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

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

the case for empathy

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you've got a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies-"God damn it, you've got to be kind.”
 Kurt Vonnegut

“A saint is a person who behaves decently in a shockingly indecent society.”
 Kurt Vonnegut

It seems like such a simple thing
To be kind
Like such a no-brainer

And yet there is so little kindness
Which may of course merely be a symptom
of something far deeper
and more profound

not so much a societal ill
as a sickness of the soul

something missing at the center
that has left too many souls shriveled
dry and

without love
and thus without empathy
and thus without kindness

and so it become far too rare a thing
to see “random acts of kindness”

instead we see cruelty
and the casual acceptance of cruelty

we all know the litany of ills
caged children
shot children
hungry children
sick children

we all know the litany of ills
the oppression of women
the abandonment of the ill
the shaming of the poor

this is a very old thing
born out of envy
and resentment
born out of a need to have power
to dominate
to be superior

it is very old indeed

for centuries we have fought this
struggled against this
searched to change this

but now it is nurtured
and encouraged

our dry and tired souls
need refreshing

as the world becomes a wasteland
a wilderness
we need springs of living water
gushing up within us

filling us
with presence
with love
God’s love
Not our tentative and conditional love
But that love that accepts, embraces, forgives

We need love that we might have empathy
We need empathy
That we might
Be kind

And damn it,
We’ve got to be kind

Monday, July 29, 2019

A Matter of Congruence

“It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man.”
Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

Jesus said, “God is love”
Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself”
Jesus said, “forgive”
Jesus said, “give”
Jesus said, “turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, give the coat off your back”
Jesus said, “welcome the stranger’
Jesus said, “let the little children come to me”
Jesus said, “do not despise the little ones (the least of these)”

And yet today
Each day
We see people who claim to love God

Who seem to forget that God is love
But instead act as if God is harsh and retributive

Each day
We see people who carry Bibles (do they read them?)
And wear crosses
And stick fish on their cars

Who do not love their neighbor
Who shout “lock them up” at every opportunity
We horde wealth (while leaving their workers in poverty)
Who seek vengeance, constantly, persistently, aggressively
Who seem to delight in using power on others
Who rejoice in brutality

Every day we see
An essential selfishness destroy and pretension of generosity

We see walls built, and people put in camps
And children denied basic needs

We see programs for the poor gutted
The mentally ill left on the street to suffer and die

Something is wrong somewhere!
Why is it that people default to brutality and cruelty?
Why is it that people so delight in using and abusing power?

I watch the jeering faces, as hate is spewed at
Rallies plastered with red, white, and blue

And my heart hurts
How can people go, so easily to this place?
How can people so totally abandon the way of Jesus

And find nothing in-congruent, about then turning around
Walking into a church
And singing about God’s love?

How is it we make faith all about us?
Our success
Our safety
Our power
Our rights
Our wealth

How is it we can ignore the basics?
Those critical things that are at the heart of the Gospel,
Such as inclusion, kindness, and generosity?

How is it that we can claim God
And still walk the path
Of callousness
And cruelty?

We can’t

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Human up!

“Victimhood gives us great moral superiority and entitles us to unquestioning sympathy while exempting us from examining any single one of our actions. A victim is utterly devoid of responsibility or blame. This of course leaves us vulnerable as we will carry on engaging in precisely the behaviour which provoked an unacceptable response.”
Belinda Brown

Sometimes it’s good to be King
Sometimes it’s good to be the victim

What is crazy is when people want to be both

They want to have the power
They want to use it and abuse it
They want to flaunt it

But the second they don’t have power,
They are victims

Poor me
It’s all so unfair
I am beset and besotted

Even if they are not being abused
Even the if tactics used against them are milder than the tactics they used
When they had the power

The problem is this creates a no win
In relationships
In families
In organizations
And in our government

Here is the thing
You cannot abuse power
And the cry when you lose power and the other side
Uses power to pursue the policies and agenda they would like

You did it when you had the power
If you are “right wing” person you did it with attitude

I have been amazed lately at how much people are willing
To attack others for doing EXACTLY they things they do
Especially the things they do when they have power

There is a moral high place
It is not to be found in bending the rules
Using power abusively
Coming in with guns and threatening lawmakers

