April Fool’s Day: In Praise of Holy Fools!

April 1, 2016 - 12:07 pm Comments Off on April Fool’s Day: In Praise of Holy Fools!

April Fools Day: In Praise of Holy Fools
The Rev. Peter E. Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

Good Morning! And if you have not already gotten the subtle message, it is April Fool’s Day! So I could not think about giving any sermon that did not include some humor, and to focus on how the Fool has an important role in religion and life.
As I quickly have discovered and long suspected, there is an important link between religion and humor, and that it is an ancient and a universal one. While being almost ubiquitous, few, if any, religions have allowed humor to gain wide acceptance, with the least amount of acceptability in American Protestantism, which is probably the reason why there are so many religious jokes in our culture. There is no topic more receptive to humor, it seems, more enticing to laughter than piety, Puritanism, and an outlook that is joyless, strict, and self righteous.
Most clergy it appears, believe that religion is no laughing matter- that ultimate truths can only be known seriously or scientifically. They seem to disregard the fact that humor is a wonderful teaching tool, and that truth can be both funny and inspiring.
So today, of all days, we can ask: What’s so funny about religion? What are the elements in humor that teach us how to face life courageously? Why is it good to laugh, and what in our laughter, reveals reverently the mysteries and blessings of life and how we can care for enjoy one another?
Lets begin our look into “the whys and wherefore” of humor as it relates to religion, by first looking at how humor affects us as human beings. Physiologically, the ability to laugh involves responses of 15 separate pairs of facial muscles that create a visible change in complexion, posture, expression, and breathing.

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Next, Anthropologists confirm that humor and laughter are found universally- and like music, it functions best as a bridge of connection and empathy from one human to another, overcoming differences in language, time, distance, or behavioral customs, religious beliefs. A third consideration comes from research in holistic medicine. Physicians now conclude what the ancients have always known: “Laughter is good medicine; and that a merry heart does a soul much good.]”
Studies have shown laughter as being able to act as a curative agent- lowering cholesterol, increasing both red and white blood cell levels, strengthening immunity, producing pain killing endorphins, and last but not least, humor retards aging! You see, it reduces the creation of facial wrinkles, and who knows, maybe laughter makes a person more sexy and attractive, as having a good sense of humor always appears at the top of most desirable qualities one looks for in a potential mate.
Now what about the connection between humor and faith, or humor and spirituality? And what are some examples of how humor is used religiously to make a point? One hint: It isn’t the kind of humor that starts out: there once was a Nun from Nantucket, or Once a priest, a minister and a rabbi walked into a bar… Instead, my focus will be on how various forms of humor such as satire, wit, and hyperbole are used to teach self knowledge, self acceptance, humility, compassion and truth. Humor is best used religiously to point out the ironies of life; to address human foibles, and to teach us how to accept our human inconsistencies. Most often, with an attitude of love behind the remarks, laughter can be used to confound the ego, and to open a person to new insights about themselves. It results in moving the hearer from despair to hope, and can help to replace our tears of frustration with tears of joy.
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Humor can be found in almost every circumstance of life: Dr. Viktor Frankel, Holocaust survivor taught that “Humor is one of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self preservation. It helps us to rise above our feelings of helplessness and deprivation. We laugh religiously, to preserve our dignity, we laugh to stay sane and to remain humane.”] In his lectures, he would echo the author of Proverbs when he said, “a merry heart is like medicine, but a broken spirit drieth up the bones.” Proverbs, by the way, is worth reading- a very funny book!
As a quick summary, religious humor can be defined as the form of humor that is a benevolent, empathetic response to life’s inconsistencies, incongruities, mishaps and reversals. Humor that lets us laugh at ourselves and that gives us the gift of laughing with others is a gracious, healing, and redeeming gift.
Next, when looking at the various characters in Western literature and mythology that teach us about the value of humor we encounter three important figures: The Clown, The Jester, and the Fool … Each has an important place in the world’s mythological stories, and in teaching us how best to understand ourselves with humility. They teach us, through their stories, about life’s paradoxes and how to keep a healthy perspective about what our egos want, desire, or need. Their universal presence in Western literature, Scripture, and folk stories, attest that a person cannot possibly arrive at being a balanced and healthy adult without being able to laugh at yourself- and that you can be assured that life will always give us ample opportunities for appearing to be foolish, and for pointing where and how we need to become more aware, more wise!
These characters in literature, these psychological archetypes of the human condition, teach us that if we take our faith too seriously as to drain the joy and laughter from it, it becomes a perversion and you risk missing the full and complete message any spiritual path or any ethical teacher has for you.
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While similar in their message to humanity and society, we have been given three characters, and each one in this comic trio has their own distinct characteristics. The most familiar to us all is the Clown. Maybe earliest in our cultural development, the clown creates chaos and nonsense, and is seen as a figure who has descend from the ribald revels of earlier centuries into the slapstick and ridiculous antics of today. The next time you see a circus clown, remember that he or she is a vestige of ancient shamans, and medicine workers who, would juggle their way into prominence as mummers- or simply all those who wear a disguise to hid their true intent- using exaggeration to make a point!

