Tuesday, May 10, 2011

God Answers Snail Mail

It's not often that I find myself in agreement with Damian Thompson, [editor-in-chief of The Catholic Herald], but when, via the medium of the wonderful Mrs B's facebook blog [Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom], I was introduced to a particular post of Damian's on The Telegraph, I found myself smiling with surprise.  

The religion writer retells the warming story of a young girl with a hefty school project -- writing a letter to God to ask the almighty how, in fact, he came to be invented.  Typical brainwashing of innocent young minds, you might be thinking, but this is where the story takes an interesting turn.

The father of this young six-year-old happens to be Atheist.  When he was approached by his daughter, Lulu for his opinion on this particular writing assignment, the non-believer was left wondering how best to handle the situation.  Might he halt any blooming spiritual connections within her heart with an outright admittance in his lack of belief in any God?  Does he lie about his feelings on faith?

Uncertain, he chooses to email copies of his daughter to a handful of religious organizations.  One such email correspondence [sent to "the head of theology of the Anglican Communion, based at Lambeth Palace"] was received and answered personally by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.  

His reply, which I will provide below, touched me unexpectedly.  I anticipated it to be the usual Christ-centered, scripture-heavy rambling typically provided by the heads of the Christian faith.  The Archbishop
Rowan's return letter to Lulu however is a breath of fresh air -- words that can be embraced by all.  He approaches the concept of god from the viewpoint of a young, open-hearted mind and his words are enveloped with all of the innocent curiosity of a learner brand new to the generic umbrella of spirituality.

I particularly love that he includes the beauty and wonder of the earth as inspiration for discovering divinity.  And I most assuredly cracked a rather impressed smile when he pointed out to little Lulu that humans invented ideas about god, some sensible and others well, not so very sensible after all.  Precious words.  I smile even now as I review them.

I hope you enjoy the response letter as much as I. 

The Archbishop writes:

Dear Lulu,
Your dad has sent on your letter and asked if I have any answers. It’s a difficult one! But I think God might reply a bit like this –
‘Dear Lulu – Nobody invented me – but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn’t expected.

Then they invented ideas about me – some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible. From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I’m really like.

But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!’

And then he’d send you lots of love and sign off.

I know he doesn’t usually write letters, so I have to do the best I can on his behalf. Lors of love from me too.

+Archbishop Rowan

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