Posts Tagged ‘evangelism’

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 170: What would you do, if you knew you could not fail?

October 9, 2018

My wife mentioned to a friend of ours that ‘even after 45 years together, I still can’t read Marty’s mind’. Our friend’s response was, ‘read his blog’. Thanks, Eunice; it’s true.
I write because my digital self is far more sociable than my physical self. I think this means that part of me wants to be a different person than I am. The hope is to mix my ideas about the Universe with my life as a commercial artist.
This particular chapter was ‘inspired’ by a general request for a column; this will no doubt be far too long…

unfinished sketch River PilotIncomplete sketch, Norman Rockwell’s River Pilot

Mine isn’t a story about how to succeed as a commercial artist. At this point in history, I’m not even sure what ‘succeed’ even means. As a country, ‘we’ [the American Republic] have just confirmed to the Supreme Court the least popular jurist in the history of the Court, by the closest margin in history:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/10/06/senators-representing-less-than-half-us-are-about-confirm-nominee-opposed-by-most-americans/?utm_term=.d5c4393fa61e&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1

This confirmation process made the Clarence Thomas confirmation seem like a ‘cakewalk’ and displayed one of the most partisan processes ever witnessed; and the possible coverup of criminal actions. Ironically, last Friday morning when the Senate had their first vote of Confirmation of the new Justice, the Nobel Committee issued the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to two figures who have worked to bring attention to ending sexual violence in armed conflicts: Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege.
I am reminded of the quotation by Thomas Jefferson:

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.

Our President has managed to twist reality by comments made at campaign rallies that have caused the Victim in these last uncivil weeks to become a punch line; and the Accused to become some kind of hero. Trevor Noah has some very astute comments that probably derive from his living in South Africa during Apartheid:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LZ3P1sv9jE

The political trials of this week were simply a backdrop and a distraction from my office trials. I have been my own Tech Support for most of this century; mostly because I’m unwilling to pay for services I can learn. Up until last week, I’ve had 5 computers: two desktops and 3 laptops. I recently upgraded one of my desktops; it had become annoyingly slow. It now hibernates in a closet. Last weekend, my oldest laptop, a Sony VAIO, died peacefully of old age. One of the laptops was inherited, and as a backup, it went into service. In various ways unknown to me, I managed to kill the Operating Systems in 3 of my computers. I have spent the entire week doing 18-hour days, wrestling with Operating Systems and reloading computers. I owe a debt of gratitude to a Dell Tech Support person in The Philippines. One week later, I’m back up and running, and am trying to remember what I was doing a week ago. ‘Fortunately’, this has been one of those ‘0 billable hours’ weeks—no client work needed. Due to overlapping backups, I didn’t lose any data beyond a few days’ worth of email. Just lost a lot of sleep; and there is a residue of snarkiness.

I have worked as a full-time commercial artist [a term that only dinosaurs remember] and Building Code consultant since 1998. Something like twenty years.
Disclaimer #1: ‘full-time’, to an independent contractor working in the image-creating world does not mean the same thing it means in the normal business world; and the meaning is centered in the term ‘billable hours’. When I use the term ‘full-time’, it means I don’t have another job. ‘Billable hours’ per week vary from 0 to 30-something, most of the time. Time in my office? Basically, from 2p to 3a, six days a week, with breaks for eating, and for spending time with my wife before she goes to bed. She works permanent part-time for a local School District and lives on ‘day shift’. My circadian rhythm has been off-kilter for decades. I don’t do mornings. Working for the Bureau of Buildings was a pain. I kept moving my arrival time as far back as I could, preferring to work after the office had officially closed.
Disclaimer #2: I am a dinosaur. I began my commercial art career in the 1970s while in college, when computers did not exist, and the only means of communication beyond the telephone [attached by a wire to a wall] were pieces of paper upon which one wrote words, or possibly typed words. These pieces of paper were tucked into something called an envelope; and a small sticky rectangle was applied to the outside, before dropping the envelopes into a blue box. The world was very large and distant, back then.

I nearly died in 1988 at age 36, from a ruptured appendix. It changed my life.
For a number of years prior, I was continually confronted by mentors with a question:
What would you do with your life, if you knew you could not fail?
The reality is that I fail, all the time—I don’t meet my expectations, which, by my nature, tend to be unreasonably high. I’ve learned that apparent failure does not have to be final.

I’ve been a freelance commercial artist and designer for over 40 years; primarily working on commission for individuals as sort of a “professional hobby” while working at college and construction jobs, until 1998, when I took a Medical Layoff from my fourteen-year career with the Bureau of Buildings in Portland. There I worked as a Commercial Building Plans Examiner. During my college years, I exhibited my artwork in non-juried shows but found little time for “serious” illustration until my brush with death caused me to re-evaluate my goals and priorities. I realized that my future wasn’t as predictable as it appeared; and that the Creator has given me a talent intended to be used for the benefit of others. In 1990 I decided it was time to get “serious” about my career as an illustrator. I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators [SCBWI] and began learning about the career of Illustration.

River pilot
Norman Rockwell’s River Pilot

My goal was to emulate the illustration style of the Golden Age of Illustration; Norman Rockwell’s paintings became my mentors, as well as the work of Howard Pyle, NC Wyeth, and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I spent about eight years focusing on my illustration skills; when I left my work with the City, I discovered that the world of Illustration had changed. Children’s Book illustrators had become cartoonists and photographers had become illustrators. There’s nothing wrong with cartoonists; I just don’t have the talent to be one. I’d spent something like twenty years studying drafting and Technical Illustration.

I’ve illustrated five children’s books that few have read; illustrated books for adult audiences that few have read, created book jackets, illustrations for cable television; worked as a web designer; created videos; have my own website [mjarts.com], and have portfolios on a bunch of retail sales sites [Society 6, Redbubble, for example]. I’ve designed houses across America and one in England. I’ve designed schools. I am a digital publisher, with books on Amazon US and UK.

From the perspective of fame and income—the primary measurements of ‘success’ in America today—my experiment with self-employment has largely been a ‘failure’. I’ve had one-man art shows that few remember; I have illustrations in a museum in Dallas, Texas I’ve never visited [I don’t even know if they are on display]; I’ve created thousands of images as a commercial artist. I’ve spent so much on advertising over the years—money I borrowed from creditors—that I can’t afford to ‘retire’, now that I am at that age. My dependence on pain medication to enable me to meet my own overly-high expectations may have caused permanent damage to my body. I thought I would become famous, in spite of the fact that I am ‘asocial’ to the point of being antisocial. I have a hard time imagining how I would respond to actually being famous. I’m not comfortable around strangers; unless I am able to put my ‘public’ mask on…the mask I learned to wear while working for the City of Portland. I’ve often said that writers and illustrators are people who are comfortable in, and accustomed to, working alone in a room for days at a time. This isn’t a career for those who thrive on social interaction.

I can’t imagine doing anything else.

My wife and I survive because I worked for the City of Portland. My Medical Layoff was ‘supposed’ to become a partial disability retirement. Six months after I was ‘kicked out’ [I did not fully understand the nature of setting a ‘retirement’ date], during which time I could not work [it’s hard to justify a disability retirement while working], I finally learned that my partial retirement, and its Appeals, were denied. I had, upon my doctor’s orders, given up a very-well-paying job, at age 46, with no other job options at hand. Once again. Never leave a job without knowing where you are going.
In 1999 became a consultant. Architects who called me every day at the City, for [free] Building Code advice, weren’t interested in paying for my advice. Over the years, it worked.

I sold my first book jacket that year. My first b/w children’s book was published in 2000; my first color children’s book was in 2002 for a major publishing house; the book was sold only as part of an elementary school curriculum. I was the third choice for the book, because the first choice had to back out. I don’t know what happened to #2; I learned about the existence of #1 & #2 because an agent tactlessly sent the ‘score sheet’ along with the manuscript. Two names crossed off ahead of mine, and the list wasn’t in alphabetical order. My favorite project was the illustration of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia for a Korean publisher. The book had a Korean manuscript, but the publisher wanted a Western illustrator. The Korean book design was better than I imagined…and the company went out of business. My contract gave me ownership of the original art; I am in the process of remaking the book, now in Public Domain. My plan is to republish the book on Kindle by next summer, using Doyle’s original manuscript.

When I turned 62, I finally started collecting that ‘partial disability retirement’. When I turned 65, I started collecting Social Security, and experimented with not doing Code work. Another failed experiment. I have a collection of failed experiments. Now, at 66, I have more time for illustration.
I have a degenerative neurological condition that is affecting my ability to draw. I can still hold onto a computer mouse. More of my work has become digital. I draw faces; I rely heavily on a collection of hands, eyes and faces created over the decades.

I enjoy creating illustrations with female heroes. I grow tired of old white men running the world. They suck at it. I am an old, white man; an immigrant son. Second Generation on my Mom’s side of the family; Third Generation on my Dad’s side. My family emigrated here from Norway and Sweden.
I recently created a Wonder Woman illustration protecting a woman from Cancer, a tall ugly looking creature. A gift for a very brave woman, I know; one of many in this world and in my family.

My fascination with BBC’s Doctor Who is part of the reason I’ve been so engrossed in creating “The Unwritten Adventures of the 13th Doctor”—illustrations I began creating during the summer of last year. One of my latest illustrations has become a favorite of mine—Jenny Flint of the Paternoster Detective Agency, located in Victorian London:

Jenny Flint

In this unwritten story [you can find illustrations from other Unwritten Stories at my Redbubble store [https://www.redbubble.com/people/mjartscom/collections/971115-the-13th-doctor]. The Doctor returns again to Victorian London, shortly after regenerating; as The Doctor did once before. Having overcome their confusion, The Doctor begins an adventure with The Great Detective and her Paternoster Detective Agency: Madame Vastra, the lizard lady from Earth’s ancient past; her companion Jenny Flint, martial arts expert and swordswoman; and their Sontaran servant, Strax. He looks rather like a baked potato in a suit. Sontarans are cloned; Strax has difficulty understanding genders. Once again, The Doctor has managed to bring prehistoric creatures forward in time.

