 2007

Here is were I pick-it-up today, Thursday, November 29, 2007

I just heard on NPR’s hourly broadcast that Senator Henry Hyde of Illinois died at 2:30 a.m. this morning. An ardent opponent of abortion Senator Hyde is remembered for the infamous “Hyde amendment” to a budget bill in 1976. President Bush, an opponent of legal abortion also is quoted in today’s NYT’s obituary, “This fine man believed in the power of freedom, and he was a tireless champion of the weak and forgotten. He used his talents to build a more hopeful America and promote a culture of life.”

As what follows will indicate, I don’t agree with Mr. Hyde. But there was a time I did. I remember sitting with a group of Elders from the Lawrence Bible Chapel sometime back in the 1970’s discussing how Christians should be politically active. The pro-life anti-abortion agenda was high on my list of crucial political issues at the time and I appreciated Senator Hyde as an ally in this effort. But I have changed my view.

I picked up this fragment of a hymn by Saint Ephrem the Syrian on the blog Charlotte was Both. It is translated from a recent talk of Pope Benedict’s. It is from a hymn on the nativity of Christ (De Nativitate11, 6-8), very advent in nature. I am thinking about what I will do this advent. This is the beginning of the chief scandal and mystery of orthodox Christianity, that God would become human. What does it mean? What if it is true? It is worth meditating on for a few weeks, hence the season of advent.

The Lord came to you
to become a servant.

The Word came to you
to be [quiet] in your womb.

Lightning came to you
without making any noise.

The Shepherd came to you -
and becomes the newborn Lamb
with his submissive plaint.

The womb of Mary
has changed the roles:

He who created all things
took possession in poverty.

The Highest came to you
but he entered with humility.

Splendor came to you,
but dressed in humble rags.

He who makes all things grow
knew hunger.

He who waters everything
knew thirst.

Bare and stripped, he came from you,
he who clothes everything in beauty.

And I wrote this on Tuesday, October 16, 2007.

Beautiful fall day. Sunny, the windows open, 60 degrees Fahrenheit, light breeze from the west rustling the leaves—still green— in the cottonwood just outside my window, kids on the playground. I am sitting at my computer listening as the light crescendos of wind roll in the leaves, feeling thankful, but vigilant. I saw the first true fiery red fall leaf on the Fire Bush yesterday, glowing.

Before I go on with my story I need to respond to some reading I encountered on several blogs today. Also, I want to formally put my thoughts down on abortion. I am Catholic. I am pro-choice. I believe abortion is a woman’s right. The morning after pill should be readily available over the counter, and during the early weeks of pregnancy abortion should be a woman’s right (insert the words “God given” prior to “right” if you want, as in a “right” that the “Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them,” to burrow the words of the Declaration of Independence) to chose along with any other personal health issues she may have. I don’t see a contradiction between being Catholic and pro-choice.

But this position—if I have to call it that—stands in contradiction with the party line laid down by the Pope and publicly supported by all our Bishops (at least all the ones I know of, but I’m not a specialist on the subject), and many Catholics (but not all and possibly not most Catholics). By my way of thinking, the Bishops have got it wrong.

At the very least, I think it is time to accept that we live in a secular and pluralistic society (this is a good thing by the way, as well as a fact and a good political goal) in which many, many Americans (probably most Americans) of good will believe abortion is a woman’s right. Some time I will write at length about abortion and gay rights, two of the areas the Church has it wrong. For now let me mention an op-ed essay that is yet to appear Abortion isn't a religious issue written by Garry Wills in a recent Washington Post.

What got me thinking about this at the moment where some comments posted today (that is last October 16th) on

On with the story... (I copied this from a previous post (October 11, 2007), revised it, and then wrote on)

One thing about this project is its dynamic nature—it is a living thing—it is my life anyway! Foremost it is about my contemporary wrangling about/with God and God’s place in my life and the life of the world as well. My spirituality today is the principal concern here. Does God exist? And if so, what does that mean? What do I do about it?

But it is also a story of my past, a past that in a certain sense never changes even as it intrudes on the present through my memory and becomes a part of my living. This is to imply that it is not fixed in my imagination. The past changes through alchemy of the present. Telling the story is a tedious process and I often lose track of it in the living of it, which is much less tedious and much more important. So, where did I leave off last? Ah, yes.

It is about this time of year, October 1971, cool fall days. Summer is over and a great summer it was. I spent the summer in Colorado camping and backpacking. But I am back home, I am back in school, the leaves are changing colors, and I am a serious senior in High School getting ready to embark on life.

I have been attending BASIC for several weeks and I am beginning to believe these folks are on to something with all this Jesus talk. They are joyful, serious, young, pretty, and have long hair like me. I have been reading the bible, I am predisposed to believe it because of my Catholic upbringing, I like the singing, I like hanging out with my friends, and I am serious too.

A parenthetical moment: I believe that the world is a closed system. So why do I pray? What is prayer—magic, manipulation, psychological trickery? I don’t know, but I do pray. But primarily, I believe it is of vital importance to recognize that what happens in this world is of human origin. This as a fundamental fact. Just as digestion is a fundamental biological fact that has an evolutional history along with the rest of our body so is our consciousness, in every way, a fundamental biological fact. Within our consciousness resides experience, thoughts, beliefs, rationality, religion, language, abstraction, and the list could go on and on. But this whole complex experience is the fruit of a biological process with an evolutional history. This has profound consequences for the understanding of human behavior and it impinges directly on politics, social life, morality, culture, and religion.

Will this project slake my hunger to know? Allow me to doff my skepticism?

Can I believe Christianity is a true myth? How does history, a closed natural system, or materialism relate to ideas of intervention, suspension, violation, or any outside impingement upon the natural system relate to this fundamental belief in human agency and the evolution of that agency?

Francis Schaeffer insisted on the historicity of the fall of humankind. Given what we know of the evolution of the species Homo sapiens, the only extant species of the primate family Hominidae, how can we even think of the historicity of the fall? We can’t. We know nothing about it. It is a myth. The scheme of the fall of humankind is used to explain experience and for pedagogy. And its not a bad idea. The concept of sin is something I always said I believed in during my strong agnostic days.

Back to my story....

I liked these people. There was a joy and certainty that I experienced when singing with them. When did I come to believe myself? It is hard to say. I always told the story of when I was at Danny McDowell’s apartment during the fall/winter of 1971/1972. I really don’t remember much from the actual event; I remember the rudiments of the story I told back then.

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