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, February 4, 2020

Use your brain, it works!

“Is there any point in public debate in a society where hardly anyone has been taught how to think, while millions have been taught what to think?”
                                                   Peter Hitchens

“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable—what then?”
                                                    George Orwell, 1984

“Most people do not have a problem with you thinking for yourself, as long as your conclusions are the same as or at least compatible with their beliefs.”
                                                    Mokokoma Mokhonoana


I sat with my elderly friend
as we talked about days gone by
of long lost fathers, and brothers, and sisters

of her husband
gone these many years

attendants came and went
with eye drops and pills

and then through the air
came the sound of a TV
turned up to the thunder level

as an elderly man sat
literally 2 feet from the screen watching the news

the hosts were pleasant and chatty
happy folk in their extreme whiteness

and they overwhelmed the space
with a reality I did not recognize
an alternative truth

and it hit me
to what degree we shape our own realities
or allow others to shape them

Listening to the hosts of the show
I came to understand that if I trusted those voices
I too would see the President as the savior of America
A gifted leader leading us to greatness

If I trusted those voices, as they talked about immigrants
and democrats,
and liberals
I too would fear the immigrants, despise the democrats
and hate the liberals

It struck me so powerfully
That if I had not had the experiences I have had

That person in front of that TV could be me

What I saw was a man who
I am sure
Loves his country
Loves God (as he understands God)
Loves his family

What I saw was a man who probably worked hard
And was generous
And a good neighbor

What I saw was a good person
Shaped by the family that raised him
The preachers who preached at him
The teachers who taught him
The people and the culture that surrounds him
And, those voices…
Coming loudly, out of that TV

I could see how that reality
That I see as false, alternative

Could be his total reality
How there could easily be no hole in the bubble
No crack in the wall

I cannot accept this alternative reality
Where I believe
Good is called evil, and evil is called good

I cannot accept this reality where greed is accepted
Corruption is ignored and excused
And others are see not only as less, but without true value

(Even as I write those words I realize that
Those inside that alternative reality do not see greed as greed but success and power
And see corruption as “the art of the deal”
And do not understand that they are caught up in privilege and even supremacism)

So I struggle to understand
To have compassion
To love
While watching the hate roil
And the waters become poisoned
And the earth wither
And people, so many people, be harmed
By poverty, injustice, hate, racism, exclusion,

And in this painful place I struggle to remember
That I too have been shaped

I have been shaped by my Mennonite, pacifist heritage
By my father who served his patients and community so diligently
By my uncle, a Wake Island survivor
Who hunted down the Japanese commandant who brutalized him and almost killed him
And reconciled with that man, on the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.

I have been shaped by my education (I admit it, my amazing times at four great schools have shaped my capacity to gather facts, evaluate them, and think, critically)

I have been shaped by my time as a pastor
By time sitting in hospital rooms and by death beds
By time sipping coffee, an extravagant gift, in a house touched by poverty
By time working with the poor
The mentally ill
The addicted

I have been shaped by time in Northern Iraq, Azerbaijan, Israel, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Romania, responding to war and natural disasters

I have been shaped by holding a dying Kurdish child in my arms
And looking a decimated villages
And ravaged people with empty eyes

I have also been shaped by my whiteness
And economic privilege

So I have a reality shaped by many things
And I know my grasp of reality is not perfect
I know I do not see everything clearly
I know I am biased
I know I may well, all to many times, be wrong

And so I have to be honest about how I am shaped
And who shapes me

And I have to constantly, daily, even hourly
Return to my center
To that place where the Sacred dwells
To that place where the Spirit
And Guide roams

And I have to let the Spirit help me sort out
The fine line between opinion and fact
Truth and that pesky alternative truth

Do I always succeed in finding the truth?
Of course, not but I try
I try
And I listen to many voices… not just one
Not just the same ones

And the truth is
I fear too many people have be told what to think
Rather than taught how to think

I fear there are “People of the Lie” out there
Who are peddling lies for profit and power

And I fear some very good, decent people
Are actively supporting evil, unawares

So what do we do with this?

Here are my meager thoughts…
Turn on our hearts
Become open to the Spirit
Use our brains
Keep humble
Keep kind
Keep loving

And pray
That we can be mustard seeds
That we can be yeast

And help all of us
Find truth and love, and
Build the kingdom

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