Monday, March 26, 2012

Tebowing, Jeremy Lin, & Jesus

Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin are Christians whose fans admire them as much for cultural and religious intangibles as for their athletic ability.

On his Facebook page, Lin quotes Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." During games, Tebow kneels periodically for prayer. Both are public in their religious devotion. In this way, they are similar. But, there are differences as well and the differences between Lin and Tebow are reminders that, like the Christian community itself, overtly religious athletes come in all shapes and sizes.

I hear two very different takes on Tebow and Lin and while contradictory, both are right. Take one: Christians are to share their faith and are not to be ashamed of their religious convictions. Tebow and Lin are icons of this Christian virtue. Take two: Christians are not to practice their piety to be seen by others. Jesus said Christians should pray in their closets where they can be seen by God, but not others.

Like all Christians, Tebow and Lin must find a path between these two demands.

Jesus criticized the overt piety of publicly admired religious figures in his day. They seemed to him to be doing it, not as a devotion to God, but as a way of gaining attention to themselves.

Jesus also said that his followers should not "hide their lamp under a bushel, but should let it shine."

Both of these dictates are to be followed similtaneiously. Navigating the narrow path is not easy.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Physics, faith, and Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus tweeted a pic this week, creating a stir.

Some of her fans were horrified. Many of her fans consider themselves Christians and many of those fans were dismayed by the reference to Jesus in the pic.

My first reaction to all the hub-bub was: "Give her a break. She is a pop singer, not a theologian."

My second reaction was to appreciate her insight. On the pic in question she wrote: "Beautiful." She was obviously talking about the quote, not Krauss.

Here is the quote in full (the pic in question does not quite get it right).

The amazing thing is that every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements - the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution - weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way they could get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.
"A Universe From Nothing" by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009 (16:50-17:23)

Here are two theologians reflecting on the quote:

"Keep in mind as well that talk of stars “living” and “dying” is just a metaphor. This is physics merged with poetry, and it is unfortunate that some modern-day religious expression engages in misguided clinging to ancient cosmology. Responding to our current understanding with awe and poetry can be viewed as, in a very real sense, a spiritual undertaking.”-- James McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University.

"The problem here is that Prof. Krauss is not actually taking the poetic seriously enough. If Truth is to be found in nature, we ought to expect to find it as a reoccurring theme. To borrow a meme from Bishop Joseph Butler, late of Durham, the transformation of the butterfly who dies and rises again, is for example a poetic pointer to the deeper reality of the universal Christ event. So too we ought be expecting the Universe at the great cosmic scale to reflect this truth as well. Stars were created, lived their lives and by dying have been transformed into a new creation? Seems like a pretty clear pointer to our participation in the mystery of the Triduum as well."--Nicholas Knisely, Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Phoenix AZ.

I agree with Miley: "Beautiful"