Revisiting my Jewish Ancestry in a time of Hatred (as a Catholic believer)

Today a growing number of Jews are returning to Israel.[i]  In 1948 Israel became a nation in one day and had 800,000 citizens.  Now there are over 6 million Jews in Israel.  Many Jews across the world feel like it is 1939 all over again.  Anti-semetism is on the rise in the United States and across the world and Israel itself lives in threat of annihilation.  Returning from where?  The Jewish diaspora is the dispersion of Jews dating back to 8th century and 6th century BCE and countless migrations after that as a people without a land.   The actual end of the Jewish state some might say was around 70 A.D.[ii]  Prominent Influential Jews[iii] are ensuring that the Jewish state and Jewish people living outside Israel are supported and their ancestry and persecution are not forgotten.

250px-Jerusalem-sacked

Without a fundamental understanding of the Old Testament dating from roughly before 10,000 B.C. from Genesis through Abraham, Jacob, The Exodus, the re-establishment of Israel under David, Babylonian Captivity, the Greek period (Hellenism), and the Roman period (37 B.C to 324 AD) and all the prophets, kings, and various sects within in Judaism it is hard to give current day “Jewishness,” or for that matter Christianity, meaning and context.

The average American Catholic today lacks heart-felt knowledge of the Jewish tradition and experience beyond didactic learning from a pre-adolescent era of learning that relied on historical teaching and painful memorization.   Many would criticize the average Catholic today lacking “infused knowledge” of Christianity itself – that is knowledge that includes teaching of the known facts of Christian tenets but guided by connection to God within us, to Jesus Christ, to the Holy Spirit.  That is knowledge greater than our intellect or individual efforts can provide.    If we had this infused knowledge the prevalence of hypocrisy today would greatly be diminished.  The hypocrisy of white nationalism today and xenophobia globally would not be able to represent mainstream thought.[iv]

What does it mean to reconcile with my Jewish heritage?  The Old Testament stories in various literary forms repeats a common theme of the Jewish nation turning away from God:  adopting pagan ways of neighbors, directly performing unholy and sinful acts, using priestly status for personal power and wealth, and placing worldly goods above God.    These moral and theological principles did not disappear with the arrival of Jesus Christ, if anything; they were stripped of formulaic ritual and laid bare in stark truths with “The great commandment is not to judge one’s neighbor but rather to love one’s neighbor, for judgment is God’s alone.”[v]

great_commandment

We have also through time developed many ritualistic additions as well that have a tint of man-made institutions rather than divinely inspired gifts.

I cannot miss the modern-day peril of Christianity and America with the history of Judaism and Israel.  As Christians we live on a pluralistic society among atheist, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and within these large religious systems countless denominations or sects.  Additionally the idols of modernity of money, prestige, power, worldly possessions, and pursuing excess human comforts leave little room for living a holy and spiritually infused live style.  To reconcile with our Jewish ancestry we must first reconcile what it means to be Christian in a pluralistic society.  Our Jewish brethren struggled with this issue than and now as well.

Our Christian leaders today are too easily manipulated into being pawns of political machines under the cover of trying to advance our religious beliefs.  We try to mobilize our votes to support a party to legislate values rather than our values legislating behavior based on attraction, love, and living a holy life by example.    Losing sight of our own calling to live spiritual lives we turn to others to enforce spirituality.  We look outward rather than inward at what is wrong with society today.  Sometimes we find reasons to not look at how to think about excess wealth.

progressive

We give power to charlatans who are all too willing to find villains for us – at a price that is often opposed to the greatest commandment.   They capitalize on our fears of alienation and loss of identity.  Some are petrified of diaspora from within – a displacement of our white Christian dominance within the United States and globally.  This fear has us resorting to tribalism under the name brand of patriotism or nationalism.    As recently demonstrated in Charlottesville Jewish hatred was on display.

KKK

How can we Christians actively hate our own brothers by Old Testament biblical definition?  The entire Old Testament in our religion foreshadows Jesus Christ coming for all Jews and all people.

When our Jewish brothers are threatened we are threatened as well.  Our morality has already condemned us once before in history when we as a nation and as a religion were passive as the Holocaust was underway.   Our morality is condemning us daily today as we passively accept a war on immigrants, on minorities, on Jews, on Muslims, on Women, and on the poor of all nations through our narrow sited policies that are aimed at enriching the wealthy and powerful at the expense of, at a minimum, 4/5ths of the world’s population.

When nations and religions start running for bunkers of isolation and extreme humanely defined purity of what it means to be on the right side of holiness and humanity – we have fallen prey to a dialogue with the Devil – not God.

Within all of our nations, our religious groups, our socio-economic classes, our gender identity groups, our racial and ethnic groups lay some very evil people.  They must be contained and made visible without resorting to the must villainous instincts of our predatory natures, of our human nature.  For as evil as our enemies are, we have the capacity within us to fall prey to being evil ourselves.

Ask yourself when listening to dinner conversation, lunchroom banter, newspaper by-lines, social media memes, and our political class – is the aim aligned with the greatest commandment?

Very few Christians are called to live in isolation and prayer (Monastic life).  We are called to live with and next to people of all cultures and beliefs. We are called to love our neighbors and not to judge our neighbors.  We are called to evangelize in a prescribed fashion – not by sword, not by law, not by coercion, not by manipulation – but by living examples of mercy, compassion and love.

As a nation America will have its challenges and will continued to be attacked for its beacon of light and freedom.  We will have to defend ourselves for our world is still ruled by men’s laws and not God’s law.  Our defense of country and our freedoms should always be carried out in a manner that reflects sober and rationale actions that respect our appropriate use of nation’s power, wealth, and principles.

Just as we are called to exercise appropriate evangelism without judgment – we are called as a nation to use our wealth, our democracy, and our military in a manner that is good for all nations and people.  Without the moral imperative applied both domestically and internationally we are bound to suffer the fate of the Israelites.

Our enemies, specifically Russia, recognize that if they can spurn division and hate within our society and between our partners globally they can diminish our freedoms and strength without firing a shot.  We have other enemies as well, many of which are reactionary to our economic and political dominance that they feel is abused to the detriment of the world’s poor and oppressed.

Until recently America understood the principle of “Much is given, Much is expected.”  Our stewardship of global priorities aligns with our nation’s interest.

Unless our nation continues to use its wealth, power and status to improve global interest we will continue to be a top target of aggrieved toxic terrorist groups from within and outside our invisible walls.