While it was true that sometimes a clown or a jester was kept around as a scapegoat, more often they were recognized as having a special relationship to the spirit, and they could function as a guide or as a counselor… in disguise. The Jester, usually attending to a king or queen was there to provide comic relief… And to advise the members of the court as to what the people are thinking about them… Sort of a comic spy… And informational network that would reveal the truth in public and by using amusing ways … Only the astute knew how to read between the lines of gesture, pantomime, and grin…. Jesters often were also considered to be “touched by God” or possessing special insights. Most notably in the Shakespearean plays such as Twelfth Night, As You Like It, and King Lear, the jester offers wise counsel to overcome problems and distress. From the clown, the jester, and the fool we are given many beloved characters from literature; Buffoon, Harlequin, Joker, Punch, Pucinello; even Palliacci… Each instructing us on how appearances work to charm and to deceive. Each conveys messages that delve beyond the obvious, and that can be seen to instruct, inform, warn, or alarm….

Since it is April Fool’s, I will spend most of the time with the concept of the Fool. From the ancient Tarot to common psychological perceptions, the idea of a fool or being a fool has many varied meanings… What the Fool teaches us the about the balance point for serious thought, and analytical knowledge. The Fool acts in ways that would seem be superficially irrational, illogical… And yet, it proves to be heartfelt and is often comically true!
The origin of the Fool might even predate the clown and the jester, as it relates directly to displaying the human condition of folly, amusement, and the universal awareness of our human shortcomings. Folly as a word, comes to us from the French, and refers to someone as an inflated windbag- someone full of bluster, but empty of substance. (Hmm-Folly Road or Beach?
The Fool evolved, however, into a different direction from the clown or the jester as someone who shows us the place of the shadow side of life; someone who seems outwardly foolish and irresponsible, yet practices and possess a kind of sensual and crazy wisdom that proves to be more in line with a sustaining compassionate truth; showing us a different reality than what all the rigid codes of morality provides and more truth than the false security of adhering to polite manners fails to supply. Through seemingly foolish risks of openness and wonder, you can turn a problem upside down, and find answers that all your careful analysis might not ever find!

Being so open, appears to our common sense to be, a fool’s errand, and we can ask without a willingness to extend ourselves into the very heart of life, do we ever arrive at our full and true selves? Remember on this day, and on every day that you can share a laugh with someone, you can be come silly- which originally meant to be blessed with laughter, and by being silly you gain the perspective that welcomes learning, and how best to accept and embrace all that our lives could contain. So you see, in a reverse analogy or its opposite actuality, the Fool is to being foolish as being child like is to be being childish. Wisdom, then, comes with an open heart and a willingness to suspend judgments and criticism which rarely contains joy or benevolence. By being open and empathetic, ones learns to honor the other person, to find those places in the heart where we truly touch, where we are beheld just as we are, and where we are found, even with our broken pieces, to be accepted, truly whole.

Before I delve in a little deeper, and given that this has to be a short presentation, I will leave the rival archetype of The Trickster for another time… For you see, while the Trickster character in myth, story, and legend will employ humor, it can have a malicious or even a macabre twist to it. When one feel that life has played a mean trick on them, generally it doesn’t feel funny… Yet there may be irony, insight, and instigation that can awaken us to seeing the error in your ways…. The trickster is the metaphysical practical joker, and someone who intentionally upsets others in order to teach them valuable lessons…. So at another time and place, I will venture into stories about Native American Coyote, The Norse god Loki, The holy fools of India, The vast array of Sufi stories, the path of Crazy Wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism, or the Zen koan and its humorous way. Each of these tricky ways has much to teach and tell us about life, the uses of mischief, the truths found in paradox, and the nature of enlightenment.
Focussing, however, back on our Western religious heritage, from the Hebrew Testament, I recommend the stories of Isaac & Rebecca; Noah (without Bill Cosby) Moses & Zipporah; Esther, Bell, and the great book of Proverbs. But be careful about reading these stories out loud! Some of them would receive an R rating!

As for Jewish humor as a whole, our world is far richer because of its contributions. … Wikipedia references….
“The influence of the US Jewish community on American English, include teaching us Yiddish words that just are funny just to say: schmaltz, schlemiel, klutz, schmuck… Many non-Jewish Americans (though certainly not all) will recognize some of these words. Popular books (such as Joy of Yiddish and Born to Kvetch) explain these words to the general public. However, bear in mind that while many Americans from other regions and ethnic backgrounds may recognize Yiddish words such as those above, it is more likely that only those who are more educated, or widely read, or who have Jewish friends and acquaintances via their place of residence or profession, etc., would fall into this group.
There are a number of standard American phrases which originated from Yiddish, including: Get lost, What’s up, I should worry, I should live so long, I need it like a hole in the head, You don’t know from nothin’, Certain types of rhyming slang, especially those where deprecation is shown via partial reduplications, also originated in Yiddish — for example “Joe-schmo” or “Oedipus-schmedipus, so long as he loves his mother.”

