Monday, December 23, 2013

The truth about marriage equality

Same-gender marriage has always existed. Two people loving each other, caring for each other, treasuring each other, building a life together is as old as humanity. Sometimes they were pressured into having other kinds of relationships as well, sometimes they were shunned or punished or killed for being different, but same-gender attraction and love and commitments are as old as time. What is new is that some denominations, a few religions, a handful of countries, some indigenous tribes, DC and 17 US states all recognize this truth and wish to afford equal benefits to loving couples whose relationships are equal in the site of Justice. More states, more churches, more countries will catch on...but they are not creating or allowing same-gender marriage; they are simply and finally acknowledging and blessing marital relationships that have been formed and anointed by Love Itself. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Book of Mormon (finally saw it)

Before i give my (spoiler alert: FAVORABLE) review of the show, let me say:

1. I know that faithful Mormons cherish their faith.
2. I know that AIDS has devastated many lives (and ended far too many).
3. I know that these areas are off limits as entertainment topics for some people.

Now ~ I also know that
1. The creators of South Park wrote BOM. So, you know, gas stations sell gas, bars sell booze...sometimes you just know what someone is peddling. It rings a little hollow to walk into a bar and feel victimized that they are selling an addictive substance.
2. Most religions have beautiful and empowering truths to share and can uplift people, AND, religion can be used to intimidate, exclude, marginalize, and infantalize people. So, those of us who wish to be religious should work to make our religions more relevant and healing and we ought to have a sense of humor about it all.
3. I am both a spiritual person and a person who has personally been affected by HIV. I take both seriously, and sometimes, I deal with both with laughter.

So, fully aware that BOM is NOT politically correct in the least, I must nevertheless admit to loving it!!!

There were some profound moments amongst the satire ("It's a metaphor" says a recent convert to another about a story that would be ridiculous if taken literally..."It's a metaphor", by the way, is a phrase that should be said repeatedly in ALL religious education classes!).

The show wasn't as harsh toward the LDS as I expected and even the gallows humor often made political points (including the not entirely unbelievable conspiracy theory that the US has the ability to cure HIV but is waiting to release the cure until a "latter day"); but mostly, it was the sort of ribald hilarity that isn't mean spirited if it is otherwise insensitive. It also showed in a light-hearted way how religion can both oppress and liberate and how innately, if not intentionally, racist and imperialist missiology is. But even with the serious and intelligent subtexts, what BOM is primarily (to my delight!) is fun music, good dancing, and sophomoric humor. So, you know, THUMBS UP!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Great Piece by my seminary Church History professor


St. Nick in the Big City

By JOHN ANTHONY McGUCKIN

Published: December 25, 2007 (NYTimes)

 

ST. NICHOLAS was a super-saint with an immense cult for most of the Christian past. There may be more icons surviving for Nicholas alone than for all the other saints of Christendom put together. So what happened to him? Where’s the fourth-century Anatolian bishop who presided over gift-giving to poor children? And how did we get the new icon of mass consumerism in his place?

Well, it’s a New York story.

In all innocence, the morphing began with the Dutch Christians of New Amsterdam, who remembered St. Nicholas from the old country and called him Sinte Klaas. They had kept alive an old memory — that a kindly old cleric brought little gifts to the poor in the weeks leading up to the Feast of the Nativity. While the gifts were important, they were never meant to overshadow the message of Jesus’s humble birth.

But today’s chubby Santa is not about giving to the poor. He has had his saintly garb stripped away. The filling out of the figure, the loss of the vestments, and his transformation into a beery fellow smoking a pipe combined to form a caricature of Dutch peasant culture. Eventually this Magic Santa (a suitable patron saint if there ever was one for the burgeoning capitalist machinery of the city) was of course popularized by the Manhattanite Clement Clarke Moore published in “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” in The Troy (New York) Sentinel on Dec. 23, 1823.

