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

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

where does God dwell

The Bible is most extraordinary because it repeatedly and invariably legitimizes the people on the bottom, not the people on the top. Rejected sons, barren women, sinners, lepers, or outsiders are always the ones chosen by God. It’s rather obvious when pointed out to us. In every case, we are presented with some form of powerlessness—and from that situation God creates a new kind of power. This is the constant pattern found hidden in plain sight.

          Richard Rohr (Daily Meditations, July 17, 2023)


Where does God dwell in America today? Is he at home with those who are complacent – indifferent to other people’s agony, devoid of mercy?  Is he not rather with the poor and the contrite in the slums

          Abraham Joshua Heschel  (Essential Writings)



where does God dwell?

where can we find the One who is love?


is Sacred hanging out in the halls of the private school

funded by vouchers, where the rich and privileged loiter

or is Sacred in the battered classroom of an inner-city public school?


is Love sitting on the banks of the Rio Grande, watching

or is Love struggling, in the muddy waters

pieced by razor wire?


is the Beloved one lingering, poolside

with the 1%, who, indifferent and complacent

hoard resources and wrap themselves in an impervious bubble of wealth

or with that person suffocated by poverty

living in their car while working two minimum-wage jobs?


is God with the “good ol' boys, raised up right”

the ones in body armor with the guns

the white vigilantes who seek to dominate and intimidate

or with those who must fear for their life

every time police lights flash in their rearview mirror?


does God dwell in the church which preaches domination

and promises wealth

with the church that excludes and coerces

and sits fortified in its sanctuaries both massive and small


or does God dwell with those who have stumbled from the pews

into the world to serve?

fighting for justice, feeding the hungry, housing those without homes

caring for those no one cares about?


is God in the picket line outside the Planned Parenthood Clinic,

or sitting in the waiting room

with the frightened young woman whose life is falling apart?


where is God in America today?

at a Trump rally?

in the boardroom of the oil company?

on Wall Street?

in the sanctuary of the mega-church?

skulking behind the scenes at the Family Research Council or The Heritage Foundation?


where is God in America today?

is God in America today?


if God is

God is on the street,

in the food line

at the homeless shelter

with those our systems neglect and oppress


if God is

God is with those the world deems the “least’

in the places that are the most horrific


and God’s presence is poured out

not on those who seek to rule

and enter into the pain of the world and serve


Even upon my slaves, both men and women,

    in those days I will pour out my Spirit, Acts 2:18

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The mystery we call God

Good People,

Most royal greening verdancy,

rooted in the sun

you shine with radiant light.

In this circle of earthly existence

you shine

so finely,

it surpasses understanding.

God hugs you.

You are encircled

by the arms

of the mystery of God.

          Hildegard of Bingen



how do we think of that power

that presence

that something

that some call God?


one thing is for sure

Sacred is not a bearded old white man in a robe

dispensing justice

or not

nor is Sacred a tribal King (or Queen)

favoring some human creatures more than others

(God bless America)


but neither is Sacred vague and unformed

something akin to tofu or tapioca pudding!


there is something real here

something substantial and even personal


so we try to understand

we use images and symbols

we talk about a protective father and a nurturing mother

we invoke wind and fire


and our understanding changes and grows

as we change and grow


once we saw “God” as angry and demanding

then Jesus came

and now we understand that Sacred/God/El/Father/Mother/Pneuma/Creator

is truly enfleshed

all the time


in the creation


this does not mean “daddy”

it goes deeper, or so the wise ones say

it means the one to whom we are intimately connected

and from whom life (in all its forms and phases) comes


in us

in the Spirit


there el is (I love L’Engle’s term)

knocking around in our souls

not distant, not impassive, not angry, not punishing, not vindictive



One (another inadequate term)

who shares our pain

who hurts when we hurt

who is truly with us

who feels the fall of every sparrow

who fills us with love













I do not understand

I only know that when the sun rises, I see God

when I look at the mountain thrusting into the sky

and the eagle soaring

and the child laughing

and the aged person shuffling


when I see the deer in the woods

the cat on the porch

the calves dancing in the field


when I feel the wind on my face

and smell the pines


I am in the presence of Love

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Christianity has a problem

I have been thinking

Facetiously I often say

I am therefore I think (with apologies to Descartes and “cogito, ergo sum”)


I have been watching with a kind of wonder

for it does inspire awe (not the good kind)

to watch the Christianity

the religion


I see some good!

