Feast of St. Francis

Many churches in the United States celebrate the Feast of St Francis of Assisi on October 4 each year. The feast commemorates the life of St Francis, who was born in the 12th century and is the Catholic Church’s patron saint of animals and the environment. It is a popular day for pets to be “blessed”.

Does one need to be Catholic or a professor of any faith walk to appreciate the life of St. Francis of Assisi? Francis grew up privileged in a wealthy family, enjoyed partying with his young friends, got in trouble as revilers will, decided to prove his manhood by enlisting in the efforts of the Crusades, apparently met his God while riding off to battle and returned to follow a life of supplication and poverty. His dedication to the plight of the disadvantaged, his embrace of simplicity and his love for the environment are highlights of many historical accounts. Our contemporary Franciscan order replicates the lives of Francis and Clare of Assisi.

Fast forward to 2020 and the chaos facing Americans in choosing a President. On one hand we have President Trump, apparently bolstered by numerous religious leaders proclaiming he has been sent by God to save America, holding a bible in front of St. John’s Church threatening to use military troops against protesters . Counter that with the image of Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic, paying respects to Justice Ginsburg lying in state at the Capitol. Among many Christian denominations, crossing one’s self while quietly repeating, “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost”, is indicative of that person’s belief in the Holy Trinity. Joe Biden bowed his head, crossed himself and moved on with wife Jill at his side.

Which scenario gives us comfort? Which visual image fortifies our trust in the faith walk of the man who will become President on November 3rd? To those naysayers who would comment that religion and politics should not mix, I must agree. But, a person’s declaration of faith is of ultimate importance. A man who promotes violence and discord cannot be a man of Christian values. Holding up a Bible while urging the military to move in on civil protest would not be the course of action Jesus emphasized.

So, if you profess Christianity, if you proclaim to be a follower of Jesus, which are you – a Jesus follower or a fake Christian? This is another reason I will vote the Biden/ Harris ticket on November 3rd. It has nothing to do with my religion or God beliefs. It is all about the one who attempts to deceive us.

GLAAD – ROSS MURRAY

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.  

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Ross Murray is the Senior Director of Education & Training at The GLAAD Media Institute a founder and director of The Naming Project, a faith-based camp for LGBTQ youth and their allies. Ross is a consecrated Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with a specific calling to advocate for LGBTQ people and to bridge the LGBTQ and faith communities. 

Looking for inspiration to write today’s post, Ross Murray crossed my radar screen.  One of my morning reads is RED LETTER CHRISTIANS. ORG.  It’s commentary began with a verse from Isaiah 58, verse 1:

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.  Raise your voice like a trumpet.  Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins.”

Mayor Pete, in his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Presidency, often referred to the faith walk he and husband Chasten embrace in their lives.  Yes, America, many gays do profess a God and many choose to express that profession through Christianity.  Ron Murray, an advocate for the LGBTQ community, claims a calling to bridge the gap between us and faith communities.  The use of Isaiah 58, verse one, to urge us forward into action regarding social injustices is surprising as many Christians would use the same verse to condemn those of us who do not fit into the boxes which they have created for us.

Check out the link GLAAD MEDIA.  It’s another resource for the LGBTQ community. According to the home page of its blog –

“GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change.”

PRIDE7

 

the beast vs beauty…and the winner is?

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…..instead it should be that or your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.”  1 Peter 3:3-4

How’s your good heart today, how’s the beauty of your inner self?  In today’s trying times we cannot give in to ugliness; if we do, then ugly has won the battle.  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all allude to a creation (yes, that includes us)  that is made in the image of God.  We are made in God’s image.  We are created beautiful.  Our inner selves are made of nothing but beauty.  Let that beauty outshine all the ugliness that the world throws our way.

beauty and ugly

from tinybuddha.com courtesy of unitarian universalists

 

letters – I love letters

god bless america

Several years ago , a fellow resident of Citrus County, Mark Stoltz, submitted a remarkable letter to our local newspaper, Citrus County Chronicle, which stated there are 3 things which all Americans must do:

  • 1) Think for yourself and stop believing what you’re told to believe.
  • 2) Open your mind.  Verify what is being said, whether or not you want to believe it or you’re told to believe it.
  • 3) Vote based on numbers 1 and 2.

He goes on to share possibly the greatest piece of contemporary wisdom available to mankind today.  I wish these were my words, but they are not.  According to Mark, there are three people you should never trust:

  • 1) A religious leader who tells you how to vote.
  • 2) A politician who tells you how to pray.
  • 3) A draft-dodger who tells you how to be patriotic.

I read those words in that letter numerous times and then, in tears, added a hearty AMEN to the man’s letter.

BEACONS

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.

jesus in prayer

The wisdom seekers from ancient times offered to us these words as recorded in writings which were incorporated into the Old Testament of today’s Bible:

Thus says the LORD:
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

ISAIAH 58:7-10

“Then your light shall break forth….”

