I hate you

How often have you and I thought or voiced these emotionally-charged words?  Maybe it was yesterday when the neighbor was critical of our yard maintenance.  Or it could have angry emojibeen the boss unfairly expecting us to give up weekend plans in order to come in to work.  Or maybe it was a national leader speaking words which are contrary to our personal moral compass.  Or maybe it was directed inwardly because of our own faults and misdeeds.

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love…”

Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone (1181 – 1226) is attributed with these words, an excerpt from a  familiar prayer commonly called THE PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS.

Hatred is one of the most difficult words to comprehend because it carries an immensely negative emotion.  Within that negativity we create enemies, despicable visions of others, and ultimately, discontent within our own souls.  Let’s, for the sake of rational dialog, nail hatred to the underlying emotion of fear which is a very real motivator in all of mankind.

Fear prevents unconditional love.  Fear promotes violence.  Fear murders, maims, persecutes.  Fear promotes separateness among men and warfare among nations.  Fear is the darkness in mankind’s soul which enables genocide and ethnic cleansing.

White nationalism embraces fear, our leaders project fear, some men of religion preach fear.  Hatred is taught, but fear is that innate human condition which in today’s society is being used as a weapon against practicing social justice, tolerance and equality.

That is why we recite the words of St. Francis – Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.  We cannot fight hatred with hatred.  We cannot fight violence with violence.  We cannot vie to be top dog in the world at the expense of the huddled masses desiring nothing more than the crumbs under the table.  We cannot destroy our planet by exploiting resources to fill corporate coffers or because we fear that there is not enough for everybody.  Peace is not just a state of inner being – it is a call to action.  It is a determined effort to illumine the darkness.

We in Western culture have been conditioned to think of love as a warm, fuzzy feeling reserved for spouses, family, friends, others who step in line to our own personal march.  We celebrate love with cute greeting cards and expensive gifts.  We write romantic songs and poems about love.  We fall in love with the idea of love.

The ancient wisdom teachers would disagree.  In their writings love is the opposite of fear.  Love unifies the Christian and the Muslim, the white man and the black man, the Republican and the Democrat, the straight and the gay.  There are no enemies in the world of love, there are merely differences to be embraced.  Love is not the opposite of hatred;  it is the cure for fear which is the root of hatred.  It is the understanding that we as co-equal inhabitants of this planet are responsible for living in peaceful co-existence.

“The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from being one with oneself and everything else, and from Being Itself.” CAC.ORG

Mohandas Gandhi said nonviolence was the active, unconditional love toward others, the persistent pursuit of truth, the radical forgiveness toward those who hurt us, the steadfast resistance to every form of evil, and even the loving willingness to accept suffering in the struggle for justice without the desire for retaliation. —John Dear CAC.ORG – FR. RICHARD ROHR

 

Mine is better than yours. Really?

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“At their most mature levels, religions have a common goal: union with all beings and with God. Unfortunately, many religions and Christian denominations have over-emphasized differences and claimed that their particular brand is superior to others. Jesus didn’t come to start another religion but to reveal God’s presence in all of us. The Christian name for the universal incarnation is Christ, but it is known by innumerable other names.” cac.org – Richard Rohr

“….it is known by innumerable other names.”

I also believe that Jesus did not appear in 1st century Nazareth  to start a religion called Christianity.  The church fathers in the 3rd and 4th centuries did that in pursuit of theological and political power.  They approved or disapproved the writings to be included in their Bible and severely persecuted those mystics and wisdom writers who disagreed.  Mysticism, however, did persist with Francis of Assisi, 1181-1226, being the salient, well-known proponent.  His followers were the beginnings of today’s Franciscan brotherhood.

“A “better” world is one in which we recognize that all people possess an incomparable value that we are morally obliged to respect . . . in social, political, and economic terms. Honoring the humanity of your fellow beings means that if they are hungry, ill, or oppressed, you must exert yourself to help them. . . . But this . . . runs up against our inherited instincts of self-protection, greediness, and desire to dominate others. . . .” cac.org – Richard Rohr

Following the above suggestion is a lofty goal of enlightened spirituality – I fail miserably on many fronts.  But, as with all goals, perfection is not the destiny; progress is.  Especially, today’s political and social climate can lead me astray in a heartbeat.  I want to rant, I want to berate, I want to wander off into profanity and name-calling when I read the day’s headlines or listen to media news programs.  After all, that is just human, isn’t it?  But, then remembering what Jesus endured and suffered as a human, what authorities of religion and government inflicted on him, I am forced to accept that this life’s suffering is the price to pay for spiritual enlightenment.  None of us, not one, will reach the other side unscathed.

If we could rearrange energy from within—if we more often nurtured our companions and promoted their well-being, we would suffer much less. Rearranging energy from within is what mysticism does.” cac.org – Richard Rohr

Not an easy task, but we must start somewhere if we expect our species to survive.

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soul’s foundation

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 overflows.

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  • A trust in inner coherence itself.  “It all means something.” (Faith)
  • A trust that this coherence is positive and going somewhere good. (Hope)
  • A trust that this coherence includes me and even defines me.  (Love)

Fr. Richard Rohr at cac.org names faith, hope, and love as the soul’s foundation.  The author of 1 Corinthians 13:13 agrees.

“Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.”  NLT

Think about it.  Every human being who ever has been, is now, or ever will be, receives equal and inherent dignity as children of God.  We, all of us, have been created in the image of God.  Jew, Gentile, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, believer and non-believer, white, black, brown, purple, straight, gay, male and female, none of the above, etcetera, the ancient wisdom of Jewish scripture (Genesis 1:26-27) tells us this is truth. That is our starting point, but, unfortunately, the human condition questions, disputes, and regresses to a state of prejudice in which the powerless and disadvantaged lose out.  Even the forefathers, hallowed for the United States Declaration of Independence, when they famously declared “all men are created equal”, they actually meant all who are white, property-owning males.

Not much inherent dignity there, but at least it was a new direction in governing.  It became ‘WE, THE PEOPLE’.  That’s what Jesus’ ministry to the downtrodden, oppressed Jewish nation was all about.  Do you really think he was planning to start a brand new religion or that, as many Jews were hoping, he was planning to usurp power from the Roman governors?  No, Jesus understood that he too had inherent dignity as a child of God and that his purpose on earth was to lead others to also believe.  He and his disciples, calling themselves ‘the Way’, ministered to the poor, the sick, the dying, the oppressed with a message that they too were worthy of a seat at the table.  They too were children of God blessed with dignity and worth.

Although the religion which names itself after Christ has missed the mark of the message of Jesus in so many ways throughout history, it does acknowledge that faith, hope, and love (sometimes called charity) are mainstays of a Christ-centered faith.  In the times of today, when not much of anything makes sense and I know the world is irrational, the rock of my spiritual foundation needs to be solid and unwavering.  It cannot be built on man-created theology or a litany of ‘thou shalt and thou shalt not’.  It must be an indwelling sense that has deep personal meaning, that gives me a positive path to follow, that tells me I am worthy of His love.  Jesus is my rock, can be yours too.  Has nothing to do with religion or church or theological correctness.  It’s all about my soul and yours, nurturing that inner sanctum, and claiming our rightful heritage as children of a merciful, loving God.  AMEN?

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  Psalm 18:2

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the marginalized

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“Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make victims—laws that make misery for the poor, that rob my destitute people of dignity, exploiting defenseless widows, taking advantage of homeless children.” —Isaiah 10:1-2, The Message

This passage quoted by Fr. Richard Rohr is attributed to the writings of Isaiah, one of the most prolific prophets of Judaism who probably wrote all 68 chapters of the Book Isaiah sometime during the years between 740 BCE and 686 BCE.  Believing in prophecy, or not, is irrelevant to the significance of this message to us living during these tumultuous times in contemporary society because it describes the trials and perils we, the marginalized, face today.  I do not need to be a believer or follower of Jesus (which I am) to recognize the remarkable parallels.

“When we forget that politics is about weaving a fabric of compassion and justice on which everyone can depend, the first to suffer are the most vulnerable among us—our children, our elderly, our mentally ill, our poor, and our homeless. As they suffer, so does the integrity of our democracy.”

Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy (Jossey-Bass: 2014, ©2011), dedication page

Has the world forgotten what politics should be?  Today’s  world of politics has become so overshadowed by greed and self-interest that it is very difficult to view it as a conduit for the welfare of all earth’s humanity including the poor, the homeless, the children, the elderly, and the mentally ill.  The most fitting adjective we can use for that segment of society is marginalized and oppressed.  It need not be that way given the enormous wealth in the hands of a small percentage of the population.

Politics is derived from the Greek word “politikos”meaning “of, for, or relating to the citizens” and “civil, civic, belonging to the state.”

“We are living through perilous and polarizing times as a nation, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches. We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.

[As Christians,] it is time to be followers of Jesus before anything else—nationality, political party, race, ethnicity, gender, geography—our identity in Christ precedes every other identity. . . . ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’” (John 13:35). [3]

Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis, http://reclaimingjesus.org/.

The core belief of the traditions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam is committed to compassion and hospitality.  Adherents are known by their actions and works.  If professing anything other than love and tolerance as depicted in their Scriptures, then they are not true followers of their faith.  It’s a simple assessment based on the writings of the ancients.

Principalities and powers pass away, but the inner power of the Spirit as represented by the Hebrew prophets, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammed is infinite and eternal.

12 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  EPHESIANS 6:12

Fr. Richard Rohr

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If you have read none of my previous posts nor read any of my writing hereafter, please take 2 minutes of your time to read this from Fr. Rohr at cac.org which, in my opinion, nails the world-wide crisis of social injustice occurring in these extremely difficult times.

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soul food

smiley-face-2Just 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 overflows.

 

The term “soul” is thrown around quite often in today’s society.  Soul food, soul music, eternal soul are just a few.  It always brings to mind that internal essence which many people consider the truth residing within each of us.  Fr. Richard Rohr, cac.org , defines soul as “……anything’s ultimate meaning which is held within. Soul is the blueprint inside of every living thing that tells it what it is and what it can become. When we meet anything at that level, we will respect, protect, and love it.”