The plight of the Jewish people should enlighten nations today on the dangers of being oppressed, of oppressing people, and putting wealth and power above human interest.  The Jewish problem is our problem – and it extends way beyond what it means to be Jewish.  It is about humanity itself.

To write about this is in and of itself an insult to all the veterans of WW II and all the victims of the Holocaust.     If the Holocaust and WW II could not provide a lasting lesson for humanity we are a purely pathetic species.  Is it no wonder we needed a messiah and a paraclete[vi] after he departed?   If only we would listen to the image and imprint of the divine that lives sometimes too deeply within our clouded souls.

7-gifts-of-holy-spirit-lg

Unlike the Jews returning to Israel we can return to true Christianity within our own homes, our own communities, within our own hearts.  Pope Francis is doing his part to effect the arc of spiritual progression and revelation of the Catholic Church.  Now we have to continue to do our part.

[i] http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/insideisrael/2015/December/Operation-Exodus-Prophecy-Fulfilled

[ii] http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-diaspora

[iii] http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/50-most-influential-Jews-403742

[iv]  “Anti-Semitic and xenophobic movements did not disappear from Europe after the liberation of Auschwitz, just as white supremacist groups have lurked beneath the surface of American politics ever since the Emancipation Proclamation. What has changed is that these groups have now been stirred from their slumber by savvy politicians seeking to stoke anger toward immigrants, refugees and racial minorities for their own benefit. Leaders from Donald Trump to France’s Marine Le Pen have validated the worldview of these groups, implicitly or explicitly encouraging them to promote their hateful opinions openly. As a result, ideas that were once marginal have now gone mainstream.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/12/opinion/sunday/white-nationalism-threat-islam-america.html?_r=0

[v] https://rlp.hds.harvard.edu/life-and-teachings-jesus

[vi] Holy spirit or counselor

 

Advertisements

Is your God Dead by George Yancy[i]

“Open your eyes and look within. Are you satisfied

with the life you’re living?”[ii]

On June 19, 2017 George Yancy challenged you via New York Times opinion piece to consider is your God Dead?

What does it mean to believe in a “Living God?”  My belief is in a living God.  However, I cannot attest to having seen him in person, to have heard his voice, or felt his touch.  My God is not available to me with the realm of the five senses.  I have experienced my God with a subjective sixth sense, a spirituality that relies on intuition, faith, and the grace of God.  My belief, however, is useless to the seeker of God who has no access to the presence of God within him.

We do have traditions, manuscripts, and archaeological evidence for much of the scriptural text that have been preserved and passed down to us.    Still that is a dead letter as well without something more.

Dead letter dept.

Yancy argues that your God, or at least the God of many is dead.   The evidence is all around us as we collectively accept the poverty and inhumanity of the Human condition.  He makes his point very personal.  Raises it on an individual level as to what do you represent as the living word of your God.  In the end, belief without action is not belief at all.   He quoted Friedrich Nietzsche’s observation:

“There was only one Christian and he died on the cross.”

A very pessimistic view indeed amidst all the suffering and chaos we see today.  That being said, our biblical ancestors were not free of terrible suffering, oppression, and sin either.  Our religion has evolved and progresses with our progression as a human species.

We are at a turning point in America that is stunning.  We profess outwardly belief, but when pressed our convictions can be witheringly weak, our actions hypocritical, and our proximity to a conscious understanding and unity with God shattered.    Yet many will wear their affiliation on their sleeve.  Affiliation and baptism alone will not alleviate our guilt. What guilt?  You go to church.  You pay your taxes.  You voted pro-life.  You even gave to charity! You pray often.  Perhaps this is not enough:

After all, prayer and rejoicing can also function as forms of narcissism, as ways to drown out the screams of the poor, the oppressed.

It is not enough if we walk by our neighbor in distress, if we support global poverty and oppression, if we stand idly by as our democracy turns its back on both local and global responsibilities. This can and should be a nightmare for us as Christians and other faiths as well:

“The prophet’s word is a scream in the night.” I wait to be awakened by that scream. I have not yet heard it. It is that scream, that deep existential lament, that will awaken us to the ways we are guilty of claiming to “love God” while forgetting the poor, refusing the refugee, building walls, banning the stranger, and praying and worshiping in insular and segregated “sacred” spaces filled with racism, sexism, patriarchy, xenophobia, homophobia and indifference.”

If we are at all spiritual, the prophet’s words must be ringing in our souls during quiet contemplation.  Perhaps it is a simple as a Marley song, open our eyes, look within, and examine if we are satisfied with the life we are living?

Yancy concludes the article with the following quote:

“I await the day, perhaps soon, when those who believe in the “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob” will lock arms and march on Washington, refusing to live any longer under the weight of so much inhumanity.” 

 god of

If your God is not dead, reveal him to others in your actions and words.  Keep your prayers to yourself – but let the light of your God shine brightly in compassion and love of all people.

[i] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/19/opinion/is-your-god-dead.html?action=click&contentCollection=Middle%20East&module=Trending&version=Full&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

[ii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nv584jRwh0s

 

Trump and Terrorist

Ruminating on the Evils of War and Fighting an Invisible Enemy

Despair 

St. Michael

On the Eve of Battle
God of power and mercy,
maker and love of peace,
to know you is to live,
and to serve you is to reign.
Through the intercession of St. Michael, the archangel,
be our protection in battle against all evil.
Help me [us] to overcome war and violence
and to establish your law of love and justice.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Under Donald Trump our nation may be killing more civilians than our Russian adversaries.[i]  This is important, aside from the tragedy of killing innocent people, it undermines our moral high ground.  I cannot see Archangel St. Michael interceding in such actions.  It also arms the enemy with propaganda.

It minimizes the sacrifices our sons and daughters are making every day.  Their sweat, courage, valor, and in too many cases, long-lasting physical and psychological harm cannot be taken for granted.  And that is if they are lucky.

Three troops passed away on foreign soil serving our country last month in Syria, Iraq, and Iraq (Al Anbar Province):  Sgt. 1st class Robert Boniface, Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren, and PFC Brian Odiorne.

data=RfCSdfNZ0LFPrHSm0ublXdzhdrDFhtmHhN1u-gM,uwB_vHK9vIbtQ5tf-iWeDcYaxw2MSRM0f43QBVUZdqE5IZlaocouqHAjJLkfjfCQ5qSITCyO3oy7GqhOK2sSVV9a15_j3DZKN0Fh-88OXeAyZHd6fRwnrQupX57mpdSTXUIwnezQvi0IH

All three are listed as non-combat related by the military times.[ii]  All three have died young in a foreign land.  I felt it important to note the location.  It should not be anonymous.  They should not be anonymous.  For them, their families, and loved ones it does not matter the designation.  We owe them gratitude and support for the ultimate sacrifice.  We owe them more than that as well.  We have to understand and know what war is and why we are at war.  And how we are fighting the war.

