“To the modern man, religion can no longer be a matter of entering into a relationship with the supernatural. The only kind of religion that can help him live and get the most out of life will be the one which will teach him to identify as divine or holy whatever in human nature or in the world about him enhances human life. Men must no longer look upon God as a reservoir of magic power to be tapped whenever they are afraid of their physical limitations.”  

“Without faith that the world of nature is a cosmos and not a chaos, that it has intelligible laws which can be unravelled, and that the human reason offers us an instrument capable of unravelling them, then no scientific theorizing would be possible. This is another way of saying hat science cannot dispense with what Einstein has appropriately names “cosmic religion,” the faith that nature is meaningful and hence divine.”

                 Mordecai Kaplan, The Meaning of God in Modern Jewish Religion.

Profound words I was reading tonight when my husband told me the news story of a woman seeing the image of Mary on her Thanksgiving breakfast pancake. I don’t think Kaplan had that in mind when he said we need to identify the divine in the world. But it strikes a chord with my current musings. There are intellectuals who can relate to the ideas of great thinkers like Kaplan and Einstein and find in their writings rational support for belief in God. Then there are people for whom faith is not a matter of academic debate but an intuitive sense that God is real and that even things like pancakes can be mediators of “The Holy.” Whether the image on the food product is the result of burnt butter or not doesn’t matter to them. It is a reminder of what they already know to be true: God is in all things.

So I ask myself, are intellectuals arrogantly supposing that their path to “meaning” is the only valid one? Why do we laugh at the simple faith of ordinary people?  In the end does it matter whether one comes to God through academic theology or piety? Isn’t it all about how we live and love, about what kind of “footprint” we leave on the planet?  The woman who saw Mary in her pancake didn’t come to faith because of a breakfast food, she came to breakfast with her faith already firm and with eyes willing to see reminders of holiness and giving thanks for what is really important in her life on Thanksgiving: spending time with family and friends.

 

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