U2, Religion and Spirituality

Bono sharing his signature sunglasses with St. John Paul II

Bono sharing his signature sunglasses with St. John Paul II

I am heading to see U2 this weekend in Chicago with my wife (the kids are spending time with the grandparents :-).  I have always liked U2’s music but it was not until the last five or so years when my spiritual journey took a dramatic U-turn (bad pun intended) from practical agnosticism to honest doubt to sincere belief that I have started to really appreciate them as they have been writing about the quest for God in the context of love, doubt and reason for over 35 years. I appreciate the fact that they are devoutly Christian, and are not afraid to express it as in this 2005 interview between Bono and Michka Assayas:

[T]he secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes:No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. . . The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched.”

From Christianity Today (August 1, 2005)

More importantly, I am impressed with how Bono puts his beliefs into practice, such as his vocal contributions to debt relief for poor countries to his other charitable works. Further, I appreciate the poetry of U2’s music in that it liberally incorporates religious themes but also expresses the existential doubt that is common to all humanity.

A friend of mine gave me the Rolling Stone Special Collectors Edition for U2 which contains many old interviews with U2. What is interesting from a faith perspective is that although Bono has always had a strong faith, he has moved from a disdain towards organized religion (which is understandable given that he grew up in a bitter Catholic/Anglican sectarian conflict) to finding peace between organized religion and his strong Christian beliefs, which is something I can relate to :-).

Set forth below is an excerpt from the magazine which is from a 2005 interview with Bono:

What is your religious belief today? What is your concept of God?

If I could put it simply, I would say that I believe there’s a force of love and logic in the world, a force of love and logic behind the universe. And I believe in the poetic genius of a creator who would choose to express such unfathomable power as a child born in ‘straw poverty'; i.e., the story of Christ makes sense to me.

How does it make sense?

As an artist, I see the poetry of it. It’s so brilliant. That this scale of creation, and the [creator of the] unfathomable universe, should describe itself in such vulnerability, as a child. That is mind-blowing to me. I guess that makes me a Christian. Although I don’t use the label, because it is so very hard to live up to. I feel like I am the worst example of it, so I just kind of keep my mouth shut.

Do you pray?

I try to take time out of every day, in prayer and meditation. I feel as at home in a Catholic cathedral as in a revival tent. I also have enormous respect for my friends who are atheists, most of whom are, and the courage it takes not to believe.

How big an influence is the Bible on your songwriting? How much do you draw on its imagery, its ideas?

It sustains me.

As a belief, or as a literary thing?

As a belief. . . I’m the sort of character who’s got to have an anchor. I want to be around immovable objects. I want to build my house on a rock, because even if the waters are not high around the house, I’m going to bring back a storm. I have that in me. So it’s sort of underpinning for me. I don’t read it as a historical book. I don’t read it as, ‘Well, that’s good advice.’ I let it speak to me in other ways.

Rolling Stone Special Collectors Edition (2015), pp. 69-70

On a personal level, I am looking forward to a weekend with my wife and the concert on Monday!

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Laudato Si and Teilhard de Chardin

Note the Roman Collar

Pope Francis gives a thumbs up to Teilhard de Chardin

Pope Francis gives a thumbs up to Teilhard de Chardin

First, my apologies about the longer than expected sabbatical. It has been a crazy few months between work, health issues with my mother-in-law and trying to spend more time with family. I hope to begin posting again on a semi-regular basis very soon but I wanted to at least mention Laudato Si. I am not going to discuss its substance as I have only read it once and have not yet fully digested (hope to start doing that this weekend); plus there are plenty of other resources that can provide a better analysis than I can. (However, I will note on a personal level it is a very challenging document as it is directly asking me to step beyond my narrow, personal comfort and security, which I guess the Gospel message always does).