Our nation is ramping up war rhetoric on many fronts as we also limit our diplomacy, distance our allies, and create economic tensions that will only elevate the potential for war.  I am not hearing a commander-in-chief stand before the American people and inform us of where we stand.  I am not confident that he is attuned to or has the knowledge of military interventions and strategy necessary to do right by our country and by our troops.   We must demand accountability in a bipartisan manner – not to divide – but to unite a country that is absent a leader.

What do we owe our soldiers?  Their families?  How do we honor them?

Where is the news and accountability for stewardship of our Armed Forces? 

I do not want a country divided when it comes to supporting our troops.  I do not want a single soldier sacrificed unnecessarily.  When they do go to battle I hope people are actively praying for them and for the innocents in harm’s way.    I cannot quite brig myself to pray for the terrorist propagating evil – but I can pray for would be terrorist to not be recruited and curret terrorist to seek a true spirituality not of their own making.

Vietnam was not all that long ago.  A hallmark of Vietnam was not telling the American people the truth of what was happening on the ground. This non-transparent presidency, shrouded in mystery, hidden away behind a golf club wall and twitter account is not honoring our soldiers.

Sometimes we are left with only prayers:

For Hope in the Midst of Destruction
God of mercy,
you know the secrets of all human hearts,
for you know who is just and you forgive the repentant sinner.
Hear my prayer in the midst of destruction;
give me patience and hope,
so that under your protection and with you as my guide,
I may one day be reunited with my family and friends
in peace, tranquility, and love.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.[iii]

However, faith also demands action.

How can we maintain our humanity and spirituality in the midst of political chaos, world-wide proliferation of violence and war, and a nation succumbing to hatred and division?  How do we be defenders of freedom without becoming villains of capitalism and self-interest?  How do we not arm our enemies with yielding the moral high ground and losing our moral authority as a nation that stands for freedom and truth?

Our nation has been at war before our soldiers headed for the battlefield.  We are at war within our own borders for justice, truth, and equality.  We are at war to maintain democracy. And we are at war with international players all too willing to exploit our lack of leadership, antagonize and foster our divisions, and drain our resolve to be engaged in the world.  America cannot afford to be disengaged from the world.

Demand the truth.  Do not be misled by blind nationalism or rhetoric.    Be patriotic by making sure our leaders are exercising prudence and due diligence when sending our sons and daughters to battle.

President Trump is battling to many demons, both real and imagined.  We need leadership in the house, in the senate, in the press, in the military, in the pews, in our living rooms and neighborhoods to demand honesty and transparency from our government.  Without it we will succumb.

[i] https://www.thenation.com/article/under-trump-the-united-states-may-now-be-killing-more-civilians-than-russia/

[ii] http://thefallen.militarytimes.com/

[iii] http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/prayers/prayer-for-troops.cfm

 

The Benedictine Option

st-benedict2

On February 17, 2017 the Wall Street Journal printed a story by Ian Lovelett entitled:  “Wary of Modern Society, Some Christians Choose a Life Apart.”[i]  There is a movement here in the United States that mirrors monastic communities of early Christian times.  The actual rules of a Benedictine Monastery are quite exhaustive.  However, these families are choosing to set up Christian communities near Monasteries and model life on Christian values absent the temptations of secular life found in American communities.

What are these families seeking in pursuing the Benedictine Option?  St. Gregory described St. Benedict this way:

“the model of a saint who flees temptation to pursue a life of attention to God. Through a balanced pattern of living and praying Benedict reached the point where he glimpsed the glory of God.”[ii]

If you have never escaped to a spiritual retreat that provides solitude and prayer I recommend you read and consider an Ignatian retreat center.  An excellent book I have recommended (link below) prior can provide an at home retreat for 8 weeks.[iii]  How many of us can pick up, purchase land near a monastery, and find it possible to live the agrarian lifestyle successfully?

We do not need to flee from the United States, from our communities, from other Christian denominations, from Muslims, Jews, Atheist, Progressives, Liberals, and Conservatives.  Living in a secular society, if you have not been called to the priesthood or monastic lifestyle, is a calling in and of itself.  We live amongst non-believers and fellow believers to perform our calling while simultaneously living our faith as witnesses to Christ.

How do we do that as today’s gospel (February 19, 2017) calls for us to “reprove your fellow-countryman firmly and thus avoid burdening yourself with a sin.”[iv]  We have been far from flawless in this regard.  We have stepped way past reprove to being judge, jury, and hangman on many occasion – thus committing countless sins in the name of Jesus Christ.

ingnorant-reprove

Globalization trends, extreme politics, and scarcity of resources are leading people to make superficial decisions.  Today a segment of our society driven by Christian evangelization is attempting to codify via civil law our beliefs and to impose them on others rather than “reproving” sinners by preaching our beliefs (our churches and leaders) and living our beliefs as witnesses thru “a balanced pattern of living and praying.”  At a high level our policies are not supporting our beliefs and our trust in faith and God’s intimate knowledge of each one of us.  If we did we would not have our current President in chief be able to retain the modest popularity he has based on his “wall plans,” anti-immigration plans, lifestyle, and a host of other issues best left unmentioned here.

If we were confident in our faith we would be able to humbly reprove without the insecure need to demonize and attack non-believers.   As we have seen time and time again, when we are living the true faith non-believers will rise in insecurity to demonize our actions.  We must be prepared to not fall into the trap of committing the same sin.

reprove

We do need to reprove our politicians and fellow citizens.  I reprove abortion in general (not women) though I do not pretend to know the circumstances (medical, spiritual, psychological, economic, rape) or the depth of God’s mercy and intentions.  I reprove our nation’s decision to dismantle health care that helps the poor, to apply indiscriminate and harmful immigration actions for votes, to build a wall when we can be building humanity, and many other systemic injustices.   I reprove policy and presidential actions and words that through either active collusion or incompetence continue to promote racism, sexism, and religious intolerance.  I reprove our highest public servant directing his energies at serving the wealthy and his associates despite campaigning to do the opposite to help the poor and middle class.

