Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Discovering Worldview in Calcutta

A regular reader of this blog from Colorado commented recently that reading my stuff was “getting expensive.”  In the past month I have given a few book reviews and today, sorry Bill, I want to share another good read.  Not essential, but inspiring and challenging.

Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work And Service, is a book about self-discovery, but more, about an academic who discovered the faith of Christ through working with a humble woman working among the poor of India.  Mary Poplin’s (PhD professor of education) work has two primary themes.

The first, and primary theme is that of a woman who lived a selfless life and her commitment to Christ.  No matter what you think of Mother Teresa and her theology, she had a singular passion, Jesus.  Though a Nobel Prize Winner, Mother Teresa never sought glory, money or building a large organization, though through her order, Sisters of Charity, she received all of that.  What Poplin learned as a “volunteer” (note that volunteers were not called “missionaries – maybe a better phrase for STM’s) for three months in 1996, and what it meant to serve Christ, not just do social work.  Throughout the book there are vignettes on how Mother Teresa and her Sisters dealt with discouragement, attacks from critics, and their single-minded mission to help others.  It is not hard to find inspiration and even conviction in every chapter of this book.

Second, as an academician, Poplin bought into the worldview of higher education and philosophy prevalent in western universities.  What she discovered in Calcutta was that those philosophies of secular humanism, naturalism and pantheism have no answers for humanity outside of themselves.  Mother Teresa’s life and labor revealed a life that is neither rational or normal, as viewed by the world, but is nevertheless the way God intended for His creation.  Poplin writes, In the Christian worldview, a set of moral standards and ways of best being in the world stands outside us...It is not left to us to determine moral values but to obey the principles we have been given.” 

The author is candid about her own failings adhering to the secular humanistic and pantheistic worldview she followed for many years, which resulted in two abortions and declaring she was “spiritual” but not religious.  She exposes the fallacy of that worldview by stating, “One major distinctions in my being ‘spiritual but not religious’ as what I could not or would not deal with - evil, especially evil inside myself.... The rationalizing mind cannot distinguish its thoughts from reason.  I could rationalize having sexual relationships with a married man with any number of ‘human reasons’ -- his marriage was on the rocks, his wife did not really love him, it's not really hurting anyone...the list was endless.  I could use illegal drugs, because, after all, is only hurt me."

Poplin’s time in Mother Teresa’s Calcutta brought her to the real meaning of life.  In the process she found her own Calcutta, challenging the prevailing worldview in the universities and championing the Christian worldview where she works everyday.

Finding Calcutta is worth the time and money to read and be blessed.