The newly created deity Santa soon attracted a school of iconographers: notable among them were Thomas Nast, whose 1863 image of a red-suited giant in Harper’s Weekly set the tone, and Haddon Sundblom, who drew up the archetypal image we know today on behalf of the Coca-Cola Company in the 1930s. This Santa was regularly accompanied by the flying reindeer: godlike in his majesty and presiding over the winter darkness like Odin the sky god returned.

The new Santa also acquired a host of Nordic elves to replace the small dark-skinned boy called Black Peter, who in Christian tradition so loved St. Nicholas that he traveled with him everywhere. But, some might say, wasn’t it better to lose this racially stereotyped relic? Actually, no, considering the real St. Nicholas first came into contact with Peter when he raided the slave market in his hometown and railed against the trade. The story tells us that when the slavers refused to take him seriously, he used the church’s funds to redeem Peter and gave the boy a job in the church.

And what of the throwing of the bags of gold down the chimney, where they landed in the stockings and little shoes that had been hung up to dry by the fireplace? Charming though it sounds, it reflected the deplorable custom, still prevalent in late Roman society when the Byzantine church was struggling to establish the supremacy of its values, of selling surplus daughters into bondage. This was a euphemism for sexual slavery — a trade that still blights our world.

As the tale goes, Nicholas had heard that a father in the town planned to sell his three daughters because his debts had been called in by pitiless creditors. As he did for Black Peter, Nicholas raided his church funds to secure the redemption of the girls. He dropped the gold down the chimney to save face for the impoverished father.

This tale was the origin of a whole subsequent series of efforts among the Christians who celebrated Nicholas to make some effort to redeem the lot of the poor — especially children, who always were, and still are, the world’s front-line victims. Such was the origin of Christmas almsgiving: gifts for the poor, not just gifts for our friends.

I like St. Nicholas. You can keep chubby Santa.

John Anthony McGuckin is a professor of religious history at Union Theological Seminary and Columbia.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

We Remember, Give Thanks, & Hope

World AIDS Day Prayer (2013)
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins

Spirit of Life,
On this World AIDS Day we remember those who died too soon from complications of a virus that has taken too many.
On this World AIDS Day we remember those who lost loved ones to the epidemic.
On this World AIDS Day we remember those who dedicated their lives to raising awareness and improving access to treatment.
On this World AIDS Day we remember those who never gave up hope.
On this World AIDS Day we remember those who had to face not only the pain of dis-ease and the terror of the unknown, but also marginalization and demonization from those who chose to "blame the victim."

On this World AIDS Day we give thanks for those who survived the most frightening days.
On this World AIDS Day we give thanks that life-saving medications were discovered and that treatment options get better all the time.
On this World AIDS Day we give thanks for complementary therapies.
On this World AIDS Day we give thanks that miracles have happened among us.

On this World AIDS Day we continue to hope for a cure.
On this World AIDS Day we wish for those who are not infected to remain uninfected and for those who are infected to remain optimistic and to live abundantly, joyously, and in good health.

Omnipresent, all-inclusive, eternal Love,
Receive our prayers today and rekindle within us a desire to live, to love, to share, and to make our world a better place.
Amen.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Now

Sunshine Cathedral Mcc: Daily Spirit & Truth Reflection.
Friday, November 15

Now
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

"Let the past go; do not constantly recall mistakes and difficult experiences." Carrie Munz 

Today I turn 47 years old. Birthdays have meant different things to me over the years. There was a time, naturally enough, when I looked forward to cake and presents (especially cash), but they weren’t exactly free. The price to be paid was listening to that horrendous “Happy Birthday” song. Eventually, birthdays became a reminder of mortality, mistakes made, opportunities missed, and one less year in life to achieve goals (malaise sometimes followed this reminder). Now, birthdays for me aren’t about receiving things or contemplating loss; they are opportunities to be grateful for life and to remember that really, NOW is the only time that ever really is; and that is a valuable, even joyful lesson.