In the Christian Scriptures, while Paul recommends that we become “fools for Christ”, it is Jesus, when stripped of his sanctimony and assumed propriety, who was a master of teaching through humor. Yes, Jesus was a funny man! Who knew? When I was young, the way his teachings were related to me, it seemed to only foster greater guilt and deeper shame. All of a sudden, there was this comic and cosmic twist! His message became one of joy over sorrow, freedom from guilt, and he used humor to challenge his opponents starchy and rigid rule making, and to overcome the moralistic, and often hypocritical teachings.
Honestly, now, how many of you ever thought of Jesus as being filled with joy and laughter? My conversion… So to speak… Happened one day when I was in my late teens, when my image of him moved from being my painful suffering savior, to being my happy, playful teacher… And guess what! I have Hugh Heffner to thank!
You see, I was avidly reading Playboy at the time… Just for the interesting articles, of course, … when I turned the page to see a picture of Jesus, and I was startled! There, in living color was this picture, in a Renaissance style, of a Jesus, who was laughing gleefully! I quickly began to read this article by the noted Harvard theologian Harvey Cox, which was entitled, ” For Christ’s sake!” Well, up to that time in my life, whenever I would whenever I heard those words, it usually did not refer to reverent outcry, but was spoken in great exasperation! Intriguing!
Cox’s premise was that we need to see Jesus as a man who enjoyed life; as someone who taught us about the meaning and purpose of life using stories, parables and humor to get his point across to us. Wow! To think that he was this robust, enthusiastic man who was in love with life, yet he was not simply a comedian, for he lived with moral courage, and he was foolish enough to believe everyone of us could really live by our values and ideals! Just ponder for a moment, some of his best ironic humor, and how he used hyperbole to make ethical points and give us behavioral guidelines:
” It is easier for a Camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into heaven.” A comic statement about the value of trying to amass wealth and what ultimate good it would do for you… And this one, “Don’t put your light under a bushel basket, but put it up on a candlestick”
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That is, do not hide your beauty, your purpose, your mission under some tight wraps of insecurity, but proclaim the miracle you are!… And he goes one giving us stories about how the self righteous seek to “strain out gnats but swallow camels” and when he warns the judgmental to “take the beam out of your own eye, before trying to take the speck from your neighbors”… and on throughout the various Gospel accounts…

In closing, I recommend reading the Bible for its humor, and wholeheartedly endorse becoming more like a wise fool in your approach to life. Wherever true humor is found, a spiritual quality exists, and laughter as medicine and as friendship are indispensable parts of being alive and free. Without humor, life and religion would be a dry bone of contention, arid intellectual wrangling, irritating moral pronouncements.

The real truth, as I see it, is that religion needs to be fun, and that it is fundamental to gaining a healthy perspective on our lives. Try never to lose your sense of humor- and to appreciate how it leads us to a full heart, and how humor can lead us to a greater enjoyment of one another as an inclusive, hilariously diverse community!
So Be It!

Are You Spiritual but not Religious? What does that mean? Can you be Spiritual AND Religious?

May 26, 2015 - 3:48 pm Comments Off on Are You Spiritual but not Religious? What does that mean? Can you be Spiritual AND Religious?

Homily/Theme: What Does It Mean To Be Spiritual and Religious?

Chances are that you have heard these words from your friends who have been seeking their own answers, and chances are that you have said these words yourself: “I am spiritual, but I am not religious!”

Generally, we all know what that means, right? That we identify ourselves as a person who explores, who bravely seeks answers, and who often can not find what they are seeking in the traditional ways of church, worship, with all of the limiting behavioral expectations and the exclusionary beliefs.

IF we have recently returned to our childhood faith, or when as an adult, we have reexamined the beliefs and values that are still being espoused, we can encounter limited understanding, traditional patriarchal meanings, or a series of disheartening attitudes that are, at their worst, harsh and depersonalizing, and even at their best, they can be stale and limiting.

In today’s culture, yes, even here in the “Holy City” area – One of the most resistant, most traditional, and most conservative of places, there are a growing number of people who find themselves dissatisfied with what passes for religious beliefs, and who can no longer feel comfortable, much less inspired, by traditional worship.

In particular, they can object to the repressive uses of theology and Scripture as agents of control that try to limit the scope of your questions, or cramp your desire to seek out your own answers.

