When Presidents Pray. . .

Mudslide

An awful mudslide has killed many people and destroyed a town.  This happened in my home area of Washington State, not far from where I was raised, where some family lives, and a short drive from where I was living a few years ago.  Not long ago, I took a walk by that river.  A real tragedy for the people who live in that beautiful region of America.

I understand that people want to meet in a church and support each other.  Yet, I find the calls to prayer troubling:

The President prays.

I know he doesn’t know what else to say.  Maybe I would respect that, if he just said that, or said:

“Our fellow countrymen and women are suffering and many have died.  Let’s do what we can, and think of them today.”

As the disaster response is already underway, wouldn’t that be enough?

Could we just get to work and help?

Could we all think compassionate, hopeful thoughts?

Do we need to ask a God to help?

I’m not sure what this accomplishes, and maybe it should stop. . .maybe?

There will always be faith and always be prayer, of course.  But maybe doing that privately is best.

I know one major reason people pray:  they don’t know what else to do!  I’m not being disrespectful, just factual.

You’re scared and grieving so you need comfort.  That’s human.  We  all need that at critical times.

In fact, that’s something Chaplains should be good at:  being human with people during their most human times.

So, help me understand something:

If YOU “pray for victims,” I’m wondering what you pray?  Please explain what that is, how it helps, and what your God actually does in response to your prayer.  Really, I’d like to know.  And please tell me what your God does BEFORE these tragedies happen.  Does He or She act only when there is suffering and death?  And only acts when YOU ask?  Help me out here.  When I used to pray, we would often say, “God be with us” here and now.  And, of course, we believed that God WAS with us already, we just wanted the assurance.  Not that anything changed, but we felt better.  Is that what’s really going on with prayer?  Assurance, comfort, so we feel better?  If so, people should just be honest and say that.  And many of us might feel more comfort and assurance if others didn’t pray so much and simply sat with us instead. . .and helped us rebuild.

In the meantime. . .

I think of the families and hope they are finding comfort from others who listen, assist and grieve with them.  Since I’m not right there, I can do no more.

 

The Gospel of Guns (Part 2)

jesus-with-gun

I always know when I post something about guns urging reason and responsibility, gun-loving readers will not be happy.  Temperatures rise, especially when I use humor or sarcasm to make my point.  I realize there’s an amount of danger in stirring up the Guns-and-God Group. . .but if reasonable people don’t speak out, “gun rights” will snuff out the rights of everyone else.

As a Chaplain for many years I reflect on the Culture of Violence we live in.  It’s not pretty.  There’s a kind of savage, gun-slinging, Wild West mentality that needs to be stopped by legislation and people armed to the teeth with Common Sense.  But there’s something deeper to confront:  a deep-set FEAR that people don’t know what to do with, so they buy a gun, then more guns, and try to Arm Themselves Against Fear.  It’s a crazy, irrational cycle that makes our world much more dangerous.

When Religion is used to support the fear, to support weapons and war, division and conflict, it becomes a powerful ally of the Bullet-Believers.   With God on your side you can threaten and kill and destroy lives with impunity, even thinking you’re “righteous.”  Rifle-Religion (with its Bible Bombs) is probably the most dangerous combination on the planet.  Whole species get blown away, and so does our humanity.

Here is why I Fire Back with Reason when it comes to The Gospel of Guns:

1)  I was raised with guns.  I had a rifle.  My father was a member of the NRA and a Sportsman’s Club; he had rifles on the wall and a pistol in his station wagon.  His experience shooting a pheasant (blew it to pieces) and my experience shooting a blackbird that hung upside down on the branch, ended our “hunting” phase.  As I like to say:  I grew up with guns. . .then I grew up.

2)  I taught firearm safety at a kids’ camp one summer.  Target practice is fun.  But, especially for young boys, it’s easy to forget a weapon is not a toy and the lethal power in your hands to kill.  So, watch out birds, cats, little sisters and brothers and other living things.  Nothing good can come from killing things just to kill.

