Monday, December 27, 2010

Militarism or Diplomacy?

Why is it that those whom I know who are most pro-military endeavors seem to be the least likely to support government efforts to alleviate poverty, to ameliorate power/financial class/opportunity & educational imbalances and to support reconciliation initiatives?

The correlation seems to occur far more often than is warranted by statistical coincidence. Is it also coincidental that so much of current wealth & political power are enmeshed with military power & the manufacturing and sale of armaments? Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times points out the widening chasm between military spending and better budgeting, here.

Proverbs clearly indicates that the wealthy find their refuge in their wealth: "The wealth of the rich is their fortress; the poverty of the poor is their ruin." (Prov. 10:15) The Hebrew word for fortress has military implications, too, and can also mean might, strength and fortifications (ramparts) of a town. Contrast this "strength" to the use of the same root word in Proverbs 14:26: "Fear of the LORD is a stronghold, a refuge for a man's children." (Tanakh)

Prov. 14:32 reads, "The wicked are overthrown by their evil-doing, but the righteous find refuge in their integrity." (cf., Psalm 52:7) The NT concept of being found "in Christ" has strong OT parallels to the Psalmists' and Proverbial understanding of refuge. Military images, such as those found in Ephesians, are replaced with weapons of truth, faith, the Word of God, righteousness, and the gospel of peace.

From my perspective on current events and scriptural studies, there seem to be strong indications that the hard work of developing healthy human relationships and shared community responsibility is easily deferred by most leaders and followers throughout history in favor of force, whether that force is evidenced in military power, academic/intellectual argumentation, facile rhetoric, gender or racial or ethnic domination, bullying or social ostracism, to give a few examples. The righteous are those who find their refuge in God, and whose lives evidence the integrity and holiness of God's ways.

Perhaps the name of this post might be, "Domination or Dominion?" Food for thought & prayer!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


The spiritual practice of meditation has been shown to have neurological benefits in this new study. The downside of this information is the tendency of humans to co-opt religious practices for utilitarian purposes which inevitably become self-serving - whether those purposes are to gain money via tithing, to feed ambition and desires for fame/infamy, to elevate or suppress people or groups, or perhaps, better brain function.

The research doctor, Andrew Newberg, who has been studying the neurological effects of meditation and prayer seems to understand how difficult it can be to maintain the balance between spirituality and science. He laid out the goals of his scholarship in his book, Principles of Neurotheology, and the 4 goals are excerpted in the NPR article. Any thoughts about pitfalls, implications, dangers, and Newberg's goals?

When considering the primary reasons for developing neurotheology as a field, we can consider four foundational goals for scholarship in this area. These are:

1. To improve our understanding of the human mind and brain.

2. To improve our understanding of religion and theology.

3. To improve the human condition, particularly in the context of health and well being.

4. To improve the human condition, particularly in the context of religion and spirituality.

These four goals are reciprocal in that they suggest that both religious and scientific pursuits might benefit from neurotheological research. The first two are meant to be both esoteric as well as pragmatic regarding scientific and theological disciplines. The second two goals refer to the importance of providing practical applications of neurotheological findings towards improving human life both individually and globally.