Nessie saves Jesus in the nick of time

I had a hard time writing this week's post. Carol showed me a sign that said “put off procrastinating.” That seemed like decent advice since I was procrastinating working on a number of important projects.

So I thought about putting off procrastination and gave it even more thought, but weighing the decision on whether or not to put off procrastinating seemed like one task too many given all the other tasks I'm considering. So I put off procrastinating on the decision to put off procrastinating which made it much easier to put off the decision to finish my other tasks.

Speaking of procrastination, after putting off releasing the Health Care Act ruling as long as possible, the Justices finally admitted they reached a decision this week. Health Care mandates are okay with the USA and Obama gets a vote of confidence from the Supreme Court.

It should come as no surprise that Republicans are ready to tar and feather Chief Justice John Roberts. He upheld the constitutionality of a law that our own Governor Rick Perry called a shocking disappointment to freedom loving Americans. One Republican Congressman said Roberts' ruling upheld a law that is “an abomination” on the FOX news network.

Carol and I don't normally watch FOX but it was showing on the overhead screen at our gym. It was kind of fun watching the Republican response (or meltdown) unfold. After all, Jesus doesn't want the U.S. to require citizens to buy health care, because caring for the sick and needy is the job of Christians.

It's better to ignore the command to charity than to be forced to pay for it with our tax dollars.

But I procrastinate again, because the Health Care Act wasn't the topic of this week's post.

I'm much more interested in the news that the Loch Ness Monster proves creationism. That's right, after years of complaining that promoting the belief in Santa Claus trivializes Jesus, the Christian right wants to promote the belief in Nessie.

I suspected this news was really a Leftist conspiracy theory to humiliate the righteous since it appeared in the Washington Post, but I found it in the New York Daily News as well. So it's true. Jesus does indeed love Nessie.

The news about Nessie came at just the right time for the faithful given recent speculations by scientists that the mysterious chupacabras prove evolution. That had to be a crushing blow for Creationism. Fortunately, however, reports of Nessie predate the reports of chupacabras. Creationism wins.

Admittedly, the scientific evidence for Nessie is stronger than the scientific evidence for creationism. According to a textbook being used in a Christian academy funded with tax payer dollars: ” ‘Nessie’…has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others.” This is certainly stronger than the evidence for Creation which wasn't recorded on sonar, wasn't photographed, and, apparently happened before any eyewitnesses were around to see it.

The thinking goes that Nessie is clearly a dinosaur, and Nessie proves that dinosaurs and people exist side-by-side, something science denies. I'm convinced. I was so disappointed to learn Santa was a fake, so I'm relieved to learn that Nessie has Jesus' official seal of approval.

So I looked for other proofs of Genesis in the literature and I found a lot. Here are just a few:

  • Bigfoot. According to Genesis, the Nephalim (who were giants) mated with women and had children (6:4). No scientific proof of this claim existed until Bigfoot was videotaped and his footprints found in the mountains. Who else could Bigfoot be but half-human, half-giant?
  • Fairies. Lots of people have photographed flying human-like creatures with wings. They think they're fairies, but I'm betting they're angels who have been in hiding since humans sodomized them (Gen. 19).
  • Giant squids. Leviathan, a giant sea monster, was mentioned in Isaiah, the Psalms and Job, but nobody believed in him until the first giant squid carcass washed up on shore. Of course, the Bible describes Leviathan as a serpent, but maybe the writers only saw Leviathan's tentacles. This would be a natural mistake.
  • The Golem. The Golem proves that people are made out of clay and brought to life by the breath of God. There are no photographs or sonar records, but I've personally read dozens of accounts.
  • The Jersey Devil. Dozens of eyewitnesses have seen the Jersey Devil and I've seen the videos on YouTube. If the Devil has been seen in New Jersey then it's pretty clear we'll spot God sooner or later. All those mob guys hang out in Jersey, so I'm betting God will be seen in Texas where the best Bible-believing Christians hang out. I predict we'll see him on YouTube before 2030.
  • The Adam and Eve sour cream dollop. Pictures of Jesus have been showing up on tortilla chips and grilled cheese sandwiches for years, but last year a senior citizen in Omaha saw the image of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the sour cream dollop in her tomato soup. Unfortunately the retirement home server stirred the sour cream into the soup before she could figure out how use the digital camera on the iPhone her granddaughter gave her. But I believe her. I looked for the link but I can't seem to find it. You can trust me.

