the American way

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“Turn your ear to me, rescue me quickly.  Be a rock of refuge for me, a stronghold for my deliverance.” PSALM 31:3 TL

Worldwide, these are difficult times for all of us.  It is interesting to observe what or whom people turn to in times of adversity.  The following is my response submitted to ‘letters to the editor’ to this morning’s local newspaper headline.

Yippee ki-yay, buckeroos. Citrus County residents must be planning for a range war that would make the wild, wild West of yesteryear look like a cake walk at the local church picnic. Today’s Chronicle headline reads, “Local gun store sales soar.”

Surprising? Not at all. This is the American way – solve insecurities, fears, and differences with a gun. I remember an old western movie in which the hero manned 5 guns at one time thus eliminating the band of bad boys who were threatening him. Maybe that’s what fellow Citrus residents envision? Or perhaps they foresee a government intent on confiscating their weapons? Now fellows, I am not the brightest light bulb in the package, but if your government wants your guns, then it will swoop into your neighborhood with more firepower than y’all ever dreamed in your worst nightmares. And guess who is going to be dead? Probably you and I plus a multitude of peaceful neighbors caught up in your cowardly shenanigans.

One of the most obscene bumper stickers which I have seen reads, “God, guns and guts.” Is this the mindset of a nation which boasts a heritage based on teachings of a man advocating peace and compassion for all humanity? We have become myopic, extremely short-sighted regarding diverse cultures and faith walks promoting peaceful co-existence with the world. An outside observer could rightfully believe that many Christian Americans have chosen violence and guns as their God.

The Dalai Lama once said that there are no Muslim terrorists, no Buddhist terrorists, no Christian terrorists. One cannot be a man of violence if one truthfully and faithfully professes to be a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Christian; conversely, one cannot truly be a Muslim, Buddhist or Christian if one promotes violence as the answer to adversity.

Two quotes, from men much wiser than I, have greatly influenced my life’s philosophy:

1) “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”  GILBERT K. CHESTERTON,

2) “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  MOHANDAS GANDHI

God, guns and guts. Really? Will this be America’s legacy? We are all facing severe insecurities regarding food supplies and other available resources. We face financial hardships unknown since the Great Depression. Will your answer be a gun or will it be faith in goodness and mercy?

Do I expect that my words will stop a neighbor from buying a gun, or from using that gun on a desperate man in need of food, or keeping that gun loaded by his bedside, or mistakenly pointing that gun at me?  Hell no!  But, I know that guns do not kill people; therefore, I am not afraid of guns.  Rather, it is angry, insecure, unpredictable people brandishing guns who kill people.  For today’s times I choose to entrust my life 🙏 to a universal force of goodness and mercy that comforts and consoles in all circumstances.  Sorry, 2nd Amendment people, guns do not translate into security and safety in my world.

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specks and logs

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
step 4 – ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

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Don’t know about you, but I hate turning the critical eye inward.  Presumably you will ask, “Why is that, Larry?”

Up until I had several years sobriety behind me, LarryPaulBrown was the world’s foremost expert at condemning himself.  “You never do anything right, you are a failure,” were my life’s defining words.  “Why can’t you be more like Joe, the school sports jock, or Mary, the class valedictorian, or Pastor Jones, the community rock?  Why, why, why?”

Doing an honest 4th step, a searching and fearless assessment of me was a daunting task until my spiritual advisor set before me on paper two columns – one for the negatives and one for the positives.

“But,” I protested, “I can’t think of any positives.”  Thank God for the patience and insight of our sponsors who guide us through these growing pains.

Even today it is infinitely more comforting to look at you and take your inventory.  Yes, old habits die hard.  The ego loves this – ‘I’ and ‘me’ become bigger and superior – it creates separation and otherness.  My defects are not as severe or humiliating as yours.  “Well, I never did that. Tsk, tsk.”

Ultimately an overly active ego, a continual subversion of one’s inner truth to ‘I, I, I and me, me, me’ creates violence between individuals and warfare between nations.

Verse 41 in the 6th chapter of Luke says, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

What’s in my eye today?  What’s in yours?

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peaceful change

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“The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from being one with oneself and everything else, and from Being Itself. When we don’t know how to consciously live out of union (which is called love), we resort to violence, fighting anything that is not like us and that we cannot control.” cac.org – Richard Rohr

When we apply these words to the insanity of today’s violent, non-sustainable assault on the vulnerable people, the poverty-stricken, the minorities of our planet, and on earth itself, perhaps we can begin to understand that our solutions to these problems do not lie in answering what, how, when, but beginning with the question who.

