Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How I Feel

In one of the many “Star Trek” movies, Spock’s mother, who was human, asked Spock how he felt. Spock did not understand the question. Spock after all was the quintessential thinker, he didn’t really understand feelings a great deal.

In the realm of personality type there are people who make decisions based upon personal values and tend to be more subjective than objective. These people are classified as “Feelers.” There are other people who decide based strictly on facts as they see them. They tend to be more objective than subjective and are classified as “Thinkers.”

I don’t always like the terminologies as Thinkers also feel, and Feelers also think. Additionally, people are not generally inclined to be totally one way or another. Spock, by the end of the movie, understood his mother’s question.

A great deal of the responses to the dreadful massacre of innocents in Newtown, Connecticut have been responses of ‘thinking.’ The questions of ‘why’ and ‘how’ and even ‘where was God” in all this are very common, rational questions that people are asking. There has been some of the finest theological reflection on this I have ever seen. There has also been some incredible bad theological reflection as well. It has all, however, been very theologically based, intellectual (sort of) responses.

But how do we feel?

In terms of this, please let me make a disclaimer. I tend to be a Thinking type person so in order to process how I feel, I have to do so logically. But despite the logical pattern of this, please note that I’m feeling these two things very deeply. (For people who know me well, that I feel TWO things is a stretch. I ordinarily would need to feel three things, so these are real feelings.

First, I feel rage. I am angry beyond angry at this. I am angry at the fact that a troubled young man had the ability to bring an assault rifle to school; I am angry that he murdered so many people; I am angry at so many of the responses. My anger is not really rational on this----I’m just raging over this.

Secondly, and most significantly, I feel profound sadness. I’m deeply impacted by Vicky Soto, a 5th year teacher, 27 years old. My daughter is a 5th year teacher and is 27 years old. My heart breaks for her family. My heart breaks for her loss.

There were also 20 children ages 6 and 7. I cannot get over some things. Many/most of these children still believed in Santa Claus. They were excited about Christmas coming. Their parents most probably had gifts purchased and hidden, excited for Santa to come and excited about seeing their children’s eyes light up on Christmas morning. The joy of purchasing those gifts and the excitement they had for giving those gifts to their children is shattered.

A little boy, hiding in the restroom with a very brave teacher offered to go out and subdue the gunman as this little boy claimed he knew karate. He was so incredibly innocent.

The mother of Teresa Rousseau, substitute teacher at the school who was killed said of her daughter, “I never thought in my wildest dreams that this would happen to my daughter, She was my little twinkling star, from the day she was born.”

I am a parent. I remember the days when my children were little; and I love them just as much now. My heart breaks for so many of these people.

This is how I feel about this.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Blame Game and the Lesson from Job

Whenever something horrible happens, people begin to ask the questions: Why did this happen? Where was God in this? Whose fault is it?

Whose fault is it? This becomes a dangerous question.

Thus far the fault has been spread around far and wide.

It is the fault of not allowing God in the schools. If only we had prayer in schools, events like this would not be taking place.

It’s the fault of gay marriage. God is punishing society because we are allowing gay people to marry one another.

It is the fault of video games. Video games are so widespread and people become expert killers on the games that they want to do this in real life.

It’s the NRA’s fault. If it wasn’t for all the guns available these kinds of things might not happen.

It is the lack of mental health opportunities for people who are disturbed to get help.

What, people ask, is the problem with school security?

Everyone wants to pick and choose answers. They often fall along political ideologies that people have as well. Personally, I want to blame the guns. I have no interest in guns and I have no comprehension about why people love their guns. I am not going there, however. I’m not going to enter into this arbitrary blame game.

The young man who did this while disturbed, was rational enough to plan what he did. This was not a spontaneous event. He planned it well, he wore body armor and he had enough ammunition to murder the entire student body and put up a gun fight against law enforcement. Mercifully he took his own life before any more people died. The devastation was already too expansive to be anything less than a massacre.

The school’s security was a model for good security, the guns were legal, the young man had received treatment, God was present in the school, there were no gay marriage ceremonies going on in the school while this was taking place, etc. The fault in this scenario is obvious and clear cut. The fault lies at the feet of the gunman. He committed great evil.

