Perhaps the growth in the number of those professing to be spiritual but not religious is a refreshing blooming of personal honesty. Maybe it marks a break from the last generation’s social pressure to wear the Christian label, regardless of secretly-held beliefs. While I would not I would find it encouraging if there were fewer Christians in the world, I do believe non-believers should never feel social pressure to fake it.
In my mind, hubris is the opposite of gratitude. And it is hubris that leads us to believe all our strengths – a slender physique, financial success, or public recognition – are due exclusively to our own hard work and merit. And, others’ weaknesses or setbacks are due to their slothfulness, intellectual feebleness, or gluttony.
I’ve learned a thing or two about pain in the last couple of years. First, I find it surprising just how much physical pain some people can endure without much complaint. Second, it is clear to me that I’m a pain wimp.
If I had a near death experience, you’d think I’d know it. But, apparently I had one in December and was among the last to recognize it.
Is there life after death? The death of spirit? The death of one’s social identity? The living death of a priest wounded by his humanity, and shunned by the scandalized parishioners he once counted as family? This is not a plot ripped from today’s headlines. Rather, it’s the framework for the rich and personal story of Father Hugh Kennedy in Edwin O’Connor’s 1962 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Edge of Sadness.