One of the most true and authentic spiritual experiences I’ve had in my life I got to experience twice- participating in a November demonstration at Ft. Benning in Columbus, GA, organized by SOA Watch . The simple mission, to end our government’s housing and funding of this military training school (formerly called The School of the Amiercas (SOA), now more euphemistically named The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation (WHINSEC)), that sends its graduates home only to see them commit some of the most horrible human rights atrocities, in their country and this hemisphere’s history. Read up on some the latest news about recent graduates at the website, you’ll see this tragic legacy continues, and/or is finally being unearthed in many cases, after decades of silence and cover-up. All paid for with our tax dollars.
I was able to participate in 1998 and 2000, and witnessed Jesus’ call to nonviolent revolution up close. More than 10,000 of us, each year, pledging ourselves to love and nonviolent transformation; more than 10,000 of us, each, praying for each other, the graduates themselves, and all their victims….and then a few thousand of us marching together, in a silent witness for those dead victims, standing up and speaking for them, “crossing the line”, risking arrest and imprisonment, calling our countries to a better conscience…. These were late November days that I felt most human, most Christian, most alive.
The demonstration is held every year in late November because it’s around the anniversary of one of the more well-known atrocities by SOA graduates- the murder of six Jesuit priests & professors at the University of Central America in San Salvador, El Salvador, their housekeeper, and her 15-year-old daughter, on November 16, 1989. I was at Xavier Univeristy in Cincinnati at the time, a Jesuit University. It was the most somber, serious, and sad time I’ve ever experienced at any school I attended. To be able to go to Columbus, to stand and speak for these martyrs, and all the good people that mourn them….to pray and act for their murderers’ own transformations, and the transformations of their countries and my own, into places of a better Peace….to connect in my own life how these evil acts affect me, and how I can in turn affect them, transform them now and into the future….
It’s a way too busy time in my life to get down there these days, so I must have my own demonstration, in some small way, at a distance. This year’s demonstration has just begun. So I’m hoping that, if you pray, or even if you don’t….you can join me, somehow, in holding all who will be and are at Ft. Benning in the Light, as well as all those people, all these great countries, that are affected by what we support at this school. Thank you for the spiritual contributions!
Since Transgender Day of Remembrance comes up this weekend, which we’ll meditate on at Saturday’s Gathering (RSVP here if you haven’t done so yet), I thought I’d share with you all a great article, “My Body Is A Gift”, by one of my favorite Trans authors, anarchist reverend.
Very highly biblical & theological, as usual, Rev.! Which, of course, standing up to remember all those martyrs of hateful violence even our Trans friends & neighbors, is as well….
Enjoy, I’ll see you all Saturday!
Temple Emanuel will be celebrating their 100th anniversary this year in style, especially by inviting Amy-Jill Levine to speak. Dr. Levine’s one of my favorites, a JEWISH New Testament scholar at Vanderbilt. She’ll be speaking at a couple places the first week of December (see page 3 of the Gaston Gazette article), centered around her fabulous book “The Misunerstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus”.
I got to read this book with some people from Temple Emanuel through our dialogical circle, Gaston Trialogue. Truly a revelatory experience for me. What Levine teaches all Christians in the book is to avoid creating this Jesus vs. Judaism paradigm, which is so easy to do for non-Jews reading and interpreting the New Testament. She brings this to greater light as she convenes a great number of Jeiwsh exegetes to read the New Testament, as Jews, in “The Jewish Annotated New Testament”, pound for pound the best, and most important, study guide for every 21st century Christian.
I thank God for Levine and her work, and for all my Jewish friends in Gastonia. As usual, when I talk with and learn from my neighbors of other faiths, it helps me to be a better Christian. So if yer gonna be in the Gastonia/Charlotte area the first week of December, try to get to some of Temple Emanuel’s events! Should be a great party!
It’s been a while since we’ve last gathered with our Bahai friends, so please join us Saturday so we can all catch up with them! See more details at the Facebook Event page, and let us know if you can make it.
The Bahai faith holds as fundamental the oneness of God, the oneness of humanity, and the oneness of all religion. Come listen to Gaston neighbors as they explain these beliefs, and how they live them out here in this corner of the world.
I look forward to seeing you there!
So why exactly did we have “Questfirmation” at last night’s OHG? Well, it has to do with our young friend Anthony, where he is in his own faith(?) journey, and what we wanted to confirm in him because of that.
Anthony’s like a lot of young people, in that he doesn’t really believe all the traditional things a traditional Christian community affrims. So in this celebration of Confirmation, we wanted to confirm the Holy Spirit on Anthony in a different way, and affirm that he doesn’t really affirm the same things most Christian do.