No, I will briefly highlight Laudato Si as being important in Catholic theology for two fairly minor items compared to its overall message but two items that should not be overlooked. First, Laudato Si is the first time I recall reading or hearing Pope Francis mention Teilhard de Chardin. It is possible that Pope Francis mentioned him previously but I was not aware of it. Second, this is the first time that Teilhard de Chardin was mentioned in a papal encyclical. St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had previously rehabilitated and endorsed the ideas of Teilhard in their writings and speeches but Laudato Si, and specifically footnote 53, was the first time Teilhard de Chardin made it in an encyclical. Set forth below are excerpts from Laudato Si that incorporate Teilhard’s overall theology:

“Creation is of the order of love. God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things . . .In this universe, shaped by open and intercommunicating systems, we can discern countless forms of relationship and participation. This leads us to think of the whole as open to God’s transcendence, within which it develops. Faith allows us to interpret the meaning and the mysterious beauty of what is unfolding. We are free to apply our intelligence towards things evolving positively, or towards adding new ills, new causes of suffering and real setbacks. This is what makes for the excitement and drama of human history, in which freedom, growth, salvation and love can blossom, or lead towards decadence and mutual destruction.

* * *

Creating a world in need of development, God in some way sought to limit himself in such a way that many of the things we think of as evils, dangers or sources of suffering, are in reality part of the pains of childbirth which he uses to draw us into the act of cooperation with the Creator. God is intimately present to each being, without impinging on the autonomy of his creature, and this gives rise to the rightful autonomy of earthly affairs.His divine presence, which ensures the subsistence and growth of each being, “continues the work of creation”. The Spirit of God has filled the universe with possibilities and therefore, from the very heart of things, something new can always emerge: “Nature is nothing other than a certain kind of art, namely God’s art, impressed upon things, whereby those things are moved to a determinate end. It is as if a shipbuilder were able to give timbers the wherewithal to move themselves to take the form of a ship”.

Human beings, even if we postulate a process of evolution, also possess a uniqueness which cannot be fully explained by the evolution of other open systems. Each of us has his or her own personal identity and is capable of entering into dialogue with others and with God himself. Our capacity to reason, to develop arguments, to be inventive, to interpret reality and to create art, along with other not yet discovered capacities, are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology. The sheer novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within a material universe presupposes a direct action of God and a particular call to life and to relationship on the part of a “Thou” who addresses himself to another “thou”. The biblical accounts of creation invite us to see each human being as a subject who can never be reduced to the status of an object.

* * *

The ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God, which has already been attained by the risen Christ, the measure of the maturity of all things. (Editor’s note, this is the Omega Point) Here we can add yet another argument for rejecting every tyrannical and irresponsible domination of human beings over other creatures. The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things. Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator.

(emphasis added, footnotes omitted).

I hope to get back to semi-regular writings fairly soon. In the interim, I am wishing you all a joyful summer or winter, depending what hemisphere you live in.

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Sabbatical

SabbaticalScapes

 

 

It has been 21 months since I started this blog. It has been a fun journey and I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to connect with so many wonderful people throughout the world. The Noosphere is definitely developing.

However, the time commitments of family and work are continuing to increase and reluctantly I am not able to devote as much time to this blog as I had previously. I will still keep the blog active but the posts may be infrequent.  I am humbled and inspired by the wonderful blogging community and the renewed interest in Teilhard de Chardin. In the meantime, please stop by The Teilhard Project for updates on this exciting documentary.

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Let’s Play Pretend

Originally posted on Striving After the Wind:

Pin_LetsPlayPretend                                                                                                                                                    Image Source

In my previous post I encouraged my readers to take part in a meditation practice. The practice allowed us to create a vivid image of a perfected world. To imagine and visualize as concretely as possible a newly painted canvas of the world. To recall this image and continuously reform, reshape, and renew it.To begin to hope that the existence of such a world is truly possible. However for this practice to begin…

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Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (January 19, 2015): Hope for the Future

sunrise_christian

“I’m setting out in a notebook various thoughts, that gradually fall into groups around several main centres. I still think that my first essay will attempt to define my views on the constructive (creative, I might even say) properties of hope. (1) I shall begin, I imagine, by expressing as vividly as I can our situation in regard to the future: flung into existence, we are forced to advance into a future which terrifies us by its novelty and disheartens us by the ‘chance ‘ that seems to govern its development. We suffer equally from the determinist processes that involve us in their various phases, and from the forbidding indeterminism of chances whose multiplicity and slenderness make it impossible for us to control them.—(2) Following upon that, I shall put forward (without proving it except by its effectiveness in action and its compatibility with dogma) a particular concept of faith. If the future seems to us so uncontrollable—both in its causal sequences and its capaciousness—it is because we are afraid to plunge with it.”

–– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind; Letters from a Soldier-Priest (p. 234-35)

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Martin Luther King, Jr. and Catholic Moral Law

Martin Luther King, Jr. joining hands with Catholic clergy and other religious leaders.

Martin Luther King, Jr. joining hands with Catholic clergy and other religious leaders.

[Note: The Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week will appear tomorrow]

In the United States, we celebrate the life and ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr. today.  Last Saturday, I went to see the movie Selma.  I came in with low expectations, expecting a typical Hollywood story that would depict Dr. King as a one-dimensional larger than life figure and “secularize” the Christian faith component of Dr. King. After watching the film, I was pleasantly surprised. Despite some historical inaccuracies (especially the portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson), it was overall an outstanding film.  It showed Dr. King as a very complex person, including his doubts and sins that plagued him and his relationships (especially with Coretta Scott King). It also showed the deep Christian faith that Dr. King had that inspired him with the courage to lead his non-violent movement for justice.

Today, I would like to reflect on something I wrote last year on Martin Luther King Day which showed how the Catholic concept of moral law was the basis Dr. King used to support his nonviolent actions to promote civil rights.  Perhaps the most prominent example of this combination is King’s actions in 1963 in Birmingham and the related Letters from a Birmingham Jail.

According to Wikipedia, The Birmingham Campaign began on April 3, 1963, with coordinated marches and sit-ins against racism and racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. The non-violent campaign was coordinated by Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. On April 10, Circuit Judge W. A. Jenkins issued a blanket injunction against “parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing”. Leaders of the campaign announced they would disobey the ruling. On April 12, King was roughly arrested and put in jail.

King met with unusually harsh conditions in the Birmingham jail. An ally smuggled in a newspaper from April 12, which contained “A Call for Unity”: a statement made by eight white Alabama clergymen against King and his methods. The letter provoked King and he began to write a response on the newspaper itself. King writes in Why We Can’t Wait: “Begun on the margins of the newspaper in which the statement appeared while I was in jail, the letter was continued on scraps of writing paper supplied by a friendly black trusty, and concluded on a pad my attorneys were eventually permitted to leave me.”

King responded to his fellow clergy in a tone and spirit of brotherly love.  However, he was also very clear in his advocacy of the righteousness of his position. The brilliance of King’s letter is that his response was grounded in the core of Christian faith without belittling his opponents. The full text of the letter can be found here but set forth below is a key excerpt which highlights the Catholic moral law as the foundation for his actions:

[T]here are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “An unjust law is no law at all.” Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the great Jewish philosopher, segregation substitutes an “I – it” relationship for the “I – thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. So segregation is not only politically, economically, and sociologically unsound, but it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Isn’t segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, an expression of his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness?”

In 2013, in honor of the 50th anniversary of Letters From a Birmingham Jail, Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A., a broad coalition of Christian churches (including Catholic, Orthodox, mainline protestant, evangelical protestant) issued a response. The response is equal to Dr. King’s in its commitment to the Christian ideal and social justice.  The full text can be found here but set forth is an excerpt:

As church leaders, we confess we have tended to emphasize our responsibility to obey the law while neglecting our equal moral obligation to change laws that are unjust in their substance or application. All too often, the political involvement of Christians has been guided by the pursuit of personal or group advantage rather than a biblically grounded moral compass. We confess it is too easy for those of us who are privileged to counsel others simply to “wait”—or to pass judgment that they deserve no better than what they already have.