Being abusive when you have power sucks
Being abusive, or trying to, when you don’t have power, sucks

If you are a person, or a party, or a president
 Who turns into a victim the instant power is threatened……?
You’ve lost my respect

If you come to the capital with log trucks and guns
(when our planet is burning)

You’ve lost my respect

I know its complex
But as a counselor I know abusers when I see them

I know the games
And the lies
And the manipulations
And the violence

I’m looking at you

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Here's to congruence

“Jesus Christ said 'by their fruits ye shall know them,' not by their disclaimers.”
 William S. Burroughs

“If your actions don't live up to your words, you have nothing to say.”
 DaShanne Stokes


Jesus said it
I believe it

“By their fruits you will know them”

What is there, at the center of who we are
What is there, deep down, at that place which defines who we are

Will eventually be lived out

If we are hate, we will hate
If we despise people, we will bully
If we are cruel, we will be cruel, and support cruelty

If we are filled with all the miseries of the earth
We will contribute to all the miseries of the earth

If we are filled with Sacred
With Love
Well, that is a different story

We are kind
And loving

We build up, rather than tear down
We affirm rather than ridicule

If you want to know what rules in a person’s heart
Then all you have to do is look

Look at how they treat the vulnerable
Look at how they talk about others
Look at how much the give, and forgive

Right now, we have people who are claiming one thing
But revealing something else
They claim greatness, be reveal smallness

We all of course do this, in various ways
To various degrees
At various times

We all have our moments of incongruence
I know I do
I talk one thing, and live another

But what does a person’s body of work say?
Who are they, day in and day out?
Who are they at their worst, and at their best?

This is important
Because it should help us choose who to trust
Who to live with
Who to put energy into
Who to elect
Who to follow

I will try to be love
I will try to put energy into love
I will try to follow Love
I will try to let Love flourish, at the center of who I am

And hope it shows

Friday, July 26, 2019

The need for a kindly God

Cruel people believe in a cruel God and use their belief to excuse their cruelty.  Only kindly people believe in a kindly God, and they would be kindly in any case.
                                                              Bertrand Russell

Some would say that our religion makes us who we are.
Others would say that our religion reveals who we are.

Some would suggest that we shape our religion to match up with our values
While other would suggest our religion (faith) shapes us

Is it time for a “chicken or the egg” joke?

We hear it said
That we create God in our own image

I think that is all too often true
Even with words to guide us
We still do it
Picking and choosing

And those who most insist
That the words
The Word
must be honor by inerrancy
And literalism

Often violate the Word the most profoundly
Rigidly adhering to some ideas (homosexuality is a sin)
While studiously ignoring others (welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, love all)

It is a tricky thing
Letting God be God
Letting the Spirit be Wind and Fire
Unbound, Uncontrolled
And essentially undefined

Roaring through out souls
Blowing us out of our safety zones
Tumbling us into the mess that that is this world

Into the radical reality
Of God’s new thing

It is a scary thing
Letting God be God
A risky thing
Letting God be God

And the truth is
That unless we let our faith
Make us uncomfortable
Unless we let our faith shake the foundations of our sincerely held beliefs
Unless we let our faith make us more open
More welcoming
More loving
More forgiving
More generous

Unless we let our faith open our hearts
To those we would reject
Open our eyes to see the value
In those we would judge
Open our hands to give
What we would horde

We have transformed our faith
Rather than allowed it to transform us

and we have revealed who we through the God we have created
rather than allowed our God who created us
to reveal who He/She is in us

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Cost

The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
 Henry David Thoreau, Walden

There is a cost to everything
Even if its free

“Don’t look at gift horse in the mouth”
If you do you might get a glimpse of the vet bills

Everything we seek
Hope for

Has a cost.

There is a cost to power
Sometimes to gain it, and keep it
You have to give up critical things

Such as justice

There is cost to wealth
Generosity often goes
As does fairness
And more
So much more

Of course even those things we consider as good
Cost us

What is the cost of generosity?
Or love?
The cost of empathy
And service

It is not easy to enter into another’s pain
Nor is it easy to give sacrificially
It is difficult to risk
To take a chance on another human being

None of this is safe
None of this is wise, from a human perspective

The way of greed and power is a way of great cost
So is the way of love

People died to end fascism
People died to end racism
People died to protect children
People died to promote equity and justice

Jesus died for the cause of love
(after rejecting the way of power and wealth)

There is a cost to everything
But as someone named Jesus once noted
“What good is it if you win the world, if you lose your soul?”

