Quarks rule

Religion is a topic I'm interested in as an observer rather than a participant, but it's one that increasingly consumes our public discourse. I don't believe it belongs in the political realm, but it seems to have grown roots there and its influence is inescapable.

For instance, on Monday the new governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley (R), speaking to a group gathered to honor Martin Luther King day, stated: "So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother." I found this highly offensive coming from someone who has been elected to represent the thousands of unique individuals in Alabama, and I wondered how Dr. King—or Jesus—would respond.

Maybe the narrow-mindedness was particularly striking because the day before we had watched Baraka, a 1992 film that begins and ends with images of religious worship throughout the world. The film has no narration and the images are left for us to decipher on our own, to make what we will of the creative and colorful ways humans seek meaning in our world. It was the religious creativity that impressed me most, and without the unspoken dogma and the mute and irrelevant rules, I was ready to go along with any of them. (Baraka also speaks to the damage we've inflicted, but that's a topic for another time.)

There are those who believe that the universe is itself a continuing act of creation, set in motion by an unseen hand or force and participated in by every living thing. I like this idea, and it was given credence in an interview we heard Sunday evening on Krista Tippett's radio show, Being. Tippett interviewed physicist and Anglican priest Dr. John C. Polkinghorne about the ideas in his new book, Quarks, Chaos, & Christianity. Science now accepts that on a quantum level the observer influences the outcome, and the deeper and more quantum the science goes, the more convincing becomes the belief that we are the creators of our reality.

But these ideas aren't "religion" yet, and probably won't be in my lifetime. Still, I prefer believing that we all participate in, and have a responsibility for, creating a peaceful, more perfect world. Meanwhile, I'll try to be tolerant of Robert Bentley's exclusionary beliefs. They are, after all, just one more creative vision.


Last night we watched Deliver Us From Evil, (more religion!) the 2006 documentary about Catholic priest Father Oliver O'Grady who admitted to raping and molesting children in California, went to prison for seven years, and then returned to Ireland where he was free to molest others. The film was nominated for an Academy Award and it is chilling to watch. O'Grady appears oblivious to the hurt and ruined lives left in his wake, as the church bishops transfer him from parish to parish, all the time knowing what he was doing. If this is religion, I'm Orion's belt.