I’m not often pleased with my work. I managed to get this one right. The original is something like 2ft wide.

The 13th Doctor and the Paternoster Detective Agency

The reality is that I fail, all the time—I don’t meet my expectations, which, by my nature, tend to be unreasonably high. I’ve learned that apparent failure does not have to be final.

Failure is only final when you allow it to be.

More about that next time.

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 154: The Plan

June 15, 2018

Inconceivable

For decades, I have heard religious people say that “God has a plan for your life;” and the worst one, especially after some sort of calamity, ‘it happened for a reason; it’s part of God’s plan for your life’.
I am reminded of one of my favorite scenes from The Princess Bride:
Vizzini: He didn’t fall? INCONCEIVABLE!
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I think ‘God’s Plan’ is often used in the same sense as INCONCEIVABLE!

Some include ‘calamity’ in “God’s Plan”, as if somehow God desires to destroy the innocent. As if it is the Creator’s desire that homes are being destroyed by the eruption of Kilauea, that non-combatants in Syria are being destroyed by American missiles; that the Rohingya people are suffering tortuous persecution; that one of the foulest dictators alive at this point in time has just been given the legitimacy of being an equal to the President of the United States [something no other President has stooped to doing] and the list goes on and on, to the killing of individual students in schools and the murder of people-of-color carrying cell phones, by white policemen who aren’t punished…
These calamities are not designed by the Creator.

I have to interject here—I was raised by an authoritarian father. He was a good man; I don’t think I can go so far as to say he was a kind man. I doubt that he was ever taught much about kindness. In many ways, I feel as though my life ‘began’ when I left his house and went off to college.
Having been raised this way, I was never partial to simply accepting what some guy on a platform was attempting to teach about “God’s Word”. I struggled with some guy telling me what I was supposed to believe. I rely instead on critical thinking.

“God has a plan for your life.”
“Plan”
Isaiah 14:26
This is the plan determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations. …

Original Word: עֵצָה  [Hebrew]
Part of Speech: Noun Feminine
NASB Translation (instances used)
advice (11), consultation (2), counsel (52), counselor* (1), counselors* (1), counsels (1), designs (1), plan (8), plans (2), purpose (6), scheme (1), schemes (1), strategy (1).

Young’s Literal Translation
This is the counsel that is counselled for all the earth, And this is the hand that is stretched out for all the nations.

52 times in the Bible, the word translated as ‘plan’ means counsel; 11 times it means advice; nothing here implying ‘requirement’.

And then there is ‘God’s Will’
In Hebrew, that which is translated as ‘God’s Will’ in English, actually means ‘to inquire of God’. A question, not a statement.

When it comes to understanding Scripture, English sucks. Being the only language with which I am fluent, this is problematic. Other languages have better meanings. For another example, in Greek there are four distinct words [and meanings] that are translated in English as “love”. Statistically, we get it wrong 75% of the time.

This is a “plan”; I’ve been drawing plans for most of my life—over 50 years.
plan

I have no idea whether or not anyone actually followed this plan… the cabinet maker is a continent away from me. What’s more, I don’t know if this bizarre idea actually worked. A kitchen counter with something like a plank or a diving board off the end. I envisioned the possibility of some very large person standing on the end of that plank, at was about to be the end of a drunken evening… The plank attached to steel tubing attached to steel plating attached to the floor of the kitchen. I guess it was supposed to look cool. I wanted to design it to support a rhinoceros.
A very expensive ‘plan’ that may have had disastrous results.

I know a few people who probably snickered when they read the words above, I rely instead on critical thinking. To them, Faith is totally incompatible with Critical Thinking.

Some will ask if I believe that the Bible [however they define this word] is the Word of God. I believe that the Hebrew Scriptures, and teachings of the New Testament are the Word of God, in their original languages, for the purpose they were intended. The mere fact that one can find a verse in the  Bible that justifies their particular understanding of the world does not mean that this was the intent of the verse.
Do I believe that the King James Bible is the Word of God? No. The KJV is a translation/interpretation of the Word of God. The Word of God is so much larger than a shelf-full of books.

I came to an understanding of the Word of God, but not because some guy on a platform told me that the Book was God’s Word. I mostly came by way of C.S. Lewis, Os Guinness and Philip Yancey, to name a few. Moses Maimonides and Dr. Gerald Schroeder and Nadia Bolz-Weber to name some more… People whose writing, and whose understanding of the Universe shaped my understanding of Scripture.

One of the primary tenets of the Abrahamic Scriptures is that mankind was created with Free Will; and that this Free Will is an aspect of being created in the Image of the Creator—the Imago Dei.
Imagine a chess board. You can move your pieces anywhere you want, on the ‘chessboard’ of your life. Also imagine that you are playing chess with the all-time Great Master of the game of Chess. No matter what move you make, the Master will know what move to make, in order for the Master to win the game. For the Creator, ‘winning’ the Game of Life in which you play, has nothing to do with you losing. We aren’t playing with the President, who only counts his success as winning—the ‘zero sum’ game.

the chess game

The Creator’s greatest joy is for you to accomplish the purposes for which you were designed. That is why you were created.
This eventually leads to the next, highly understandable question: “If God loves me, how could he let [my loved one] die?” “How could he allow this calamity to fall upon us?”

There is no simple answer to this question.
Your life isn’t simply about you.

Your life is also about a thousand interactions with other people, with other creatures on this earth. Your life is about the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of interactions with people and creatures throughout the whole of your life. Everything you’ve ever done, ever read, ever seen, ever touched, is stored in the cells of your brain.
Your life is more than your life here on planet Earth. You have a soul; your soul isn’t limited to the days and months and years of your lifetime. Your soul consists of electromagnetic forces that are formed by all of the thoughts of your brain. You are more than a brain with a body; you are a soul with a brain and a body. Your soul goes on forever, in a form that the human brain can’t possibly understand, as long as we are trapped here in three dimensions, trapped here in space and time.

You are intended to live forever. Even the longest life, lived by the oldest person to have ever lived on this earth, is short, when compared to forever. The longest life will seem like the blinking of an eye, when we are on the other side of this Life. Even the shortest life, lived here on earth, will continue forever. Seconds or decades won’t have an appreciable difference when compared to forever. Life without the limitations of Time.

The most horrid lifetime on this planet will be but a moment in eternal time.

Does this mean we can ignore the most horrible of circumstances on this planet, because they are simply a moment in eternal time? No, because you are affected by everything that touches you. The most horrid experience that happens to someone else, once you know about it, also happens to you. How you respond. Whether it builds you or tears you down. You don’t really ignore the things you want to ignore. This is merely a fiction your brain creates. The reality is that you never forget the things you want to ignore. If you’ve heard it or seen it or heard of it; it is recorded in your brain.
This is part of the reason why we struggle so much with our past. It’s never really our past; it’s part of who we are now.

piggy back draft 5

My vocation, and my avocation [paid and unpaid] is the making of images. Sometimes, when ‘the streams of the Universe’ are running well, I am able to serve The Work. A lot of times I don’t serve the work well. The image above is from a work I didn’t serve well, because of time pressures. A Hiroshima Diary, the true story of a young woman who came to Hiroshima after the Bomb, looking for her niece and nephew. She found hundreds of children, wandering around, looking for their parents. Every child she encounters, dies in her arms from radiation poisoning. It was a story I wanted to tell; I didn’t have the time to serve it well.

We cannot ignore the suffering we bring to this planet by our actions or our inaction.

If you are not incensed by the results of the Summit between our President and the Dictator of North Korea, you may not be paying attention.
This is why it is so important that you vote in the next election; even if you don’t like the person you vote for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 148: Teach me to see that everything I am is not all about me

April 26, 2018

Scandal pg2

If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator…
http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/home.htm?bhcp=1
…you may be able to understand how I relate so well to Sherlock’s self-definition: “high-functioning Sociopath”—I think if Sherlock was alive, he, like me, would find himself in the INTJ category. INTJs make up about 1% of the population—if I walk into a room of 200 people, statistically, there may be one other person who sees the world ‘through my eyes’—because we are both Introverts, neither of us will seek out the other. In my church, I have been led to one INTJ and one ENTJ; my guess is that I’ve used up my quota… however, new people arrive. This changes the odds.

I don’t particularly like being around people. It becomes more apparent to me, with age, and my greater willingness to express my feelings, rather than burying them.

I forced myself to be around [usually annoyed] strangers for 9 years while I worked in Portland’s Permit Center. When I burned out, I went upstairs and worked mostly with large sets of construction documents, and fewer strangers. But I burned out from that as well—too many chemicals needed to keep me ‘whole’. After 14 years, it had become far less painful to be around strangers, and I eventually taught groups of people about Building Code stuff.

For most of the last 20 years, my only consistent company has been my wife, and we are on different schedules. I love my children; and I am fairly content to be peripheral to their lives. There are a few individuals I meet with on a regular schedule. In church, my wife and I sit up front; ‘church’ for me is made up of the people in my visual field, mostly on the platform; I don’t hang around to talk with people. One of the current factors in my life and my behavior is that my Neurological issues affect my hearing and my ability to speak. Words come out about as well as my typing, these days; unfortunately, my mouth does not seem to have spell-check.