What good is it if you win and win and win
But blur the divine image
Distance yourself from the Sacred
And end up

Well, desperate

What good is it?

If I am going to pay a cost
I want to pay the cost that goes with

And yes


Monday, July 22, 2019

Still I Rise

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.”
Maya Angelou

I am a white guy in America
I am identified with the majority religion
I was raised in relative affluence
I have had all the advantages

Perhaps I have not made the most of my advantages
Definitely I have made my mistakes
Clearly there are people who loathe me, for good reason
Obviously there are people who love me, for good reason

But I will never know
The oppression experienced by a person of color
The devaluation of a Native American
The pain of a person born LGBTQI, and thus rejected by faith and family
The despair of a person born in poverty
The minimization and marginalization experienced by women

I have little or no way to connect with all of this
I have been poor, but not in poverty
I have lost jobs, but have had the advantages to find others

There is much I do not know
But I do believe on thing
I believe in resilience

I believe that each of us has some capacity
To rise

To find within us the resilience to keep putting
One foot in front of the other
Left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe!

I believe that this capacity is inherent
I believe it is Sacred

I have no illusions that the path out poverty
Or addiction
Or pain
Or failure
Is easy

And I understand that it is harder for some, than for others
Not because of who they are
But because of systematic oppression
Because of injustice and inequity

But I do believe
That we carry within us the capacity to rise
I believe, that if we tap into that “something” within us that is Sacred
That is Love
That is Hope
That is Generosity

We can experience resurrection
We can be lifted up

Sometimes it takes a lot of help from Sacred
Sometimes it takes help from other people
Sometimes the progress is halting and sporadic
Sometimes one is knocked back down
By hate and racism, by being devalued and judged

I know that I can rise out of my petty issues
And petty failures
Out of my shallow afflictions

I also believe, or perhaps I hope
That the one in front of me, born into a world of trauma
Born into a house of addiction
Born into a race or creed marginalized and oppressed by our culture

That one living in poverty
Living with mental illness
That one carrying the sins and miseries of the world
That one shaped by tragedy and oppression

Can also rise

I also believe that inside each of us there is a presence
A light
A flame

I do not know
Always, how to tap into Sacred Presence
And find my way up
I do not know always
How to support others, as they too, seek to rise

But I do know we can rise
That this is the “job” of life
To find our way up
To find our way back to our original blessing

And to help others along the way

Call it what you will

It’s a thing
It’s real
It’s work
It’s our job

So today is another day
What am I going to do today, to find my way to higher ground?
What am I going to do today to help another to higher ground?

Perhaps they are the same thing

Sunday, July 21, 2019

May it stop

Sitting at my desk
The detritus of my day scattered around me
Tasks undone
Books unread

My mind is distracted
and my soul twisted

the news of the day has once again
torn the fabric of my soul

once again I have plumbed he depths
of my own inability to connect

I have gone through the motions
Quite sincerely
I have listened and encouraged

but have felt more like an observer
that a participant in the dance of life

and now nerve pain streaks across my shoulder
nerve fibers screaming their discontent

and pain begets pain begets pain
and soon my body sags
everything hurts
and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work

and my bully braining, seizing the opportunity begins to tell me
that it is all meaningless
and that this is the sum of life

this emptiness and dissatisfaction
this anger and outrage
this despair

and there seems like nothing to do
but breathe into this pain
and let it flow
down, down, down
through my fingertips
onto the keys of my computer

and on to this page

and I as look at these words
and feel diminished by them
(I should do better than this)

I breathe
And breathe again
And mutter under my breath
To that which is intimate and immanent


Just wanting it all to stop
All the pain
The pain of the children at the border
And that of LBGTQI people who are told by so called people of God
That they deserve to die

The pain of women raped
Forced to give birth

The of those with cancer
And mental illness

The pain of those who have lost someone they love to death
The pain of those bullied

And my little inconveniences too

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The difficult path of love

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”
George Orwell, 1984

I shouldn’t have done it, really!
I was a precocious reader as a child and dove into 1984
Some time in the 60’s

Right after I read Atlas Shrugged

I know, right?

