the marginalized

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“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

Fr. Richard Rohr

NAMASTE

If you have read none of my previous posts nor read any of my writing hereafter, please take 2 minutes of your time to read this from Fr. Rohr at cac.org which, in my opinion, nails the world-wide crisis of social injustice occurring in these extremely difficult times.

cac.org

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was it good for you?

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”

smiley-face-2I would like to think that I am the guy who always keeps a cool head, always speaks kindly, always responds in a civil manner.  But, I am not.  I stammer, spit, and sputter in moments of anger or disgust.  In my mind I am able to read to you the riot act when I feel I’ve been maligned.  Don’t you know who I am?

In the previous paragraph “I” or a form thereof was used 8 times.  That is the problem.  “I” sometimes becomes the dominant pronoun used in thought and conversation leading to a severe case of me,me,me which almost always excludes “you”, “they”, and even “we” from any dialog.  It becomes a one-sided conversation which clearly clarifies my position, but simultaneously bars you from taking part in the interaction.  Great ego stuff for me, not much fun for you.

The world is like that, is it not?  Tact, civility, and compromise have all but disappeared.  Conversation consists of pointing accusatory fingers, pumping personal ego, and demanding respect where respect is undue.  “My way or the highway” has become the norm in political discourse separating your party from my party and forcing one of us to be the boogeyman.  In a candidate debate for elected office, the debate often turns into a tit-for-tat assault on personal integrity.  Oh, never mind that children in America are starving, that violence is escalating alarmingly, or that we could be nuked tomorrow.  You, candidate A, are a scumbag and I, candidate B, will let our constituency know all your lurid details.  Really?  Do you think the homeless veteran scrounging for a meal in the dumpster really cares what candidate A did?

It seems that we take our cues from celebrities, the rich, and the famous.  As they do, we want to do.  As they speak, we speak.  Twitter and Facebook have made it too simple to assail, insult, assault, libel someone we probably don’t even know without any threat of accountability.  No need to fear blackened eyes or missing teeth from a physical one-on-one confrontation.

Personally, as I have confessed, I still go there sometimes.  The verbal barrage, the unkind thoughts, and the judgmental attitudes can swoop down on me in a heartbeat.  But, when the emotion is spent and the brain is engaged, I find myself saying to a beleaguered me, “Was it good for you? Did that tirade make you feel better about yourself?”

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the Critic

I watched several messages on You Tube by a popular pastor, Marcus Mecum , at 7 Hills Church located in Florence, Kentucky.  The man delivers inspiring teaching to his non-orange treedenominational followers and his “church” is not adorned with all the usual accoutrement one expects in a Christian church.  The pulpit is more akin to a stage setting with a background of contemporary light displays.  There is a lot of shouting from the audience, I mean congregation, and lifting of arms and hands towards the heavens.  Although many verses from Old and New Testament scriptures are referenced, one has no doubt that Jesus Christ is the mainstay of this church.

“When you are a critic, you become a victim.”  Pastor Mecum struck a deep nerve with those words.  That describes me in many situations occurring in my life today.  It is especially apropos in the political climate of the past year.  Being a critic has become so easy when I am fed a steady diet of scandalous stories and personal slander on every news outlet and late night TV show.  My character defects thrive on the garbage which flows ceaselessly from the mouths of pundits and experts.  It all makes me feel so absolutely normal and well-adjusted.  I’m not like those imbiciles and morons who are being internationally scorned and ridiculed.  Yea for Larry !

“Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Oh, well that doesn’t apply in this scenario, does it?  Those fools deserve what is being unleashed on them.  They are idiots.  Their mouths are forever talking trash about the other guy and just look how they conduct themselves.  The carousing, the immoral behavior, the greed, the obscenity, the lasciviousness and crassness which I see paraded in front of me as newsworthy information.  Thank God I am not like them !

“Really?  You have no sin?  You are not just as broken as they are?  You got all your ducks in a row, right?”

“Well, not exactly, Lord.  I’ve got some minor problems, too.  Well, actually, my defects are pretty glaring.  You know all of them.”

“Yes, I do.”

Victimized.  I have been victimized by my own ego; my pride is telling me that I am a notch above all the shenanigans happening on the national scene. My sins are not as egregious as their sins.  My behavior is more civil, more godly.  I have the authority to be a critic because I am better.

And it’s not OK to spend so many hours of my day judging the actions of others rather than celebrating in meditation and prayer the  freedom bestowed on me by a gracious Savior who loved me enough to pull me out of those same slime pits.  I still belong there, I am still more comfortable there, and I shall return there if I continue to be a victim of my own judgmental nature.

Jesus told the men of the village when an adulteress had been apprehended,  “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” John 8:7

We know the rest of the story.  Not s single man had the moral authority to cast the first stone.  10When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11She said, No man, LORD. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” John 8:10-11

Overlooking an opportunity to castigate and berate national figures, “neighbors”, is sometimes difficult, many times impossible.  For me, it takes a lot of prayer and practice.  It does not come naturally because in my natural state I am not a nice man.  But, Jesus has called me to be better than that.  He has called me to “go, and sin no more.”

