Rev. C.T. Vivian

On August 8th, 2013, President Barack Obama named C.T. Vivian as the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom with these remarks:

“C. T. Vivian is a distinguished minister, author, and organizer. A leader in the Civil Rights Movement and friend to Martin Luther King, Jr., he participated in Freedom Rides and sit-ins across our country. Vivian also helped found numerous civil rights organizations, including Vision, the National Anti-Klan Network, and the Center for Democratic Renewal. In 2012, he returned to serve as interim President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.” 

Left to right, John Lewis, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, Martin Luther King Jr., and Lester McKinnie at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 4, 1964. Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images.

UBUNTU – one’s own humanity is inextricably bound with that of others.
DESMOND TUTU

America has lost a great statesman and civil rights leader with the passing of Congressman John Lewis on July 17.  Less known was one of his and Martin Luther King’s spiritual advisors,  the Rev. Cordy “C.T.” Vivian who died at age 95 just hours after John Lewis. (1)

Much of present day Christianity (read: white Christianity) bases its theology on the tenet of ‘salvation’ and the hereafter.  Suffer or enjoy life in this world because there is assurance of an eternity in a heaven with palatial homes, gold paved streets and choirs of heavenly voices singing “hallelujah” forever and ever. Amen.

Unfortunately, African-Americans have not been able to share that dream of the hereafter.  Or, perhaps, it is fortunate as their earthly experience has led many black civic and religious leaders to present an alternate view of religion, specifically Christianity.

“They interpret religious teachings through the prism of the injustice in the here and now.” (1)

Speaking of King’s influence, John Lewis said:

“He was not concerned about the streets of heaven and the pearly gates and the streets paved with milk and honey. He was more concerned about the streets of Montgomery and the way that Black people and poor people were being treated in Montgomery.” (1)

What we do here matters, how we live matters, how we treat others matters.  We are ‘inextricably’ bound to every human on earth regardless of faith profession, absence of faith profession, skin color and nationality.  Somehow, Christianity, infused with the gospel of prosperity and exclusiveness, has missed that key ingredient of the teachings found in its scriptures related to us as the story of Jesus Christ in the NT.

We are ONE.  The African-American’s journey in this country enduring slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, discrimination and present day racism has invigorated within blacks the concept of UBUNTU as voiced by Desmond Tutu.

(1)  yes! journalism

 

Honoring the divine in every aspect of Creationcropped-candle.png

So many of us have lived our lives placing unmerited value on the opinions of others while discrediting our personal truth and reality.  Breaking the shackles of people-pleasing requires honest self-appraisal, a healthy dose of self-esteem, and an enormous commitment to self-realization.  

pride8

….as near as the destination may be, it’s still the journey that matters….

GLAAD – ROSS MURRAY

So many of us have lived our lives placing unmerited value on the opinions of others while discrediting our personal truth and reality.  Breaking the shackles of people-pleasing requires honest self-appraisal, a healthy dose of self-esteem, and an enormous commitment to self-realization.  

pride8

Ross Murray is the Senior Director of Education & Training at The GLAAD Media Institute a founder and director of The Naming Project, a faith-based camp for LGBTQ youth and their allies. Ross is a consecrated Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with a specific calling to advocate for LGBTQ people and to bridge the LGBTQ and faith communities. 

Looking for inspiration to write today’s post, Ross Murray crossed my radar screen.  One of my morning reads is RED LETTER CHRISTIANS. ORG.  It’s commentary began with a verse from Isaiah 58, verse 1:

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.  Raise your voice like a trumpet.  Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins.”

Mayor Pete, in his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Presidency, often referred to the faith walk he and husband Chasten embrace in their lives.  Yes, America, many gays do profess a God and many choose to express that profession through Christianity.  Ron Murray, an advocate for the LGBTQ community, claims a calling to bridge the gap between us and faith communities.  The use of Isaiah 58, verse one, to urge us forward into action regarding social injustices is surprising as many Christians would use the same verse to condemn those of us who do not fit into the boxes which they have created for us.

Check out the link GLAAD MEDIA.  It’s another resource for the LGBTQ community. According to the home page of its blog –

“GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change.”

PRIDE7

 

letters – I love letters

god bless america

Several years ago , a fellow resident of Citrus County, Mark Stoltz, submitted a remarkable letter to our local newspaper, Citrus County Chronicle, which stated there are 3 things which all Americans must do:

  • 1) Think for yourself and stop believing what you’re told to believe.
  • 2) Open your mind.  Verify what is being said, whether or not you want to believe it or you’re told to believe it.
  • 3) Vote based on numbers 1 and 2.

