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We could all be theologians

Created date

April 27th, 2009

' As a chaplain, I spend most of my day talking with a beautiful mix of people on every subject under the rainbow. When folks share their spiritual opinions with me, I never find myself wondering if they have "the goods" to back it up. Instead, I remember how Solomon and Jesus pointed us toward nature as a source of wisdom: "Go to the ant ," the king said. "Consider the lilies ," the carpenter s son advised. I remind myself: If God teaches us through nature including human nature then everyone is welcome at the table of wisdom. General vs. spiritual revelation Theologians call this "general revelation" (e.g., observation, empiricism) versus "special revelation" (e.g., dreams, Scripture). Didn t the shepherd of Bethlehem sing into the night sky: "The heavens declare the glory of God "? When someone takes the risk to share their views with me, I feel honored. When they pose disclaimers like " but I m no theologian, you would know better," I reply: "I m just a person, too, struggling with the same tough questions." What is the old saying? "When life is sweet, we have few questions. When life turns sour, we have few answers." I am a fan of the novelist Kurt Vonnegut. Using humor, he critiqued modern culture in a masterful way. Despite his acclaim, however, this artist often mentioned his master s degree in anthropology during interviews. He did not want to be regarded as "just another person with an opinion." But Vonnegut did not need an advanced degree to express his wisdom nor do we. Spiritual dialogue A century ago according to Bernie Siegel, M.D. people thought of "the good patient" as someone who passively accepted " whatever the doctor orders!" But today we understand that "good patients" speak up and advocate for their own well-being; they ask questions and provide alternative information. So when it comes to spiritual care, maybe we would all be better off if we created dialogue with our rabbis, friendly debates with our pastors, and played devil s advocate with the chaplains in our lives. On some days there is as much wisdom in questioning the answer as there is in answering the question.