So if you’re interested, pay our OHG Facebook page a visit, and see pictures of the celebration. And when you can make the time, check out Anthony’s statement of faith(?) that he wrote, below, that summarizes so well all he’s been thinking about through this Questfirmation porcess. It brings tears to my eyes to see such a yonug mind awake, and affirms that we have all thoroughly corrupted our OHG young people so beautifully well. Thank you, Anthony, for your mind and heart alive and active among us!
To begin, we’ll start with the Bible. My favorite part has to be about the couple being killed for defrauding the church. I know this isn’t exactly the best behavior on the couple’s part but nevertheless it doesn’t warrant “murder.” Now obviously God didn’t kill them. This story probably never even happened or if it did, was greatly exaggerated. The Bible has many flaws and most rational people seem to agree upon this. For one, it contradicts itself with the Old Testament and the New Testament. One says ‘do this’ and one says ‘don’t do that’ and people seem to take this in stride.
The philosophy of Jesus is great and I can see why individuals follow it. It certainly doesn’t serve as a governing philosophy for a country, however.
I digress. The Bible is both historically and scientifically false. Maybe there’s a gray area, and maybe it’s a big gray area, but there are an extreme amount of inaccuracies, nonetheless. For one, a lot of it contradicts facts. The science in particular. Which parts do I take literally? Which parts do I interpret to mean something different? Any parts that work and fit your logic, I suppose.
That makes another problem to picking and choosing outside of the teachings of Jesus. Shouldn’t one, when reading something, embrace all of it? That’s one area where progressive beliefs are illogical. Progressive Christians pick and choose the most of any dominations. While it is borderline stupid to believe the earth was created in six days and is only 5,000 years old, it’s highly irrational to interpret something for whatever you want to believe. While I believe all religion is illogical, the work of the Bible stands out in particular.
Again, I certainly believe in Jesus’ teachings and what he said. He probably lived and even said of these things. But that fact that so much of the Bible is so obviously false puts it atop the fiction list for me.
One can certainly speak for days about the Bible and its shortcomings, so what about a touch on the positive side? I think that most of the New Testament is generally rational, the gospels in particular. I really enjoyed reading the gospels, actually. It was fascinating to read Jesus’ story, despite what I believe about the accuracy of it. This is another subject, however.
I also did enjoy the stories overall, as well, and their messages. I think one can read these stories as philosophies and proverb like passages and simply take the good. But see, even I am picking and choosing with that.
That brings us to God. Well, God is a very broad word with a very broad meaning. And while we’re at it, which God are we talking about? Yahweh? Allah? Zeus? The Christian Judeo one? Poseidon? Thor? A flying spaghetti monster? When one uses the term God, what is he or she talking about? Well, I suppose we’re talking about the Christian Judeo God and Yahweh.
‘Where did the earth come from?’ ‘God.’ ‘Okay, where did God come from?’ ‘God was, is, and always will be.’ Well, see, that’s not an answer, actually. I often find myself having that almost exact same dialogue with believers. I would say the earth, and the universe, came from the big bang. Okay, that’s science and what we call a fact. Some Believers say well, no, the earth was created in six days as it says in Genesis, clear as day; it says six days and one to rest. The other set of Believers say we can’t understand God’s definition of time, so six days could be anything, which is just as bad, if not worse, because it says six days. It literally labels the days: Day one, day two, and so forth at the end of each day of creation.
So, the question remains, what God actually is the God? I’m only discussing the Christian God because we’re in a culture that is heavily Christian. It is a pure happenstance that we profess to believe in the Christian God. Nonetheless, here I am writing about it.
So, when someone asks me if I believe in God, I will undoubtedly reply with, “Which one?”
Church: do the positives outweigh the negatives? The answer, simply, is no. Now, no one is arguing that church doesn’t do positive things. Church provides people with shelter, food, connection with their communities, a possible direction for their lives, and a place to worship what they believe in. These are just a few things. The buck stops there, however. What about the fueling of hatred, ignorance and oppression of people? Slavery then, homophobia now and what’s next? Of course, one could talk for hours about the Catholic Church, but for the sake of time, we’ll say that’s just assumed. There isn’t much to say about the church, or church in general, without tiptoeing on to other areas so we’ll move on.
Religion, in all its glory, is the centerpiece of most, if not all, civilizations, today and throughout history. Religion, or maybe faith more appropriately, is the purposeful suspension of critical thinking. So, why are people so inclined to be religious? Fear? Ignorance? Indoctrination? It’s a happy combination of the three. I daresay, without religion, we would be a much more peaceful, and advanced people. We wouldn’t have to argue about global warming, evolution, and millions, if not hundreds of millions, of lives would have been saved. Yet, here we are in the twenty-first century and we’re still arguing about whether or not climate change is real. Sure, there have been some positive outcomes from religious practices like I listed above, but none that are worth the genocides and depolarization of facts that we have had to deal with and still do and probably always will have to deal with. I could go on and on about religion, maybe even write a book about it, but time is short.