This does not mean and I am not indicating there are not issues within society. I am avoiding the politics of this entirely. I’m more concerned that, instead of looking to blame someone or something beyond the obvious person of blame, that we reflect on evil in society.

There is evil in society and no matter how hard we attempt to explain it theologically, it remains an elusive mystery. We want to know, we long to know, why evil takes place. In a book from the Hebrew Scriptures, a man named Job had dreadful things befall him.

There were actually two authors of Job, or, at very least, two very diverse narratives. The beginning and the end of the book speak essentially of God and Satan making something of a bet. Satan says that he, Satan, could turn a person against God if enough evil had befallen on that person. God says, “No, there is this one guy, a guy named Job who is so good, that he could not be turned.” Satan then decides to see if he could turn Job away from God.

All sorts of evil befalls Job and Job remains faithful to God. “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” And this is when most people stop reading. The problem is there are many, many pages from this point until the end of the book where Job begins to question why this happened to him. Why does God allow evil to befall a good and noble person?

Three friends come and tell Job that God doesn’t allow things to happen to people unless they deserve it. The reality, they not so gently tell him, must lay with Job himself. Job must not be, they argue, nearly as good and righteous as he thinks he is.

Job argues back that he truly has done nothing to deserve what has befallen him. The friends argue vociferously, seemingly on God’s behalf, that he, Job, must have done something wrong. He Job, had to be a sinner, an unrighteous man. They are unsuccessful in changing Job’s mind. A fourth friend comes along, and joins the conversation. But Job insists, he is good and righteous.

Finally God responds:

Job 38:1-7

1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind: 2 "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. 4 "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

God literally pounds question after question away at Job until finally Job responds to God:

Job 42:1-6

1 Then Job answered the LORD: 2 "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.' 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes."

God’s response is overwhelming to Job. You are not God, you cannot know. There are mysteries beyond human understanding that are beyond what human beings can experience.

God reminds Job of one simple HUGE thing. God is transcendent, beyond human comprehension. Our desire to put God in a box of place God into ‘bite size pieces’ we can understand ultimately leads us to a false sense of understanding that which is incomprehensible. And to those who blamed Job:

Job 42:7-9
7 After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: "My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has done." 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them; and the LORD accepted Job's prayer.

God understood Job’s questioning and Job’s frustration, but God was angry at the fools who dared speak for God.

Lest I be misunderstood, our society has issues on a whole host of levels. Let’s be careful, however, to not be so quick to cast blame on other than he who committed the heinous act, less we forget that, like the friends of Job, we not speak for God.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Finding the Hope and Joy in a Tragedy

Finding the Hope and Joy in a Tragedy
Text: Luke 1:46-55
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
December 16, 2012

    The other day Susan Adams, our Liturgist,  e-mailed me and asked which translation she wanted me to use to read the Scripture passage for today.    It is the well known passage called The Magnificat or The Canticle of Mary, her response to the angel of the Lord telling her that she was to be the mother of the Messiah.  The options were the New Revised Standard Version—the translation we most often use, or the King James Version so she could read from her mother’s Bible.  That sounded like a good plan.  Today it sounds like an even better plan.  Hearing ancient words in a very old translation feels right to me.
    Last week I had writer’s block for my sermon.  I had a lot of pieces I had been assembling for the sermon, but hadn’t been able to pull it together.  Actually, there are times when it seems that God is telling me a message and the message this past week was that I couldn’t pull it together for a reason.  There were other, more pressing things to say.  On Friday, the other, more pressing things, became apparent.
    In the Book of Exodus there is a story of a Pharaoh who orders children massacred.  This kind of slaughter of innocent children is heart breaking and heart wrenching.  How could someone do such a thing?  Unbeknownst to the Pharaoh, one baby escapes harm----and God would use that one child to shatter the next Pharaoh’s universe.

