Tis the Season to Shelter. . .People. . .and All Living Things

bear hiding

Tis now posted on Beyond God

The Gods are coming. . .Hide the Animals!

The Gods of Human Imagination seem to Really Hate Animals and a lot of Living Things. . .except Humans of course!  Humans make the Gods and Goddesses happy the more living things are sacrificed for the Big Divine Egos.

Happy Slaughter Season!  (sorry, but, well, no, I’m not sorry for speaking the truth for the defenseless)

What I Would Tell My Daughter about Ferguson

trek divide

Like so many, I’m very disheartened by the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri.  A young man killed by a young police officer.  I sympathize with the pain of loss.  I have some understanding for the frustration of family, friends and community.  America has a huge race relations problem that stains us all, generation after generation.  The legacy of slavery lives and a collective guilt runs deep.  What was done to Africans and Native Americans was a monumental crime that deserves, even demands, a monument alongside our obsessive and incessant memorials lining the capitol.

I’m discouraged by what happened to Michael Brown, and what happens to so many young men of color in our towns and cities.  Where there is injustice grown from the wound of prejudice, there is a systemic infection in the nation.  Yet, I am also deeply troubled by the “story” of Ferguson that reveals much more than another shooting of one more person in one more city.  The story-line we hear is dramatic and when stories are driven by drama and emotions, even justified emotions, the truth suffers.  And when the truth suffers any honest lessons are lost.  

Having just read Michelle Alexander’s Times article, “Telling My Son About Ferguson,” I reflect on what I would say to my daughter, and what I discuss with her now since she knows much of this already.  I’m not hearing some of this rational thought anywhere, and, in my mind, that’s a big problem.  This means that countless children are not being taught basic reasoning skills to face very real problems that demand that we be reasonable–and truthful.

I have something to say to my child as well about healthy community, safety, truth-telling and being a responsible person.

My daughter is grown now.  She grew up in integrated schools where she was a minority.  The friends she brought home and invited to birthday parties were children of beautiful colors from many lands.  In those early years she learned that children are children, people are people–human beings one and all.  I’m proud that she continues to see the world through the experience and appreciation of diversity.

My little girl,

What I say to you here will not please the people who choose to take sides in these things.  Whatever others think, these are only my thoughts for you to consider, because I think this matters.

-America has a terribly divisive “race issue” that must be confronted in the “justice system,” schools, streets and everywhere including the individual conscience.  Prejudice is a poison and cures are hard to find.  It is a poison that can infect people of any color.  So don’t let yourself or others “play victim” when that can distract from the truth, create even more division or deflect larger issues.  “It’s all about me” and “it’s all about my skin color,” cheapens any life lost.  Make “the content of a person’s character” the true test of who they are.

-Young african-american men are much more likely to be poor, jobless and imprisoned in this country.  That’s the sad and unacceptable fact.  I saw this up close visiting prisoners and working on the streets for thirty years.  Take the time to see what’s really behind this.  Yes, a broken society and legal system led by fallible people that often seem to ignore the meaning of justice.  But not always.  When people break laws they need to expect punishment.  Thousands of young men (and women) are not being parented and have few good role models.  Many turn to the “numb and dumb” of drugs.  This is a reason but not an excuse for violence.  We can understand without excusing the behavior (“Oh, they’re just robbing, looting, beating people up because they had a bad home life; they’re bored, angry and don’t feel heard”).  People doing bad things need to be arrested.  Reasonable people know that locking troubled people up, locking them away out of our sight, isn’t the end of our responsibility.  Prison bars can be necessary but they shouldn’t bar us from finding real answers.  Solutions are difficult but they must be cooperative and inclusive, compassionate and very realistic.

-America also has a large “violence issue” that transcends race, but often impacts minority groups much more.  We’re gunning ourselves down in the name of “freedom” and personal “rights.”  That’s madness.  It has to be stopped.  Disarming the hatred and distrust, as well as the ignorance that undergirds prejudice, is the beginning.  But it needs to lead to real disarming, to common sense laws and a decisive letting go of our addiction to the murder-machines we call guns.  Our foremost weapons should be truth and education.

-Be safe, my daughter.  Don’t put yourself and others in dangerous situations.  It can almost be as simple as that.  Be awake and aware of your own actions.  Also be aware that many people live every day in unsafe areas, but that’s not always about poverty.  It’s about the whole environment of community. . .or the lack of community.  Healthcare, housing, jobs, education–these are essential to stability and security for all of us.