However, at a deeper level, spiritual pursuit starts with me – not with the elected class.  Do I know that I am God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in me?[v]   How many times have I poisoned by body with alcohol or other acts of gluttony?  How many times have I filled my mind with other sins of the spirit (pride, greed, lust, glutton, wrath, and sloth)?

Take a look at Dante’s Inferno archetype descriptions art for each of these trap doors.  Or better yet take this fictional test:  http://www.4degreez.com/misc/dante-inferno-test.mv

dante

Now, Dante’s work is one of literary imagination- not spiritual or religious dogma.  But if you dared take that test – did it get you thinking a little more objectively about your balanced living and pray life?

How many of us put our own desire for status, financial security, power above the needs of people less fortunate than us through the arms of our nation’s wealth and might?  To be honest, in the short-term, Donald’s plan may benefit me financially in net pay.  However, it is devastating my spiritual beliefs in protecting the vulnerable in our society and the immigrants seeking refuge or already here.  Perhaps a 30 day Benedictine Monastic Month would be good for our nation!  That not being possible – all change starts with the smallest unit.  Me.

However, the family unit is a monastic unit of faith.  It is a calling.  Within our communities if the family units are living the faith, we will have a society and market that caters to that faith without the need for coercion or mandate.  By faith and individual and family action of living the word of God within our own walls we can carry the word of God.  And in our communities we can be replenished and supported by the church.  How many house hunters prioritize visiting the church before evaluating the schools, transportation, crime rates, and other factors that make communities important to us?

We know these things.  That our faith is dependent on our individual lives, family lives, and church being in order. Yet we look to our government, education system, and media to make it easy for us.  We expect them to do the hard work while we hypocritically are consuming the very things we rally against.  Fleeing to another land will not eliminate the turmoil within our own souls or within our church.

flight

So we find ourselves in a secularised community here in the United States.  Internationally people are dying today for their beliefs in Jesus Christ.  Our human inclination is fight or flight.

fight-or-flight

Today’s gospel has some advice on this topic:

“You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.[vi]

The magnitude of seeking perfection in a secular society is the hardest challenge of mankind.  It is what we are called to do with humility and steadfastness.  We may not be able to escape to a hermitage and probably have not been called to do so.  However, nothing wrong with taking refuge for a minute, an hour, a weekend in contemplative prayer when the seven temptations are at the door.

contemplatative

[i] https://www.wsj.com/articles/communities-built-on-faith-1487349471

[ii] http://www.osb.org/gen/benedict.html

[iii] http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/an-ignatian-prayer-adventure

[iv] 1 Corinthians 3:16-23

[v] Corinthians 3:16-23

[vi] Matthew 5: 38 to 48

 

A Monk In The World: Cultivating A Spiritual Life by Wayne Teasdale

“The homeless live in virtually every city and town around the globe, representing a sixth of humanity — or about a billion souls.  Like ghost, they haunt the busy thoroughfares of the world.”

If you read nothing else in this post except this quote that is okay.  Please contemplate and pray for these billion souls in whatever spiritual tongue you possess and cherish.

homeless

Teasdale doesn’t get to the homeless until chapter six:  “Light in the streets:  The urgent call of the homeless.”  The first five chapters he spends on spirituality, mystical experience, the church, friendship, world order, preciousness of time, sacredness of work, and the value of money.  A decent read on challenges of everyday life to the spiritual life.   But most of us are not called to the monastic life and have to “make due” in an environment that is sometimes outright hostile to your beliefs.

Homelessness is only a small portion of the book that is examining how to live a contemplative and spiritual life amidst the chaos of living in the real world (as opposed to a monastery or a hermit in the desert.  However, the epic issue of homelessness and our aversion to the problem is an epitome of the failure of globalization and extreme capitalism.

Teasdale explains through his own life experience the labor of belief, both vertical and horizontal life challenges, internal and external challenges, mortality, and earthly limitations.  He goes a step further to address the commonalities of religious and the calling to unite ecumenical movements to address poverty in our times.

In the U.S our current administration is focused on recovering a perceived lost edge in the global economy and focus on removing protections that may hinder capitalism’s acceleration while also instituting protectionism for corporations in the U.S, reducing oversight that protects the safety and fair wages of the working class, while targeting immigrants and other countries as villains to support a political message and a rallying call to desperate Americans.   At the same time, the administration itself is at war with the free press and unapologetically creating alternative facts without regard for truth in the slightest.  The irony is the leadership had or has (I don’t know which) the support of bible belt believers, if not,publicly, than secretly.

Nowhere in our administration’s current platform is a call for social justice, a call to help the poor of this nation and/or other nations, responsible stewardship of the planet, and other callings that Christians worldwide, including the Pope of the Catholic church, hold as core values.  Instead we have a militant and protectionist mantra of “America First.” And a minority of the population is okay with the absence of compassion and outright villainizing of anything or anyone that opposes the administration’s viewpoint.  I do not know how this adheres to our Christian heritage in the manner in which America’s voice is being heard today in the world.  Our current political establishment is putting profits of the super elite above community and pitting the community against each other internally and externally through inflammatory language and almost messianic message about doom and gloom.

It is and has been my life’s calling to work with the impoverished and under-represented “sentient beings.”  I use this phrase to bring to life that the poor, the disenfranchised, the homeless, the immigrants, the LGBTQ individuals are not labels but real, spiritual beings with a consciousness and share of our collective resources and our God.

It is possible to be this horrific in the political sphere when the public is distanced from spiritual grounding and meaningful caring of thy neighbor and all sentient beings regardless of race, color, creed, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or nationality.

If our nation was as spiritual and committed to Christianity as many report – our politicians would not have the license they do today to lie outright time and time again without repercussion.

The book aptly ducks the big questions and focuses on individual tools and pray for cultivating the spirit in the face of such adversity and calls on religious institutions to show more courage in standing up for moral convictions.  The church has failed in this area before — in Germany and in other places and times.  I pray we do not fail again.

The immensity of the issues often give way to powerlessness and despair for believers. That is why an interior pray life and mindfully living in a spiritual manner is so critical for believers today now more than ever.

One believer at a time.  

One good deed at a time.  

One letter of advocacy.  

One voice in the crowd.

You decide where you can make a difference.

