$$ MONEY $$ – is it overrated?

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Lord knows I have carried a basketful of stupid decisions and irrational choices in my lifetime which have determined my ‘prosperity’ status.  But truly,  my recollections from years past point simply to a contented life earned and learned by living a simple life.

We were not prosperous by today’s standards.  But, in my eyes, we were the most affluent and blessed people on earth.  Stuff and money did not matter.  We did not compare to the Joneses.  I never went to bed hungry, never walked to the school bus in rags, never slept without a blanket.  Life was good.  In retrospect, what made life good was the fact that just about everybody we knew lived as we did.  We counted our blessings everyday, helped those neighbors who had fallen onto tough times, worshipped in a beautiful country church with other folks who knew the meaning of sharing, compassion, and humble faith.  Oh, a few thought they were special and had the inside track to God, but most of us just accepted that maybe we didn’t really know all the answers and we tried to live a life that pleased family, friends, and neighbors and in doing so, hopefully pleased God.

Yes, we had abundant security even if we did not have money.  We depended on each other knowing that the world would have to end before any one of us would abandon the other.  Do we have that security today?  Do you know your neighbors’ names or where they were born?  Would your community feed you, house you, and clothe you if hard times hit or would you need to pitch a tent in the woods and eat bugs and lizards?

Compassion prevailed back then because we were a community of individuals who knew each house and family along the country roads leading to church, to the general store, to the Ford dealer, to the Grange hall, to the telephone office where an operator manned (or womanned) the switch board 24 hours a day, and to the undertaker’s house to which  each of us would someday take a quiet journey.  Everybody knew everybody else – Mrs. Johnson’s bouts with depression, the Mitchell children needing new shoes, the insurance agent’s penchant for Jack Daniels, and the milkman’s weekend trips to the city to walk on the wild side.  We did our best to live right, but none of us were cocksure of eternity and none of us claimed to have the answers.  Life was a mystery and we knew it was wise to leave it as such.  In that simple, uncomplicated, unsophisticated bygone community of farmers, our lives had meaning.  Life was precious and each member of that community had a sense of belonging.

Today’s times are troubling.  The ones who proclaim to be spiritual leaders seem to be speaking from both sides of the mouth, their lives betray the words coming from the pulpits.  Some houses of worship have become palatial with a senior pastor, junior pastor, assistant pastor and a staff of office help.  Preaching hell and damnation for those who don’t adhere to their narrow litany of thou shalts and thou shalt nots, they go home to an equally impressive mansion with amenities and ‘stuff’ which most of the congregation cannot afford.

The gospel of prosperity and exclusion which I am hearing from numerous religious leaders nationwide starkly contrasts to the teachings of Jesus that I remember from my little country church years ago.  Humility is lacking, compassion is lacking, love for every member of humanity is replaced by an attitude of tribalism.  The strident position of excessively cocksure Christians evidenced today is alarming.  “You are going to hell, but I’m not because I have discovered the path to salvation.  I am a believer, you are lost.”

I don’t remember in my younger experience that Jesus taught any of those things which extreme-right fundamentalists are pumping from their pulpits.  Maybe I wasn’t listening well enough, maybe I missed the spiritual boat just as I missed out on the prosperity boat.  But, you know what?  I would not trade the soul security and contentment which I learned in that country church attended by simple folks who practiced a gospel of humility and social justice.  I would not trade the peace of mind I have for all the promises today’s prosperity preachers dangle from their pulpits of hypocrisy and intolerance.

Just a few thoughts from a simple man who still believes there is more to life than money.

 

let’s try Christianity

I had another post prepared to share, but a more pressing issue blipped onto my radar screen and I believe this post from a while back is appropriate for today’s religious dialog. 🙏

via let’s try Christianity

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“Imagine no heaven or hell….and no religion, too.  You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”  JOHN LENNON

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HERE COMES THE SUN – “we are the world”

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photo by ABHIRAM PRAKASH

The sun also rises on those other than Western Caucasians.  Think about that for a moment, will you?  From the tranquility of Pacific islands to the teeming humanity of India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka to the mountains of Tibet and Nepal to the deserts of the Middle East to the common ancestry we have in Europe – they all see the same sun which we see.  So, how can we believe that the sun and all its blessings belong only to us, that only we deserve to be warmed and nurtured, that only we are the rightful recipients of the bounty created by a non-discriminating Source, that only we have the keys to the spiritual mysteries of a universe lit by the sun’s daily light?  Really?  Rather obtuse thinking, isn’t it?

