It was 2020/2021. It was the time of Covid. It was a pandemic. Salvation, as measured by epidemiologists, seemed an intolerably long way off. Reassurance, as expressed by politicians, was an imaginary conceit. Comfort, though, can be shared through love. Jesus told us that, and we should never have doubted.
In a recent article titled Keeping a diary at the end of the
world, The Atlantic magazine talked
about how the early days of COVID
spurred multiple public and private journaling project, as individuals
grappled with the awareness that they were living through history.
Some, of course, were built around letters to family and friends, some were destined to be published widely, and others were public, though targeted to a specific population. My collection of short essays, titled Solitude, is one of the latter: as a council chair for a Lutheran faith community, I felt called to provide reflections for the comfort and consideration of the congregations during a pastoral vacancy. Eventually, the reflections seemed to track the waves of infection, recovery and hope.
This little book “is what it is” and while I hope readers enjoy and find meaning in it, I make no promises. It is available at Amazon HERE or through other retailers at Draft to Digital HERE
For many of us in Canada, we celebrate this Sunday as a
happy day, if we choose to believe it so. On a cultural level we have come
through a deeply religious week, filled with images of revelation and salvation:
Ramadan celebrates Gabriel revealing the Quaran; Passover celebrates the Israelites’ liberation from
slavery; Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus following his
Let us hope the messages of this last week are embraced as
being spiritual as well as cultural. So easily, in our prayers and
celebrations, we forget that celebrations of religious culture have not resulted
in salvation from being trampled underfoot by the four horsemen of our
never-ending apocalypse (conquest, war, famine, and death). This week, while we are busily
replaying in Ukraine the most recent version of “the war to end all wars”, we are
also being forced to remember that our cultures – and often our religiosity –
have led us to oppress and murder even children in our endless quest to
dominate one another, along with the very earth on which we depend for our
Each of us has a way – widely shared or deeply hidden – to understand the world we live in. For me, that way is expressed as the signal article of my faith: “Love one another as I have loved you”. That is the only command Jesus told his followers before his crucifixion. That is why we have Easter. That is why we paint eggs and eat chocolate bunnies… to remind us to celebrate our faith. Enjoy them!
Over the last week, the international news media have once again underscored the depths of depravity to which the world’s religions can descend. Nothing new, perhaps, but so much at once: paedophilia rampant among Pennsylvania’s Catholic clergy; escalating internecine warfare between Islamic sects in the Middle East; murderous conflict between Buddhists, Hindu and Muslim communities in Myanmar.
I confess to having little proficiency in religious studies. I have spent far too long trying to understand my own stumbling faith as a follower of Christ to have the temerity to comment on other faiths (including atheism which is, after all, another belief system). However, one thing I observe – naively perhaps – is that none of the preeminent religions of the world have at their foundations a doctrine of violence. Quite the contrary in fact, notwithstanding their religious writings being records of battles, punishment and – yes – misogyny. (One can only guess that religious scriptures were developed and written by men in an effort to re-make God in their own image: masculine and all-powerful!)
Conflict, it seems, stems from such cultural differences, and violence is born as a manipulation of cultural differences driven by greed. Cross-cultural differences wilt in the face of education – not just “book learning”, but being exposed to the cultures of other people and sharing knowledge and understanding with one another. It is that learned wisdom that can act as a prophylactic against the wicked, who thrive on achieving (or maintaining) power using the tools of division and fear.
Our cultures draw from our past, and are to be celebrated, shared, and never debated. The only debates worth having are about our future.