What divides us

Ends and Beginnings

There is a church down the street from my house that uses a sanctuary that once housed a neighborhood Southern Baptist Church. The church that occupies this building today has a catchy, hip name but when you read their “beliefs” they are still basically a Southern Baptist Church in a different candy wrapper. My community is dotted with these kind of old traditional structures that have been filled with pastors who don’t wear robes or ties and congregations attending services in shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops. It is a casual brand of fire and brimstone with guitars replacing organs and big screens replacing hymnals.

I am not criticizing this new brand of worship. Both my kids, who grew-up in a very traditional Presbyterian Church, attend these kind of churches. Thankfully just ones a little less conservative than the one near my house.

This church sits on a prime piece of real…

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the narrow gate

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  MATTHEW 7:13-14

Many theologians and religionists have attempted to kill the message of Jesus for motives of profit and power.  For the most part they have been successful.  By attributing our character defects to the realm of sin they have brought countless repentant followers to the confessional booths or the altar railing seeking a reprieve from a condemning God.  For some parishioners there is an implied monetary or physical penance.

Imagine the freedom we can achieve if we view Jesus, the man and the teacher, as he truly was.  He was not an ascetic punishing himself daily for being human.  He thoroughly enjoyed life.  He thrived upon being another human amongst a brotherhood of men and women struggling to survive under Roman and Judaic bureaucratic control.  He loved a good party.  But most importantly, he did not pass judgment based upon the defects inherent in all of mankind.  He urged a better way, a self-less way, a way which would lead to personal freedom coming from within.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  JOHN 14:6

Within the powers of reasoning and logic which are God-given, what if we translate this ambiguous verse as follows:

I am the way: I am the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through truth and life.

Religionists and theologians who base the exclusiveness of Christianity as the only “true faith” on John 14:6 obviously will shudder with horror and will refute this translation which would subsequently force them to question the literalism and inerrancy of their scriptures.  We all are faced with a personal choice to either accept the teachings and preachings of the church fathers as written in stone or to embrace the freedoms with which our Father endowed us to THINK.

Perhaps we need to visualize the “narrow gate” as a:

life of simple living, altruism, non-violence, and peacemaking.”   https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/

and not a moralistic, ego-based attitude of religious asceticism.

 

 

 

 

THE AA PROMISES

Many of us who have based our sobriety on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous came to the meeting rooms with severe doubts about a program which told us to give up the control factor in our lives and turn it over to an entity named God.  We had heard too much about this God as youngsters in the clutches of God-fearing parents and hell-preaching clergy.  We, for the most part, gave up entirely on the concept of a God.  Our mantra to parents and clergy alike was “If you’re going to heaven then I sure as hell don’t want to be there.”

Thereby we resigned ourselves to a life without god in the grips of alcoholism.  We drank our selves into oblivion whenever we could and suffered through endless hours of non-drinking when  our first love in life was unavailable.  Some of us maintained a semblance of normalcy for a while, but in the end there was nothing normal about the way we lived.  Self-loathing, lying, infidelity, cheating, suicide attempts, and broken promises finally crashed us to the depths of our personal hells.

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And then, a helping hand reached out and suggested an AA meeting.

“Are you crazy,” we asked sarcastically.

“Maybe, but, I’m sober,” was the helping hand’s reply.  “And you can be sober, too.”

For the first time in many years we saw hope, a sparkle in our friend’s eyes that encouraged us to think,  “Maybe this sobriety thing is not so bad, I have nothing to lose.”

Thus begins many stories from the sharing members of AA who sit back in their chairs and take us with them to the pits of their personal hells.  We cry with them, we chuckle over stupid things they did, we feel a growing bond with their life story.  In the end we know we are all one, a brotherhood/sisterhood of lost souls who rediscovered life through the loving compassion shared by members of Alcoholics Anonymous.  We found a God who loved us unconditionally, who did not condemn, who promised to lead us to productive lives living soberly.

We listen intently, nodding in agreement as a reader shares the promises from the Big Book:

1. If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.
2. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
3. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
4. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
5. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
6. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
7. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
8. Self-seeking will slip away.
9. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
10. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
11. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
12. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

Alcoholics Anonymous p83-84
Reprinted from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.

