How we deal with the things, people, and ideas that push our disagreement and irritation buttons is at the heart of this week’s show with Evangelical thought leader and educator Richard Mouw. In the audio above (download mp3, 2:49), Mouw shares a story of Thérèse of Lisieux, a late 19th-century French Carmelite nun who couldn’t stand another nun in her convent. Lisieux found solace in the idea that the nun who irked her was God’s creation and should be appreciated as a divine work of art.

In her spiritual journal The Story of a Soul, published posthumously in 1989, Lisieux wrote these lines:

“I felt that this was very pleasing to Our Lord, for there is no artist who is not gratified when his works are praised…”

Mouw’s story about her reminds me of Krista’s conversations with Columba Stewart and Shane Claiborne, two monastics who speak to the real irritations pious people experience in daily communal living. Take these lines from Fr. Stewart, for example, about finding Christ in all things — even those things that might repel or rub us the wrong way:

“And if, as Benedict says, everyone we meet conveys Christ to us — so the guest, the sick, the pilgrim, our fellow monks whom we meet on a daily basis, as challenging as it can sometimes be to recognize Christ in someone with whom I disagree.

I must confess that these ideas about divine “art appreciation” and finding Christ in all things are pretty foreign to me. I grew up in a mostly secular Jewish family that was highly practiced in the art of complaint. When I listen to Mouw express awelike admiration for Thérèse of Lisieux, I imagine my father smirking, shaking his head, and cracking a sarcastic joke about the virtues of embracing one’s inner curmudgeon. In a twist on Mouw’s ideas, it’s the very strangeness of his perspective that captivates rather than repels me.


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Reflections

What a difference it makes when we regard each other as eternal treasures, as "the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints."

the concept of embracing every experience we encounter is very Eastern but appears in the biographies of many Christian saints. The current level of intolerance displayed by many/most mainstream Christian denominations would be puzzling to many that they hold in reverence.

Is this where the comments about this week's show are supposed to be hidden? There was an invitation at the end of the show to leave comments at the blog, but there doesn't seem to be an obvious place to do so. I see there's also a place to leave comments at the page for this episode, which requires more personal information than I care to share.

While I appreciate whatever broadmindedness might be involved with inviting a conservative like Mouw to your show, this choice continues the tradition of inviting conservatives who will be critical of other conservatives, saying what liberals like to hear about conservatives (but not about themselves), as was also done with John Danforth and Jim Wallis. The kinds of conservatives criticized remain poorly understood and poorly represented on this show, despite their large number and influence. They still need to be reached out to and allowed to speak for themselves, just as much as the atheists and such the show is noticeably bending towards.

Maybe underlying the reluctance to have Glenn-Beck-like guests is a belief that some values regarded by many as spiritual, such as the rightness of harsh condemnation of homosexuality or of people one thinks are spiritually wrong, cannot be valid spiritual values. If that's the position of the show, it would be most forthcoming to say so. I think it isn't the self-evident position it might appear to be, not even as it would apply to Beck and others singled out for criticism on this show (and website). At least bringing this mode of thought into the open would allow it to be examined and questioned. There's some very harsh stuff in some revered spiritual guides, so it would be revealing, at least, to know on what grounds the staff filter the values implied by that so securely as to exclude some of them from being represented on the show (and website), except of course to criticize and dismiss them. And, since they aren't represented by those who hold them, risk misunderstanding and misrepresenting them.

Putting this in a more specific spiritual light, I wonder if the position of the show is to look at Beck, Franklin Graham and many others and say, paraphrasing Paul, "We have no need of you in the Body of Being."

And of course the connection to the topic post is plain.

This is an interesting idea. the thing that doesn't seem to fit this show, however, is that all the guests that I have heard have presented their ideas in an invitational way. As Peter's epistle says, with respect.  It seems to me that there are many places to find pomposity in our culture. I  much prefer the gentle approach. I can stay open enough to actually hear what the person is saying, not close him or her off in a reaction of self defense.

This is just what the Great Yeshua came to teach us: To God reflected in ourselves and in all of creation.

As I drove alone listening to the entire interview, and now have read the comments above and before mine, I was quite moved about the encounter Mr. Mouw had at a service/lecture where he did not shy from the conservative view of same sex as sin. But meeting a couple who enthusiastically endorsed his view, he took the step of reconciliation - forgiveness perhaps, with the olive branch advice, ""we have to find some common ground and stop yelling at each other. The couple unexpectedly wept confessing that their son was homosexual and they wanted to find some way to accept and reconcile with their belief system and Scripture.

I am struck with the passsage about St Therese and the convent mate that she loathed until she realized that she was also one of God's creations. Do not all artists take pleasure in their work being admired? What if God created humans with same sex love hard wired? What if being gay was a gift of God for the individual and the rest of us? Is the fear and loathing hatred encouraged in the duplicitous "hate the sin; love the sinner" truth or mendacity? Are we so sure we know that we are loving God above all things, and our neighbor, even if they be gay, as ourselves? Being too sure seems like pride, which comes before the fall. We seek Jesus and God in the great and glorious, but we find him where we least suspect. We are all sinners, and must learn to love harder than we have learned to judge with our imperfect means and minds.

As a mother commented in a Catholic magazine, "It's easier to see Christ in the face of an orphan (on TV) than in the child who just smeared peanut butter all over your freshly cleaned kitchen."

I could not agree more with the Nun for I practice Divine Art Appreciation each and everyday. Whenever I encounter a person that try to make me lose my cool , I just prayer in mind and send that particular person Divine blessings and kept going. Although sometimes I think that some people look at me, and I think that they might think that I am crazy for being so kind with them despite what they have done to me. Luz M Phipps Reading PA