the marginalized

namaste4

“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

social justice 101

“………use their political power to murder…….mistreat their elders, disrespect their parents, take advantage of foreigners passing through, and treat orphans and widows with contempt……citizens lie and give false testimonies at capital trials…… murder is for hire, exorbitant interests and profits are taken from the poor, neighbors are oppressed for personal gain…..officials are like a pack of wolves tearing apart their prey. They kill innocent people and ruin lives just to get what they want! ……..people are full of wickedness: they are bullies and thieves; they have abused the poor and helpless; they have taken advantage of foreigners and perverted justice. 

What society might the above paragraph be addressing?  It certainly sounds like probably a third world country with rampant poverty and a despotic government.  It could be any one of a number of dictatorial powers in our world today, could it not?  In many ways those words describe what is happening in America. Here is the final sentence of this reading:

I will give them what they deserve.  So said the Eternal Lord.  Ezekiel 22

What appears to be a contemporary commentary of our society today is actually attributed to the words of the prophet Ezekiel in the Judaic writings dating to a time period 2600 years ago.  Whatever credibility we assign to these writings, one point is clear.  Mankind has not truly evolved much since 600 BCE during the times of Ezekiel.  Technologically, our progress has been astounding; however, spiritually we seem to be at a standstill or possibly in a regressive mode.

Social justice, historically, has been a matter of arbitrary convenience for the controlling powers.  Great advocates of justice for the world’s poor and oppressed have been ostracized, assassinated and murdered.  Jesus the Christ was crucified.  It’s what we have been as a species.  Peace and enlightenment will grace our souls when we all strive to achieve social justice and equality for the totality of mankind.

CANDLE

 

 

 

honoring Divinity

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Namaste : the divinity in me honors the divinity in you.

First, I must recognize the divinity in me.  Do I do that?  Do you?  Do we believe that God, whatever our conception of God may be, dwells within?  Jesus and his band of mystics thought that to be the truth.  “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”  LUKE 17:21

Whether or not you or I follow the theology of Christianity, this idea of God living within is not a revolutionary idea.  Verses of Judaic and Christian scriptures support the premise of ancient and contemporary mystics that the entity which we call upon as God does not dwell apart from us in the celestial skies or in the far reaches of the universe.  No,  that spark of divinity, according to those scriptures, is not only indwelling, but also an exact image of the spiritual essence lauded in Genesis as the Creator of humankind.  “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  GENESIS 1:27

You and I created in the image of God?   Wow, mind-boggling!  The book of John in the Bible’s New Testament tells believers that God is Spirit.  “God is Spirit; and those that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth.” JOHN 4:24  God does not have a physical appearance. So, if we are created in the image of God, then our God essence is spirit, it is within, and each member of mankind has it.

David, the famed King of Israel and supposed author of the book of Psalms, wrote:  “Don’t throw me from your presence, and don’t take your holy Spirit from me.”  PSALM 51:11.  King David feared losing that indwelling Spirit.  Can we lose the Holy Spirit?  I don’t know, but I do know I have ignored that holy presence, I have not practiced “namaste”, honoring the divinity within me and within you.  Every time I saturated my brain with alcohol, I profaned the indwelling Spirit.  Every time I acted out with other addictive behavior, I profaned the holiness within.  Every time I used another “imaged” child of God for selfish purposes, I profaned God within.

Buddhism says that the perfection of being is within.  Understanding the 4 Noble Truths and directing life according to  MAGGA, the 8 fold pathway, will bring enlightenment or NIRVANA, “accepting the world as it is”.

There is no theology associated with Buddhism.  It is a lifestyle which focuses on an inner enlightenment and an outward display of compassion toward all of creation.  The word namaste is of Hindu origin.  When one bows with folded hands and extends the greeting “namaste”, Pranamasana has occurred.  It is an act of respect shown to others.

Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism offer great insights to my recovery program when taken as foundational principles of Good Orderly Direction, G.O.D.

 

my truth, your truth?

 

CANDLE

Composing thoughts and words into a train of rational ideas in a civil manner should not be difficult.  But it often is.  Blurting out insults and hurtful rhetoric seems to be the acceptable means of communication in society, especially American society.  Tweeting has usurped conversation as the American way of communicating.  Just as civility and decorum have been relegated to the days of Emily Post and her book of social etiquette,  ideals such as “compassion” and “compromise” are unfashionable.

