Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Friday, January 14, 2022

Thesis, antithesis, synthesis




The dialectic method of progress!


Blame Hegel, or perhaps better Kant

or perhaps better yet Fichte


or perhaps we should blame “God”

or some guy named Jesus


Think about it!

In the Bible we start with order, creation

Where all is good

Then we have the fall into a disordered world

And eventually, or so we are told, we will have a new order, the Kingdom of God


Jesus taught that we have the “self”, but we have to die to that self to become a new creation.


And now today, we have many in the church talking generally about

Construction, Deconstruction, Reconstruction


Order, Disorder, Reorder


I have friends who are clearly in the Order phase

They were raised in the church and they have accepted the faith they were taught, with

few questions


Jesus loves me this I know for the bible tells me so


And I respect their faith


I have friends who are clearly in the disorder phase.

It is not that they don’t read the bible, or respect it

It is that they do read the bible, and they find in its pages a lot of really strange

disturbing, even contradictory stuff.


I am not sure about the Reconstruction, Reorder, or perhaps better, New Creation stage is one any of us get to settle into.


Once we get broken open

Once we find a new point of statis

The holy spirit, fire and wind

Comes roaring in to disrupt things yet again!


So much for recliner faith!


What strikes me today, as I think about Advent, and Christmas,

and John the Baptist and Jesus

is just how disruptive Jesus was


John the Baptist warned everyone!

But seriously


Take the idea of who is blessed

Most people of Jesus time believed that those with power and money

Were the blessed


But Jesus said

Blessed are the poor

Blessed are the meek

Blessed are those who mourn

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst


We can spiritualize those radical statements if we want

(And make them less radical)

Blessed are the poor in Spirit (thank you Matthew)

And slip off the hook just a little


But still the statement stands!


What do American Christians do with that radicality?


We ignore it, and double down on wealth and power.


Take the idea of who is in heaven!

We would assume those who have been blessed and blessed

In this lifetime.


But Jesus turns heaven upside down, with the poor and miserable

Being those who gain a place at the table

And the rich and powerful being thrown into the abyss


Those who live die

Those who die live

That who are first are last

Those who are last are first

Those who are great are those who serve (and let go of greatness)


What strikes me most is that Jesus was with and for

and Jesus loved without reservation

the marginalized


the rejected

the doubtful

the sinful

the alien


Jesus spent most of his time with people we wouldn’t let inside

the doors of our churches.


which makes me believe that is it is indeed

time again for a little disorder


it is time to re-think everything


Because the order we have now

Probably makes God/Jesus/Spirit cringe


Our neat little formulas

Our tribalism

Our alliance with power and wealth

Our exclusionism

Our privilege


It all needs to go

The church needs to fall in the same way the temple fell

And we need to stand in the rubble

Singing hallelujah


And then we need to once again

Return to those radical teachings

We need to fellowship with the dregs of humanity

Embrace the poor

Reject the trappings of earthly power


We need to once again open the windows of our souls

And let the spirit blow again

We need to let God disrupt and disorder

So we can find God’s thing


Which is always, always newf

Thursday, January 13, 2022

nature or nurture

People always wonder, or so I seems.

Is it nurture or nature?


In other words,

how did we get to get the way we are?

It is the result of external factors

Where we grew up?

Who raised us?

What has happened to us in life?

The things we were taught?

Just dumb luck?  Or bad luck?


Or are there things about us that just are?

Hardwired in!


Many would suggest that if we are primarily shaped by external factors,

we have a great opportunity to change.  We can learn things!  Go to therapy!

Pick different friends.  We can make choices that will not only change our life trajectory but change how we function.


With this framework (advocated by Freud) I might be shaped, profoundly, at an early age, by someone like a mother or father.


My parents were great.  But dad was pretty rigid and had very high expectations.

And he was not particularly good at nurture.

So I got told a lot about my deficits.

This potentially shaped my self-perception, making me a person who always needs to prove himself.  Can this perception, and the drivenness that emerges from it be changed?

In theory, yes. As I come to understand that those are dysfunctional thoughts, and where those thoughts come from, I can reframe, and move away from that place.


If we are born with certain tendencies,

to be introverted or extroverted for example, then perhaps change is not as easy.


Meyers-Briggs assumes (based on Jung) that there are certain traits hardwired in.

I am an INFP almost an ENFP,

According to that framework that is what I will always be.  Always.

I might compensate and manage my traits,

Learn to be more extroverted for example,

But it won’t change who I am, fundamentally.


I suspect it is a little of both.

And in fact, no matter which theory one buys into

Change is not easy.