Prayer Treatment: I release the past to the past and trust the future to unfold in perfect ways. Today, I choose to live joyfully in the NOW."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Become aware of the power

Sunshine Cathedral Daily Spirit & Truth Reflection

Tuesday, November 12

Become aware of the power Rev. Dr Durrell Watkins

"We are aware of a great Intelligence within ourselves that helps us climb the hills of life..." Carrie Munz

A woman from Boston was visiting New York for a conference. When it was time to leave the conference, she had the most difficult time hailing a cab. She wasn’t accustomed to the New York vibe and while she stood meekly, barely raising her hand as cabs drove by, no taxi driver noticed her. Any driver would have been happy to take her to the airport, but they just didn’t notice her. Finally, a driver did see and stop for her.
We can’t take advantage of what we don’t notice. As we become increasingly aware of the divine Power within us, we can trust that power more and allow It more fully to meet our every need.

Prayer Treatment: There is unlimited Energy within me; as I take notice of It, I can direct It to bless my life. I have the power; I choose to acknowledge It now. And so it is!
 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Prayer for Today


~PRAYER FOR TODAY~

Today, let us be thankful that same-gender loving people no longer must serve in silence but can live and love openly while defending their country in the various branches of the military.

Today, let us honor all who have served and who currently serve in uniform.

Today, let us honor all military service men and women by hoping and praying for peace.

Today, let us be mindful of non-military service that is also meant to keep us safe and make our world better…the work of first responders, the work of diplomats, and the work of activists speaking out for women, minorities, same-gender loving people, children, immigrants, the poor, and all who have had to work harder to experience the good that they deserve.

Today, let us rejoice that some in positions of authority or influence use the resources available to them to promote “liberty and justice for all” – in particular let us be grateful for Zambia’s First Lady, Dr Christine Kasebs-Sata, who is an advocate for LBTG people in Africa.

Today, let us be grateful for the US Senate’s passing of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and let us hope that the US House of Representatives will do likewise.

Today, let us give thanks for the 15 US states that now offer marriage equality, that a 16th state is very close, and that the District of Columbia, several counties and tribal communities, and an increasing number of nations recognize and celebrate equality as well.

Today, let us be reminded that there are still many places where one can be discriminated against, vilified, rejected, harmed, or even killed simply for being gay or lesbian, for being suspected of being gay or lesbian, or for being transgender or gender non-conforming; and let us recommit to working toward the elimination of homophobia and transphobia among us.

Today, let us remember that HIV has not yet been cured and let us wish and pray for a cure to soon be found.

And today, let us hold the people of the Philippines in our hearts as they continue to assess the damage and losses of Hurricane Haiyan.

There are many kinds of battles and many kinds of warriors…may all who have been willing to struggle to make our world safer, more just, and more compassionate be abundantly blessed.

God of our hearts, we offer these prayers in the name of all that is good and holy. Amen.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Omnipresence



Sharing the Light: Omnipresence
Discussion with Rev Dr Durrell Watkins, Rev Cindy Lippert, & Practitioner Candice Gee

New Thought chats


Sharing the Light: Omnipresence


Discussion between Rev Dr Durrell Watkins, Rev Cindy Lippert, and Practitioner Candice Gee

Interview with Rev Dr Christopher Bazemore
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAgPC_nTzxs 

Interview with Rev Ellen Grace O’Brian
Interview with Rev Dr Blaine Mays

Interview with Rev Jacqueline Atkins, JD, MDiv

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Do Real Horror...Not Silly Left Behind Stuff...

It all started for me with Bewitched...following that was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood, Charmed, American Horror Story (Asylum), American Horror Story (Coven), and every incarnation of Dracula...and as disturbing as some might find my taste in entertainment to be, its still no where near as yucky or ridiculous as the Left Behind Series! If you're going to do dark and edgy, just do it; don't try to make it "religious" by wrapping it in a psuedo-literalistic reading of the ancient and highly metaphorical book of Revelation!!!