Is my beacon of hope and compassion breaking forth today?  Is yours?  How about the beacon of America?  I know that I can do better, but I believe that America has lost its way.  Granted there are many who continue to offer food, shelter, solace to the homeless and oppressed, but they are not the ones in power today, are they?  Our government and, sadly, a handful of religious leaders seem to have forgotten that it has been immigrants who historically have made this nation a melting pot of ingenuity, intelligence and hard work.  Perhaps we can live today as if that beacon of hope is shining brightly.

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I   AM   LARRY – worthy, unique, loved

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RELIGION – relic of tribalism ?

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.

Okay, I get it.  Religion has inspired great acts of compassion, it has led man to creatediversity spectacular works of art and architecture, it has provided us with beautiful literature.  So, before you light the fires around my stake, consider this.  Perverted interpretation of religious belief has also caused immense human suffering, it has destroyed cultures, it has promoted the degradation of our earth and natural resources in the name of an unproven, man-created god.

Tribalism was essential to ancient cultures to preserving their beliefs and insuring their survival.  The caveman with the biggest clubs usually won the battle.  Armies with the most manpower prevailed over weaker enemies.  Scorching the neighborhood was an acceptable price for winning.  My God-belief is better than yours.  He (yes, most violence in the name of God worships a male entity) needs my defense.

WE ARE NO LONGER CAVEMEN.  With the historical destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 the USA entered mankind into a new paradigm of warfare – a pattern embracing the ability of one culture to bring annihilation to the entire planet.  Unfortunately, we continued to maintain the caveman attitude of tribalism.  We continued to thump our scriptures and proclaim limited access to an omnipotent deity  through a religious philosophy of exclusion – only this God is real, only this belief is true, only this scripture is valid.  It is rampant tribalism with a continuing caveman mentality.

I   AM   LARRY – worthy, unique, loved

unshackled 3

a Better Way

Today we celebrate what many Christians including Franciscans believe to be the most significant day of the Christian year – the birth of a new nonviolent world.  Jesus was all about nonviolence.  His ways and life, encapsulated in the Gospels, breathe a better way for Christians to engage with brothers/sisters of Hinduism, of Islam, of Judaism, of Buddhism, of all the great religious persuasions pursuing peace on earth.  Over a hundred years ago, Gandhi observed that every religion is rooted in nonviolence.  May we also, in our Christian faith walk, begin the Christmastide celebration ushering in 2020 with the peace of Gandhi, Buddha, Muhammad, Jesus on our hearts.  Namaste. 🙏

FROM MATTHEW 5:1-7, 27

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

three kings day

what does Advent mean to us?

 

three kings day

FAN Newsletter (FranciscanActionNetwork)

Sunday, December 1st, marks the beginning of the Christian season of Advent which leads up to the announced birth of Jesus, the Christ, Christianity’s reason for the season.  Have you, whether a professed follower or a non-believer, ever wondered what would happen to this child if he were born in the year 2019?

“I cannot help but think of the journey of the children, women and men forced to migrate.  In September [2019] the number of migrants globally reached 272 million, outpacing the growth rate of the world’s population.”  Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

Most of us who were raised in the comforts of an American Christian community surely remember the sweet stories about baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger being adored by the shepherds and wise men and lovingly attended by Mary and Joseph.  We remember the art masterpieces depicting a handsome Jesus, obviously an Anglo-Saxon man, decorating the church wall.

We were somewhat dismayed upon learning that this proclaimed savior of the world was probably a brown-skinned, short man with curly black hair born into poverty to just one of numerous illiterate families earning a meager living working for the wealthy, religious elite.  They were, of course, Jewish and followed Judaic traditions.  Undoubtedly, they experienced hunger and probably did not have clean water or adequate sanitation.  Security was to be found not in material wealth but in their devotion to the God of their ancestors and the cooperative charity of fellow villagers.

If Jesus were born today, he and his family would probably be immigrants on some nation’s border, possibly ours.  He would risk violence at the hands of racial prejudice or trafficking in child sex trade.  On the southern border of the wealthiest nation in the world, Jesus would likely be separated from Mary and Joseph and caged with other immigrant children.

Not much has changed, has it?  Two thousand years later and we still treat immigrants as if they somehow do not really matter to the Father/Mother of us all, that they are less loved than we are.  We continue to hang on to that image of Jesus, the privileged, Anglo-Saxon white man adorning the church wall.  We noisily thump our Bible to support our prejudice while reading the words which state explicitly that every person on earth is made in the image and likeness of God.  We somehow ignore the scriptures which tell us that we are to love our neighbors [earthly brothers and sisters] as ourselves.