Speaking of Jesus, as long as we're looking for contemporary pop proof of the Bible, how about Elvis sightings? For twenty years eyewitnesses saw Elvis popping up after his death. To me, that now verifies the authenticity of the eyewitness accounts of Jesus' resurrection.

Don't thank me. Thank Nessie.


Parallel universes and angels on pins

Readers of this week’s Onion were shocked to discover our universe is the backstory for a detective series called Hard Case in a parallel universe.When the series is cancelled, we will simply snap out of existence.

I know this isn’t pleasant news, and many readers will be in denial since we know that the end of the universe depends on Jesus finally deciding to show up again and tell all the unbelievers, “You’re screwed; we were right.”

The article may seem preposterous to some, but it is well-grounded in modern cosmology which suggests that ours is only one of many parallel universes, which may or may not connect. The most extreme versions (and most popular with the general public) suggest that whenever an event with more than one possible outcome occurs, the universe splits to pursue each outcome.

Readers versed in the literature of modern cosmology (which is considered a branch of science) generally have no problem processing this information, even if they balk at the most extreme possibilities. The theories are, after all, science and science is proved rather than something we take on faith.

Many Christians, however, find such ideas bizarre to the extreme. The idea of many universes spinning infinitely more universes seems outrageous. Much the way early rationalists found the idea of a universe filling with an infinite number of souls prior to life and in the afterlife outrageous.

The Onion article got me to thinking, however. As a writer I realize that the problem of infinite universes is compounded by the existence of art, music and fiction (whether it be novels, plays or film). At almost every stage in a musical score, a painting. every word of a poem and every plot twist in fiction, the author could in fact have created a different work.

Since we now know that thoughts are inevitably linked to brain states and structures (although we aren’t even close to knowing how) every artistic decision corresponds to a change in the physical world. Even if we don’t want to spin a new universe for fictional plot twists, we have to spin a new universe for corresponding brain states.

As a consequence we end up with infinite universes within infinite universes, or the equivalent of an open loop in computer code. Or perhaps Plato’s third man gone viral.1 Sooner or later the sequences can’t be stopped from proliferating forever.

Wow, you might say. What’s the point of this? The point is that scientists tend to reduce the choice between science and faith to a single logical proposition, a proposition known as Occam’s Razor. Basically the argument suggests that given a choice between two explanations, the simplest is preferable.

To scientists a big bang and subsequent evolution through random change and mutation seems like a much more simple explanation than a divine being who guides the universe. The problem is, simple to whom? To many religious thinkers, one cause (God) is a simpler explanation than a complex chain of random events. It’s simple math.

The problem with Occam’s Razor is that it is merely a window into the mind of the thinker. “Simple” is a relative value. There are too many ways to define it, and yet it seems, on the surface, to be a clear cut principle.

Invoking Occam’s Razor creates a number of additional problems for science. It isn’t empirical. There is no way to create a test to prove or disprove the fact that the simplest explanation is the best. Many would suggest that science is filled with explanations that are far from the simplest, including relativity, string theory, variable speeds of light and quantum mechanics.

Nor is it science. It is a philosophical principle first adopted by Ptolemy who also came up with the idea that everything in the universe revolved around the earth (which is, admittedly, the simplest explanation if not completely wrong). It takes it’s name from a Franciscan monk to suggest that miracles are best explained by the fact that they please God.

It doesn’t get more scientific than that. 2

I have no problem with science. I think science has a legitimate claim to explaining the workings of the universe. But I think scientists and philosophers make a strategic mistake when they try to claim that science has exclusive privileges to providing those explanations. By trying to make people choose between God and science, they make it more difficult for politicians and school boards to side with science when the electorate is hostile.

