Thursday, January 25, 2018

My interview with Steve Wiens for his 'This Good Word' podcast has just been posted. This was a really fun conversation, digging into my book 'Presence and Process'.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Politics doesn't exist in a vacuum. Neither does religion. In fact, politics (how we manage our societies) and religion (our understanding of divinity and our relation to divinity and thus to one another) are two of the most fundamental things that impact our lives and our society and the world at large. History is told from the perspective of how politics and religion shaped events. Politics and religion are almost always intertwined in some way or other.

This leads me one of Donald Trump's tweets yesterday, in which he stated "if there is no Wall, there is no DACA." This is the Wall (he capitalizes it) that, according to the Department of Homeland Security, will cost $21.6 billion (about the cost of one and a half aircraft carriers) to build and its efficacy is greatly disputed. This is the Wall that Trump said over and over again that Mexico would pay for. Now he wants you and I--Mr. and Mrs. American Taxpayer--to pay for it. But he's not asking us, he is demanding it and, essentially holding 800,000 people (the DACA "Dreamers") hostage in order to have his demands met.

Trump, by way of executive order, eliminated the DACA protections for these hundreds of thousands of young adults who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children--through no fault of their own--and who have been contributing to American society ever since. Trump then (in the infamous "shithole" meeting) torpedoed a bipartisan deal to reinstitute DACA legislatively. Now he appears to be running an old-fashioned mafia-style protection racket: "It would be a real shame if something bad were to happen to those Dreamers. Give me $21.6 billion and I'll make sure nothing bad happens." Now he has made clear his intention: to use the dreamers, and each of their futures, as leverage to get his Wall. This is despite the fact (or perhaps because of the fact) that both Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly support DACA, as do 70-80% of Americans.

So here's where the religion part comes into the mix. 81% of white evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump. But Christianity teaches that we should take care of the powerless in our midst: the marginalized, the poor, the immigrant, etc. Jesus confronted the powers of his day (the legalistic Pharisees, the opportunistic Sadducees, Herod and his administration, the Roman empire) by nonviolently but boldly exposing their hypocrisy and oppressiveness.

So why are so many Christians silent today about what Trump is doing to 800,000 DACA Dreamers? One would expect a deafening outcry from the followers of Jesus. Why isn't Trump's white evangelical Christian base--who he supposedly listens to--telling him that this is not acceptable?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

I Am a U.S. Citizen Thanks to Chain Migration

I am an American citizen because of "chain migration." 

"Chain migration," which Donald Trump calls "horrible," is the process whereby immigrants already legally residing in the U.S. can petition the Immigration Service to allow their extended family to immigrate (if they meet the requirements). In other words, it is designed to foster family reunification--a long U.S. immigration tradition. For example, in 1885, 16-year old Friedrich Trump (Donald Trump’s grandfather)--who spoke little English and had no career skills--immigrated from Germany to join his oldest sister in the U.S. The tale of the United States--a nation of immigrants--is one of "chain migration."

My parents, my sister and I immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1960's. In our case we were able to immigrate because my father's cousin, who had previously immigrated to the U.S., petitioned on our behalf. The entire application process took about a year. Another requirement for immigration at that time was that my parents had to have at least $1,000.00 in the bank (that was in 1967-68, so it would be about $7,500.00 in today's dollars). My parent's were young working-class adults with two kids at the time and so were pretty broke, but a family member put $1,000.00 into my parent's bank account and let it sit there in order to meet this requirement. After we had settled in the U.S. the money was withdrawn from the account and returned to the family member.

Upon moving to the U.S., my dad worked as a printer and my mom initially made money "under the table" providing daycare in our apartment. Ultimately my dad worked for 25 years at a major newspaper and my mom worked as a secretary for many years (first for a lawyer and then for a city government agency). Despite lacking college educations, my parents worked hard and fulfilled the American dream, buying houses and cars and paying taxes and contributing to society and living a comfortable middle-class existence and providing opportunities for their progeny that they never had for themselves. Their children both earned Master's degrees and made higher salaries than their parents. One grandchild is earning a doctorate in physics while the other is in college to become a computer animator. That's what "chain migration" enabled the Coleman's to accomplish in the United States. 

So when I hear Donald Trump and Republican politicians/pundits and their supporters railing against "chain migration," I hear them railing against me and my family.

We didn't enter the U.S. through Ellis Island, as so many immigrants before us did, but it is interestingly symbolic that on the one year anniversary of Donald Trump's inauguration as president, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are closed.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"Once when I was off on a Zen retreat in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, I was very surprised to see another Westerner there—in fact he was a Roman Catholic priest doing Zen practice—and we became friends. His name was Father William Johnston. He’s written many books and he broadened my perspective considerably. As a Christian, he had learned a lot from the techniques of meditation that come from the Buddhist tradition, and it had allowed him to deepen his Christianity. Through him I learned that the experiences that I was having in doing Buddhist meditation were part of a much broader worldwide phenomenon: that meditation, in fact, existed in Christianity, Judaism, Islam. That it was, in a slightly different form, central in the shamanic practices of our tribal ancestors. That it is indeed a global and universal thing, and that although the particular customs and doctrinal systems—the belief systems—of the various world religions differ dramatically, the contemplative or meditative core is virtually universal. Father Johnston had a vast library of comparative mysticism—the writings of the meditation masters of the world—and he let me read in that library. So I got to see what I was doing in Buddhist meditation in a much broader context. He also got me interested in the scientific study of meditative states. He had friends at a Buddhist university who were studying the brainwaves of Zen meditators, and he took me to their research lab. They hooked us both up to their equipment and were utterly amazed to see that a Roman Catholic priest produced the same kind of brainwaves as a 30-year Zen meditator. But of course it’s not surprising at all, given the universal nature of the meditative experience."

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

"Fortunately today we can learn ways to meditate from many different traditions. We can come to silence by practicing one of several Buddhist paths, or through Christian contemplative prayer, as well as through Jewish, Sufi and Taoist disciplines. … Whichever path brings us to practice, at the center there is silence—perennial, universal, inclusive, and radiant."
--Gunilla Norris, Inviting Silence

Saturday, January 06, 2018

"To reduce suffering, to elevate fulfillment, to have some peacefulness in our life, to have concentration—these are some of the reasons that we practice meditation. Beyond that, there is the spiritual dimension. All over the world meditation is the main vehicle for deepening one’s spiritual life. People have different beliefs, they have different spiritual paths, there are different religions in the world; there are different philosophies. I compare these to software; different kinds of computer programs—different ideas that people have about the spiritual nature of things. Meditation is not another piece of software that competes with existing religions, like Christianity or Judaism. Meditation is hardware. It’s something that you can use to implement whatever your particular philosophy or religion may be; to implement it at a vastly deeper level than you would have ever thought possible."

--Shinzen Young, The Science of Enlightenment

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Monday, January 01, 2018

Anthem by Leonard Cohen

The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
Has passed away
Or what is yet to be

Yeah the wars they will
Be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
Bought and sold
And bought again
The dove is never free

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

We asked for signs
The signs were sent
The birth betrayed
The marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
Of every government
Signs for all to see

I can't run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud
But they've summoned up
A thundercloud
And they're going to hear from me

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

You can add up the parts
You won't have the sum
You can strike up the march
There is no drum
Every heart to love will come
But like a refugee

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in