I would say I have changed.

But there are always ways in which I have not changed.


I was so anxious in grade school I took antiacids

I am still anxious.


I tried super hard to impress people when young

I still feel the need to impress people


I am impulsive, and no number of tools related to

control seem to make much of a difference.


Open up a bag of chips, I will eat the whole bag!

Put anything I like in front of me and I am fundamentally unable to resist.

Throw in a side helping of impulsivity,

and I have always struggled to not eat or drink to excess

and to not do really stupid things.


Has that stuff changed?

Not so much.


I will probably always be socially awkward (not at surface relationships, but at deep relationships.  I will always try to impress people.  I will always be trying to prove myself.

I will always do things I regret and sabotage myself.


Makes it hard to be a good partner

And a good parent.


I won’t say I haven’t changed.

I have a little more understanding, and with more understanding more control.

But still my nature, my innate traits jump and bite me, all the time.


But now for the wild card



I do believe there is something in everything


In the earth, the animals, fish, birds, trees


That is a creative, even loving reality

Religions have tried to capture this concept, and have mostly done a pretty poor job


But I do believe that if we can go inside, to our true self

Not our small self, but our true self,

The self that participates in everything,


That this power, this presence, this something

Has the potential to change, to heal


And this is why we do see people change.

Become different, and new.


It still takes work

And often the world around the person

And even the people around the person make it harder.


People find it hard to accept change in others.

A person may leave some old destructive stuff behind,

But it is difficult for those who were hurt by that person, are close to that person,

to believe in the change.


And if they act as if the person can’t change, they may in fact push that person

Back into old patterns.


So it is all very complex.

My answer to “can people change?”


Yes, and No

But I have spent my life, as both a minister and therapist

Believing primarily in the “yes”


Wednesday, January 12, 2022

love is all we have

The daily reality of our lives is not under the rule of love, but under the rule of law, of force and of punishment.  We talk about love, but we live by hate: we hate in the name of love…

          Thomas Merton


I’m sure we all agree that we ought to love one another, and I know there are people in the world who do not love their fellow human beings, and I hate people like that!

          Tom Leher (intro to “National Brotherhood Week”)



Love, love, love, love

Christians this is your call

Love your neighbor as yourself for God loves all


How is it that we get it so wrong?

The intensity of love, we might think

Would lead us into the realm of love.


That loving someone, something,

almost anything

would make us more open, more vulnerable

happier, kinder, more compassionate


and yet it seems, all too often

that extreme love can lead us into places dark and dangerous


perhaps it is not so much love

as it is extremism


Certainly, some kinds of extremism are loaded with danger

An extreme love of power

Or a love of guns

Extreme hate


But one would think extreme loyalty (patriotism?)

or extreme love of God (religion?)

or extreme love of animals (veganism?)

would be good things


Certainly, it seems as though Christianity (for example)

calls for an extreme love of God

“You shall love the Lord your God with all

  Your heart, soul, mind, and strength”


But have we not seen this extreme love of God

turn into hate for others?

Have we not seen horrible things done in the name of God?

People tortured.  Burned. 

Countries destroyed


Does not the “pro-life” movement seem like a good thing?

Who doesn’t want to protect life?

But have we not seen this movement turn cruel?

Dehumanizing women? 

(And there are those reading this who will say a woman who would abort a child deserves to be treated poorly)

Calling all who do not agree with them murderers?

(And there are those reading this who will simply shrug and say “they are!”)

Sacrificing people who are alive for people not yet born?


We are called to love

But we end up hating in the name of love!


It seems, perhaps, that all extremism

Ultimately turns cruel


And yet

There is that call for,

even that need for extremism?


How do we reconcile the need to go “all in” on some issues

and “all in” with God

with the fact that such extremism can separate us from others

cause us to dehumanize others

and then treat others

with blind cruelty


I don’t know

Jesus did

A few other brave souls have at least come close



Not so much


Perhaps Jesus gives us the clue

Even as he saw legalism

And neglect

And greed

And a lust for power in “the other”


He still saw “the other”

as a precious child of God

as a precious soul

worthy of inclusion

worthy of sitting at the banquet table

worthy of being searched for and found

worthy of love


no matter who extreme our love for anything

justice, the planet, God

we must always see the other


see them

as Sacred Children

see them as carriers of the Sacred

see them as precious


This answer feels like “not enough’

and it is, I suspect, harder than it sounds.


But on this day

As in the name of justice, peace, compassion, kindness

I am tempted to become unjust, angry, apathetic, and unkind

It is all I have.