I see compassion for the vulnerable and oppressed

from some

I see welcome (of those often unwelcome)

from others

I see people standing up for love

And people standing with those who have no others


I see people fighting for equity and equality

and for Justice

(have you ever stopped to think how central Justice is in the

Judeo-Christian scriptures?)



I also see a lot of stuff that makes my heart hurt

and my stomach ache


I see a plethora of things done in the name of Jesus

that are truly antithetical to everything he taught

I see injustice perpetrated by people overtly claiming Jesus

I see Christians siding with the way of domination and accumulation

The way of fear and hate

Racism and exclusion





I see Christians choosing to trust and follow


Not the One said I am the way, the truth, and the life


And because of that, there is so little life

In Christianity


I know

The apologists will tell me I am wrong

They will point out the good the Christian faith has done

And sometimes still does


But in doing so they will often ignore and deny a long history

of deadly collusion with the powers and principalities of the world

the crusades

the inquisition

the slaughter of indigenous people in the name of Jesus

the perpetuation of slavery


I think Christianity has a problem!

and think (thank you, Diana Butler Bass)

that we have to move beyond Christianity

into a new kind of spiritual awakening

which can be centered around

the Cosmic Christ

the creative power of Love

a Spirit that empowers


But what has gone wrong?

Or rather, how do we recapture the original power

of the Way (the movement founded by Jesus)


I think about it this way

There have been two major points of focus in the church

(and I can pretty much only speak for the American Church, after having been an ordained PCUSA minister for 46 years)


First, there has been a focus on individual sin and individual salvation

This is, to oversimplify, a movement focused on personal piety

And personal salvation


Accept Jesus.  Live according to the cultural and social norms the church has established

Go to church, do all the right stuff (pray, read the Bible, be pious)

Keep your nose clean, repent a lot,

And then, at the end, you are personally saved!  You get to go to heaven



This is fire insurance faith

You live in the mess, but for the most part, you ignore the mess

You try to keep your own head spiritually above the mess

You try to “rescue” as many other people as you can

And then you get your reward!


You don’t get eternally tortured by a God of Love

You get to walk the streets of Gold


But for some churches, there has been instead a focus

Not on individual sin and individual salvation

But on corporate, systematic sin, and the transformation of said systems

The focus has been on the need to make the world better

To bring the kingdom (which some cleverly call the kin-dom) of God

Into being here and now


So as a Church and as Christians, the job is to fight for

All those good things!  Equity, justice, equality.

The job is to feed the poor, clothe the naked, comfort the afflicted

(perhaps afflict the comfortable), house the homeless

(all the Matthew 25 stuff, all the economic and social justice stuff from the prophets)


Which group is right?  Which is wrong?



It is not simple

There is a place for piety and a place for looking at individual sin

And individual redemption and transformation

But not if that path leads to a narrow, rigid, fear-based religion that seeks

To coerce and control, and ends up excluding most of humanity.


There is a place for a focus on corporate sin

For we are in fact to transform this world (thy kingdom come)

and make it a place where love wins

and where all are valued

and where true justice reigns


But not if this leads to a disregard for personal transformation


The fact is personal transformation should lead to a thirst for justice, equity, and equality

But the fight for justice, equity, and equality will not ultimately succeed

If it is not carried out by transformed people, empowered by the Spirit\\


Personal piety goes off the path if it is not informed by the need to address corporate, systematic sin (like racism, gun violence, economic and gender injustice)

The fight to transform the world fails those attempting this important task are now fueled and empowered by the Spirit.


