Evangelical Advice

I tried so long to warn you. But I love you, and so I will try again.

Ignore the king you elected, for kings always disappoint.

Stay home. Be prayerful and listen for the still, quiet voice in your hearts.

This is what you will hear:

You cannot shop around for the truth and expect to find it. Your pastor does not have a privileged line to God. He is only telling you what you want to hear.

Church is not like shopping. It is not like a swap meet. Worship requires that people sit in a confined setting for long periods. Most houses of worship are laid out like sports arenas or concert halls, not like retail stores where racks of clothing and shelves of goods separate customers.

Stay home. Be prayerful. Listen for the still, quiet voice.

The coronavirus is a warning – in the most direct terms – that the path you are being led down ends in death.

So Help You God

Those who claimed to speak for the Most High:

  • During the AIDs crisis, blaming my brothers for the “Gay Plague.”
  • Corrupting government and sending assassins to force your reproductive ethics on my sisters.
  • Aligning yourselves with Mannon as you used scripture to justify your luxuries.

READ YOU NOW 1 Samuel 8:10-19 and consider what it means that your chosen King opened the gates to allow this plague to flood down upon the nation that you claim to shepherd for my Abba.

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?”

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.

 

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.