Here’s some of these week’s most interesting & enjoyable articles, culled by the Fare Forward team. Inclusion on this list does not indicate agreement with the article’s content. Be sure to check out this week’s Fare Forward blog posts for more commentary and analysis.
The deep human longing for transcendence is ultimately inextinguishable, and can always be stirred and provoked and compelled anew by moments of beauty, love, creative exultation, spiritual ecstasy, and so forth. For the Platonist, it is a longing that can be satisfied only when one sees that the world of ordinary experience is a cave filled with flickering shadows and so learns to seek the true sun of the Good. For the Christian, this is a fallen and wounded world, but also one groaning in expectation of the glory that one day will be revealed in it. For the Gnostic, the world is a prison from which the spirit must flee altogether in order to find the true light of truth. In each case, though, what remains constant is the real hope for an encounter with a divine reality greater than either the self or the world.
The Bible consistently features refugees as favored players in God’s plan. If God worked through migrants such as Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Ruth, and even Joseph and Mary, we surely need to take today’s migrants seriously.
Victor Hugo apparently had a strained relationship to the faith but the story has a very Christian message: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” As human beings, we are made for mercy. It is in mercy that we live; it is in judgment that we die. Jesus tells his disciples in the gospel of John, “I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.” Jesus comes in mercy to lead us to life because we are incapable of finding it on our own, as Javert shows us. Jesus in turn asks us to lead others to that life by loving our neighbor, by showing them mercy, by forgiving them as we wish to be forgiven. In living a life of love and mercy, whatever our circumstances, whatever our class, whatever our faults, we come to know God, and we come to see God in this world, this broken and fallen and oftentimes all-too-miserable world he came to redeem.
This is surprising because the New Testament message is about freedom from law, and being grounded in grace. “For freedom Christ has set us free,” proclaimed Paul in his most profound exposition of grace. The fact that even some Christians fail to grasp the radical nature of God’s unconditional love suggests just how deeply we humans are embedded in a world ruled by law, expectations, duty, control and obedience. We naturally imagine that Christianity is just a nicer form of this basic reality. The message of grace is so radical that it is simply hard to hear it for what it is.
It would be better to say that just as reason is common to all, though it can be in greater and lesser states of health or corruption, so too religion is common to all in the same way. There is no reason to assume man is fundamentally rational in a sense that is not essentially religious. Our evidence that human being are religious (atheists notwithstanding) is about as good as our evidence that man is an omnivore (vegetarians notwithstanding).
According to Luhrmann, organized religion provides three outlets that benefit churchgoers’ well being: social support, attachment to a loving God and the organized practice of prayer.
“When you become spiritual but not religious, you are losing the first two points and most spiritual but not religious people aren’t participating in the third,” Luhrmann said. “It is not just a generic belief in God that works; it is specific practices that work.”