kumbaya

So all you white folks think another round of ‘kumbaya’ sitting by the campfires is going to fix this problem?  Really?

Black Americans, Latino Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, gay Americans, Muslim Americans, immigrant Americans, poor Americans, Native Americans, disenfranchised throw-away Americans, almost all those who have not been living in ‘privileged’ white America would probably disagree.

Racism, bigotry, intolerance, hatred will not disappear with legislative work, more laws and Constitutional Amendments, additional streets named after black people, Pride parades on our streets, and conciliatory memes on social media.  Protesters of differing skin tone marching with linked arms carrying meaningful signs are a start, but when America finally reckons with the malignancy which has been festering in its heart, only then can healing begin.  It begins when each of us looks deep into the heart which directs our lives, takes an inventory, does a housecleaning, and strives to treat others the way he wants to be treated.  Very simple Bible School stuff – the Golden Rule.

That healing will see communities fostering tolerance and inclusiveness, churches welcoming all neighbors, job and educational opportunities available to all, local governments working for every citizen, each man caring about the welfare of his fellow man.

There are those, mostly unaffected by racism or hatred, who want to maintain things as they have been for many generations.  There are those who pray every day for equality and opportunity for all.  There are those who don’t really care.  And, of course, there are those sitting around the campfire singing kumbaya thinking, “what do we have to do to placate the groups who have been abused?  What do we have to give them?”

It can’t continue this way.  America has to fix its heart problem.

American preachers, if they claim Christianity, must begin to preach what the Gospels teach – love and brotherhood, the community of mankind, the ministry of Jesus.  If the preacher-man’s message is not one of inclusiveness, love and service to all of Creation, if he is spreading the gospel of merited affluence, the gospel of exclusive white rights to eternity, then that preacher is spewing lies from his pulpit.

American governments – national, state, and local – must abide by the Constitutions and laws which they have sworn to uphold. Those laws promise equal justice and equal rights to every American.  No man is more equal or more privileged than another.  No man is less protected or less entitled.  Sadly, the truth of our American justice system begs to differ.  We must change that.

American social-media (ah yes, the media screens) must be held accountable, without encouraging censorship, for the ideas, thoughts, and words that are allowed for public consumption.  Is it too difficult to believe that the colonial framers had never imagined the vicious vitriol and lies that would someday claim protection under the 1st Amendment?  We must become responsible for self-policing what we allow into our heads and what we accept as truth.

American teachers, dedicated to a difficult and thankless job, must be the most open-minded of all of us – they are expanding our children’s minds to the world of new ideas and concepts.  Our willingness to fund excellence in education says much about who we want to be as a society.

American parents, you are wonderful, but from whom did I learn the n-word?  When did I begin to believe that 12 year-old me was somehow superior to the migrant laborers who worked the fields in the summer?  Who taught me the words to ridicule the lone Jewish boy in my school? Parents, your children are all ears and eyes.  They are listening and watching and then replicating.  What do you truly want them to learn from you?  Are your prejudices and fears being passed on to the next generation?

HEART WORK.  We all have a lot of heart work to do.  Are you willing?  Am I?  Our country is depending on all of us getting this right.  No more mushy kumbaya moments.

LOVE

 

 

 

FREEDOM

What does freedom mean to you?  Picture6
What price will you pay for it? 
Would you be willing to die so others could enjoy freedom?

I’m not sure what the motives were for my father and three of his brothers.  They all enlisted in the military service of their country during WW2.  But, whatever their reasoning, they are my heroes on this Memorial Day.  Returning to civilian life after the war, they continued to serve their families and communities.  In my eyes they put everything on the line to ensure the freedom of every one of us for generations to come.  That kind of courage and selflessness is rare in today’s America.

Freedom is not free.  It comes at great cost.  I often wonder if I have paid my dues – have I paid the price for the freedoms I enjoy today?  Perhaps that I.O.U will come due sometime in the future.  What do I owe and to whom?  Will I have the courage and selflessness to pay my debt?

