Monday, January 16, 2017

Conscientious Objector 

I shall die, but
that is all that I shall do for Death.
I hear him leading his horse out of the stall;
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,
business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle
while he clinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself:
I will not give him a leg up.

Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,
I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where
the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the whereabout of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much,
I will not map him the route to any man's door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living,
that I should deliver men to Death?
Brother, the password and the plans of our city
are safe with me; never through me Shall you be overcome.

--Edna St. Vincent Milay

“When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

“Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”

-- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Saturday, January 14, 2017

"[Last night] the Republican Party voted to begin dismantling Obamacare.' Rather than let them erase the law and its protections in one swoop, Democrats fought back by proposing amendments to save certain parts, like healthcare protections for veterans. Republicans voted against that. (But thanks for your service, vets!)

Then Republicans voted against the rule that says insurance companies have to cover "pre-existing conditions," (so if you have had cancer, diabetes, or heart problems in the past, good luck keeping even your private insurance now.) Then they killed CHIP, which is the Children's Health Insurance Program, which provided health care to impoverished sick kids. Again - they voted against health care for poor kids. (So Christlike.)

The Republicans then voted against continuing federal aid to rural hospitals, which is the only thing keeping many of them open. (I guess the joke's on all those deep-red heartland counties who voted for this one-party rule.) All you pro-life folks - they also voted against contraception coverage. With no health coverage for their pregnancies, more women will choose abortions to avoid bankruptcy. (Oops!) Also, that rule saying you can keep your kids on your private insurance until they're 26? Gone. Democrats also forced a vote to protect Medicare and Medicaid from being reduced, but Republicans voted against those, too. Old people and the infirm - to hell with them, right?

Democrats made them vote on every one of these topics - partly so voters could see exactly what was being voted against. And every time, like clockwork, the Republicans voted against the needs of human beings and in support of profits for insurance companies and tax cuts for the extremely wealthy, which paid for parts of these programs. It was sickening to see the votes unfold.

Democrats argued into the wee hours, but this is life under one-party rule. If you voted for Trump and his Republican majority, this is what you wanted. Abject human suffering. Drink deep. Here is your victory.

Not one Republican offered a single proposal to replace any of these services."

-- Anthony Breznican

Friday, January 13, 2017

I've been working with a nifty little Zen Buddhist practice called "Don't-Know-Mind." The idea behind it is this: We constantly, and without even realizing it, invent stories in our minds to explain things we experience.
So, for example, in my rear view mirror I see some guy in a BMW who is zipping through traffic; tailgating, changing lanes, trying to get ahead, fast approaching. I think to myself "What a jerk," assured that the driver is some rich yuppie who thinks he's better than everyone else. I'm tempted to try to block his forward progress, perhaps by intentionally matching my speed with the car next to me so there's no way around. Or a co-worker makes a comment that I interpret as critical of my work performance. I start to think: perhaps she's telling the boss bad things about me. I'd better counteract by slipping in some subtle criticisms of her job performance the next time I meet with our boss. Or a friend hasn't called in a while. He's probably angry after that last conversation we had where we disagreed about something. Well, tough luck. He's going to have to get over it and call me when he grows up.  But I'll continue to stew over it.
In each of those cases I constructed an entire mental scenario based on outside events or actions. And then I reacted based upon my internal mental scenario. But my mental scenario was not necessarily an accurate reflection of reality. I also, in doing so, departed from the present moment of reality into my interior world of rumination and fantasy and projection--substituting the real for the unreal.
"Don't-Know-Mind" means reminding myself that I simply don't know. That aggressive driver? Maybe he's late for work and afraid of getting reprimanded or fired. Maybe there's been an emergency at home and he's rushing to get there. Maybe he's in danger of missing his flight. Maybe he truly is being a jerk because he is very impatient, which causes him great stress (which it would be unkind of me to add to). I don't know. The co-worker? Maybe her comment wasn't meant the way I took it. Maybe she is not as Machiavellian as I'm projecting her to be. Or maybe she is struggling with fear about her own job security and really needs encouragement and a little help. I don't know. That friend who hasn't called? Maybe he is struggling with something completely unrelated to our last conversation. Maybe he needs my help. Or maybe he's on vacation. I don't know.
I'm finding that by practicing "Don't-Know-Mind" it is easier to extend grace to others and it reduces my anxiety and cynicism. I say to myself "I don't know" as soon as the mental scenario starts to arise. Then I'm able to let it go and get on with my life, and judge others a lot less.
Of course, there are many instances where we need to discern what is really going on and gather information and make determinations. But even then, beginning from a place of honest "I don't know" might help us to be more holistic and humble (and willing to reconsider) in our decisions about things.
I'm no master at this. In fact, I know I'm barely scratching the surface of it. There is so much I have yet to learn about it. But I'm finding it useful.  Perhaps there would be less conflict and angst in the world if there was more "don't know."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself."
--Desiderius Erasmus

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"I am learning to see. I don’t know why it is, but everything enters me more deeply and doesn’t stop where it once used to."

-- Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, January 09, 2017

"One of the great absurdities of our time is people denouncing science on the Internet."

-- Brad Warner

When I was about 8 years old I went through a "difficult" phase. I became very surly to my teachers, got into fights with other kids, etc. When my parents confronted me about my behaviors (which had been reported to them by school staff) my answer was always the same: I had done nothing wrong; the teachers were lying and were all out to get me. Things got to the point--after I intentionally kicked a teacher's aide in the shin--that a school-district psychologist was brought in to meet with me a couple of times. He apparently assessed that there were no serious issues and, sure enough, before long I grew out of my little reign of terror and became more agreeable and learned to take responsibility for my own words and actions and have empathy for others.

That was 46 years ago. What reminded me of it this morning was reading Donald Trump's tweets in response to Meryl Streep's criticism of him mocking a disabled journalist in front of a crowd (we all saw it). Trump's "defense" was to blame the "very dishonest media." This has become his standard deflection technique: rather than take responsibility for his own words and actions, he blames the media. I don't buy it any more than my parents bought my blaming all the teachers at Pleasant View Elementary School for my childish anti-social behavior.


"The best advice I’ve ever received: ‘no one else knows what they are doing either.’"

--Charles Bukowski

Sunday, January 08, 2017

“There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can't get it out of my head because it wasn't in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it's modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody's life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose."

--Meryl Streep

“Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.”

-- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Saturday, January 07, 2017

"The world's spiritual geniuses seem to discover universally that the mind's muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash, cannot be dammed, and that trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness. Instead you must allow the muddy river to flow unheeded in the dim channels of consciousness; you raise your sights; you look along it, mildly, acknowledging its presence without interest and gazing beyond it into the realm of the real where subjects and objects act and rest purely, without utterance."

-- Annie Dillard

Friday, January 06, 2017

"Christianity ... has always been a religion seeking a metaphysic, in contrast to Buddhism which is a metaphysic generating a religion."

--Alfred North Whitehead

I once heard Fr. Richard Rohr point out that what is missing from the Nicene Creed is the word "love." In the 4th century, when the creed was formulated, the preoccupation was with power, not love. The same can be said for many Christians today. Yet Jesus said that Christians would be known not by their preoccupation with temporal power, or by their creeds and doctrines and "statements of faith"--but by their love. The New Testament is replete with affirmations that it is love which marks out the followers of Jesus.
Creeds and covenants and "statements of faith" and doctrinal formulations are great for creating boundaries and defining who is "in" and who is "out." They are tools of a power-orientation. But they do not transform hearts or make disciples of Christ. They are merely tokens of mental agreement with a set of propositions.
The Apostle Paul urged the early Christians to "walk in step with the Spirit" (Galatians 5), not to write a creed and follow it (in fact, Paul would have considered doing that to be "falling from grace" by putting oneself back "under the law"). Creeds are external. Creeds are static. Creeds are dead letters. Creeds are a shabby substitute for the God who is living and active and on the move and at work in the hearts of all people.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

"I am not mad at you that Clinton lost. I am unconcerned that we have different politics. And I don’t think less of you because you vote one way and I vote another. No… I think less of you because you watched an adult mock a disabled person in front of a crowd and still supported him. I think less of you because you saw a man spouting clear racism and backed him. I think less of you because you listened to him advocate for war crimes, and still thought he should run this country. I think less of you because you watched him equate a woman’s worth to her appearance and got on board. It isn’t your politics that I find repulsive. It is your personal willingness to support racism, sexism, and cruelty. You sided with a bully when it mattered and that is something I will never forget. So, no… you and I won’t be 'coming together' to move forward or whatever. Trump disgusts me, but it is the fact that he doesn’t disgust you that will stick with me long after this election."


"The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds."
 --Thomas Merton

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

A Buddhist's perspective on Donald Trump's New Year's tweet...