I remember my Junior High brain was mesmerized by
These dystopian novels

I confess I was seduced by the brilliant rebels in Atlas Shrugged,
Complicit with the belief that it was not “fair” for the bright and effective
to live in a world where the weak were given largesse they did not deserve

1984 just seemed surreal
and even though the shadow of Nazi Germany
still lingered, I could not envision the world ever going into that darkness again

but I underestimated the human lust for power and wealth,
and I did not understand how quickly people slide into cruelty

I should have known
I saw the “Lord of the Flies” reality play out on the playground
In the locker room

I was sometimes the target
I was a skinny late bloomer with big ears and ugly glasses

And sometimes (alas) I was the persecutor
I would like to think I was mostly kind, and accepting
(only my classmates can really tell you that0
But I had my moments

I remember a boy named Clarence Arlo Thompson
We called him CAT, because he had his initials indelible planted on all he owned
I don’t know his story, I never bothered to find out
He was smaller than I
And in Junior High terms, really different
He would run through the halls arms outspread, making airplane noises

We treated him poorly

It haunts me to this day

But what I know now,
That I did not know then,
Is the power of power

We love power
We love having power
We love using power

And for far too many there is an evil delight
In using that power
In using that power in ways that minimize, and diminish
That marginalize, that hurt

We love power
When we don’t have it we want it
When we have it, we will do anything to keep it



Orwell had it right

“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

Right now, we live in a nation
where power has become an end
Something to be used, and enjoyed
Something to be abused, and exercised perversely

This issue with power is not new
The old pre-history story of Adam and Eve
Is a story about power
They didn’t want to be themselves, they wanted to “like God”
They wanted power

It is frightening, and appalling

Some of us believe in Sacred things
Some of us believe that there is a power, call it Love, call it whatever
That shapes the universe, and shapes us

Some of us believe that we carry a bit of that Sacred
That Love, within us

And some of us believe that when we are awake to that presence
We can find within ourselves, the ability to move away
From the House of Power and Domination

To that place where we choose Love
And compassion
And generosity
And Equity

Above power

It is not an easy path
The path of love
The path of service

It is scary
It makes us vulnerable
And sometimes we lose

But if we do not chose love over power
We are choosing cruelty over kindness
Apathy over compassion
Greed over generosity

And if we do not chose love over power
The world we create
Will look a lot like the one emerging
Right in front of our eyes

Is this who we want to be?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

I don't want to care, but I do

If there’s a way forward, it isn’t in knowing less—and so I’ll keep reading and learning, and dealing with how much turmoil that creates within me. The challenging part, will be convincing those blissfully unaware right now, to allow real life to inconvenience them enough to care too; to let true information disrupt their carefully curated happiness.

Knowledge may indeed be a pain in the rear end—but it is still one of the most powerful weapons we have in the fight to stay human in inhumane times.

I don’t want to know how bad it is anymore, but I do.
I don’t want to grieve the horrible reality anymore, but I do.
I don’t want to care anymore, but I do.
                                                                        John Pavlovitz

There are times I just want to close my eyes
But like those ghoulish spectators on the edge of a tragedy
I am drawn
Moth like
Into the fire

And sometimes I get singed
The lies are overwhelming
The hate palpable
The greed depressing

But mostly it is the selfishness
The lack of insight
The privilege
That batter my soul

Not just from those who perpetrate evil
From high places
But from those who
Because it feels safe
Because it feeds their own worst persons
Because they think they will gain

Thoughtlessly affirm and applaud.
And I don’t like seeing that collusion
Oozing from people I live with, work with, even worship with

And so the news feed
And the responses to it

Sear my very being
I am discomforted

And I am  even more disturbed when the words of one whose life
shapes (I hope) my life
reveal our spiritual paucity

when those words condemn our attitudes
our words
our behaviors

and I do not know how to respond
without becoming a part of the mess

I want to “post” the truth as I see it
And I do
Then I delete
And repost
And delete
Because ??