 “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Book Review:  7 of 10 (not one of my favorites but a decent read)

monk-in-the-world

 

 

Zealot THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JESUS OF NAZARETH by Rena Aslan

Two thousand plus years and Jesus the man (revolutionary, rebel, bandit) and Jesus “The Son of Man” (The Jesus Christ of Christian believers, the son of God, sent to save mankind from eternal damnation, died on the cross for our sins than and now) live in a historical reality much as we do today.  Aslan delves into the historical Jesus Christ and the context of how and by whom the New Testament came to be.  Regardless of how you define Jesus Christ, both the man and the Jesus Christ our savior, challenged government and priestly authorities to stop abusing privilege and care for the poor, reform and create a just society that is reflected in the Sermon on the Mount. Do we believe in that message today?

The destruction of Jerasulem in 70 C.E. is marked by Aslan as the true birth of Christianity separating from Judaism and fully accepting Paul’s theological framework that sees the Torah and the rules of Judaism as a “ministry of death, chiseled in letters on a stone tablet” that must be superseded by a “ministry of the spirit come in glory.” (2 Cor 3: 7-8) Very strong words.  Indeed Christianity did rid itself of many rituals – but not of its theological roots and scripture of the Torah.

A key critism of this book is Aslam attributes authorship of Gospels to be penned after 70 A.D. whereas many scholars date Gospels “no later than 59 AD” which is only 29 years after Jesus’s death.  This is a major blow to Aslan’s carefully built assertion that Jesus was more a political rebel or revolutionary than Prophet and Divine son of God.  It is not affirmative who is right on timelines.  Here is another source:  http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Four_Gospel_Chart.htm

The oral and written traditions that superseded the New Testament we have today, the influence Jewish Authorities, competing Messianic movements, and divisions within the Christian community had a profound impact on the narratives and literary devices used to capture the life of Jesus Christ.  Aslan takes a look at contrast between the earliest written gospel (Mark) versus gospels written later (Matthew, Mark, John, and Q sources) and other historical references that bring to light the distinctions between the historical Jesus and the theological Jesus that evolved over time by his apostles preaching the word and the word enventualky taking form under Emperor Constantine in 325 C.E.

Imagine if Christians did not blame the Jews for the Crucifiction, but the Romans? Perhaps two thousand years of antisemitism could have been avoided. The early Christians though, may have chosen to avoid that fight with the Romans.  Look where it got the Jews of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.

The relationships amongst the 3 original apostles (James, Peter, and John) and Paul (Saul, convert self-proclaimed apostle who had an a vision of Jesus Christ while encounter to persecute Christians) who never met Jesus Christ and outreached to gentiles and Jews a message quite different than the apostles (casting off Jewish law).  This is somewhat contentious as Aslan is basically saying Christianity represents Paul’s vision – not the thinking and vision of Jesus Christ the man.  He has a kernel of truth here.  Paul championed Christianity for gentiles and liberal Jews.  He was not preaching in the land of Jerusalem, the heart of Orthodox Judaism.

A major theme in Aslams book is how commonplace healers, magicians, and messiahs were in Jesus time.  He does note that Jesus was remarkably different in several ways – but his intent is a revisionist attempt to make Jesus more human.  I did find his information on other rebels and bandits fascinating:  

The Fourth Philosophy led by Judah’s the Galilian and later chef Hazekiah were famous bandits that espoused freeing Israel from foreign rule and serving no one but one God.  A legendary group named the Sicarri by the Romans (or daggerman) had a “penchant for small, easy to conceal daggers, called sicae, with which they assassinated the enemies of God (Romans or more likely wealthy priestly aristocracy who did Romes bidding).  In 56 C.E the Sicarri managed to kill the Jewish high priest in the temple, in broad day light, slit his throat with a dagger and slipped back into the crowd. Some depict the group as equivalent to modern day terrorist.  Murder justified under religious edict and fervor….or Zeal. There were many Jewish messiahs before and after Jesus Christ prophesying.  Other claimants of messiah included Simon of Perea, Athronges the Shepard, Menahem (also a Sicarri), Simon son of Giorgio,  and Theodas the wonder worker.  John the Baptist himself proclaimed a messianic message but did not claim himself a messiah.  Jesus refrained from calling himself messiah, he befuddled the Romans and Jews by using the term “the son of Man.”

Getting back to Jesus Christ, he did not accept money or titles.  He had a message and a direction that differed from previous messiahs.  The Beatitudes (Luke 6: 20 to 24) capture the messianic message of the day, a vision that promotes both an internal transformation of Judaism but also a promise of deliverance from sub-servience and foreign rule.  The evaluation of Jesus Christ on previous expected messiahs failed by measures of re-establishing Kingship or Kingship line, liberating the Jews from Roman rule, or bringing the end of days.  These three themes of messianic beliefs and preachers who espoused them were commonplace as were their deaths for threatening sedition from Rome as well as attacking the power of the priestly elite.

Jesus understood the risk of preaching any of the above and avoided naming himself the messiah.  He let others do that until the end.  The author refers this to the messianic secret, a strategy employed most likely by Jesus, to use  parables and ambiguity until the very end.  However, Jesus also knew, as countless messiahs and others who challenged Rome, were crucified at Golgotha.

In the end, I have to agree with the critics that Aslan has created a biography that leans towards historical imagination (some would say fiction) and personal beliefs.  Nonetheless the book was very enjoyable and the politics of the time bought to life.

The messy evolution of Christianity as a theology and its massive break from Jewish tradition in a time of great political turmoil invites believers, atheist, and skeptics to explore and express intriguing questions.  As Christianity today forwarns, beware of assertions made in this book.  

In fact, I say beware of anyone asserting their interpretation of the logos (or the eternal being, the Godhead, and all the other nomenclature we use as humans to capture the unknowable, unimaginable, existence of a supreme being) is right and yours is (fill in adjective).  If they have to sell or attack they are probably not in line with divinity.  A divine soul need not pretend to be divine or to sell – they just do.  They do not have to assure themselves or others nor deminish others beliefs.  Pure divine souls humbly attract believers to them by their actions and words of love, compassion, and mercy.

Christianity Today criticism of book captures a few errors and potential exaggerations.  Little provided on the substance of the historical and theological mix of the times:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/august-web-only/zealot-reza-aslan-tells-same-old-story-about-jesus.html?share=

The National Catholic Register also hammered it’s oversimplification, errors, and timelines.  It is a good idea to read what others write outside the bubble of your own political or religious perspective. It not only challenges and refines the “kool aid” you drink, but enables you to grasp why others may find your beliefs incredulous to the rationale eye!  

Rating:  9 of 10 for religious imagination and exploration.  6 if treated as historically or theologically accurate.