"I don’t really want to go into an analysis of Donald Trump and why the specifics of his personal ego led him to insert the particular words he did. Other people have already beaten that horse to death. I think there’s something much more interesting and universal going on and I’d like to dig a little deeper into it."

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

"Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not."

-- Samuel Johnson

Monday, January 02, 2017

"At the very same time that we need religion to be a strong force against extremism, it is suffering from a second pernicious trend, what I call religious routine-ism. This is when our institutions and our leaders are stuck in a paradigm that is rote and perfunctory, devoid of life, devoid of vision and devoid of soul."

-- Rabbi Sharon Brous

"The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts."

-- Marcus Aurelius

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

--Wendell Berry

Saturday, December 31, 2016

I just learned that Huston Smith passed away yesterday, at age 97. Smith was a renowned scholar of religion. He was a Christian who spent his life studying, understanding, appreciating and participating in not only his own faith but also Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam/Sufism, Taoism, Native American and African religions, etc. His work has had a profound impact on me because of his emphasis on appreciating what religions aspire to, rather than merely critiquing where they have fallen short. "Others will be interested in weighing the virtues of religion against its atrocities.  That has not been my concern," he wrote in the introduction to his best-selling book The Illustrated World's Religions: A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions.  He continued:

"Religion alive confronts the individual with the most momentous option life can present. It calls the soul to the highest adventure it can undertake, a projected journey across the jungles, peaks, and deserts of the human spirit. The call is to confront reality, to master the self. Those who dare to hear and follow that secret call soon learn the dangers and difficulties of its lonely journey--'the sharp edge of a razor, hard to traverse / A difficult path is this, the poets declare....' (Katha Upanishad). But they know its deliverances, too. When a lone spirit triumphs in this domain, it becomes more than a ruler. It becomes a world redeemer. Its impact stretches for millennia, blessing the tangled course of history for centuries. 'Who are the greatest benefactors of the living generation of mankind?' Toynbee asked; and answered: 'Confucius and Laotze, the Buddha, the Prophets of Israel and Judah, Zoroaster, Jesus, Mohammed and Socrates.' The answer should not surprise, for authentic religion is the clearest opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human life."

“It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion--its message becomes meaningless.”

-- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism

Friday, December 30, 2016

"That best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love."

-- William Wordsworth, Tintern Abbey

Thursday, December 29, 2016

"Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks--we will also find our path of authentic service in the world."

-- Parker J. Palmer

"You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture; Just get people to stop reading them."

-- Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

“We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture..."

― Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, 1985

"If you're not a Buddhist you think there are Buddhists and non-Buddhists, but if you're a Buddhist you realize everybody's a Buddhist--even the bugs."

-- Suzuki Roshi

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

-- Howard Thurman

Today is the anniversary of the signing of the Flushing Remonstrance, one of the earliest appeals for religious tolerance in American history. In the 1600's in New Netherlands (now New York), the practice of any faith other than the Christianity of the Dutch Reformed Church was forbidden. Adherents to other religions ("Jews, Turks...Egyptians") or denominations ("Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist or Quaker") were persecuted, imprisoned and banished.

In response, a group of citizens in the town of Vlishing (now known as Flushing) signed a petition of remonstrance (protest), written by town clerk Edward Hart, and submitted it to the governor. Some of the signees of the petition were arrested, but citizens of conscience continued to oppose the government's stance against religious freedom.  Some citizens engaged in acts of civil disobedience (for example, by welcoming people of banned faiths into their homes).  Gradually, religious persecution in the colony came to an end.

The Flushing Remonstrance is considered a precursor to the Freedom of Religion clause (the First Amendment) in the U.S. Constitution.

According to the Bowne House Historical Society:
"Their letter not only defied the laws of one of the most powerful, religious governors of the colonial age, it challenged the very idea of state-enforced religion. The belief that religion was an affair of state lay at the core of the bloody religious persecutions that had plagued Europe throughout the Reformation age. Even in the more lenient American colonies, the words of the Remonstrance expressed a concept of religious freedom that extended beyond the principles of any other contemporary document.  The Remonstrance presented a raw version of the radical ideals later solidified in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution."