Let’s look at Jesus and compassion together, since they go hand in hand. Jesus talked about compassion all the time: ‘Love your neighbor.’ That is the most basic, yet most encompassing quote to be found about compassion. Jesus preached about how you need to love the poor, your enemies, everybody. He wanted you, us, to have compassion for everyone and everything. He was a hippie. Everything written in the gospels about Jesus is awesome. I could live by everything Jesus said and did and I would be a great person and people would love me. However, humans are a vengeful and spiteful people and we like violence, so the Jesus philosophy works in theory and only sometimes in practice. That isn’t to shoot down what Jesus said, there just has to be a level of reality involved.
Building on that, if a person chooses to live as Jesus lived, that person will, for the most part, have a long life, full of peace and productivity. If I stop and think, what would Jesus do, I will survive most everyday situations.
That brings us to salvation and the cross, which also go hand in hand. Jesus, for all accounts, was crucified on the cross, so we’ll say that is truth. Did he rise three days later? I don’t know. It’s impossible to know. Did he die so we could have salvation? In a sense, yes. Jesus gave us teachings, lessons, philosophies that have lasted over 2,000 years and changed the way people think. Maybe we have salvation in the sense that Jesus taught peace that was unheard of at the time. Do we have ultimate salvation? Again, it’s impossible to know. I lean towards no, but no one can say for sure.
Asking the question ‘Did he rise three days later?’ is more critical to faith than ‘Do you believe in God?’ simply because the former is so much more complex. Be that as it may, I simply don’t know, I cannot profess to know one way or the other, and I will probably never know. Nor will anyone know, for that matter. I am inclined, however, to believe it may not have happened.
I am not a proponent of religion and I have made that abundantly clear. I believe in science, logic, and rational thought. The rest is up in the air.
On this, Saint Francis’ feast day, I must share with you all a very Francis-ish reflection from Gerry Straub, and great filmmaker and spiritual guide for me. It says a lot of the same things I feel as a Monk In Place, and the loneliness of longing for God that I experience heavily at my new endeavor up here in my new home of Asheville, Asheville Monastery. I hope it has some meaning for you, too. And that you had a great Saint Frank day!
St. Francis of Assisi longed for God beyond all measure. And his intense longing took him to places few had traveled to, places deep within himself and places far from Assisi. On his journey to God he traveled down a very lonely road.
Francis was a spiritual innovator and like all who have created something original he must have endured a great lonesomeness, despite his numerous followers and companions.
On Easter Sunday, 2009, during a liturgy at the Ermeo di Carceri high above Assisi, a favorite place of solitude for St. Francis, it dawned on me that the loneliness and longing within each us is a very basic way for each of us to connect with St. Francis.
His soul longed for God even in the night; from early morning and throughout the day, with the sweet affection of Mary, he kept watch, looking and longing for God and God alone.
To long for God is already to experience, albeit faintly, the presence of God. And to experience more and more of God was all Francis wanted. And it is all we need….
I Love you all!
They are simple concepts, but get oh so lost in the complications of this weary world we live in….
So we’ll explore what Peace and Justice are when we gather this Saturday, 6:30 PM, at Steve’s house, in our event we’re calling “Stepping Forward toward Peace and Justice”. RSVP at the Facebook event page, and if you need more info., make sure to check out our Facebook page itself.
Thanks ahead of time for all that you already do and are for Peace and Justice in the world! I Love you all, and look forward to seeing you!
We decided to meet together yesterday with others concerned about Peace and sanity in Syria, in a demonstration to keep the US out of military involvement. See some news coverage here of the evening, and many more details at the OHG Facebook page. Thank you to those who could make the time to be there! And if you couldn’t know that you were well represented….
If we cannot be about Jesus’ Gospel of Peace….well, I guess there isn’t much left we can be about….so if you pray, please pray with me that our country keeps it evil war machine out of Syria. Thanks for your help, I Love you all!
Hey friends, we got a lot goin’ on for tomorrow’s Gathering! 6:30 PM at Steve’s house, at which we’ll celebrate our spiritual communion together,
talk about everything going on with Charlotte Pride Week, comin’ up this week,
as well as Charlotte Moral Monday, comin’ up this Monday.
Hey friends, if you can, join us as we take OHG “on the road” to the performance of “The Laramie Project” in Gastonia.
If you’ve never seen the play, or the movie, and even if you have….come on out with us and other local friends, from PFLAG Gaston and other communities, for this heart-wrenching story of the people of Laramie, Wyoming, and their various reactions and reflections on the murder of Matthew Shepard, by people of their community.
RSVP at the PFLAG Gaston event page they set up on Facebook if and when you can. Check there for ticket info., and how we’ll be meeting up with each other. If you need anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Thanks! We look forward to seeing you there!