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The Unbearable Heaviness of Being

My quest for the eternal lightness

Category Archives: faith

 

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It’s people like Dr Rowan Williams that make me want to take christianity seriously. His remark on the UK law having a need to continue to find accommodation with religious legal codes such as the Islamic system of Sharia in achieving community cohesion and development, is a reflection of his sincere effort in embodying ‘fresh expressions’ of a more inclusive christian faith.

I am not surprised by reactions from some within the Anglican community, calling for his resignation while citing the Archbishop as a disaster and a tragic mistake. His remark, if anything, is certainly going to rub many religious people the wrong way, but definitely a thoughtful intervention as some has put it.

I read some comments, which of course reflect the minds of many within the faith community and I can’t help but think of the direction in which they are shaping the perspectives of those they lead. Perhaps, that is how the Archbishop has provoke many of us into thinking. To think about what these people are actually saying when they speak:

  • …….but I sense that he would be far happier in a university where he can kick around these sorts of ideas.
  • ……many people, huge numbers of people, would be greatly relieved [if he resigned] because he sits on the fence over all sorts of things and we need strong, Christian, biblical leadership right now, as opposed to somebody who huffs and puffs around and vacillates from one thing to another.

Isn’t church about learning to ‘kick around’ with ideas which is aimed at helping each other to find our place together? Isn’t strong, christian, biblical leadership about compassion, patience and humility when living in a broken, messed-up world, and not dominate the minority and the different with one’s authority and moral judgement? Isn’t the Archbishop striving to do just that?

 

 

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As America’s aura in asserting liberal democracy is decimated across the globe, the world looks now to China for her intervention to stop the atrocities of the military regime in Burma. America has her own ghost of Christmas past. Middle East is a failure, with Iraq, a disaster, while the Talibans are still on her tail with no end to terror. I agree that there are no easy solutions to Bush’s nightmare. Washington’s only weapon comes in the form of economic sanctions which appears lame and unable to yield the junta’s subordination.

China’s ‘authoritarian capitalism’ is seen to exercise a more diplomatic approach towards Rangoon, not withstanding her US$2 bn of military support (over the last 20 years) to Than Shwe’s regime in return for 20 years of Burma’s natural gas supply at 40% below market value. How does China herself deal with dissentions within is an extremely important question to ask. Whether China acts without her hegemonic agenda is subject to serious debate.  

Back home, my thoughts and conversations converge on the increasing need for a more healthy and active Christian participation in the quest for social justice and liberty; amidst the current underlying fear that the country continues to seemingly slide down the slippery slope of totalitarianism. There musn’t be merely a dishing out of correct theology and doctrines from the pulpits but a clear embodiment of the spirit of the gospel and a call for action in the public sphere. I think there is an urgent need to quash the sense of indifference within the thick walls of our symbolic and consumeristic spirituality, and to free our generation to respond, to choose and to live out a wider spectrum of the expression of Christian faith.

While it is certainly imperative for the shaping of a Christian philosophy for the common good, aptly explored in Dr Ng Kam Weng’s post here, I see a need for a sincere engagement; not just in Christian involvement in social actions (which are extremely important) but at the same time a sincere reframing of our Christian apologetics. Our commitment to the common good can be totally questionable when we approach the ‘common’ with our citadel of unquestionable truths while casting other approaches to mere speculative interpretations. Our sincere conversation with postmodernism, which appeals to a consideration of the ‘silenced’ voices, involves our willingness to listen (and seriously listening) to the ‘other’ voices of interpretation of truth alongside with our own interpretation of the same. That the canonization of our own scripture is in itself a ‘silencing’ of other voices/texts within the Christian literature, not to mention of those outside. This is indeed crucial to make space for a common good.

The Burmese monks show us a crucial role for an honest religious conviction embodied in the here and now. Yes, we pray for their agony now. But beyond that, how willing are we in allowing their interpretation of faith; in the face of political and economic hegemony, in the face of yet again an effort of silencing dissenting voices, to question our own?

mother-theresa.jpgHere’s a good read: A saint in darkness…

MOTHER Teresa, who is one step short of being made a Catholic saint, suffered crises of faith for most of her life and even doubted God’s existence, according to a set of letters.

‘Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear,’ the missionary wrote to one confidant, Reverend Michael Van Der Peet, in 1979.

The letters, some of which she wanted destroyed, appear in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, due to be published next week, 10 years after her death.

Extracts of the book appear in the latest edition of Time magazine.

In more than 40 letters spanning some 66 years, the ethnic Albanian nun who devoted her life to working with the poor in the slums of Kolkata in India, writes of the ‘darkness’, ‘loneliness’ and ‘torture’ she is undergoing.

‘Where is my faith – even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness and darkness – My God – how painful is this unknown pain – I have no faith,’ she wrote in an undated letter addressed to Jesus.

‘If there be God – please forgive me – When I try to raise my thoughts to heaven – there is such convicting emptiness.’

In her early life, Mother Teresa, also known as ‘the saint of the gutters’, had visions. In one, she talked to a crucified Jesus on the cross.

But the letters reveal that apart from a brief respite in 1959, she spent most of the last 50 years of her life doubting God’s presence – much at odds with her public face.

In one letter, written in 1959, she wrote: ‘If there be no God – there can be no soul – if there is no soul then Jesus – You also are not true.’

The book’s compiler and editor Reverend Brian Kolodiejchuk is a member of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity and was responsible for petitioning for her sainthood. She was beatified – one step short of sainthood – in 2003.

‘I’ve never read a saint’s life where the saint has such an intense spiritual darkness. No one knew she was that tormented,’ said Rev Kolodiejchuk.

Mother Teresa’s successor said yesterday that the revelations would not hamper her path to sainthood.

‘I don’t think it will have any effect on the process of sainthood for Mother Teresa,’ said Sister Nirmala, who succeeded Mother Teresa as the head of the Missionaries of Charity.

Cardinal Angelo Scola, the patriarch of Venice, said the letters showed Mother Teresa was ‘one of us, that she did all her work as we do, no more no less’.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ASSOCIATED PRESS