The Flushing Remonstrance reads, in part: "The law of love, peace and liberty in the states extending to Jews, Turks and Egyptians, as they are considered sons of Adam, which is the glory of the outward state of Holland, soe love, peace and liberty, extending to all in Christ Jesus, condemns hatred, war and bondage. And because our Saviour sayeth it is impossible but that offences will come, but woe unto him by whom they cometh, our desire is not to offend one of his little ones, in whatsoever form, name or title hee appears in, whether Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist or Quaker, but shall be glad to see anything of God in any of them, desiring to doe unto all men as we desire all men should doe unto us, which is the true law both of Church and State; for our Saviour sayeth this is the law and the prophets.

Therefore if any of these said persons come in love unto us, we cannot in conscience lay violent hands upon them, but give them free egresse and regresse unto our Town, and houses, as God shall persuade our consciences, for we are bounde by the law of God and man to doe good unto all men and evil to noe man. And this is according to the patent and charter of our Towne, given unto us in the name of the States General, which we are not willing to infringe, and violate, but shall houlde to our patent and shall remaine, your humble subjects, the inhabitants of Vlishing.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Silent Night, the Quaker version

Last night I read a Buddhist teacher describe his understanding of the meaning of Christmas as "to be in the places that need you." Upon reflection, I think he nailed it.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Gets me every time... 

Tom Waits, "Silent Night/Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis"


Friday, December 23, 2016

"Yesterday I was clever and tried to change the world. Today I am wise and try to change myself."

— Rumi

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Jose y Maria by Everett Patterson

"Deep religious and moral values have been the backbone of every great progressive movement; prophetic imagination must come before we see political implementation. When the social gospel looked at children dying from child labor and people dying without labor rights and people in slums and poverty and not having a minimum wage and they asked, 'What would Jesus do?'”

-- Reverend William J. Barber, II

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On Stupidity, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters & Papers from Prison, 1943-45

Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice.  One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force.  Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease.  Against stupidity we are defenseless.  Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one's prejudgment simply need not be believed--in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical--and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental.  In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.  For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one.  Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.

If we want to know how to get the better of stupidity, we must seek to understand its nature.  This much is certain, that it is in essence not an intellectual defect but a human one.  There are human beings who are of remarkably agile intellect yet stupid, and others who are intellectually quite dull yet anything but stupid.  We discover this to our surprise in particular situations.  The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital defect but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or that they allow this to happen to them.  We note further that people who have isolated themselves from others or who live in solitude manifest this defect less frequently than individuals or groups of people inclined or condemned to sociability.  And so it would seem that stupidity is perhaps less a psychological than a sociological problem.  It is a particular form of the impact of historical circumstances on human beings, a psychological concomitant of certain external conditions.  Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity.  It would even seem that this is virtually a sociological-psychological law.  The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other.  The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail.  Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances.  The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent.  In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him.  He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being.  Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil.  This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.

Yet at this very point it becomes quite clear that only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity.  Here we must come to terms with the fact that in most cases a genuine internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has preceded it.  Until then we must abandon all attempts to convince the stupid person.  This state of affairs explains why in such circumstances our attempts to know what "the people" really think are in vain and why, under these circumstances, this question is so irrelevant for the person who is thinking and acting responsibly.  The word of the Bible that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom declares that the internal liberation of human beings to live the responsible life before God is the only genuine way to overcome stupidity.

But these thoughts about stupidity also offer consolation in that they utterly forbid us to consider the majority of people to be stupid in every circumstance.  It really will depend on whether those in power expect more from people's stupidity than from their inner independence and wisdom.

(Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian who actively spoke out against Hitler, and ran an underground seminary.  His books include The Cost of Discipleship.  He was imprisoned and ultimately executed by the Nazis.)

"Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the center of the world."
-- John Burroughs 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

"One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple." 

--Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

"To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell."

--Thomas Merton

Monday, December 19, 2016

"To hold our tongues when everyone is gossiping, to smile without hostility at people and institutions, to compensate for the shortage of love in the world with more love in small, private matters; to be more faithful in our work, to show greater patience, to forgo the cheap revenge obtainable from mockery and criticism: all these are things we can do." 

--Hermann Hesse, (1887-1962), Novelist and poet

"People may say I couldn't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Peaceful protest in Sacramento tonight...

Here's why I, as a Christian, intentionally say "Happy Holidays"...

We no longer live in a provincial land where one culture or religion dominates and dictates. The reality is that the world is becoming more diverse and mixed and multicultural. It's a beautiful thing; not a reason to retreat into monocultural ghettos. The more I learn about other faiths and other cultures the more I appreciate them and my own as pieces of a wonderful mosaic of human aspiration. 