I abhor intolerance and discrimination in any form, but especially that which is fueled by political and religious philosophy.  The sun which we welcome each morning with outstretched arms doesn’t really care about mankind’s learned hypocrisy and prejudice.  It does not withhold its warmth and light based on political leaning or theology.  It has no choice but to rise each morning and make our earth fruitful and sustaining.  To us is left the task of discerning right from wrong, moral from immoral, and justice from injustice regardless of race, creed, nationality, skin color or sexual orientation.  Just as the sun lights the earth, our inner light has to be the moral compass which illumines each step of our daily trek from the moment of awakening in the morning to the stillness before retiring for the night.  The choices we enjoy every day are ours because someone before us cared enough to keep the fire of love, tolerance, justice and compassion burning.

My trek is not that of a preacher or moralizer.  I merely arise each morning giving thanks for the new day and asking for the grace to live up to my inherent potential.  Over 2 1/2 billion humans across the globe live on my earth, bask in the same sun.  I must share with them what has been freely given to me.  Too tall an order, you say.  Not really.  Day by day and one step at a time we can conquer a million  differences in creating a communal eternity capable of sustaining and embracing all of creation.  The source of our energy gives itself freely.  We should, too.

We are the world, we are the children – it’s up to us.

FOR FURTHER READING

FRANCISCAN ACTION NETWORK

“Stand up!  Shout from the mountaintops that you are one of the disciples who is here, not preparing to go to heaven, but to create the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.”

 

good vibrations

My friends, this is happy music.  “Good Vibrations” was a hit in 1966 composed and produced by Brian Wilson.  It’s the stuff which entertained us at sock hops, cruising down Market Street on Saturday nights, picnicking at the beach.  THE BEACH BOYS popularized a genre of music which did not focus on the Vietnam War, protests, and street violence.  Their toe-tapping sounds gave way to the soul’s underside with the advance of THE ANIMALS, ROLLING STONES, BOB DYLAN, JANIS JOPLIN, JIMI HENDRIX, DOORS carrying us to darker spaces.

A blogger, unless blogging for profit, tends to trek through hills and valleys of creativity.  Some days simply do not inspire anything worth writing.  It could be laziness, but the truth of the matter is that quite often the weight of the world is overwhelming.  Wearied to the core by social, political, and religious upheavals continually bombarding all the media screens and soul’s conscience, there are times when retreat is necessary.

For many Vietnam War era men and women, the protest days are over. Instead, there’s a place to go where the eagles fly high, the rivers run deep, the grass is lush.  In that place it is peaceful and kind, no violence nor intolerance.  Whenever solace and rest are needed, this internal heaven can be right here and right now or it can be a million miles away.  Joyfully, in that space the good vibrations of the soul embrace a higher calling.

Namaste. 🙏

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genocide

 

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“I have seen something that will haunt me to the end of my life. That there were children, little children. And what they had done ― ‘they’ I mean the enemy ― they had dug pits. It seems there was no room anymore in the gas chambers. They would throw those children in the flames, alive. That we have seen that and not gone crazy is, that’s a miracle. … For a while I thought maybe I, maybe I was still a prisoner of my nightmare.  But then I met friends, and I told them the same images, and I found documents corroborating it. What we have seen, it’s true.” (1)

No, don’t ever try to fathom the depraved depths of mankind’s inhumanity towards fellow man.  It’s a place too dark, too evil for the soul to enter.  But, we must remember the hell which had been leveled against innocence, against the children and the helpless, against men, women and children who did not fit the acceptable pattern of Nazi Germany.  We must remember these horrors lest that cowardice occurs again in the world of the 21st century.  Today’s political events indicate that we are not above the hatred and intolerance which permeated the white nationalist mindset ushering in the 3rd Reich and its Holocaust.  Never forget the history of mankind’s capacity for darkness and evil.

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(1) ELIE WIESEL

 

scapegoats dujour

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.

devilFlip Wilson, in his wildly popular variety show from 1970-1974, introduced the character “Geraldine” to his audience.  Geraldine will remain forever remembered for her line, “The devil made me do it.”

