guilt and shame
anger and hatred
doubt and insecurity
DROP IT ! turn it over and give it up! the Master baggage handler will set you free.
“so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” JOHN 8:36
The days are many when I question the foundational principles learned in youth, when I retire to bed at night more uncertain than certain, when I, like a child, want to hide under the bed covers to escape from the world.
Those stories I read as a young boy – the miracles, the healings, the parables, the inspiration and hope, the guidance and correction, the ancient shared wisdom – I remember all that.
I think of numerous personal crises endured and conquered, unmentionable forays into darkness, the return from the far land, a prodigal son reunited with his inheritance, testimony of a life resurrected, forgiveness extended – I think of all that.
And yet, tonight, the term Christian confuses me. Don’t all Christians honor and revere the same Jesus? Or is it possible there were two homeless vagabonds roaming the lands of 1st century Israel? Both named Jesus? Both from Nazareth?
Is there another version of ancient writings telling of a hateful and vengeful Jesus? Have I somehow not read the Gospel of Exclusion, the one that tells white Americans they are better than the other children of God?
And all the verses that I know by heart, maybe I should not believe that “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is truth straight from our Lord. Or maybe “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” was intended only for white folks, not brown and black skins.
Some of you tell me that white Christians are God’s chosen people, that only those who congregate in certain churches will get to heaven, that it is okay to persecute others who follow a different path or those who name their God differently.
Is it really okay? Some of you say that caging children is acceptable under Christian principle, that denying those seeking safety, security and hope is biblical, that the man and woman who happen to be brown-skinned are not part of your Kingdom.
Others say that destroying our earth’s ecosystem in the name of profit will be justified in the end times because Jesus will rebuild our earth, that those who know the true God will be saved from annihilation.
Are we reading the same scriptures or do you have a different version? Did the other Jesus speak privately to you and not to me? Tell me what verse gives you the right to judge and condemn men who are not exactly like you? I must know.
My Jesus heals the sick, how about yours? My Jesus mends the broken, how about yours? My Jesus feeds the poor and hungry, shelters the homeless, welcomes the refugee, how about yours?
“For many will come in my name….and lead many astray.” Matthew 24:5
“Watch out for false prophets. They will come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Matthew 7:15
Being serious about life is hard work and soul-wearying. Have you ever asked yourself if the entity you name as God truly wants life to be a burden? Just look at Jesus, the one Christians revere as Savior. Regardless of his divinity or not, regardless of his virgin birth or not, regardless of his bodily resurrection or not, he was presented as a portrait of compassionate and joyful fulfillment by the ancient writers. He enjoyed a good wedding celebration with friends, he ate foods forbidden by his Judaic upbringing, he did not wash his hands ceremoniously before breaking bread, he counseled and healed lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors and others considered unclean and immoral by his contemporaries. He exhorted his friends and disciples to follow his example.
The Book of John, chapter 14, says that Jesus responded to his disciples, who were dismayed by his pending departure, saying, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” I have never been able to believe that he was telling his disciples to establish a new religious cult or that church fathers centuries later should create a revolutionary theology and call it Christianity. No, Jesus was teaching them how to live a contented and peaceful life in a cruel and savage 1st century, Roman occupied culture. Very simply the Way, the Truth, and the Life was his path of spiritual enlightenment shared with fellow Jews within the parameters of Judaism.
Through parables and stories he provided an ageless example for all of us to practice in pursuit of a meaningful existence in this life’s experience. It has nothing to do with religion or correct theology or a list of “thou shalt and thou shalt not.” Jesus was Jewish yet he rebelled at the litany of doctrines and laws which Judaism embraced. He knew the penalty for his heresy would be death yet refused to denounce his truth within his own heart, an indwelling God. That’s the example passed on to us – know the heart’s truth and live by it even unto death.
“Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I put upon you is light.” MATTHEW 11:28-30
I have been struggling recently – with personal issues, with faith, with the horrific injustices of government and institutions. My answers were not forthcoming because I had chosen to take my own yoke upon me. It’s a yoke of concern and worry, of control and judgement. I failed to remember that there is only one who can fix my crazy world. His yoke is easy, his load is light. He showed me how to do this with the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Lord, here’s my yoke; I want yours instead. Lay it on me.
photo by DIDS
Don’t you think ours would be a much better, more peaceful world if those who profess a god could keep it this simple? It’s as if my God is saying to me, “Just look around at the Creation which you attribute to me; it is there you will know me.”
Followers of the mystical path believe God is immanent, meaning inherent and indwelling. From the moss under the trees to the king of the jungle to the man known as Einstein, the essence defined as God exists and propels the God image through all that was, that is, and that ever will be. All that is necessary to know God is to look out the window and observe the butterfly fluttering, the bird winging across the sky, and the flower blooming. Look at the bees pollinating, the farmer planting, and the mother giving birth. Everything on earth contains the essence which some call God, others Yahweh, still others Allah, while many do not name it at all. This earth is a continuum of birth, death and rebirth. It tells us everything we need to know about life. So why look to the heavens, or why dread hell, why sit in judgement of others, why condemn ourselves in attempts to earn God’s approval? If that power which we label God did not approve and indwell, we would not be here. No theology, no doctrine, no “ism” could save us.
I have no qualms about overdoing a good thing. My day is a success if I can take myself and a few friends back to the good times. Another Beatles hit is resurrected by the BEAT BUGS.