    In the Gospel of Matthew there is a new evil King, Herod.  Herod is threatened when he hears the birth of a child has taken place who is going to be the new King of Israel.  Herod is in a jealous rage and sets off soldiers to slaughter innocent children.  The story is again one of horror and despair.  And, like the evil Pharaoh, he misses the one child who will change the world. 
    On Friday the story was repeated.  This time it was not by an evil king, but by a young man who slaughtered innocents and repeated the horror again.     
    The one common denominator in all these kinds of killings there is a desire to smash and destroy hope.  Last Sunday we lit the candle of hope; and today we light the candle of joy, and there are questions: Where is the hope?  Where is the joy?
    Often the hope and even the joy are unseen this close to the event.  The slaughters of the past did not bring hope until decades later.  We don’t know where this one will bring.  It’s too early.  But we have faith, we have hope.  God is a God beyond our comprehension.
    There are things, I suspect that are festering.
    The first big question is why?
    Anyone who can tell you ‘why’ this took place is probably not telling you accurate things. The police may determine what kind of delusional motive the young man may have had.  But the answer ‘why’ remains a mystery.
    In the Book of Job, Job keeps asking God the question, why?  All sorts of terrible things had befallen Job and Job, a good and faithful servant of God, kept asking the question why?  Why me?
    Job’s friends kept telling Job that perhaps Job wasn’t nearly as good as Job thought he was.  Job must have done something wrong.  There HAD to be a rational answer to this question and the rational answer was that Job had sinned.
    I’ve heard several people come to this conclusion about the shootings in Newtown.  Some of them are political some of them are really bad theology, and at their core, they all have one common element.  Like Job’s friends, they point to some sort of sin that God is avenging.
    But God held Job’s friends with contempt.  He banished them as light weighted fools from Job and Job’s sight.
    God’s answer to Job was elaborate and simple----unless you are God who understands all things, you cannot even ask the question why?

    Job was brought to his knees by God’s answer.  It was a lot longer than I have made it out to be.  The reality is, however, the same.  The answer ‘why’ is beyond our comprehension.
    But there are things I believe that are not true.
    This was NOT God’s will.
    God does not will evil.  People often choose to do that which is evil, but God doesn’t will evil.
    We live in an imperfect world filled with imperfect people who do imperfect things.  We can all look within ourselves and at our own lives and know this to be true.  But in this imperfect world there exists evil.  God has given us the ability to make our own choices right and wrong; magnificent and tragic.  Sometimes those choices lead to horror as they are so awful.
    We celebrate the free will we have and often delight in it.  But free will has consequences.  Sometimes those consequences are difficult to bear.  But those consequences are not God’s will.
    We have to be careful about using “God’s will” as an answer to evil as it is, ultimately a cop out.  It means that absolutely everything is God’s will.
    So when we lie, we can say, it’s God’s will.
    When we are cruel to another person, we can say, it’s God’s will.
    When we steal, we can simply say, it’s God’s will.
    So much of life takes place outside God’s will.  In my heart and mind the first heart to break when the hearts of babies stopped beating because of a man gunman was God’s heart.  This level of evil is not the will of God; this kind of evil breaks God’s heart.
    Secondly, to say that this happened because God was not allowed in the school is offensive.  I have seen Facebook posts with shirts and banners that say:
    Dear God,
    Why do you allow so much violence in our schools?
    Signed, A concerned citizen

    The response:
    I’m not allowed in schools.
    Signed, God.

    Let me be incredibly blunt.  I find this to be offensive.  I find this to be very offensive.  I can’t even put into words how offended I am by this.
    First, it is not true.  There are, of course, legal limitations to the practice of religion in school.  There are no limitations, however, to people quietly reading their Bible, talking about God to one another, and praying.  People do it all the time and it’s not a big deal.
    But the bigger reason is this.  Someone said recently that God was not in the school because God is a gentleman and gentlemen don’t go where they are not wanted.  I’m trying to figure out which God they are referring to.  Here is what I know.  This is not the same God we Worship at St. Marks.
    We Worship a God who existed before time existed and who will exist long after the universe we are in is gone.  This is a God who is powerful beyond power and loving beyond loving.  
    And if the Bible teaches us anything about God it is that God does what God does.  God does not ask permission or seek approval.   If people believe that God is limited by human understanding and human laws and human wants and desires, we have grievously failed to reveal God to the world.

