Are there spiritual questions as Japan’s nightmare unfolds?

I haven’t heard or seen much coverage of the devastation in Japan that has raised religious or spiritual questions.

Maybe because so many of those questions were asked after relatively recent disasters — the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the quake in Haiti. Maybe there isn’t much left to say or ask.


My friend Cathy Lynn Grossman at USATODAY wrote about how the Japanese will turn to their Buddhist and Shinto traditions for solace. She writes, in part:


Seven days after the quake and tsunami, waves of memorials will begin in whatever temples remain near the disaster zone. In Buddhist traditions, the seventh day ritual begins 33 years of formal mourning ceremonies ahead, Williams said.

Just as Christians and Jews in the West may offer prayers for those who have died and those who mourn, so these rituals and prayers will come from throughout Japan, as well as from Thailand and Taiwan, where many share the Japanese form of Buddhism, said Williams, a native of Japan.


Williams is Duncan Williams, a survivor of the Friday quake and a scholar of Japanese Buddhism at the University of California-Berkeley.

I also came across a note about Glenn Beck saying — sort of — that the disaster was a message from God:


I’m not saying God is, you know, causing earthquakes — well I’m not not saying that either! What God does is God’s business, I have no idea. But I’ll tell you this — whether you call it Gaia or whether you call it Jesus, there’s a message being sent. And that is, ‘Hey you know that stuff we’re doing? Not really working out real well. Maybe we should stop doing some of it.’



I also found that someone asked Yahoo! Answers this question: “Did japan tsunami start the end of the world?”

But Yahoo! deleted the question based on their community guidelines.

ADD: Apparently, the governor of Tokyo said Monday that the earthquake and tsunami were “divine retribution” for Japanese egoism. He apologized today.

Gov. Shintaro Ishihara had used the Japanese term “tembatsu,” which means something along the lines of “heavenly punishment.”

“The way [Ishihara] used it was a prewar understanding of the will of heaven or the gods to discipline the Japanese people,” John Nelson, the chair of theology and religious studies at the University of San Francisco, told CNN.

(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Glenn Beck’s sacred fire for George Washington

Oprah’s book club has made literary stars out of many authors, so why wouldn’t an all-out endorsement from Glenn Beck do the same?

The Fox News personality’s promotion of a book about George Washington’s faith — George Washington’s Sacred Fire — has pushed the 1,200-page tome from 2006 to Number 2 on Amazon’s list.

I haven’t read the book and hadn’t heard of it until a few days ago. But it seems that the book makes the case that the Father of Our Country was a committed Christian and not a deist as he has been described by many historians.

The book was written by Peter Lillback, president of Westminster Theological Seminary, a Protestant seminary in the Reformed tradition that has compuses in Philadelphia and London.

A transcript from Beck’s website includes this: “Our churches stand for nothing, many of them. I’m begging preachers, you are about to lose religious freedom. You must go out — America, I want you to buy this book today. This is George Washington’s Sacred Fire. I got it last week. It’s by Peter A. Lillback. I think it’s been out for, since 2006. Sacred Fire. Go out and buy this book today. Get on Amazon and buy it today. Sacred Fire. You will understand the relationship of God and our founders.”

Liberal voices are ready and willing to argue with Beck’s point of view.

Of course, the faith of the Founding Fathers has been the subject of an historical tug-o-war since, I would imagine, the early days of the country. In recent years, many books have been written contending that the FFs were or were not religious and were or were not Christians.

The only notable Washington biography I’ve read was Joseph Ellis’ His Excellency: George Washington, which I picked up because Ellis’ Founding Brothers was real good.

In his Washington bio, Ellis made the case that GW was not religious and likely not a Christian. I remember that, toward the end of the book, Ellis made a point of noting that Washington did not ask for a minister at his death bed.

Is Ellis or Lillback correct? Beats the heck out of me.

But Beck’s legion of followers will go for Lillback’s version of history, it seems.

Glenn Beck forgot to say where Christians who oppose ‘social justice’ should go

Glenn Beck’s recent pronouncement that Christians should leave churches that promote “social justice” has some folks riled up.

Among other things, Beck offered this: “If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish.”

tjndc5-5t978lgrf4l19cut574w_layoutEven the mild-mannered and professorial mainline thinker Martin Marty has come out swinging.

“The fact that Mr. Beck charms millions of devotees tells more about the sad state of truth-telling and the high state of lie-receiving than civil citizens should want to hear,” Marty writes in his latest Sightings column.

Strong words from a guy like Marty.

I can’t quite understand the hubbub. Clearly Mr. Beck doesn’t like liberals or liberalism or government programs or other touchy-feeling people and ideas that seek to redistribute income, increase the deficit, threaten “liberty” and all the rest.

So, yeah, he doesn’t like it when churches — Catholic, Protestant, even his own LDS Church — espouse lefty ideas like “social justice.”

He may have not have fully understood (or simply didn’t care) that the vast majority of Christian churches in America support some form of “social justice” and that by calling for people to leave these churches, he was suggesting a major redistribution of church attendence.

And linking fascism and communism to mainstream Christian thinking could be considered an odd move.

I don’t think that Beck has problems with churches that offer extensive social ministries themselves. He was probably talking about churches that support government spending.

But I’m not sure.

Of course, Beck didn’t say where Christians should go when they flee their churches.

A good follow-up program might be to highlight those Christian churches/denominations that do not espouse any form of “social justice.”

They’ll probably have to add a lot of parking spaces. And quick.

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)