Lady’s Man

At my Tuesday morning professional networking meeting, after the speakers have finished we go around the table to offer referrals and answer an ice-breaker question. Yesterday’s was pretty pedestrian: What historical figure would you like to meet and why?

The group is evenly split between men and women, but by the time the table had come around to me, the first nine answers had all been men. Eventually a lady after me offered “Susan B. Anthony.” The same woman also showed a religious turn of mind, saying that I had stolen her answer – “kinda” – before concluding “and Jesus.”

And myself? I would dearly love to sit for twenty minutes near the pregnant Virgin. Perhaps at the well as she rested for a few minutes in the sun’s warmth.

Just to feel her grace wash over me.

Loving Death

Out at Thoughts, Prayers & Song, James declares his intention to stop tolerating systems of predation that allow the wealthy to survive by pressuring the poor into situations that guarantee their premature death.

In guiding our sensitivity, James focuses on war and violence. Those are only methods for something more profound: worship of death. Those that flourish by ignoring the costs on others are in fact reliant upon sacrifice. They may willfully ignore that reliance, but death still flourishes as the driving preoccupation of billions of people. Everything they do is driven by that preeminent power.

James hopes for an era of peace, and with Advent that hope focuses on the arrival of Jesus. The lion sheathes its claws to lie with the lamb.

Paradoxically, Jesus’ mission ended at the cross. Death prevails, at least for a time. Even given the resurrection, we might wonder: is the only path to eternal life through death’s door? Is that the meaning of “pick up your cross and carry it?”

I am confident that it is not. That confidence is grounded in the similarities between death and peace when considered as spiritual agents. Peace keeps things apart that might create conflict. The lion does not take the lamb in its jaws; nations agree to honor their borders. Peace becomes death, however, when it asserts the right to claim what it guards as its own.

Jesus died on the cross with perfect love, and so death could not claim him. Instead, he redeemed the peace that was corrupted by selfishness. In loving death, Jesus reminded Death of its of its former purpose. In choosing to accept it, Peace was restored.

The great promise of Rev. 13 is that “those that die in the Lord will rest form their struggles.” Dying in the Lord is to give our souls into the safe harbor of love, and thus to be held in peace until this age of death is brought to a close.

Thus I understand “pick up your cross and carry it” to mean “Do as I did, and reclaim the death that hides your soul from the father.” Have sympathy for the great heart-cry in Eden: “Where are you?” followed by the lament “Surely you will die.” Allow Christ through you to reclaim every smallest portion of his kingdom, until fear and callousness lose their grip, and we enter Paradise.

This came to me Monday night during a scribble response to the Hawaiian practice Ho-opo-no-po-no. The healer enters into a corrupted place and meditates on these four lines:

I am sorry. I forgive you. Thank-you. I love you.

My image started as a hillside with a dip. The next stroke added a boulder, atop which Sisyphus was drawn in contemplation. Death’s skull hovered over the horizon. The redeemed sage addressed it: “Plplplplplplpl!”

And I realized that my subconscious was telling me to focus my Ho-opo-no-po-no meditation in this way:

I am sorry, Peace, that you were corrupted by selfishness. I forgive you, Death, for keeping those I love from me. Thank-you, Death, for preserving their integrity until I was ready to receive them. I love you, Death, and offer you the gift of my love that you might be restored as Peace.

The ‘D’ Factor

No, this isn’t a post about breast size.

Psychologists from the University of Copenhagen have identified a core trait in personalities that project the “dark side” of human behavior. These include narcissism, psychopathy, sadism and spitefulness.

They label this core trait the ‘D’ factor, ‘D’ presumably standing for ‘dark.’

Out at Love Returns, in developing a definition of “sin” by contrast against a mature description of the nature of love, I came up with another term. A term that was also promoted by the Catholic theologian Thomas Merton.

How much money was spent discovering the obvious fact that SELFISHNESS is the root of all evil? And why the adoption of obscure terminology?

So that the researchers can “maximize personal utility?”

Religious Anomie

Comment in response to this:

One of the secrets of managing chronic pain is to learn to focus on what feels good rather than what feels bad.

We all tend to be born with the prejudice that our initial system state is all that is important, and evaluate what is good or bad based upon the trends. Conversely, institutions serve to establish continuity across generations and locations. So what helps is to reflect on what it was like before they existed.

Dog ate cat ate mouse ate cockroach ate… Sucked for every creature except the peak predators, didn’t it? And even sucked for them when all the prey were gone.

But it goes to illustrate that “can’t we all just get along” won’t suffice in a reality of resource limitations. Sooner or later there’s only one grape on the table, and forty hungry people around it.