It’s easy to claim the electorate is composed of morons, but they’re still morons that science has to answer to when seeking public funds for science education, stem cell research, climate change legislation or anything the Christian right believes stands in the way of faith in the public sector.

Oh, and they’re not all morons. Many are quite bright. But when told they should reject their faith or be labelled stupid, it’s only natural to get their defenses up. I certainly do.

To deny that science has any role in explaining the universe, however, does appear to be moronic. Especially when the same deniers run to the pharmacy for aspirin or climb in their cars or buckle into an airplane and trust that it stays aloft. Or wear eyeglasses, check in for heart surgery, accept pacemakers or even take antibiotics.

To acknowledge the earth circles the sun when the Bible says the sun stood still is to side with science over the Bible, but it is something Christians do every day.

As the early church never seemed to learn, in a war of ideas everybody loses. We mistakenly assume ideas are real things with a truth all their own (we can thank Plato for this). In fact ideas, theories and even beliefs are glimpses of a universe too large to comprehend, not just the laws that drive it but any divine presence behind it.

Scientists need to remember that few theories remain intact longer than than three or four centuries, and many have to be revised or even discarded in less than a generation as new information comes to our attention. Christians need to remember that Jesus claimed he was the truth, not the Bible or any of the beliefs his followers held (which almost always proved to be misguided in some way).

1The third man argument was Aristotle’s jab at Plato, who believed that things we encounter are reflections of a very real ideal (perfect form). Each of us, for example, is a reflection of the perfect human that gives meaning to us all. The third man argument suggests that if this is true, there must be a third higher form of human and individual by which both might be compared. For that higher form there must be an additional higher form. If this seems tedious to you, it’s not to people who love Plato anymore than parallel universes are tedious to scientists, or angels are tedious to many Christians.
This may be why people tend to avoid conversations with philosophers, scientists and Christians. If you don’t know what they talk about they all seem tiresome, and if you do understand you forget how tiresome you can be.back
2Before you leap to the conclusion that I have resorted to argument by slander, a strategy I often (correctly) attribute to Republicans and the Christian right, let me point out that my real argument is this: Occam’s razor can and has been used to justify a number of very unscientific conclusions. And not because it was used incorrectly.back

The phenomenology of faith

This week I ran across a curious post at the factorysense blog. The post claimed that prominent British intellectuals and atheists A.C. Grayling, Polly Toynbee and the better known Richard Dawkins were “chickening out” of a debate with intelligent design apologist William Lane Craig (who I don’t doubt is as well known to evangelicals but not very well known to the rest of us).

The blog was little more than a short frame for a very long video in which Craig (or his producer) cut and pasted brief snippets from the terrible three to make them look like uncivil bastards and Craig like the forgiving and understanding lamb of God. 1

Of course I had to switch to my Mac to watch the video because it wouldn’t play on my iPad, so maybe I was already slightly unreceptive to Lane’s message. Nonetheless, I felt compelled to set aside any plans to poke Rick Perry or rhapsodize on the anniversary of 911 as so many others will in order to ask why Christians would even care about a debate over whether or not God or intelligent design can be proved.

Christians accept the reality of a personal God experienced through an encounter with a resurrected Jesus. This has nothing to do with philosophy or reason. If we did feel compelled to talk philosophically, we might call this a phenomenological experience.

If our faith is real, it really doesn’t matter whether God’s existence can be proved, whether the Bible reflects the current thinking in science, or others find faith to be an irrational and even superstitious experience. If we have to prove God’s existence by appealing to objective, scientific and rational criteria, then we lack the faith we profess. We lie to no one but ourselves.

When Paul preached to the philosophers at Mars Hill in Athens, he didn’t construct a philosophical argument. He simply used the notion of “an unknown god” as a launching point for an exposition of his faith. When most of his audience mocked him or and the others dismissed his to “take it up later,” he didn’t get upset.

