Songs in the Key of Nature

All the air is music. . .Muir
All the air is music. . .Muir

Now and then I’m asked to lead a gathering–usually progressive thinkers open to some wild freethinking.  Sometimes I’ll write a song to stir up some singing.  Here are a few pieces I patched together related to Earth Day gatherings  (and yes, I often “borrow” a familiar tune and mangle. . .or improve. . .the words).   Feel free to use these, or better yet, write your own.

Songs in the Key of Nature


Scientists Interfere with the Church

god and science

This is a classic turntable.  The Church interferes in scientific and medical matters. . .so, Science returns the favor!

Scientists Interfere with the Church (The Guardian)

one group of emboldened scientists has decided to go further and pledge to respond in kind by interfering as much as possible with religious matters.

This is great:

Another objection raised by the Church of England is that there is not 100% scientific certainty that the [medical] procedure will work and is safe. Another member of FFS, Dr Black (first name Potkettle) says she looked forward to applying these same stringent requirements to the policies and practices of the church.

“I’ve already produced a new version of the Bible that leaves out anything that can’t be 100% confirmed by science. It’s much more streamlined now, which is handy as you can fit it all on a postcard and mail it to people, rather than going door-to-door”.

And then,

Other areas that the Church can expect to be challenged on include anything to do with sexual health, same sex marriage, gender equality or other medical procedures. FFS hopes that, rather than antagonise, this new mutual interjections into each other’s business will lead to greater understanding and collaboration between science and religion.

“There’s a lot of potentially interesting things the church could show us” Dr Briss admitted. “Apparently they do this thing on Sundays where they transform bread into actual human tissue. Such a procedure in the hands of science would be a huge boon to research into transplants and grafts and the like. I’ve no idea what they’re using it for at present, but I guess it’s their business, as long as they’re not eating it or anything”.

Ouch, that’s a stinger and a zinger!

And this all needs to be said, and done. . .Bravo!

Oscar Romero a Martyr?


Pope Approves Martyrdom Declaration for Oscar Romero

Pope Francis decreed Tuesday that slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was killed in 1980 out of hatred for his Catholic faith, approving a martyrdom declaration that sets the stage for his beatification.

I drive by a church each week that is named for a Catholic martyr, someone who has died for their faith.  As you may know, “martyr” comes from the word for “witness.”  If you dramatically show how much faith you have by dying (or getting killed) then you are a good candidate for saintly martyrdom status.  You are an example, a witness that your faith is true, real and to be emulated through sacrifice.  So the belief is.

I was in seminary when Archbishop Romero was shot while celebrating mass (the death of another martyr–God Himself) in a chapel in San Salvador.  We thought it was pretty awful.  I knew of a pastor who had killed himself in a local church a few years earlier, but he sure wasn’t a martyr. . . I guess.  Maybe just a “witness” to how ministry can drive you crazy (sorry, couldn’t resist the macabre humor).

Seriously, Romero always got my vote for faithful representative of good humanity.  After all, he was actively present with the poor, assisting them while resisting the abuses of an unjust government.  Loved and hated for what he did, and what he represented.  Since we seminarians were studying many of the Liberation Theologians, particularly those in Latin America, Romero was a shining (though bloody) exemplar of “faith in action”. . .that is, relevant and real, pragmatic religion.  Somewhat rare it seems sometimes in our world.  In fact, that seems to be why it’s taken God’s Best and Only Church 35 years to fully appreciate Romero.

So, fine, hold him up as an example of compassion and justice.  We do that with Gandhi and Martin Luther King.  Good.  We need those examples (hopefully not all assassinated examples).  But does elevating these exceptional people, making them less human and more holy, really help, or really hurt?

There are those who die FOR faith and those who die TO faith, or faith dies TO/FOR them.  The real point is what we DO with our lives, faith or no faith.  Don’t you agree?  For every “saint” or “martyred witness” or “beatified” person there are hundreds, thousands, who do their daily work to help others, often without much reward or praise.

Those are the real “saints,” in my mind.  But not saints at all.  Good, decent, caring, thoughtful human beings.  I don’t care if they have a god or not.

Here’s to the memory of Oscar Romero.  May his life not be elevated so high that people forget to live with the same compassion, for the same justice, speaking truth to power.

(and how about those Murdered Nuns?–are they martyrs or saints?)



Faith in a Secular World

Freedom to Live Side by Side--a Secular Ideal
Freedom to Live Side by Side–a Secular Ideal

I admire conservative commentator David Brooks for his frequent wanderings into the gray areas between faith issues and psychology, sociology, politics and the humanities.  In this new piece in the Times (“Building Better Secularists”) he tries to give a brief nod to the essence of secularism but then falls right back into the neo-conservative pew of piety, or something.  I’m always a bit perplexed when someone throws stones from within a stain-glass house.

He critiques secular thought in the same way he critiques thought itself, reason itself. . .

The only secularism that can really arouse moral motivation and impel action is an enchanted secularism, one that puts emotional relations first and autonomy second.

“Enchanted secularism”?

He reveals a blind spot I often hear from people of faith who see no real good, no meaning, no hope, no humanity in a non-faith life.  In fact, Brooks even says it quite clearly,

They suffer from a loss of meaning and an unconscious boredom with their own lives.

It seems to me that if secularism is going to be a positive creed, it can’t just speak to the rational aspects of our nature. Secularism has to do for nonbelievers what religion does for believers — arouse the higher emotions, exalt the passions in pursuit of moral action.”

Lots of examples of that “moral passion” in our world, are there not?

Ironically, for a emotionally rationalistic person like Brooks, the problem with the criticism of Secularism he represents is that it removes the Human dimension and assumes the secularist is all in their head, a machine–it’s all about the rational with no feeling or human experience.  He sees only a stone tree in the living forest–a forest of his imagination.

In other words, people like David Brooks easily turn non-religious persons into something called Secularism–the Secularists.  Whatever our beliefs or lack of beliefs, we are human beings first and foremost.  Our philosophies, our ideas, what drives our lives, truly matter.  Yet the strive to drop the heavy backpack of past creeds is joyful living and fully liberating, though I agree with Brooks that this means carrying other weight forward.  Of course it is, and should be.  Heavy thought leads to heavier living with the complexities of communities consisting of secularists and non-secularists.

His piece ends with some mystifying jargon that I don’t really find helpful:

I suspect that over the next years secularism will change its face and become hotter and more consuming, less content with mere benevolence, and more responsive to the spiritual urge in each of us, the drive for purity, self-transcendence and sanctification.

In other words, I guess that he suggests secular-ism and secular-ists will need to become more “religious” and “responsive to the spiritual urge” to really contribute to the world.  He apparently seeks a conversion of secularism to something more resembling faith.  An odd conclusion, that once again deflects and deflates the true contribution of freethinking, free-choosing and free-living in a world struggling with the practical definition of “Freedom” itself.

Interesting that these other articles/videos directly relate to the very current Spiritual/Secular tensions as well:

Vaccines, an Unhealthy Skepticism

Mormon Church Wants Freedom to Discriminate 

France’s Ideals Face a Modern Test (this one really puts “freedom in a secular society” in stark relief)