So back to institutions: religions are institutions that propagate wisdom gained about spiritual experience. The best of them seek to liberate the flights of the mind from cultural and material constraints. Fundamentalists, in my experience, work to the opposite end. That’s true whether they are Dawkins and his friends, or Wahabbists or Christian Crusaders. They want us to be animals rather than humans.

Which brings me to God, or Source or whatever you want to call it. The Gospel of John expressed the tautology most directly: God is Love (and conversely Love is God). Love seeks infinite variety in relationship – it is not chaotic, but it always stands on the side of responsible exercise of liberties. It does not rejected those that make errors, for love provides them the skill and motives to heal the wounded. Everything is a lesson that leads to greater maturity, and ultimately to union with Source itself, carrying with us immunity to the selfishness that wounds without purpose or cause.

Humanity isn’t an ugly spot on God’s creation. We are the adaptive agents – a medicine, so to speak – that recognizes and heals its ills.

Deviangelicals?

Evangelicals voted for Trump with the narrow goal of the repeal of Roe v. Wade. Their position is absolutist in this regard: since we cannot know when the soul enters the womb, they insist that every fetus is an unborn child, and thus that termination of any pregnancy is murder. This absolutist position authorizes them control over a woman’s body. Rape, incest and threat to the mother’s life are rejected as justifications for medical termination of a pregnancy. Even birth control is seen as an usurpation of God’s authority to decide when life is brought into the world.

Naturally, as did the slaves before them, women desire autonomy. So they fought for the right to family planning services, a fight that reached its culmination in the Roe v. Wade decision. Having attained autonomy over their bodies, they waged a determined fight to guard their right.

Against that resistance, for forty years the evangelicals have waged a war (sometimes literally) to overturn Roe v. Wade. Joining forces with the Republican Party, they became a powerful engine for fund-raising.

So they voted for a man who famously treated his romantic conquests as pieces of meat – because he promised to nominate judges that would revoke the right to abortion services.

What saddens is to hear them now characterize allegations from other women denouncing other men as a “Democratic conspiracy.” They rely upon the testimony of other men – “friends” of the accused – who admit attending the parties in which inebriated youth engaged in sexual shenanigans.

Here is the fact that you should attend to, my coreligionists: those men have a vested interest in lying, because they also engaged in the same behaviors. If their friend goes down, they all go down.

What should happen, of course, is that fathers should counsel their sons to temperance. Those guilty of youthful indiscretion should recognize and apologize for their transgressions, and by their withdrawal from public life make it clear that such behavior is intolerable and costly.

The alternative is to subscribe to deviancy.

You despise the Catholic Church because it hid pedophilia from the public eye. How can you now support a party that hides sexual deviancy from the public eye? Because the perpetrators were drunk, or politically expedient to the cause of forcing women to bear unwanted children? Under just what conditions, pray, are those children going to be conceived if you tolerate drunken debauchery?

The sad truth is that you are now being used by the political elite in the GOP in the same what that pedophiles used the Catholic Church. They mouth support for your closely-held moral goals, using those assurance as a fig-leaf to cover their history of deviancy.

Universal Contrition

Millennial shares a Twitter feed describing the raw searching underway in the Catholic Church.

I’m currently attending morning men’s meeting at a local non-denominational congregation. Many of the men are ex-users, ex-cons and ex-adulterers. The most vulnerable break down in tears when confronting the consequences to those they love. As we are studying Revelation, I offered this yesterday:

Among the great consolations of the Book of Revelation is this: every tear is a promise from God to touch our lives.

We forget that we are in a great struggle against our dependency on sin. Often, that struggle comes to focus as a failure to recognize that others suffer. As Martin Luther King, Jr. observed:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Do not let your anger with the Church destroy the humble men and women that have devoted their lives in service to Christ. Stick your nose under the tent of Church administration. Insist on having a seat at the conference table with the prelates, bishops and cardinals. But don’t destroy the institution commissioned by Christ.

White-Washing

Paula White, one of Trump’s “spiritual advisors,” claims that refugees that break the law are not entitled to the same empathy given to the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt with the infant Jesus. White goes so far as to claim:

If he had broken the law, then he would have been sinful and he would not have been our Messiah.

The entire Old Testament is the history of how the seminal grace of Abraham’s covenant was subjugated by temporal authority. Jesus came to liberate the covenant, responding to “Are you king of the Jews?” with the simple plea:

You: say I am.

This is to remind us that true authority does not come from man-made laws and institutional arrangements. It comes from loving unconditionally. It comes from being willing to surrender your entire being to bring grace to those you cherish. Only the beloved can grant that authority.

Dear Mrs. White: run, don’t walk. You have taken up company with the anti-Christ.