Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Book review

The New York Times recently published a review of Robert Wright's new book The Evolution of God. I've put it on my potential reading list, but I think it's number 3,428 on that list. It might be a while. So for now I'm simply reading reviews and second hand accounts as something to think about.

Wright's premise that God has "evolved" is prima facie heretical, of course, but our understanding has evolved, our religious practices and tolerances have changed, and of course our church music has been altered over the years.

I was thinking of two particular instances at Bethany. First, Pastor gave a sermon on the use of the word "father" in the Creed's first article. There is one word that we certainly understand differently today than the ancient Israelites, or even than our parents' and grandparents' generation. The fact that Mr. Mom is a cliche catch phrase demonstrates the chasm of connotation from even such trite fare as "Leave it to Beaver." In popular culture, father has gone from an all-knowing, benevolent dictator of the household who vanished daily for a mysterious "office job" to a kinder, gentler (perhaps too often bemused and fumbling) presence in the home. What should the metaphor of God as father mean to us today? Father as we see it today or as it was meant 50 years ago? Or 2,000 years ago?

We've also been discussing contemporary music, of course, and this week's service music stands in stark contrast to each other. Wednesday night we'll hear Buxtehude and Bach, while on Sunday we'll hear Aaron Copland and PDQ Bach, a transition from the 17th century to the 21st.

The book and its premise are meant to be controversial, but I hope people use that controversy to spark creative, deeper thinking and insightful discussions about the changing nature of religion and society today. If the title makes its way onto your nightstand, be sure to let me know what you think about it.

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