3)  I have worked with people who live in fear of violence or have experienced violence.  Vulnerable people, women who have suffered from domestic abuse, children who have seen the violence, all deserve respect and they have a Right to Freedom from Fear.  Most gun-lovers have little or no concern for people who live in fear. . .so they perpetuate the myth that “the more guns the more safe.”  Ironically, gun-lovers end up making themselves and everyone around them More Fearful by owning more and more weapons of violence.  Living in fear is no way to live and makes us all Less Safe.

4)  I have worked with people who have used guns to kill.  I counseled with men and women in a county jail for ten years and saw first hand the tragedy and pain caused by firearms.  The NRA loves to say guns don’t kill people but actually they do.  They give people the power to kill and some use that power with terrible results.

5)  I am NOT against all guns.  It seems reasonable that our Police and Military Personnel have weapons.  I wish it didn’t have to be, but it is the world we live in.  Most of the rest of us don’t need weapons that kill.  I would like to see more non-lethal weapons developed for protection.  Hunting is unnecessary for the vast majority in our country (especially with military weapons!).  I carry a walking stick; it works pretty well and won’t accidentally go off and kill the neighbor kids.

6)  I have studied and taught Spiritual Traditions and many scriptures for a long time and see nothing that supports Living in Fear or Arming with Weapons (even those who criticize the Qur’an and its mention of defending against infidels fail to notice that every chapter of the Qur’an begins with “In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful”).  My conclusion after years of study and reading and working with people of many faiths:  Gun-loving is Incompatible with the True Practice of Faith.  In other words, if you love things built to kill, your faith is questionable.

The Gospel of Guns has nothing to do with the Way of Jesus (or Moses or Buddha or Muhammad or Reason or a Fearless Faith).  Maybe if JC was around today he would first denounce our Culture of Violence and then say something like:

“You cannot serve God and Guns!”

Maybe the best way to Face the Fearfully Faithful is to remind them of these simple words from the First Letter of John:

“There is no fear in Love, but Perfect Love casts out Fear.”

(You won’t often hear a Secular Chaplain quoting a holy book!  Then again, those who are unafraid of truth can find it in many strange places!)

Notes:

More people killed by guns in America since 1968 than ALL U.S. Wars! (read the facts and sober up)

According to the Gun Violence Archive, 3,525 people have been injured by gun violence in America and 2,172 have been killed since Jan. 1, 2014.

Recommended:

The Gun Report

Little Girls and Guns

Church Raffles Rifles (FAUX)–“God-given right!”

Americans for Responsible Solutions

Guns and Gods. . .again

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Bullet-in. . .Bullet-in. . .

Georgia just did it.  Oh yes they did!  God bless ’em.  They passed “the most extreme gun bill in America.” 

Now I want to move to Georgia so I can carry my gun (don’t worry, I’m buying one at the airport as soon as I get there) and carry it proudly, safely and FREELY into the airport, school, CHURCH or anywhere else I WANT.  And I WANT to and I’m FREE to.

The Georgia House passed a sweeping gun bill late Thursday night that allows firearms in bars, nightclubs, school classrooms and certain government buildings that lack security personnel or devices.

Lawmakers moved the bill through the House during the last hour of the night on Thursday, meeting their midnight deadline before the end of the current legislative session. If signed by the state’s governor, the law will give religious leaders the option to “opt-in” to allow guns on their worship premises, where violators cannot be arrested or fined more than $100 each. Additionally, it could grant citizens the right to carry firearms in bars, nightclubs, libraries, sports facilities, senior citizen and youth centers, and on K-12 premises by authorized administrators and teachers.

The law would also allow permit-holders to carry guns into Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints in airports with no penalty.

Here’s the “dream” (read, nightmare) I share with the Non-Reason Ass. (NRA):

Someday, every American. . .no, really. . .EVERY American, will carry a gun or many guns anywhere, anytime they want to.  And they WILL want to.  Because, well, because. . .they CAN and they WANT to!