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Just as many people say that they have out grown the image of God as the old man in heaven, sitting on a golden throne, as judge and jury over our souls, so too have many people outgrown the belief that we are sinners and need judgmental or parental authority figures to tell us what to do, and what to believe about God, life, love…

I expect that most of you sitting here have encountered this and resisted it, and it is possible that you have found yourselves a little lost, or at least disheartened over the lack of choice, or the lack of open, and progressive alternatives to church in our area. It can appear as if many churches here are living in a isolated time warp or a cocoon that shuts out the need for greater acceptance or tolerance.

For example, by my quick count, there are over 100 churches in Charleston county, yet there are only five communities of faith that welcome gay and lesbians, only three of these five church groups would be consider themselves to centrally Christian, only one to be inclusive and metaphysical, and only one maybe two to be welcoming of all faiths or accepting of having no faith at all! No wonder there are so many spiritual Meetup Groups! There are a lot of people who are looking around, and most cannot find what they seek!

During my personal lifelong study and my ministry experiences, there has been a lot of resistance to the word spiritual, just as there has been in more recent years, there is the reluctance to call oneself a religious person. …

 

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I feel that the time is “ready and ripe” to define both terms in new inclusive and welcoming ways. (which by the way, are the words Jesus used in Aramaic to describe what he called being Blessed…

As in the Beatitudes… Ready are you…)

Let’s chose the easier word first… being religious…

I bet you thought I would choose spiritual, didn’t you?

Without belaboring it, most conventional churches are only superficially or sentimentally religious. They prefer to operate as pious social groups, for business networking, for parenting support, for reinforcing the status quo with a little sentimental story, or a passive ritual… That’s is what conventionally passes for being religious. However, there is a deeper, more troubling dimension to be religious in our culture today…

That is when being religious means that you are blindly arrogant. When Scripture is used as a political weapon for exclusion or inclusion- Either you believe what we say or we will threaten you in two things: You will be threatened with being ostracized from family, friends, jobs, or you will be threatened with damnation and Hell because, according to the way they have chosen to read the words, they can pronounce that you are not accepted, that you are a sinner!

The pressure to conform to ideas and concepts you no longer trust or believe in is a heavy one; This coercion we can feel, especially from family and friends, can be very disheartening.

 

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I have heard this experience often from my clients in spiritual direction. They would often agree around these experiences:

That they had to leave home religiously in order to find themselves- They had to be a bold, rebellious, and then become an adult seeker…

However, it is also true that this path can be very difficult… being responsible for your own answers, being a mystic seeking wholeness or becoming a prophet after truth is not an easy road! That is why so few people choose it!

As I see it, arrogant or judgmental theology has created more atheists, and more disillusioned people that any question based on science or social doubt could have ever done! However, it has also created many sincere seekers who wish to find spiritual ideals and a community that now fit their expanded understanding…

In the 12 Principles of Creation Spirituality, you will see that this community will consciously aim to rectify and restore your sense of dignity, value, talent, and purpose. It will not ask you to sacrifice your ability to reason, nor will it expect you to believe in anything or act in any way that is not compassionate and wise.

You see, religion, as it pertains to its original word meaning, religiare, is an expression of human belonging or spiritual bonding that keeps, respects, and holds people together in service to a larger ideal or a greater truth than one can have or hold just by themselves.

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Being religious is having or holding on a sustaining belief in the grace that can be found in being together- in sharing, in working together to support and to encourage one another through our commonly held ways of worship, study, and service.

(group energy/synergy and dynamism)

Now I fully acknowledge that stating or even declaring that you are “spiritual but not religious” is an important necessary step in many people’s spiritual journey- There is truth in saying that you first have to know what you do not believe in before they can find what ideas and ideals that can become your new sources for truth. When one goes through rejection, what you are expressing is what you no longer accept, or that you no longer wish to practice a level of belief or consciousness that you feel that you have either outgrown, or that is dysfunctional or even disrespectful for you.

Instead, many sincere seekers have chosen to remain outside of any church community until you can find a place that would support and inspire your new more mature and more inclusive awareness.

So I celebrate the virtue of necessary rejection! Without the courage to walk away, to explore, and to discover new truths, you cannot realize or be responsible for having an adult or mature understanding of faith, God, spirit, truth… As Walt Whitman put it, we are to “dismiss anything that insults our souls, and then our very flesh will become a poem!”

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We need a religious dimension to our lives so that we can experience a sense of belonging, and feel as if there are sisters and brothers around that we can trust, and that we can be honest with, and who will genuinely care about us: Mind/Body/Heart/and Soul.

When religion and spirituality intersect, and when they become clearly practiced, we can arrive at a complementary synthesis, or a complete belief system. As Matthew Fox, founder of Creation Spirituality puts it, “There can be no mysticism without ethics, and no spirituality without justice.” I would add that there can be no complete sense of religious understanding without an active spirituality to accompany it. Without having sufficient regard for Myth, mystery, and meaning, there cannot be a complete sense of the Holy that can be found in that community.

