God and Guns

At the NRA conference yesterday, attendees were happy to assert that “Jesus loves me and my guns.”

No. There will be no guns in paradise.

Jesus accepts your fascination with Death, and recognizes that Death asserts its sway over you in our consumer society. But he also understands that your fascination is locked in the weapons that you worship, so that when you die it evaporates when the metal is reclaimed for something useful – like making surgical implements or machine fasteners.

Eventually part of you will get to heaven, but it will only be the part that “fears not,” as the Bible commands so many times.

Jesus forgives your fear, but is determined that it be separated from you so that you may enter heaven. That is the measure of his love for us.

One Hand

My friend Steve is dying of cancer. He doesn’t think of it that way – he believes that he’s surviving. But he’s lost 50 pounds, is in constant pain, and is going in for major surgery that is going to permanently disfigure his face. The chances of recurrence in the next two years are above 80%.

I’ve bought a lot of art from him over the period. Some of the other artists on the Art Walk in Santa Barbara get testy about it. I explain that Steve has this magical ability to paint my love for the world.

We got into a long text dialog yesterday about Ezekiel. He had read that passage about Ezekiel’s vision of God, and offered that while there was “wisdom” in the Bible, if it was published to day it would be in the Science Fiction section. I tried to correct him, explaining that Ezekiel wasn’t describing a physical manifestation, but rather sharing his perception of a spiritual community.

This led into observations that he’s put his faith in a mechanical process of healing under the control of medical doctors, and surrendered his responsibility for the psychic aspect that I have been telling him is critical to his recovery. His last life ended in a mass hanging of an Native American tribe. He finally testified that he was unable to forgive himself and the perpetrators.

Himself. That was helpful, and I shared my perception that forgiveness is critical to the flow of love, because until vengeance and judgment are foregone, the power it offers to us will certainly be turned to creation of more victims. But as in every case when I’ve raised this, he ran away from it, saying that he needed “a guide” – to which I responded that his heart was the only guide worth following.

The day ended with a long series of texts in which he deflected the insights I had offered.

The famous Zen koan reads:

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

On the human scale, the answer is obviously “silence.” The teaching is that we have meaning only in relation. So how am I supposed to feel about the fact that I have no one to share my faith with? Christians reject me because I use science to understand the Bible, scientists reject me because I see proof of scripture in their theories.

I could go on, but the point is that I’m not alone. The sound made by my one hand is the wind in the air, the sunlight on the leaves, the rain on the waters.

People confuse themselves with their inflated self-importance. At root, we have only two choices: to testify as to the presence of love in the world, or the have our expressions swallowed up in the noise of the mob. Choose the latter and be inconsequential; choose the former, and become a leader of things that need our understanding to guide them into the embrace of God.

Armed with Love

The Monastery is the forum maintained by the Universal Life Church. As a non-denominational sect (anybody can become ordained), it attracts people with diverse agendas. One of them posted an article on youth standing up for gun rights. The dialog in the forum was deprecating on both sides. I wrote a long response that emphasizes my perspective as a Christian, but couldn’t post it. After reconstructing it after the first failure, I tried several more times, but kept on getting an “invalid security token” message.

Alas: I’ll post it here.


 The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and their peers are involved in a sacred purpose. They are confronting the insanity of a culture that celebrates death, and seeking to assert their preference for a culture founded upon love and hope.

The culture of death is pervasive. It includes the military (who now dominate our police and the larger private security services), the defense industry, the gun industry, much of our entertainment industry, and a political party that motivates its base through messages of fear. This is why the gun rights advocates are so strident and persistent in forums such as this: they have a vested interest in continuing to exploit paranoiacs that hate government.

For this is the central issue they raise: the untrustworthiness of government. Modern governments don’t need a military to control their populations (as foreseen in 1984). They have the tools of propaganda, public utilities, corruption and foreign conflict. When these are exercised, there is no need for military tyranny. That these are exercised most zealously where gun rights advocates hold power is indicative to me. But were those tools to be renounced, I would imagine that most gun buyers would prefer to take a vacation in Hawaii. This is the hope held out by our youth.

