It’s going to be a long Advent. We stepped into the deep violet darkness and have been on the alert ever since, not only for the coming of our Savior, but also for further assaults from our largely unseen enemies. Two mysterious objects thus appear on the same radar screen: the mystery of redemption and the mystery of evil, both pushing our powers of analysis beyond their limits.
In his wonderful memoir Open Secrets, Richard Lischer describes a personal conflict that developed between Lischer and Leonard, a lay leader in the congregation. Their conflict had the potential to erupt into a major split in the congregation. But each man remained committed to the ministry of the church.
Nothing is gained and much is lost if we describe the terrorists as evil,” a friend of mine argued recently. I disagree. Our difference can be traced back to a division in moral philosophy. My friend is a moral expressivist. He views moral judgments as expressions of feelings, desires and wants.
Anyone who has done much hospital calling knows about the awakening that often accompanies serious illness or injury. All of a sudden, someone who ran a small business (or a large household) cannot walk to the bathroom unassisted. Sitting upright in a chair for two hours becomes a full day’s work, and tomorrow’s goal includes eating solid food.
When the new war has become an old war, and a new world has emerged from it, what will the religious landscape look like? “There are no atheists in foxholes,” a young friend reminds me, “and now the whole world is a foxhole.” Admittedly this is an exaggeration.
When he’s at home, Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury, begins each day with a short meditative walk, or sometimes with some slow prostrations, followed by 30 to 40 minutes of sitting on a low stool to repeat the Jesus prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner”). Usually he repeats the words silently, saying them while breathing out. “Over the years increasing exposure to and engagement with the Buddhist world in particular has made me aware of practices not unlike the ‘Jesus Prayer’ and introduced me to disciplines that further enforce the stillness and physical focus that the prayer entails,” says Williams (New Statesman, July 8).