The Day After – A Dark Night

November 9, 2016:

 

I visited the Kennedy Center today for a family activity where check in was at the Hall of Nations and the seats of power were within eyesight.  This is no small reality check given the dramatic upset that transpired yesterday in US presidential politics.  The view in DC felt dark.

20161109_175613

That the winning candidate has given license to the worst of our society when it comes to racism, bigotry, and hatred.  He may not represent or be these things, but those that embrace these ideals (if they can be called ideals) feel vindicated and empowered by his victory.  And those that are victims of prejudice are afraid and protesting as I write this post.

Where can I turn when my nation takes a step backwards (in my opinion).  The GOP  win may actually benefit me financially.  But the policies proposed will hurt 22 million people insured by the ACA, young people who are using the health care of their parents thru age 26 until they get into this job market, people with chronic illnesses keep their insurance, and countless protections for vulnerable people.  The party of Christian values won an election on non-christian propaganda helped by a damaged democrat candidate and FBI interference.  And yet the party has so many good people and people of principle that allowed this to be their route to power.

Where to turn to at these troubled times?  The drive home went from DC rush hour traffic to back roads Maryland.  As the distance from metropolitan centers grew the radio turned to white noise, my daughter complained, I shut it off, my wife asked why!  I said I wanted to listen but could not focus on the station dials right now — had to focus on road.  She roused herself and found a new station and was about to drift back off when I apparently yelled aaagh……damn Deer in the road.  If I changed that station we would have had one really dead Deer.

deer

My wife yelled Jesus!  I yelled what are you yelling at!  She said you yelled I can yell!  My daughter just wanted to know the Deer got away unharmed!   (Yes – and the CRV brakes worked really well).

So we arrive in Delaware safely. I have adoration chapel and off I go.  It is raining.   I find quietness and presence in the chapel.  Among other things I read about Jesus teaching the disciples about violent rejection of his message that is to come and that the good news will not be an immediate conquering of evil and disbelief.  In fact, in his humility the power of the Divine life will emerge.  Jesus spoke of service as the key.  Service to the poor, in loving all of God’s children, and devotion to God.

That is the focus we need.  If our focus is on a human being like Donald or Hillary to save the day (and save what?) we have given up our spiritual selves.  And what was the driving message in this campaign other than money, fear, and hatred?  Looking for solace and serenity can only truly come from the presence of divine presence in our lives?     A divine gift.

A quote from my reading tonight regarding if you have the gift of living a divinely inspired life:

“You won’t need your assumptions, prejudices, worries, or even your hands and feet.  However if you reject this gift where can you turn?  You will have nothing but the empty pageantry of your pretensions; you’ll have nothing, you’ll have death.” Paul McCarren, SJ

Reading the above shallow thinking Reds and Blues can easily nod their heads in agreement as if the other side has committed the errors of turning their back on God’s message and placing their worth in false gods of power or elitism.  I do not believe either side in the majority has conscientiously done that – but we are far from living divinely inspired lives.

The more we listen to others, the more we will see:

“the struggle of others to be cured of their ignorance is just like yours.  You will begin to see yourself in them.  You’ll find yourself at peace with them.”    Paul McCarren, SJ

McCarren drew these conclusions from select readings from the Gospel of Mark and other bible references.  This listening and empathy for our neighbors, friends, family, political opponents, and enemies is virtually absent in social media, newspapers, and conversations.

When is the last time you found yourself at peace with understanding rival ideas and the people who threaten your anchor, your identity, your deeply held beliefs?  

This does not mean to abandon your beliefs or silence them – it does mean to deeply listen to others, reflect, pray, and strive to understand.  It may also mean for Christians to repent (when you have failed), turn, ask, and accept God’s help.  It also means to not be afraid when tragedy strikes or things do not go our way.

This reminds me of a neighbor I had from Cuba who said, they need a church on every corner, every corner, not for me, not for me, for those xxx, xxx, xxx, who graffiti-ed my fence.    Sometimes we fall in to the trap of the other ones need help forgetting our own blindness and limited knowledge of living a truly divinely inspired life.  It didnt bother me much re-painting my fence every so often – I kept a ready tin of paint back than and I new I owed as much from my own youthful errors.

So I leave the chapel and head home.  A block away from the chapel, off to the side of the road, is a deer, just standing there, twenty feet in on the grass in the middle of Dover, De, watching me go home, feeling like, we have met before in Maryland just few hours and 50 or so miles ago?  Providence?

Now I am up a second night late – but the driving force of my deprivation of sleep is much more comforting, purposeful, and hopeful than watching the human folly the night before. People will blame Christianity for division and others will claim Christianity as their defense for their vote.  Christianity in its true form should do neither – it is loving, caring, compassionate, and modeling all the time the way of Jesus Christ.  It is a way of living that I believe no human can live perfectly except one that has come before us being both God and Man.

2e0a17829d5b2df7c4d11dd1c0a4ae81

 

Pax Tecum, Pax Tibi

Rusted Anchors[i]

rusted-anchor

“Anchoring or focalism is a term used in psychology to describe the common human tendency to rely too heavily, or “anchor,” on one trait or piece of information when making decisions.”[ii]  How many rusted anchors are holding you down from accepting new and contradictory information to previously held assumptions?  In a recent NYT article on Donald Trump the author raised the issue of “race and racism, cognitive traps that psychologists call anchoring and what we call first impressions”[iii]

The article discusses Trump’s doubling down the guilt of the central park five despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary and convictions wrongly obtained being overturned.  His actions there are a different issue.

How many “Rusted Anchors” are his supporters holding onto based on his 1) false first impressions from his primary debates with fellow establishment republicans and his presentation now, 2) the success of his businesses without revealing his taxes, 3) his honesty now that Trump University suit is moving forward, or 4) what he says about how he treats people and what women and prior small business people say about him?   A good number have finally jumped ship.  The weight simply became too much.[iv]

I would argue the weight became so much that it threatened a different kind of anchor (for some) that relegated political party and affiliation secondary to principle.  Sadly some may have done so for political expediency, but I hope most listened to the anchor of their soul.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”[v] Hebrews 6:19

 christian-anchor-symbol

This is an entirely different anchor that needs protecting and care.  “Epitaphs on believers’ tombs dating as far back as the end of the first century frequently displayed anchors alongside messages of hope. Such expressions as pax tecumpax tibiin pace, or “peace be with you” speak to the hope Christians felt in their anticipation of heaven.”

