Ray Bradbury on God

Ray Bradbury is not just a great science fiction writer.  He is a great writer, period.  And he is a man of some-kind-of faith:

The 89-year-old science fiction author watches Fox News Channel by day, Turner Classic Movies by night. He spends the rest of his time summoning “the monsters and angels” of his imagination for his enchanting tales.

Bradbury’s imagination has yielded classic books such as “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Martian Chronicles” and 600 short stories that predicted everything from the emergence of ATMs to live broadcasts of fugitive car chases.

Bradbury, who turns 90 this month, says he will sometimes open one of his books late at night and cry out thanks to God.

“I sit there and cry because I haven’t done any of this,” he told Sam Weller, his biographer and friend. “It’s a God-given thing, and I’m so grateful, so, so grateful. The best description of my career as a writer is, ‘At play in the fields of the Lord.’ ”

Bradbury’s stories are filled with references to God and faith, but he’s rarely talked at length about his religious beliefs, until now.

He describes himself as a “delicatessen religionist.” He’s inspired by Eastern and Western religions.

The center of his faith, though, is love. Everything — the reason he decided to write his first short story at 12; his 56-year marriage to his muse and late wife, Maggie; his friendships with everyone from Walt Disney to Alfred Hitchcock — is based on love.

Bradbury is in love with love.

Once, when he saw Walt Disney, architect of the Magic Kingdom, Christmas shopping in Los Angeles, Bradbury approached him and said: “Mr. Disney, my name is Ray Bradbury and I love you.”

Bradbury’s favorite book in the Bible is the Gospel of John, which is filled with references to love.

“At the center of religion is love,” Bradbury says from his home, which is painted dandelion yellow in honor of his favorite book, “Dandelion Wine.”

“I love you and I forgive you. I am like you and you are like me. I love all people. I love the world. I love creating. … Everything in our life should be based on love.”

Bradbury’s voice booms with enthusiasm over the phone. He now uses a wheelchair. His hearing has deteriorated. But he talks like an excitable kid with an old man’s voice. (Each Christmas, Bradbury asked his wife to give him toys in place of any other gifts.)

Weller, author of “Listen to The Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews,” says Bradbury ends many conversations with “God bless.” Weller’s book devotes an entire chapter to Bradbury’s faith.

“I once asked him if he prayed, and he said, ‘Joy is the grace we say to God,’ ” Weller says.

Bradbury was raised as a Baptist in Waukegan, Illinois, by his father, a utility lineman, and his mother, a housewife. Both were infrequent churchgoers.

His family moved to Los Angeles during the Great Depression to look for work. When he turned 14, Bradbury began visiting Catholic churches, synagogues and charismatic churches on his own to figure out his faith.

Bradbury has been called a Unitarian, but he rejects that term. He dislikes labels of any kind.

“I’m a Zen Buddhist if I would describe myself,” he says. “I don’t think about what I do. I do it. That’s Buddhism. I jump off the cliff and build my wings on the way down.”

via Sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury on God, ‘monsters and angels’ – CNN.com.

But. . .but. . .Ray. . . Zen Buddhists don’t really believe in God.  And love is surely the kind of attachment that Buddhists believe we must detach ourselves from.  I know Thomas Merton formulated a kind of Christian Zen.  Your worldview sounds (and from your writings has always sounded) specifically Christian.  The story goes on to say how often you write about Jesus.  Keep going in that direction.  (Let’s pray for him, as well as for Anne Rice.)

Good news and bad news

Joe Carter reflects on the meaning and practice of “evangelism”:

The term derives from the Greek word evangel: good news. How odd then that so much evangelism appears to be about selling Jesus and hoping that you can convince the unsaved heathen to buy into salvation. Good news doesn’t have to be sold. Bad news has to be sold, but not good news.

via Selling Jesus Like a Chevy | First Things.

What difference might this distinction make in the way Christians and churches, as they say, do evangelism?

Here comes the Sun

Solar flare

If you are reading this, we must have survived the storm on the sun that is sending plasma right at us:

Earth is bracing for a cosmic tsunami Tuesday night as tons of plasma from a massive solar flare head directly toward the planet.

The Sun’s surface erupted early Sunday morning, shooting a wall of ionized atoms directly at Earth, scientists say. It is expected to create a geomagnetic storm and a spectacular light show — and it could pose a threat to satellites in orbit, as well.

“This eruption is directed right at us and is expected to get here early in the day on Aug. 4,” said Leon Golub of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “It’s the first major Earth-directed eruption in quite some time.”

The solar eruption, called a coronal mass ejection, was spotted by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which captures high-definition views of the sun at a variety of wavelengths. SDO was launched in February and peers deep into the layers of the sun, investigating the mysteries of its inner workings. . . .

Views of aurorae are usually associated with Canada and Alaska, but even skywatchers in the northern U.S. mainland are being told they can look toward the north Tuesday and Wednesday evenings for rippling “curtains” of green and red light.