Because I do not want to become what I resist
Hateful and angry, a person who name calls and diminishes
Because I do not believe that those who have chosen to believe lies will listen
Because I do not believe my words will make any difference
At all

It would be easier
Much easier
Not to read the news
Not to comment
Not to try and bring the way of Love into the mix

It would be easy to just “let it go”
As so many often advise
To “get over it”

But I can’t

And so I walk
And so I write
And so I challenge, hoping I am not part of the problem
And so I share what I believe to be the truth, hoping I am at least close

So I risk sounding like a fool
Being seen as a fool
So I risk being disliked, and rejected
So I risk people avoiding my little congregation

“I don’t want to know how bad it is anymore, but I do.
I don’t want to grieve the horrible reality anymore, but I do.
I don’t want to care anymore, but I do.”  (John Pavlovitz)

And so I stand
And speak
And pray
And hope

Monday, July 15, 2019

Here i am

It's all about me
It's all about me
Oh yeah, me, myself and I
It's all about me
It's all about me (You know it's all about me)
It's all about me me me me me
Everybody knows that it's all about me
Chelsea Staub

“We keep on being told that religion, whatever its imperfections, at least instills morality. On every side, there is conclusive evidence that the contrary is the case and that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid.”
 Christopher Hitchens

Power, Love
Dominion, Service
Blessing, Curse

Self Centered, Other Centered

I have been obsessed with dichotomies lately

And as I have watched the Evangelical church in America
And read religious meme after religious meme
And listened to the patter of talking points
That emerge thoughtlessly from the mouths of so many Christians

I have become convince that for many of us
Faith is all about self
My self
Me, myself, and I

When people talk about faith
We hear about being saved, rescued from the clutches of a retributive God
We hear about how wonderful it is when a person dies “in the faith”
Because they will “go to heaven”
And how sad it is when a person did not “know the Lord’
Because they will be in torment for all eternity

Faith is fire insurance
It is that simple
Turn or Burn

When I read the memes it is all about how
As a person of faith
God is on “my side”
Blessing me.  Giving me goodies
Making my life rich and wonderful
(all, perhaps, because I have somehow earned it by joining the club)

But I know if I’m honest it doesn’t work like that
Read Job, or the Psalms
Read the words of Jesus, who insists that the rain falls on the just and the unjust

I am surrounded by self centered faith
Where I am part of the inner circle
I am blessed
I am rescued
I am better
I am righteous

And perhaps there are elements of truth in all of that

But it seems to me that something is missing
What is missing is God
What is missing is service
What is missing is the radical demands of the Gospel
Which call us to divest rather than invest
Give rather than accumulate
Love rather than hate
Be vulnerable rather than defensive
Humble rather than arrogant
Servants rather than rulers

If my faith centers around me
I think I have missed the point

I think faith should center on God
On loving God
Connecting to God
Being loved by God
Being transformed by God
Or at least “re-created’ in to what I was designed to be

Faith should center on responding to the divine presence with in me

And that should move my focus
Outside my self
To others

Particularly to those other
Who are most vulnerable

My faith should not make me smug
Or arrogant
Or entitled and privileged

It should not give me permission to control
Or coerce

It should make me giving
And forgiving

It should make me a servant

I always think of Jesus who
but emptied himself,     taking the form of a slave, (Phil. 2:7)

What a contrast to Joel Osteen, and Kenneth Copeland
It is scary different

Here is my challenge to myself
To pay attention to how often
I invoke faith, on my own behalf
How often I talk about faith in terms of what God is doing
(or in terms of what I hope God will do)
For me
Me, me, me

And then to seek
To simply turn to God
And say, as so many saints and sinners have said in the past

Here I am

“I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.” (Weslyan  Covenant Prayer)

Sunday, July 14, 2019

transform the whole

Tribalism is really a form of egoism.
It's all about my people, my religion, me, me, me.
Marty Rubin

I keep thinking about those disciples of Jesus
All huddled together “in one place”

I don’t know what they were talking about
I don’t know what they were doing

But what is clear is that they had separated themselves from “others”

