Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Religion and cults

Back (already) to South Park, Ann Althouse asks, "taking the broader view, answer the question: Is religion a super adventure club?"

Good lawprof style. Earlier this evening, in a Law & Theology class on euthanasia and assisted suicide, we kept asking, essentially, "whose life is it, anyway?" That is the great thing about teaching law school. I ask; you answer. (That is, incidentally, not a criticism [although it is an oversimplification]. I can't imagine how else you could become a lawyer.)

The show dodges the question by having the kids say that the myth of the Super Adventure Club are "way more retarded" than the claims of traditional religions but the question persists.

My best answer is that "true" religion, certainly authentic Christianity and Judaism (which are the only traditions with which I am sufficiently familiar to speak) are not. They are not if, by super adventure club, you mean something that removes you from engagement with the world and which indulges your predilections. There is, in my experience, great comfort in Christianity, but it is just as likely to make you uncomfortable in a way that forces you into relationships that you would have preferred to avoid. There is an old saying among (at least) Christians ( the source of which I am too tired to look up) that if you find the God you want, you haven't yet found God. That makes religion radical.

But, at the same time, there is, at least in my own Anglo-Catholic tradition, a recognition that God calls you into relationships and commitments that are not overtly religious, but which are nevertheless sacred. If you find yourself casually renouncing these commitments, caution is in order.

That makes religious discernment an art and not a science. I can live with that.

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