Anchors can be bad or good.  It requires constant vigilance and discernment – both in the political and religious realm.  How many religious leaders are selling their faith for favor (or donations) from Donald as even their devout congregations are pulling away?   What are your anchors?

I have long been a Democrat as democrats support a diversity of social justice issues that are low on the republican ticket (excepting pro-life).  My position is “Choose Life.”   The Catholic vote has been in play like it has never been before due to Trump’s behavior and the inclusivity preaching of our beloved current Pope Francis.[vi]    I try to discern my values, my social justice concerns, my recognition of the dangers of pharisaical preaching, the risk of pride, of intellectualism, and the traps of false anchors (religious, political, cultural, and herd mentality).

With undue suffering (perhaps a vintage anchor of catholic guilt) a vote on either side of the ticket is not a vote for idealism of catholic ideology.  It is my imperfect guess on what is best right now with the given choices on all the issues (without grandstanding, without a public audience, without demonization, without rationalization of the many imperfections of our system).  A large focus of mine given 26 years of social work experience is related to liberation theology themes and hearing the cry of the poor.[vii]

There are too many issues to address them all here.  However, one issue can be addressed.  Your anchor is defined by you.  You define it by feeding it accurate information, by discerning sincere dialogue and information, and by continuously refining and caring for your thoughts, your actions, and yes your vote.

If your vote be different than mine after you have did your due diligence (minus the poison of the brightest rhetoricians, the simpleton good ole fellow routine, or fear mongering fire and brimstone types)[viii] I trust our God will find grace for us both according to our needs and deeds.

Disclaimer: I have a responsibility to direct you to the Catechism of the Catholic Church[ix] for official church doctrine – I am wholly unqualified to represent or pretend to represent the intricacies and the mystery of the faith and my wayfarer journey as a believer.    I have sought out personal guidance on some of these issues from clergy and found my anchor on some issues – but the journey and the struggle never ceases.

journey

Peace Be With You….

Footnotes:

[i] https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1TSNJ_enUS495US495&espv=2&biw=911&bih=425&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=steel+rusted+anchor&oq=steel+rusted+anchor&gs_l=img.12…21325.25860.0.28241.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0..0.0….0…1c.1.64.img..0.0.0.wRrETletl1M#imgrc=lMZfG87VC3QPfM%3A

[ii] https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/anchoring.htm

[iii] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/18/opinion/why-trump-doubled-down-on-the-central-park-five.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=Moth-Visible&moduleDetail=inside-nyt-region-4&module=inside-nyt-region&region=inside-nyt-region&WT.nav=inside-nyt-region

[iv] The same argument can be made for Hillary supporters I am sure.

[v] http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/august/what-is-origin-of-anchor-as-christian-symbol-and-why-do-we.html

[vi] http://www.catholicdemocrats.org/

[vii] http://www.uscatholic.org/culture/social-justice/2010/01/do-you-hear-cry-poor-liberation-theology-today

[viii] You also have a responsibility to not spread false anchors or misinformation – the poisons of solid anchors.

[ix]http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/

 

“Odi ergo sum. I hate therefore I am” : The two sides of Islamic belief

“Odi ergo su.” is a quote  from Umberto Eco, author of The Prague Cemetery (I book and author I do not know).   It is easy to see how extremist in our society and around the world thrive on hatred.  Below is a critical and biased view of Islam based on several readings I have read the last two days.  It summarizes I believe why and how non-muslims fear (and sometimes hate) Muslims.  It is biased and raises questions that when raised  people accuse the questioner of being prejudicial.  I accept that risk and ask that if you respond please do so with kindness, compassion, and information that can help all readers understand Islam.  I also request that non-muslims reading this not use it to promote hatred as well.  It is an amatuer review.  A starting place.    Is Islam a religion of peace or of violence?

The Story of Mohammed Islam Unveiled by Harry Richardson is a 99 cents purchase that I bought by error while attempting to buy another book (The Sealed Nectar | Biography of Prophet Muhammad) which is only 3.99.   Unfortunately the latter book is quite long and may take me awhile to review.  Perhaps the easiest review of Muhammad and Catholics is “Understanding Islam:  A guide For Catholic Educators[i].   Obviously not an unbiased source but I am obligated to provide it given my own faith.

Richardson’s book is a compilation of attacks on the origins of the Prophet Muhammad.  He provides a two prong attack that is quite successful despite a somewhat amateurish presentation (that also can entice unprepared readers to accept his positions uncritically).  His premise is if the world was educated on Muhammad’s true biography they would understand better the threat Islam presents to society and freedom.  Prong one looks at Muhammad’s use of warfare and Jihad.  Prong two looks at present day Islam and it’s conundrum of moderates being silenced by the actual scripture of the Koran and other books and the Prophets teaching.  I do not recommend this book, however, it has ignited my interest in how society in general and Muslims in particular, can explain and detail the life of the Prophet Muhammad. The book also cites multiple examples of how Islam and the Prophets name are utilized to promote conquest, violence, oppression and other atrocities.  If I were looking to be anti-muslim this is the book.  One reviewer put it this way:

“Now, if you are however an Islamophobe, you will LOVE this book, because it will give you what you want to believe, even though the information in it is contrary to the truth of what Islam is and Muslims are. This book succeeds in making Islam the enemy, and for people who need an enemy to reinforce their identity, this book will make Muslims as morally repugnant as is Islamophobically possible.  Odi ergo sum- I hate therefore I am – really sums up this book.”[ii]

For a counter check I watched a 42 minute video on Muhammad that treats him as a Prophet.  This film is clearly an apologist pro-Islam film.  Angel Gabriel visited Muhammad and gave a new message of hope and serenity.[iii]  Born in 570 0f the Common Era according to history channel video on Muhammad?  Note the dropping of 570 AD.  He was raised as an orphan within a culture of Arab spiritual beliefs that honored many Gods.   He officially became God’s messenger in the year of 610 as a father of 5 daughters.  He received several revelations from God.  From his received revelations came the Koran – God’s Holy Book.  Armed with the Koran and Muhammad, the poetry of the Koran began to win followers from other tribes.  The words became music.  Muhammad claims return to one true God – Allah, the God of Abraham, of the Jews, the God of Jesus Christ.  The video describes him a mild mannered merchant!  Monotheism is back.  Islam as an act of surrender to God’s will.