Who are we?  Americans tend to answer this question with descriptions of their physical bodies, their gender, their accomplishments, their education, their suffixes following their names, their financial gains in life, their country club status, their professional titles.  JUST STOP!  Stop labeling and begin searching.

Look to that interior voice which says, “you are love, you are compassion, you are kindness, you are made in the image of the breath which created you.”

“Contemplative practice teaches us to honor differences and also realize that we are all much more than our nationality, skin color, gender, or other labels which are all aspects of the passing and thus false self. Contemplation brings us back to our True Self, who we are in God.”

JUST STOP!  Stop denying the truth and purpose of the higher Self.  When we become less we become great.  When we become “little enough, naked enough, and honest enough, we will discover that we are more than enough.”  Salvation, enlightenment, end of suffering is not about ascension to the heavens, looking upward to an imaginary God, or living righteously.  No, it is a downward migration into the depths of this world’s poverty of soul and recognizing that here is where reality and truth are to be found, here is where we will change the world, here is where nonviolence begins, here is where God dwells.

(all quotes are from today’s meditation @ cac.org – Richard Rohr)

LOVE

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil….
not to speak is to speak,
not to act is to act.”
DIETRICH BONHOEFFER 1906 – 1945

dietrich bonhoeffer

“There remains an experience of incomparable value. We have for once learned to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcasts, the suspects, the maltreated — in short, from the perspective of those who suffer. Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior. Christians are called to compassion and to action.” (Letters from Prison, p.16)

“In following Jesus, people are released from the hard yoke of their own laws to be under the gentle yoke of Jesus Christ. … Jesus’ commandment never wishes to destroy life, but rather to preserve, strengthen, and heal life.”

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER

Having read the short biography of this German pastor and social activist who was imprisoned by Hitler’s Nazi regime and executed by hanging in 1945 just a month before the collapse of the 3rd Reich, I can only ask myself, “What would I do?”  And then without hesitation I ask, “What would Jesus do?”  I pray that my actions would mirror those of Bonhoeffer and Jesus when confronted by the challenges of pursuing social justice.  What would you do?

Darkness in today’s political climate is real.  Evil exists in the policies of a regime intent on instituting white, Christian control of this country and evil abounds in the minds of those who support those policies.  That evil is fed by fear and by greed.  It is no longer an issue which we can hope reason and compassion will remedy.  Non-violent confrontation, not only in action but also in spirit and intention, mirrors the lives of Bonhoeffer, Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr. and certainly the example presented by Jesus of Nazareth.  For contemporary church leaders to disavow these teachings while sanctioning racism and xenophobia is heretical doctrine akin to the regime Bonhoeffer confronted before his murder.

Lord, open our eyes to the evil within our own hearts and then guide us to non-violent confrontation of the evil existing in our nation.

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my cross

The oppressed and the hated members of civilization have always been around.  The oppressors and the haters have also been always a historical fact.  They could not exist without each other, could they?  A number of religions advocate violence to achieve the Kingdom, some followers are committed to conducting a murderous rampage on earth in attempts to eradicate evil.  But, this cannot be God’s plan for humanity.  God’s plan forCANDLE his children is to evolve to a state of enlightenment in which violence is non-existent, where brotherly love and compassion reign, where each man serves his neighbor but no man is a slave.

How dare I say this with authority?  Simple.  Our God does not contradict God.  I know without question that Jesus, the premier endorser of active non-violent protest against a corrupt world system, gathered his disciples, taught love and compassion, healed the sick, cleansed the demon-possessed, and then died on his cross because the message from God  to be shared and carried across earth said, “love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Jesus was crucified for loving his neighbors and teaching peaceful co-existence.  Likewise, we also are exhorted to crucify ourselves, carry our crosses for the benefit of mankind.

But, we also know that Jesus did not die.  Jesus, his life and the message, live on eternally because God will not contradict the love and compassion of God by allowing the message to die.  Jesus came to us, a desperate and broken humanity, as the example to follow to enlightenment, not just another divinity to be worshipped.  Christianity, in its historical commitment to worship and adoration, has sometimes missed the Jesus boat.  Jesus is an example for us to emulate, not just an image hanging on the wall to which we bow heads and recite fervent prayers.  Jesus on earth was a man of social action giving himself in namaste rainbowtotality to the needs of the less fortunate and teaching the established religious orders of his day the truth of a loving, compassionate God.  Jesus is no less than that today and we, as followers, must live by his Way or die by the ways of a world driven by corruption, oppression, and hatred.