If you attended church or synagogue this week, or celebrated a Passover meal, or are eating an Easter dinner as I write this, chances are you heard excerpts of what filmmakers have called "the greatest story ever told". Words like exodus and crucifixtion and plague and ascension, which you may not use every day, suddenly may have entered your consciousness. Not to mention characters like Moses, and Miriam and Judas and Pontius Pilate.
Note that I use the word "characters", the way that I would if I were talking about fiction. Well I do lead discussions on the Bible as literature from time to time--although, truth be told, I have not done it recently. The last time that the Menlo Park Library book group discussed the Book of Jonah as literature, we had an earthquake--really and truly--a minor but U.S. Geological Survey bonafide earthquake--just as I asked if anyone in the group took the story literally and truly believed that Jonah was swallowed by a whale or "big fish".
For now,the ground remains stable as I type the word "characters" and allude to the Bible as historical fiction. But as many of us listened to sermons and stories from the Bible this week--in what truly is the longest running book discussion going--did any of you wonder how and if all the miracles happened? How many times do book group readers marveling at a great work of ancient literature or a nonfiction Oprah pick, ask, "How much of this is true?"
For answers and spiritual guidance, I refer you readers to a source not often noted for expertise in such matters, The Wall Street Journal. More specifically, I refer you to Weekend Journal Saturday/Sunday, April 11-12, 2009 page W1 and an article entitled Faith, Proof and Relics by Peter Manseau, the editor of Search: The Magazine of Science, Religion, and Culture. http://www.searchmagazine.org/.
The article begins with the announcement that an ancient document has been found offering new clues about whether the Shroud of Turin is real. But things start to get more interesting when Manseau asks us iwhy we really need scientific proof.
In matters of faith, "proof is not always the highest good," he says. "Belief is also an act of will."
Manseau adds, "Despite scientific investigations, the beliefs that make phenomena like the Shroud releavant are not something required by the rules of logic. There is no rational need to write a poem or to paint a picture, and there is no rational need to believe, which is to search for something meaningful in the enigmatic markings that define our lives."
Yet, he adds, "The tension remains: the will to believe, the need for proof. Perhaps this is what the Shroud is really about: our divine aspirations bound up with our mortal concerns."
Divine aspirations....mortal concerns. The heart of religion....and literature...and art.
And a topic for discussion at my next book group--no matter what the book.
What are the divine aspirations of the author/main character/hero? What are his mortal concerns?
And, what are yours?
Peace be with you!
Causes Lauren John Supports
Keplers Bookstore Circle of Friends (Menlo Park)
Friends of the Menlo Park Public Library
Book Group Expo
Marin Agricultural Land Trust...