The devil made me do it.  The horned and tailed trouble-maker has been a scapegoat for millions of people over many centuries.  That hell-raiser has had numerous names in various civilizations, but the purpose is the same – give humanity an entity to blame for its faults.  Rather than assume responsibility for the acts we commit against others, that fellow sitting on our left shoulder whispering in our ears becomes the universal scapegoat.

Tribalism is founded on scapegoating.  Whether my tribe is a government, a race, a creed, a social order, a caste system, or a religion, when it agrees on a common foe as the enemy to be feared or despised, discrimination and intolerance are born.  But it all starts with me nurturing the fear and distrust which has been indoctrinated into my tribal mindset.  I need a thorough “brainwashing.”

How does that happen?  My personal answer, although not yet perfected, is to replace those “Geraldine” moments with faith and trust.  Replace the scapegoating with inner transformation which uncovers my faults, my defects, and my hatred in need of correction.  Stop blaming the devil.  I need to grow up into the human being I was designed to be.

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child.  But, when I grew up I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11

 

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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

 

 

hate in the good ole USA

(reference links for this article)

*FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL

 *AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION

*LIBERTY COUNCIL

THE PRAY IN JESUS NAME PROJECT

NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE

CATHOLIC LEAGUE

The groups listed above would appear to be benign, American-values organizations dedicated to advancement of spiritual principles and family affairs.  In truth, they are poster children for bigoted, intolerant religionists.  These groups are on the watch list of the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center).  All are considered to be anti-LGBT+.  The three with asterisks are listed as LGBT+ hate groups.

All came forward with statements praising Trump’s transgender ban.  Their agenda is obvious and their methods and scare tactics are in line with the man who won the White House with their endorsement.  They have put a justice on the SCOTUS giving the evangelical Christian movement the necessary clout to repeal a woman’s right to choose and the marriage equality Amendment.  You’ve heard them on radio, television, and internet whining about the persecution Christians are suffering at the hand of a liberal, hell-bent population.

Link to the SPLC website to learn more about hatred in the good ole USA.

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ORLANDO ANGELS

 

 

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King David in Psalm 35 exhorted his Lord to send angels to drive away the enemies who persecuted him and intended harm for him.  In this passage we can visualize those angels protecting David just as our angels in Orlando protected mourners from the hateful signs and chants of a hate group from Topeka, Kansas. Their behavior does not warrant being associated with the word Christian. As with the Orlando shooter, I refuse to give them any further publicity by giving them a name. They are nameless. YouTube and Wikipedia are teeming with that information.

“Let those who plan to destroy me
    be turned back in terror.
Let them be like straw blowing in the wind,
    while the angel of the Lord drives them away.
Let their path be dark and slippery,
    while the angel of the Lord chases them.”

New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1998, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

“…….is an unaffiliated Baptist church known for its hate speech, especially against LGBT people, Catholics, Muslims, Jews and politicians. The church is categorized as a hate group and is monitored as such by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty  Law  Center  ….some protests have included WBC members stomping on the American flag and/or flying the flag upside down on a flagpole.”

Let’s face it folks.  These protestors follow Old Testament law rigidly.  They base a belief system on Leviticus 20.  Because the recipients of their brand of hate are so diverse and widespread it is obvious they have learned to read between the Biblical lines which they profess to believe.  I guess when one has a direct hot line to God, when his/her Bible is inerrant and literal, that person can substantiate any theology he/she desires.  Very few other congregations which label themselves as Baptist or Christian or Muslim or Judaic have attained this level of enlightenment.

Have you read Leviticus 20?  It is lengthy.  It is filled with death, blood, and stoning.  It depicts a time when God came to dwell with the Israelites and established his law.  Having just escaped slavery in Egypt, the tribe’s leaders (and God) eschewed anything Egyptian; customs, morals, habits, sexual mores.  If the story is indeed true, life for Jacob’s people must have been anything but “a land flowing with milk and honey” which Moses had promised.

To Jesus followers and to most Christians, adherence to Old Testament law is in itself sinful considering that the new covenant instructs us to “love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself”.  Twelve easy to understand words supersede the entire book of Leviticus.  We may look to the Jewish scriptures for guidance and instruction but we are no longer bound by its law.

“If, therefore, the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” john 8:36

It’s that simple and I’m afraid the association of haters we have referred to in regard to the Orlando angels…well, I’m afraid they are mightily ticking off God almighty.