You see, if every single person carried a gun, we’d be much, much safer.  Oh yes we would.  Here’s why:

Uh, I’m thinking.  No, no, better not THINK about it. . .  Well, if every man, woman, child and pet carried a weapon, then. . .

We could ALL shoot anyone if we needed to (or wanted to), and no one would EVER hurt anyone or steal anything or do anything bad EVER again.

WAIT!  I’ve got it!  Guns and Gods DO go hot metal in hand.  You see, this sounds EXACTLY like Heaven on Earth!  The peaceful kingdom hath arriveth.  The true and final Christian Nation!  All because of GUNS!  God Bless our Firepower!  Jesus we just LOVE the gun-filled green hills of Georgia!

{The smoke of my dream clears}

But there’s much work to do!  Even many Georgians haven’t got themselves the Religion of Rifles or the Gospel of Guns yet!:

Ninety-one percent of Georgians supported mandatory background checks for all gun buyers, according to a poll published in March 2013 in the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Conn.

Colin Goddard, senior policy advocate for Mayors Against Illegal Guns and a former Georgia resident, told msnbc: “You get to the point where you want to ask: ‘Who exactly are they doing this for?’”

Maybe it’s time to “Open Carry” some Reason?  How ’bout packin’ some Common Sense?  Whip out some Concealed Wisdom?  Or, lock and UN-load while you Pray for Peace rather than a Piece.

Serious Note:  I recently joined Gabrielle Giffords’ Americans for Responsible Solutions.  Of course, you have to be careful whom you support.  Wouldn’t want to be too. . .Responsible or Reasonable.

New Guru Discovered!

Guru OMG-LOL

Just in time for Spring, I found a NEW “Spiritual Teacher!”

HE (sorry, yes, another male guru. . .no guru-ette this time) is even making me reconsider my status as a secular.

I may become a Spiritual Secular (Specular?).  I’m waiting for clearance and blessing on that.

He didn’t want me to tell you his name, but (like most “holy men”) he teaches Radical Honesty, so without fear I can tell you that his name is:

Om-Ji Lol

Please don’t tell anyone!  But if you can’t help yourself, go ahead and tell Everyone!

For those with incredible spiritual depth, he frequently appears in many mysterious ways.

For those with Eyes to See and Ears to Hear, HE graciously appears most often in the sacred text-language as:

OMG LOL

I hear you groaning. . .

HE teaches THAT too!. . .

You’ve been converted!. . .

Welcome to the sacred silliness of specularity!

*

(see the film Kumare for more deep insight and inspiration)

The Secular Jesus

It’s Lent! (six-week period leading up to Easter, for all you heathen)

A Celebration of Spring! (well, not really, more like a distraction from the natural beauty of the season)

A Time to Rejoice in all the Good Things of Life! (oh, sorry, actually a time to reflect on the darkness of personal sin and the need for a “good” crucifixion)

The Season of Unity among All People of Faith! (oops, my bad. . .turns out to be a clear representation of the division between Catholic and Protestant, Christian and Jew and Muslim and just about everyone else who doesn’t “Do Holy Days Our Way”)

A Good Chance to Reflect on Jesus! (now, there’s something people can agree on. . . or, maybe not)

No matter what it all means, in honor of the Non-Christian Founder of Christianity, someone I still admire without worship, here is a little slideshow I religiously pieced together for your prayerful thought (that is, just for serious fun).  Keep in mind that I was a “follower” for most of my life and led many a service during Easter.

This is my imagination playing with The Story here.

The Story of the Secular Jesus. . .as HE might tell it.

{Hint for Viewing:  Enlarge on your screen, pause and manually click through each slide}

Enjoy the Show!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Keep it Light (please!)

Never would have made it through the past 30 years of chaplaincy-style work without a good dose of humor.  Laughter may not always be the best medicine, but it sure beats aspirin and lightens up some dark and heavy times.  Here are a couple of smile-makers.  Have a brighter day.