Most of the new nationwide research on what people are looking for in a spiritual community centers around becoming more pneumocentric- more Spirit centered and bravely open to many ideas. which is contrary to the historical and conventional ways of church… This more Spirit centered approach will be more inclusive of various paths towards truth, it will be more participatory, and will seek to provide various ways of learning as a part of each service. It has become clear from all the feedback they have received that long time seekers, and those of the new wave of searchers will not be content with being “sacred observers.” This is the term I have found to best describe that conventional congregation:

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just passively sitting in their pews, and feeling parented by some authority figure or satisfied by simply be given pious pabulum that has little value or no direct application once they leave the service!

In short, the new generation of spiritual pioneers and visionaries will not settle for religion being done “for them or done to them”… They wish to learn how to live their ideas more fully, not just talk about them! They want to wholeheartedly participate in developing an adult, responsible, and a knowledgeable faith that informs the whole person, and that tributes positively to the critical, necessary social changes we see around us…

Now for the word, spiritual… what a minefield that is! It is so inexact, so obtuse, with so many amorphous definitions that while we can easily come to a general consensus, those facile words still lack depth or any sense of a complete understanding! It took me ten pages to define it in my book on Spirit, Time and The Future!

Generally speaking, the word spiritual is most commonly equated with a kind of universal energy, or with some force that it both within us and beyond us. Other times, the word spiritual takes on the more pious or sentimental ideas of grace, but still not knowing how or in what ways that blessing can arrive or occur. …

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I do not believe that spirituality is neither reducible to secular physics, nor is it a abstract, sentimental notion of God’s reality…

While Spirit’s basic effect is vitality, She can also be known as our source for wisdom, evolutionary relationships, soul centered healing, and justice making… It flows from the center of the Cosmos, and is evident in every breathe we take… The qualities most associated with Spirit are alchemical: They are the abilities of Transformation; Transcendence, and Transmutation… Change!

As I see it, the source for all this is the inclusive and expansive understanding of The Holy Spirit in Christianity is the same gracious and powerful Spirit or divine feminine that is found in all the timeless mystical aspects of the world faiths. She manifests and releases creativity and compassion, and She guides any community that is founded on interdependent, evolutionary impulses that direct us beyond ego and culture, and towards a sustaining sense of being whole and free…

I welcome you today to this opportunity to worship, and to work together, to share in creating a community of soulful exploration and compassionate understanding- a community that teaches how to live a pneumatic or a Spirit centered life- a life that is filled with discovery, affirmation, and blessings! Amen; So be It! Blessed Be!

 

Creation Spirituality: An Introduction to the 4 Paths

April 27, 2015 - 8:47 pm Comments Off on Creation Spirituality: An Introduction to the 4 Paths

Celebrating Our Original Blessings:

An Introduction to the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality

The Reverend Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

 

There is a great search going on in our society today. It is a common yearning, a deeply held one and now; Often this inquiry is an expressed need for connection to the Earth and to one another.

From the dawn of civilization, humankind has sought out ways to define relationships to the greater world around them. To be fully human, is to search for meaning; we are not just social animals, political or economic beings, we are a seeking, curious, creative and wondering animals- homo sacralis- We are humans that seek what is holy, meaningful, what is divine within us and what is divine all around us.

Religion can be defined by any activity, which by its practice and understanding, that helps us to feel more connected; unified; together, (from Latin, religiare) and by any activity that assists us in transcending the intellect and the ego- spirituality facilitates our ability to going beyond our superfical social selves, and to look both beyond and within for our deepest, most true answers.

Today, the old, traditional ways of religion and being together, no longer fit the demands of new approaches to planetary science, or the complexities of our social existence. Religious outlooks and teachings have not kept up to the demands of modern living…

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A compelling concern has now presented itself to all of us: that humans everywhere have to come together to create a new cosmology- in new, inclusive and inspiring ways that include the holistic or interdependent linking of science, art, service, and mysticism. These outlooks synergistically combine in a simple and yet profound universal acceptance that spirituality and ecology, art and justice, all belong together and all are deeply connected to each other.

This yearning, this search has had some leading edges…. Nowhere is this yearning felt more deeply than in the various liberation movements, 12 step recovery groups, and the worldwide desire for church revitalization or the increasing dissatisfaction with the status quo in society, economy, relationships, etc. As a consequence of a search that is becoming critical and apparent, there is also a need for a common religious and metaphoric language that unites religious ideals to the frontiers of science, the depths of art, and the expanse of culture. One approach that boldly and enthusiastically presents itself as being able to facilitate these desires, and fulfill these wide ranging and inclusive needs. It is called Creation Spirituality.

Right away, let me declare that this approach has nothing to do with Creationism! In fact, its openness to science and mystery function as the direct opposite!

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One of the main purposes of Creation Spirituality is to remedy and rectify the old harmful theologies and those toxic and demeaning religious beliefs that have crippled people since their childhood…

As an interfaith movement, it offers a new interpretation of the Creation and the entire Biblical story based on its positive themes. As a uniting philosophy or framework, Creation Spirituality helps us to reclaim the beauty and inspiration of The Western religious traditions without having to accept any of the old control centered, static, severe, dour, necrophilic, irrational and pious theology!

