Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Meaning of Life


Our 13.7 billion year cosmological history and four billion year evolutionary journey on Earth have caused me to rethink Christianity. The Christian faith I inherited has been focused on meaning that is beyond our earthly existence. All of the symbols, rites, and doctrines are oriented toward transcendence. The central question concerns the fate of my personal consciousness, soul, resurrected body, or what have you. In my less self-centered moments, I, the Christian believer, am to hope in the transformation of Earth (the Universe?) toward some transcendent vision.

I have tried and failed to make that purpose meaningful. There are far more theologians I have not read than I have read. Who knows? Maybe one day the right theologian will come along and help me make sense of a transcendent purpose. So far, none has. While I find great value in the esoteric traditions from the East and the West, they don't seem to do the trick either. I do not find meaning in transcendence. Maybe it is because I have a hardened heart and am lost in my sins. I have certainly been told that enough. A good revival meeting could be in order to help me discover the light of meaning beyond my earthly existence. I doubt it. I am an Earthling to the end. If there is going to be meaning and purpose it will be here and now in this life.

So what of Christianity? Is Christianity by definition oriented to a transcendent purpose? I think the vast majority of Christians would say that is the case. It is possible that Christianity is hopelessly transcendent and that Earthlings like me and Christians will need to part ways. Many Earthlings have done that of course. They go by many names: agnostics, atheists, rationalists, naturalists, humanists, or simply, Earthlings. But I am stubborn. Christianity has much to offer that I don't want to give up. For instance, the doctrine of reconciliation is of immense value to a meaningful life.

The purpose of human life is the same as that of all species: eat, survive, reproduce. It has been life's purpose on Earth since life began. It is not likely to change. It seems to me that Christianity could enable us to eat, survive, and reproduce with style, grace, and dignity. Christianity (and other religions and philosophies for that matter) could orient itself to that purpose. Our symbols, rites, and doctrines could be formulated in such a way as to reconcile ourselves with our earthly existence rather than with an imaginary transcendent one.

My personal faith is one of contented agnosticism regarding what may follow my own death. To use Christian language, "whether I live or die, I am the Lord's." The only afterlife I care about (and maybe even be able to do something about) is the life that follows my death on Earth. That is the life of all living things who follow me. I care about that deeply.

Thus, my quest. I wish to discover a Christianity whose purpose is earthy and earthly. In this quest, all of the symbols and rites associated with Christianity will have one purpose--to help me live fully with integrity in this life with an eye to being a positive influence on the lives of all living things who follow.

May we eat, survive, and reproduce with style.






17 comments:

  1. "The purpose of human life is the same as that of all species: eat, survive, reproduce. "

    How do you know?

    Why should Humans be so different than everything else in nature all of a sudden? Maybe you are confusing strategy with purpose. Maybe Life is the Universe's attempt to gain control of its own destiny.

    Maybe the purpose of all of life is for the Universe to makes sense of its own existence.

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  2. A quote from a print we have on our mantle:

    "There are things you do because they feel right and they make no sense and they make no money and it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other & to eat each other's cooking and say it was good." -Brian Andreas.

    Works for me.

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  3. Alan, that sounds like something Garrison Keillor would say. I like it!

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  4. Then again, yeah. Eat, drink, and be merry.

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  5. Perhaps it is not a question of either/or, but of both, and that a cosmic philosophy that integrates both the transcendent and immanent has not really been given a fair hearing yet?

    Perhaps we have failed to grasp that our daily toil and struggle in issues of righteousness in our daily lives is our participation and co-creative contribution (or lack thereof) to the realization of the transcendent divinity goals of eternity within time and space? Perhaps we have failed to realize that the transcendent Deity/God as Creator has made a way, the “evolutionary idea,” by which the creature can co-create experiential deity within the evolving universes on the levels of matter, mind, and spirit; or that God is not only the source of that which is but that which will be, of that which is actual as well as that which is potential, and that within these projected divinity ideals God has made a way for you and I to respond to the divine call and contribute through free will choice in the actualization of these very divinity ideals.

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  6. Snad--amen back at ya.

    Jodie--You are correct, I don't know. There certainly could be some purpose that I am not able to grasp. I haven't found any religion that knows either. I do like the idea that human awareness is to some sense the universe becoming aware of itself. Whether eat, survive, reproduce is strategy or purpose, it seems to be what is. I think it is sacred and holy. My meaning is to delight in that and do my part so that it continues.

    Alan--I do like that. Great for the mantle (and the church bulletin!)

