Of Lions and Hounds

In the midst of all the trivial headlines there were two fairly high profile conversions. First, rapper Snoop Dogg claims to have been “born again” and now wants to make records “kids and grandparents can listen to.” He’s changing his name to Snoop Lion. When a rapper who’s best poetry is dedicated to pimping and smoking marijuana gets religion and wants to clean up his act, we all win especially those of us who pass by his music when we are on “scan.”  I myself was slightly excited when I heard those two magic words that often indicate someone has made a turn toward God but I’ve been burned before <cough> Paris Hilton <cough>. However, don’t go looking for Snoop at your local mega church or future Dove awards. Turns out that the Snoop had a religious experience all right. But “born again” doesn’t mean the same thing to a Rastafarian as it does to a Christian. Snoop is changing his name to Snoop Lion and believes he is the reincarnation of Bob Marley. He’s making a documentary about his reincarnation experience. Predictably there’s a new album too. Its anybody’s guess which came first, the album or the conversion. Among other rituals, Rastafarians engage in ritual marijuana smoking as a way to commune with Jah. Well at least that part of Snoop conversion won’t be difficult

A prominent historian of Rastafarianism illustrates just how far from Christian, Snoop is:

Rastafarianism holds that the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was not only the messiah, he also descended from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. According to the biblical Book of 1 Kings, the two rulers met briefly and seemed to hit it off.

The lion was the symbol of Solomon’s Tribe of Judah (Christians see Jesus as the lion of Judah). Bob Marley, the reggae star and most famous Rasta, sang often of the “lion of Zion,” referring to Selassie.Speaking of Marley, Snoop Lion also said that he considers himself a reincarnation of the late musician. Edmonds said that some Rasta theology bears the influence of Hinduism, in which reincarnation is a core belief.

CNN is asking about the belief system, you know, when they aren’t digging into Mormonism.

Speaking of CNN, another conversion got on there radar. Leah Libresco is a blogger and recent convert from Atheism. She appeared on CNN to talk about her paradigm shift.

I sincerely disagree with Libresco’s chosen theological framework when it comes to grace, merit, and faith. Setting aside the Diet of Worms for the moment, what I find interesting about this is that you have with Libresco a well reasoned path to faith that is documented in numerous blog posts. You can actually track how God is working on her heart.  In other words you can just hear the hound of heaven hunting her in between the lines of her blog. If you don’t know the hound of heaven, you’ve probably never listened to more than one or two of Ravi Zacharias’ sermons. It comes from a poem by Francis Thompson about how God pursues us jealously:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears

What did the hound use to pursue Libresco? Moral philosophy. You heard me. Moral Philosophy:

I’ve heard some explanations that try to bake morality into the natural world by reaching for evolutionary psychology.  They argue that moral dispositions are evolutionarily triumphant over selfishness, or they talk about group selection, or something else.  Usually, these proposed solutions radically misunderstand a) evolution b) moral philosophy or c) both.  I didn’t think the answer was there.  My friend pressed me to stop beating up on other people’s explanations and offer one of my own.

“I don’t know,” I said.  ”I’ve got bupkis.”

“Your best guess.”

“I haven’t got one.”

“You must have some idea.”

“I don’t know.  I’ve got nothing.  I guess Morality just loves me or something.”

“…”

“Ok, ok, yes, I heard what I just said.  Give me a second and let me decide if I believe it.”

It turns out I did.

I believed that the Moral Law wasn’t just a Platonic truth, abstract and distant.  It turns out I actually believed it was some kind of Person, as well as Truth.  And there was one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth.

Libresco’s conversion is so strikingly similar to that of Christian writer and apologist J. Budiziszewski that I can’t help but quote it:

What actually led me back was a growing intuition that my condition was objectively evil. I didn’t believe in objective evil, so that seemed to make no sense. But the intuition became so strong that I could no longer ignore it. It wasn’t a “feeling.” I was forced to regard it as a perception of truth.

At this point I suppose intellect does come in, because I was familiar with Augustine’s argument about evil. Evil is deficiency in good; there is no such thing as an evil “substance,” an evil-in-itself. So if my condition really was evil, there had to be some good of which my condition was the ruination. And if there really were both good and evil, then I had been so wrong, for so long, so profoundly, that it seemed that almost anything might be true–even the faith that I had abandoned.

So I began studying all those Christian things I had forgotten. There was no distinct moment in time at which I could have said, “I believe, but a moment ago I didn’t.” One day, though, I realized that without having noticed it, I had been believing for some time.

The crux (pardon the pun) for both the Protestant (Budziszewski) and the Catholic (Libresco) was an itching sense of moral objectivity and why it mattered. I know, I know, there are plenty of you out there who think the moral argument is dead in the water because Darwin and Dennet and Hume have all made the moral argument as useless and disingenuous as a purity ring on Katy Perry.

Maybe not. John Finnis points out that the fact one can reasonably explain molecular motion without reference to God doesn’t therefore mean that no further explanation is required, that no such explanation is available, or that God is not that explanation. The same goes for moral theory. The fact that one can comfortably account for the structure of morality without the trappings of divinity does not mean that no further explanation is warranted, available, or that the explanation could be God. And all of this without sacrificing one sliver of scientific or philosophical integrity. What is apparent in both of these conversion stories is an experience of not quite feeling but not quite pure reason either. Something you would expect from something wholly spiritual.


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