Those interpretations of Scripture and human nature that are so often used to promote grief, guilt, shame or fear. Creation Spirituality teaches that our salvation is not based on believing some speculative man-made creed. If we are to be saved; that is, if we are to be whole, loving, and free, we cannot divorce our personal concerns from those of our planet Earth, or from our sisters and brothers around the world.

CS is an outlook and a conviction that says that if we, as humankind, and we, as a civilization and as a planet are going to survive, then we will have to actively acknowledge our common origins, our shared human experience, and actively affirm the worth, the sanctity, the mystery and the divinity of Earth itself.

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Creation is a wonder… Yet, it is ironic that so few of the Western churches teach such respect and reverence as a part of their religious education programs or life span teachings.

Instead, the models that have been passed down to us are either excessively moralistic, or do not give equal time to the dignity and worth of the person and the environment. Many of us have been sternly taught and often admonished about Original Sin, but very little is ever said or affirmed about our Original Blessings. It starts with the affirmation of the mystery and miracle of God as Spirit, presence, as compassionate energy that is inherent, interwoven, alive and timelessly participating in Creation. It teaches about God as an alive Spirit that maintains a gracious benevolence and that God has a sustaining intimate relationship with all life!

Creation Spirituality states that Heaven and Hell are not places, but states of mind and heart that confirm that we need a more positive view of ourselves, and our world, if we are ever expect to repair, restore, or revitalize the Earth or be a healing presence for one another. As for the greatest sin…

It is not found in eating an apple- it is the wholesale desecration of Mother Earth herself! It has been our ignorant, wasteful ravaging that now holds all of humanity liable, and holds the world’s people at risk.

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So while Creation Spirituality does not avoid dealing with personal sin, it does not wallow in guilt or shame either. Instead, it encourages us to look at ourselves compassionately; it encourages us to educate ourselves out of any lingering beliefs, willful ignorance, or any passive acceptance of religiously imposed inadequacies.

Students of Creation Spirituality see one another as caregivers, who have to reclaim the natural wonders and blessings of our world. C.S. teaches us to see and experience the beauty and love, understanding and consolation we can find in walking the beach, watching a leaf hold a butterfly or when we hold hands across our cultural ways to give another person hope; when we find a quiet joy looking into one another’s eyes, or the sanctuary felt when we are in another’s arms.

Creation Spirituality does not start with Adam and Eve- It begins by affirming our positive identity as the children of God, made in the image and likeness of the Divine… From that sacred basis, we find our working and royal identity when we live as companions to all the creatures of Earth, when we stand up for justice, and to act in ways that heal our world.

At its core, in its essence, Creation Spirituality is a movement toward Oneness and Wholeness; towards Unity and Divinity.

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It teaches principles that dignify and equalizes the sexes, and provides research into how best to affirm an inclusive trans-denominational approach to world spirituality and to the needs to have a world ecology.

While the ideas and ideals of Creation Spirituality reach back into the origins of our human sacred stories go far back, even before the Bible, the rediscovery of its truth is only 40 years old. Its new expression comes to us from the mind and heart of a progressive, once labeled a heretical Catholic radical, (now finding a tentative safe haven as an Episcopal priest), named Matthew Fox. He rediscovered these truths while doing research on the great Christian or Creation mystics. They were those dissenting men and inspiring women that kept this alternative way of looking at God, Nature, and life alive throughout the centuries; not bowing down to the coercion or control, or the patriarchal and dehumanizing teachings that have so effectively “de-souled” us…

Those de-humanizing ways of institutional power and moral control have condemned churchgoers to rehearsing only those reinforced feelings of failure, robbing us of health, happiness, creativity, justice and joy.

From those controversial Catholic beginnings, Fox and his followers quickly understood that using ecology to inform one’s faith drew all kinds of people, many world faiths and different spiritual expressions into

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into a larger and broader unity community- ways to share and affirm together!

This inclusive practices and interactive theology, can be divided into four interdependent, complementary ways that can be known, understood and embodied as part of every person’s search for truth and meaning.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with these four ways or paths, I will give you a quick synopsis of each path, and archetype. Then I will ask how each way or path can be personally understood in practical terms.

First, from Path One or the Via Positiva, the task is to emphasize our Original Blessings, the wonder and promise of life and majesty of the Creation. Fox suggests that we have to learn to find beauty- all around us. It focus is on how we see and experience, How we feel and understand the meaning and the magic found in everyday life.

Fox states that: “we have become afraid of our own divinity,” that we are the sons and daughters of God.

With this divinity comes the identity of each of us as a royal and wonder-filled human being; a marvelous new way of perceiving who and what we are… yet, with this grand truth, there is also ongoing responsibility.

