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January 22nd, 2013

ex astris scientia?

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

I spent a good part of today watching Star Trek: Voyager episodes online. The last two from season two both deal with religion but in really very different ways. As far as good story-telling and science fiction goes, neither episode is really all that good. But they do provide some interesting insight into how Trek handles religion. Both depart from the standard “religion is backward superstition people must put aside to become enlightened” view that characterizes TOS, TNG, and large parts of the other series.

The first, “False Profits”, is about the two Ferengi from TNG’s “The Price” who travel through a wormhole and get stranded in the Delta Quadrant. The Ferengi then crash-landed on a planet and conned the locals into thinking they were the gods prophesied about in that people’s mythology. Of course, the gallant Federation steps in to stop the Ferengi who are using the indigenous peoples’ religious beliefs to collect tributes. They’re mucking around with these peoples’ development and getting rich on their backs to boot. The Federation first try to take the Ferengis off the planet forcibly but then realize they can’t do that (it would be too traumatic for the people to be abandoned by their gods) and eventually settle on playing out a certain prophecy, where the gods would leave on their own.

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Barack Obama’s Christianity

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

Apparently Mark Driscoll is beating up on the president’s religion:

Praying for our president, who will place his hand on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know.

Now, to be completely clear:

  1. I believe Mr. Obama is a Christian. He talks and acts like most progressive Protestants I know, especially those coming from the social justice wing of Protestantism rather than the varieties that focus on individual salvation.
  2. … and even if he wasn’t, it’s not really my business. Mr. Obama does a good job keeping his personal theology out of his policies. Even when I disagree with him, it’s not because we have different views of the Bible. If Mr. Obama was a Muslim, or an atheist, or a Zoroastrian, I think I’d feel pretty much the same about his platform.

Even so, Mr. Driscoll’s words stuck in my throat. At the risk of crossing into the same judgmental-about-salvation language Rvd. Driscoll is engaging in (and which Mt 7 clearly says is a big no-no), you don’t just dismiss a person’s often-stated religious affiliation like that without any explanation or justification.

But this Tweet came out the same day as a story that does illustrate Obama’s faith quite well: about his friendship with conservative mega-pastor Joel Hunter and the way he responded to the news that Rvd. Hunter’s young granddaughter Ava had been diagnosed with a GBM brain tumor. I know from personal experience just how destructive this particular type of tumor can be. This story comes from a man who you would expect to be his political rival (and on many issues they are), and shows a man reacting in a uniquely Christian way. I’ll also add it shows a more humble faith, more focused on grace than power, than anything I’ve ever heard coming from Mark Driscoll.

As I said, I believe it is a sin to judge another person’s status as a Christian, and Rvd. Driscoll may have some dark torment at work that’s driving him to make these kinds of statements about the prresident. I’m not going there. And by the same notion, I may be wrong about Mr. Obama’s faith. He may be playing u all. Rvd. Hunter may be bamboozled, or he may have some ulterior motive. (Having seen the utter destruction caused by GBM’s up close, I don’t think so; but I’ll admit the possibility.) There may be more to this story than meets the eye. And of course the fact that he’s a Christian doesn’t earn him a free pass on drone strikes, “enhanced interrogation,” rampant militarism or any other issue you want to point to.

But in light of Pastor Mark’s tweet, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share this story about Obama and Rvd. Hunter. Quite aside from Driscoll’s comment, it’s a story worth reading if you want a fuller picture of the president.

procedures: you’re doing it wrong

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

My university has two campuses, one in Manhattan and the other in the Bronx. That means two separate libraries, with the university’s books split between the two locations. The Bronx collection is bigger becaue our campus is the main one. Since my program is based almost exclusively in the Bronx, almost all of the philosophy books are housed here in the Bronx.

Now, I live within walking distance of the latter but the library is on the opposite end of campus from where I usually go. I’m also not usually on campus, so going to the library typically means a special trip. Add to that, when I go into Manhattan for counseling, I pass by the library of the former. This means it’s usually much more convenient to pick up a book from the Manhattan library. And my school will deliver between the two libraries. So if I know I’m going to need a book from the Bronx and can wait a day or so, it makes sense to try to get them to send the book over to Manhattan. It’s just easier to get in and out there, for some reason.

Here’s the catch, though: to request a book be sent over you need to fill out a short form. In person – no phone requests, nothing online, or anything like that. So to get a book sent you have to go to a library not once but twice (or hang around 4-6 hours to wait for the book to get to you). This works great if you live out of the library, but not so great if you’re one of the students of my generation who prefer to access remotely and just go in every now and then to pick up books.

So they have a system that with a minor tweak (accepting remote requests, by phone or online or even by fax) could work *so well.* But it doesn’t. This would be a minor irritation for me if I wasn’t depressed so getting to campus was a challenge. But even without that the vast majority of grad students and even upper-level undergrads are scattered throughout NYC – often not so close to one campus or the other. I’m calling fail on this procedure.



Latest Month

December 2020



  • 5 Dec 2020, 12:53
    PM me your address. I have a card set aside for you, but need name and address to get it going.

    - Erulisse (one L)
  • 5 Dec 2020, 12:04
    What a lovely idea!
  • 4 Dec 2020, 17:56
    Mmmm, ginger snapses!
  • 4 Dec 2020, 17:37
    I don't send out cards anymore, but I was drooling over all the pop-up ones Amazon had and wondering if it might not be time to resume the tradition (I decided no).

    Not much help in the Hallmark…
  • 25 Nov 2020, 14:52
    That's great! Happy Thanksgiving to you and thanks for the marching, musical cats. LOL

    - Erulisse (one L)
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