Unlike Dr. Craig in is response to Dawkins, Toynbee and Grayling, Paul didn’t call the philosophers cowards for not publicly debating him. He simply left.

Their unbelief did not affect his own faith and he saw no reason to drag the confrontation out.

I don’t understand why some Christians feel compelled to drag others into the light against their will. Nor do I understand why they feel they need to make society teach Christian beliefs to their children rather than accepting that they alone are responsible for their children.

Christianity, like science claims to be, is purely empirical. Only the standards of verification differ. Christians base their faith on a personal experience of God and the community of other saints. Scientists insist on rigid experiments.

The most important difference is this: If my experience of faith isn’t duplicated exactly by someone else’s, my own faith isn’t undermined. I understand that faith will manifest itself differently with circumstance, society and even maturity.

With science, the opposite is true. So scientists create testable conditions, which unfortunately involve trying to create artificial environments based on variables that may or may not reflect the real world. And since there is no way to guarantee that the results of any set of experiments will be duplicated exactly (that’s the problem with the inductive hypothesis), scientists fill in the gap with mathematics and logic—neither of which are empirical.

The conditions of their enterprise force scientists to test, retest, debate, hypothesize and argue. Christians simply argue because they mistakenly think they should to behave like scientists. That may be the scientists’ fault or the fault of their own insecurities.2

But it’s hardly an article of faith.

1So forgiving and understanding, of course, that he resorted to the same aspersions and out of context accusations as them. He hired a snide and sarcastic sounding narrator to read the snippets and highlighted them in bold yellows and reds, while videotaping himself looking compassionate and kindly as he extended his challenge, making sure to look perplexed as to why they would possibly refuse his kind offer. It was a bold and transparent piece of theatrics to just about anyone who had no vested interest in hearing what either side had to say.back

2And, perhaps, the fact that Christian officials ridiculed and harassed scientists for so many centuries that they made themselves look like ignorant morons. Kind of the way many Christians do today.back

Rebirth and maturity

Last week I made a comment that it seemed silly to insist every word in the Bible was literally written by God just to cling to the belief in the virgin birth, there were no dinosaurs and the world is only seven thousand years old. This upset some readers who hold at least one of those beliefs to be sacred.

If I upset creationists, I can hardly be surprised, since they get upset when textbooks don’t take their side, either. This is why they continue to seize the textbook selection process, so they can tell authors who spent years studying the sciences that they are ignorant, and people like themselves, who read the Bible once (if that), are experts.

No humility there, but Jesus never espoused humility as a virtue anyway. Arrogance and self-certainty defined his ministry.

I forgot, however, that the virgin birth is an even more sacred concept than creationism. People almost seem to believe that if Mary wasn’t a virgin, Jesus was a fraud. Sadly, this entire belief depends on whether the scholar in question interprets the gospels to read that Jesus was born of a virgin or born of a young woman.

I’ve been around enough scholars to know that the interpretation of the passages about Mary involve a debate that will never be resolved. Why? Because if the scholar believes the virgin birth is essential to the faith, the passages will be interpreted to reflect Mary’s virginity. If the scholar is neutral, or convinced a virgin birth is impossible, the translation is likely going to reflect Mary’s status as “young woman.”

In this way, scholars are very much like Baptists. If they agreed on anything, they would be neither scholars nor Baptists. All of them will provide compelling reasons why their translation is no doubt correct. God forbid that ancient writers could be any less ambiguous than modern ones.

I just have a hard time believing Christians should turn one or two passages into articles of faith.

I was thinking of another metaphor in the New Testament, the passage in John 3 where Jesus speaks of the need to be “born again.” He speaks to Nicodemus, who is basically the set-up guy in the piece. Ironically, Nicodemus asks Jesus if he is speaking literally, and Jesus makes it clear he is speaking metaphorically. Believers must be “born again” into water and spirit.1

As a Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK), we were taught that the born again experience was literal. It was a one time experience that transformed us once and for all, and we would know it when we experienced it. The reason we believed this is because the Bible was literal, and since birth is a one time experience, so must rebirth be a one time experience as well.

