Christians are currently observing the season of epiphany, the phenomenon of sacred revelation. And God, it would seem, also experiences epiphanies, reacting, changing course, ever flowing.
Putting the idea of “free speech” in historical perspective. Here are excerpt from the article:
“Even as they were establishing the very foundations of modern liberal societies, from the tenets of freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion to the basis for democratic forms of governance, Enlightenment thinkers were nearly universal in their expression of support for a world built on racial hierarchies and the expansion of new European empires that depended largely on the use of violence to control colonial subjects….
“Western countries have had no qualms about setting aside their liberal values to offer full-fledged support to authoritarian regimes in the Middle East that, incidentally, create the repressive climate that has been proven to give rise to militant extremism….
“The abhorrent violence by some Muslims is a recent phenomenon, and one that must be confronted by addressing the failure of western liberalism to live up to its stated ideals, not by reflexively continuing to sing its praises….”
Article by Abdullah Al-Arian, assistant professor of history at Georgetown University:
“To study the way of enlightenment is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self.” Dogen
I like the word “forgetting.” To forget the self is to allow the concerns of ego to drop away. Subtle stuff, though, isn’t it? For some, being more assertive is actually a “forgetting,” a forgetting of insecurity and fear. In this sense, forgetting the self means letting inner obstacles drop away, becoming present to the now, appreciating the only truth and reality we have — the present moment…..Happy New Year and best wishes for a year full, rich, and attentive.
Pope Francis will be issuing an edict on climate change. That’s great news in itself, but there’s more. Listen to this quote, as Pope Francis gets to the heart of the matter:
“An economic system centred n the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it.
“The system continues unchaned, since what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a finance that are lacking in ethics. It is no longer man who commands, but money. Cash commands.
“The monopolising of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness.”
Truth. Climate change is part of a much bigger issue, an economy that lacks moral accountability and spiritual grounding. The result is greed and destruction. This is why the environment is a religious issue. Pope Francis is right on.
“In brief, insight is wisdom which enables one to see that mental states and matter are impermanent or transitory, unsatisfactory or suffering, and impersonal or non-self. What we regard as ‘self’ or ‘ego’ or ‘soul’ are miscomprehensions arising from a lack of knowledge of absolute truth. In reality, ‘self’ is but a very rapid continuity of birth and decay of mental states and matter…” — Achaan Naeb, Vipassana meditation master
The point here is not to denigrate human experience or to fall into a state of existential despair. Quite the contrary, our best shot at inner happiness is to recognize reality for what it is: changeable, unpredictable, and unreliable. “This world is not my home,” to put it in Christian terminology, it is passing away and not a sure source of joy. In all religions and spiritualities that I have studied and can recall, the point is to let go of what we think we need. This is the lifelong process of becoming wise. Think of those wise old men and women. They are wise because they are content with things as they are, effortlessly riding the waves of change.
It isn’t a secret that the Bible is anti-gay. This basically makes no sense, on the surface. I have had a theory over the years that the anti-gay language goes back to the attempt of ancient cultures to strictly maintain male hierarchies of control.
By and large, this theory fits the biblical evidence as I see it. Mainstream American Christians, for example, tend to believe that the Bible prohibits homosexuality because it is “sinful” or “evil” — they see it as a moral problem. But the Bible never actually says that. The ancient law of Moses basically says: gay sex is detestable, kill them both by stoning them to death. End of story. There’s no “pray the gay away” camps or anything. A man is not to lie with a man “as a man lies with a woman” because women are to be sexually submissive. When a man is in the submissive position, that violates the natural order of the hierarchy. The answer is just to stone them and move on.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that modern day Christians are not calling on the death penalty to deal with homosexuality. Though, to be fair, there are Christians who do call for gay people to be killed, and in other countries, gay people are still murdered, jailed, or maimed as a matter of law — I don’t mean to diminish this very real persecution. My point is simply that if my theory is correct, then most modern American Christians don’t really understand the roots of why there is so much anti-gay language in the Bible. If they did, they might be willing to rethink.
