Blogging with a Three Year Old

Eli, who's three, is helping me blog today, so if there are typos, for once they are not my fault.

When I get to be 85, I hope I have half as much moxie as Madeleine L’Engle does. ABC is showing a movie version of her book, “A Wrinkle in Time,’’ on Monday night, so Newsweek interviewed her.

It's a real coup, as she doesn't grant many interviews.

Here's a bit of it:

  • What are you working on at the moment?
    A book about aging: enjoy it, you might as well. And it’s not all bad. I can say what I want, and I don’t get punished for it.

  • Such as?
    Such as I sometimes think God is a s--t—and he wouldn’t be worth it otherwise. He’s much more interesting when he’s a s--t.

  • So to you, faith is not a comfort?
    Good heavens, no. It’s a challenge: I dare you to believe in God. I dare you to think [our existence] wasn’t an accident.

Interviews like this make me want to shout, as the song from Animal House says. God is a "s--t"--that's a question begging for follow up. What did she mean? You could write a whole book on it. But the interviewer is more concerned with what L'Engle thinks of Harry Potter and the Da Vinci Code.

Ranting about interviewers who can't see a goldmine when it smacks them upside the head aside, there are still lots of gems in this interview.

Like her thoughts on anti-Da Vinci Code books:
"That’s silly. It takes too much energy to be against something unless it’s really important. Now if you’re against evolution, that’s important."

And this section on truth versus fact:

  • What are you against?
    Narrow-mindedness. I’m against people taking the Bible absolutely literally, rather than letting some of it be real fantasy, like Jonah. You know, the whole story of David is a novel … Faith is best expressed in story.

  • If the Bible is not literally true, does that mean we don’t need to take it seriously?
    Oh no, you do, because it’s truth, not fact, and you have to take truth seriously even when it expands beyond the facts.

What she's getting at, I think, is that facts are limited in what they can tells us. There's a difference between being factual and true--and that's what religion writing is so often about. What do the facts mean, and what does faith say are true, no matter what the facts are.

That's the point writer Mark Buchanan makes in his book "The Holy Wild"--God can be trusted no matter what our circumstances.

No matter if his children are mess, or if they are dying of cancer, or wiping each other out because their faith is the wrong , or their ethinicity is the wrong one or because they both want
the same damn piece of land--all of which appear to be the case in the Nigerian town of Kano.

Buchanan tells the story of Helmut Thielicke, German pastor who was ordained in 1939, the year Hitler came to power. Thielicke would become an opponent of the Nazi, like Bonhoeffer, but in 1939, he was a idealistic, wet behind the ears pastor, who believed that "Hitler was a pathetic little puppet, dangling on thin strings," says Buchanan.

Why did Thielicke think that: because of the words of Jesus, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” There is no way Hitler can stand up to that, thought Thielicke:

Here's how Buchanan describes it:

He called for a Bible study. Three people showed up—two ancient women, brittle and crepe-skinned, and a man, even older, who played the organ with shaking hands. Huddled together in their little church, they could hear, just outside, the sound of thousands of jackboots, hard as hammers, rhythmic as pistons, striking the pavement. It was Hitler’s Youth Corps, out marching.

And the young, brash Thielicke’s confidence broke.

All power?

Thielicke realized, as most of us at some point come to realize, that either Jesus’ words held a depth of meaning he had yet to glimpse or grasp, or that His words were utterly hollow, devoid of substance, words of reckless exaggeration and empty boast. A lamb masquerading as a lion

What amazes me about faith is when, despite of their circumstances, people like Thielicke and Bonhoeffer and Gandhi and Archbishop Tutu and millions of others like them act as if their beliefs are true. That their belief in God, in justice, in hope will withstand the facts of their lives.

That's what I want to write about.

Eli has run off, so I better chase him down before he breaks something.

One last thing, though. Whenever I read about religious people--Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhists, whatever, killing other people because "God told them so" I think about a story the Onion ran just after 9/11.

It may not be factual but it is oen of the truest things I have ever read.

You can't get it from the Onion online anymore, but I did a piece on it for RNS some time back, and it's got all the good parts. (I'll post it as well).

‘Don't kill in my name,' says God in an exclusive interview

By Bob Smietana
Religion News Service
Oct. 5, 2001

One of the most surprising calls for religious tolerance following the terrorist attacks in September was found in the pages of The Onion, a satirical newspaper based in Madison, Wis. The source: God himself.

In the Sept. 27 edition of The Onion, along with headlines like "Dinty Moore Breaks Long Silence on Terrorism With Full Page Ad" and "Terrorists Surprised to Find Selves in Hell —`We Expected Eternal Paradise for This' " is a story titled "God Angrily Clarifies `Don't Kill' Rule."

"Somehow, people keep coming up with the idea that I want them to kill their neighbors," God tells The Onion during a press conference near the World Trade Center. "Well I don't. And to be honest, I'm getting really sick and tired of it."

In an address that seems to come straight out of the Old Testament prophets, God expresses shock, anger and deep emotion in response to the Sept. 11 attacks and other acts of violence carried out in his name.

"I don't care how holy someone claims to be," says God. "If someone tells you that they kill in my name, they're wrong. Got it?" Later on in the story, God is even more direct. "News flash," says God. "`God's will' equals `don't murder people.'"

God also takes on anyone who claims that his actions are justified by any holy book — the Bible, the Torah or the Koran — saying that his message has been misinterpreted by people over the ages.

The satire quotes God as saying that the central message of all religious belief is "you are supposed to love your neighbor, folks! It's not that hard of a message to grasp."

The story, which is also found on The Onion's Web site (www.theonion.com), ends with an angry message from God, saying "How many times do I have to say it? Don't kill each other anymore—ever." After that message, God is silent. Then, "witnesses" say, "God's shoulders began to shake, and He wept."



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