The greatest gifting of freedom, aside from the sacrifices of our fallen military heroes, has been the adventure of sobriety given to a helpless, hopeless drunk.  Undeserved and unmerited, this gift of amazing grace has allowed a life of celebration and thankfulness rather than one of dread and misery.  John 8:36 says it all:

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

This is not a freedom with conditional clauses and a litany of ‘thou shalt and shalt not’.  It is not tied to any particular faith walk or theology.  It does not consign me to hell for being bad or promise me heaven for being good.  There are only two requirements for enjoying this freedom forever.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all you mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  JOHN 10:27

Pretty simple stuff.  Freedom can be costly, but need not be difficult.

LOVE

 

my creed, your creed, whose creed?

Recently, friends, those who know of my Christian tradition, question how we Christians can justify our faith considering the rhetoric and actions of a minority of evangelical leaders who glaringly contradict everything the Scriptures teach according to the words attributed to the one whom they claim as Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Fr. Richard Rohr CAC.ORG addresses this issue with the following post from his daily meditation blog.

Quaker pastor Philip Gulley superbly summarizes how we must rebuild spirituality from the bottom up in his book, If the Church Were Christian. [3] Here I take the liberty of using my own words to restate his message, which offers a rather excellent description of what is emerging in Christianity today:

  1. Jesus is a model for living more than an object of worship.
  2. Affirming people’s potential is more important than reminding them of their brokenness.
  3. The work of reconciliation should be valued over making judgments.
  4. Gracious behavior is more important than right belief.
  5. Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers.
  6. Encouraging the personal search is more important than group uniformity.
  7. Meeting actual needs is more important than maintaining institutions.
  8. Peacemaking is more important than power.
  9. We should care more about love and less about sex.
  10. Life in this world is more important than the afterlife (Eternity is God’s work anyway).

If this makes sense to you, you are already participating in evolving Christianity. Do read it several times. It only makes more and more sense.

Fr. Richard Rohr @ CAC.org

I thank Richard Rohr and Philip Gulley for simplifying in 10 salient points our creed and how it should manifest in Christianity.  Our tradition has within it the power to create righteous leaders walking aside other faiths of the world advocating social justice and peace rather than bullying and fear-mongering.

LOVE

rainbow-solidarity

the 7 deadlies

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”  C.G. Jung, MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLECTIONS (1989)

Let’s allow those words to soak into our collective thick skulls.  Consider the person in your world whom you detest, whom you would never entertain in your home, whom you would vehemently argue will go to hell.  Yeah, think about that person for a moment and then let’s do a sincere soul search.  What is it within me, within you, that reflects with such intensity our dislike for that person?

“Well, Larry, I have a sense of values, compassion for fellow humans, a moral compass to guide me.  I am in no way like …….” (insert name here).

Okay, I get it.  You and I are stellar human beings with no quirks, no faults, no skeletons in our closets.  We have been nominated numerous times for sainthood and are just waiting for that moment when we will sit with the old man in the heavens pronouncing judgment upon the lesser of us – those whom we have previously decided will burn in hell.

Really?  Is that who we are?  Nothing more than pawns of runaway egos determined to remind others of the splinters in their eyes while ignoring the logs in our own eyes?  Is that what we are destined to be?  Granted, that is the human way, but aren’t we destined to be more than ego-driven bags of human flesh?  I am remembering a verse from the book of Luke, chapter 6, verse 41 which reminds me that the plank I carry in my own eye is needing my attention more than the speck of sawdust in my brother’s eye.  Matthew 7:3 has the same message.  Are these ancient writers trying to instill a bit of introspection in me to replace my self-serving ego-stroking?

Yeah, guilty as charged.  That neighbor who always rubs me the wrong way, the city councilman who seems more concerned about his image than job performance, the preacher who doesn’t appear to walk the talk, the politician who is obviously lacking a moral compass – they are all a composite of me and my own character defects.  The national leader who seems to always be screaming, “Look at me, look at me, dammit look at me,” is the same small voice within me screaming, “Here I am, pay attention to me.”

