Friday, April 3, 2009

Mike: Response to Rami's 4/3 Post

I think we understand one another, at least insofar as is possible via words on a screen. That being said, I want to add a few more words to our conversation.

First, I appreciate your points about what it means to be Jewish and the room afforded you within the tradition. For what it may be worth, Christian mystics often make room for a wide range of ways in which to experience God and articulate the experience. Thomas Merton, for example, comes to mind. Systematic theologians have more trouble doing so, not least because they (as a group)major on precision and distinctions. Experience does not lend itself to such treatment.

Second, you speak of testing matters in light of experience and reason. We're on common ground here. Within the limits of a single blog post, it sounds as if you refer only to your personal experience and reason. I'm fairly certain that is not the case, but that's for you to say. As for me, I try to pay attention to a mix of things: personal experience and reason, the experience and reason of others as found in their stories and in general human history, the experience and reflection of the church over the centuries (this includes but is not limited to the scriptures), modern science, the arts, and the like. Again, my hunch is that our approaches are similiar, though we might weight various elements differently.

Third, naturally we try to make sense of such experiences by calling upon the language(s) we know. You say this is Judaism for you. Actually, though, wouldn't it be more accurate to say that it is Judaism, one or more other world religions (or philosophies), modern science, and the arts? You are multi-lingual, so to speak. So am I. In both our cases, we try to distinquish between the language(s) we use and the reality we're attempting to describe. What I have learned for myself is that Jesus best describes the presence and its implications for me, insofar as I comprehend.

One quibble. I appreciate your perspective when you write: "Religion is vital when it preserves the event story as a reminder of what each of us can discover for ourselves." We agree, I think, that we can discover a good bit for ourselves. In the case of the particular experience I described, though, I have no sense that I had set out to find or discover anything. Instead, I should say it was given me.

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