Muhammad faced criticism from the clerics of the day.  Violence and torture ensued.   Arabs were divided.  His wife and uncle died.  His followers were being persecuted.  On a night in 620 he received another vision of all previous prophets (a unifying vision) that led him to leave Mecca.  He fled just as the other sects agreed to assassinate him.  Medina is born.  A community bound together by a faith and by agreement.  The Torah and the gospels have become distorted.  Pray towards Mecca not Jerusalem.

Now, the new prophet, Muhammad, serves as messenger of God for Islam and as head of state.  The video at 24 minutes in gently prepares why and how Muhammad became to lead an army for the defense of Islam.  Jihad is born.  Justice and armed defense is now back.  It is used as a struggle for the survival of Islam – to establish peace.  Respond as necessary with financial, military, whatever is needed to defend Islam.  For Muhammad, having left Mecca with his followers and going to a new land without resources, he (by decree of Allah), turned to Jihad of attacking and raiding other tribes as a “defense” of Islam!  The battle of Badr Muhammad shows both military strength compassion at the same time!  Muhammad reportedly prayed:

“God this is Quraish. It has come with all its arrogance and boastfulness, trying to discredit Thy Apostle. God, I ask Thee to humiliate them tomorrow. God, if this Muslim band will perish today, Thou shall not be worshipped.[iv]

Islam uses this battle today as part of their foundation of being predestined, being the truth, the one way.   It seems to sidestep the idea that they were not being attacked but were attacking a caravan with intent to plunder and steal resources.  Medina and Mecca would war for a few more years – and the video presents this as Medina struggling for its survival.  Again it ducks the issue that it is Medina that was the aggressor against Muhammad’s former home.  In the year of 630 Islam marched on Mecca.  He destroyed 365 Idols and vanquished falsehoods.  He brought peace to Arabia.  Islamic enlightenment and the word of Islam spread and blossomed!  Muhammad’s life remains the ideal for Islam.  The video ends with how extremist misuse verses of the Koran for violence and leave out Muhammad’s message for compassion and forgiveness.  However, the video ducks the question of a vision of Islam that only allows for compassion and forgiveness for those that accept Islam?

“If they were polytheists they could resist and be executed or enslaved, or they could accept the message of monotheism and recognize Muhammad as the prophet of God. Jews and Christians, since they were monotheists whose prophets were recognized as forerunners of Muhammad, were given the possibility of submitting to Muhammad’s authority and paying a special tax, the jizyah, based on the qur’anic verse in Surah 9:29, in return for the freedom to practice their religions within certain limits. This became the practice of Muslim conquerors in the centuries following Muhammad’s death.”[v]

That being said:

“The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.[vi] 

And Muslim leaders have responded in kind with a “Common Word. “[vii]

Despite these overtures of our leadership in both theological paradigms, there remains the conflict of Islam’s actions and development as a nation of peace and compassion.   Our own Pope is limited between the olive branch and the reality of Islam today.[viii]  At the root of Islam is a drive to conquer and establish Islamic rules that promote a just and peaceful society as defined by Islam.   The ends justify the means.  While Christians made the same error at times thru the Crusades and other acts – they did not have justification from the Gospels.  Islam has justification built into the Koran and the life of Muhammad.

As for it being the religion of peace “The Quran contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule. Some are quite graphic, with commands to chop off heads and fingers and kill infidels wherever they may be hiding. Muslims who do not join the fight are called ‘hypocrites’ and warned that Allah will send them to Hell if they do not join the slaughter.[ix]  And its early growth was based on armed conquest.

Islam does not have one leader or one body and cannot address this conflict of presentation.  I believe most Muslims are peaceful and compassionate people and are taught the fundamental peaceful aspects of Islam – but lurking underneath is this fundamental oppressive theology that drives belief on repression, conquest, and limiting freedom.   Non-Muslims are treated as the enemy.

Perhaps “The Sealed Nectar” will provide me greater insight into Islam.   Perhaps educated theologians or Muslim believers will provide response that enlightens this contradiction.

[i] http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/interreligious/upload/2013-Understanding-Islam-Guide-for-Catholic-Educators-Final-Version-09112013.pdf

[ii] Review by ReemK10 @ good reads

[iii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7w4TH-giaps

[iv] https://www.al-islam.org/articles/battle-badr

[v] http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/interreligious/upload/2013-Understanding-Islam-Guide-for-Catholic-Educators-Final-Version-09112013.pdf

[vi] http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html

[vii] http://rissc.jo/docs/20-acw/20-ACW-5.pdf

[viii] https://www.jihadwatch.org/2016/05/hugh-fitzgerald-pope-francis-islam-and-christianity-share-the-idea-of-conquest

[ix] http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/quran/violence.aspx

 

Contemplating Good and Evil

good and evil

Excerpt from “The Edge of Sadness” by Edwin O’Connor:

“We all share in a shattering duality — and by this I don’t mean that soggy, superficial split that one so often sees: the kind of thing, for example, where the gangster sobs uncontrollably at an old Shirley Temple movie. I mean the fundamental schism that Newman referred to when he spoke of man being forever involved in the consequences of some “terrible, aboriginal calamity”; everyday in every man there is a warfare of the parts.”

Although a work of fiction, this thought is a powerful image of our human condition, individually and collectively. What duality? Historically, we boil it down to Good and Evil, driven from original sin of Adam and Eve, and from Satan’s fall from the heavens. How we continue to reach for these archetypes and depict “others” as evil without consciousness of our own religious, cultural, political and nationalist bias is a greater calamity.

Friedrich Nietzsche challenged us to get beyond ourselves with his work, “Beyond Good and Evil.” Unfortunately, part of his views, were co-opted by Adolf Hitler and used in declaring the Aryan Race as superior. A failed artist with an imaginative idealism, armed with philosophical distortions, created one of the greatest atrocities known to mankind.

Trust not the religous scholar, the philosopher, the poet, the educator, the media, the political apparatus and certainly not the politician. How can we continue to fall for this fallacy of thinking.

Each of us have a responsibility to demand intellectual honesty, human dignity and human decency, and nothing less. And when tempted to claiming moral superiority, delve deep first into our own duality of intent. Is our intent truly for good for all humanity? Is this intent based on reasoned and relative morality supported by logical evidence? And if based on a higher spirituality, does the expression of our spirituality generally voiced by our religious traditions and dogmatic beliefs, consistently demonstrate goodness?

In the face of recent tragedies and historical residue of evils being resurrected, we need an epic revolutionary leap in human evolution.  Today’s NY times opinion demonstrates our shallow resolve:

For my catholic readers it is all about freedom: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a3.htm

love affair