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Friday, October 04, 2013

New Thought Spirituality

This video from 2010 was promoting that year's INTA Congress. The chat about New Thought and our ecumenical community is still interesting and soul-nourishing. Conversation with Dr Christopher Bazemore. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAgPC_nTzxs

Reflection: St Francis


"My God and my all." St Francis of Assisi 
St Francis' affirmation makes for a very convenient spiritual exercise. We can use the phrase "My God and my all" as a Lectio Divina exercise...(1) Reading or reciting the phrase slowly, then (2) meditating on what the phrase means to us or what a word or part of the phrase brings to mind for us, then (3) asking questions of the insight that has come to us (dissecting it, deconstructing it, probing it, arguing with it, trying to see it from a variety of angles), and then finally (4) releasing it all while slipping into deep Silence beyond discursive thinking.
"My God and my all."

Another way to use St Francis' phrase is as a mantra. Simply say over and over for several minutes non-stop, "My God and my all, my God and my all, my God and my all, my God and my all, my God and my all..." Soon, we'll find ourselves in a meditative state letting the words wash over us while our deeper Selves simply commune with the Infinite. The words may plant themselves deeply in our subconscious minds where they will later sprout as spiritual insight or profound optimism, or they may simply serve as a screen to keep out distracting thoughts so that we can immerse ourselves in abundant peace.

Finally, St Francis' statement can serve as a simple theological observation. Believing that Life is infinite, that the Life-force is omnipresent and enfolds, flows through, and expresses as every life, that the "Ground of being" is the All-in-all (and All-as-all), that there is one divine, universal Presence and Power which many of us call "God," can be simply summed up in the words, "My God and my all." It is a simple and still powerful reminder of supreme Omnipresence, the Light within all life, the Source of life that includes all life, that fills all space and is everywhere fully and evenly present. As we often say, "there's not a spot where God is not." But before our catchy rhyme, St Francis said, "My God and my all."

Today is the Feast Day of St Francis. Often we use this day to give thanks for our pets and for the opportunity to care for them and we wish them long lives of contentment. We think of animals because Francis is said to have honored all life and to have ministered to animals as well as people.

Beyond the tradition of blessing animals, let's remember that Francis was a simple cleric who saw and served God in all life. He was aware of the Omnipresence and remembering him today can help us acknowledge and commune with the Omnipresence as well.

There's not a spot where God is not.
My God and my all!
 - Durrell Watkins,  MA, MDiv, DMin

You Die & Then What?

&A with Dr Durrell Watkins
     Question: What is your understanding of where we "go" after death?  When someone dies, invariably people will say, he or she is now in heaven, but then what is the reference to the second coming of Christ when the dead will rise?  
     Answer: I know that energy can't be destroyed, it only changes form; so, I assume the energy of consciousness is also never-ending. As a person of faith, I trust that life is somehow never-ending. Beyond that, I probably don't know any more than you do.
     During Jesus' execution, a fellow rebel who is being killed next to him reportedly says, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Realm," and Jesus responds, "...today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23.42-43). Luke also has Jesus telling a parable about a poor man who suffered in life but who, after death, was "carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham [& Sarah, & presumably Hagar]" (Luke 16.22).
     Luke is writing at least 50 years (and some scholars think as many as 90 years) after the crucifixion of Jesus. The Apostle Paul, only about 25 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, writes, "...we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep; for the Lord...will come down from the heavens, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are...left, will be caught up together in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4.15-17). Luke's idea seems to be that consciousness survives death immediately, while Paul, at least in his early writings, suggests that maybe those who die are simply resting and will be raised back to life later.
     Paul believed that Jesus would return to earthly life in his lifetime. So, the resting period, in Paul's mind, wouldn't have been a long one. Decades later, when Luke is writing, no such "second coming" had occurred, and so Luke may be rethinking the issue. In any case, Paul and Luke have different ideas of how consciousness survives death; what they both believe is that consciousness does survive death.
     Paul and Luke are each making his best guess, but what happens beyond this life is a mystery to us until we experience it. What the writers are saying is that the value of our lives is not limited to our earthly years, but as far as what is next, we may just have to "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5.7). What we can trust is that life is good and sacred and that its importance is not limited to the years we spend on this earth. That's pretty "heavenly" regardless of how it plays out.     

