Homecoming

I have a small collection of first hand remembrances of survivors of the Holocaust related to World War II and the Nazi Regime.  I want to know as many of them as I can, even though it is only through reading their accounts.  I just finished reading the most recent addition to my collection, All But My Life.  I love this book, partly because the author is not just telling her own story, but is impelled to give witness to the lives of those she knew who didn’t survive, also including those Germans who were kind.

It was written by a woman who was a pre-teen when she and her family were “relocated” by the Nazis.  It is one of the best such books I’ve read and I think ranks up there with The Diary of Anne Frank.  It was a devastating, and yet hopeful read.  I recommend it.

From the book:

Once as I passed the shredder I thought I saw Mama’s coat.  I turned away, praying, then forced myself to look again.  It was just a black coat.  It could have been anybody’s–hundreds of people word black coats.

And as always when in despair, I started to think of my homecoming.  I placed and replaced details upon details, playing with the fragments of my dreams.  Who would come home first?  I always wished that I should come last– walk into the house to find them all there.  At times, I thought I would reach home late at night.  The house would be dark.  I would not wake them.  I would go to the garden and wait.  I would watch the sun rise.  Then I would approach the house. Mama would be wearing her flowered housecoat.  No, she wouldn’t–we had given it away for a pound of margarine and a loaf of bread.  Well, anyway, breakfast would be on the table.  Arthur wouldn’t be there and Mama would say to me, “Go wake up Arthur, you know he never gets down in time.”

    I would run up the stairs.  My brother’s hair would be tousled, as it always was in the morning.  “Arthur,” I would whisper.  He would mutter something and turn over and pretend to go back to sleep.  Then, realizing I had come back, he would sit up with wide-open  eyes, stretching out his arms.  It would be as it had always been, from the time when I had brought him my book of fairy tales to read.  He had read them to me for years before I learned to read.  And we would come downstairs together, holding hands as we had done when we were small, so I should not stumble.  We would come down, and Papa and Mama would be holding hands too.  We would approach Papa for benediction, as we had done as children.  We both would have to bow, for we had gotten so tall.  And Papa would kiss the Bible even as his father had before him when he returned from Siberia.  And Papa would speak the words of Jacob: “I had not thought to see your face again, but God….”

 

 

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Visible Catholicity

The Center for Baptist Renewal continues explaining its Evangelical Baptist Catholicity Manifesto, this time addressing consensual creeds.

We encourage the ongoing affirmation, confession, and catechetical use of the three ecumenical creeds and the scriptural insights of the seven ecumenical councils. We believe these confessional documents express well what Thomas Oden called the “consensual tradition”—the deposit of faith taught in Holy Scripture and received by the church throughout space and time.

Growing up in the Baptist tradition, I rarely heard the ecumenical creeds.  One of the things I appreciate about Presbyterian worship is repeating the Apostles’ Creed weekly.  I remember the first time my Roman Catholic friend visited church with me, afterward saying that it was joining in the Apostles’ Creed made her feel at home.

I agree with this:

[C]reedal and confessional adherence is one of the most ready-at-hand means of expressing visible catholicity: our unity with the broader body of Christ throughout space and time. The whole Church together confesses the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds and submits to the doctrinal pronouncements of the ecumenical councils. And, denominationally, Christians of similar convictions are united by confession and adherence to common beliefs, despite differences that may be found in tertiary issues.

And this:

In other context, Russell D. Moore has suggested that American Christians are “Americans best when they are not Americans first,” highlighting our ultimate allegiance to the kingdom of Christ. We would suggest a similar principle at work here: Baptists are Baptists best when they are not Baptists first.

Related to this, as a Seventh Day Baptist, I am best when I am not a Sabbath keeper first.

Read more here.

 

Maps

 

I just cleaned out my desk and the surrounding collection (mess) of various things I thought perhaps I should enjoy again, file away,  respond to, or toss.  One small bag I found is jammed with maps I have accumulated.

Almost no one I know uses maps anymore,  but I love them.  I like to see where places are in relationship to other places.  When I am traveling I like to frequently stop and look at a map, which not only gives me direction, but an idea of the progress I’ve made.  And looking at maps of places where I have been kindle memories of the experience and place.  So I do have an eclectic collection, even including some of places I would like to see but haven’t yet.

GPS is wonderful when driving, but it is rather like fast food, it does the job but doesn’t inspire or engage the imagination.  It does nothing to add to the experience.  And it is tunnel vision.  Maps, however, frequently make me wonder about surrounding areas, about names of places, about how the geography impacts lives of people there.  I have been known to intentionally wander off my path because of something I’ve seen on a map.