I’m sure you have heard of the Seven Dwarfs – Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey. But, did you know there was an eighth dwarf in the group? Sure was. His name was Weepy, the taller guy in back on the right. As were the others in the group, Weepy was appropriately named because he was almost always misty-eyed. When Snow White fled to the forest to escape her wicked step-mother, she befriended the dwarfs and took refuge with them. All went well for the group until Walt Disney discovered them frolicking in the woods and wrote a tale about their lives. Unfortunately, Mr. Disney and Weepy did not get along which led to numerous arguments. Rather than dispatch Weepy to the deeper parts of the forest, the cartoonist simply wrote the beleaguered dwarf out of the script and titled it Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I’ll bet you did not know that, did you?
Do you ever feel like life has written you out of the script? No longer a player? Maybe not important? I do. Age has something to do with it, but this feeling is much deeper than the number of years on earth. It’s a pervasive sadness not related to personal turmoil or pain. No, I am not talking about depression or melancholy. I am not the Rock of Gibraltar anymore. What’s that you say? Larry, you never were a rock. Okay, okay you could be right, but in years past my strength has been derived from a belief that we would somehow inexplicably pass on to future generations a better, more tolerant world, a world where love and compassion for humanity would override mankind’s greed and ignorance.
In my lifetime. just a blip on the screen of human history, great advances have been made to ensure the rights of all who dwell here, not just the privileged and wealthy and not only the white and Christian. Women, people of color, gays, the poor appeared to be dawning upon a new era in which all people share the earth together as a brotherhood of men and women.
We seem to be trending back into the darkness of yesterday and that saddens my soul. I don’t like the script and I want to go deeper into the woods.
I once loved slinging the mud just as much as the next guy. Lord knows that today we have enough ammunition to be slinging 24/7. From religion to Hollywood to elections to politicians there is an endless supply of trash talk that can fill the airwaves with unworthy news, innuendo, gossip, and outright lies. Even the sailor in me who many years ago drank too much beer with the rowdies in the local Navy hangout blushes like an innocent schoolgirl at some of what these ears hear today.
But, know what? Sling mud and you’re going to get muddy. Or to put it in terms an old salt would appreciate, “Sling shit and you will get shitty.” Slinging becomes an acceptable way to communicate, a vocalization of the anger and disgust residing within the cranium and slinging is infectious. Have you ever noticed that when you share the first cuss word in a conversation, the other person also takes more freedom with cussing. When you talk trash about another person, those around you feel free to throw their trash into that conversation also. It’s a socially transmissible dis-order. I fear that our society has been infected with a terminal case of slinging.
This is on my mind because Trump will be in Orlando, one of my favorite cities. I know the trash talk, the bullshit, the lies will flow freely in that arena. Middle fingers will be pointed at journalists, insults will be leveled, lies will be told, and Trump will smile victoriously from the podium because he knows he has stirred up yet another crowd of supporters into hysteria. Lord knows he doesn’t know how to run a country or keep us safe or play with other children nicely, or speak truth. The only thing he can do effectively is stir the shit pot. Aw hell, here I go again slinging. I truly want to give it up. Help!
My grandpa always said, “If you can’t talk nicely, then just keep your damned mouth shut.” I sure wish he was still with us. We could go to Orlando and spread some nice conversation. Well, maybe not. Grandpa also said, “Don’t try to reason with holier-than-thou Christians, the IRS, and Republicans. They have hearing problems.”
Grandpa was a wise man.
Living the PRIDE. It’s not only about protests and political action, but also about enjoying the freedom to live as created. There continue to be many who oppose that freedom and would return America to the days prior to 1950 when the closets were filled with gay men and women who feared physical harm, incarceration and personal shame. We’ve come a long way, baby, and those closet doors have been permanently thrown open never to be shut on us again neither by government nor religion.
But, some will try. Conversion therapy is alive and well among fundamentalist Christian groups determined to “change” gays, especially minor children, to a heterosexual orientation. Years ago this conversion used barbaric methods including shock therapy, aversion therapy and in extreme cases, lobotomy. Being gay was not an acceptable family nor church circumstance.
Today’s methods, not as drastic, resort primarily to counseling and role playing in attempts to make a gay person straight. Conversion therapy is, however, unanimously discredited by mainstream psychological and psychiatric associations citing the potential for severe emotional damage to developing young minds. Many of those who condone this ‘therapy’ apply the delusional thought that the lifestyle is chosen and not innate.
Whenever this hypothesis is presented to me, my response is always, “OK, so you are a straight man/woman. If heterosexuals were a 10% minority and you were directed to become one of the gay majority, either by will power or conversion therapy, could you do it? Could you refute what has always been normal behavior for you?”
Usually the response is hands thrown in the air, a shrug, a scornful face and a few expletives as that person abandons his/her attempt to ‘change’ me. I WAS BORN THIS WAY. But even if my way of living were a choice, you, dear evangelizer, have no right to inflict your views upon me. That’s the wonderful thing about freedom – we have the right to choose. Choice is life’s golden ticket.
I have referred numerous times to the SPLC, a non-profit dedicated to exposing and prosecuting discrimination against minority groups. Recently, it won a New Jersey case against JIFGA, Jewish Institute for Global Awareness, citing the bogus practice of facilitating gay to straight conversions. Not only was JIFGA ordered to dissolve, it also will be paying the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and a financial settlement. Follow the link above, JIFGA, for the full story.