When a coronal mass ejection reaches Earth, solar particles stream down our planet’s magnetic field lines toward the poles. In the process, the particles collide with atoms of nitrogen and oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere, which then glow, creating an effect similar to miniature neon signs.

The interaction of the solar particles with our planet’s magnetic field has the potential to create geomagnetic storms, or disturbances, in Earth’s magnetosphere. And while aurorae are normally visible only at high latitudes, they can light up the sky even at lower latitudes during a geomagnetic storm.

Fortunately for Earth-bound observers, the atmosphere filters out nearly all of the radiation from the solar blast. The flare shouldn’t pose a health hazard, Golub told FoxNews.com.

“It’s because of our atmosphere,” he explained, “which absorbs the radiation, as well as the magnetic field of the Earth, which deflects any magnetic particles produced.”

via FOXNews.com – Solar Tsunami to Strike Earth.

That’s a piece of good luck in this allegedly random universe.  What we get from this cataclysm is extra-beautiful Northern Lights.

Lutheran conversion testimonies

Some may consider that phrase a contradiction in terms.  But a new book contains the stories of various people who converted to Christianity as proclaimed in Lutheranism.  It’s called Wittenberg Confessions: Testimonies of Converts to Confessional Lutheranism, by Jim Pierce, Edited by Elaine Gavin.  I mention it in particular because it includes accounts from some of the readers and commentators on this blog, such as author Jim Pierce (former atheist and just about everything else you could name) and Kelly Klages.  (If there are any others of you who contributed to this book, make yourself known!  If you aren’t in the book but have a similar “testimony,” feel free to tell about it in a comment on this post.)

You can buy  the book, from the wonderfully-named new publisher Blue Pomegranate Press, by clicking here.

New theories on the Dead Sea Scrolls

Some scholars are thinking that the Dead Sea Scrolls, those ancient texts that include some of the oldest copies of the Old Testament, may not have been the property of the Jewish sect known as the Essenes.  They might have come from the Temple itself:

Recent findings by Yuval Peleg, an archaeologist who has excavated Qumran for 16 years, are challenging long-held notions of who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Artifacts discovered by Peleg’s team during their excavations suggest Qumran once served as an ancient pottery factory. The supposed baths may have actually been pools to capture and separate clay.

And on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, archaeologists recently discovered and deciphered a two-thousand-year-old cup with the phrase “Lord, I have returned” inscribed on its sides in a cryptic code similar to one used in some of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

To some experts, the code suggests that religious leaders from Jerusalem authored at least some of the scrolls.

“Priests may have used cryptic texts to encode certain texts from nonpriestly readers,” Cargill told National Geographic News.

According to an emerging theory, the Essenes may have actually been Jerusalem Temple priests who went into self-imposed exile in the second century B.C., after kings unlawfully assumed the role of high priest.

This group of rebel priests may have escaped to Qumran to worship God in their own way. While there, they may have written some of the texts that would come to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Essenes may not have abandoned all of their old ways at Qumran, however, and writing in code may have been one of the practices they preserved.

It’s possible too that some of the scrolls weren’t written at Qumran but were instead spirited away from the Temple for safekeeping, Cargill said.

“I think it dramatically changes our understanding of the Dead Sea Scrolls if we see them as documents produced by priests,” he says in the new documentary.

“Gone is the Ark of the Covenant. We’re never going to find Noah’s Ark, the Holy Grail. These things, we’re never going to see,” he added. “But we just may very well have documents from the Temple in Jerusalem. It would be the great treasure from the Jerusalem Temple.”

via Dead Sea Scrolls Mystery Solved?.

Iraq combat will end August 31

So says the president:

President Obama outlined the changing U.S. role in Iraq on Monday to an organization of disabled veterans, saying that beginning next month the more-than-seven-year war effort will change from a primarily military enterprise to a diplomatic one.

“The hard truth is we have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq,” Obama told the Disabled American Veterans group in a speech in Atlanta. “But make no mistake, our commitment in Iraq is changing–from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats. And as we mark the end of America’s combat mission in Iraq, a grateful America must pay tribute to all who served there.”

His remarks began a month-long effort by the White House designed to remind American voters that Obama campaigned on a pledge to wind down the Iraq war and that he is carrying out those plans largely on schedule.

The U.S. combat mission will end in Iraq at the end of the month, a milestone that comes after a steady troop drawdown since Obama took office.

Some 50,000 U.S. troops are scheduled to remain in Iraq by the end of the month, the deadline Obama had set for the end of the U.S. combat mission. That means more than 90,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines have left Iraq since his inauguration.

But Iraq remains a fragile nation, and its political leadership has warned of a potential power vacuum as U.S. forces leave.

via Obama highlights fulfilled promise of Iraq drawdown in speech to veterans.

So what do you think will happen next?


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