I suspect they shared their common stories
I suspect they broke bread, and drank wine
I suspect they enjoyed the comfort of being part of the “inner circle”
Those who had been with Jesus
Those who had “gotten it”

And I suspect they would have sat there
In that one place
A closed circle
The Jesus Tribe

But then the Sacred came
Rushing and roaring like a might wind
Burning like a fire

Then the Spirit came
And singed their butts
And blew them out the door
Tumbling them into the streets

Into the midst of the crowds
Tossing them like a human salad
Mixing them in with the dregs of humanity

With saints and sinners
With people brown and people black
And maybe even people white

Mixing them in with
Parthians, Medes and Elamites;
Residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10
Souls from Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and Libya
Strangers from Rome and Crete
Even Arabs

And in the power of the Love
Connecting them
Giving them tongues to speak
And (more importantly) ears to hear

It seems that the Spirit does not like closed circles
And does not like walls and barriers
And does not tolerate division

The Spirit does not allow us to play it safe
Or stand aloof
Arrogant observers, keepers of “the secrets”

The Spirit breaks us open
Spills us out
With the unfiltered enthusiasm
of the one who has had too much wine
gushing, babbling
awkwardly familiar

and before we know it
we are welcoming

but mostly we are mixed in
Sacred Yeast
Empowered not to add to our tribe
Not to stand apart
Not to “lord it over”
Not to control

But to touch the whole
To touch the whole world
To touch all people

To transform the “whole”
With love

Friday, July 12, 2019

if God is love

“We forget that when we see Christ dead upon the cross, we discover a God who would rather die than kill his enemies. We forget all of this because the disturbing truth is this—it’s hard to believe in Jesus.”
 Brian Zahnd, A Farewell to Mars

It hit me the other day
One of those existential 2X4s


It all depends where you start
It all depends on how you choose to see Sacred
(or to be anthropomorphic, God)

It appears people fall into one of two camps
God is love
God is Power

If God is power we see Jesus as some sort of
Divine Hail Mary
A last effort by God to get through to a stubborn and recalcitrant world
Pulling it kicking and screaming into righteousness

If God is love
We see Jesus as the creative power of Love
Coming into our midst, to show us a new way of doing life

If God is power
The cross is all about a retributive God
Enacting retribution, pour out wrath on one person
So that wrath does not fall on all persons

If God is love, the cross is God saying
“this stops here”
The hate, the anger, the greed, the violence

If God is love the cross is God taking on all the pain and hurt of the world
And overcoming it with forgiveness and compassion rather than violence and anger

If God is power then the Kingdom of God
Is about a retributive warrior Jesus who comes in power,
trampling all who have not joined the club,
destroying all but the elect and throwing the excluded into eternal torment....

If God is love, then the Kingdom of God is that time when
Nothing exists on earth that is not loving
No hunger
No thirst
No caged children
No pollution for profit
No war
No guns

Where we start matters

If God is power
Faith is a matter of being on the right side
In the club
It is a matter of being rescued from that eternal torment

If God is power I must make sure God is on “my side”
Aligned with me against my enemies
Helping me control them, minimize them, perhaps even destroy them

If God is power I will be blessed
I will have private jets, and mansions, and wealth beyond belief

If God is love, faith is a matter of connecting with Love
Being touched by it
Filled with it
Empowered by it

Faith is a matter of living love
Of giving, caring, forgiving, loving

Where we start matters

Of course it is true… it is always true
That there is falsity in dualism
Sacred is both Loving and Powerful

So perhaps it is better to say that God is power clothed in love

We make a mistake if we do not respect the ability of the Sacred
To turn things around
To change hearts
To repair souls

But we also make a mistake if we forget Love
And if we forget the inclusive
Nature of that Love

And if we forget the radical
Way of life we must follow

If God is love

Thursday, July 11, 2019

One or the other

“People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don't find myself saying, "Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner." I don't try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.”
 Carl R. Rogers, A Way of Being

my fingers hover of the keyboard
there is no gentle way to say this

and yet I do not want to offend

but I am offended
perhaps there are better words
bigger words
the best words

but I am hurt,

part of me simply unravels
when I see the hate filled faces of those with their signs
“God hates you”
“Repent or Burn”