 {This Q&A was first published on July 20th, 2008 in The Sun Burst, Sunshine Cathedral's weekly newsletter}

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Guns are a safety issue for some, but not always against real potential attackers

In response to what is approaching an epidemic of mass shootings in our country, I made a fairly simple statement on Twitter (my Tweets get posted to my FB page) statement about how we must get past our love/worship of guns in order to pass some sane legislation to make it more difficult for unstable people to get weapons.
Universal background checks, waiting periods, penalites for people who go around the process, and no military grade weapons (automatic) sold on the open market at all...These steps (already in place in some measure in some places) surely would make it a little more difficult for unstable people to become domestic terrorists and would allow the hunters of the world and those who feel they need hand guns or shotguns for protection to not feel violated by their government...I wouldn't ask for anything more (I personally would be comfortable with much stricter gun control, but could be satisfied with this more moderate approach).

In response to my concern about the many lives lost to recent mass gun attacks, a relative became very defensive, insulting, angry, etc. I realized that in his regional and economic circumstances, the world can seem unsafe, and conservative (almost fundamentalist) religion and firearms (which he has never used other that to shoot inanimate targets...he doens't even hunt) are what he makes him feel a bit more secure in a changing and complex world.

After some back and forth (I admit that at first I got caught up in the tit for tat exchange), I finally offered what I hoped was a conciliatory statement (bascially calling for a "cease fire," as it were). I offer it as a means of preventing heated exchanges that are unlikely to lead to change and can harm relationships.

Here is what I said:

"One's own Facebook page is for expressing one's own opinion...your sharing your values on your page is your right and so far (I believe) I have never attacked your beliefs on your FB page (and I hope I never do). Disagreement is fine, but blowing up on someone's FB page isn't likely to change their views or leave anyone feeling good about the exchange.
 
On the other hand, personal story telling is important, and if you need to share your experience, your page or mine is a safe place to do that, just know that my world is a little to the left of yours and responses may not be compatibe with your worldview.

 
I'm still not certain how wanting safeguards against violence is threatening to your way of life (I don't believe you would want to shoot up a mall or a park, and would probably through yourself in harm's way to stop someone who did), so the personalizaiton [of the issue] still puzzles me; but in the end, we elect our representatives, we contact our representatives, and society moves one direction or another (usually back and forth over time).


Arguing with me won't further your cause(s), but sharing your views on your page, to your reps, in letters to the editor, etc. might help shape some public opinion one way or the other, and at very least will let you feel "heard." I just don't think other people's FB pages are the place for that (unless invited to do so). It too easily becomes argumentative with hurt feelings to follow.

I will continue to share my values in my venues. Everyone does. That's the place for them. If you agree with them, you can "like" them or "share" them, if not, ignore them. Now, if i\I come for you on your page, I've crossed a line and you can respond with both barrels (to use a metaphor consistent with the conversation). Otherwise, we can just assume that we disagree about certain social issues.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Story (such as it is) of Satan

Q&A with Durrell Watkins (from Sunshine Cathedral's weekly newsletter)