    God WAS present in the school.  As people died at the hands of violence, God was there, in the midst of the horror and the terror comforting and embracing, and taking the spirits of those children with him. 
    God was also present in others.   Diane Sawyer interviewed a teacher, Kaitlin Roig, a First Grade teacher.  She crunched her entire class into a tiny restroom in her classroom to protect them and gently talked to them telling them how much she loved them.  If people cannot believe that God was present with her, then their God is not the same as my God.  Vicki Soto hid her class and took a bullet to protect the children.  The principal of the school ran down the hallway knowing she would be killed in order to alert others of the nation.  God was very present in that building.
    Okay, it as not God’s will and God was present.  But there is more.
    In this Canticle of Mary, this song, it is a song of hope and joy.  It has been revealed to her that the Messiah is coming and even beyond that, is present in her belly.
    And she is filled with hope and joy.
    Interesting thing, though.  Mary would have been around the age of a middle school girl of our era, probably 13 or 14 years old.  Maybe and 8th grader or a 9th grader.  She was engaged to a many her father had chosen for her.  She had no way of knowing if Joseph was going to be a good man or an evil man or if they would even ever love one another.
    She was now pregnant and not married.  She had no rights.  She belonged to a religion that gave her no rights.  She lived under a paranoid and evil king who would one day slaughter babies.  She also lived under an Empire based in Rome that saw her as little more than a bug on their dinner.
    Her life would be difficult.  The Messiah’s coming into the world was not going to make her life better in any way.  In reality, it was going to cause her hardship and pain.
    But she stops and shares a song of hope and joy.  In the context of things it almost sounds absurd----but it demonstrates an amazing faith in God.  Those first words, so remarkably elegant in Old English:
     My For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
    She is a girl of ‘low estate,’ yet all generations will called her blessed.  The hope and joy she has is not for herself, but for all those who follow.  In short, there may not be much hope and joy now, but it will come.
    This song is the consummate song of Advent.  It is a season of expectation.  It is a season of long dark nights and short days.  It is a season that is sometimes painful and difficult.  And this year, for many, more painful and more difficult than ever.  Hope and joy seem far away.
    But out of a slaughter, 3200 years ago, came a person who would lead people to freedom.
    Out of a slaughter 2000 years ago came the Messiah.
    Out of the slaughter of 2012, no one knows.  But God is present and when God is present, there is always hope and love beyond our understanding.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jelly Doughnuts, Christmas Trees, and the Birth of Jesus

Every year with the inevitability of an unloved season this time of the year comes around and Fox News begins to tell us about the ‘war on Christmas.’ Every year I receive e-mail and read Facebook quotes that President Obama refuses to call the White House Christmas Tree a Christmas Tree and every year President Obama calls the Christmas Tree a Christmas Tree and every year Christmas goes off without a hitch.

One of my favorite theologians is Dr. Diana Butler Bass. She recently wrote an article, published on The Huffington Post that takes on Fox News. She bases it as a piece about the “War on Advent,” and speaks in terms of the tradition and customs of liturgical branches of Christianity and the Season of Advent. Christmas, she points out, is the season from Christmas to Epiphany. Her article is on the Huffington Post website. Here is what Dr. Butler Bass wrote, however:


Fox News War on Advent

Dr. Diana Butler Bass

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Joyful Whatever!

With FOX News seeking to expose those who refuse to say "Merry Christmas" as secular collaborators to the War on Christmas, I confess that I am confused. FOX holds itself up as the network that stands by traditional values defending America and faith from heresies and infidelities of all sorts.