There are 15 songs on a CD that are the only music I listen to while driving; they are selected to remind me of attributes I long to have as part of my personality. One of the 15 songs is by Salvador—‘Aware”—”Teach me to see that everything I am is not all about me.”
‘Huh’, I thought, ‘it’s working’. The same methods I used to train myself to interact with strangers all day long, while working in the Permit Center. The reality is that I’ve never stopped feeding my brain; some of the ‘food’ has changed. Financial success isn’t an issue for me anymore. Not that I achieved it; we simply have too much stuff.

I have ‘begun’ to care about people outside my family; strangers are becoming important to me. It’s strange.
It is possible to change the way you view the world.

I had no inclination for sales, beyond wanting to be with the ‘upline’ people I met. I read from a specific list of books, and I listened to motivational tapes; every day, every opportunity—because I wanted to be with people who seemed to have a facility to go through life with more ‘ups’ than ‘downs’. I talked to groups of strangers as often as I could force myself to do.
I had no real ability to be a salesman; but the books and tapes helped me to function as a person of governmental authority in a world of strangers—many of whom had no desire to secure Building Permits.

The other night I was meeting with a group of truly exceptional people [I am the oddball] people who dedicate portions of their busy lives to total strangers; applying what some call, Redemptive Listening, to broken people [we are all broken at some time or other]. We listen; we don’t try to fix. In our training meeting, we were reading some material from a famous evangelical organization. This Biblical verse came up, in a somewhat ‘Universal’ context, as how people come to Faith:
Romans 10:17
New International Version
“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

The Newer Testament was written in Greek and/or Aramaic; was translated into Latin; from Latin it was first translated into German; followed by Latin or Greek translated into Middle English. The Older Testament starts with Hebrew.

Nothing Biblical, in English, is quite what it seems. Nothing in the Bible was ever written in English. King James may have Authorized an English version of the Bible, but it’s accuracy has always been questioned by people who know the original languages.

The same verse, in a different translation:
Weymouth New Testament
And this proves that faith comes from a Message heard, and that the Message comes through its having been spoken by Christ.”
Nearly everything spoken by Jesus came from the Older Testament; and a lot of what He said was consistent with what was said by the early Greeks.

I did not come to Faith through the Bible.

As I’ve mentioned before, I started with The Man of La Mancha. Alonso Quihana/Don Quixote taught be about living for a purpose beyond myself.
‘Captain Bob’ Bonniwell at Benson Polytechnic School, taught me about Critical Thinking; Existentialist writers taught be about the concept of Faith, as a thing—and the problems of believing in Faith. Marcus Aurelius, Socrates and Plato taught me about having Faith, long before I got to a Bible.

A small group of college students taught be about communicating with the Creator of the Universe.

The other night, an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Darmok”, gave me greater understanding into the difficulties in communicating with the Creator of the Universe. In the episode, the crew of the Enterprise encounters a race of people, ‘The Children of Tama’ whose language is understood by the Universal Translator. The crew members heard words from these people in English [presumed]; but the wording made no sense. The Tamarian language is based on metaphor, rather than on specific words.

Lt. Commander Data: Their ability to abstract is highly unusual. They seem to communicate through narrative imagery, a reference to the individuals and places which appear in their mytho-historical accounts.
Counselor Deanna Troi: It’s as if I were to say to you… “Juliet on her balcony”.
Doctor Beverly Crusher: An image of romance.
Counselor Deanna Troi: Exactly. Imagery is everything to the Tamarians. It embodies their emotional states, their very thought processes. It’s how they communicate, and it’s how they think.
Commander William T. Riker: If we know how they think, shouldn’t we be able to get something across to them?
Lt. Commander Data: No, sir. The situation is analogous to understanding the grammar of a language, but none of the vocabulary.
Doctor Beverly Crusher: If I didn’t know who Juliet was or what she was doing on that balcony, the image alone wouldn’t have any meaning.

The Creator of the Universe exists outside of Time and isn’t encumbered by [only] three dimensions. While we are ‘created in the image of the Creator’, this definition is a metaphor. Throughout history, human beings have attempted to understand this metaphor as if the Creator is ‘made’ in the image of us. Consequently the ‘Bible-believing church’—this is a subset of Christianity as a whole—has established a male-dominated, binary society with a strict moral code—a shorthand definition of the Bible. The Twenty-first Century Church does not know how to deal with a non-binary, less-male dominated society, with a different sense of morality.

Curiously, if one begins with what Jesus taught, a non-binary, less-male dominated society with a different sense of morality is much easier to understand, than the ‘book of rules’ that describes the rest of the Bible.

The Pauline and Apostolic Letters of the Newer Testament were written to the ‘called-out ones’—ecclesia—‘church,’ in Greek—the people who heard something about living that they had never heard before; and they wanted to join their lives with the people teaching this new ‘Way’. It was first called The Way. These Letters from Jesus’ closest followers weren’t written to Roman society or to Jewish society—the Romans worshiped the Emperor; the Jews could not swallow the idea that the Creator of the Universe entered Time and Space as a man. The followers of Jesus were a tiny percentage of the national population. The Apostolic letters weren’t written for the general population.
Paul did not expect the average Roman on the Appian Way to live his life in the Way taught by Jesus.

At first, the followers of Jesus were Jews—as was Jesus—they were told by Prophesy that they no longer had to ‘live Kosher’; and that Circumcision was no longer a requirement for men to be identified as being of the People of God. Jesus turned many of the Jewish rules upside down, because the Religious leaders of His day had made the rule more important than the desired result of the rule. All of the rules were designed to lead to the Creator.
Remember, the Jews had lived in Slavery for generations. Moses led a people into the desert who hadn’t had to make a significant decision about much of anything for most of their lives. The Older Testament created a ‘road map’ for this People of God who had been released from Slavery. Most of the sayings of the Prophets are expressed-frustration by the Creator of the Universe, for this stubborn people who could never seem to get it.

Jesus wasn’t a Christian. Jesus was always a Jew. He probably had brown skin [if for no other reason than that He spent a lot of time in the sun]; and he probably had black hair and brown eyes—as do most of the people of the Middle East. Not many blue-eyed blonds at in Palestine at that time.

Followers of Jesus, followers of the Way, first began to be called Christians in the town of Antioch, a significant time after Jesus was Crucified. This event was recorded by Luke, some 30 years after Jesus’ Resurrection. The Newer Testament does not include dates; and many of the proper nouns mentioned in the Newer Testament are not included in other writings that have survived the centuries. There were no wire services.

Then came the people of other faiths, or of no faith at all. People like me.

Is the Bible irrelevant for the Twenty-First Century? Not at all. However, I apply the same Critical Thinking to the Bible as to all other works of literature. This does not make the Bible less True; it does make the Bible less Factual. To MANY this idea is heresy. I believe the Bible is the Word of God, but I also believe that it is more like the Journal of God. The Book of Job, for instance, is about 2/3 wrong, according to God, when God shows up at the end of that Book. For many, the notion of The Word of God containing ‘Wrong’ cannot be swallowed. Many Biblical Literalists really only read the portions they like, and they avoid the difficult parts.

One needs to take a step off of the soapbox and learn to listen.

Saul of Tarsus, a renowned persecutor of the followers of Jesus, was knocked off of his soapbox once, on the Road to Damascus; on his way to capture some of these hated renegades. Bright light; knocked off his horse; and blinded. There was a follower of Jesus named Ananias; the Creator appeared to him in a dream and told him to look after the feared and hated Saul. Ananias did; scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and the Apostle Paul was born again.
Me, too.

Saul draft2

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 147: Belief

April 23, 2018

P45_mj

I have been given the gift of new followers lately; I’m not sure why, but I appreciate the gift of your time.  However, this one may drive you away again…

Why am I writing this one?

My goal, with my Chronicles, is to help bring some sense, some order, to the nonsensical, seemingly random nature of the country as it has come to be. I use ‘country’ instead of “world” because I am nothing close to a ‘world traveler’ and know little about real life outside the US.

The character above keeps interfering with my thought processes; and I find it difficult to write something meaningful because of my anger and disappointment…

I’m an old hippie. When I was sitting around in college dorms, talking about what the world would be like after we had converted our parents to the concept of Love and Acceptance and an end to War, our current President, and his kind, did not enter our conversations. He is 5+ years older than I; he eventually received a high draft number [coming the long way in his avoidance of military service]. I, too, had a high draft number and did not serve in Vietnam. Nor did we enlist. I don’t think I would have found the nerve to head for Canada. I missed a Draft number in the twenties by about 6 hours—I was a 10-month baby [‘when the apple is ripe, it will fall from the tree’]. When I first understood the concept of Grace, I experienced gratitude for my birthdate.

The other morning, I was reading in CS Lewis’ The Problem of Pain [incredible book], and read the following in his chapter on The Fall of Man. He writes of primitive man, as he probably was, when Mankind became cognizant of the concept of “me”:

“…Hence pride and ambition, the desire to be lovely in its own eyes and to depress and humiliate all rivals, envy, and restless search for more, and still more, security, were now the attitudes that came easiest to it. It was not only a weak king over its own nature, but a bad one: it sent down into the psycho-physical organism desires far worse than the organism sent up in to it.”

The above was written in 1940, around 7 years before DJT’s birthday. So, Lewis wasn’t writing about him.
People who are offended by James Comey’s assessment simply weren’t paying attention.
I’ve been hanging around the “evangelical” community for about 45 years; having been introduced to Faith in college.

Disclaimer #1

I am a follower of Jesus.
I was an atheist, into my twenties; only I never used that word, because “faith” or “religion” was not part of my vocabulary. I was, at best, a Not.
I did not come to Christ because of the Bible.
I did not come to Christ because of a church.

I came to Christ because one guy who lived across the hall from me, became my friend. And he introduced me to his roommate, and a handful of other Believers; college students, like myself. Sane, fun-loving, seemingly well-educated, well-spoken college students. These people introduced me to the Creator of the Universe.

I had avoided Christians like the plague, because for the two years at my previous campus, I was told by people on street corners that I wasn’t living a ‘godly life’—these people didn’t even know my name. I was told that if I led a ‘godly life’ I could be ‘saved’. I had no desire to live a ‘godly life’, nor did I desire to be ‘saved’.

I came to Christ, ‘kicking and screaming’—CS Lewis describes his search for God to be like ‘a mouse searching for a cat’.

For 45 years I have heard men on platforms declaring to their congregations about how they should live and what it means to live a moral life. Not one of those men would hold up DJT as an example of a moral man, and a model for a young person’s life. Men like him were used as examples of what not to be.

I get sickened when I see “Leaders” in the Evangelical community standing firmly behind the President, and being willing to excuse him his indiscretions, because after all, he is a ‘baby Christian’ and he stands up for the pro-life agenda.

Hmm…Maybe Psalm 139:9 was written for these “Leaders”…
  Young’s Literal Translation
  O the happiness of him who doth seize, And hath dashed thy sucklings on the rock!
  New International Version
  Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

Oh, the problems of being a pro-life Fundamentalist…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 146: An Unfundamental Easter Story

March 25, 2018

I’ve been writing this particular Chronicle for years; and have written versions of it in years past. In part this is inspired by Michael Gerson’s excellent narrative on Evangelicalism in America, featured in the April 2018 The Atlantic magazine:
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/04/the-last-temptation/554066/

Quoting Gerson:
A prominent company of evangelical leaders—including Dobson, Falwell, Graham, Jeffress, Metaxas, Perkins, and Ralph Reed—has embraced this self-conception. Their justification is often bluntly utilitarian: All of Trump’s flaws are worth his conservative judicial appointments and more-favorable treatment of Christians by the government. But they have gone much further than grudging, prudential calculation. They have basked in access to power and provided character references in the midst of scandal…

It is the strangest story: how so many evangelicals lost their interest in decency, and how a religious tradition called by grace became defined by resentment. This is bad for America, because religion, properly viewed and applied, is essential to the country’s public life. The old “one-bloodism” of Christian anthropology—the belief in the intrinsic and equal value of all human lives—has driven centuries of compassionate service and social reform. Religion can be the carrier of conscience. It can motivate sacrifice for the common good. It can reinforce the nobility of the political enterprise. It can combat dehumanization and elevate the goals and ideals of public life…

It is difficult to see something you so deeply value discredited so comprehensively. Evangelical faith has shaped my life, as it has the lives of millions. Evangelical history has provided me with models of conscience. Evangelical institutions have given me gifts of learning and purpose. Evangelical friends have shared my joys and sorrows. And now the very word is brought into needless disrepute.

This is the result when Christians become one interest group among many, scrambling for benefits at the expense of others rather than seeking the welfare of the whole. Christianity is love of neighbor, or it has lost its way. And this sets an urgent task for evangelicals: to rescue their faith from its worst leaders.

Evangelical faith has shaped my life as well. At Forest Home, a Christian camp in California, I stood by a plaque: “I sensed the presence and power of God as I had not sensed it in months. Not all my questions were answered, but … I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won.” – Billy Graham, Forest Home.

I have been disappointed by religious leaders so many times during my 45 years as a Believer, that Franklin Graham’s fawning in the presence of the President doesn’t surprise me, but it saddens me…

“Holy Week” as many call it.
The week between Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem” marked by the one man/one donkey ‘parade’ where cheering people paved the roadway with palm branches [Palm Sunday]; ending with Jesus’ tortured death, cheered-on by many of the people in the crowd earlier in the week [Good Friday]; and His Resurrection on the following Sunday [Easter].
At least, that is how the Church calendar has it laid out. Scripture can be a little loose, when it comes to dates and times. Dates and time weren’t the priority. The priority was Story. Story can be true; story can tell truth beyond ‘facts’. Would it have mattered if Holy Week actually went from Tuesday to the following Wednesday? Probably not. More difficult to schedule.

Michelangelo's Pieta_Omega Nebula
Michelangelo’s Pieta

When I write stories, it is required that I have an image to illustrate the story. The placement of Michelangelo’s Pieta against the background of a Hubble image is deliberate. Scripture refers to Jesus/The Creator as ‘the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end.’
I believe the story of Jesus’ last week is True; I don’t argue over ‘facts’. From the first chapter of the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome a [Or ‘understood’] it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. [emphasis added]

The Greek word for ‘receive’ is λαμβάνω, transliterated as ‘lambanó’. It has many meanings. Generally, the definition applied to this passage is (a) I receive, get, (b) I take, lay hold of. There are a couple dozen different uses of the word, when translated from Aramaic to Greek to English.

I was raised as an atheist, although this wasn’t a word we used, because the subject was never discussed in our household. I knew that my beloved grandmother called us heathens—I did not know what it meant, but it didn’t sound good. It apparently had something to do with our not going to church; the confusing part for me is that she didn’t go to church either. On Sunday morning, she watched ‘hellfire and damnation’ preachers on television; her Norwegian Bible on her lap. She apparently grew up with ‘hellfire and damnation’ in Norway; and we didn’t have that particular Norwegian flavor in Portland.
I came to Christ in my third year of college; I ‘missed out’ on all of the Sunday School classes Christian children are sent to [including my own]. I was never confirmed. I was baptized as an infant; when I told my parents about this ‘new’ belief I’d never heard of, they told me they weren’t interested. I eventually was baptized as an adult. My church ‘upbringing’ was largely by way of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I think the ‘pilgrimage’ to Forest Home happened during the summer of my 4th year of college.

And here’s where I move into ‘heresy’.
I’ve been studying theology for 45 years. As happens so often in the Church in America, I think we missed the whole point of Faith. The Darkness that is now becoming Triumphant has not Understood.

nevernding

In the film, The Neverending Story, the Great Warrior [teenaged] Atreyu, attempts to defeat the Darkness and its minion, G’mork; the Darkness that is destroying the world of Fantasia.

But why is Fantasia dying then!?
Because people began to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So, The Nothing grows stronger.
What is The Nothing!?
It’s the emptiness that´s left…it is like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.
But WHY!?
Because people who have no hopes are easy to control… And whoever has the control…has the POWER…!!!
Who are you really?
I am the servant of the power behind The Nothing. I was sent to kill the only one who could have stopped The Nothing. I lost him in the Swamps of Sadness. His name was Atreyu.
If we’re about to die anyway, I’d rather die fighting. Come for me G’mork! I am Atreyuuuuu!!!

Consistently through these 45 years, I have been hearing a message that the story of Easter is about Personal Salvation—that [only] those who are Christians will be saved from Hell. The odd thing is that Jesus never really says this; the idea is an interpretation of Scripture, from the whole of Scripture as it is read and interpreted.
From the Gospel of Mark:

Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So, he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

The ’faith’ mentioned here is on the part of the four guys who dug through the roof; and the passage does not spell out why the people were coming to see Jesus. Stories of miracles, perhaps; free food; always good entertainment. Jesus forgives the paralyzed man [He doesn’t mention the four], and basically says, ‘oh, by the way, you are healed.’ Then Jesus tells the guy to go home. No altar call. No Baptism. No promise to attend synagogue. No Four Spiritual Laws.
Most of the Evangelical preachers I’ve listened to and read, are consistent in their belief that the Creator of the Universe has known each of us from the moment of Creation. The real miracle of Easter is the Incarnation—the Creator of the Universe entered Time and Space in the form of a single sperm cell in the womb of a teenaged girl. Why do people have trouble believing that the Creator of the entire Universe created one cell? Yes, Stephen Hawking said that gravity is all that was needed for Creation to occur; a Creator is not needed. Stephen Hawking would be the first to admit that some of his theories had been incorrect, or incomplete. Gravity could mean that The Creator doesn’t need to constantly crank the starter…

Commentaries on the passage, Romans 5:6, are perplexed by the awkward language used by the Apostle Paul.

“For at just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”
Young’s Literal Translation
For in our being still ailing, Christ in due time did die for the impious;
GOD’S WORD® Translation
Look at it this way: At the right time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for ungodly people.
Aramaic Bible in Plain English
But surely because of our weakness, at this time The Messiah has died for the sake of the wicked.

Why it was the ‘right time’ has always puzzled me.
Substitutionary Atonement [dying for the ungodly] and personal salvation are simply added benefits for us, in the Creator’s decision to enter Time and Space. From the beginning of Creation, the Creator was aware that in creating Man, the time [Greek: kairos] would come when Jesus would be born, and the time would come when the Creator would experience the pain that comes from the loss of a child before that child’s time. In today’s world, parents experience the loss of a child every single day. The feeling of being shattered; the feeling of the world no longer making any sense. Parents are not supposed to outlive their children. It’s an unwritten Law of the Universe. Tens of thousands of children and adults marched today, across the world. The March For Our Lives. Children are not supposed to be killed for simply being children. Without Regard to Skin Color.
We are ‘powerless’ because of Free Will—we all have the choice to pick up a weapon of mass destruction and destroy, as fast as possible, the people standing next to us. Banning assault weapons will not stop school shootings; Free Will will always be in our makeup.
Banning assault weapons will reduce the carnage. Someone will still be able to pick up a rifle that shoots five or more bullets without reloading; or a hand gun that can shoot 32 bullets. Fewer people will be killed and the Second Amendment will still be in the Constitution. People will have the right to bear arms; they will not have the right to use rocket launchers for target practice, simply because they were invented.

The Creator volunteered to be shattered, when it could have been avoided by simply filling the world with ‘the lesser creatures’ as we call them. The ‘lesser creatures’ who kill for meat. Or to stop disease. ‘Lesser creatures’ do not kill for the hell of it. Only Man does that. The purpose of the Incarnation [enfleshment] appears to have been in order for the Creator to truly understand the nature of the Creator’s creation described as ‘a little lower than the angels—Mankind.

Why would the Creator do this? I really have no idea. Would I want the characters in one of my favorite illustrations to come to life? Probably not. Aspen and Grady [the two in the middle] are two of my favorite characters:

wonder

I dearly love my children. I am grateful that they are adults, with their own lives.

The Creator of the Universe, from the first moment of Creation, has known your entire life. Since the Creator is outside of time as we know it, the Creator can see today as it happens, while at the same time sees today as it already happened, ‘in the past’.
You always have a choice as to what you do, what you think and what you say. At the same time, you can NEVER surprise the Creator. ‘Never surprising’ is NOT the same as ‘having a plan’. The Creator does not plan destruction. We live on one of many stone plates, floating on a sea of molten rock, spinning at 1,000mph, orbiting the Sun at 67,000mph. Stability is an illusion. Here in Oregon, we’re about 100 years overdue in a ‘major geologic disturbance’ that happens about every 300 years. If the epicenter is in the ‘proper’ location, downtown Portland will slide into the Willamette River.
I live on the side of a volcano.
Stability is an illusion.

The Creator also knows everything about the great-grandchild of the baby sleeping in the other room. Think about that for a while.

At the right time, Christ died for those without God.
Your sins are forgiven; be healed.

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 138: God Didn’t Have to Come

December 19, 2017
Sketch of a Man by François-Guillaume Ménageot (1744–1816)
Other art images weren’t credited by those who posted them

I’ve written this many times before; I was raised as an atheist; and came to faith while in college. To paraphrase CS Lewis, I was looking for faith in the same way that a mouse looks for a cat. Total surprise, totally changed my life. Truly God-smacked.

I’ve also written that I really don’t like this time of year, particularly in contemporary America. Amidst the shopping, the battles over the nature of Christmas decorations; the battles between Fundamentalists and those who aren’t—often their own family; amidst Christmas pageants and incessant Holiday movies on the tube, the whole point of the first Advent has been lost.

The Creator did not have to come.

Many don’t think He did.
There are those who accept the concept that a Creator began the Universe, and then walked away.

Think of every war, every dictatorship, every moment in history when discord and brutality ruled the Earth—that part of Creation devoid of God. We probably wouldn’t be here now; our ancestors destroyed in the nuclear war that could have happened.

At that moment in time when the timeline was split into two portions, the Creator of the entire Universe entered time and space in the form of a single cell. People get so bent out of shape about the “Virgin Birth”—seemingly overlooking the wonder of the births that happen each day, all over the planet. We lose the wonder of the miracle because it happens all the time, all over the Created world. Cells are fertilized and expand through a process called cellular mitosis. We grow, largely in the dark for 9 months, breathing liquid. And then another wonder happens—we start breathing air. Or not.

To quote Steve Brown, one of my mentors:
The first prayer any believer ought to pray is “Thank you.” God didn’t have to come.
Who would have thought that God—the God of the universe, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is—would have come as a little baby?
God surprises us in our lives. The principle is this: Whatever you think God is doing in your life right now, he probably isn’t. That principle helps me live with the paradox of trying to put God in a box. You see, he wants us to learn to trust him no matter what happens. Meaning isn’t to be found in having all questions answered, all problems solved, all ambiguity resolved. Meaning is found only in the fact that Jesus has come.

The Creator did not enter time in space so that all of your problems would be solved. The Creator did not enter time in space to bring judgement upon the world. The Creator did not enter time and space in order to create new religions. The Creator did not enter time and space in order for one religion to prove that it is better than other religions.

The Creator did not enter time and space to die on a cross so that you don’t have to.

The Creator came to let you know that your Creator knows exactly what it’s like to live in this world. To be an outcast for much of His life—everyone in the community knew the stories—the angels, the shepherds; the wise men that came from the east when Jesus was something like two years old, bringing extravagant gifts fit for a King. If the apocryphal stories have any truth in them, everyone in the village knew about the boy who could do miraculous things…Jesus was an ‘outcast’—He was different from everyone else, and every Junior High kid knows how awful that can be. When Jesus was 12 He went with His parents to Jerusalem, and was left behind by His parents, because He wasn’t paying attention to anything but what the Rabbis were teaching…and what He was teaching them. Everyone knew how the caravan had to turn around, and Jesus’ parents were hunting through Jerusalem to find Him. Everyone in the community learned that story…

When He finally found His Calling, He had three years before the religious leaders of the community had Him falsely arrested, tortured and hanged on a cross like a common thief. He died. The sky split, as did the two-story tall curtain in the Temple—the one that separated God from the people—split from the top down. He was placed in a borrowed tomb; and rose three days later, walking out, in front of Roman guards. For the next several weeks, Jesus appeared before something like 500 people, many alive when the Gospels began being written. Then He left. And then He returned in the form of Spirit—the Spirit that inhabits every person on Earth.

Richard Rohr:
God saves humanity not by punishing it but by restoring it! We overcome our evil not by a frontal and heroic attack, but by a humble letting go that always first feels like losing. Christianity is probably the only religion in the world that teaches us, from the very cross, how to win by losing. It is always a hard sell—especially for folks who are into strength, domination, winning, and enforcing conclusions. God’s restorative justice is much more patient, and finally much more transformative, than mere coercive obedience.
We are not separate from Christ. We are his incarnation, his body. So, our suffering is not separate; it is a continuation of the suffering of Christ that still endures for the life of the world. Much of Christianity has still not dealt with that. We still act as if Christ were “over there,” and we are praying to Christ and pleasing Christ and trying to get Christ inside of us
.
That’s why I dislike such language as “I have accepted Christ into my heart as my personal savior.” The implication is that we are actually separate and our brave decision changes all of that. The truth is that we are already in Christ by the power of the Spirit. We are his flesh, we are his body, we are his children. It’s all a matter of recognition and response, which we call faith.

Advent crrop

That ‘ex-‘ the one you don’t communicate with, but can’t get out of your mind. She’s still in my mind; and I still don’t know what happened. I think of her every day, because I keep her in my prayers. I don’t pray for anything specific—I simply remember her, and hope that good things are happening in her life.

Such is the Spirit of the Creator within us. When I got God-smacked in college, ‘nothing happened.’ The day of realization was just like the day before; I merely became informed that nothing had to happen; I simply had to ‘open a door’ in my mind. No ‘rushing wind’, no ‘tongues of fire’. What changed was me. As I trusted in the process, trusted in the new information, new things occurred in my life. Some good, but not all. Eventually the emptiness I’d felt for years left. The Spirit of the Creator was already in me; I’d never paid much attention before. For most of my life I’d totally ignored the Spirit within me; except for those moments when ‘conscience’ told me I’d made a wrong choice. Or my Dad.

Every person on Earth has the Spirit within them.
Fundamentalists are looking for pitchforks and torches…

There are a lot of people in this world, a lot of people in this country–many of whom hold political office–have a really hard time distinguishing between Truth and Fact. Truth can readily exist in the absence of Fact. Sadly, Fact doesn’t always mean Truth.
Some people have a hard time understanding that the Americas are absent from the Bible. The Americas didn’t ‘exist’ until a couple thousand years after the Abrahamic Scriptures were written. Scriptural principles can apply everywhere;  it’s a bit of a leap to claim that our present governments are ‘clearly’ written about in Scripture…

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 136: To my Un-fundamentalist Friends

December 6, 2017

Adoration of the Magi and a Time Lord

Adoration of the Magi, and a Time Lord

Christmas is NOT my favorite time of the year.
Christmas was enjoyable when my children were young; because children are open to the ‘magical’ aspects of Christmas, and that sharing of ‘magic’ is contagious.

I am writing this primarily to the Un-fundamentalists who struggle with Christmas in America [I have no experience of Christmas in other countries]. I was raised as an atheist; and was introduced to the Creator in my twenties, while in the third of my five years of University. I, of course, was familiar with “the baby Jesus” who came with Christmas; and I was familiar with the word, “God,” although I mostly heard the word as part of a phrase… I never went to Sunday School; I may have had more than one day of Vacation Bible School, but I can’t recall. All I remember is tomato juice, and I hate tomato juice.

I was looking for the Creator in the same way a mouse looks for a cat. Something to avoid. My curiosity was aroused by the caring and kindness of the two Christians who lived across the hall from me; and because University of Oregon did not serve dinner on Sundays, and the pastor of a church did serve dinner in his home; for a group of 15-20 college students. My curiosity was further aroused by these fellow students who did something called ‘praying’ and it was clear they really believed that what they said was heard. By Someone, rather than by the ceiling, or Something. Forty-plus years later, I’m still doing this ‘Christian gig’—because somewhere in my last years of University I encountered Someone who changed my life.

What I have written here is VERY long. Everything I write here will antagonize Fundamentalists; who will have dozens of Scripture verses to refute everything I write. There are thousands of verses in the three Books of the Abrahamic Faith; taken out of context, they will prove or disprove nearly everything. This is why I am not going to use Scripture quotations in that which I write.

It is said that Thomas Jefferson removed all of the pages of his Bible that contained references to miracles; an accomplishment, given that the Bible was probably printed on both sides of the pages. I am of the opinion that the theology of the majority of churchgoers is a combination of the dumbed-down-for-children religion they learned in Sunday School, modified by words and phrases heard in numerous sermons and from the lyrics of songs; or verses taken out of context from devotionals. I am of the opinion that most adults spend very little time reading theology.

I have no initials after my name beside B.Arch; I’ve never attended a university religion class; I’ve never attended seminary. I’m not a theologian. I have, however, invested some amount of time, nearly every day, of my forty-plus years of faith, reading theology. I’m an ordained Elder in the Presbyterian Church, which somehow is a lifelong ordination. I’ve been a member of churches of several denominations, and have attended worship services in several more, from Pentecostal to Roman Catholic to non-denominational ‘stadium’ events. My impression is that most churchgoers have no idea that Christianity is done very differently between denominations. Since there are over 40,000 denominations in the world, according to recent studies, that makes for a lot of variety. Some of those denominations would probably be denounced by many Fundamentalists.

One does not need verses of Scripture to tell of the Creator; the Creator provides [His] own teaching, if one is open to learning. There is a self-evident Creator of the Universe, a concept refuted by some scientists and shared by others. I am partial to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s description of the Force: “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” I believe the ‘energy field’ is that created by the Spirit of the Creator, called, in Hebrew, Ruach—the Breath of God, the Spirit of Life. This Spirit surrounds us, uplifts us and makes us whole—whether or not we want to believe it. [editorial note: I generally use the word, ‘Creator’ rather than the word, ‘God’. I’ve heard so many definitions of ‘god’ in my life, that I find its use unhelpful].

The Creator is the Beginning. All things flow from the Creator, including the Laws of Physics, the Laws of Mathematics, the Laws of Science; they all are upheld by the Creator of All. I believe that if we ever bring C.S. Lewis’ fear to fruition, and we become able to leave this Solar System to investigate other Solar Systems [bringing our contagion with us] we will find Creation stories; and we will find stories of Redemption. They won’t be our stories; which are likely unique to human beings; but there will be stories…

From physicist, Gerald Schroeder: Genesis and the Big Bang:
“In the thirteenth century, [the Jewish scholar], Nahmanides quoted a commentary on Genesis written 600 years before him, noting that prior to the existence of the universe, time did not exist. This was learned from the wording of Genesis 1:5, “. . . and there was evening and there was morning, day one.” It is not stated “the first day.” For the use of first would have implied an already existing series of days or a continuum of time when in fact on this “day one” there had been no prior time to this one day. Not a before and not an after. There was nothing to which one could relate this day. It stood alone as “day one.” For all the remaining days in that week of Genesis, the ordinal terms, second, third, etc., are used and. logically so. By day number two, and thereafter, a series of days had been established. Although it is difficult to comprehend, the creation of the physical universe brought with it a concurrent creation of time…
“At the briefest instant following creation, all the matter of the universe was concentrated in a very small place, no larger than a grain of mustard. The matter at this time was so thin, so intangible, that it did not have real substance. It did have, however, a potential to gain substance and form and to become tangible matter. From the initial concentration of this intangible substance in its minute location, the substance expanded, expanding the universe as it did so. As the expansion progressed, a change in the substance occurred. This initially thin noncorporeal substance took on the tangible aspects of matter as we know it. From this initial act of creation, from this ethereally thin pseudosubstance, everything that has existed, or will ever exist, was, is, and will be formed.”
The Hebrew Scriptures, properly interpreted, based on the shapes of the Hebrew alphabet as well as the content, explain the Expanding Universe in the 7th or 8th Century…

Every human being is comprised of at least two attributes: who we are, and how we act. Scripture teaches that we are created in the Image of the Creator; there is no explanation of what this means. The Creator is the First Principle; the Creator’s actions in the Universe are the work of the Spirit of the Creator—the Ruach.

I believe that the Spirit of the Creator ‘speaks’ to us mostly through our subconscious minds; and sometimes enables our brains to create new ‘neural pathways’ in our brains. Every thought is transmitted through our brain by neural pathways; and sometimes new connections are made between thoughts we already have, and thoughts we never imagined could be true…

Della's Brain

Christianity defines the Creator as having three attributes, which are commonly called, The Trinity: The Creator of All; the Spirit of the Creator, by which the Creator acts; and the Word by which all things were made. Think of it as who you are, how you behave, and your personality, which is a result of genes and DNA. These three attributes of ‘you’ are separate, but at the same time inseparable—they form one You.

The Book of John, in the Newer Testament [there’s an Older Testament, called The Tanakh, the Jewish Scriptures comprising the books of law, the prophets, and collected writings], states:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  The Word is the second person of the Trinity, and we know Him by the name Jesus of Nazareth.

Some people get really messed up, when it comes to the fact of Jesus, and His entrance into human history. It’s really fairly simple: The Creator of the entire Universe created one single cell, and implanted it into the womb of a teen-aged girl named Mary. That cell fertilized a cell from Mary, and mitosis began—where a single fertilized cell divides, resulting in generally two identical cells, each containing the same number of chromosomes and genetic content as that of the original cell—eventually creating a human boy with DNA from the Creator. I find it interesting that the people who get all bent out of shape over “The Virgin Birth” apparently have no problem with the equally miraculous non-virgin births that happen every day throughout the animal kingdom.

Mary was betrothed to a [probably older] man named Joseph; Joseph intended to ‘divorce’ Mary [betrothal was sort of like marriage, but with no consummation], because Joseph knew how babies came into being. However, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream [subconscious] and told him to continue with his plans for marrying Mary—the son that was to be born was the prophesied Messiah of the Hebrew people, promised thousands of years before.

The Christmas Story

1] There were no evergreen trees in Israel, in the First Century; the closest thing was probably a palm tree.

2] Many scholars think Jesus was probably born in the Spring. There were no Birth Registries in the 30s AD, the presumptive time period Jesus was born.

3] While there was probably a stable and no room at the inn [Doctor Who once said he got the last room], there probably were shepherds, and there could have been a Star. There were no Wise Men at the manger/crib where Jesus lay, in swaddling clothes.

4] The Wise Men from the East probably arrived at Jesus’ home when Jesus was around two years old. Having had an audience with Herod, asking about the new King born in Judea; and having not returned the way they came [another dream warning to the subconscious], Herod ordered that all of the Hebrew boys of two years and younger were to be killed [The Slaughter of the Innocents]. The Wise Men apparently suggested to Herod that the new King had been born sometime in the previous two years. Having been warned in a dream [another one], Joseph gathered up his family and fled to Egypt.

5] Christmas trees, Santa Claus, the Story of Saint Nicholas [the Bishop of Myra] and all of the material and materialistic stuff of Christmas practiced in the Western World is a result of priests in the Middle Ages pre-empting the pagan rituals relating to the Winter Solstice celebrations into something more in keeping with the Christian religion brand.

6] American culture [the only culture with which I am conversant] has blown the Christmas story into something that has almost nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. Celebration of the birth of Jesus is not required by the Christian faith. I haven’t celebrated Christmas for a couple of decades. The Christmas decorations we have up in our house stay there for the entire year. Christmas, the celebration of New Birth, is to be celebrated all year round.

7] Human beings, without regard to titles they hold, have neither the power, nor the authority to ‘condemn someone to Hell’. Such condemnation [if it happens], is entirely up to the Creator of All; and will only occur when we come before the Creator, when our time here has ended. Scripture says that you, in your entirety, and across your entire life, have been known by the Creator from the beginning of time [aka Omniscience]. We can NEVER surprise the Creator by our behavior; we only surprise ourselves and those we know. The concept of the Creator of All, creating literally billions of human beings, for the sole purpose of sending them to Hell, defies my ability to suspend belief.

In His time on earth, the only people that Jesus condemned were the self-important religious leaders of his day. Jesus, who equated Himself with the Creator [one of the many ‘blasphemies’ for which He was accused] taught compassion for the poor, the homeless, the Stranger, and the downtrodden. He taught that we are to comfort the widows, the orphans, to reach out to the disabled, and the broken. That we are to give from our wealth to those who are without.

In short, the opposite of what the current Administration appears to be attempting to do.

Thus, endeth the sermon.

Saint Nicholas 2

One Christmas morning, many, many years ago, I went out on our front deck, to look at the new-fallen snow. I looked at the driveway and saw two ‘grooves’ in the snow; and a bunch of small, circular wet spots where the driveway showed through the snow.

I swear, I did not put them there.

It would have been a great idea…

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 130: Part One- We aren’t what we think we are

September 18, 2017

 “The key idea of Einstein’s theory of general relativity is that gravity is not an ordinary force, but rather a property of space-time geometry.”
http://www.einstein-online.info/elementary/generalRT/GeomGravity

“…general relativity is about more than just understanding gravity. It’s about explaining the totality of existence. General relativity inspired a new vision of the entire fabric of the cosmos. From general relativity flowed the realization that the universe is expanding, that it contains spacetime bottomless pits called black holes, that it is traversed by ripples in space triggered by cataclysmic collisions.
“The implications for the further reaches of the universe were more surprising than even Einstein ever realized,” physicist Stephen Hawking has written.
General relativity explains how the universe can obey physical laws that apply to any form of motion. It’s at the heart of identifying and investigating crucial questions about space and time, existence and reality. And its implications are not limited to esoteric concerns on cosmic scales — it has its down-to-Earth impacts as well. Without general relativity, for instance, GPS devices would be worthless. Satellite signals designed to keep your car on the right road would be off by miles if not corrected for the effects predicted by Einstein’s math.  -Tom Siegfried
https://www.sciencenews.org/article/einsteins-genius-changed-sciences-perception-gravity

I’m not a physicist, but I am fascinated with physics. Our understanding of gravity is theoretical. It’s a pretty good theory, and aspects of the theory are demonstrated all the time. However, no one really understands gravity; nor does anyone really know why gravity exists We haven’t ventured far enough into the Universe to know that the theory is True throughout the Universe. It’s simply the best explanation that has come along.

Saturn's Rings_Blue Marble

The image on the right was taken by the Cassini spacecraft, a few days before it crashed into the atmosphere of Saturn last week. The upper part of the image shows a portion the rings of Saturn; the lighter area at the bottom of the image are believed to be ice crystals ejected by one of Saturn’s moons. A portion of Saturn itself, is in the black area at top left of the image. It’s black because it’s facing away from the Sun, the light source for all the light in our Solar System. The image on the left was created from the data transmitted from Cassini.

Years ago, while working with NASA, Carl Sagan requested that the Voyager spacecraft take a parting photograph of the view behind, as Voyager left the Solar System. In that photo, Earth was seen as a tiny blue spot in a shaft of light.

The Universe is far larger than we can possibly imagine. A human tendency toward hubris—excessive pride or self-confidence—leads us to imagining that we know for a fact, those things we know very little about.

Those whose faith resides in Science often use the same kind of language to discount those whose faith resides in a Creator. Granted, many of those whose faith resides in a Creator use language that isn’t sophisticated, and cannot provide mathematical proofs to give credence to their ideas. I cannot provide proofs to my ideas about the Creator, my ideas about the Universe. All I can tell you is that when I was an atheistic young adult, I encountered the Spirit of the Creator of all life; and this encounter changed the direction of my entire life.

From The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God by Carl Sagan:

“…There is no reason I should expect an omnipotent being to leave evidence of His existence, except that the Gifford Lectures are supposed to be about that evidence. And I hope it is clear that the fact that I do not see evidence of such a God’s existence does not mean that I then derive from that fact that I know that God does not exist.
“That’s quite a different remark. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Neither is it evidence of presence. And this is again a situation where our tolerance for ambiguity is required. The only thrust of these remarks is for those—and it’s by far the greatest majority of contemporary theologians—who believe that there are natural pieces of evidence for the existence of God or gods. And so, I have no problems with any of that. And, as you say, if a god existed who gave us free will or merely noted that we had free will, and wished to let our free will operate, then he or she or it might very well give us no evidence of his, her, or its existence for just that reason.
“…That we have to use our sense organs and our intellectual abilities to comprehend these issues, I think, is apparent. Perhaps they are limited, but it’s all we have. So, do the best with what we have. Don’t foist, I say, our predispositions on the universe. Look openly at the universe and see how it is. And, how is it? It is that there’s order in there. It’s an amazing amount of order, not that we have introduced but that is there already. Now, you may choose to conclude from that fact that there is an ordering principle and that God exists, and then we come back to all the other arguments: Where did the ordering principle come from? Where did God come from? If you say that I must not ask the question of where God came from, then why must I ask the question of where the universe came from? And so on.” [emphasis added]

From an old entry: Chronicles in Ordinary Time 68: We aren’t what we think we are
https://mjarts.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/chronicles-in-ordinary-time-68-we-arent-what-we-think-we-are/

Imagine a baseball stadium…stadium

I’m not really a science guy, but I’m fascinated with science; I find that my generic understanding of science helps me to understand the Universe, which means that science helps me understand the nature of the Creator.

As I understand it, if an atom was the size of a baseball stadium, the nucleus would be the size of a baseball, and the electrons of a water molecule would orbit somewhere within the confines of the stadium structure. Quantum mechanics, and that concept which is sometimes, but not necessarily accurately, called ‘Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle’, proposes that the act of looking for a particle actually changes the location of the particle—so I’ve indicated the Hydrogen molecules as amorphous ‘star’-like images. When you look to find these atomic particles, they will most likely be somewhere else…

The rest of the volume of the stadium is empty. Electromagnetic forces and nothing solid. We are made up of zillions of atoms; consequently, we are made up of zillions of packets of empty space and a ‘few’ atomic particles. And yet, we believe ourselves to be made up of solid material. The apparent solidity is caused by the electromagnetic forces within the atoms.

We aren’t what we think we are.

So, what are we?

A question that has been asked for Millennia. One of the aspects of living in this cyber-era is that we have a tendency to believe we know so much more than our human counterparts of the last centuries. There are a lot of ‘factoids’ that we now know that people in the past did not know; but that doesn’t always mean we are all that much wiser…

I believe that everyone’s idea of the Creator is too small. This is ‘an occupational hazard’ of being human. Our minds can only perceive so much. People can’t really imagine an Eternal, Omniscient, Omnipotent Creator; we are stuck here in time, never knowing what’s ahead, and relatively powerless to accomplish anything that will last. But we dream of More. We realize that we were made for More; until the World squishes such thoughts out of our minds; by its incredible and ever-growing weight.

That ‘blue dot’ is not anywhere near the center of the Universe; it isn’t anywhere near the center of the Milky Way; I believe this is the idea that first confounded the ‘religious experts’ of earlier centuries. ‘Surely [‘stop calling me Shirley’] we, who are created in the image of God, must be in the center of the Universe.’ In reality, we are probably located in a low-rent district near the edge of the galaxy.

I believe it is our ability to think that is how we are made in the image of the Creator. I know from my own experience that we can change the way we think; we can change the way we perceive our world. I believe that we can come in contact with the Creator of the Universe through the labyrinthian pathways of our brains. Functional MRIs can plot the path of a thought. Functional MRIs can show that in the mind of one with Bipolar Disorder, thoughts get blocked; as if by a roadblock on the freeway. Studies have shown that with rather drastic methods, those ‘roadblocks’ can be bypassed. Sometimes those blockages can be bypassed with the use of ancient herbal formulae.

I believe we can re-program our brains through the way we think. I believe that the Spirit of the Creator can help us to reprogram our brains; and can ‘plant’ new ideas in our brain. We do not have to be the victims of our brain chemistry. But changing the way our brains operate doesn’t just happen; one has to cooperate with the process, and it requires a lot of work.

I believe these ideas because I have seen them at work in my own life. I have become a person, that in the past, I did not want to be. I have discovered that other people are more important to my life than I am. By nature, I am a curmudgeon who really doesn’t care about people I do not know. In spite of myself, I’ve changed.

A friend asked:

My sensory nerves are ‘dissolving’—I lose sensation on a continual basis; and a bunch of neurologists have no explanations as to why, or how long. Ironically, as I lose these sensations, they are often replaced with pain. Sometimes, intense pain. For the most part, the pain does not get worse when I move. So, I keep moving.

I have spinal damage in my neck and lumbar regions—damage that probably occurred in high school. My parents didn’t have the money, and didn’t see the need, to take me to a neurologist. I have no proof it happened in high school. I’ve been in three ‘totaled’ car wrecks, and did stupid stuff as a contractor. The old damage that shows up in contemporary MRIs could have occurred sometime in the first decades of my adult life.

All I know for sure is that the continual pain I’d felt for years, went away one day; the day after I went to a ‘Crusade’. I felt compelled to ‘go forward’ with the dozens of people who were leaving their seats in the Civic Auditorium. I did not want the ‘Spiritual Gifts’ the preacher was handing out. Nonetheless, I felt compelled to go forward. Nothing happened that night, beyond embarrassment. The next day I realized that the pain in my low back, pain I’d had for years, was gone. It stayed away for a long time. Apparently, something happened in my brain that was ‘stronger’ than my brain chemistry and the damage to my spine. My mind overcame pain.

But I can’t prove it; and I can’t download software into your brain. Part of the continuing story of my faith walk. Stuff I cannot prove. My experience in encountering the Spirit of the Creator has become my “Formal Principle”.

The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation is taking place soon. Martin Luther nailed his ‘Ninety-Five Theses’ to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, on October 31, 1517. The ‘official’ beginning of the Reformation. His intense study of Scripture became his “Formal Principle”.

I wasn’t raised in the Church; I never entered a church sanctuary until I was in my twenties. My reading of the Bible happened in the same time period as my reading of Marcus Aurelius. Both are profound. While I believe that the Bible is entirely inspired by the Spirit of the Creator; and is entirely True in its original languages, for the purposes that they were written; I don’t believe the Bible is entirely factual. In one of the oldest books of Torah [Older Testament], the Creator speaks to Job, and tells him that about 2/3 of what was written—the speeches by Job’s ‘Comforters’—is actually nonsense. However, it hadn’t been written at that time, so we aren’t entirely sure which 2/3 is being referenced.

Jesus and His Apostles practiced Judaism, not Christianity; an altered Judaism, which is what caused the Religious Right to be ticked off. That which became the Newer Testament was written to believers who practiced Judaism as taught by Jesus. They later became known as Christians, but there’s no indication that they stopped practicing Judaism. Judaism without circumcision, and without Kosher food. This is probably about as far away from Luther’s Holy Roman Catholic Church as one can get, while still using the name of Jesus. I have trouble believing that Paul and the Apostles realized that they were writing the “Formal Principles” of the modern Church. Would their writings have been different, if they knew what was to come? I have no idea.

We won’t know, until Time does not matter.

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 88: The Other Story

January 8, 2016

I write these posts as a way of processing the world as I see it—the view from an introverted, INTJ, ‘stranger in a strange land’ perspective. There is much in human behavior that I have never comprehended.

Sometimes I write because I want to cause you who are reading this to examine your world.

Those of you who’ve read these posts in the past are aware that Faith is the most important component of my life. Being an asocial personality who prefers the life of a recluse to having a social life; if I’m honest, I only care about the people that I know, the people who have some impact on my life. I comprehend that as a person of Faith, my scope of caring is supposed to be wider; I’ve been working on this concept for 40 years. I still have a distance to go.

I wasn’t raised with faith; I was raised without a presence of God in my life. During my third year of college I discovered Faith, I was led to Faith. I assumed that my parents had never heard the Good News of Jesus; I soon learned that they didn’t want to hear anything I had to say; they’d heard it before… Evangelism has never been one of my strengths; on the other hand I really can’t comprehend how people who have seen what I’ve seen and heard what I’ve heard can’t understand what I understand. Maybe they haven’t seen and heard…I so often wish I could download Faith into someone’s brain as easily as one downloads an app…

Courtesy of Facebook, I recently read an article that implied that the contemporary Church’s acceptance of people with ‘alternative lifestyles’ is the cause of much of the chaos present in the world today; and presented a photo that implied that tattooed, pierced people were symptomatic of the problem. Probably an implication of one of my favorite saints, Pastrix Nadia of House for All in Denver, Colorado… To be honest, I couldn’t get through the entire online article; apologies if I misunderstood.

Canticle detailNot often seen detail from one of my favorite works,
Wooden Boat [Canticle of the Sea]

To be honest, I don’t comprehend the desire to tattoo oneself, particularly in places where one will never see the ink. I don’t object, I simply don’t comprehend. At least two of my three kids [3 of 5?] have ink, and I admire the art. I have yet to find an image I wouldn’t tire of, or more recently, wouldn’t grow out of…

So, the Church as become too accepting of people who live non-traditional lives… The author of that article has probably have never really understood Jesus.

A digression, hopefully the implication will be understood…

Genesis 18: 20-21, 23-25, 32
Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
…Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”
He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

Ezekiel 16:1-2, 48-50
“The word of the Lord came to me:
“Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her detestable practices…
“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done.
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”

Jesus said,
“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” [Mt 10:14,15]

There is something specifically missing from the above quotations about Sodom; something many in the Church seem unable to see. “Arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. Haughty.” Sounds a lot like contemporary America.

No specific reference to sexual practice. It happened. That wasn’t why.

we shall remainhttp://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/weshallremain/

Tonight I finished watching “We Shall Remain”—the mostly-untaught story of America.

“In 2008, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly released a survey on how Americans view their country’s relationship to God: “Sixty-one percent agree that America is a nation specially blessed by God,” it revealed, “and 59 percent believe the United States should be a model Christian nation to the world.”
“Ever since Europeans came to America, the idea of the United States as a land of special blessings has animated America’s soul. John Winthrop, the Puritan governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, famously drew upon the Bible to describe the early New England settlers: “We shall be as a City upon a hill, the eyes of all people upon us.
“Subsequent generations have voiced similar themes to propel America’s narrative: their country was thought to have a “manifest destiny;” to represent “an empire of liberty;” to offer the “last best hope on earth;” and above all, to embody “American exceptionalism.”
by William Doino Jr.
http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2012/08/is-america-blessed-by-god

“The Master of Life has appointed this place for us to light our fires, and here we shall remain.” -Tecumseh (Shawnee)

Tecumseh to Governor Harrison (August 1810)
Brother, I wish you to give me close attention, because I think you do not clearly understand. I want to speak to you about promises that the Americans have made.
You recall the time when the Jesus Indians of the Delawares lived near the Americans, and had confidence in their promises of friendship, and thought they were secure, yet the Americans murdered all the men, women, and children, even as they prayed to Jesus?
The being within me hears the voice of the ages, which tells me that once, always, and until lately, there were no white men on all this island, that it then belonged to the red men, children of the same parents, placed on it by the Great Good Spirit who made them, to keep it, to traverse it, to enjoy its yield, and to people it with the same race. Once they were a happy race! Now they are made miserable by the white people, who are never contented but are always coming in! You do this always, after promising not to anyone, yet you ask us to have confidence in your promises. How can we have confidence in the white people? When Jesus Christ came upon the earth, you killed him, the son of your own God, you nailed him up! You thought he was dead, but you were mistaken. And only after you thought you killed him did you worship him, and start killing those who would not worship him. What kind of a people is this for us to trust?

Tecumseh to the Osages (1811)
Brothers, when the white men first set foot on our grounds, they were hungry; they had no place on which to spread their blankets, or to kindle their fires. They were feeble; they could do nothing for themselves. Our fathers commiserated their distress, and shared freely with them whatever the Great Spirit had given his red children. They gave them food when hungry, medicine when sick, spread skins for them to sleep on, and gave them grounds, that they might hunt and raise corn. Brothers, the white people are like poisonous serpents: when chilled, they are feeble and harmless; but invigorate them with warmth, and they sting their benefactors to death. The white people came among us feeble; and now that we have made them strong, they wish to kill us, or drive us back, as they would wolves and panthers.
Brothers, the white men are not friends to the Indians: at first, they only asked for land sufficient for a wigwam; now, nothing will satisfy them but the whole of our hunting grounds, from the rising to the setting sun. Brothers, the white men want more than our hunting grounds; they wish to kill our old men, women, and little ones. Brothers, many winters ago there was no land; the sun did not rise and set; all was darkness.

America, the “City upon a hill, the eyes of all people upon us.” We, who slaughtered the Nations who lived here before us; we who enslaved the African population who were brought here by force; we who placed the Japanese-American citizens of this country in internment camps, stealing their property. We who have a leading candidate for President who wants to remove all of the Muslim citizens of this country simply because they honor the Qur’an.

As an aside, the 93rd verse of chapter 4 (sūrat l-nisāa), of the Noble Qur’an states:

ومن يقتل مؤمنا متعمدا فجزاؤه جهنم خالدا فيها وغضب الله عليه ولعنه واعد له عذابا عظيما

“But whoever kills a believer intentionally – his recompense is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally, and Allah has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared for him a great punishment.”

Most of the people killed by the suicide bombers of ISIS and others, are Muslim. Those in ISIS apparently don’t read their Book anymore carefully than we do.

In the days of the Prophets of Israel, they understood that sometimes the land had been cursed, due to the behavior of the people. God was often silent for centuries…

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 9: Occupying Our Hearts

November 13, 2011

This illustration was created for Ken Gunther, for an upcoming book to be published by Gaiadigm Books.

Somewhere in the eighties I started drawing Native American portraits, some of which were compiled in the image below [John_10-16]. The process of searching for new images became a study of our government’s treatment of the indigenous peoples who lived here before the Europeans came; and the slaughter of those Nations.

Nations. Our government recognized these peoples as Sovereign Nations, and prepared Treaties with these Nations; and then systematically broke all of the Treaties.

In the image below, the words in the oval on the left state that the purpose of most of the early colonies was evangelism; over time the presence of the Native Americans became an obstacle…

“Our manifest destiny is to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying masses.”
John Louis Sullivan, 1845

“In treachery, broken pledges upon the part of high officials, lies, thievery, slaughter of defenseless women and children, and every crime in the catalogue of man’s inhumanity to man, the Indian was a mere amateur compared to “the noble white man.” His crimes were retail, ours wholesale.”
Lt. Britton Davis, 1884

In the image below, the oval on the right offers quotations from half a dozen “Indians” who spoke words that should have come out of the mouths of Christians of that time. Words that echo what Jesus taught.

The Lakota used a metaphor to describe the Europeans who arrived on their lands.
“It was Wasi’chu, which means “takes the fat,” or “greedy person.” Within the modern Indian movement, Wasi’chu has come to mean those corporations and individuals, with their governmental accomplices, which continue to covet Indian lives, land, and resources for private profit.
Wasi’chu does not describe a race; it describes a state of mind.
Wasi’chu is also a human condition based on inhumanity, racism, and exploitation. It is a sickness, a seemingly incurable and contagious disease which begot the ever advancing society of the West. If we do not control it, this disease will surely be the basis for what may be the last of the continuing wars against the Native American people.”
…excerpt from Wasi’chu, The Continuing Indian Wars,
Bruce Johansen and Robert Maestas
with an introduction by John Redhouse
[ http://www.dickshovel.com ]

Evangelical Christians in the US seem to have a short memory. We talk about being a nation ‘blessed by God’ and overlook the slaughter of the Nations that were here at the beginning. We overlook Hiroshima and Nagasaki as crimes against humanity. And somehow we call our nation “blessed”. How can we justify these actions of the past as Christian actions?

The “Occupy…” movements of today, I believe, are a reflection of the some people’s recognition of the spirit of Wasi’chu among us. We live in a country of vast inequalities. I do not believe the answer is simply “redistribution of wealth”. When the wealthy refuse to be taxed at the same rate as the non-wealthy, at the expense of “social services,” I think we have a problem of Wasi’chu.

What Would Jesus Do?
I don’t know; the Gospels do not include any instances of “Occupy Jerusalem”. Jesus lived under the foot of an Emperor; and such movements would have probably ended with death and maiming.

In an interview with Gary W. Moon written in “Conversations
Journal” [ http://www.philipyancey.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/WhatGoodIsGod-Yancey-and-Moon.pdf ], Philip Yancey writes:
For one thing, Jesus didn’t live in a democracy; he lived under an occupying power, the most powerful empire of its time. In such circumstances, you can either accommodate the ruling power, as the Sadducees did, or violently oppose it, as did the Zealots. Jesus mostly ignored it. He said nothing about the brutality of the Romans or some of their nefarious practices, such as gladiator games, pederasty, and the abandonment of infants. His guiding principle, “[Give] unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” is wonderfully ambiguous (Luke 20:25, ASV).

GWM: So, if you could write a one or two-sentence prescription for the
church in the US and you were sure it would be followed, what would you prescribe?
PY: Spend less time and energy trying to clean up the culture around you—a task Jesus and Paul did not seem concerned about—and more time and energy creating a counter-culture that presents a compelling alternative while exposing the shallowness of its surroundings.

I don’t think I can say it any better.


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