When we realized we weren’t fulfilling the ideal of the rebirth experience, we “rededicated” our lives, which meant we weren’t born again so much as rebooting. We couldn’t be born again again.

Being born again is one of the cornerstones of Baptist theology, as important as baptism. Unfortunately it is a cornerstone theology built on a single reference, much like the virgin birth.

It didn’t need to be. If we weren’t so determined to be literal, we would be able to recognize that the rebirth metaphor is an important thread that runs through Paul’s writing as well. When we pursue that thread, however, we have to rethink rebirth altogether.

Although Paul doesn’t use the term “born again” himself, he very much discusses the fact that believers are new beings. He even refers to himself and his fellow apostles as mothers experiencing labor to bring new Christians into the new life. He refers to new Christians as babes drinking spiritual milk who need to grow into adulthood where they can eat meat.

The rebirth theme isn’t as well developed as others in the New Testament, but it certainly complements other themes of nurturing and supporting fellow Christians (and the needy and the poor). The key difference between the rebirth theme extended through Paul’s letters and the Baptist reduction of rebirth to a singular experience is an important difference, however.

Rebirth doesn’t end with accepting Jesus as savior. It is a lifelong process, just as the first birth is a lifelong process. As newborns grow into adulthood, Paul expects new born Christians to grow into maturity. This is a message lost in the evangelical thought I grew up with, a thought that equated revival not with new energy for individual Christians to apply to maturity, but to “growing the church” by recruiting more born again first timers.

The consequences are significant. If we are born again once and forever, we have no reason to mature. But Paul believed we should be completely transformed, and that the mature Christian would resemble the newborn Christian no more than adults resemble the children they were. We recognize the similarities, but the immature newborn expecting the world to meet his needs and not serve the needs of others around him is long gone.

1I say Jesus is speaking metaphorically, because no one believes that the born again experience involves, literally, birth into water. They at least recognize that being born again of water is a reference to baptism.back

Innocence of children, not ignorance of dolts

When I visited my grandparents, my grandfather would always share with us how important is was to possess the wisdom of Solomon. He usually told these stories to explain how he had caught my uncle and me in yet another fool proof scheme to commit mischief and mayhem.

The wisdom of Solomon helped him ferret out where we stashed the cigarettes (in the tool shed with the deck of cards), who kidnapped my sister’s and cousin’s Barbie dolls and who dressed them in my GI Joe combat outfits (after they had dressed them up in finest princess style so they could give a Barbie fashion show for the entire family).1

He figured out who used the oven door for a pea shooter target (more about this in a later post),who hid the switch that he kept above the coat closet door as a warning to children who planning pranks and misdeeds, who ate the pumpkin pie the night before thanksgiving and who told my sister and cousin that the home made grape juice they just drank had fermented into wine.2

When I started teaching kids for the Texas corrections system, they were just as astonished at how I knew they had been smoking dope in the alley, gone to the convenience store for beer when they swore they were going to the library, and every time they came to class hungover. I could attribute this to the wisdom of Solomon (and he does deserve his due) but the honest truth is that I had long ago figured out how my grandfather became so wise.

Not only did he have his own childhood misdeeds to draw upon, but those of his children and grandchildren as well. And truthfully, I knew how what those kids were up to because I had figured out ways to do the same things. Without getting caught. And, I must confess, the few times I was caught, I figured out how to be such a smart ass they almost wished they hadn’t caught me.

But Solomon wasn’t just a wise ruler, he was a learned ruler as well—his “wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore.” (1 Kings 4:29) He was an incredible biologist and an accomplished writer and poet. (32) These don’t come with “common sense,” but were gifts of learning and discernment.

I mention this because of Sarah Palin’s recent blunder over Paul Revere. I’m not bothered by the fact that she could only place him at the time of the American Revolution, but didn’t know exactly what he did. Many students couldn’t do that much.3 I’m bothered by the fact that, according to the news reports, she had just finished viewing a presentation on Paul Revere.

