Not just a black issue – it’s a human issue. Are we up to the challenge?
Not just a black issue – it’s a human issue. Are we up to the challenge?
Martin Luther King, Jr. – an impossible and unrealistic dream or a legacy squandered by hatred and division? Or might you be one who believes great strides have been made in equal justice and opportunity for not only our black and brown brothers and sisters, but also for those of different creeds, lifestyle and nationality – the Puerto Rican, the Muslim, the gay and lesbian?
Yes, laws have been passed and legislation protects, but has the heart of white, privileged America miraculously filled with compassion since the era of MLK, Jr.? What leads you to believe so? Equal job opportunities? Fair housing practices? Safe city neighborhoods? Justice in the court systems? Protected voting rights? Or maybe state and federal governments represented proportionately by members of all minority groups? Really? You truly believe this is so? Can you unequivocally state that a gay man, a black man, a Muslim woman, a white woman walks as securely through life as a white man?
Well golly gee, I would love to share some of that whacky weed you are smoking followed by a swig of the Kool-Aid you’re drinking. America, wake up! We are at a crossroads in our country’s destiny. We have been rent asunder by today’s world and national political powers who want to see us even further divided because it will be then that their vile plans can be instituted – race against race, black against white, straight against gay, Christian against Muslim, Democrat against Republican. Dr. King spoke often of the brotherhood of mankind as the only way to keep this ship (the earth) from sinking and the necessity of non-violence in solving our problems. So, is his dream dead or merely shifting gears? It’s up to us, isn’t it?
one nation, indivisible, with liberty & justice for all
“the time is always ripe to do right”
“morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated”
“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
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.
Have we ever considered what it is about others than disturbs us the most? Is it their conceit, their crass behavior, their selfishness? Or is it their love of possessions, their disregard for society’s moral conduct, their dishonesty? Of course, the next question would require us to look into our own selves wondering what it is about them that trips our trigger.
In my early recovery years, as I was complaining to my sponsor about a group member who embodied everything which I despised, he responded this way,
“All that you hate in others are elements of your own personality that you are afraid to look at.”
“Hell no, that’s not true,” I replied defensively. “I am not like that.”
And I truly believed that. But, the seed had been planted and would not allow me to rest until I took it to my quiet space within and considered my sponsor’s words. Jerry could be shallow and selfish – yeah, me too, we are, after all, alcoholics. Jerry could seem arrogant – yeah, me too, but that was due to my insecurity with others. Jerry seemed disinterested in his group members – yeah, me too, but again I was shy and felt awkward with people. Jerry didn’t seem to grasp the humility in recovery, his concept of a Higher Power was weird – really? What did I profess as a Higher Power? A vengeful, old, gray bearded, eyes on fire, lightning-spitting man sitting somewhere in the universe on his throne of judgement? How weird is that?
In due time I learned a lot about myself from Jerry. He mirrored my own ego which at that time totally controlled who I was. Eckhart Tolle in his book, A NEW EARTH -AWAKENING TO YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE, writes:
“The particular egoic pattern that you react to most strongly in others and misperceive as their identity tend to be the same patterns that are also in you, but that you are unable or unwilling to detect within yourself. In that sense, you have much to learn from your enemies. What is it in them that you find most upsetting, most disturbing? Their selfishness? Their greed? Their need for power and control? Their insincerity, dishonesty, propensity to violence, or whatever it may be? Anything that you resent and strongly react to in another is also in you.”
The initial response is probably, “no way, not true.” But, as with any planted seed, this will not disappear until it is either choked with weeds and dies or nourished and brought to fulfillment. The question becomes whether we will wither in our denial or respond and grow. That, essentially, is what recovery is about. It is much more than living without alcohol and drugs or whatever our addictions entertain. It is a continual recognition of the external forces and internal thoughts that attempt to control our true identity, that state of Being which the Buddha called anata – no self. Words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth in the 8th chapter of Mark, verse 34, “whoever wants to be my disciple (follow my Truth) must deny self…..” which, in other words, is to deny ego control of our response to the world in which we live. Peace or drama? How will we choose to live?
Our world has become one of us versus them. Nationalism, tribalism, religious intolerance – they all try to convince us that we are superior to them. The them are always wrong while us are always right. Eons ago this mindset meant only that the caveman with the best clubs and biggest stones would win and the others would need to move on to find another cave in which to live.
We are not cave dwellers. We have missiles and nuclear weapons instead of clubs and stones. Our separateness cannot be resolved by conflict and violence. There will be, in a World War 3, no winners. Our species and probably earth as we know it will be eradicated.
The next time I watch on media screens a national leader or world power whom I despise, the next time I see a religious leader lead his flock astray, the next time I look at my neighbor with disgust, I must remember the lessons which Jerry taught me in early sobriety. Despite the outward appearances of polarizing differences, we are the same. What we do, how we think will determine whether this species of ours sees a 22nd or 23rd century. It’s our responsibility to grow our planted seed into selfless maturity.
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 been 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
(excerpts from ILLUMINATA, 1994, by Marianne Williamson)
“Hitler could never have risen to power had it not been for vast numbers of people who gave him that power. Although they did not share his hatred, they did not have a solid, moral commitment to not hate. Only a society in which there is a widespread commitment to not hate is safe from hatred. A little hate is like a little cancer. And who among us does not hate?”
Dear God Please remove from my mind the tendency to judge.
Please remove from my mind the tendency to hate.
Please remove from my mind the tendency to blame.
Please reveal to me, Lord, a way to stand in my power,
through love instead of fear,
and through peace instead of violence.
May I not hear the voice for anger, but only the voice for love.
And teach me, dear Lord, how not to hate those who hate me.
Transform all darkness into light, dear God,
And use my mind as an instrument of Your harmlessness.
I surrender to you my thoughts of violence.
Take these thoughts, Lord, and wash them clean.
Thank you very much. Amen.
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples,
if you love one another.”
13 th chapter of JOHN verse 35
photo courtesy of PIXABAY
Does my life leave doubt in anyone’s mind that I am a Jesus disciple? Will people remember me as a Jesus follower? Or, is my life a secret? People know my story of drunken betrayal and subsequent recovery, but how many people have heard my story of resurrection? It is the story of a redeemed alcoholic following the man whom scriptures call Jesus of Nazareth. If there is one solitary nugget of truth in Christianity’s Bible, it is the narrative set down by writers in the 1st and 2nd centuries as a blueprint to live life in peaceful co-existence with all of God’s creation, all of humanity and nature. It is the design by which a wretched, lost man can rediscover wholeness and learn to peacefully co-exist with himself and fellow man. It is a story of forgiveness and redemption attributed to the man called Jesus.
The nucleus of the Way, the Truth and the Life is ‘love for one another’ as written so simply yet eloquently in 13 John 34-35.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” NIV
Were we, the human species, to hold that one statement on our hearts in all our affairs, the world would know peace. There would not be deprivation, poverty or war. There would not be murder, genocide, or racism.
I can hear many of you saying, “Larry, that’s a nice dream, but it will never be reality.”
It starts with me – it starts with you. One by one we can find a better way to live in this world even as we are surrounded by intolerance and hatred, even as men despise and revile us because of the love we show for those of different color, those who live in distant lands, those who come to our border as refugees.
The Jesus story does not put qualifiers on the love which he taught us to practice in our lives. It is not written to love only those of same skin color, same nationality, same religion. No, the words say, “Love your fellow man as you love yourself.” Perfection is impossible, but willingness is necessary. The insanity of this world, of its politics and politicians is unimportant. The vile names hurled at us and the injury intended for us will be forgotten in the next chapter of life. All I want to hear when this chapter of life is closed are the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I want to be known as a disciple. I don’t want my discipleship to be a secret. How about you?
The days are many when I question the foundational principles learned in youth, when I retire to bed at night more uncertain than certain, when I, like a child, want to hide under the bed covers to escape from the world.
Those stories I read as a young boy – the miracles, the healings, the parables, the inspiration and hope, the guidance and correction, the ancient shared wisdom – I remember all that.
I think of numerous personal crises endured and conquered, unmentionable forays into darkness, the return from the far land, a prodigal son reunited with his inheritance, testimony of a life resurrected, forgiveness extended – I think of all that.
And yet, tonight, the term Christian confuses me. Don’t all Christians honor and revere the same Jesus? Or is it possible there were two homeless vagabonds roaming the lands of 1st century Israel? Both named Jesus? Both from Nazareth?
Is there another version of ancient writings telling of a hateful and vengeful Jesus? Have I somehow not read the Gospel of Exclusion, the one that tells white Americans they are better than the other children of God?
And all the verses that I know by heart, maybe I should not believe that “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is truth straight from our Lord. Or maybe “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” was intended only for white folks, not brown and black skins.
Some of you tell me that white Christians are God’s chosen people, that only those who congregate in certain churches will get to heaven, that it is okay to persecute others who follow a different path or those who name their God differently.
Is it really okay? Some of you say that caging children is acceptable under Christian principle, that denying those seeking safety, security and hope is biblical, that the man and woman who happen to be brown-skinned are not part of your Kingdom.
Others say that destroying our earth’s ecosystem in the name of profit will be justified in the end times because Jesus will rebuild our earth, that those who know the true God will be saved from annihilation.
Are we reading the same scriptures or do you have a different version? Did the other Jesus speak privately to you and not to me? Tell me what verse gives you the right to judge and condemn men who are not exactly like you? I must know.
My Jesus heals the sick, how about yours? My Jesus mends the broken, how about yours? My Jesus feeds the poor and hungry, shelters the homeless, welcomes the refugee, how about yours?
“For many will come in my name….and lead many astray.” Matthew 24:5
“Watch out for false prophets. They will come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Matthew 7:15
Have you ever watched the movie BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN? The mountain settings are spectacular, the music is soulful and the actors do a terrific portrayal of two men discovering the truth of their lives while living in a culture which refuses to accept that love comes in a multitude of flavors. The emotion is raw, the love is tender, the difficulties accepting alternative sexuality are real. Check it out if you have not seen this award winning flick, but allow me to fast forward to the nugget of truth. Ennis (Heath Ledger) could not accept the deepest love he had ever experienced – physical, emotional and soulful – until that love (Jake Gyllenhaal) was taken from him by the hatred and prejudice of men who lived their lives in an extremely narrow concept of masculinity and manhood. Ennis realized in the final heart-breaking scenes what he had lost, but it was too late.
Standing shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand with diversity and inclusiveness is an act of love which could save our world. It means that I must extend an open mind to the differences of others just as I would want them to accept me with my distinguishing differences. That is probably the greatest challenge a brother/sister of color, an American Muslim, or a member of the LGBTQ+ community will face in life’s journey. It becomes too easy, having been a target of prejudice and derision, to complete the circle of hatred and intolerance, but we have to be better than that.
This excerpt below which I chose is graphic and profane, but so is life.
Friends, today is one of those days – I need John Lennon telling me what our world could be. Join me, I am not a dreamer.