Friday, April 08, 2011

Thinking about Religion

I frequently drive past a few churches that feature attempts at clever or inspiring messages on their signs. The Episcopal Church now has a message that exhorts passers by to let their "hearts be broken by the things that break God's heart". I read this on the way to the dentist and meditated on it at length to distract myself from the discomfort of the cleaning I was undergoing. How am I supposed to know what breaks God's heart? In what metaphorical sense does God have a heart that can be broken? And if, as I am often told to console me in times of sorrow, heartbreaking events are manifestations of God's will, am I supposed to imagine that God's heart breaks even while His ineffable will is being carried out? I can't make sense of that sign. Over the past several months in church, our pastor has problematized "postmodernism" or at least the aspect of postmodernism that allows that various points of view can be seen as equally valid. It seems to bother our pastor that anyone (Oprah Winfrey has been called out a couple of times) might take issue with someone else for questioning "their truth". In my view, our religious views are not inconsistent with postmodernism, and I would think that pastors would embrace it. After all, modernism was the enemy of faith which is, in actuality, a premodern way of thinking. Postmodernism validates and legitimizes faith and faith based truth claims whereas modernism devalued it. Apparently, our pastor equates the certainty that the believer has in the truth of his own faith based truth claims with the kinds of allegedly objectively verifiable truth claims in which modernism gloried. I don't know what the point of all the preaching along these lines has been. We think we're right and that our beliefs are true. So what? We can't prove them to be true any more than anyone else with an entirely different set of irrational beliefs about metaphysical propositions. We'll come off like total jerks if we try. I had an interesting discussion the other day about the afterlife. My interlocutor and I both agreed that we were completely stymied about just how our immortal selves would occupy eternity. Nobody in all our religious indoctrination had ever given us a clue. What kinds of projects will we be able to undertake?


Anonymous said...

I have been reading a lot of church slogans myself recently. I'm up to my eyeballs in genealogy work, and part of the drudgery of it is the need to scroll through literally thousands of screens of names of people interred in southern cemeteries looking for obscure names that are probably misspelled anyway.

So the web site and I have become close friends, and on many of the opening pages for each cemetery they show the local church, and its inevitable sign. "If God is your co-pilot, switch seats." "We are too blessed to be stressed." "Can't sleep? Come hear a sermon."

Thanks for your interesting blog posts. Nice to find another person who is fascinated by the oddities of life. Keep up the good work!

MerryJon said...

Oh sorrow!1 I too am a decendent of many Lunsfords and Dockery's and was so very sad to see one of our own is a democrat in these days and times. Can you not see that republicans are trying their best to hold on to all that made this country great while the demcrates are a Godless bunch of folks who want this country to become what so many others did just before they fell for good and always. Sad to see that one of us is so blinded that he would vote for the likes of Obama. Did we in the south not lose enough? Did your ancestors fight for naught? They would roll in their graves to see your words today and your vote as I assume it must have been. And look what this guy has done to us all. Shame for shame. Don't tell everybody your one of us ... Please....