Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Welcoming Miracles

Over the past decade, I've been something of a wanderer. I was, for a while, estranged from my family. I left my longtime church and went through a long search for another one. Several close friends moved out of state. Then my longtime therapist (also a good friend) passed away -- shortly before first my father and then my mother also died.

I have tried to face too much alone. Now that I have -- at last -- found the church I've been searching for all these years, I'm finding it easy to make friends. I've begun reaching out and finding support -- building community -- and as I get more involved in church, politics and life, I'm feelin' the love again.

Now that, once again, something I greatly feared turned out to be groundless, I can admit this. For a long time, I was afraid that if I reached out for fellowship and support, everyone would yawn, shrug and turn away. What actually did happen is what I should have known would happen. People have been wonderful. A good many of them -- more than I could have hoped for -- have responded with great warmth and generosity of spirit.

People are better than I thought they were. There's much more goodness in them than I realized. I'd gotten pretty jaundiced in my estimation of human nature. We're not devils (at least, most of us aren't). And we do have better angels in our nature.

I've also been worried about how we, as a nation, would respond to the economic crisis we're all living through. Would we be at each other's throats, tearing our fellow human beings to shreds? Would we still be capable of pulling together and treating each other with compassion?

It's too early to know for sure, but I can only base my guess on my own, personal experience of late. In times of need, people will rally. We really WANT to care about others. Indeed, it seems to be a big part of who God made us to be.

And God is the key here. As I began actually reaching out for help and personal support, I made my need for this part of my daily prayer-life. As I poured out my need to God in prayer, I truly believe that "He" heard me.

Boy, did "He" ever! I asked, and I have received. Knocked, and the door was opened. Blessing has been poured out in abundance. My cup truly runneth over.

God has answered my prayers before, of course. It's happened so often that if I had any sense, I would no longer be surprised. Because God knows exactly what I need, "He" seems to prompt me, in fact, to know what I should pray for -- and to have the guts to go ahead and ask.

Everything good comes from God -- both inside of us and from without. That's true for us as individuals, and it's true for us collectively, as well.

I've been praying for us to come together now as a nation -- and as a world. I believe God put it into my heart, as "He" has into the hearts of so many others, to ask for this. Just as God has given us the will to pray for this -- so right, and so very, very crucial to us all -- God will certainly answer these fervent prayers of ours. The miracle is coming. Let's be sure we're ready to welcome it with arms wide open.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ship of Fools

As happens whenever the Religious Right's rampages flare to supernova magnitude, a major backlash is boiling. Many, many people at the Left and Center are angry -- VERY angry. The predictable cries now ring loudly again for religion's total, surgical removal from the public square.

Of course we don't study history anymore, so many of us seem unable to put what's going on in any intelligent perspective.

This is a regular cycle: the fundamentalist zealots get too big for their britches, they manage to convince the majority in society that they are the only "real" people of faith and their version of faith its sole legitimate form, everybody else gets good and heartily sick of them, there is a large-scale strangle-the-last-priest-with-his-own-entrails revolt against all things religious, and we enter another period of sterile secularity. Then, when people realize how -- well -- sterile this overreaction really is, in rush the fundamentalist zealots again to convince us how much we really need to get religion. Their brand of it, of course.

This is like keeping an ocean liner afloat by rushing madly, pell mell, back and forth from starboard to port. Just as the ship is ready to capsize in one direction, we ALL have to run over to the other side -- until it's about to flip over that way -- when we all head back over to the side opposite.

My grandfather was a deep-water diver in the Coast Guard, stationed on the Great Lakes, in 1915 when just such an event happened for real. The Eastland, a big pleasure cruiser, was on its way out of the harbor for a holiday jaunt. Everybody ran over to the side closest to the crowds on shore to wave at them. But they didn't get the chance to switch sides before the boat capsized. My grandfather pulled hundreds of dead people out of the water.

If we keep this nonsense up, that may eventually happen to our entire society. In part of the Middle East, it may be happening already.