Sarah, it seems, holds learning in such disregard that she couldn’t even be bothered to pay attention to the presentation she attended to promote her non-Presidential campaign. (Do I need to italicize this? No, I’ll just repeat it. Sarah Palin holds learning in such disregard that she couldn’t even pay attention to a presentation she attended to promote her campaign.)

Now I’m saying it a third time, only in the caption. Forgetting who Paul Revere was isn’t a crime, half of Americans probably have, including some Democrats and Episcopalians like me. But Sarah Palin holds learning in such disregard that she couldn’t even pay attention to a presentation (a presentation explaining who Paul Revere was) that she attended to promote her campaign.

Source: public domain

I’m hardly surprised, since I grew up in a culture that holds secular learning in contempt. It’s part of being raised as a Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK). Just about every Christian I knew assured me that they didn’t need “book learning.” They only needed their Bibles and common sense.

In this model, Solomon’s wisdom could not have been the work of study and effort (and exposing himself to the wisdom of other cultures). God just shoved that wisdom in his head by the power of the Holy Spirit. The fact that his knowledge included the physical sciences of the time doesn’t seem to enter the picture. But, if we are to believe the book of Kings, he was as learned as Aristotle and by today’s standards we would want to say, “even Einstein marveled at his grasp of the laws of the universe.”

Solomon wouldn’t have ignored Darwin and the theory of relativity, or even quantum mechanics. In spite of his faith, he would have been conversant.

Instead, many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians want to shield children from such knowledge (and without knowledge, there can be little wisdom). They pull them from public schools and home school them or send them to private schools. And, thanks to laws like “No Child Left Behind,” home schooled students and students of small Christian schools don’t have to take the standardized tests to graduate.

Our kids have to suffer through training for tests at the expense of real learning, while fundamentalists can shield their kids from any such learning and graduate without taking the tests. (And then politicians like Sarah Palin can complain about how unfairly Christians are treated.)

For some reason, many Christians equate ignorance with faith. I know it’s an old joke but I have, in reality, heard evangelists say (with all seriousness) that the King James is the Bible the Apostle Paul carried with him on his missionary journeys. Southern Baptist ministers are expected to attend seminary, but I have met many ministers in small, independent churches who were proud they never made it past high school (if that far).

I would never say education is a cornerstone of faith. Many of Jesus’ disciples were uneducated. But not all of them were. Luke, the author of a Gospel and the book of Acts, was a physician. Paul, who wrote most of the original letters contained in the New Testament, was educated as a Pharisee and quite literate. The authors of John’s Gospel, and the books of Revelation and Hebrews, were aware of Greek and Roman literary traditions.

Nor does scripture ever frown on literacy and knowledge. We owe the origins of American public education to Christian evangelists such as John Wesley and Robert May. Christians needed to be educated to read the Bible, and Shakespeare was as much a part of their vocabulary as scripture. Many even read Whitman, who proudly wrote of his homosexuality.

The sad truth for Christians is, the more we read the more we can detect bull shit, and we get so much of it from liberals, conservatives and Christians that we need our bull shit detectors finely honed. Christians can get upset when I accuse them of bull shit, but that’s exactly how they feel about the teachings of Christians who disagree with them.

Or worse, if it isn’t bull shit, it comes directly from the devil. And if that’s the case, we need to hone those detectors even more. And it can’t just be reading the Bible, because the same verse in the Bible is often used to justify three entirely different beliefs about faith (e.g., “This is my blood.” Real blood, spiritually infused blood, or merely symbolic?4).

If you read only one book that claims to be true, you have no way of knowing if it is, in fact, true. And if all the books you read are by writers who read and cite the same writers, you have no way of knowing whether or not they actually know what they’re talking about.

And if you’re ignorant of history, you might never know how many Christians contributed to modern scientific knowledge (and continue to do so) and who continue to be Christians, even if they don’t believe in either creation or intelligent design. You might never know that the Catholic Church embraced the Big Bang theory (only to back away when some scientists objected).