All that brings me to what I learned today. I was listening to one of those Great Courses series. This one on Classical Mythology. The Professor explained that in ancient Athenian culture, sexuality was based on the hierarchy of domination and control. To put it bluntly, it was all about who penetrated who. Man penetrating woman = okay. Male god penetrating human female = okay. Human male penetrating female goddess…not so okay.
Homosexuality was okay, as long as it maintained the hierarchy. So, a mature, older man could penetrate an adolescent male, because the hierarchy is not violated.
This adds a bit more substance to my theory that the biblical anti-gay rhetoric is rooted in the hierarchy of male control and domination. This would be a reason to dispense not only with Christian anti-gay rhetoric but to also consider all of the ways in which Christianity needs to question hierarchies of domination and control.
That’s what I learned today.
I have been intensely engaged in a few Facebook conversations regarding the Ferguson shooting of the unarmed black man, Michael Brown. All in all, the conversations tend to be productive. But many whites (and in some cases non whites) are quick to condemn the rioters. I hear comments to the effect, “Why can’t blacks just get over it?” With a black President, they say, we have proof that the playing field is equal. I posted a picture of Malcolm X, and I made the comment that “Those who are oppressed and denied justice have the right to take power and freedom by any means necessary.” It prompted a lot of tense comments, as you can imagine, most of which disagreed with me.
One person posted a lengthy quote from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “The Other America.” Turns out MLK wasn’t all that far away from Malcolm X.
I consider Martin Luther King, Jr. to be a fellow subversive mystic, in the Jesus tradition. He is also a figure that many mainstream white Americans admire. However, in his speech, “The Other America” (1968) King talked about the African-American riots of the late 1960s, and there are two things that might surprise most white people.
1) The unemployment rate among African-Americans is actually higher today — around 11% — than the statistics that King quotes in his speech in 1968 — 8.8%.
2) While reaffirming his personal commitment to nonviolence, King does not come forward with an outright condemnation of the rioters.
In an unusual case, transcripts of the grand jury proceedings in the Michael Brown killing have been released. The officer on the scene chased after Brown, shooting him six times, firing a total of 12 shots. Witnesses on the scene testify to Brown having his hands in the air before the final and fatal shots were fired. The officer was not indicted.
In justification for his actions, the officer stated, “There’s a lot of gangs that reside or associate with that area. There’s a lot of violence in that area, there’s a lot of gun activity, drug activity, it is just not a very well-liked community. That community doesn’t like the police.”
Is this the best we can do, as a culture? Continue to fire our guns ala Yosemite Sam style? The reality is that this our only philosophy. We have a long history of meeting violence with violence, and we keep reaping what we sow.
Here is a link to an article on the deal between China and the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions. Despite how modest it is, some politicians have found a way to oppose even this small step toward being environmentally responsible. Unreal.
From Bishop Spong’s book A New Christianity for a New World.
On this blog I call myself a “subversive mystic.” One thing that this means is that I feel very deep compassion for and solidarity with those who suffer. The intensity of these feelings can be difficult to navigate. There is anger at exploitation and abuse by those with power. There can be feelings of depression, desperation, and anxiety. It can be easy to either buckle under their weight or to turn away from them and try to ignore the terrible reality of suffering. As a Christian, I take solace in the prophets. They sought to channel these feelings into a holy fire. They felt God’s word of justice burn. With much inner struggle, they let it lead them into action, activism, protest, and truth telling.
“Mystical experience is generally described as an experience of ecstatic oneness with creation (or with God) and as being characterized by a profound sense of peace and an apparent illumination about the meaning of existence” — Michael Thalbourne, 1991
This evening I was reading the first chapter of a friend’s dissertation. She is researching transliminality. Transliminality refers to people who have a crossover of three intense phenomena: mystical experiences, creative genius (and volatility), and some form of psychosis. It’s quite intriguing to me, and I think her work — and the work of others in this regard — is very important. The above quote from Michael Thalbourne provides some good food for thought for those of us interested in the mystical or spiritual side of life.
I went to sleep in Alaska and woke up in California.