I believe that God is love
Not just that God loves
But that the very nature of God is love

There is nothing in God that is not love

and yet

this religion called Christianity
is an active affront to this very idea

that God is Love

for woven through the fabric of this faith system
are many darker threads

and fundamentally, for many
even those who would insist it is a religion of love
it is a religion of fear

believe the right things
vote for the right person
follow the right rules
have the right ideology
belong to the right religion
say the right words

or you will burn in conscious torment for all eternity
you will be cursed by God, your life will be awful
God will hate you
you will be excluded from God’s grace
excluded from the church

what I see is not a religion of love
but a religion of coercion and retribution

what I see is a religion focused on power and control
not on acceptance and service

Oh, if we fit the prototype
if we can snuggle down inside the ‘community’
if we are on the correct side of the equation,
it all works splendidly

we don’t even notice our own language
our own attitudes
we just roll out the formulas
the talking points

we are like walking talking religious memes

we don’t notice that we exclude, and judge
we don’t notice that our faith is about domination
not servanthood

until things get hard
until the challenges come

and then our God is revealed

Our God is revealed when a refugee shows up at our border
Our God is revealed when we must choose between profit and the planet
Our God is revealed when we are asked to accept and welcome one who is different
Our God is revealed when the poor show up on our doorstep
Our God is revealed when people hurt us, or disappoint us
Our God is revealed in how we use power

Does the God we really follow
Judge?  Exclude?  Threaten?
Does that God have unconditional love (agape), or is that love extremely conditional?
Is our faith centered around fear, satisfying God, earning merit, being on the “right side?”

Or is our God love
And is our faith centered on participating in love, and sharing that love with all?

It has to be one or the other

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

All we need

For Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955), a French Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist, love is “the very physical structure of the Universe.” [2] That is a very daring statement, especially for a scientist to make. Yet for Teilhard, gravity, atomic bonding, orbits, cycles, photosynthesis, ecosystems, force fields, electromagnetic fields, sexuality, human friendship, animal instinct, and evolution all reveal an energy that is attracting all things and beings to one another, in a movement toward ever greater complexity and diversity—and yet ironically also toward unification at ever deeper levels. This energy is quite simply love under many different forms. (You can use another word if it works better for you.)

Love, the attraction of all things toward all things, is a universal language and underlying energy that keeps showing itself despite our best efforts to resist it. It is so simple that it is hard to teach, yet we all know love when we see it… We all know positive flow when we see it, and we all recognize resistance and coldness when we feel it. All the rest are mere labels.

When we are truly “in love,” we move out of our small, individual selves to unite with another, whether in companionship, friendship, marriage, or any other trustful relationship…  To move beyond our small-minded uniformity, we have to extend ourselves outward, which our egos always find a threat, because it means giving up our separation, superiority, and control.
                                                                        Richard Rohr, 6/4/19 Blog

Only Love can save us
Anthropomorphize love if you want to
Turn it into God (which is theologically sound)
Put flesh on it in the person of Jesus

Or not

But in a world spinning out of control
Fragmenting at an alarming rate
With wars and rumors of wars
Ever resurgent racism and fascism

In world with border walls
And arms deals
And mass shootings

In a world where the greedy abuse the earth for profit

Only love can save us

The problem is, of course ego
That part of ourselves that would make us the center of the universe
That part of us that cannot see past its own self interests

Sure, we all know what it looks like when one’s soul
Has an extreme case of ego
It looks like narcissism
It looks like the sociopath who simply does not care about others
Who simply cannot see others
Only his or her self

But we all have egos
And we all get into trouble here
We are all willing, at some level, to sacrifice the other for the self

Perhaps I can only speak for myself
But it is certainly true of me

There are those moments when I limit love
When I am not generous
When I exclude

Because I am tired
Because I am fearful
Because I want to be comfortable

There is only one thing that keeps me from being a jerk
(or more of a jerk than I am)
Only one thing that keeps us all from simply brutalizing each other
Name calling
Only one thing moves us beyond
Separation, superiority, and control

And that is Love (Sacred, God)
That is the way of Love (as taught by Jesus, and others)
That is the indwelling love (the Spirit)

“All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need”  (Beatles)