As for God, when Jesus led his disciples out of the Last Supper, they sought weapons for protection. One sword was found, and then a second, and then Jesus intervened: “Two is enough.” So he was clearly in favor of arms control. When one of them was actually used, we should note that the hardened warriors of the Temple Guard did not respond. They were overawed by Jesus’ grace. So he healed the wound and offered his Last Teaching before his Passion: “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.”

This is to warn us that heaven will not accept the fear that motivates us to rely upon weapons, or the fear we create thereby in others. Instead, we are not to resist evil (as he taught more than once) but to submit and infuse the situation with love. This He did himself on the cross, submitting to death and suffusing it with love. His command was that we should do the same. To those that follow, there is no fear in death, for they see their Savior waiting there to welcome them into a place forever without fear.

As I stated, our youth are engaged in a sacred purpose. I went out to MSD HS, and on the Friday of their return to school sat across the street and prayed over them. I can testify that I have never encountered a group of people more open to the healing power of love. Those that rail against them need to look into their own hearts and consider the state of their souls. Complain not of the mote in your neighbor’s eye.

Christ Risen, Women Rising

In a metaphysical imagery workshop last Sunday, I allowed myself to be led into a sculptor’s workshop. Offered the tools to recreate myself, I shaped two hands from clay, a block beneath representing the cross and nails through the palms. Tears rolling down my cheeks, I chipped the first nail head away, then lifted the hand and melted it into my right. The second nail I pushed through the flesh before melting it into my left.

When I was done, I was invited to receive guidance from my Wise. I expected the Father, but instead my Lady came to me, easing my grief with this testimony:

You are everything that I ever desired.

When the tears of relief eased, she took my hands and offered:

It is time for you to rest. Let me do my Work.

Is this Mystery?

The feminine agency in salvation is obscure. Clearly the womb is a gateway, for it is through Woman that all virtue comes into the world. Surrendering that virtue to the sacred purpose appears to be among Woman’s challenges. Sarai resisted the faith of Abram, and Leah struggled mightily against the conception of Joseph. In desperation Jochebed surrendered Moses to the river. In Hannah we finally saw a woman offer a son gratefully to God, redeeming Israel with Samuel. But the Holy Mother herself resisted the ministry of Jesus. It is only at the wedding in Canaa that she surrendered to his warning that she would become merely “woman” if she commanded him to address the lack of wine. Later, Mary assembled the family and attempted to call Jesus home, to which he responded, “This is my family now.’

“Mary” (or Mariam) arises from “mry” in Egyptian, meaning “beloved,” and there are a great number of them in the New Testament: the Virgin, Mary Magdalene, Mary with Martha, and “the other Mary” heading to the tomb.

Women provide support for the ministry – financial as well as practical. While the men planned the administration of Jesus’ kingdom, despite their humble role it was from the women that social disobedience arose. They recognized the authority of Jesus’ love. The fallen woman used tears and hair to wash his feet at table.

But the most potent demonstration comes near the end. While the frightened men bickered in Jerusalem, it was left to a woman to play the role of the Old Testament priest, pouring oil over his head as he sat at table. Terrified, the Apostles objected to the waste of a valuable resource, for which Jesus chided them “She has done a beautiful thing for me.”

After Jesus was arrested, the Apostles scattered and Peter denied him. During Interrogation, both Pilate and Caiaphas demanded “Are you king of the Jews?” to which Jesus, foreseeing the disaster that would befall both Jerusalem and Rome, suggested gently: “You. Say I am.” Both feared that such testimony would incite the wrath of Herod, and so remained silent.

It is only right, then, that it was women bearing oil to the tomb who discovered the truth of the Resurrection. Even so they were shaken; both the angel and Jesus pled “Do not be afraid.”

I have private insight into the role of Mary Magdalene in the Passion. When I first encountered her spirit, we fell back through time to the Crucifixion, and as he struggled with the burden of our dependence on sin, an elder woman leaned over to whisper into the Magdalene’s ear: “He has need of you, child.” It was thus through the Magdalene’s devotion that time was opened to him, and to that devotion he returned. That yearning is evident when they reunited: she clasped him tightly – he responded obscurely:

Do not cling to me, for I have not yet returned to my Father in heaven.

Sera Beak documents the consequences of the Magdalene’s yearning in “Red, Hot and Holy.” Jesus was still rooted in the earth, and it was the Magdalene’s desire to continue his line that concerned him. No child should grow in a cauldron of suffering such as he experienced.