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Prayer in the Public Square

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IF prayers in the public square were truly inclusive maybe they would be fine, but I don’t really see how a “prayer” to a particular deity could possibly be inclusive.

This Jewish woman in Ohio schooled the pastors on this.

Prayer in Jesus’ Name

“I agree that prayer at the beginning of a meeting can set the tone for the meeting, get everyone’s mind focused and in the right place,” she said.

When the invocation ends by invoking Jesus Christ, a portion of the attendees are left out, she said.

Aronson suggested following the prayer with a moment of silence for everyone to fill in as they please.

“In your own mind, you can say ‘in Christ’s name.’ It doesn’t lose any power by being said silently. It doesn’t gain any power by being said out loud,” she said.

She seems to have a fairly healthy understanding of what “religious freedom” means.

We need more like her to speak out, since this has really become an epidemic across our diverse and, yes, secular, nation.

People cry “Religious Freedom!” (for US!. . .no, of course they don’t say that, but this is exactly what they mean).  And want to turn every public venue into a chance to evangelize.

Well, here’s an example of reasonable pushback.

We’ll see how much Reason will prevail.

(One pastor responds with: “Regardless of what some people believe, we were not founded to be secular.”  I fault our education. . .especially Religious Education, or lack of, for this ignorance)

Are You a Secular Chaplain?

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With a Sense of Wonder

Secular Chaplains

Practicing a Secular Chaplaincy

(in the “spirit” of Burroughs and Muir)

-note: this can be practiced whether you are a person of faith or not

 “True religion is not a theory-it is a practice.  

It is not a creed-it is a life.”

~Robert Green Ingersoll

“Secular”: concern for this present world; without concern for any other

“Chapel” (Church/Sanctuary/Temple):  the natural world and universe

“Chaplaincy” (“Ministry,” “Mission” or “Call”):  Wonder; Reverence for Life; Presence; Listening; Compassion; Inclusive of Diversity; Justice; Preservation; “To entice into Nature’s loveliness” (Muir); To practice the “Faith of a Naturalist”–an enthusiasm and love of the earth (Burroughs)

Primary Professor/Respected Teacher:  Nature  

“Clergy” (“Saints,” “Prophets” and “Honored/Holy Heretics”): Socrates; Hypatia; Copernicus; Thomas Paine; Frances Wright; Margaret Fuller; Ralph W. Emerson; Henry Thoreau; Frederick Douglass; Walt Whitman; John Burroughs; John Muir; Theodore Roosevelt; Aldo Leopold; Rachel Carson; Carl Sagan. . .many, many others (famous and unknown)

“Scripture” (Veda/Gita/Dharma/Torah/Gospel/Qur’an):  The Cosmos

“Religious Rituals”:  silence; sauntering; presence with the smallest and largest; appreciation for “the breath of life” (Burroughs); searching and questioning; communion/eucharist=grateful taste of living

*Qualities of a Secular Chaplain

-Awake and alive to the world, the cosmos, Life

-Humility as a Human made of Humus (one species among species)

-Practicing a “natural spirituality” and “sacred secularity” (constantly reflecting on what this means!)

-Caretaker of the Chapel of Nature (“ecumenical”: managing the great household)

-A respectful relation to other inhabitants

-A curiosity about inter-connection and inter-dependence

knowing that everything is “hitched” to everything else (Muir) 

-No focus on “worship” (immanence rather than transcendence)

-Naturally undistracted by the non-natural, the super-natural

-A sense of the Wild and Wildness (as “the preservation of the world”- Thoreau)

-Do No Harm (“ahimsa”-Gandhi; not only “leave no trace”)

-Practicing the art of seeing (direct observation)

-Noticing the unnoticed (minding the margins)

-A delight in discovery; excitement for exploration

-Endless education, continual learning, active openness to new insights

-Building bridges rather than walls

-Working beside people of faith and people without faith to “do the right thing” for the common good

-Encouraging other Secular Chaplains and learning from their experience

-Having a “joy in simple living” (Burroughs)

-”Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you” (Muir)