I kept all of them.

This map includes the general area I lived for over ten years.  I have stories related to many of the towns.  Some of those memories go back close to 70 years.  Recently I read something about Friendship, NY (lower third, right) which I remembered hearing the name, but couldn’t quite place.  Currently, I still have close friends down in Russell, Pennsylvania, below Jamestown, NY, and my Aunt Mae doesn’t live far from here.  Other places that I treasure on this map are Gownda, Jamestown, Elicottvile,Little Genesee, and Houghton, NY.

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A Step Into the Light

From Jennifer Mathewson Speer’s Women of Grace: Broken Lives that Lead to Hope:

One evening a visiting pastor and my father were discussing the topic of faith.  There was a popular saying at the time that appeared on decorative posters and religious nick knacks. Faith is coming to the end of all your light and taking one more step.

Our guest vehemently disagreed…”Faith,” [he said] is not coming to the end of all your light and taking one more step into the darkness or the unknown.  Faith is taking a step into the one ray of light that God has already given.”

She continues:

Our guest was correct.  Biblical faith is not a leap into the dark.  It is a step into the light.  God reveals truth through His Word and we step into it.  We believe it, we trust and act on it.  We may not see the full picture.  We may not know the ending.  We may not fully understand all that God is saying or doing.  Nevertheless we obey and step into the truth.  Faith is very much like having a flashlight in the woods at night.  You don’t shine the light way out into the forest to see where  you must step next.  So as not to stumble, you shine the light at your feet and step into the very limited but definite light available.

 

No Middle Way

I have not been able to accept the prevailing notion that “if only the right people were in office legislating against…evils, everything would be pretty much fine in the land of the free and the brave.” This article about the philosophy of David Schindler helped me think about why that is or is not true.

Two recent books by and about Schindler—Ordering Love and Being Holy in the World, respectively—show how Christians ought to feel liberated to engage the culture in a deeper and ultimately more faithful way.

Schindler certainly agrees that abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and the like are evils. However, unlike our partisan “realists,” he does not regard these as corruptions of a liberal worldview otherwise rightly ordered but as the ironic fruit of liberalism’s unwitting metaphysics. By showing how the achievements of America and liberalism in general are grounded in the same intellectual foundations as their failings, and by showing how virtually all parties in the public square embrace the same metaphysical misconceptions, he turns down the apocalyptic culture-war’s heat while putting the ephemera of electoral politics in their proper context.

…To live well, Schindler argues, is to live in a way that is proper to our being. Conversely, when a misapprehension of being structures our thinking and actions, we experience unhappiness, brokenness, and poverty in its deepest sense—the absence of meaning. He believes that the modern liberal project from Descartes to Rawls is based on a radical misunderstanding of the nature of reality.

Specifically, liberalism fails to apprehend that “love is the basic act and order of things.” Love brings all there is into existence, it is through love that all there is continues in existence, and it is for love that all things exist. Reality is, in this sense, triadic: all things are in, through, and for love. Being might therefore be said to be an order or “logic” of love.

…..As you might imagine, understanding reality as an order of love has profound implications. Among these are that being is a gift, and our proper response to being is in the first place one of receptivity and gratitude.
…. Another implication of the idea of being-as-love is that being is intrinsically relational, not individualistic. The individual is real, to be sure, but included within individuality, and lying at its core, is relationality—to God, to whom the individual is constitutively related as a created thing is to its creator, and to others to whom the individual is related through a common relationship to God.
Now, the first thing to note is that Schindler believes that limited government, the separation of church and state, human rights, and religious freedom are legitimate achievements that ought to be preserved. But he simply does not believe (1) that liberalism, or any other conception of order, can successfully prescind from metaphysics (he quotes philosopher Etienne Gilson: “metaphysics always buries its undertakers”), or (2) that these achievements can be preserved if they are grounded in the unwitting metaphysics of liberalism rather than in the metaphysics of love.
….Schindler’s argument is multifaceted, but as his son David C. Schindler draws it out in Being Holy in the World, on one level it goes like this: by asking Christians to “bracket” their metaphysical commitments for purposes of public order, liberalism essentially asks them to accept a different metaphysics—indeed, a different theology. Christianity does not present itself as just one pre-critical commitment among others, but as the matrix or “paradigm” of rationality itself. One either rejects that claim, and is therefore not a Christian, or one accepts it as a Christian as the basis for reflection and understanding. There can be no middle, “bracketing” way.
Read it all.