He goes on to share possibly the greatest piece of contemporary wisdom available to mankind today.  I wish these were my words, but they are not.  According to Mark, there are three people you should never trust:

  • 1) A religious leader who tells you how to vote.
  • 2) A politician who tells you how to pray.
  • 3) A draft-dodger who tells you how to be patriotic.

I read those words in that letter numerous times and then, in tears, added a hearty AMEN to the man’s letter.

t-shirts

 

animals-elderly-forest-40873
Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

My trips to the grocery store are usually uneventful.  The most exciting things are bumper stickers on cars in the parking lot and t-shirts with messages draped on the shoppers.

Today’s winner of the BOOOO award was  a busty woman with these words on her shirt:

I WILL FIGHT FOR
MY GUNS
MY GOD
MY CONSTITUTION

Somehow, in my silly rationale, those 3 sentiments simply do not belong together.  What do you think?

sad emoji

RELIGION – relic of tribalism ?

So many of us have lived our lives placing unmerited value on the opinions of others while discrediting our personal truth and reality.  Breaking the shackles of people-pleasing requires honest self-appraisal, a healthy dose of self-esteem, and an enormous commitment to self-realization.

Okay, I get it.  Religion has inspired great acts of compassion, it has led man to creatediversity spectacular works of art and architecture, it has provided us with beautiful literature.  So, before you light the fires around my stake, consider this.  Perverted interpretation of religious belief has also caused immense human suffering, it has destroyed cultures, it has promoted the degradation of our earth and natural resources in the name of an unproven, man-created god.

Tribalism was essential to ancient cultures to preserving their beliefs and insuring their survival.  The caveman with the biggest clubs usually won the battle.  Armies with the most manpower prevailed over weaker enemies.  Scorching the neighborhood was an acceptable price for winning.  My God-belief is better than yours.  He (yes, most violence in the name of God worships a male entity) needs my defense.

WE ARE NO LONGER CAVEMEN.  With the historical destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 the USA entered mankind into a new paradigm of warfare – a pattern embracing the ability of one culture to bring annihilation to the entire planet.  Unfortunately, we continued to maintain the caveman attitude of tribalism.  We continued to thump our scriptures and proclaim limited access to an omnipotent deity  through a religious philosophy of exclusion – only this God is real, only this belief is true, only this scripture is valid.  It is rampant tribalism with a continuing caveman mentality.

I   AM   LARRY – worthy, unique, loved

unshackled 3

Higher Power

If you are sober today, give yourself and your Higher Power a hand.

Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity – STEP 2 sober emoji
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God. – STEP 3

This is the miracle of restoration.  It is not dependent on anything you or I could do to alleviate the addictions which controlled our lives.  Yes, we had to talk the walk and then walk the talk, but ultimately the grace of a power greater than us brought us back to sanity, restored us to meaningful lives within families and communities – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

God as we understood God is, for many of us, the premise which carries us over the hurdles of previous negative god experiences.  No longer do we feel obligated to profess this faith or that in our daily faith walk.  Surely, each religious philosophy of the world whether it be Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. has nuggets of truth and wisdom; however,  life changes when the God we follow is personal, loving and compassionate not corralled by any particular philosophy.  As is human nature, we attempt to describe and define, but usually discover that our minds cannot comprehend the greatness or fathom the depths of that which we call Higher Power.

Whether your God or mine is a who, a what, a where, a when, male, female, genderless, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or simply the fellowship which supports our sobriety, give this Higher Power a round of applause today for keeping us clean and serene.

copyright unshackled

what does Advent mean to us?

 

three kings day

FAN Newsletter (FranciscanActionNetwork)

Sunday, December 1st, marks the beginning of the Christian season of Advent which leads up to the announced birth of Jesus, the Christ, Christianity’s reason for the season.  Have you, whether a professed follower or a non-believer, ever wondered what would happen to this child if he were born in the year 2019?

“I cannot help but think of the journey of the children, women and men forced to migrate.  In September [2019] the number of migrants globally reached 272 million, outpacing the growth rate of the world’s population.”  Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

Most of us who were raised in the comforts of an American Christian community surely remember the sweet stories about baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger being adored by the shepherds and wise men and lovingly attended by Mary and Joseph.  We remember the art masterpieces depicting a handsome Jesus, obviously an Anglo-Saxon man, decorating the church wall.