One of the principal reasons the old, fearful forms of religion endure is that it is easier for us to accept being passive, being afraid, being childish…

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In fact, some people find it easier to stay fearful or even guilty, than it is to accept our adult and ongoing responsibility as co-creaters of our world.

Here, in the first of the four paths, the one that is most ignored by church teachings is called The Via Positiva. Here we are taught that we need “to taste and see that life is good.” Because of this, each of us has to uphold beauty, truth, and those virtues of a sustaining strength and a firm resolve that brings to all men and all women into their innate abilities to celebrate all the ideals they truly believe in or that they sincerely trust. This is the path of the mystic.

The Mystic’s main task in life is affirmation, and closely connected to it, is to maintain the outlook of gratitude. (approx. Thanksgiving to Epiphany)

So, now I will ask each of you: What can you affirm in your life? What makes you thankful? How does your community connections promote affirmation and your sense of gratitude?

Path Two is called The Via Negativa, or the emptying way. Here is where the spiritual warrior battles for their mental, emotional, and spiritual clarity; He or she accepts their own need to let go- to empty oneself of false beliefs, negative feelings, social roles.

 

 

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In the Via Negativa, we have to face up to our inner pain, our hurts, and whatever we feel that we lack in ourselves, or what we have failed to accomplish in our lives. Here, the path urges the spiritual warrior in each of us to develop fortitude, bravery, persistence, and the courage to go beyond the familiar, and to welcome the unknown; THEN, to expect the good, and to be open to grace, despite life’s wounds.

Fox says this: “[we have to learn to let go- Letting go of comforts, security, of past images of oneself, or all that we have reinforced or rehearsed about past ways of relationships- all those ways that keep us stuck or dissatisfied with our lives… Here the task is to learn what serves our growth and goodness, and practice only what will not harm or will not rob anyone else of dignity and respect.]”

This is the path of the prophet.(January to Lent)

The main task of the prophet is to interfere with the status quo in ways that promote equality and justice, and build a strong, resilient courageous self.

I ask: In what ways are you willing to interfere with the status quo? When is it that you stand up for others? What does your congregation interfere with regularly?

 

 

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The Third Path or way is called The Via Creativa or the way of creativity and resourcefulness. Here is where we learn about giving birth to newness and hope, and how to experience a rebirth of who and what we are or can become. You know, it takes a lot of faith, and a sincere degree of flexibility to be creative; to bring compassion into being that fosters a new way of looking at the world, of defining and refining yourself.

As Fox puts it, “in Path Three, we stand up and offer our gifts to the community. Creativity arises from a depth of awareness that states that…

IF we do not give back our unique gifts, talents, and skills, and IF we do not give expression to life’s mysteries or give witness to life’s truth, THEN no one will stand up, or no one will care or give or do it for us.” If we do not give back, whatever gifts or talents, we have will atrophy or go stale… This is the path of the artist. (Approx. Easter to August)

I ask: How do you express your creativity? How do you share your gifts? How does this church or community give of itself to the larger community?

The last way or Fourth Path is called The Via Transformativa, the transformative way. But as Fox emphasizes, “transformation does not come easily.

 

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We are acutely aware of politcs and economics in our world. That powerful people and entrenched institutions do not relinquish control and privilege cheerfully or willingly. Paradigm shifts in religion, politics or economics are often resisted vigorously. Through empathy, we learn to celebrate the common human struggle, and we can find the strength, the willingness to stand up for justice, equality, freedom, and truth as belonging to everyone…

Path Four shows us the right way of being together in community, as how best to live on and for the Earth. This is the path of the Healer. (Approx. August to Thanksgiving)

I ask: How do you find healing for yourselves? How do you offer it to others? How do you work together as a group to offer or provide healing?

The best teachings given on creation and mysticism today ironically, are being given by scientists. … Scientists, not monks, and certainly not most typical theologians! Today, mystics are coming out of their religious closets all over the world, and are trying to find a home in every community, church, or meeting house. They are not finding room or an easy welcome!

They are artists and engineers, parents, householders, lawyers, health care workers, and yes, you might even find a priest or a minister or two who really wants our society to change!

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Carl Jung said that the mystic brings out what is creative to religion… But you will never get a full definition of mysticism or spirituality. Why? Because definitions are all left brain, and living creatively and celebrating the mysteries of life is right brain- we are never going to define or control it!

(Emerson- We dare not fence the Spirit!)

Today, we need as much heart knowledge as we have head knowledge. We need experience awe, wonder, fascination, and inspiration, and teach these mysteries to our children so they will really know what life is about…

For me, and for the others who have embraced CS as their theological guide, It is simply about how we humans can grow our souls to realize more of the beauty of the earth, and how best to cooperate with our humanity, our creativity, our divinity, and experience the holiness of universe itself.

