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Posts Tagged ‘miracles’

Back when I attended Vacation Bible Camp (and won the Color War “homiletics” competition for my team three summers in a row) we used to think of “miracles” as things like “Sea Mysteriously Parts” and “Convicted Criminal Rises From Dead to Seek Revenge” and “Bread and Wine Magically Changes into Flesh and Blood Without Violating Cannibalism Taboos.”

But kids these days have debased the Queen’s English in a number of ways, like using nonsense words ending in “-izzle” and flambosting made-up terms like “hyphy” and abandoning all sorts of useful urination-related euphemisms, including “see a man about a horse,” “drain the lizard,” “squirt the dirt,” and “syphon the python.”

This same linguistic debauchery has happened to “miracle,” I fear. Nowadays it’s a “miracle” when the US Ice Hockey team beats the pants off of some commies. It’s a “miracle” when Mike (of + the Mechanics) gets his girlfriend back.

And, according to Randal Rauser, it’s a “miracle” when his friend dies of cancer:

The day that Paula died is, in the eyes of the world, a day for mourning and defeat. How different is the Christian story. Paula’s death was a miracle.

What an unorthodox sales pitch for Rauser’s god! While most people would regard Paula’s death as the natural (and sad) consequence of our current inability to cure cancer, Rauser shows us how to repurpose even the most horrific events into arguments for his theology. Although he was apparently too busy not mourning and not feeling “defeat” to give an example of an appropriate prayer for this situation, I have taken the liberty of helping him out:

Creator of the Universe, Puller of The Big Plug In the Sky, Great Eucharistic Euthanasiast, Exalted Cosmic Kevorkian, Divine Mercy Killer, You Who Put Us Out of the Misery That (In Your Infinite Wisdom) You Have Bestowed Upon Us, Murderous Imaginary Nut, Blessed be You! Way to kill!

And I’ll try to use this new, expansive definition of “miracle” next time something horrible happens to one of my loved ones. (“Remember that necrotizing fasciitis my cousin got? They amputated his arm! It’s a miracle!”)

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Over at HuffPo, “after-hours rabbi” Alan Lurie describes four “impediments” to “experiencing god” that he wishes he’d lectured a skeptical job applicant about.

4. The worry that “spiritual experiences” are just feel-good self-indulgence.

Why would someone worry that something is a “feel-good self-indulgence”? Here are some other feel-good self-indulgences:

  • eating cookie dough straight from the tube
  • “borrowing” a single-engine plane for a joyride
  • the Fleshlight

Each of these is popular precisely because it’s a “feel-good self-indulgence”! If people thought god was a feel-good self-indulgence, he’d be bigger than Jesus! His problem is that he’s (imaginary and) a joy-kill.

3. The fear that god-worship makes people “arrogant and/or sheepish.”

I also have trouble imagining this as an impediment. God-disbelievers do plenty of things that make them “arrogant and/or sheepish”:

  • Science Olympiad
  • Stage productions of “Little Bo Peep
  • Obama-worship

In fact, I have never heard this used as an excuse not to do something, although I confess that I tend to avoid people who seem overly concerned with sheep.

2. There’s not a two-column proof that god exists.

This is another doubtful impediment. Except for the handful of us who think we’re mathematicians, most people hate two column proofs. I can’t even remember the last time someone demanded that I two-column prove something before he would start believing in it, although it’s likely it was that weirdo on the street corner with the huge “I don’t believe in Pythagoras’s Theorem!” sign.

1. There’s no evidence god exists.

Finally, an objection that makes sense! It is indeed quite tough to “experience” something when there’s no evidence it exists. That’s the reason so few people are able to “experience” the luminiferous aether, N-rays, the Odic force, or phlogiston.

In lieu of, you know, evidence, Lurie suggests that we look for “little miracles” in things like trees and bodily functions and employment.

Now, admittedly I am not a rabbi, but I am pretty sure that “miracles” need to involve happenings of things generally considered unpossible, like the invention of an inexpensive, tasty-when-spread-on-fruit mayonnaise-like “whip,” or a World Series victory over the unstoppable 1969 Orioles, or a synthetic plant fertilizer made of petroleum by-products.

If the fact that I occasionally experience indigestion is a “miracle” that counts as “evidence” for the existence of “the Divine,” then pretty much anything counts as evidence for the existence of anything else.

What about the “little miracle” of my alarm clock going off this morning at precisely the time I set it to go off! Or the “little miracle” that when I turned on the hot water faucet in my sink, hot water came out! Or if that’s not plausible enough, how about the “little miracle” that this morning my shoes were in the exact same place I left them last night. If that’s not evidence for “the Divine,” then nothing is!

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