Question: God is perfect. The angels are perfect. Satan was perfect. If heaven was perfect along with Satan how did Satan sin? Why did God allow sin to be known in heaven?
Answer: The first time we see “the satan” (i.e., the accuser) is in the Book of Job. In that story, “the satan” has full access to the heavenly council and is apparently simply doing his (or her) job as an accuser (sort of a prosecutor). It isn’t until much later (and probably as a result of Persian influence) “the satan” becomes “Satan”…the cosmic boogie man who is the cause of all mischief, suffering, and evil.
In the first century, it was commonly believed that difficulties and diseases were caused by evil spirits, and so “Satan” not only came to be thought of as the personification of evil, but as a leader or driving force of supernatural evil entities. Satan as a sort of Lord or Potentate of an afterlife prison called “Hell” is an even later development most vividly depicted in the literature and art of the middle ages and the Renaissance (e.g., Michelangelo’s Last Judgment and Dante’s Divine Comedy).
The story of Satan misbehaving in heaven and getting cast out isn’t really told in any one place in scripture. To form that story, one has to piece together unconnected texts: Luke10.18 (quoting Isaiah14.12, with some license…Isaiah is calling a political ruler “Lucifer”/Morning Star, the planet Venus), 2 Peter 2.4 (referring to angels being chained in “Tartarus”…a term borrowed from Greek mythology), Jude 6 (speaking of angels who did not keep to their proper domain, probably referring to the story in Genesis 6 where angels were said to have seduced humans), and Revelation 12.7-12 (a battle between angels and a dragon, the dragon probably representing Roman imperial power). By taking these disconnected texts and combining them together (and assuming that Lucifer, Satan, and the dragon are all the same character), the story of Satan as a fallen angel emerged. It is a story that developed over time, and one that I do not take literally.

Now, “Satan” is a convenient way of blaming the appearance of evil in our world on “someone.” But let’s also look at the rest of the Satan myth… “in the end” we are told, Satan is finally defeated by the forces of righteousness. What the story illustrates is that evil is not ultimately real. Evil is the absence of or the opposition to Good; but God, the Good, is omnipresent and so for God to be omnipresent means that there is nothing “real” that can ultimately oppose God/Good. A Course in Miracles states, “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists; herein lies the peace of God.” Nothing can ultimately threaten or oppose what is truly Good. The appearance of evil must eventually give way to the Truth, just as darkness must be expelled the moment a candle is lit. Satan, as a literary figure representing evil, is only a temporary appearance, or illusion, which ultimately  must be banished by the light of Truth, which is that God is omnipresent and God is All Good. Good is what is true, what is real, and what must ultimately be experienced. 
(originally printed in Sunshine Cathedral's The Sun Burst in June 2010)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Should Christians Support Military Strikes on Syria?

This week's question for the Q&A in the Sun Burst (Sunshine Cathedral's weekly newsletter) came from someone at the church Labor Day picnic. It doesn't answer people's political views or their emotional needs, but it does frame the issue in the context of an avowed non-violent tradition:

Q&A with Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Question: As Christians, should we support attacking Syria?

Answer: The answer to questions of military intervention are always complex and defy simple answers. I can tell you that early Christians were pacifists and I can remind you of the angelic prayer from the Nativity story, “Peace on earth, goodwill toward all people.”

There is also an ancient Jewish tale of God reprimanding the people of Israel when they were celebrating the drowning of Egyptian forces. God, according to the tale, reminded them that the Egyptians were children of God also and God was very sad that they had perished.

And, of course, we know that peaceful revolutionaries such as Gandhi and Dr King changed the world with non-violent resistance.

From political or national security perspectives, there are probably arguments for and against military action. Ethicists might weigh in with their own understandings. From a theological viewpoint, or at least from my theological viewpoint, I always prefer peaceful solutions, or at least attempts at peaceful solutions to major conflicts. I always hope military action will be a last resort.

If a dictator has committed genocide against his own people, then it would be obscene to remain silent in the face of such atrocity. However, there may be ways of showing disapproval of such action and of standing in solidarity with the oppressed short of drone strikes that will also cost human lives. I also wonder why we find one act of atrocity to be worthy of military action and another to not require such action. We seem oddly selective about our moral outrage in these situations.

My opinion, or yours for that matter, will unlikely change the course of events. But I hope as a faith community we never are comfortable with rushing to violence. And, come what may, we should continue praying as we do every Sunday, “May peace prevail on earth.”