The season of Advent is a journey for the Christian world leading up to the birth of its proclaimed Christ child.  In addition to all the joy, jingle bells, gifts and Santa Claus let’s set aside time to contemplate what it would be like to be an immigrant.  What if you and your family were forced to leave the comfort and security of your home and your community because of political or economic turmoil?  What if the people on the other side of the border which you must cross hated you because of your skin color, creed or social status.  What if you were financially disadvantaged and had to rely of the goodness and compassion of strangers to provide for your family?  Would you be afraid?

If we justify our intolerance and lack of compassion for immigrants by citing the need to protect our families or protect our faith tradition or protect our racial purity, or protect white identity, then truly what we cherish is but a heap of rubbish, is it not?  We are denying the reason for the season.  How can we proclaim amazing grace at the altar while disregarding the message given to us through the life of Jesus, the impoverished immigrant?

LOVE

 

separation of church and state

Living as a Democrat in rural, Republican Florida challenges one’s sense of inclusiveness and social propriety.  A recent controversy in local politics regarding funding our library’s request to make the New York Times available online to library cardholders is a case in point. My friend at BY HOOK OR BY BOOK has shared a great post regarding this issue.  It is indicative of a population which refuses to leave the 1950s.

On Florida’s horizon is a bill filed by a State Senator which would require courses be made available in our public schools at taxpayers’ expense providing studies of the Bible.  The following is the letter which I have submitted to our local newspaper.

State Senator Dennis Baxley, a Republican representing the Ocala region, has filed SB 746 to be considered during the 2020 legislative session. The bill would require courses providing studies of the Bible’s Old and New Testaments in public schools. According to the sponsors of the bill, “all state and federal laws and guidelines maintaining religious neutrality” would be maintained.

One can easily favor this endeavor to educate students regarding religious doctrine because the writers of SB 746 guarantee that such studies would not “endorse, favor, or promote or disfavor or show hostility toward a particular religion, religious perspective, or nonreligious faith.”

Certainly it would be educational and advantageous for students to learn about man’s trek across the numerous religious philosophies created throughout history by holy men, theologians and scholars to instruct, comfort and control the masses. However, knowing the history of our state’s policy-makers, can we be assured that their explicit guarantee of neutrality will be followed? It sounds reassuring today, but, what will our teachers, students, and public schools face 5 or 10 years from now? Would it not be wiser to focus this Christian educational effort in the hands of the experts in religious education – our county’s esteemed parochial schools where children are educated in an atmosphere conducive to their family’s beliefs?

Of course, should these religious studies include all the major faiths of our world including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam among others worthy of study, then, perhaps this bill could provide a well-rounded education to young people regarding various man-created philosophies of religious belief.

The key word in SB 746 is public – public education system. It is our duty to oversee and maintain this public system serving the diversity of religions, races, creeds, and lifestyles which make us a strong melting-pot nation. E Pluribus Unum, on the Great Seal of the United States, was a motto included on the seal in 1782. It means “out of many, one.” That is who we are. We are one people, one nation worshipping or not worshipping as conscience dictates. We are church people and synagogue people and mosque people and temple people. I applaud our legislators’ work to introduce religious studies into our public schools, but let’s include all faiths as worthy of study, not just Christianity and Judaism. I would enjoy a course in Buddhism, my neighbor favors Islam. Red-blooded American citizens, we are E PLURIBUS UNUM.

my creed, your creed, whose creed?

Recently, friends, those who know of my Christian tradition, question how we Christians can justify our faith considering the rhetoric and actions of a minority of evangelical leaders who glaringly contradict everything the Scriptures teach according to the words attributed to the one whom they claim as Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Fr. Richard Rohr CAC.ORG addresses this issue with the following post from his daily meditation blog.

Quaker pastor Philip Gulley superbly summarizes how we must rebuild spirituality from the bottom up in his book, If the Church Were Christian. [3] Here I take the liberty of using my own words to restate his message, which offers a rather excellent description of what is emerging in Christianity today:

  1. Jesus is a model for living more than an object of worship.
  2. Affirming people’s potential is more important than reminding them of their brokenness.
  3. The work of reconciliation should be valued over making judgments.
  4. Gracious behavior is more important than right belief.
  5. Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers.
  6. Encouraging the personal search is more important than group uniformity.
  7. Meeting actual needs is more important than maintaining institutions.
  8. Peacemaking is more important than power.
  9. We should care more about love and less about sex.
  10. Life in this world is more important than the afterlife (Eternity is God’s work anyway).

If this makes sense to you, you are already participating in evolving Christianity. Do read it several times. It only makes more and more sense.

Fr. Richard Rohr @ CAC.org

I thank Richard Rohr and Philip Gulley for simplifying in 10 salient points our creed and how it should manifest in Christianity.  Our tradition has within it the power to create righteous leaders walking aside other faiths of the world advocating social justice and peace rather than bullying and fear-mongering.

LOVE

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