i (i) wrote,

a few days ago, i wrote a post about chrismas and my non-believer status. in it, i mentioned that my dad is a minister. here is part of the email he sent in response:

As you know, I never saw the inside of a church until I went to college. I had a generally negative prejudice about clergy, not much use for organized religion of any kind, and basically adhered to the principle that an idea not based on rational, scientific precepts was not worth a whole lot. Some of this rationalism has stayed with me all of my life; I still have trouble with mysticism. If I was to move beyond rationalism, I preferred the route of music and art, that of the aesthetic rather than the religious.

I came to the church in two ways: through friends in college who shared my philosophical and political views but who, for some strange reason (I thought) attended the Congregational Church. The second way was an intellectual entrance. David Stowe, the chaplain at Carleton had received his PhD in philosophy, his thesis being written about the philosopher Charles Hartshorne's Theory of Divine Relativity. The idea of the "Divine" being relative intrigued me. David taught a course in Old and New Testament, and another in Contemporary Theology. Knowing nothing about either and having some room for elective courses, I decided to take both courses. My appetite for further understanding and knowledge was stirred, and I decided to go on to graduate school at Yale Divinity School where theology was taught by real scholars. I was well along in my three years there before I decided definitely to go into the ministry. And, of course, I met your mother there!

I had none of the Sunday School baggage or the ecclesiastical vocabulary to get in my way when I was growing up. Grandpa and Grandma were married by Harry Emerson Fosdick, one of the most famous preachers of his day, but that was as far as their church experience went. I think a lot of the vocabulary of the church gets in the way of people who have genuine religious feelings but can't deal with the "god talk" and Trinitarian symbolism which they feel they must take literally or reject. The fundamentalists - many of whom are very loud on the radio (and these days in the White House) - don't help much. And the literalists miss the rich tradition of the scripture texts and the seriousness of theological dialogue.

I think it helps one to read scripture texts and the concepts of God and Christ (Messiah in Hebrew) as metaphors. Paul Tillich, one of the great theologians, defined God as the "Ground of Being", rather than using the metaphor of "Father" or even "Creator". Tillich's theology was highly rational as well as deeply religious.

All of this is too much to write about here, but sometime I hope we can talk about it, because, while you may not like the term, your piece on Live Journal suggests to me that you are more religious than you admit. Certainly you have a sense of values which comes from beyond yourself, and you are a good artist.

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