    Rob--Wow. I think I get you, but I have to say what Alan has on his mantle is a bit simpler. : )

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  7. I too like Alan's mantle epigraph; it is simpler ;-) But great philosophies and/or scientific theories are more than epigraphs. Darwin's core idea of evolution is "descent with modification," i.e., the fact of organic evolution; but his actual theory of the mechanism, natural selection, is far more complex than this. To build a philosophy upon caricatures of a theoretical mechanism that leading scientists within the field of evolutionary developmental biology are now questioning, is shaky at best. To claim that evolution proves the only purpose to life is to “eat, survive, and reproduce” is truly a gross oversimplification and misleading caricature of one of the greatest ideas in the history of science that is still in the process of evolving as we speak. It ignores the fact that one of the products of this grand “evolutionary idea“ was to evolve brains with the ability to interact with mind (hardly a concept that has been successfully reduced either scientifically or philosophically to an epiphenomena of matter) so that intelligent reasoning creatures could exist. And these intelligent reasoning creatures then used their minds to make decisions that changed their environment and themselves thereby changing the course of evolution itself. Darwin himself was not nearly as reductionist in his thinking as those who perpetuated the modern Darwinism that came after him. He actually contemplated the intelligent behavior itself was a factor in evolution once it had evolved. Today, this idea has found a voice once again in scientists such as Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb in their work “Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life.”

    What happens when natural selection as the mechanism of evolutionary change from one form to another is unseated, and new and deeper hierarchical mechanisms, even integrated systems consisting of our static 4-base genome controlled by a higher order regulatory genome (i.e., epigenome and epigenetic or 5th-base), which is in turn under the overcontrol of the Central Control System (CNS) of the mind-brain mechanism, ranging on up to intelligent self-reflective behavior. What happens when it is discovered that the same Master Genes and their associated Genetic Switches control similar developmental pathways in very different phyla, so that the same genetic pathways that built fins in fish build wings on a bird or arms and legs on a human? What happens when we discover that variation is not so random and haphazard as we once thought it was, which is why some scientists are now using terms like “facilitated variation” or “nonrandom morphological variation.”

    Building a worldview upon such simplistic caricatures of evolutionary theory is like living during the times of the revolutionary discovery of Einstein’s relativity theory and yet continuing to espouse a worldview based upon Newtonian mechanics. It is this that leads some scientists to say such things as:

    Conceptualizing Cells

    We should all take seriously an assessment of biology made by the physicist David Bohm over 30 years ago (and universally ignored):

    "It does seem odd ... that just when physics is ... moving away from mechanism, biology and psychology are moving closer to it. If the trend continues ... scientists will be regarding living and intelligent beings as mechanical, while they suppose that inanimate matter is to complex and subtle to fit into the limited categories of mechanism." [D. Bohm, "Some Remarks on the Notion of Order," in C. H. Waddington, ed., Towards a Theoretical Biology: 2 Sketches. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Press 1969), p. 18-40.]

    The organism is not a machine! Machines are not made of parts that continually turn over and renew; the cell is. A machine is stable because its parts are strongly built and function reliably. The cell is stable for an entirely different reason: It is homeostatic. Perturbed, the cell automatically seeks to reconstitute its inherent pattern. Homeostasis and homeorhesis are basic to all living things, but not machines.

    If not a machine, then what is the cell?

    -- Woese, Carl R., Author. Evolving Biological Organization. In Microbial Phylogeny and Evolution: Concepts and Controversies. (Jan Sapp, ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2005: 100.

    The molecular mechanisms that bring about biological form in modern-day embryos ... should not be confused with the causes that led to the appearance of these forms in the first place ... selection can only work on what already exists.

    -- G. B. Muller and S. A. Newman 2003: 3)

    Charles Darwin always thought of embryology as one of the really important parts of his theory, and he took great pride in the way that evolution explained the similarities among embryos of different species. Natural selection in particular threw light on the nature of embryological development, in Darwin's view. At the turn of the nineteenth century, during evolution's long non-Darwinian phase, embryology continued to absorb the energies of evolutionists, although (as with everything else) phylogeny--the change of species into other species over time--was their main focus. In the 1940s, when the synthetic theory (as it was called in America; in England, it was better known as neo-Darwinism) came into being, precisely because embryology was a major part of what the synthesis's architects were rejecting, the development of individual organisms from embryos to adults was ignored. In recent years, this has changed completely, and evolutionary development (evo-devo) has become the hottest part of the discipline. Much molecular-informed activity is being directed toward an understanding of development and the ways in which it can affect the course of evolution.