Did FOX get the wrong memo? According to ancient Christian tradition, "Christmas" is not the December shopping season in advance of Christmas Day; rather, it is Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the Twelve Days following that run until early January. During most of December, Christians observe Advent, a four-week season of reflection, preparation and waiting that precedes the yearly celebration of Jesus' birth. In many mainstream and liturgical (and even liberal and progressive) churches, no Christmas hymn will pass the lips of a serious churchgoer for another two weeks. If you wander into a local Lutheran, Episcopal or Roman Catholic parish, the congregation will still be chanting the ethereal tones of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" or "Watchman, Tell Us of the Night." There are no poinsettias, no Christmas pageants, no trees or holly, and no red and green altar linens. A few days ago, they might have preached about St. Nicholas -- but not Santa Claus. There are no twinkling lights or over-the-top Christmas displays. Just four candles in a simple wreath, two partially burned, two yet to be lit. The mood is somber as December moves toward deeper darkness, and the night lengthens. The world waits, and it is time to prepare for the arrival of God's kingdom. It is not Christmas. It is Advent.

During these weeks, churches are not merry. There is a muted sense of hope and expectation. Christians recollect God's ancient promise to Israel for a kingdom where lion and lamb will lie down together. The ministers preach from stark biblical texts about the poor and oppressed being lifted up while the rich and powerful are cast down, about society being leveled and oppression ceasing. Christians remember the Hebrew prophets and long for a Jewish Messiah to be born. The Sunday readings extol social and economic justice, and sermons are preached about the cruelty of ancient Rome and political repression. Hymns anticipate world peace and universal harmony. Churchgoers listen to the testimony of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who speaks of God:

He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.

Does FOX News want us all to say "Merry Christmas" so we forget about Advent? These, after all, are the four weeks that the Christian tradition dedicates to God's vision of justice for the outcast and oppressed, not to celebrating the sound of ringing cash registers or Victorian America values.

Ancient Christian saints, theologians and evangelists would be horrified that those who claim to stand for tradition have forgotten the most important aspect of it. Jesus Christ was not born that human beings would spend December shopping or saying, "Merry Christmas." Jesus was born to confront the rulers of this world with the love and justice of the God of Abraham -- that Jesus, the same Jesus who preached the the poor and marginalized were blessed, is the King of kings and Lord of lords. All earthly powers pale before him, the humble born one who will die a political traitor to Rome.

Perhaps FOX thinks it might be best if Christians did not spend too much time contemplating a Savior who promised to overthrow the powers-that-be in favor of a kingdom where the poor are blessed and the last shall be first. That's probably bad for business and does not exactly fit with their favored political philosophy.

And maybe, just maybe, the real war of this season is the War on Advent.


This year many people within Christianity are pushing back about this war on Christmas nonsense as within this ‘war’ there is a context of pushing faith off to the side in some very profound ways. It has even impacted people of faith.

My Mom died seven years ago on December 19th. We packed up and flew to New Jersey for her funeral. My Mom was Roman Catholic and so the Funeral was going to be at a local parish. Truth be told, my Mom may or may not have ever set foot in that church and if she did, it was very infrequently and had been a long time. Perhaps the last time before that was for my Dad’s funeral in 1997. In any case, my Mom was not a church goer and the priest who officiated at the funeral did not know her. Most clergy who can walk and chew gum at the same time have learned the art of doing pretty generic funerals with a scant amount of knowledge about the person. In a Roman Catholic Church this is not uncommon and, in essence, less vital as the Homily is not as significant in a Mass as a Sermon is within a Protestant Service which rests almost entirely on the officiant’s words.

We were off to a bad start before the Mass began as he didn’t know the gender of the deceased and asked my sister if she was the wife. It was a grievous gaffe, but, oh well. The Homily, however, was a joke. Instead of weaving the context of new life, resurrection, love, and the season, he spent the majority of his time speaking about the war on Christmas. Had it not been for family and loved ones who had come, I’d have stood up and told the guy he had audacity to pull such nonsense at Mom’s funeral and refer to him as a moron of some sort. I behaved and fumed. I behaved out of respect for the people in the pews, not for him. I have no inherent need to render such respect on incompetent clergy but I do have a great respect for the love and care of the others. But, the war on Christmas? At a funeral? Seriously?

This ‘war on Christmas’ is hailed as a war because some people and some places say such dreadful things as “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Perhaps more grievous offenses take place like not having crèche scenes up.