The denial wells up within, but maturity, which can be so evasive, tells me that those seven deadlies – the 7 vices which challenge our spiritual journey – are inherent in each of us.  GREED, ANGER, SLOTH, ENVY, GLUTTONY, LUST, PRIDE are at the center of any and all distractions from the universal truth that we are all one humanity, one organism, one Spirit simply trying to navigate the impermanence of this life on earth.

Doing life perfectly is not the goal.  It is impossible.  The ending of this trek is not foreseeable, but we have within us the capacity to alter the journey.  What will it be?  Ego driven or Spirit centered?

LOVE

 

resentments

resentment : to feel bitter, indignant, aggrieved, or offended
Eckhart Tolle, A NEW EARTH – AWAKENING TO YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE

speaking truth2

Dealing with the delicate, easily offended part of the human being labeled as the ego can be difficult.  It is that internal mechanism which screams me, me, me or mine, mine, mine, and I, I, I.  It is that voice which asks indignantly, “How could you do that to me?” Resentments lead to grudges, grudges lead to grievances, and grievances on  a national level lead to wars.  Grievances manifest in tribalism and nationalism.  The world’s most notorious despots have relied on grievances against imagined ‘enemies of the people’ to establish autocratic rule and subsequent persecution or genocide.

Pheeeew!  Are you saying, Larry, that my petty disagreement and resulting resentment with my neighbor over his insult regarding my yard’s landscaping efforts (or lack thereof) can lead to World War 3?  Probably not.  But, our lives will be blessed with serenity and comfort if we learn how to deal with the ego’s need to feel demeaned or belittled, hurt or unappreciated.

First, I need to realize that my neighbor’s comment about the weeds in my yard were most likely not meant to hurt – it was merely his observation about something which for reasons beyond my control were important to his ego.  Does my yard detract from his flawless, picture-perfect landscape?  Does my yard infer that I am a lazy homeowner?  Does the view of my front yard from his recliner looking out the bay window of his house somehow deprive him of his serenity?  Does he see the beautiful wildflowers in my yard as unsightly weeds?

I don’t know and probably never will know the reasons for his assault on my personal integrity.  Yeah, this situation has now blossomed into a  full-fledged grudge.  I want revenge.  How can I get even?  What evil can I employ to retaliate?  Maybe I’ll throw my cat’s poop over the fence into his perfect petunia bed.  Yeah, that would really piss him off.  Wow!  My me, me, me and his me, me, me are now poised for conflict.  Ego.  All because of offended egos.

So, do we ban ego from our being?  Can’t, it’s innate to humans.  But perhaps, we can keep it in check.  The next time I encounter a difference of opinion with my neighbor, maybe I ought to look beyond his words and actions with an understanding that he is also a work in progress, a man filled with insecurities and fears just like me.  Maybe he has endured hardships that are unknown to me.  Maybe he has medical conditions that are of concern to him.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.  Bottom line is that he and I are one in this spiritual experience called life on earth.  Together we can resolve problems and resentments.  But, in opposition we can only encourage World War 3.

In the book ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, Bill W. writes:

Resentment is the number one offender.  It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.  From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have not only been mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick.  When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.  

Also in ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS on page 552, from a member’s story:

“If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you pray for the person or the thing you resent, you will be free.  If you will ask in prayer everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free.  Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free.”

I want to be free.  I’m ready to pray about my resentments.  How about you?

LOVE

 

Today – Pittsburgh

 

LOVE

What is love?  Is it that warm, fuzzy feeling that is felt when in the presence of special friends, family, a spouse?  Maybe.  But, what if love is not an emotion?  What if love is an action shared with the world encompassing all of creation including humanity and the earth itself?  Compassion, tolerance, understanding, non-violence, stewardship – perhaps this is the love that will save our earth and its inhabitants.  Perhaps this the love which the author of 1 Corinthians was setting before us as a challenge?  Let’s try it.