My neighbors come from various Asian backgrounds, are African-American, are Middle Eastern, originate from south of the border, emigrated from India, are Native American, and--like me--are descended from European immigrants. We're all in this together.
So I respect their holy days and appreciate when they respect mine.

Here are some of the holy days, in addition to the various Christian ones, which occur in December and January:

Ashura (Sunni Muslim)
Bodhi Day (Buddhist)
Pancha Ganapati (Hindu)
Saturnalia (Pagan)
Yule (Scandinavian/Pagan)
Winter Solstice (Pagan)
Hanukkah (Jewish)
Kwanzaa (African-American)
Guru Gobindh Singh’s Birthday (Sikh)
Lunar New Year (Asian)
Eid Milad UnNabi (Islam)
Sadeh (Zoroastrian/Persian)
Chahar Shanbeth Suri (Zoroastrian/Persian)
Gantan Sai/Shogatu (Shinto)
Magahi (Sikh)
Makar Sankranti (Hindu)


Saturday, December 17, 2016

This election truly has been like no other election in our lives or, for that matter, in U.S. history. Trump lost the popular vote by a record margin of nearly 3 million votes (five times greater a losing margin than any previous U.S. President in history). Meanwhile his Electoral College victory was not substantial by historical standards. At the end of the day, Trump is President because of a total of about 100,000 votes which put him ever so slightly over in three key states. And his victory is deeply tainted by his crass appeals to the worst in American values, by Russian interference, by the injection of "fake news" and by a coordinated Republican campaign to disenfranchise minority voters.
Based on that, you might think Trump would try to earn legitimacy by acknowledging the facts and seeking to conduct himself in a conciliatory, unifying manner, But he continues to make outrageous statements, to issue inflammatory denials of the facts and is signalling through his cabinet appointments a governmental agenda that will be extremely right-wing.
And so a great many Americans, including many Christians (including yours truly) are struggling to accept the legitimacy of his election based on these factors (that's in addition to his demonstrated lack of character and lack of qualification). He is dangerous. That's not a view ginned up by conspiracy theories; that's a stone-faced assessment based primarily on his own words and actions. We Americans tend to think we're immune from having happen to us what happened in the 20th century to Germany or Italy or Russia or Spain or Japan or many African and Middle Eastern nations. We tend to think we're immune to having done to us what we did to Chile and Iran. We're not immune.
History also shows us with painful clarity how often Christians have gone along with injustice, corruption and even tyranny if it suited their agenda or gave them advantage or kept them out of trouble. But there have also always been those dissenting minority Christians who (in the spirit of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus) engaged the culture by speaking truth to power and (nonviolently) challenging unjust leaders and oppressive systems.
Time to go read Bonhoeffer...
-- DC 

"I hold all sorts of heresies, and feel myself to have got out into a limitless ocean of the love of God that overflows all things. My theology is complete, if you but grant me an omnipotent and just Creator I need nothing more. All the tempests in the various religious teapots around me do seem so far off, so young, so green, so petty! I know I was there once, it must have been ages ago, and it seems impossible. 'God is love,' comprises my whole system of ethics. And, as thou says, it seems to take in all. There is certainly a very grave defect in any doctrine that universally makes its holders narrow and uncharitable, and this is always the case with strict so-called orthodoxy. Whereas, as soon as Christian love comes in, the bounds widen infinitely. I find that every soul that has traveled on this highway of holiness for any length of time, has invariably cut loose from its old moorings. I bring out my heresies to such, expecting reproof, when lo! I find sympathy. We are 'out on the ocean sailing,' that is certain. And if it is the ocean of God's love, as I believe, it is grand."

Hannah Whitall Smith, Quaker and author of The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life (quote taken from a letter to Mrs. Anna Shipley, Aug. 8, 1876)

Friday, December 16, 2016

I've been pondering this question this morning: What is a Christian?

If you define "being a Christian" to mean mentally assenting to a creed and a set of doctrines, making a proclamation of faith, and believing that you have been granted inclusion into a salvific cosmic transaction--then pretty much anyone can claim to be a Christian, and who are we to say someone is not?

On the other hand, if you define "being a Christian" more along the lines of how Jesus, Paul, James, John, et al. seemed to define it--as a disciple of Jesus who lives a fruitful life evident by compassion, kindness, humility, patience, generosity, self-control, concern for those in need, joy, peace and love--then it becomes much harder to claim to be a Christian and much easier to spot those who are.