As a pastor in New York City, I've found myself challenged to think more deeply about “stuff." I've come to believe that the truth about what we too casually name “materialism” is not so simple. It ought to be clear, after all, that God doesn’t hate stuff. Witness the creation story. God invents stuff. At the end of each of six days, God engages in self-congratulation, pronouncing serial evening benedictions on the stuff created that day: “Good!”
A half phrase from Augustine has challenged and inspired me for a half century: “God is like the nature he made.” It appears as a virtual throwaway line, quoted in José Ortega y Gasset’s History as a System (1941), in which Ortega adds a flourish connecting ideas about God with ideas about humans: the human “likewise finds that he has no nature other than
Adam is . . . scattered throughout the globe. Set in one place, he fell and, as it were, broken small, he has filled the whole world. But the Divine Mercy gathered up the fragments from every side, forged them in the fire of love and welded into one what had been broken. . . .
In the foreword to Just War as Christian Discipleship, Lieutenant Colonel Scott A. Sterling, an army chaplain, recounts a conversation he had with a female officer in Iraq who was eager to make moral sense of her combat experience. Is it right that we are here?
Parents are the largest factor in whether youth remain religiously active as young adults, according to the National Study of Youth and Religion. When parents talked about faith at home, were active in their congregations, and attached great significance to their faith, 82 percent of their children were highly religious in their mid to late twenties. Two-thirds of young adults raised by black Protestant parents and one half of those with conservative Protestant parents had high or moderate levels of religious commitment as young adults. Seventy percent of young adults raised by mainline Protestants showed minimal or lower levels of religious commitment (Huffington Post, October 29).