We were somewhat dismayed upon learning that this proclaimed savior of the world was probably a brown-skinned, short man with curly black hair born into poverty to just one of numerous illiterate families earning a meager living working for the wealthy, religious elite.  They were, of course, Jewish and followed Judaic traditions.  Undoubtedly, they experienced hunger and probably did not have clean water or adequate sanitation.  Security was to be found not in material wealth but in their devotion to the God of their ancestors and the cooperative charity of fellow villagers.

If Jesus were born today, he and his family would probably be immigrants on some nation’s border, possibly ours.  He would risk violence at the hands of racial prejudice or trafficking in child sex trade.  On the southern border of the wealthiest nation in the world, Jesus would likely be separated from Mary and Joseph and caged with other immigrant children.

Not much has changed, has it?  Two thousand years later and we still treat immigrants as if they somehow do not really matter to the Father/Mother of us all, that they are less loved than we are.  We continue to hang on to that image of Jesus, the privileged, Anglo-Saxon white man adorning the church wall.  We noisily thump our Bible to support our prejudice while reading the words which state explicitly that every person on earth is made in the image and likeness of God.  We somehow ignore the scriptures which tell us that we are to love our neighbors [earthly brothers and sisters] as ourselves.

The season of Advent is a journey for the Christian world leading up to the birth of its proclaimed Christ child.  In addition to all the joy, jingle bells, gifts and Santa Claus let’s set aside time to contemplate what it would be like to be an immigrant.  What if you and your family were forced to leave the comfort and security of your home and your community because of political or economic turmoil?  What if the people on the other side of the border which you must cross hated you because of your skin color, creed or social status.  What if you were financially disadvantaged and had to rely of the goodness and compassion of strangers to provide for your family?  Would you be afraid?

If we justify our intolerance and lack of compassion for immigrants by citing the need to protect our families or protect our faith tradition or protect our racial purity, or protect white identity, then truly what we cherish is but a heap of rubbish, is it not?  We are denying the reason for the season.  How can we proclaim amazing grace at the altar while disregarding the message given to us through the life of Jesus, the impoverished immigrant?

LOVE

 

separation of church and state

Living as a Democrat in rural, Republican Florida challenges one’s sense of inclusiveness and social propriety.  A recent controversy in local politics regarding funding our library’s request to make the New York Times available online to library cardholders is a case in point. My friend at BY HOOK OR BY BOOK has shared a great post regarding this issue.  It is indicative of a population which refuses to leave the 1950s.

On Florida’s horizon is a bill filed by a State Senator which would require courses be made available in our public schools at taxpayers’ expense providing studies of the Bible.  The following is the letter which I have submitted to our local newspaper.

State Senator Dennis Baxley, a Republican representing the Ocala region, has filed SB 746 to be considered during the 2020 legislative session. The bill would require courses providing studies of the Bible’s Old and New Testaments in public schools. According to the sponsors of the bill, “all state and federal laws and guidelines maintaining religious neutrality” would be maintained.

One can easily favor this endeavor to educate students regarding religious doctrine because the writers of SB 746 guarantee that such studies would not “endorse, favor, or promote or disfavor or show hostility toward a particular religion, religious perspective, or nonreligious faith.”

Certainly it would be educational and advantageous for students to learn about man’s trek across the numerous religious philosophies created throughout history by holy men, theologians and scholars to instruct, comfort and control the masses. However, knowing the history of our state’s policy-makers, can we be assured that their explicit guarantee of neutrality will be followed? It sounds reassuring today, but, what will our teachers, students, and public schools face 5 or 10 years from now? Would it not be wiser to focus this Christian educational effort in the hands of the experts in religious education – our county’s esteemed parochial schools where children are educated in an atmosphere conducive to their family’s beliefs?

Of course, should these religious studies include all the major faiths of our world including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam among others worthy of study, then, perhaps this bill could provide a well-rounded education to young people regarding various man-created philosophies of religious belief.

The key word in SB 746 is public – public education system. It is our duty to oversee and maintain this public system serving the diversity of religions, races, creeds, and lifestyles which make us a strong melting-pot nation. E Pluribus Unum, on the Great Seal of the United States, was a motto included on the seal in 1782. It means “out of many, one.” That is who we are. We are one people, one nation worshipping or not worshipping as conscience dictates. We are church people and synagogue people and mosque people and temple people. I applaud our legislators’ work to introduce religious studies into our public schools, but let’s include all faiths as worthy of study, not just Christianity and Judaism. I would enjoy a course in Buddhism, my neighbor favors Islam. Red-blooded American citizens, we are E PLURIBUS UNUM.

a better way

Fr. Richard Rohr, in the mission statement for the CENTER FOR ACTION AND richard rohrCONTEMPLATION, shares the following:

“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Oppositional energy only creates more of the same.”

