Saturday, 8/23/14

  1. Spiritual-but-not-religious sunset people
  2. Corroborated veridical NDE perceptions
  3. The Great River
  4. Abortion Polarization Update


The Huffington Post is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get. Much of what you get slimes or stultifies.

But Lillian Daniel really hit it out of the park a few years ago with “Spiritual But Not Religious? Please Stop Boring Me,” with just the right mixture of snark, mockery, and appeal to the mighty cloud of witnesses. It’s a quick and easy read. (H/T David Mills)


I’ve never thought all that much about Near-Death Experiences, and I don’t expect that will change much. But Rod Dreher writes of two interesting ones.


the amazing story of Pamela Reynolds, an Atlanta woman who was put into clinical death (no measurable brain activity) in an operating room to allow surgeons to perform an extremely delicate procedure on her brain. When she was brought back to life, she reported having had a classic NDE.

Second, and more interesting to me since it seems to rule out a ecumenical psychic concomitant of physical changes as one comes near death, is Maria:

Maria was a migrant worker who had a severe heart attack while visiting friends in Seattle. She was rushed to Harborview Hospital and placed in the coronary care unit. A few days later, she had a cardiac arrest but was rapidly resuscitated. The following day, Clark visited her. Maria told Clark that during her cardiac arrest she was able to look down from the ceiling and watch the medical team at work on her body. At one point in this experience, said Maria, she found herself outside the hospital and spotted a tennis shoe on the ledge of the north side of the third floor of the building. She was able to provide several details regarding its appearance, including the observations that one of its laces was stuck underneath the heel and that the little toe area was worn. Maria wanted to know for sure whether she had “really” seen that shoe, and she begged Clark to try to locate it.

Quite skeptical, Clark went to the location described by Maria—and found the tennis shoe. From the window of her hospital room, the details that Maria had recounted could not be discerned. But upon retrieval of the shoe, Clark confirmed Maria’s observations. “The only way she could have had such a perspective,” said Clark, “was if she had been floating right outside and at very close range to the tennis shoe. I retrieved the shoe and brought it back to Maria; it was very concrete evidence for me.”

Dreher goes on to suggest some of what this signifies or even proves, including his impression or conviction that they “undermine generally the received Christian teaching on life-after-death.” I’m not sure which Christian teaching he’s referring to as “received,” but he goes on to note that there’s congruence between the NDE reports and the Orthodox view of salvation, with which note I would agree.

We now return to our regularly scheduled ruminations.


Dale Coulter, who seems only recently to have arrived at First Things as a contributor, consistently challenges every stereotype I’ve ever had about Pentecostals. More specifically, he’s educated and well familiar with the great cloud of witnesses going back 2000 years:

Having taught a number of years at an undergraduate institution within the evangelical world, I observed on more than one occasion students who wrestled with the particular brand of Christianity in which they had been raised. Some students had even departed the faith entirely when they stepping into my required classes in theology and ethics; or, so they thought. What they had done, in fact, was reject a particular version of Christianity that they had mistakenly taken for the whole. They had not yet looked beyond their own tradition.

The task was not to defend the tributary of Christianity in which my students had first touched the waters of baptism, but to show them that it was fed by a vast river stretching back two millennia. In short, I defended Christianity by helping them swim upstream so that they could discover just how deep and wide Christian Tradition was. Through a confrontation with full-throated Christianity, students had the resources to criticize the stream to which they belonged while also locating that tradition with the great river of Christian Tradition ….

I can’t say I’ve seen this with my own eyes, but I’ve long strongly suspected it: Evangelical apostates have apostatized only from “a particular version of Christianity that they had mistakenly taken for the whole,” and as long as they’re attracted to Jesus, there’s a chance they’ll recover.

Even if they’re currently among the spiritual-but-not-religious sunset people.


Wesley J. Smith, tireless advocate of human exceptionalism, notes a shift in abortion advocacy. Not surprisingly, I suppose, it’s one that marks even greater polarization in the country.

I’ll not try to summarize his article. You can read it if you like (although every blog from First Things has been displaying incorrectly on my computer for a few days). Here’s a couple of things that caught my attention, though.

Take Texas: A new law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital (among other provisions) has survived initial court challenges. The law’s enforcement has caused Planned Parenthood to close clinics all over the state (undermining the organization’s dubious assertion that abortion only constitutes 3 percent of its services).

Touché. Figures don’t lie, by liars can figure, and Planned Parenthood has trafficked in lies at least for 41 years if not, as we lawyers say, ab initio.

The other notable is “the beginnings of a new philosophical thrust aimed at winning what I previously called in these pages a ‘pro-abortion reversal of Roe v. Wade’ that would overturn existing federal abortion jurisprudence as too limiting on a woman’s right to abort.” As in this quote from Mary Elizabeth Williams, writing at Salon, for instance:

All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.

Popular opinion is running to the contrary, but our black-robed masters give minimal deference to popular opinion, and take every “progressive” wind shift as an eternal verity being born, and thus lock it into the constitution eisegetically as soon as a plausible private dispute gives them the excuse.

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.