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 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

January 27, 2004
Vol. 1, No. 189




Sister Rita Larivee Not new solutions, new questions

Sister Rita Larivee, SSA, NCR associate publisher

This week, Larivee is exploring new, emerging ideas that don't typically make it into the public arena. To read Part One, follow this link: Learning more to discover more.
Everything is connected. Every thing has an effect on everything else. Nothing is in isolation. If I touch a flower that is springing from the earth, I am at the same time touching a star in the heavens above.

Just last week, I attended a lecture describing the "Extravagant Universe" given by Robert Kirshner, president of the American Astronomical Society. After years of study, he and his team of astronomers announced in 1998 the extraordinary discovery of an expanding universe at an accelerating speed in direct contrast to what had been believed to be an expanding universe that was slowing down. This isn't something most of us spend time wondering about, but the discovery reinforces the existence of "dark energy," an unseen force that imbues the entire universe and all of space. Just as the wind is able to move leaves on a branch, dark energy is able to move the universe. You cannot see the wind, but you can see its effects. So, too, scientists can neither see the dark energy, nor explain it, but they can see its effects on a universe that is expanding faster than ever.

But why should we think that it is only within the world of science that we have much to learn? Imagine for a moment what it would be like to follow similar developments in the social sciences, spirituality or theology. Imagine a church or global community that encourages the same kind of research, inquiry or imagination that is filling the minds of the men and women who are controlling the two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Imagine listening to the news with breaking stories about spiritual advancement and new theological discoveries.

You say it cannot happen?

But these new developments are happening. The problem is that we are too busy justifying everything we learned years ago, which usually winds up getting in the way of being able to see new possibilities of today. For instance, technically, I'm a trained Catholic theologian because I studied within the Catholic institutions. But I tell people that I'm a theologian who needs no prefix to explain what I do. We must allow ourselves the freedom to imagine beyond what we have known. Those who would build boundaries and barriers for the conversation are short-circuiting the future. Our public debates on such matters as the war in Iraq, the issue of abortion, and the legitimacy of gay marriages seem more like stalemates in a big chess game than shared wisdom for a better the world and a healthier church.

Our world and our church have forgotten how to dream. We haven't lost the ability, but we surely have misplaced it. This is the foundation upon which quantum theology is built. It isn't about new solutions. It's about new questions and new ways of imagining.

What is quantum theology?

First, quantum theology says that everyone gets to participate in the conversation about God, not just those who adhere to the traditional images of God. In fact, quantum theology would say that a conversation about God with only those of like minds in the room is hardly a conversation at all. Quantum theology emphasizes the experience of the divine as told by the myriad of members making up the human experience, regardless of creed. It dismantles exclusivity so as to affirm that we are all connected.

Second, quantum theology does not emphasize a beginning or an end to creation. It is an evolutionary process in which we are participants. Rather than a God who is up above the universe, quantum theology looks to an image of God as within the cosmos. God is within all of creation, but not confined to it. It respects the traditions of the great religions of the world, but avoids language that is filled with ideological connotations. It upholds a sense of reverence, awe and respect for the divine, while emphasizing deep silence as an important way for connecting with the inner light of infinite possibilities.

Other Today's Takes by Rita Larivee
June 25, 03 Use closed sessions with caution
June 24, 03 Howard Dean and a reminder of the common good
June 23, 03 Baseball's best kept secret
May 21, 03 Kudos to Maine Rx
May 20, 03 Managed truth (a.k.a. 'lying')
May 19, 03 Celebrating spring rites of passage
Third, similar to the scientific world which is beginning to discover an interconnecting theory that explains all aspects of the physical world, quantum theology tells us that the birth of the Buddha, the emergence of Hinduism, the journey of Judaism, and the person of Jesus do not exist in isolation from each other. When the great prophet Isaiah was preaching in one part of the world, the Buddha was preaching a similar message in another part of the world. Quantum theology forces us to ask why and to consider the various possibilities. Is it possible that the two are connected?

The universe is a sacred dance involving all of creation. Quantum theology invites us to be participants, encouraging us to suspend for a moment our inhibitions in fear that we might miss a step or stumble and fall. We must go beyond a comparison of the great wisdom traditions, as if sharing notes on who said what first and stopping there. Quantum theology is suggesting that the solutions to our world and church problems can only be found in the mosaic of the world community.

Imagine what we could learn if we accepted to discuss the issues of war, abortion, and homosexuality from the perspectives of Jainism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Is it possible that part of the reason we cannot find answers is that we are asking the wrong questions? Quantum theology is not for those seeking to justify a particular perspective. It forces us to go beyond our usual comfort zone and to venture onto a dance floor whose music we have yet to understand.

There is much more to say, but for later in the week.

Tomorrow we'll look at consciousness theory and the global awakening happening within our midst.

Rita Larivee is NCR associate publisher. She can be reached at

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