-Be responsible for yourself.  Don’t do stupid things. Sorry to say it this way, but please learn from the example of Michael Brown, what he was apparently never taught or simply forgot:  Stay clear-headed.  Don’t steal or try to harm others.  Use your head and common sense.  It’s very alarming that we don’t hear people saying, “We wish Michael hadn’t been shot; and we wish he hadn’t done some foolish things and made some poor decisions to get in that situation.”  Learning shows responsibility and vice versa.

-Some police foolishly become officers for power and control.  Most police seek the job to serve the community and protect us from those who do stupid, harmful things.  They should act as “peace officers.”  We know that some forget that and they should be held accountable.  That said, always obey what officers say, even if you disagree.  It’s not just about Your safety, it’s public order.  Save your arguments for the newspaper or the courtroom.  Never threaten or attack a police officer.  You will likely be arrested, hurt, shot or even killed.

-When the police shoot someone, try not to jump to conclusions.  Gather the facts, if that’s even possible.  Don’t allow yourself to follow the herd to Trial by Media or emotions.  Officers make mistakes and do stupid things too.  Excessive force cannot be allowed by any community (I too wonder why Darren Wilson had to fire so many shots, why he didn’t have backup, and. . .I will always wonder why police do not carry more effective “phaser” stun weapons that do not kill).  However, those men and women are a front line out there confronting troubled people we don’t want to face.  They aren’t perfect, but there is often a good reason for what they do.  What would We do if someone was attacking or pointing a gun at Us (as in other recent shootings)?  Give the true story time to be revealed.  Witnesses (and cameras) can see things differently and emotions run high.  And never let the specific persons involved and the specific details be buried in preconceptions, assumptions and outcomes that are “just what I expected.”  See if the system works.  When it doesn’t, question it, try to change it if you can.  When it does–and I think it often does–show support for the hard work of “protecting the peace” and “keeping justice” in our communities.

-Be aware of those who will exploit tragic events for their own purposes.  We all want the spotlight sometimes and cameras are everywhere now.  Remember: it’s only television; it’s only one person’s view.  And be very aware that words, especially spoken in anger, can fan the flames of violence (it was irresponsible and maybe criminal when one of Michael Brown’s parents yelled “burn this down” in front of a police station).  Many innocent people are hurt by self-serving microphone-grabbers who try to turn grief into aggressiveness or tragedy into entertainment (think Al Sharpton or Bill O’Reilly).

-Most of all, my dear daughter, never be afraid to ask the hard questions, to seek and speak for truth and reason no matter what the subject or situation.  Don’t allow others to tell you that “you don’t understand” because you’re a different color or you’re not “one of us,” that you have no right to express your view, your thoughts, because you’re an “outsider,” that you must be a “racist” because you don’t agree 100%.  You know that you are not a race-hater, that you have lived and worked with people of different races and various viewpoints all your life, that you are good and reasonable, thoughtful and compassionate person.  You can’t know everything another person is experiencing or feeling, but you share their humanity and want the best for them.  Justice requires the hard work of collaboration and respectful communication.  Otherwise, it is simply a fantasy, a cruel dream.

I love you, daughter.  As your father, I know you will consider what I say.  I don’t expect you to agree with all of it, but to hear it.  These are not easy issues.  A young man was killed.  His parents loved him too.  If his death will mean anything more than violent division and destruction, we all must make that happen.  Many others are being killed by violence in our world, on our streets.  We must do something, beginning with reasonable reflection and conversation.  There are overwhelming issues in our land, our cities, our lives.  But I know you will do the best you can, as I do, to practice peace-making and peace-keeping in our daily lives.  Be wise and always look for the good in yourself and others.  That is the content of your character.

 

Gratefulness without a God

Winternature 05 058

With or without faith we can be grateful and show gratitude.  It’s not about saying “Thank You!” to some higher being or even to Nature.  I think it’s more a sense of appreciation.  Most often for me that comes through people showing the best of “being human” in the gentlest of gestures, or through the beautiful wonder of the natural world, our home.

Peaceful Days of Gratitude.

The gods we know

Sharel05 185

Some wisdom for the day from naturalistic philosopher John Burroughs:

“The nature gods we know; we live in daily and hourly converse with them; we see and know that we are dependent upon them every moment of our lives. These gods—air, water, fire, earth—and the greater gods whose eyes blink to us in the midnight skies, why not credit them with the gifts that we ascribe to the imaginary gods of the supernatural?”