I cannot be a winner when I am a victim of myself, my sinful nature and character defects.  For me, Jesus is the only “Way” to victory over myself.smiley 3

 

 

…been to the mountain

In the small world between my ears I can think of nothing as frustrating or disgusting as politics.  The limited federal government envisioned by the men of wisdom who forged cropped-patriots1.pngour experiment which was never before undertaken by like-minded citizens has ballooned into an unwieldy and corrupt behemoth which favors wealth and power at the expense of commoners who keep the country’s machinery running.  We are the simple, unassuming folks who pay bills on time, raise families, volunteer in our communities, and trust in the power of love and compassion.  We support our local charities, tithe in church, and buy those outrageously-priced Girl Scout cookies every spring.  We don’t ask for much in return other than a chance to run our lives without interference from legislators and politicians who see us as a ticket to power and riches.  We are the backbone of a great country composed of every creed, every race, and every lifestyle imaginable.  We are America and this America which we embrace will not disappear nor hide behind closed doors in the face of governmental tyranny and oppression supported by imbecilic minds and moronic behavior.  They may have the money to build palaces unto themselves, eat filet mignon (or cheeseburgers) every night and adorn themselves in designer clothes.  They may travel in jets to vacation spots worldwide at our expense and they may spend weekends knocking a little white ball around manicured, artificially beautified acres of greenery, but, when the final tally is made, when life for them is over, they will be as naked as jaybirds, poor as church mice, and answerable to a Supreme Power saying, “I knew you not.”

OK, that’s my political rant for the day.  Now, on to the  important things fluttering within my brain waves.

The eternity I seek is not some faraway place in the distant future.  It is happening right now, right here in the world of LarryPaulBrown.  Every breath I take and every thought I have is a moment of eternal commitment.  Whom or what I choose as the focus of my commitment determines what my present moment will provide to me.  It can be spent within the peace of a loving, compassionate God or it can be a endured in the chaos of a world gone mad.  It truly is up to me where I go with my mind and my life.  By no means have I attained a sustained state of bliss, but I have seen moments of what is  available and I want more.

Martin Luther King, Jr., in his last speech the night before his assassination in Memphis gave one of his most powerful insights into that which is available:

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like any man, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 3, 1968)

We all need to go to the mountaintop and look it over.  From that lofty state of mind the things of this earth are irrelevant.  Our eyes will see the glory.  The coming of the Lord has happened.  It is right here, right now.  Just open your eyes, spread you arms and receive Him.brilliance

 

 

 

Bingo!

The airways, the newspapers, and our very own blogosphere are filled with chatter about 1st Amendment rights especially the freedom of speech and expression.  Yes, it is an important issue to all sides of the conversation from left to centrist to right.  But, should it be stirring up such controversy and baiting?cropped-patriots1.png

We have always had this right since the inception of our Bill of Rights.  It has been there regardless of whether the interpretations have been handed out by the Supreme Court of the United States or Joe Blow from Yakima. The Preamble states that these inalienable rights have been granted by the Creator under the heading of LIFE, LIBERTY & PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.  Take notice!  The “C” in Creator is capitalized.  That means this Creator is not just any creator but, THE CREATOR.  That makes the reference special.  It does not matter if you believe in my version of a creator, Tom Jefferson’s version or your very own personal version which could be that amoeba from way back in the primordial slime eons ago.  Freedom of speech and expression has always been ours, yours and mine,  since its creative inauguration.  Accordingly, it is our, yours and mine, responsibility to grab onto it, cherish and protect it .

Problem is that some folks believe theirs should take priority over ours.  Theirs is better, more godly.  Maybe theirs has usurped passages from scriptures or maybe theirs is founded on outdated traditions, or maybe theirs is simply some cockamamie interpretation of what grandpappy preached as truth.  It matters not because, as much as we would like to deny this, theirs is as valid as ours.  What has heretofore saved our civilization from annihilation is that we collectively employ  a conscience as a navigation system to pick through the varying ideas regarding freedom and for the most part have used that guidance judiciously.

Here comes the glitch.  My conscience guidelines could be light years away from the conscience of another.  So what do we do?  Well, we could all pull out our placards, put on our marching shoes, exercise our shouting voices and stand face to face to those with whom we disagree.  That’s not a bad thing, actually it is a good thing when we also cover our hearts with another characteristic which is not inherent, it needs to be nurtured and practiced.  That trait is civility.

I can oppose your viewpoint by letting you know that you are the biggest asshole in the world, call you names which would make my mother ashamed, and raise a fist to your nose hoping to duck any fists you could raise to me.  Lately, that seems to have become the American way.

Or I can exercise my abilities as a statesman and simply say, “Sir/Madam, I hear your point of view, I honor your right to express it, and I respectfully disagree.  Now, please hear my viewpoint.”

I believe that this is how great leaders and statesmen of the past have conducted life and achieved greatness for America.  They did not wear red hats or pump fists.  They did not tweet infantile insults at those who disagreed with them.  No, if responses were necessary to protect their freedom of speech or expression,  it was normally,  “I hear your assessment and I respectfully disagree. Now, hear mine.”

Civility.  It goes a long, long way in resolving issues and conflicts.  I freely admit that I also need a refresher course in civility basics now and then.  I am not immune to the name-calling and drama which has become a normative feature of today’s political discourse.  Ultimately, I want civility in my life because it lays a foundation for my primary objectives of “clean and serene” while trekking through God’s universe.

“Count to 10 before you open your mouth.”  Those words spoken by a very wise old man to me as a rebellious, young know-it-all hold a vast reservoir of  wisdom when practiced out of respect for others as well as myself.

“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”  Proverbs 10:19

It seems that the disagreement over what is tolerable under free speech and expression is the vehemence, hatred, and violence which some are claiming as protected under 1st Amendment rights.  How can it be?  We can all talk about every issue until the cows come home and agree to disagree, but you threatening me and my family through words or actions with physical aggression or death because I do not think, talk, act, nor smell the same as you cannot possibly be what the Creator nor our founding fathers had in mind when they spoke of our inalienable rights. If so , then mankind is definitely not destined to be the enlightened species capable of unfathomable love and compassion as we have envisioned.

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