If I hadn’t read many of the original fundamentalist documents, I wouldn’t know that many fundamentalist writers had no problems with evolution even in the first couple of decades of the 20th century.

Evangelical Mark Noll made a similar case in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians devalue learning, to their detriment. This didn’t seem to deter his evangelical leanings or his faith. Evangelicals like Jim Wallace embrace the writings of educated writers, and even much of modern science, without experiencing any crisis of faith.

I think Christians equate education with learning about Santa Claus. Many Baptists believe it’s wrong to teach children about Santa Claus because once they learn Santa isn’t real, they might doubt Jesus too. They also believed swimming, dancing and cards were of the devil. And when swimming became acceptable, mixed swimming (boys and girls in the same pool at the same time) took its place on the list.

Similarly, they think learning something in school (like evolution) will lead children to throwing out Jesus. They act as though faith is built on a fragile chain, and losing one link will break it all. Faith is more like a web, or woven cloth. Breaking a thread doesn’t bring down the structure. It allows it to be repaired and even made more sturdy in the process.

Do people reject God and Jesus because they discover evolution is credible? Yes, but much of that is because Christians insist (with many scientists and atheists) that evolution is the link that breaks the chain. They believe that if every word in Genesis isn’t literally true, then the entire Bible is a lie. So naturally, if you believe the chain is broken, you abandon it.

Faith is built on personal experience. It is the ultimate form of empirical knowledge. We believe in the power of Jesus because we’ve experienced the power of Jesus. Just as empiricism is the basis of science, it’s also the foundation of faith.

Does that mean all experiences of faith are authentic, and that all accounts are reliable? No, only the test of time and experience will prove that. The proof of faith is like the proof of an experiment. It must be repeated over time.

Will others’ results differ? Absolutely, just as scientists discover new conditions which call older experiments and theories into question. But that doesn’t make either faith or science invalid. Or the pursuit of philosophy in examining questions of faith (e.g., the book of Hebrews, and many of Paul’s reflections). Or the pursuit of history in discovering how faith has led people astray and also renewed the kindling of the spirit into revival.

I studied Catholicism because my first wife wanted our marriage annulled so that my son Bryan could be embraced by the church. Catholics believe (or at least the ones who taught me believed) God speaks to Christians not just through the Bible, but through people, through nature, through history and many other media as well.

I have no reason to doubt them. This is exactly how God spoke to his followers in the stories of scripture.

Sometimes, he speaks to us directly. Sometimes, we fail to get the message or get it wrong entirely. That’s why we judge each message with all of the tools at our disposal. In short, we need as many bull shit detectors as we can because we can easily confuse the voice of God with our own (or someone else’s) crap.

The problem with politicians like Sarah Palin isn’t that she’s ignorant of facts but that, as a public figure (and, even more disturbingly, an apparent role model for Christians), she shows so much disdain for learning. She isn’t wrapping herself in faith, but a cocoon to protect her from realizing she might be wrong. And when you can’t possibly be wrong, you can’t hear God telling you just how wrong you might be.

1There is a pretty obvious clue here in case you’re wondering exactly how he did it. It wasn’t so obvious to me, however, and I remained in awe of that one at least until I was in high school.back

2By the end of the evening, after drinking a couple of glasses, both Beth and Debbie went to grandmother and confessed how drunk they were. According to Debbie, “I can really feel it.”back

3Primarily because the standardized tests are now so complex and the state mandated curriculum requirements so incredibly micro-detailed that high-school aged students can’t possibly be expected to master them. I know this because I was a consultant on both the Texas standardized texts, and helped to catalogue the curriculum requirements for a dozen states for textbook publishers. In my own field, English, several of the requirements were at a level my professors didn’t cover until graduate school.back

2Another small irony. Have you noticed that fundamentalists, who insist every word of the Bible is literally true, insist that “This is my blood” is merely symbolic? I suspect that’s because the Catholics, who believe much of the Bible is symbolic or allegorical, already claimed that verse as “literal.” Except for this bizarre historical accident, Baptists would have come up with the doctrine of transubstantiation.back