It’s all about energy, isn’t it?  Physical exertion, emotional expenditure, spiritual contemplation – it all revolves about the issues that are present in our lives.  Where we spend our time and energy determines who we are, what we advocate and ultimately the state of mind we enjoy in peace or endure in turmoil.  Therefore, next time I am tempted to jump into the mud with the other mud wrestlers (or whatever else hangs out in the slime), perhaps I should remember the exhortation of Fr. Rohr.

…and they all chimed in, “Yeah, Larry, and we’re going to nominate you for sainthood.”

Y’all ought to know by now that I live by the principle of progress rather than perfection, that lofty ideals are meant to be pursued, not attained.  It’s the journey, not the destination that constitutes a successful life.  Striving for a world dedicated to non-violence begins in me with every action, thought and prayer offered to the cause of personal earthly peace – “oppositional energy only creates more of the same.” 

That’s difficult to digest.  Does it mean that I should not be concerned about the injustice and hypocrisy which permeates the world?  Should I just throw my arms up in frustrated surrender over the racism and intolerance infecting American society? Should I sit in my quiet place with my beads and prayer shawl praying away the hatred and bigotry?

No, certainly not.  I should continue to see with dismay the horrors of social injustice, I should continue to speak out against the racism in my neighborhood, I should continue to protest by whatever resources I have the denigration of brothers and sisters of another race or creed or nationality.  But, I should not jump into the mud and lather up in my own  hypocrisy, intolerance and bigotry.  Justifying my disagreement and winning a victory over another’s viewpoints is not the goal of non-violence.  Proving the insanity of national politics will not make ours a better country.

I refer often to the wisdom of the ancients.  The thoughts, the words, and the sayings which have survived the test of time have done so because they are – wisdom.  In my opinion (and yes, I have many) the one nugget of wisdom erringly ignored by religious leaders and politicians alike is lead by example.

What examples are we choosing to lead us and guide us through an extremely violent period of world history?  Whom do we choose to inform us and thereby sway our opinions?  To what and to whom do we listen?  What do we read and view on media screens?  Where are we expending physical, emotional and spiritual energy?  Is it oppositional or is it conducive to understanding and peaceful solution?

Hillary (yeah, don’t allow the name to betray your religion) famously said in her campaign, “When he takes the low road, we take the high road.”

Doesn’t really matter whether she meant it or actually lived it.  The advice is great wisdom.  Let’s not get mired in the mud (or sewage) which poses as moral guidance or political leadership.  Observe it, digest it, and then continue to follow the compass which points true north.  Let our criticism of the bad be tempered by practice of the better.

Center for Action and Contemplation

35

I will not!

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.  But those that will not break it kills.  It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially.  If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” ERNEST HEMINGWAY

broken hearted

The very good and the very gentle and the very brave – let’s focus on those words.  The world system seems to despise those who have a moral compass, those who are peacemakers, those who have the courage to march to a different drummer.  Governments, religions, and financial systems do not honor a man/woman who answers their demands with “no, I will not live that way.”

We are labeled ‘unpatriotic’ if we do not toe the current disgrace posing as a legitimate government.  When we kneel in obeisance to compassion and tolerance rather than stand pledging  allegiance to the cloth symbol of a nation, we are castigated as revolutionary and disrespectful.  Well, maybe we are.  All great accomplishments in governing have been manifested by protest.  No, I cannot be silent when brothers and sisters of a different color or creed do not equally enjoy the fruits of the nation they have served in battle and embraced as home.

I will not profess the creeds of religions which deny even the most basic human understanding that all creatures are made in the image of the One whom they profess as God and Savior while simultaneously endorsing locked cages of children on our border and a war in the Gulf which threatens the citizens of Yemen with epic, catastrophic starvation.  No, I will not.

I will not participate in the corporate destruction of our sacred ecosystem for the sake of increased profits of corporations which have abdicated ecological responsibility in lieu of financial extravagance.  While much of the world’s population  lives without the basic comforts of adequate food and clean water, placating the luxuriant appetites of the privileged at the expense of the marginalized poor cannot possibly advance the survival of our species materially or spiritually.

Enough is enough.  Enough corruption, enough hatred, enough greed, enough racism, enough killing.  Where will we choose to stand as our country approaches the threshold of despotic, authoritarian leadership?  As the earth’s ecosystem is screaming “enough” where will our allegiance be placed?  The answer for each of us is within.  When that quiet voice of protest within becomes a scream reverberating throughout the universe, then, perhaps, we can be assured that we have done enough.

sad emoji