Various Thoughts & Prayers Re: Possible Strikes on Syria

"Jesus’ call to be peacemakers takes us in a different direction than missile strikes. I believe the just cause being laid out against Assad is indeed a moral case, and I trust both President Barack Obama and Secretary John Kerry’s intentions around that cause. But I believe that the military strikes now being proposed are not the best moral response to this moral crisis — and they could ultimately undermine both our moral case and the moral intentions." Jim Wallis

Even some of the most conservative religious voices oppose military intervention at this point: "Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO of the World Evangelical Alliance, pointed out the negative effect military strikes would have on Christians in the Middle East. New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said in a letter to Obama that strikes would be 'counterproductive' and 'exacerbate an already deadly situation.' And the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore echoed the concerns, saying, there are just-cause principles missing 'both to justify action morally and to justify it prudentially.'"

“War brings on war! Violence brings on violence."
Pope Francis, who supports a negotiated settlement of the Syrian civil war, calling upon people of faith around the world to pray and fast for peace this Saturday, Sept. 7.

Prayer for Peace in the world:
"Great God...save us from ourselves, save us from the vengeance in our hearts and the acid in our souls.  Save us from our desire to hurt as we have been hurt, to punish as we have been punished, to terrorize as we have been terrorized.  Give us the strength it takes to...trust rather than to fear, to try again and again to make peace even when peace eludes us.
We ask,...
O God, for the grace to be our best selves. We ask for the vision to be builders of the human community rather than its destroyers. We ask for the humility as a people to understand the fears and hopes of other peoples. We ask for the love it takes to bequeath to the children of the world to come more than the failures of our own making. We ask for the heart it takes to care for all the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq, of Palestine and Israel [and of Syria] as well as for ourselves...
[M]ay we be merciful and patient and gracious and trusting with these others whom you also love.
This we ask through Jesus, the one without vengeance in his heart. This we ask forever and ever. Amen" - Sister Joan Chittister, OSB
 
"Let nothing disturb thee, nothing affright thee; all things are passing, God never changeth! Patient endurance attaineth to all things; who God possesseth in nothing is wanting; alone God sufficeth." Northumbria Community blessing
 
Prayer for Peace (adapted): 
"Eternal Hope, in whose perfect kin-dom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Light, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of...Peace, as members of one global family. Amen."
 
Under the heading of there is nothing new under the sun:
"[In 1914] Paul Jones was ... made Bishop of the Missionary District of Utah. He was an outspoken pacifist, and when World War I began in 1914, he spoke against it. As the war progressed, and when the United States entered the war in 1917, many Americans were vehement in holding that pursuing the war was a moral duty, and opposition to the war was immoral.In the spring of 1918... Bishop Jones resigned as Bishop of Utah. He continued to speak out within the Church as an advocate of peace and the Christian renunciation of war, until his death on 4 September 1941." James Kiefer
 
"If all our options are bad, why pick the one that involves missiles?" Rachel Maddow
 
Q&A with Dr Durrell Watkins
Question: As Christians, should we support attacking Syria?
Answer: The answer to questions of military intervention are always complex and defy simple answers. I can tell you that early Christians were pacifists and I can remind you of the angelic prayer from the Nativity story, “Peace on earth, goodwill toward all people.”
 