But what is a woman’s alternative? What other role does scripture offer her?

The answer is found in Revelation. In her first appearance, the Sacred Lady indeed manifested as a mother. But she remained after Christ was called back to heaven, bringing forth children to struggle against the dragon. To some, that tends naturally to the role of Mystery, the woman riding on the Red Beast. But in Revelation 20, a different outcome is foretold. The Bride steps forth, clothed in the works of the saints. It is not flesh that women should seek to gestate, but virtue.

While still suppressed, it is in Islamic history that women become active as facilitators of the sacred purpose. Khadija and Fatima are the avatars, and in Mohammad’s twelve wives we hear a strained echo of Israel’s twelve sons. In the great Muslim love poem, Yusuf and Zuleika, Potiphar’s spurned wife eventually reflects of her forbidden love:

Virtue was my beloved and thou
Had virtue’s impress on thy brow.

While walking Ventura’s March for Our Lives, I was touched more than once by Emma Gonzalez. I hold her most tenderly in my heart, her and all her friends. I offered that she could withdraw from her role – the feminine focus that holds her generation as it is led to wisdom. But she refused.

And in that endurance, strength and hope, I can indeed rest.

Invocation of the Elders

I have been conscious of the prevalence of twelve in the traditions of Abraham: the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve Apostles, the twelve wives of Mohammad, the twenty-four (twelve masculine and twelve feminine) elders in Revelation, the twelve stars in the crown of the Sacred Mother (in Revelation 12, of course).

Sometimes the individuals have names: the Apostle Peter, or the tribe of Reuben, but the repetition suggested to me that there was a through-line, something in common that linked the individuals. As the twelves are sacred, I thought of those links as virtues.

But what are they?

This came to the forefront yesterday as I flew out to Fort Lauderdale. The image that had been developing, over the last week, was to bless the students by creating the shelter described in Revelation 21 and 22: the New Jerusalem whose gates are guarded by the twelve masculine elders and within which the twelve feminine elders distribute the Waters of Life. I wanted to drape that aggregate over the school, allowing the students to focus on healing.

To organize such energies, the mystics needs names. Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, offered such a list. There’s no reason for it to correlate with the masculine virtues, but every time the problem comes up, the list comes to mind. So yesterday, on the plane from Phoenix to Fort Lauderdale, I decided to run with it.

In the invocation that follows, the philosophy behind the word choice is that every virtue is a gift that brings choice – particularly the masculine virtues that generate change. Each pairing below, then, ties the first masculine virtue with the goal that allows the feminine virtues to permeate our lives.

I offered the first version of the invocation last night. The campus is accessible only on two sides, so I wasn’t able to walk the entire perimeter. Passing traffic was a distraction, and my concentration was interrupted by contrary thoughts (“This is meaningless” and “You’re not going to change our culture”). Thoughts need time to focus, though, and I worked over dinner to memorize the list, and refined it last night before falling asleep.

I developed a serious back spasm on the plane yesterday, and went to bed resolving that I would go back to the school when I woke up. That came to pass at 5 AM, and I was back at the school around 5:30. I played some music first, and then walked along the front of the campus, reeling somewhat under the weight of grief. Then I walked back to the entrance and addressed the moon, low over the opposite horizon. The Lady who rests her feet there united her intentions with mine as I spoke these words:

Let those that are Trustworthy,
 support Trust, in which Love flourishes.
Let those that are Loyal,
 support Unity, from which Love builds strength.
Let those that are Helpful,
 support Compassion, whereby Love sustains virtue.
Let those that are Friendly,
 support Accommodation, by which Love multiplies opportunities.
Let those that are Courteous,
 support Gentleness, whereby Love preserves autonomy.
Let those that are Kind,
 support Kindness, with which Love inspires effort.
Let those that are Obedient,
 support Commitment, by which Love prepares its reception.
Let those that are Cheerful,
 support Harmony, whereby Love announces its presence.
Let those that are Thrifty,
 support Conservation, by which Love preserves its works.
Let those that are Courageous,
 support Endurance, by which Love overcomes selfishness.
Let those that are Clean,
 support Purity, in which Love is magnified.
Let those that are Reverent,
 support Grace, in which Love is made manifest.

May the Most High bless these children with Love.