In our nation ravished by this ‘war on Christmas’ I’ve noticed some things. In stores, Halloween decorations come down and are replaced by Christmas décor. November usually comes in and we are seeing Santa Claus, Rudolph, and snowman displays. Thanksgiving has been pre-empted by Black Friday---which had crept into Thursday, and the following Monday is now called Cyber Monday. Christmas trees are up. Colored lights are up and everyone is geared for the holiday that has a war attached to its name.

Funny thing about Christmas. As Dr. Butler Bass points out, the Christian Church doesn’t really acknowledge Christmas until Christmas Eve. We have a season called Advent. In our tradition we have decorations for Christmas, but the poinsettias wait. We have Advent hymns and some Christmas carols mixed in. But Christmas is Christmas. In years past Christmas was not always celebrated the way we do now.

The Puritans and early Congregationalists did not really celebrate Christmas. They acknowledge the birth of Jesus but did not go over the top and make it a big holiday. Their fear was that it had become far too secular a day. In Germany, at that time, it was both a secular and religious holiday and Christmas trees, etc., were the new norm. These new traditions had crept into English Christmas celebrations and the Puritans wanted no part of it. This no nonsense view of Christmas was very present in the Colonial Army and George Washington, whose army had a

lot of very sober Puritans in it, used this sobriety to his advantage to cross the Delaware River and attack very hung over German Hessian soldiers in Trenton on December 26, 1776.

Which brings me to jelly doughnuts. If you are like me, you may enjoy on occasional jelly doughnut. I have enjoyed some jelly doughnuts over the years. Jelly doughnuts have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. Nothing. The birth of Jesus and jelly doughnuts are both things in my life but they are not things that have any inherent connection to one another.

Christmas trees, Christmas lights, snowmen, and even Santa Claus have to do as much with the birth of Jesus as jelly doughnuts do. In fact, they may actually harm the story. So many people are busy looking at the lights, celebrating, being merry, saying ‘ho, ho, ho,’ that they may miss a couple wandering into town looking for a room. I suspect Jesus would be born in a stable again as so many people are celebrating ‘Christmas’ so hard that they miss the story once again.

As for me, I think this is a good time to stop talking about this specious ‘war’ and begin focusing on the coming of the Prince of Peace.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Neurosurgeon’s Journey

In 2008, neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander contracted a rare form of bacterial meningitis that shut down parts of his brain, put him in a coma and nearly killed him. During this time, he says, he saw heaven. He wrote a book about his experience. Interesting this is that his vision of God as not as male or female but God was pretty much formless, but with a very amazing and peaceful


presence. 370ed6a_0

Alexander was a skeptical Christian before this and is a church goer now, but has an interesting critique of religion. He says that when we believe we have a superior understanding of God than anyone else, we are missing the point. God is all love and all goodness and none of us really has a grasp of the power and magnitude of God. Hearing him says this reminded me of Thomas Aquinas who stopped writing, lecturing, and preaching after an experience of God calling all his previous work, straw.

It has been interesting that Alexander has become a disturbing presence to many people. Many in the science community have, in their own wisdom, been able to disprove the existence of God. This ‘God talk,’ to them, is disturbing. If they have empirically disproven something then who does he think he is by suggesting they might be wrong?

He is not met with much better acceptance by the religious community as well. After all, theological types make their living and write and read books as to why they are right and others are wrong. This idea what my particular set of beliefs may not correspond with a real idea of God is just wrong. Or so they say.

We have a problem with God, or perhaps better said, we have a problem with our conceptualizations of God. We often like to limit God to our own understanding. We often do this with the Bible. We limit the Bible to our understanding of it. We like to fit God into the view of God we have.

Interestingly enough this is also the case with many people who are not people of faith. They cannot comprehend of the notion of a God, and so they nix the entire idea. People who broach the subject of faith are sometimes met with ridicule. Sometimes. Having said this, I have found many non-believers are more civil with believers than believers are with non-believers. But that is a whole different story.

Is Alexander correct? I don’t know. I’m not even going to venture a guess. It does remind me, however, that any approaches to talking about God need to be taken with a great sense of humility.