Accepting the Universe (1920)

Lying for God

national-cathedral-muslim-prayer-AFP

I visited a believer’s website with the headline:

“Washington National Cathedral to Host Muslim Prayer Service”

This sounded fine to me.  A very interfaith gesture.  Exactly what we need to see happen more to bring peace between religions.

I thought maybe this believer’s blog would say this openness and inclusion was indeed a very good thing.

No.

Islam is against Christianity (so they say)

and

The National Cathedral was built just for Christian Americans (so they say)

Oh, I didn’t know these things.

Maybe because they aren’t true.

The religions don’t agree on a lot of things, but one could argue (and many Muslims and Christians say) that the basic teachings are pretty much the same.  They aren’t “against” each other and can even live and pray together.  In fact, this happens more often these days.  I’ve planned and participated in just these kinds of community-building events.

The “National” Cathedral is an Episcopal Church and they can accept anyone they wish in their space.  By default it has become a sanctuary in the nation’s capitol, for the NATION, and the nation includes people who are Muslim and many other faiths. . .as well as those of us without a faith.

The lying, fear-mongering and re-writing of history while representing Any God is unacceptable, unethical and frankly destroys any credibility someone’s faith might still have.

I’ll call people on this every chance I get.

A Secular and a Spiritual Face Death Together

Ashland 2004 029

I had another of those experiences the other day that remind me I’m still a Chaplain. . .even without the official title.

An elderly gentleman I work with came to speak with me the other day.  He and I have some lively discussions from time to time about “spiritual matters.”  He loves to explore wild concepts, open to what I would consider new-agey, non-sensical ideas usually sold by yet another “spiritual teacher.”  He’s a good guy and I like him, so our conversations are both thoughtful and often humorous.  On this particular day he sadly told me he had been diagnosed with a terminal disease.  He’s handling it very well and I tried to offer some encouragement primarily by listening and asking how I might help.  A bit later he came back to ask about hospice.  I helped get him some material on a local hospice and contacted a social worker for more information.

He will soon be gone.  And, he will be GONE.  I doubt I’ll see him again.  I’m not worried about him or too sad.  He isn’t either.  He feels he is crossing over to another reality where he can be with his wife.  I think he will become a part of the earth, his good memory will live on and his legacy will continue in his family.

I relate this experience to remind myself that a secular person can stand with a person of faith in their most difficult times.  We can be encouraging and “real” perhaps in ways that a religious person would find very hard.  I would say it’s harder for a person of faith to stand with a secular person, since it’s so hard not to say prayers, read from ancient books and offer assurance of the “next world” in language that may not have any meaning–that offer only confusion–to a person who does not believe.

I was reminded this week that good people suffer and die.  All we can try to be is good people to stand or sit with them, listening more than talking.  The presence is everything.

 

Representation?

If you live in God’s Country America, do you feel represented by your “leaders” in Congress?  Take a close look at this chart and give it some thought.

Leadership in America-chart

Sources: House and Senate: CQ Weekly, November 6, 2014, “Demographics by the Numbers”

America: Public Religion Research Institute, 2013 American Values Survey, October 29, 2013

Goodbye Ghosts

casper

I truly understand the need for some to “feel the presence” of the supernatural.  It can sure be comforting to “know” there are “spirits all around” who are “watching over us.”  I once felt it so strongly I prayed NOT to see an angel, God, dead loved ones or anything else.  Besides, I had FAITH, so I shouldn’t need those things, right?

But now we have experiments showing what we should all assume with common sense.  A “ghostly presence” is simply a quirky thing the brain does.

“Feelings of a ghostly presence – the sense that someone is close-by when no-one is there – lie in the mind, a study has concluded.

Scientists say that they have identified the parts of the brain that are responsible for generating these spooky sensations.”  (BBC)

This will be very hard for those who “feel the presence” of the HOLY Ghost.  And, once again, I understand that (hey, I used to speak in tongues!).

Praise Good for the good sense to wonder and delight at the “mysterious revelations” of Science and Reason.  Wonderful indeed!

Beyond Politics

Plato

Not to despair over those who spent millions to be our “leaders” and seek to “control” rather than lead with wisdom. . .

I read this passage this morning from Plato’s The Republic:

“. . .you have seen the reality of the beautiful, the just and the good.  So our city will be governed by us and you with waking minds, and not, as most cities now which are inhabited and ruled darkly as in a dream by people who fight one another for shadows and wrangle for office as if that were a great good. . . .”

Here’s to one day seeing the rise of a true democracy with wise leaders who know the reality of the beautiful, the just and the good.