    The most dramatic discoveries in evo-devo have been quite unexpected DNA homologies. It turns out that organisms as different as fruit flies and humans share considerable amounts of practically unaltered DNA, especially those stretches that are involved in development itself--ordering the rates and ways in which the parts of the body are formed (heads before legs and so forth). The jury is still out on the precise significance of all of this. Some seem to think that selection will now have to take a back seat in evolution: “The homologies of process within morphogenetic fields provide some of the best evidence for evolution just as skeletal and organ homologies did earlier. Thus, the evidence for evolution is better than ever. The role of natural selection in evolution, however, is seen to play less an important role. It is merely a filter for unsuccessful morphologies generated by development. Population genetics is destined to change if it is not to become as irrelevant to evolution as Newtonian mechanics is to contemporary physics.”

    -- Ruse, Michael. The Evolution-Creation Struggle. Cambridge: Harvard University Press; 2005; p. 193.

    Jesus own teachings as I have learned them through his life and teachings as portrayed in the Urantia Book, which integrates both the new emerging holistic viewpoints of evolution, which bring the organism in its wholeness -- the creature -- back into evolutionary view, with a transcendent spiritual meaning in the here and now in our daily lives; for when a mortal becomes dedicated to seeking and finding God, becoming like God, and doing his will in our daily life, they become a source of divine ideals and living love, bearing the spiritual fruits of transcendent divine ideals in their very real mortal life. Why do you think your parishioners become moved to compassionate action to carry signs in support of the civil rights of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters? Because actualizing the God of creature-Creator partnership is just that; joining in partnership with God’s divinity ideals (fairness, justice, righteousness, love and mercy) and acting by the spirit and through the spirit by our own free will choice to join in just such a partnership with God.

    Truth, beauty, and goodness are God’s divinity ideals as perceived by living faith and actualized through love, wisdom, and mercy. What a transcendent and inspiring goal that we could call our children and youth to join. Partnership with God here and now to actualize truth, beauty, and goodness, and become compassionate and merciful as our Father in heaven is compassionate and merciful. Then truly, we can call ourselves the children of God.

    Let us hope we are not confusing the process and technique of creating God-consious creatures, the purpose of the process.

    "The facts of evolution must not be arrayed against the truth of the reality of the certainty of the spiritual experience of the religious living of the God-knowing mortal. Intelligent men should cease to reason like children and should attempt to use the consistent logic of adulthood, logic which tolerates the concept of truth alongside the observation of fact. Scientific materialism has gone bankrupt when it persists, in the face of each recurring universe phenomenon, in refunding its current objections by referring what is admittedly higher back into that which is admittedly lower. Consistency demands the recognition of the activities of a purposive Creator. (1125.4)

    "Organic evolution is a fact; purposive or progressive evolution is a truth which makes consistent the otherwise contradictory phenomena of the ever-ascending achievements of evolution. The higher any scientist progresses in his chosen science, the more will he abandon the theories of materialistic fact in favor of the cosmic truth of the dominance of the Supreme Mind. Materialism cheapens human life; the gospel of Jesus tremendously enhances and supernally exalts every mortal. Mortal existence must be visualized as consisting in the intriguing and fascinating experience of the realization of the reality of the meeting of the human upreach and the divine and saving downreach. (1125.5)

    "The myriads of planetary systems were all made to be eventually inhabited by many different types of intelligent creatures, beings who could know God, receive the divine affection, and love him in return. The universe of universes is the work of God and the dwelling place of his diverse creatures. "God created the heavens and formed the earth; he established the universe and created this world not in vain; he formed it to be inhabited." (21.2)

    "The enlightened worlds all recognize and worship the Universal Father, the eternal maker and infinite upholder of all creation. The will creatures of universe upon universe have embarked upon the long, long Paradise journey, the fascinating struggle of the eternal adventure of attaining God the Father. The transcendent goal of the children of time is to find the eternal God, to comprehend the divine nature, to recognize the Universal Father. God-knowing creatures have only one supreme ambition, just one consuming desire, and that is to become, as they are in their spheres, like him as he is in his Paradise perfection of personality and in his universal sphere of righteous supremacy. From the Universal Father who inhabits eternity there has gone forth the supreme mandate, "Be you perfect, even as I am perfect." In love and mercy the messengers of Paradise have carried this divine exhortation down through the ages and out through the universes, even to such lowly animal-origin creatures as the human races of" eath. (21.3)

    If one is going to live by a new mythology of scientism espoused by Primack et al., why not at least make it a truly grand mythology that utilizes the best of current theoretical evolutionary biology and "fantasy religion." Then one can do it with style and still be inspired with transcendent goals of eternity in the here and now ;-)

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  8. There is a lot here, Rob. You are a smart guy. I don't have the expertise to argue on your level regarding evolution.

    I can only trust that you know all of that complexity.

    Regardless of the complexity, I am not convinced that you have to find a transcendent answer or cause to explain our existence.

    Nor do I think it makes life any more meaningful to suggest that our existence has a transcendent origin rather than one that arises from the material.

    Why do you think your parishioners become moved to compassionate action to carry signs in support of the civil rights of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters?

    I don't know exactly. But I am not convinced that you know either, nor does your Urantia Book.

    But, and here is the big but: the length and passion of your response shows that you have reflected a great deal on these matters and this is where your journey to find meaning has taken you. I applaud that.

    I am not interested in telling others that their journey and mine need to be the same.

    I am simply sharing where my journey is taking me now.

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  9. Not interested in telling you were your journey should be going John, or anyone else for that matter. Just sharing another view. Are you not in your ministry trying to share some sense of meaning with others who are on life's journey? Is that not what religous teachers, which you are, do?

    I never said you "have to find" a transcedent meaning or answer in life. An atheist can live a perfectly meaningful and value filled life, after all. I am just saying there are other philosophical viewpoints out there that encompass and integrate science and religion.

    I should have said "some," for I do suspect "some" of your parishoners seek to live lives of service because they see this as participating in God's loving ways, and dare say, may even claim to have personally experienced God ;-)

    If you think life "arises from the material" then it appears you are merely espousing materialism; i.e., life is simply an epiphenomena of material reality.
    That is ok, and as I note above, a materialist atheist can live a morally upright life.

    But I really think Bertrund Russell was more honest about his use of religious language when he said all our "hopes of survival are strung on a figment of mortal imagination; his fears, loves, longings, and beliefs are but the reaction of the incidental juxtaposition of certain lifeless atoms of matter. No display of energy nor expression of trust can carry him beyond the grave. The devotional labors and inspirational genius of the best of men are doomed to be extinguished by death, the long and lonely night of eternal oblivion and soul extinction. Nameless despair is man's only reward for living and toiling under the temporal sun of mortal existence. Each day of life slowly and surely tightens the grasp of a pitiless doom which a hostile and relentless universe of matter has decreed shall be the crowning insult to everything in human desire which is beautiful, noble, lofty, and good."

    Why pretend our religous language points to any putative spiritual reality if we really don't believe it does?

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  10. Hey Rob,

    Just sharing another view.

    Thanks! That is great!

    If you think life "arises from the material" then it appears you are merely espousing materialism; i.e., life is simply an epiphenomena of material reality.
    That is ok, and as I note above, a materialist atheist can live a morally upright life.


    A "materialist atheist" doesn't sound like much fun. I don't think of myself as such. I like the term Earthling. I am from Earth and to Earth I belong and I am intimately connected with all other Earthlings from bonobos to fungus. They are sacred.

    There is hymn that goes:

    "The Earth is not my home; I'm just passing through."

    That is not my hymn. Mine would be:

    "The Earth is my home; won't you care for it too?"

    Why pretend our religous language points to any putative spiritual reality if we really don't believe it does?

    I am interested in Christian language in particular used not to find meaning, celebration, and concern for a Reality beyond Earth's existence but within it.

    Therefore I think it is most appropriate to use the symbols of the faith to point to the spirituality of our interdependent earthly lives.

    Nameless despair is man's only reward for living and toiling under the temporal sun of mortal existence.

    So says Bertrand Russell. I think it is possible and desirable to celebrate this precious existence while we have it and do what we can to care for it. I call that a sacred calling and I use the language of faith to inspire us in that calling.

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  11. "The purpose of human life is the same as that of all species: eat, survive, reproduce."

    I think this is actually not true. Or, if it is, then that is disappointing and sad, because there is then no reason for art, music, language, ethics, religion, philosophy, or any of the other things we do as human beings that have nothing to do with eating, surviving or reproducing.

    "I am interested in Christian language in particular used not to find meaning, celebration, and concern for a Reality beyond Earth's existence but within it."

    I actually think that the viewpoint of eat, survive and reproduce impoverishes this goal and might make it impossible. I'm not sure that very dogmatic materialists would ascribe to this - I think they would still posit things like love or doing good for others or creating art as valuable parts of being alive. Even bonobos, which you mention, have more to their lives than this - they have social lives, and economics, and changing relationships with each other. I guess you can account for those in terms of eating, surviving and reproducing, but I'm not sure that stands up to scrutiny - they could be a lot more efficient about all three if they lived like, say, ants in a colony, using dead community members as building materials and organizing according to pure function.

    In essence, I think that there is a lot more meaning and purpose to human life, even if you reject any kind of supernaturalism or life after death or any of that.

    I also don't see the contradiction between transcendence and meaning for life on earth as Earthlings. I need to hear more about why you think that there is an inherent problem there; maybe in a further post about what you mean by "transcendence"? It might be that you mean "the supernatural", which isn't what I mean, but which would clarify what you're thinking...

    "Nameless despair is man's only reward for living and toiling under the temporal sun of mortal existence."

    I think it is possible to see a *lot* of irony here if you read about Russell's life and read his written works. I don't buy that he actually believed that for a minute. If he did, he certainly hid it well...

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  12. Hey Doug,

    I think this is actually not true. Or, if it is, then that is disappointing and sad, because there is then no reason for art, music, language, ethics, religion, philosophy, or any of the other things we do as human beings that have nothing to do with eating, surviving or reproducing.

    I think there is a reason for all of these wonderful things and more--so that we and all our relations can continue to survive. If as you say these things have nothing to do with survival, we are in serious trouble. That is the point I am making. Humans have been so transcendent oriented--so "heavenly bound" that we have forgotten the basics for ours and our kin's survival.

    In essence, I think that there is a lot more meaning and purpose to human life, even if you reject any kind of supernaturalism or life after death or any of that.

    I can see that I haven't communicated this well.

    If you go to most any church in this area, and ask them what is the most important question about human life and God, you will receive this kind of answer:

    "The most important concern is to be in right relationship with God so you can be with him in Heaven."

    That is the purpose of human life. God is out there beyond Earth in both time and space and it is there that we find our meaning and purpose. The Earth is not my home; I'm just passing through.

    I say no. I answer the question about what is most important about God and human life in this way:

    "The most important thing is to celebrate the sacredness (God presence) of life in such a way that life flourishes for all living things now and into the future."

    We have lost touch with the basics. We don't think that we are connected intimately with all of life on Earth. We have the arrogance to think we don't need other species.

    Don't think eating, surviving, and reproducing is exciting enough, thrilling enough, meaningful enough? Then what is the alternative? Death. Extinction. Game over. And there is no prize in heaven.

    I will talk more about transcendence. It is not supernaturalism as much as the "location" of the sacred, holy, meaning, God, the real, and so forth.

    What I mean when I use that word is that the location for all of this has been for the church beyond and outside our earthly-earthy functions. There is another more real realm out there. Our home is in heaven not on Earth.

    I am saying no. The Real is here. God is dirt. God is bugs. God is sex. It is here that we are in God and live and move and have our being.

    The transcendence, the god-presence is immanent. Sing praises to God whose voice is heard in the honking of geese. Mourn and weep the crucifixion of Christ as before our eyes we witness the largest extinction of species in 65 million years.

    Do we dare hope in resurrection? Where do we follow this risen Christ if not back to our own bodies, and to Earth as God's body, broken, sick, and yet being renewed as we open our eyes and ears and see who and whose we are--of Earth--where God lives and we with her.

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  13. "The Real is here. God is dirt. God is bugs. God is sex. It is here that we are in God and live and move and have our being."

    I actually think that is the more biblical perspective. Jesus the earthly man is the one who said "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father". That is what the incarnation is all about. The Word made FLESH. We don't have to become otherworldly because God became thisworldly. "God so love the WORLD..."

    And in the resurrection we speak of the resurrection of the BODY. With a new Heaven and new Earth, but Heaven and Earth they are. Not some mystical spiritual realm. "The nations of the Earth will come [to the new Jerusalem] for healing. Healing? Nations?

    Strongly biblical perspective there John. Not like you... ;-)

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  14. Strongly biblical perspective there John. Not like you... ;-)

    Ha! I suppose even a 'heretic' is biblical once in a while.

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  15. Don't misunderstand me John; I am all for more immanence and living in the here and now and actualizing what we perceive to be truth, beauty, and goodness in our daily lives, and that includes the many pleasures of good food, loving friends, and the pleasure meaningful monogamous sex ;-) And yes, one of the purposes of being an animal-origin creature is to reproduce! One of my favorite lines from the Urantia Book is where it makes a rather wry comment on the cult of celibacy when it says,

    “The continence cult originated as a ritual among soldiers prior to engaging in battle; in later days it became the practice of ‘saints.’ This cult tolerated marriage only as an evil lesser than fornication. Many of the world's great religions have been adversely influenced by this ancient cult, but none more markedly than Christianity. The Apostle Paul was a devotee of this cult, and his personal views are reflected in the teachings which he fastened onto Christian theology: ‘It is good for a man not to touch a woman.’ ‘I would that all men were even as I myself.’ ‘I say, therefore, to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them to abide even as I.’ Paul well knew that such teachings were not a part of Jesus' gospel, and his acknowledgment of this is illustrated by his statement, ‘I speak this by permission and not by commandment.’ But this cult led Paul to look down upon women. And the pity of it all is that his personal opinions have long influenced the teachings of a great world religion. If the advice of the tentmaker-teacher were to be literally and universally obeyed, then would the human race come to a sudden and inglorious end. Furthermore, the involvement of a religion with the ancient continence cult leads directly to a war against marriage and the home, society's veritable foundation and the basic institution of human progress. And it is not to be wondered at that all such beliefs fostered the formation of celibate priesthoods in the many religions of various peoples.” (977.1)

    I am an Earthling too ;-) As an animal-origin being, an evolutionary creature, I agree, we are just passing through this earth the sense that our mortal life is just a fleeting moment in time. This idea need not lessen our respect for nature or willingness to care for it and leave it in a pristine state for our children and children’s children. Perhaps we can draw upon the metaphors of our Native American fellows to augment this vision.

    I guess, John, I view it as a false dichotomy to hold that transcendent values must by definition exclude immanent actualization in the here and now. I think this is a bifurcation that is as false as those who view this life as a veil of tears and suffering and whose faith is only a hope for some heavenly and transcendent world of escape from the toils of this material world. It simply is not an either/or choice, but one of the paradoxes of being an evolutionary creature endowed with a spark of the divine spirit. Nor is it in any way consistent with the Jesus that I have come to see as the author and finisher of my faith:

    Jesus did not cling to faith in God as would a struggling soul at war with the universe and at death grips with a hostile and sinful world; he did not resort to faith merely as a consolation in the midst of difficulties or as a comfort in threatened despair; faith was not just an illusory compensation for the unpleasant realities and the sorrows of living. In the very face of all the natural difficulties and the temporal contradictions of mortal existence, he experienced the tranquillity of supreme and unquestioned trust in God and felt the tremendous thrill of living, by faith, in the very presence of the heavenly Father. And this triumphant faith was a living experience of actual spirit attainment. Jesus' great contribution to the values of human experience was not that he revealed so many new ideas about the Father in heaven, but rather that he so magnificently and humanly demonstrated a new and higher type of living faith in God. Never on all the worlds of this universe, in the life of any one mortal, did God ever become such a living reality as in the human experience of Jesus of Nazareth. (2087.3)

    Jesus led men to feel at home in the world; he delivered them from the slavery of taboo and taught them that the world was not fundamentally evil. He did not long to escape from his earthly life; he mastered a technique of acceptably doing the Father's will while in the flesh. He attained an idealistic religious life in the very midst of a realistic world. Jesus did not share Paul's pessimistic view of humankind. The Master looked upon men as the sons of God and foresaw a magnificent and eternal future for those who chose survival. He was not a moral skeptic; he viewed man positively, not negatively. He saw most men as weak rather than wicked, more distraught than depraved. But no matter what their status, they were all God's children and his brethren. (2093.3)

    He taught men to place a high value upon themselves in time and in eternity. Because of this high estimate which Jesus placed upon men, he was willing to spend himself in the unremitting service of humankind. And it was this infinite worth of the finite that made the golden rule a vital factor in his religion. What mortal can fail to be uplifted by the extraordinary faith Jesus has in him? (2093.4)

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  16. Rob,

    Thanks! Two things and the most important first:

    1) By your fruits you shall know them. In the end regardless of beliefs, if folks are fruitful for preserving our creation, that is the key for me.

    2) I may be misusing the word transcendence. Sally McFague speaks of transcendence as "...the glory of God in the beauty of the earth and in service to our neighbor. It means finding transcendence in the earth, in the flesh, in the ordinary, in the daily round." p. 113, Climate.

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