The Alcoholics Anonymous miracle is an unmerited, undeserved gift of the God whom we bow before as our Higher Power.  This gift  is not aligned with any religion or theology; it embraces all faiths, all genders, all orientations, all races.  It’s principles could be the foundation of a new world in which:

“Wisdom is knowing we are all one.  Love is what it feels like, and Compassion is what it acts like.”  Ethan Walker 3rd, “The Mystic Christ”

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IMAGINE

“Imagine”.  Just allow yourself for a minute to imagine a better world.  What would be in your better world?  Hatred? Bigotry? Injustice? Cruelty? Intolerance? Oppression?

No, probably not.  Everyone in your better world would have enough food to eat, clean water to drink, decent shelter, and resources to provide for the family.  The people of that world would not fear their government, their military, or their neighbors.  No one would be a billionaire and everyone would have sufficient finances to live a clean and comfortable life.

In that world the earth and its resources would be cherished and valued.  Fossil fuels would be a relic of the past.  Everybody’s air would be clean, clear, and pure.  Waterways and skyways in this better world are free of human trash.  The elements of nature flourish in their natural state of being.  Animals are not hunted  and killed for sport.

The world’s religions would realize that all faiths have a piece of the God puzzle.  Diversity in worship would be embraced and celebrated by Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu in solidarity with the One called Spirit.  Religious hypocrisy and persecution is non-existent in this better world’s profession of faith.

The world’s richness is shared by all of humanity.  None go without.  Countries do not vie for power or prestige.  There is no reason for war or killing.  Each culture values its heritage, its traditions, and its history, but, none is elevated above the validity of the other.

Individuality is respected and promoted because all humanity understands that each creature is created uniquely within the framework of God’s presence in all, though all, and within all.  There is no separation from God or from each other.  What is done to our brother or sister is also done to every presence on earth.  We live in unity and peace.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but, I’m not the only one.”  John Lennon

Join us.  We are the dreamers who envision our earth and civilization saved from the destruction that awaits if humanity does not come to terms with what it has become .  Having succumbed to the will of human ego and self-absorption, our leaders deceive us,  our religious leaders lie to us, and our oligarchs exploit us.  The fate of our habitat is spiraling rapidly into a fiery and final demise from which there is no return.

Do not believe the religious soothsayers who claim that scriptures foretell of a restoration and rebuilding after the final destruction and therefore welcome a worldwide catastrophe.  They are dead wrong, because they live in dead theology.  They are spiritually dead.

AS YE SOW

We, humanity, are not born violent, racist, or bigoted.  We are born to live in peaceful coexistence with mankind.  So, what has happened?  Ego, greed, self-importance, fear, and lust for power overtake our destiny to be a compassionate and generous world community.  Individually, we are bombarded with media ads which tell us we are not good enough, personal confrontations which ridicule and threaten us, religious theory which tells us we are God’s favored children, and more religious theory which tells us other faiths are determined to annihilate  us.  We become frazzled by the need to keep in step with the Joneses next door and continually paralyzed by a world we don’t understand.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  We need to check our interior barometer for signs of soul fatigue and heart dysfunction which lead to worry, stress and pain.  We employ our personalized meditation plan and “chill”.  We get a handle on the issues that are beyond our control and forget about them.  Remember, we  cannot control the past, the future or other people.  There’s not much left that can be changed by our action or inaction.  That’s a good thing.

Restore priorities to default settings.  We know what they are because in the quiet times, in the times when we have latched on to the Lord of our lives, we have revealed to ourselves what is and what is not important in this life.  We become the observer of the thought processes running through our brain.  Don’t try to judge them, just observe and let those thoughts continue on their way into oblivion.  Enjoy what is now.

Today’s tragedy in Virginia reminds us what can happen when hatred and a feeling of impotence in dealing with anger combine with a readily available arsenal of guns.  Don’t try to judge the shooting; don’t try to lay blame.  We are a product of the mind processes which we allow to control our behavior.  We have the capacity to make those thoughts peaceful and compassionate not only towards others but also to ourselves.

If we believe in the wisdom of the ancients, then we remember these words:

“As you sow so shall you reap.” Galatians 6:7, Holy Bible

The seeds we plant in our minds and hearts can sprout into bountiful fields of grain or thorny bushes of thistle.  Perhaps if our government and religious leaders were to meditate on this verse, we could see the beginnings of a better world as envisioned by the dreamers.

