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….

coming soon to your town

No, I’m not talking about a circus, a new movie release, a new box store.  Federal agents have invaded the city of Portland, Oregon ostensibly to quell the rioting ‘anarchists’ who, according to WH reports, are overtaking the city.  Local Portland and state of Oregon officials are saying the protests are mostly peaceful and demanding the feds get out of their city.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has sued multiple federal agencies alleging agents in unmarked vehicles have grabbed people off Portland’s streets without a warrant in recent days.  USA TODAY

The AG says the tactics are similar to kidnapping.  Should we be surprised?  The same WH has caged children on our southern border, condoned police brutality publicly and excused the Charlottesville fiasco stating that there were ‘good people’ among the neo-Nazi torch carriers.

We can not afford to turn and look the other way, to be indifferent to the vile force posing as government protection.  Non-violent protest is our trump card.  MLK,Jr. and Gandhi have proven that violent government intervention cannot win over non-violence.  The feds can intimidate, kidnap, beat with billy clubs, and arrest, but cannot crush the spirit of non-violent protest.

In the 1960s and 1970s peaceniks and flower children led the marches.  The feds called my brothers and sisters cowards and communists.  But, old passions won’t die, will they?  We simply became older peaceniks.  We ended the Vietnam War and we got Civil Rights legislation passed.  We, the peacemakers, prevailed then and we can do so today.

“I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government.”

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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….

National Historic Landmark

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….

Edmund Winston Pettus was a Confederate brigadier general, a U.S. senator and a grand dragon of the KKK.  In 1940, Selma, Alabama, needed a bridge across the Alabama River.  A steel arch bridge was constructed and named the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

On March 7, 1965, civil rights movement demonstrators attempted crossing the bridge to march to the state capital of Montgomery.  They were met by mounted police who attacked with billy clubs and tear gas.  The day became known as Bloody Sunday.  On February 27, 2013, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, named after a KKK racist, became a symbol of the African-American plight in America and was declared a National Historic Landmark.

John Lewis met Rosa Parks when he was 17 years old, met Martin Luther King, Jr a year later.  He was born in 1940 in Troy Alabama to sharecroppers and by the age of six had seen only two white people.  In1961, John Lewis became one of the thirteen original freedom riders who were determined to ride from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans in an integrated bus.

On March 7, 1965, Lewis and fellow activist Hosea Williams led 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus bridge.  When confronted by police, the marchers stopped to pray and the police attacked.

Presidential Medal of Freedom – February, 2011

from his acceptance remarks at ceremony of President Barack Obama presenting the civil rights warrior with the Presidential Medal of Freedom –

“never get lost in a sea of despair…have this abiding faith that there are things that are so right, so good, so necessary that you are willing to die for…”

Congressman John Lewis
February 21, 1940 – July 17, 2020

KINSHIP

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Most of us know our kin, sometimes wish we did not.  Can we imagine a world of kinship, a place where the man who is black, the woman who is Muslim, the neighbor who is gay, the co-worker who practices Buddhism, the homeless man on the corner, the drunk in the gutter – can we somehow see each of them as kin?  Related?  Worthy of our love and compassion?

Society, governments, and religions often, inadvertently or overtly, put separations between us defining our differences thereby reducing relationships to a status of “us” and “them” in denial of the paradigm which the great wisdom leaders throughout history from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Gandhi, to Muhammad, to Jesus of Nazareth to Lao Tzu to Gautama Buddha tried to teach during their lifetimes.

Even when placing our lives in service to others, we are not recognizing God’s dream for his/her Creation – being one with the other and not separate.  Kinship is what Jesus practiced.  He was one not standing outside the circle, but in the midst of those “… whose dignity had been denied…with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless….the easily despised and the readily left out…the demonized…the disposable.”  cac.org

We, who are eternally hopeful that the time for non-violence, for peace, for kinship has arrived, read the words of one of the revered prophets of the Judaic tradition, HABAKKUK, who said, “For the revelation awaits an appointed time, it speaks of the end and will not prove false.” 

“In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together, the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.  The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them.”  ISAIAH 11:6

It paints a beautiful picture of what life on earth could be – was intended to be.  Do you see it?  Are you willing to live it?  It’s our choice.

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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?

MLK, JR – an impossible dream?

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

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“the time is always ripe to do right”

“morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated”

Click to access mlk-gp-speech.pdf

NAMASTE – is it really so difficult?

“The crises we find ourselves in as a species require that as a species we shake up all our institutions—including our religious ones—and reinvent them. Change is necessary for our survival, and we often turn to the mystics at critical times like this. Jung said: “Only the mystics bring creativity into religion.” [1] Jesus was a richard rohrmystic shaking up his religion and the Roman empire; Buddha was a mystic who shook up the prevailing Hinduism of his day; Gandhi was a mystic shaking up Hinduism and challenging the British Empire; and Martin Luther King, Jr. shook up his tradition and America’s segregationist society. The mystics walk their talk and talk (often in memorable poetic phraseology) their walk.” MATTHEW FOX  cac.org – Richard Rohr 

Do I do that – walk the talk and talk the walk?  How about you?  Those of you who have read my ramblings over the past few years probably realize I have a serious issue with religion and religionists.  Many of them talk a great spiel from the pulpit and the pews of their churches, but then don’t walk it in their lives or in their behaviors.  That is not real; it is not empowering.  If not embraced in lifestyle this pretty rhetoric becomes just more trash on the pile of religious deceit.  Preachers are guilty, parishioners are guilty, black and white are equally guilty, politicians are guilty.  Me too.  I do not always walk the talk.

But I highly esteem those mystics who have.  The four named in the introductory quote are just a few of the many men and women who discovered their inner truth and then lived lives accordingly.  Buddha was human, Jesus was human, Gandhi was human, and Martin Luther King was human, all acclaimed mystics were humans who acknowledged the Divine center of their beings as the most consequential and significant reason to talk the walk and walk the talk.

Our world is racing to the annihilation of the human species.  Accompanied by rabid politics, fear-mongering politicians, greedy capitalism and heretical religions, the voices of those who pursue social justice, peace, and inner searching seem lost in the insanity.  That which could turn the tide and redeem civilization from a sure demise is often obscured by conversations of victory at any cost rather than sensible compromise embracing the rights of all mankind and all earth’s natural resources.

We must come to realize and surrender to the premise that this planet is not a hodgepodge of several billion humans intent on survival as individuals, but rather, an ecosystem which includes all mankind, all animals, all plant life, all resources interdependent on one another and living together as one cohesive environment.

Learning to love ourselves and others begins from a place of reverence for all of life.  This reverence flows forward in the Buddhist greeting, “Namaste”, I honor the divine in you.  Not only other brothers and sisters on this earth, but every part of creation should be viewed and greeted with namaste.

“Honor the sacred.
Honor the Earth, our Mother.
Honor the Elders.
Honor all with whom we share the Earth.
Four-leggeds, winged ones,
Swimmers, crawlers, plant and rock people.
Walk in balance and beauty.” 

(Native American prayer for the earth)