Today, the day after the horrific mass shooting in Pittsburgh in which eleven of my brothers and sisters were murdered, it is extremely difficult to practice what I know the Lord of my life wants me to do – love.  Today, I am rebellious.  No, I will not love those who hate enough to kill.  No, I will not forgive those who hate enough to be unforgivable.  No, I won’t.

Then Jesus says, “But, you must because that is the beginning of healing.”

So, I will experience what humans experience.  I will allow the anger, the disappointment, the horror, the disgust, the sorrow, and the denial.  I will allow this and move on to the necessary work of forgiving.  And trust me, this is work.  It is soul work which is not inherent in our human condition.  I too want to lash out at those who are hateful.  I want to beat them to the ground and scream, “What is wrong with you?”

But  that would be giving them the victory.  That would be denying the instructions of the One who lords my life.  I would become an instrument of hate rather than love.

“God make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”

lest we forget

 

 

As they arrived at their unfamiliar destination, fear and uncertainty filled their hearts.  The children clung to their mothers as men speaking harshly directed the travelers to an unseen outpost for processing.  Upon arriving there, the children were separated from parents and taken from the sight of mothers who by now were desperately sobbing and screaming, “Where are you taking my child?”  

A scenario from America’s southern border with Mexico where refugees from Central America and South America have been stopped by immigration officials?  No, this is a scene from Hitler’s Nazi Germany during the early 1940s.  Those children were sent to slave labor camps to work for the German war machine or to their deaths because they were too young to work.

I have often been chided for slipping from sobriety and spiritual themes offering hope and recovery to issues of social justice facing our contemporary society in not only the USA but also the world.  For reasons unknown to me even I can convince myself that I should avoid straying from noncontroversial topics.  It’s safer and it’s more pleasant to prattle on about the ABCs of ‘serene and clean” living then to face the harsh realities of the world in which we live

WWJD?  What would Jesus do?  What would any community-spirited sober-minded citizen do?  The answer always comes back to me in undeniable clarity.  Having read the words attributed to Jesus and the stories of his ministry to his oppressed and downtrodden fellow Israelites, having been advised by a Higher Power in the form of other recovering alcoholics that the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is preparing me to return to society as a useful tool and voice in my community, I must muster the courage and determination to be a voice, no matter how small,  for justice in a socially unjust society.  That’s my definition of spirituality and recovery.

You say my introductory paragraphs can’t happen here in America in 2018?  Really?  It’s a slippery slope on which our experiment in democracy finds itself today.  The grand copper  Lady in New York Harbor welcomed “the tired and poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse, the homeless and tempest tost.”  The words from the Book of Matthew which evangelical Christianity tongues fervently, “As ye do unto the least of these, my brothers, ye have also done unto me,” convicts us of our failure in today’s refugee crisis.

If I am truly a child of God created in the image of God, a spiritual entity, then I must be concerned with the injustices I see on a daily basis on my media screens.  I must offer a dollar or a meal to the homeless man on the corner.  I must be involved in a political process which challenges the greed of the wealthy and the indifference of the politically powerful.  When I talk the talk of sweet verses and inspiration, I also must walk the thorny paths of human misery shoulder to shoulder with the huddled masses.  I am nothing if I can’t empathize with the suffering brother, the hungry beggar, or the homeless man on the corner.  “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith which can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2

When I am tempted to stand before the world thumping my chest with American pride and Christian hypocrisy, when I want to believe somebody else will take care of the poor and homeless, it is then that I need to find a quiet place and reorganize my priorities asking WWJD.

Think about it.  Hitler denigrated Jews as sub-human, as animals.  He fed the fears of Germans with racism and intolerance.  He appealed to human depravity at its worst.  He declared Aryans to be the superior, God-blessed race.  Their fate is well documented in historical annals and film.