Public conversations that would have shamed and assaulted our grandparents’ sense of  decency now are the norm.  So much disturbing visual and auditory material presenting itself as entertainment has been televised and telecast that it no longer is shocking or disgusting.  The evolution of humanity’s civilities, which had spanned a millennia of generations to a heightened awareness of solidarity, appears to have hit full speed reverse returning us to times of insensitive brutality and barbarism.

In these times a reliance on inner truth is essential to peaceful coexistence within the brotherhood of mankind.  Humanity is blessed with a code of moral and civil conduct which is universal.  It is not dependent on any particular religion or philosophy because it is an inherent part of each person’s DNA.  Call it conscience if you like or name it the spark of divinity within.  The faith of Judaism defines this code perfectly with its Decalogue, the Ten Commandments in the book of Exodus.

In today’s society we are pummeled with “alternate facts”, a difficult concept to comprehend.  Does this mean that there is alternate truth?  Does this mean a man is able to support any action, any behavior, any speech because he supports an alternate truth?  What a revelation!  I can now be as despicable and perverse as my nature dictates because I follow an alternative truth.

Hitler, Vlad the Impaler, Stalin, Jeffrey Dahmer, Manson, the Marquis de Sade would be poster boys for alternate truth.  Some politicians of today would be examples.  No!  There is no alternative truth.  Truth is truth and it is recognized by the edicts of conscience.  Some of today’s world powers, many of whom control finances and government, have apparently blinded their collective conscience in pursuit of dominance and control.  In the end they will be known (proven) by their fruits.

An interesting verse of Christian literature, Matthew 7:6, states that followers should not ‘cast their pearls before the swine.’  The pearls are the truth which Christians name as the Gospel, an ethic which messengers of all relevant faith walks have presented to humanity.  It is freely available, but it requires an inward journey and an outward expression of compassion to peacefully co-exist with a world run amok.  Matthew 7:6 seems to contradict the evangelical command to preach to all the world the Good News, but when the Christian Gospel is seen as Christ within, then it is sensible teaching.  That which will not be understood by those who prefer not to understand should not be held open to the unbelievers’ scorn, ridicule, and attack.  That which is cherished within should be protected.  The life I lead, the demeanor which I present to the world will reflect my inner truth, but, ultimately it is personal, it is private, and it is transforming.  When the powers of worldly institutions refuse to understand and incorporate universal truths, then, as Matthew 10:14 advises, “Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet…..”

speaking truth

 

 

just a glimpse – desire

smiley-face-2DESIRE

“It is greedy desire and wrath, born of passion, the great evil, the sum of destruction: this is the enemy of the soul.  All is clouded by desire: as fire by smoke, as a mirror by dust, as an unborn babe by its covering.  Wisdom is clouded by desire, the ever-present enemy of the wise, desire in its innumerable forms, which like a fire cannot find satisfaction.  Desire has found a place in man’s senses and mind and reason.  Through these it blinds the soul, after having overclouded wisdom.”  Krishna, BHAGAVAD GITA

With the beginning words in this excerpt from the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna laments the soul’s destruction through greedy desire and the wrath of passion.  This deadly duo of greed and anger are reproved in Hindu writings.   Greedy longing and craving coupled with extreme anger born of obsession and yearning are the sum of destruction.  With ageless wisdom, the most ancient of wisdom’s revealers, Krishna, says that soul is perishable.   

Buddha attributed suffering to desire.  Humanity is not content with what it has and thereby desires what it does not have.  When health, wealth, fame, fortune, peace, excitement, popularity, solitude, possessions, become the objects of man’s unfulfilled desires, suffering is the result.

Can we agree that much of mankind’s suffering in this life can be attributed to man’s covetousness, the desire for something not owned or controlled? The fathers of  Judaism made this one of the commandments of the Decalogue as a means of preserving social order in the desert. “Thou shalt not covet.”

In today’s jargon, “Don’t covet your neighbor’s ass or his wife or his house or his servants or any of his stuff.”  Pretty simple, right?