We confess that we are slow to listen and give legitimacy to those whose experience of race relations and social privilege in America is different than our own. We keep the “other” at arm’s length to avoid hearing the call to sacrifice on their behalf. Our reluctance to embrace our “inescapable network of mutuality” underscores Dr. King’s observation that privileged groups seldom give up their advantages voluntarily. For example, it is difficult to persuade most suburban Christians to demand that they strive for the same quality of education in our cities that they take for granted in their own schools. To the extent that we do not listen in love, our influence in society is limited to “a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound.”

We confess that we often prefer stability to upheaval, even when upheaval is the necessary precondition for the establishment of justice. We confess that we often avoid the fiscal, emotional, and spiritual costs of changing our beloved institutions—even when called to do so by our Lord and Savior. Our churches and denominational structures thus fail in critical ways to model the “creative psalm of brotherhood” invoked by Dr. King.  Recent efforts in the Christian community toward “racial reconciliation,” though laudable in intent, tend to stop short of Dr. King’s vision of true justice and fellowship. Sunday morning remains the most segregated time in our nation.”

Dr. King and Christian Churches Together set a high standard for all of us to follow.  I pray today that I may have the wisdom and courage to follow their example.

Resources:

Letters From a Birmingham Jail
Christian Churches Together Response to Letters from a Birmingham Jail
U.S. Catholic Bishops Resources on the “Response”

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Sunday Reflection, Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 18, 2015): Patience

 

 

 

Patience3

This Sunday is the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings can be found here. We are in Ordinary Time for the next several weeks, both liturgically and in my daily routine. The kids are back at school and things are getting back to normal at work. As I get back into the routine of daily life, I am noticing the familiar challenges come up: a too busy schedule, too little sleep, pressures at work, etc. Despite these minor annoyances, I realize I am very blessed with good healthy, a good family and a good job.

However, I am noticing a dryness in my prayer life. I realize that this is normal but at the same time it is making my anxious. Rather than savor the moment for what it is, I want to get past this period. My impatience is showing again and I constantly need to go back to the Patience Trust Prayer that is pasted on my refrigerator.

This week’s reflection comes from Fr. Ron Rolheiser. Fr. Rolheiser does an outstanding job of describing of how God is hopefully purifying me for what is to come. You can find the full reflection here but set forth below is an excerpt:

“[R]eal love and life can only be born when a long-suffering patience has created the correct space, the virginal womb, within which the sublime can be born. Perhaps a couple of metaphors can help us understand this.

John of the Cross, in trying to explicate how a person comes to be enflamed in altruistic love, uses the image of a log bursting into flame in a fireplace. When a green log is placed in a fire, it doesn’t start to burn immediately. It first needs to be dried out. Thus, for a long time, it lies in the fire and sizzles, its greenness and dampness slowly drying out. Only when it reaches kindling temperature can it ignite and burst into flame. Speaking metaphorically, before a log can burst into flame, it needs to pass through a certain advent, a certain drying out, a period of frustration and yearning. So, too, the dynamics of how real love is born in our lives.  We can ignite into love only when we, selfish, green, damp logs, have sizzled sufficiently. And the fire that makes us sizzle is unfulfilled desire.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin offers a second metaphor here when he speaks of something he calls “the raising of our psychic temperature.” In a chemistry laboratory it’s possible to place two elements in the same test tube and not get fusion. The elements remain separate, refusing to unite.  It is only after they are heated to a higher temperature that they unite. We’re no different. Often it’s only when our psychic temperature is raised sufficiently that there’s fusion, that is, it’s only when unrequited longing has raised our psychic temperature sufficiently that we can move towards reconciliation and union. Simply put, sometimes we have to be brought to a high fever through frustration and pain before we are willing to let go of our selfishness and let ourselves be drawn into community.

Thomas Halik once commented that an atheist is simply another term for someone who doesn’t have enough patience with God. He’s right. God is never in a hurry, and for good reason. Messiahs can only be born inside a particular kind of womb, namely, one within which there’s enough patience and willingness to wait so as to let things happen on God’s terms, not ours.”

Read Full Reflection

 

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