Spiritual aridity always -- ALWAYS -- leads to spiritual excess. Human beings are incurably spiritual. This can be suppressed for a while, but it always, and inevitably, comes roaring back with a vengeance.

The progressive religious movement (Christian, Jewish, Muslim and whatever other tradition may be capable of progress) is an attempt to end this cycle and bring lasting spiritual health. It tries to spread us all out over the ship so we're more equitably distributed and the vessel can proceed in stability and safety. Not as exciting, perhaps -- but a lot less traumatic.

The antidote for bad religion just may be better religion, instead of none at all.

It seems that those at either extreme view religion only in stark terms of either/or. You're either a red-eyed, foaming-at-the-mouth fanatic, convinced that God is telling you to set the whole world afire, or else you're so sane and reasonable you allow yourself to believe in nothing.

The hardcore skeptics have the same attitude toward progressives that the fundies do. They are violently allergic to reasoned restraint, mutual respect or thoughtful, tolerant faith. We progressives are "flaky" or "wishy-washy," they scream. And we are, for the most part, too polite to tell these lunatics to calm down and stop screaming. To just stop scrambling back and forth from one side of the ship to the other and making us all pitch and roll along with it.

Do we really need all this drama? Must we allow extremists to shout past us and shove us around?

Again, folks, PLEASE try to evolve. We're supposed to be intelligent beings. Whether we all want to admit it or not, we are spiritual beings, too. We don't all have to believe the same things. But we also don't have to drown ourselves and everybody else.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sucks to be Us

My main worry about this economic implosion -- for the country, I mean -- is not merely economic. It's moral and, deeper still, spiritual. This was primarily not just an economic crisis in the first place. It's been moral and spiritual from the start.

We got into this because thirty years of glorifying selfishness and greed as virtues have corrupted us almost beyond recognition. This isn't ordinary human sinfulness; it is sinfulness on steroids. Which is exactly what a stunted-into-perpetual-infancy society on steroids is bound to become. So much for our big swing to the political and religious "Right."

The last time conservative Republican idiocy led this country to near-ruin, we had at least some residual decency left to pull us together, help us recognize our common humanity and see us through. It hasn't been "liberalism" that has corrupted us. These past three decades -- over which conservatives have been so insistent to have sole rule -- have nearly destroyed our ability to recover.

Everyone who still has a job, and a house, and a functioning life, looks at those who seem to be losing everything and thinks, "Oh, to be you."

Frankly, it sucks to be ALL of us.

Not only because it could be anybody tomorrow, and perhaps all of us the next day, but because we no longer even seem to realize how connected we are to each other -- whether we want to be or not.

Human beings did not survive, from the stone age all the way 'til the space age, merely by "competing" with other human beings. That alone would, sooner or later, have driven us into extinction. No, human beings made it this far by cooperating and figuring out how to get along. By recognizing that a situation dangerous to one might very likely be one that endangered all.

Of course there must be some competition between us in order to make us strive to be our best. But if that isn't healthily balanced with cooperation, it will...well, it will lead to what's happening right now.

Our only hope is the sharp veer to the Left -- and back to sanity -- those in the nation who have not completely lost their minds are now attempting. Of course the barbarian children are trying to stop us. And of course we can't let them.

It does indeed suck to be them. But it doesn't have to suck, after all, to be the rest of us.

Yes, we evolved from apes. But we're not just apes anymore. God got us here how "He" got us here. And if we truly believe that Jesus revealed Who God is, then we need to remember what that has to mean for us. We have evolved into beings who are moral and spiritual, as well as animal.

I will make this perfectly clear. It is impossible to genuinely live according to the conviction that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh and yet support -- or even condone -- letting society function like some gigantic jungle.

It's time to free Jesus. The barbarian children have been holding Him hostage.

Too bad they don't understand that according to God's scheme, it doesn't have to suck to be anybody.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Some Corrections I Wish to Make (But Evidently Can't)

Dear gentle reader, please excuse the sorry state of this week's post. I cannot find ANYTHING in Blogger to tell me (A) how the spacing of the paragraphs got screwed-up in the first place or (B) how to fix it.