Notice that this advocate of the mystic nature of Christ does not describe my soul as an entity separate from anything else, as a part of my being which will move on to heaven after my physical death, nor a hard-to-understand tenet of any religion’s theology.  Soul simply is.  It tells me that I am what I am and it leads me to what I can become.  It is the blueprint, the divine spark of DNA, present in every living organism.  Every living creature has soul.

Francis of Assisi understood this and is well known for spending many hours walking the roads of Umbria learning from nature the meaning of soul.  He called all of creation his brothers and sisters.  Think about it.  Every creature of nature is born, matures and reaches its destiny, when unimpeded, without a thought as to what it should be or how it should develop. A lion becomes the king of the jungle, a daffodil becomes a springtime beauty, a butterfly flits about searching for nectar.  Only man disputes and denies his inherent divine spark of DNA.  Man was created in the image of God and man’s destiny is to become a son of God, a recreation of that eternal Force which gave him life.

My religious tradition confused and often denied the teaching of St. Francis.  It told me I had to conform to its theology and ritual in order to access the sacredness of soul.  It led me to a narcissistic approach to God which proclaimed me as very unique and special while simultaneously damning me to hell if I did not conform through its creeds and prayers.

According to scriptures, John the Baptist eschewed the trappings of the temple and its purity laws calling people to repentance in the waters of nature.  Jesus was baptized in those waters and subsequently spent 40 days and nights communing with nature in the wilderness.

Fr. Richard goes on to observe the mark missed by contemporary Christianity:  “We would have done much better to help other Christians discover their souls instead of “save” them. My sense, after being a priest for almost 50 years, is that most Christians are trying to save something they have not even found.” cac.org

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prison for profit

“Our current criminal “justice” system has more to do with making a profit (through unpaid labor and filling quotas) and oppression of the marginalized than restoring individuals to wholeness and health. Though the United States holds only 5% of the world’s population, it houses 21% of the world’s prisoners. African-Americans and Hispanics are imprisoned at much higher rates, in spite of similar rates of drug use and crime as whites. [1] [1] African Americans and Hispanics comprise 32% of the US population, but comprise 56% of all incarcerated people (2015). See NAACP’s “Criminal Justice Fact Sheet” for more information” naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet.

Fr. Richard Rohr in his daily commentary on September 22nd, social wounds , speaks to the horrific cost to American society attributable to our system of law enforcement and punishment.  Not only are vast amounts of financial assets spent to incarcerate, an even great tragic loss is the waste of America’s greatest asset, its young people.

Based in Albuquerque, NM, the Franciscan admonishes a justice system which “has more to do with making a profit and oppression of the marginalized than restoring individuals to wholeness and health.”  He continues with statistics that support the beliefs of black skinned and brown skinned people that they are unfairly targeted and more harshly punished than white peers.

In my lifetime I have seen prisons transition from government-funded facilities to private for-profit entities which stand to reap a greater profit with an increased prison population.  The charge has been levied for several years that this is yet another device of a white controlled society to practice the brand of discrimination and racism which has existed since the abolishment of slavery.

Outside of the racial injustice issue, another great moral question of this privatizing of prisons is the incentive for unscrupulous judges to extract financial gain from the cases upon which they rule.  In my home state of Pennsylvania, such a travesty was exposed.

A Pennsylvania judge was sentenced to 28 years in prison in connection to a bribery scandal that roiled the state’s juvenile justice system. Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was convicted of taking $1 million in bribes from developers of juvenile detention centers. The judge then presided over cases that would send juveniles to those same centers. The case came to be known as kids for cash .”

The judge is spending a lot of time in prison; however, the toll to young people cannot be reversed even as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed about 4000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008.

Jeff Pollins’ stepson was convicted by Ciavarella.

“These kids are still affected by it. It’s like post traumatic stress disorder,” Pollins told the Times Leader. “Our life is ruined. It’s never going to be the same… I’d like to see that happen to him,” he said.

This overt display of greed targeting the least capable of our society able to defend themselves, i.e., youth and  minorities, is not limited to a judge in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.  It is a rampaging outgrowth of a society which not only condones violence against each other, but increasingly promotes violence in professional sports venues, in entertainment, and in cinema.

The POTUS encourages violence at his ego rallies, in his exhortations to the police to not be “so gentle”, in his stance on DACA, in his descriptions of female conquests, and in his approach to extremely delicate interactions with North Korea.  Unfortunately, and sadly, the voice of violence is what his support base is demanding and expecting.

“[This is] the urgency of the great choice we face as a species: will we choose to continue to affirm a culture of systemic violence—or will we build a culture of active, creative, and liberating nonviolence so that we can not only survive but thrive?”  John Dear, The Nonviolent Life (Pace e Bene Press: 2013), x. Note that Pace e Bene and John Dear are leading a Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions, September 16-24. Learn more at paceebene.org/programs/campaign-nonviolence/.

As always, we do have a choice.  We can commit to live non-violently or we can become part of the “fire and fury” described by Trump in his tweet several weeks ago.

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