Wednesday, January 24, 2007


"Your weblog seems to jump back-and-forth between the politics of religion, social justice and peacemaking, heady theology, philosophy and spiritual nourishment", someone wrote to me recently. I took it as an affirmation. I think it was intended that way (!), though I realise that not everyone appreciates the whole dish. This one covers several of those topics in a particular, reflective way. It's a brief excerpt from Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, by Kathleen Norris {pictured} - a writer I have long appreciated. There's an interview with her here. ["A strange and remarkable book… Part memoir, part meditation, it is a remarkable piece of writing… If read with humility and attention, it becomes ‘lectio divina’ or holy reading. It works the earth of the heart.” — The Boston Globe]. Hat tip to Charletta Erb.

"The problem with theology is always to keep it within its bounds as an adjunct and a response to a lived faith. In the early Christian church, we can see how quickly the creeds, which began as simple statements of faith made at baptism, and were local in character until the early fourth century, became tests of orthodoxy as the church established itself as an institutions. And as such, they could be, and were, used to include or to exclude people from the Christian fold.

"Since the earliest days of the Christian church, there has been a curious tension between Semitic storytelling, which admits a remarkable diversity of voices, perspectives and experience into the canon, and Greek philosophy which seeks to define, distinguish, pare down. It is the latter most people think of when they hear the word "theology," because at least in the Christian West, it is that tendency that has prevailed. In her book, Image as Insight, the theologian Margaret Miles states that: 'The history of the western Christianity is littered with the silent figures of Christians who found themselves excluded by each increment in verbal theological precision.'

"As a poet, I am devoted to imprecision. That is, while I try to use words accurately, I do not seek the precision of the philosopher or theologian, who tend to proceed by excluding any other definitions but their own. A well-realized poem will evoke many meanings, and as many responses as there are readers. Like a ritual, a poem is meant to be an experience, and only as it becomes incarnated as experience does it reverberate with more meaning than intellectual categories could convey. This is what keeps both poetry and ritual alive.

"As for theology, it has to be content to tag along. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, commenting on John 14:6, wisely says, 'To me "I am the way" is a better statement than "I know the way".' "

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