Can’t happen again?  Maybe or maybe not, but I don’t want to be the one who quietly stood on the sidelines of neutrality.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.  The opposite of art is not ugliness, it is indifference.  The opposite of faith is not heresy, it is indifference.  And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” 

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Elie Wiesel

 

 

namaste

A friend recently observed that we (those of us who do not fit the WASP heterosexual mindset) have suffered tremendous oppression and discrimination at the hands of “believers” who profess the creeds and tenets of Christianity.  Historical accounts of this abuse can easily be googled and verified.  The legislation passed following the “rights” movements culminating in the equal marriage rights amendment under President Obama’s administration gave all enlightened people a glimmer of hope that such discrimination had been swept away forever in America.  Unfortunately, with Trump’s election and the advance of fundamentalist, evangelical Christians in the political scene, this celebration of social advancement was short-lived.

I personally have extreme difficulty reconciling my belief system, which is based on Judeo-Christian ethics, to what the politically vocal minority of Christian believers led by a cadre of so-called American spiritual leaders is foisting upon America “in the name of Jesus” and within their concept of God.  Where are the men and women of faith who are tolerantly, inclusively driven by compassion and love for all of creation?  Why are they not speaking out in defense of the Christianity which speaks for me?

Whenever I reference scriptural verses to support a viewpoint invariably someone will dispute my interpretation of those verses as not “proper within the framework……blah, blah, blah.”  Screw your framework.  The Spirit dwelling within me is as valid and as real as your theologically correct, fundamentally sound, and hypocritically driven gibberish.  I trust that spirit which drives me while many of you are still searching for the right gear to engage.  Let’s begin a dialog which tells the truth and invites unbelievers to join in the conversation.  That is how our faith can become a beacon for the lost and hurting.  It’s time to give up the proselytizing and simply join all of mankind regardless of race, creed, sex, and orientation in creating a better world.

One of my favorite writers, Ethan Walker the 3rd, opens his book THE MYSTIC CHRIST with the following words:

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

From 1 Corinthians 13:2 in the NIV we are advised:

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

There are several thoughts I can share with my friend who is as challenged as I am by what is being passed off as Christianity.  First of all, no man has a free pass to heaven.  The doctrines he supports, the creeds he professes,  the name he chooses for his god will get that man nowhere if he doesn’t trust in the truth of wisdom, love, and compassion.  Furthermore, as a non-believer, my friend should never be intimidated with the threat of eternal damnation because the bottom line is that any theology whether it is Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or Hindu is nothing more than a philosophy born out of man’s need to express spirituality.

 

 

without Love

Those of us who participate in the Lutheran tradition of Christianity are familiar with the writings of Paul of Tarsus.  Scholars agree that 1 Corinthians, a letter which many theologians use to document the moralistic demands of Biblical scripture, is of Pauline authorship .  Then, as today, morals applied to the individual lifestyle simply did not apply to corporate or government authority.  For example, “Thou shalt not covet” is fine for you and me personally but is irrelevant in government, business conduct, and world affairs.  However, when we surrender the assumed authority of “I, I, I” and “me, me, me” and “American nationalism” to the greater authority of a spiritual governance, then we become an integral part of that entity and we are required by that particular collective conscience to abide by “commandments”.

If we look at Paul’s obvious denial of self in 1 Corinthians 13:2, “without love I am nothing”, and through the eyes of the mystic Paul translate this verse to convey the realization of “ego” death and subsequent spiritual resurrection such as that described by the author on the road to Damascus, can we see that the “saved” Paul was equating Love and Jesus the Christ to being identical entities?  Love was not an adoration or emotion but rather, an indwelling truth.  Paul lived within the corporate body of Christ, not viewing love as a passive reaction to goodness, but as an active participant in the community of Jesus, a part of the universal essence which Christians choose to name God.  Like Paul, we are not the controlling egocentric machinery with an inner core of spirituality.  No, we are merely a cog in the greater machinery of the Universe, the Oneness.

Without Love (Christ), who is my true nature and of which I am merely a dependent part, I am nothing.  Without Love I am a free-wheeling cog spinning out of control through this life with no purpose or usefulness to the machinery.

1 Corinthians 13:2New International Version (NIV)

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide