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?
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
“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?
“If you think you are too small
to make a difference…..
just sleep with a mosquito in the room.”
14TH DALAI LAMA
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.
YOU ARE NEVER TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
She’s one of the Democratic candidates for the Presidency. Marianne Williamson penned this prayer in her book ILLUMINATA published in 1994.
We join in prayer to celebrate this nation and
surrender its destiny to You.
We give thanks in our hearts for the founding
of this country.
We give thanks for and bless the souls of those
who came before us to found this nation, to
nurture and to save it.
We ask now that God’s spirit fill our hearts
May we play our parts in the healing and the
furtherance of our country.
May we be cleansed of all destructive thoughts.
May judgment of others, bigotry, racism, and
intolerance be washed clean from our hearts.
May our minds be filled with the thoughts of God,
His unconditional love and His acceptance of
May this nation be forgiven its transgressions,
against the African-American, Native
American, and any and all others.
May our lives be turned into instruments of
resurrection, that the sins of our fathers
might be reversed through us.
May the beauty and the greatness of this land
burst forth once more in the hearts of its people.
May the dreams of our forefathers be realized
in us, that we might live in honesty and
integrity and excellence with our neighbors.
May this country once again become a light
unto the nations of hope and goodness and
peace and freedom.
May the violence and darkness be cast out of our
May hatred no longer find fertile ground in
which to grow here.
May all of us feel God’s grace upon us.
Reignite, dear God, the spirit of truth in our
May our nation be given a new light, the sacred
fire that once shone so bright from shore to shore.
May we be repaired.
May we be forgiven.
May our children be blessed.
May we be renewed.
Dear God, please bless America.
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
I’m sure you have heard of the Seven Dwarfs – Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey. But, did you know there was an eighth dwarf in the group? Sure was. His name was Weepy, the taller guy in back on the right. As were the others in the group, Weepy was appropriately named because he was almost always misty-eyed. When Snow White fled to the forest to escape her wicked step-mother, she befriended the dwarfs and took refuge with them. All went well for the group until Walt Disney discovered them frolicking in the woods and wrote a tale about their lives. Unfortunately, Mr. Disney and Weepy did not get along which led to numerous arguments. Rather than dispatch Weepy to the deeper parts of the forest, the cartoonist simply wrote the beleaguered dwarf out of the script and titled it Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I’ll bet you did not know that, did you?
Do you ever feel like life has written you out of the script? No longer a player? Maybe not important? I do. Age has something to do with it, but this feeling is much deeper than the number of years on earth. It’s a pervasive sadness not related to personal turmoil or pain. No, I am not talking about depression or melancholy. I am not the Rock of Gibraltar anymore. What’s that you say? Larry, you never were a rock. Okay, okay you could be right, but in years past my strength has been derived from a belief that we would somehow inexplicably pass on to future generations a better, more tolerant world, a world where love and compassion for humanity would override mankind’s greed and ignorance.
In my lifetime. just a blip on the screen of human history, great advances have been made to ensure the rights of all who dwell here, not just the privileged and wealthy and not only the white and Christian. Women, people of color, gays, the poor appeared to be dawning upon a new era in which all people share the earth together as a brotherhood of men and women.
We seem to be trending back into the darkness of yesterday and that saddens my soul. I don’t like the script and I want to go deeper into the woods.
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.
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. 🙏
“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