I am not a computer whiz, to say the very least. It would be so peachy if there were, at some point, somewhere in the universe an ACTUAL HUMAN BEING to consult about technical difficulties like these.

I think the post below is a good one. I hope you'll overlook its squished appearance and give it a read anyway.

Please see below the link to the Andrew Sullivan "Daily Dish" post to which I refer. It was when I tried to insert that link in this week's post that all hell broke loose on the spacing of the paragraphs.

Unforgettable...That's What We Are

"Pure science is always secular and horizontal in its references, and cannot express the vertical tendencies in culture which refer to the ultimate source of meaning in life."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
Andrew Sulluvan seems concerned that anti-science fundamentalists are next going to attack neuroscientists the way they've already made war on evolutionary biologists. Thus far no major volleys have been fired, but I suppose it is possible. Rather odd, however, for a Catholic like Sullivan to be siding with those who would deny the existence of the soul. Strange as it may seem, for a fellow gay Christian -- who is no fan of the fundies, either -- I can rather see what might be the "evangelical" crowd's point.
When scientists extrapolate on their latest theories -- however plausible, interesting and possibly true -- once they state that this-or-that-one "proves" there is no God (or, in this case, no life hereafter), they are bringing on the fight.
I have already gone on record that I believe in God, also believe in evolution, and see the two concepts as not only compatible but complementary. But as illogical as fundamentalists can be about evolution, that was a war they didn't exactly start.
I remember sitting in science classes, in public school, and actually being told that evolution "proved" there was no God. And as a Christian, I didn't like it, either. Many scientists are openly antagonistic toward religion, and go out of their way to pull Christians' whiskers every chance they get. They asked for the antagonism, so they sound pretty silly crying about it.
If they start taunting us about how their latest neuroscientific studies supposedly "disprove" the possibility of an afterlife, they are definitely shouting "fire!" in a crowded theater. And they will deserve all the grief they get.
Okay, so when we die, our brain activity totally ceases. And while we're alive, all of our mental, emotional and -- apparently -- even spiritual functions are utterly dependent on our brain's neurochemical activity. Excuse me, but "duh!"
This is new?! Have we not pretty much always known that? Maybe I'm just slow, but this seems to be what the vast majority of the human race has always taken for granted. If, indeed, there is
no God, then there probably is no afterlife. But if -- as I and many other people still stubbornly affirm -- God is real, then there's absolutely no reason why "He" can't work around the neurochemical aspect of the situation.
Those who die, as the Bible says, "die in the Lord" (Rev. 14:13). If there really IS a Lord, then I fail to see the problem. What did people expect, that the human soul was like some tiny, fetus-like creature with a gigantic head who perched somewhere behind the cerebral cortex and plugged it all into a computer? Or the guy behind the screen in "The Wizard of Oz?" Puh-leeze, folks.
We continue always to live, I do believe, in the Mind of God. Nobody has ever been able to prove we didn't start out there in the first place, so there's no way they can prove we don't end up there, as well.
God never, ever forgets us, and God goes on forever. What is that, if not eternal life? It may not sound like much to some, but the memory of God is not likely to be as perishable as that of our loved ones here on earth -- who'll die like we will -- or even that of an entire civilization, which will one day inevitably crumble and be swept away. The Mind of God has called into being all that ever was, is now and ever will be. That seems, to me, to be a pretty secure place to be.
God's thoughts are so enlivening that they created us. They can certainly sustain us, too.
Christians need to stop worrying about things that cannot begin to be problems for God. We need to stop bragging about our great faith and begin living like we actually have it. No more
letting all the scoffers pull our whiskers. If we didn't make it so much fun for them, they'd go pick on somebody else.
To God, we're unforgettable. And that's good enough for me. As long as "He" never forgets us, our eternal survival is assured. Now, it's HOW God remembers us that determines what sort of an eternity we will have.