A vital faith exists at the intersection of personal transformation and societal transformation


It comes when our personal faith, and our personal, intimate relationship with Love

Meets a drive to change the world, and create the peaceable kingdom


This, I think is where Jesus lived

And this is where Jesus died

And this is the place where Jesus started a movement with the capacity

To make the world the kingdom of love


We need to be changed

We need to change the world for (and with) love


If we seek personal salvation but ignore the ills of the world

(or identify the wrong thing as ills because… the church)

We are not following


If we try to change the world

But try to do it using human power alone, and human tactics

We are going to fail (we become crispy critters, burned out and frustrated)


It is time to meet at the crossroads

Of personal transformation and empowerment

And social justice and corporate transformation


Because (in my humble opinion)

That is where Jesus waits for us


Monday, July 10, 2023

a worthy thing

Is there an integrity of the person, so intrinsic in its value and significance that no deed, however evil, can ultimately undermine this given thing? If a person is of infinite worth in the sight of God, whether they are saint or sinner, whether they are a good person or a bad person, evil or not, if that is true, then I am never relieved of my responsibility for trying to make contact with this worthy thing in them.

          Howard Thurman, The Growing Edge (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956), 17–18.

          Note: minor edits made for inclusive language.



we are

all of us

both beautiful and terrible

both good and bad

both kind and cruel


we have, all of us

done good things and bad things

we have, all of us

been worthy of love, and worthy of disdain


I have had my moments when I did

“very good things”

I have had my moments when I have been a jerk

when my kinder angels have been silent

and I have done things that have harmed


it is easy to love people when they are being


it is not as easy when they are hate-filled and illogical

when they side with cruelty

when they are racists, or fascist


it is easy to love the volunteer who helps the homeless

it is almost impossible to love the person

who totes an AR-15 into a McDonalds

or worse, into a school


there are people it would be all to easy to throw away

into the garbage heap of humanity


those who have been despicable

who have created so much harm and misery

the fascist leader

the mass shooter

the leader of the lynch mob

the drunk driver who just wiped out a life


the person who hurt us

diminished us

marginalized us


I struggle to find the spark of divinity

In such souls

That small remnant of sacred that makes them “worthy”


I would like to “ghost” them

Remove them from my life, my world

I would like to savor my disdain


And yet I realize that perhaps

to someone else

I am that person


I am the one who has hurt

Who has been cruel

Who is “wrong” and harmful

I am the heretic sinner

Who has lost their way


There is a “oneness” to humanity

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory



And in all there is something worthy

God sees it

I need to see it too

It is the hidden treasure

The lost coin


And it is my calling to seek until I find

that bit of “worthy” in them

just as I so desperately need for them

to find that bit of “worthy” in me


for it is in that search

that we will find oneness

and it is a task

that is never done

Saturday, July 1, 2023

the demand for equality

What is lacking is a sense of the monstrosity of inequality


Daily we should take account and ask:  What have I done today to alleviate the anguish, to mitigate the evil, to prevent humiliation?  Let there be a grain of prophet in every [soul]!


          Abraham Joshua Heschel


“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”


          Franklin D. Roosevelt




It is a radical assertion

That we poor human creatures are the image of God


Think about that

You, I, that person over there

That black person

That LGBTQI+ person

That person with the swastika tattoo

That person wiped out by drugs or alcohol

That rich person flaunting their wealth

That poor person struggling to survive

That compassionate person caring

That person who is hating

That fearful person, angry person, misinformed person


Is the image of God

Each person carries God

Reflects God


God is the God of all

Or the God of none

The image is in all human creatures

Or in none


In each person there is at least

A trace of God


And thus equality is not optional

For we are all one


It is not OK to think

God is my God, not yours

God is on my side, not yours

And it is certainly not OK to do anything

That marginalizes or minimalizes another

That oppresses another


It is not OK to enrich the rich at the cost of the poor

It is not OK to deny services to people who make you uncomfortable

(don’t blame your discomfort on God)

It is not OK to keep intact those systems that create inequality

It is not OK to systematize injustice (by stacking the SCOTUS with ideological extremists)

It is blasphemy to do those things, claiming to do them for God


There are many ways prejudice is nourished

Many ways to oppress

Many ways to deny the image


May it never be!

Mary insisted that the high must be brought low and the low lifted up


That is an affront to the ideology of domination and greed

But what is it, really?

A demand for equality and equity!


A demand that all God’s creatures find a common ground

Where all are fed, clothed, housed, cared for, educated, nurtured




That is why the imperative of the Gospel and the cry of the Prophet is

“to alleviate the anguish, to mitigate the evil, to prevent humiliation”


What have we done today?

What have I done today?


“The way we act,” Herschel insists

“The way we fail to act

Is a disgrace”


It is time for repentance

It is time for action