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….

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

 

 

 

SOUL FORCE

“One of the key words Gandhi used in expressing the meaning of nonviolence was ahimsa, literally ‘non-harm,’ the refusal to hurt others. It’s the rock bottom of nonviolence. A second key word was satyagraha (a combination of the words for ‘truth’ and ‘holding firmly’) sometimes called ‘truth force,’ holding on to what is true and good, striving to bring about more humane conditions for people and society. King called it ‘soul force.’”

—Dr. Gerard Vanderhaar  

Pace e Bene Nonviolence

Are we on the brink of a nation-wide recognition, an awakening (call it revival if you like) of what America is becoming as a society and commit our energies to reversing the  downward spiral of violence and hatred?  Or are we destined to fall, like many before us, to anarchy and despotism at the hands of a minority too blind to see the equality of all the nation’s people?  This is not just a Pride issue or a black issue, or a poor people’s issue that we must address.  It is an issue of ‘SOUL FORCE’.

What will be revealed in the coming months about the soul of America?

PRIDE

There is POWER in solidarity –

“An important element of this new power is that it is not power for the sake of personal gain, but power for the sake of all the oppressed, ignored, forgotten, and exploited members of society. The powerless are recouping power . . . the power of the gospel, which works for the betterment and liberation of all, especially those in greatest need.” cac.org

June is PRIDE 🌈 month.  Part of the celebration is recognizing that equality is not freely given without bloodshed, heartache and tears even in a democratic society.  Each of the oppressed, ignored, forgotten, and exploited members of society has paid the dues to rise above inherent societal intolerance, ignorance, and hatred.  We agree to love ourselves as created and then expect the same love from others.  Black or white, any shade in between, short or gangly, genius or challenged, flighty or pragmatic, artistic or color-blind, wealthy or poor all belong in the grand scheme as devised by the all-knowing Creator.

The LGBTQ+ community understands this, has realized enormous gains in recent years.  However, that progress is not guaranteed and not free.  Transparency in who we are as people, as lovers, as neighbors, as workers, and as activists ensures that our rights will not go away at the whim of a repressive political system or religion.

This is why PRIDE month is important.  The parades and celebrations, fun and colorful, are merely the tip of the iceberg.  The legacy we leave for future generations is dependent on the actions we take today to inform the world,

“Here I am, love me or hate me; it’s OK because I am a child of this Universe, the same Oneness that has created all of us in the image of goodness and mercy.”

pride

 

BLACKOUT

There is POWER in solidarity –

“An important element of this new power is that it is not power for the sake of personal gain, but power for the sake of all the oppressed, ignored, forgotten, and exploited members of society. The powerless are recouping power . . . the power of the gospel, which works for the betterment and liberation of all, especially those in greatest need.” cac.org

EGO – it’s a killer

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 old codgerdisregard 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.

GARDEN OF EDEN

 

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

 

are you a secret?

Am I a secret?

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples,
if you love one another.”
13 th chapter of JOHN verse 35 

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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?

Picture1.pngconfession (2)

 

me – a mosquito?

“If you think you are too small
to make a difference…..
just sleep with a mosquito in the room.”
TENZIN GYATZO
14TH DALAI LAMA

DALAI LAMA

Photos by EGOR KAMELEV and icon0.com

Never underestimate your impact.
A butterfly’s flutter is felt on the other side of the world,
a ripple in the brook moves the ocean,
a grain of sand combined with billions of other grains
creates one of nature’s most beautiful masterpieces.

old codger

 

YOU ARE NEVER TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.