Desire for acceptance and social status drives most  of contemporary society to keep up with the Joneses, working a second job to the detriment of family obligations in order to facilitate buying  things not truly necessary to impress neighbors not necessarily neighborly.  Desire for prestige drives many to sometimes boast, maybe lie, and possibly commit fraud to cover failings and inadequacies.  That tangled web of desire, deceit, corruption and anger is indeed a soul-killer.

Just a glimpse – How’s your good heart today?  Namaste!

CANDLE

 

God as I understand God

Having been reared in a community of WASPs, all of whom collectively and exclusively claimed the inside scoop on God and Jesus, you can only imagine my skepticism at my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where God was not his God or her God or the church’s God but God as “I UNDERSTOOD GOD”.   My opinion mattered and my interpretation was valid.

“God can be the chair, the table, the AA handbook”, they told me.  “Or God can be the AA group.  Just accept that there is a power greater than you, a Higher Power.” I understood that concept because I knew that alcohol had been a greater power than me for many years.

It was within this realm of AA compassion and love that I finally, at age 34 years, discovered a God who was very much unlike the condemning, judgmental entity of my childhood.  Of course I slipped several times back into the theology and philosophy of the Bible thumpers whom I had disengaged upon sobriety.  I finally realized that what appealed to me about their “ways” was the black or white in all situations.  There was no need for personal discernment because the infallible, inerrant, word of God was the only right path and straying from it was the best way to get to hell.  It’s a scare tactic we would expect of cult groups, not mainline Christianity.

What these godly folks did not understand was that most of my adult life had already been spent in the hell of addiction.  Their scenario of hell paled compared to what I had endured in 17 years of alcoholism.  After several years of continued sobriety, I finally trusted in the success of Alcoholics Anonymous and their “God as I understand God” and in my own ability to navigate the perils of religious fundamentalism and intolerance.

The only requirement for AA membership was a desire to stop drinking.  That was a no-brainer.  But the fellowship of drunks from all walks of life and all religious backgrounds who were able to sit around a communal table and respectfully accept each other as brother and sister went beyond anything I had learned in my WASP church experiences.  The Bible and its strict adherents somehow missed that element of faith.  Throughout all the years of preaching and admonishing from the pulpits of my youth, compassion was amiss and condemnation was the keyword.

It is, therefore, with ruffled feather that I read about theology and religion that has self-appointed itself as the inerrant  interpreter of God and, in Christianity, of Jesus of Nazareth.  Numerous messengers have been sent of which Jesus was just one.  Until the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faithful accept that the only true God whom they proclaim is also a universal Being who is inclusive of all humanity and all faiths, the eternity of the Kingdom will be just another illusion plotted by religionists to gain power, prestige, and wealth.

 

GOD’S WILL

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“We have an opportunity at this time in history to completely change the course of human culture.  That opportunity is not simply an option anymore, it is a gauntlet thrown down by the forces of history before a generation still not decided whether money and power or love and brotherhood should form the basis of our civilization.  And we will decide, or life will decide for us.  The human species will learn to become profoundly compassionate toward itself and toward all life.  We will learn it through wisdom, or we will learn it through pain.  But we will learn, because it’s God’s will that we become the people he has created us to be.  It’s not up to us where we are going—but, how we get there and when is determined by every choice we make, every moment of every day.”

Marianne Williamson, “EVERYDAY GRACE”

Whom are we created to be?  The world’s movers and shakers today chase after money and power while over 75% of our world’s population lives in poverty only dreaming of having enough food or proper sanitation or potable water.   Corporate and personal wealth in the United States is mind-boggling yet one in five  American children go to bed hungry.   The compassionate world our God intended was not one divided over issues of power, wealth, and theology.  The world’s massive wealth was not intended for just 1% of the world’s population.  Every sacred scripture points to enlightenment as a civilization where all are created equal, where all are deserving of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, where all share a piece of God’s blessing in brotherhood. 

We seem to forget that our Creator had a game plan.  Whether you believe in the creation story of the Jews and Muslims, the Hindus, or the Buddhists is unimportant.  We were created as a compassionate species whose sole purpose was to please and venerate our Father.  We seem to forget that God is holding the trump card, that his will shall prevail with or without our approval and cooperation.  So, how do we conduct ourselves?  Shall we learn through wisdom or through pain?  It’s our call.smiley-face-2