There is also an ancient Jewish tale of God reprimanding the people of Israel when they were celebrating the drowning of Egyptian forces. God, according to the tale, reminded them that the Egyptians were children of God also and God was very sad that they had perished.
And, of course, we know that peaceful revolutionaries such as Gandhi and Dr King changed the world with non-violent resistance.
From political or national security perspectives, there are probably arguments for and against military action. Ethicists might weigh in with their own understandings. From a theological viewpoint, or at least from my theological viewpoint, I always prefer peaceful solutions, or at least attempts at peaceful solutions to major conflicts. I always hope military action will be a last resort.
If a dictator has committed genocide against his own people, then it would be obscene to remain silent in the face of such atrocity. However, there may be ways of showing disapproval of such action and of standing in solidarity with the oppressed short of drone strikes that will also cost human lives. I also wonder why we find one act of atrocity to be worthy of military action and another to not require such action. We seem oddly selective about our moral outrage in these situations.
My opinion, or yours for that matter, will unlikely change the course of events. But I hope as a faith community we never are comfortable with rushing to violence. And, come what may, we should continue praying as we do every Sunday, “May peace prevail on earth.”
(from Sept. 8th, 2013 edition of The Sun Burst, Sunshine Cathedral's weekly newsletter)
 
"As humanitarians confronting the horror of the Syrian civil war, we must consider how we can best protect civilians, end the violence, and uphold the international prohibition on using chemical weapons. But we shouldn't make matters worse on the ground just to answer war crimes with a limited and largely symbolic show of force." Credo Action
 
11 Reasons Why We Shoud Not Attack Syria
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Never Assume...

Today is the Feast Day of the Assumption of the Blessed Lady Mary, Mother of Jesus, if your personal piety or religious tradition observes it. Those who observe it call it the most important of the Marian feasts.

Jesus' ascension is modeled after the story of Elijah being taken into the heavens/eternity (without dying) by a whirlwind (althought Jesus was executed and it was his resurrected presence that was said to ascend).

The Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox traditions have continued the story telling tradition Ascension by applying the same phenomenon to Mary. The Eastern church doesn't have a dogma about Mary not dying first, but in 1950, Pope Pius (speaking ex cathedra, and thus relying on papal infallibility, a doctrine only from the 19th century) dogmatically defined the Assumption of Mary declaring her to have been taken into heaven (bodily) without dying.

There isn't much about Mary in the bible (there is actually more about her in the Qu'ran).

Some value Mary as a co-Redemptrix, Queen of Heaven (a title held by the Egyptian goddess Isis as well), spiritual mother of all people (based on the story of Jesus telling his beloved friend that Mary would now be his mother). For those who have a "high" Mariology (a devotion to and detailed mythology about Mary), she shares in the work of Redemption, and may even represent the divine Feminine.

For others, Mary was a European looking figure stitched on banners of armies coming to conquer peoples of the Americas. For them, Mary is not so much divine figure as a symbol of colonialism, European imperialism, and the decimation of native cultures.

For some feminists, Mary (as presented by the male dominated hierachy of the Christian Ecclessiastical institutions) represents the silencing and control of women. An instituion that will not ordain women or allow them control over their own bodies or sexuality elevate a woman to almost divine status...a women, just one; and that one woman is a perpetual virgin who said "yes" to her impregnation that had already happened without her consent. The one woman worthy of adoration in the misogynistic church tradition is a woman who does as she is told and never has sexual urges, feelings, or needs. That, they argue, is not a realistic picture of flesh and blood women nor is it an empowering image for women.

For most Protestants, Mary is simply a rural peasant girl who had a baby who grew up to be a remarkable person, a teacher and healer, and lasting figure on the human imagination for millennia. Even if they have a high Christology (belief in Jesus as a redeemer of the world and somehow uniquely God-filled), they usually do not have a similarly high Mariology.

But then Dr Doreen Virtue puts a New Age spin on the "Beloved Mother." She suggests that Mary might have taken baby Jesus to live among the Essenes for a while where they both learned mysticism. She sees Mary as a nurturing, protecting figure for children. She believes those who claim to have vision sof Mary are experiencing something truly supernatural reminding us that miracles are possible. And she says that she personally asks the Blessed Lady for help from time to time.

Whatever we believe about Mary, it might be useful to look at the various ideas about her and let those ideas fire up our imaginations and help seek a more mature, life-giving faith, regardless of what part Mary may play in that.

On this feast of the Assumption, let's not make the assumption that there aren't new ways to look at it :-)

HAPPY FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION.