I’ve seen many memes and aphorisms on Facebook with the general theme of “pray for peace.” Nothing wrong with that, but as the woman in full hijab rang up our purchases at Wal-Mart in Grand Forks ND three weeks ago I got to thinking about how results might be better if we were more specific.in our intentions.
My thought is to imagine a place where you have been (or want to be) that invokes serenity. For me it’s the forest, quiet and green. I envision a circle around a campfire where many people can sit comfortably and see each other easily.
I would invite people to sit and share their vision of America. The woman in hijab, my African-American cousins, several of my neighbors here in Port Townsend and maybe that guy with the pick-up truck with the Confederate Battle Flag in the rear window. The refugee from a war-torn country seeking a place for her family and a member of the DAR. The guy who runs a pharmacy on Main Street. A grandchild or two. The nurse who cared for me whose husband had died and was living paycheck to paycheck. Just folks. You can make up your own invitation list.
We’d go around the campfire and share our vision for America and how we might achieve it together. Deep down, what is it that gives us pride in where we live? What values can we share to build us up as communities and not tear apart? What is about our country that makes us grateful?
America has always been an experiment in self-governance. We are an imperfect nation that paints over our flaws with myths and symbols that perpetuate that imperfection. I’d ask my group what new myths and symbols would help us build a country that was inclusive and compassionate. Can you envision such myths and symbols?
The campfire would close with an affirmation to hold these specific hopes and dreams in our hearts and to look forward to a fresh new direction for all of us.
The United States has had a civic religion since the country was founded, based on those persons, places and ideas that citizens feel are “sacred” to their sense of country. In our beginning it was the Declaration of Independence and the almost deification of George Washington. At a baseball game there is the National Anthem, Old Glory the size of, well, ball fields and God Bless America. We have troops, who must be Supported. Some regard presidents as sacred to our country; certainly Lincoln falls into this category.
The changes to our demographics are now causing a shift in HTC the objects of civic religion. Blacks are rightly asking how much some of these sacred objects are examples of white privilege. Southerners take a look at Dixie and Jefferson Davisi being replaced with highways and streets named for ML King and Barack Obama. Their sacred flag is now vilified and torn down.
Muslims hold Allah and the Quran to be sacred, and so are much quieter in their assimilation.
The angry folks in our county resent these changes, much like conservative Catholics after the Second Vatican Council. The order and placement of the Mass and the altar had changed, and the mysticism of Latin was now plain old English.
Being White, as a sacred status, no longer guarantees top ranking in society as social justice lifts more and more groups to equal position. A woman is running for president, and this after eight years of an Afro-American. Is nothing sacred anymore?
No wonder there is so much animosity. People are adrift and fearful.
So it’s time to talk about what sacred objects will bring a sense of country today and in the future. What is “America” for the 21st century? In religious parlance, people of a faith come together to prayerfully consider their future at a synod. There is often conflict, but the greater good of the bodyb of believers is uppermost. Since we have no effective government, it’s time for We the People to act.
Put a stamp on my Washington state primary ballot this morning, marking my affiliation with the Democratic party and voting for Bernie Sanders. The primary here doesn’t apportion delegates, but it was a positive thing to do, one small way of witnessing this year’s presidential race.
I believe that Bernie and We The People who support him have something valuable to add to the party and the nation. I am hoping that all the enthusiasm that he has generated can be heard and that change will occur. He may not be the Democratic nominee by virtue of establishment politics, but change has been incremental in this country rather than violent.
I hope that Bernie supporters will remember that the other party will probably nominate a man who would be an extinction event for the republic if he won. Hillary is not my choice for many reasons, but third parties are not the best answer to this dilemma. Sitting out the election in a pique, in my opinion, would be an abrogation of civic responsibility. Sometimes we need to morally make choices that are not black and white.
It’s that first week. You’ve been doing your best to follow the teacher who has been saying words of enlightenment that only upset the religious and political order of things. He has spoken in parables because these ideas are hard to comprehend after believing something else all your life. He has simplified and lived the words by his example.
