where words are clarified

Two believers in conflict about their doctrines are concerned with the execution of divine will, not with a fleeting personal agreement. For the man who is so related to his faith that he is able to die or slay for it there can be no realm where the law of the faith ceases to hold. It is laid on him to help truth to victory, he does not let himself be misled by sentiments. The man holding a different, that is false, belief must be converted, or at least instructed … The thesis of religious disputation cannot be allowed to “go.”

[In contrast, I have only this confession] We expect a theophany of which we know nothing but the place, and the place is called community. In the public catacombs of this expectation there is no single God’s word which can be clearly known and advocated, but the words delivered are clarified for us in our human situation of being turned toward one another. There is no obedience to the coming one without loyalty to his creature. To have experienced this is our way.

  • Martin Buber, Between Man and Man

[inspired by Englewood Review of Books and their celebration of the birthday of Martin Buber]

light and bread?

[I usually avoid re-posting something that I read on Inward/Outward – excellent as it is, too many people receive both emails – but with last week focusing on Martin Luther King, Jr, I couldn’t find anything better and more apt than this quote]:

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause [people] everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will. But if the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo, and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of [humanity] and fire the souls of men [and women], imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace. [People] far and near will know the church as a great fellowship of love that provides light and bread for lonely travelers at midnight.

Martin Luther King Jr.
Source:

“God” gets stuck

Later I came under the influence of some Anglican monks who introduced me to the mystical and intellectual life…. The kind of faith that encouraged a questioning skepticism and, at the same time, a deep compassion, was new to me. I have a feeling that some of the monks would have been considered nonbelievers by many of my friends because they were too open, too ready to entertain ideas and listen to stories from other traditions. The big problem with “God” (the monks said) is idolatry. “God” gets stuck to ideas like patriotism or personal virtue – things that give us the illusion of control. Most of what we think of as God isn’t God. They taught me to be skeptical because believing was a moving target and its test was always love.

  • Alan Jones, from Reimagining Christianity

encouraging and supporting the inner teacher

[The faculty of SSU have been reading (or re-reading) Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach together this year. Here is a quote mentioned in our final discussion that seems fitting for what we are trying to embody in our education at SSU.]

…Quakers had to invent social structures that would allow their members to do such work with and for each other.

The ground rules for every social structure they invented had to honor a powerful and paradoxical pair of Quaker beliefs: each of us has an inner teacher that is an arbiter of truth, and each of us needs the give-and-take of community in order to hear that inner teacher speak. So Quaker social structures offer community to help a person discover the guidance that comes from within and ground rules to prevent that community from invading the individual’s inwardness with external agendas and advice.

– Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

communities of memory

Communities, in the sense in which we are using the term, have a history – in an important sense they are constituted by their past – and for this reason we can speak of a real community as a “community of memory,” one that does not forget its past. In order not to forget that past, a community is involved in retelling its story, its constitutive narrative, and in so doing, it offers examples of the men and women who have embodied and exemplified the meaning of the community. These stories of collective history and exemplary individuals are an important part of the tradition that is so central to a community of memory.

The stories that make up a tradition contain conceptions of character, of what a good person is like, and of the virtues that define such character. But the stories are not all exemplary, not all about successes and achievements. A genuine community of memory  will also tell painful stories of shared suffering that sometimes creates deeper identities than success…. And if the community is completely honest, it will remember stories not only of suffering received but of suffering inflicted – dangerous memories, for they call the community to alter ancient evils. The communities of memory that tie us to the past also turn us toward the future as communities of hope. They carry a context of meaning that can allow us to connect our aspirations for ourselves and those closest to us with the aspirations of a larger whole and see our own efforts as being, in part, contributions to a common good.

  • Robert Bellah et al. from  Habits of the Heart (1985)

I came across this passage in Communities class and was struck by the way last year’s Field Notes project fit this description. (And there are still a few copies left of the collector’s edition left! If you’re interested, contact Rosie at [email protected])

SSU Field Notes cover