 

 

LORD, bring us together

emptiness is beckoning
waiting to fill our
thoughts with your magnificence.
your brilliance transcends
our concerns for today,
lifts us to eternity,
to a place beyond ,
a place of peace,
love,
forgiveness,
hope,
tolerance.

gather us in your dwelling place
together as one,
together in spirit,
together in brotherhood.
fuse our differences,
kindle our fires of love,
show us the truth
we are as one in your warmth,
show us the way to eternity,
shelter us in your magnificence.

release our cares,
release our hatred,
release our souls
from the confines
of human toil.
release our pettiness,
release our prejudice,
release our souls
from the confines of ego.

wrap us in your brilliance
cover us with understanding
lead us to peace,
to tolerance,
to love,
lead us to the eternity
that dwells within
lead us to wisdom,
to forgiveness,
to your magnificence
to your power.

FLASHBACK: 1970

Recently a family member threw a term (not a term of endearment) on me which was common and expected back in the protest era of the 1960s and 70s.  My broad shoulders back then and determination to live my life as my conscience dictated deflected comments and words meant to belittle and diminish.  Our cause became a mantra for equality in the courts of law and acceptance in our communities.  I thought we had made great strides.  But the election of 2016 exposed through the candidacy and subsequent election of Trump an America still saddled with bigotry, hatred, and intolerance for people like myself who follow the beat of a different drummer.

Thank God I am at an age when I truly don’t give a rat’s butt what others think of me.  It’s a blessing.  But insensitive language from a family member still hits home.  As a  society which promotes itself as the bastion of egalitarianism and tolerance, which claims to be the greatest people of the world, which boasts the largest Christian population anywhere, perhaps it is time to evaluate and do a self-inventory.  Are we what we think we are?  Is there honesty within us or do we deceive ourselves?

I have found peace through a lifestyle which teaches an inner search to truth and enlightenment.  It is not found in the church I attend or the people with whom I associate.  It’s an inside job which painful names or hurtful people cannot touch.  That revelation within continues to tell me, even when behavior and speech of others attack, that we are indeed a universal brotherhood dependent on each member of this earth’s humanity, dependent on a healthy ecosystem, and equal in all respects.

“Solidarity: I am you, you are me, we are one.”

rainbow-solidarity

The current political atmosphere and social divisiveness are a test of what America truly is as a people.  Our responses to the challenges we face will determine if this great experiment of ours is real or merely a flash in the pan as so  many great societies before us.  Let’s celebrate Flag Day remembering that our ‘red, white, and blue’ represents all of us, not just those who have assumed an exclusive and intolerant brand of patriotism.

 

 

FEAR

Fear has sometimes been defined as the opposite of love.  I like that.  It is very succinct and helps us understand better what love is not.  Our culture uses the word love entirely too indiscriminately.  When we label our warm, fuzzy feelings for another being, another creature, or a favorite food as love, the word has lost its intrinsic meaning which Ethan Walker, 3rd in “The Mystic Christ” describes as the feeling of knowing we are all one.

“And what is wisdom?  Wisdom is knowing we are all one.  Love is what it feels like, and compassion is what it acts like.”

Perhaps fear can be also understood as the manifestation of ignorance.  We don’t, in this usage, mean ignorance as a crass, rude, impolite form of behavior but rather, ignorance as an “unawareness”.  The unknown beliefs of a religion foreign to us, the curious customs of a culture half way around the world, the misinformation of a lifestyle not familiar to us are all forms of unawareness.  Often, rather than gaining insight, and credible information, and then applying wisdom (knowing we are all one), it is easier to build a personal defense system based on fear.

Individually, this type of personal armament leads to racism, hatred, and intolerance.  When a theology or a government tries to protect and enhance its control by means of fear-peddling and hate-mongering the world becomes witness to oppression, deprivation and genocide.

Yes, it is challenging to us.  We in America are born into a culture of self-serving egocentrism where gaining the upper hand, winning at all costs, and coming out on top with the most toys is the mantra of those who are deemed successful.  Even some of our mainstream religions have replaced the Gospel of sacrifice and compassion with the gospel of affluence which questions one’s faith if one has not attained the dream of materialism.

We must bring this tendency to fear to our inner place of meditation and reflection.  We are one in solidarity with the entire universe, all it’s humanity, all its creatures, all its beauty, all its ugliness, all its promises and all its disappointments.  In totality we are one complete organism.  We are dependent on each person and every feature of our universe for our survival.

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

John Donne (1572-1631) Meditation XVII, 1624