The events of the past week have turned it all into chaos. The anger in the temple, the cryptic farewell at Passover. The execution.
Now, huddled and hidden, you wonder what will happen next. No Christology of men in purple robes yet, just your own shock, disappointment and fear.
Spending some time inside with this, far from the eggs and rabbits.
Two weeks ago I fulfilled my quest to listen to Fr Richard Rohr celebrate Mass at Holy Family Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Father Richard has been a teacher of mine for several years, offering non-dualistic thinking and an appreciation of Jesus that, he has repeatedly said, many Christian churches miss.
I read and reflect on Fr Rohr’s daily meditations first thing every morning and enjoy several of his books, but I wanted to hear him in the context of Church. He preaches the alternative Franciscan orthodoxy and I wanted to be present to this within traditional Catholicism. I sat down in the middle of the church amidst mostly Hispanic parishioners. The church is large and it took a bit to adjust to the sound system, including the large built-in projection screens (which I abhor as they detract from my focus on the liturgy). Some of the responses and now we have “consubstantial” in the creed, which ihave been changeds certainly in most parishioners’ daily vernacular.
The title of the homily was “Jesus’ Inaugural Address“, and I was struck by how Fr Rohr’s essential messages were preached inside such a traditional and unchanging institution (Pope Francis aside, of course). The rest of the liturgy was from formulations of late antiquity and medieval theology. Sin, died, went to hell and, of course, “consubstantial with the Father”. The best Fr Rohr could do with that was “sisters and brothers” not the usual.
For me, I’ll keep the rites as part of the conversation, but, for me, contemplation, mysticism and the simple teachings of Jesus need no connection with 4th Century Imperial Christianity.
I did get to shake Fr Rohr’s hand and offer him my own blessings I left church feeling spiritually uplifted. I stepped out into the sun and it had worked!
Note: The statue of St Francis sits in the courtyard of the Albuquerque Museum of Art. The facial expression is so unlike the usual backyard statuary.
There is a close connection between speed and impatience. Our culture has become so speeded up today that no one has time to be patient. People in a hurry cannot be patient—so people in a hurry cannot really love. To love, we need to be sensitive to those around us, which is impossible if we are racing through life engrossed in all the things we need to do.
Blue Mountain Journal Winter 2015
Part of Christmas for me in the past has been that the season was tied to the retail clock, which runs increasingly faster from the first of October through Christmas Eve. The increasing activity that runs toward Christmas morning didn’t leave any time for reflection, not that I’d have slowed down back then.
Now that I’m older I value my quiet and withdraw from the popular culture and commercial frenzy of the holidays.
I finally found the picture which gives meaning to me for Christmas. A Middle Eastern couple, resting in a stable after the birth of their child. No glowing halo on the baby’s head. A tired mother and a thoughtful father. Centuries of human theology and religion yet to come. The invitation for our transformation is here in the beginning, before all the pomp and circumstance, before all the hurry, in the poor circumstances of the child, in the repose of Mary and the quiet contemplation of Joseph.
Blessings and Merry Christmas!
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
– Clarissa Pinkola Estes
I am enjoying the community of Christmas this year. Christmas in the Western world, like God, is not something, but, it seems, everything. Christmas has a long list of traditions during the dark winter near Solstice. Santa Claus, family and winter festivals. Lights and decorated trees. Retail. The birth of Jesus of Nazareth didn’t make it into Matthew or Luke until decades later. The birth narratives have their problems with historical accuracy and Christology and, on the literalists side, too many would like to claim pieces of the season for their own and criticize the rest of it. We can choose to respond to our egos and be rigid, or smile and enjoy the birth, however it happened.
I choose the mystery over anger. As the poem says, “I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.” I enjoy Hark, the Herald Angels Sing and Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. Proclamation of the birth of a poor peasant boy who captured the imagination of millions and silliness are not mutually exclusive.
I am very much encouraged by the Light, regardless of what were early attempts to cherish this Birth story a long time ago.