Sunday, July 24, 2016
From my vantage point at age 80 it seems I have spent every waking moment of my life trying to (in the words of the Oxford Dictionary) “analyze [the Laws of God] into workable parts and describe their syntactic roles.” “Parse” is the word usually linked to that definition (rather than “God”) and it usually is limited to looking carefully at a sentence or a text (often but not always a religious text.) I know I am not the only person in history who has been so obsessed, and I also know that most people find such an obsession strange.
Very early in my life I became so confused by the contradictions and anomalies of Biblical texts that I was ready to kill myself. It is then that I started parsing, or if you will, finessing the Will of God. I knew very well the warning that Paul gave the Colossians, namely, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy … according to the elemental spirits of the universe … [rather than the teachings of] Christ” (Col. II, 2:10-12.) In other words, human reason, including the latest findings of scientific exploration, does not help anyone (or at least any Christian) know God.
To the point, I wanted to know what happens after we die. I learned that every monotheistic form of religion (i.e., Judaism, Christianity and Islam) said we would spend eternity in heaven or hell after death. But to this day I do not know if that is true, or even if heaven and hell exist. Nor do I know anyone who does. And yet all wars and acts of terrorism, in the past and now, are fought over that unanswered question. Who is right? Who is to say if it matters? I adore religions for their narratives, which teach us about the human condition. I also love the gigantic body of music and art that has come out of the Christian Church for over 2000 years.
If I ever see him I will be the first person to tell the Apostle Paul that I have not heeded his warning. For sixty-three years I have been thoroughly captivated by Buddhist teachings regarding intensive meditation, leading to a perception of myself as not separated by anything on earth (or in heaven, for that matter.) However, I cannot say that the Hindu/Buddhist notion of reincarnation is true, either. I can say, as a Zen priest (and on a good day, when I’m not ranting at people for not going my way), that with my last breath I will extol the Peace of Christ.
For this reason, I am sympathetic to the Democratic nominee for Vice President, Tim Kaine, who has also parsed his childhood Catholic faith. He clearly is a man of very good will. He is a Roman Catholic educated by Jesuits. Sen. Kaine can waffle on the Church’s teachings on adultery, abortion and homosexuality because he also favors following laws that promote human rights. At the same time he uses his faith to fight against killing and racism. He seems to have been born with a heart that wants justice and liberty for all. He has fought and won cases against corruption wherever he sees it. He will not fight Dear Bernie’s revolution, but that, I believe is a good thing. Even the word “revolution” would put Mr. Trump in the Whitehouse for sure.