I recommend Creation Spirituality to you… as an inspiring way to understanding, and as an excellent complement to the ideals and principles of Unity… Truly a marriage made in heaven… or if you prefer, two inspiring ways that will lead you to your freedom, dignity, and self worth… So that you can confidently and courageously claim your own wholeness and holiness every day of your lives!

AMEN. SO BE IT!

 

Reflection on the Road To Emmaus; Walking with The Christ/Spirit…

April 13, 2015 - 2:06 pm Comments Off on Reflection on the Road To Emmaus; Walking with The Christ/Spirit…

Remembering that we are not human beings on a spiritual journey but spiritual being on a human journey… and that the intent and experience of the journey is more important than the final destination, we have today’s Scriptural reading…

The Gospel according to St. Luke Chapter 24: 13-26; 30-32

Now on that same day, two of them were going to the village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about the things that had happened.

While they were talking, Jesus himself came near and walked with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. Jesus asked them what they were talking about, and they stopped, stood still and looked sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered. :Are you the only one who does not know the things that have taken place? Jesus asked, “What things?”

They both replied, ‘ The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed, and word before God, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be crucified.: we thought he would be the hope, the one who would redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some of the women of our group astonished us. They were at his tomb early in the morning, and when they couldn’t find his body there and told us they saw a vision of angels who said he was alive!

Then Jesus said to them, ” Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary for the Messiah should suffer these things, and then enter into glory?

When they were at the table, Jesus took the bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to them, that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, …

And they said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he was talking with us on the road, while he was opening up the Scriptures to us?”

Homily: Walking With The Christ/Spirit Within

As spiritual people, We are also Easter people… And that the effects of “eastering”- the living, dying, and becoming alive again- that are at the core of our daily faith; This growth, this hope accompanies us throughout all of our life’s travels and travails, and as Unity teaches us, there is a Christ/Spirit that lives in us, and it resides at center of the purpose for our lives…

Like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, we don’t always recognize what is good for us, or welcome God even when divine truth is in our midst. Our human tendencies make us balk; turn arrogant or become deaf. Until the grace and truth that is in Christ is broken in the bread- that is, revealed to us- can we begin to explore, explain, and experience the true value of having Christ as our companion in our journey through life….

We live each day as people who carry with us the threat of reversal and wrong turns, and as people who carry within us the hope of the resurrection and faithfulness; for any of us, our inner comprehension of God can be asleep or active, passive or present, dead or alive in each day of our existence.

What continues on for us as the rest of the Easter story is the abiding truth that God can arise and offer us grace and insight from our trials, our pain, our personal losses.

Now stop and think… Has there ever been a time in your life when all the advice or information you received didn’t seem to help? Were you like Cleopas, so involved in denial, so wrapped up in a false dream, or defending your own ego negativity, that you were unwilling to change?

In any “doom and gloom” thinking, we can miss whatever wisdom and insight there is in a situation that will eventually release or free us… By our faith, we are made strong enough to release the past, change the present, and prepare for the future….

Through our prayers, we can ask to possess enough courage, and have sufficient love to overcome any halting steps or worrisome fears. And that our goal as metaphysical Christians is to be willing to walk on…

to carry the weight… and most importantly to know that we do not walk alone, and that God’s guidance, mercy, and truth will accompany us, bless us, and carry us through whatever trials and experiences our lives contain.

Similar to the lesson of the disciples walking toward Emmaus, what is of supreme importance is that there is available to each and everyone of us:

That there is a spiritual presence, a divine effect or energy, an indwelling Holy Spirit that can awakens us, that will challenge, transform, and heal us…

and it is through that energy, intuition, or influence, that we are given assurance that we can overcome our feelings of distance, time, hurt or injustice in ways that increases our understanding, and in ways that will restore our memory of what is sacred, loving, and true.

This is a story of how the power and presence of Christ within us and continually walks alongside us, even at our saddest most troubling times, for it is a Spirit of compassionate constancy that will accompany our grief with an unexpected promise, as a quiet, courageous grace.

As this Gospel story concludes, the mystery of the stranger is revealed- through the power of their perception, his presence became real, and the blessings of a life in Christ became recalled and reenacted in the breaking of the bread.

What these disciples experienced was the recognition, in their burning hearts, that the despair and sorrow that they felt could be transformed into inspiration and joy, and that God’s Spirit would always be walking with them!

However you might perceive or comprehend it, it is my sincere belief that God can become known to us in many ways- from a quick insight to life transforming love, from a deep visceral experience of “a burning heart”-

each sign of God’s presence and activity in your life is a sign of a gracious spiritual connection, or soulful companionship, of something one feels that is far greater than oneself, yet closer to you than your breath…

What the story of Emmaus gives me is consolation and hope… That in the midst of our trials, we can learn to transform any acute or lingering sorrow into a lively joy.

However, it takes our willingness to move, to risk, to open ourselves up to God’s presence. We have to push our egos away, to make room to let God inside, and in that welcoming of the Spirit, we make ourselves ready and aware; willing to experience the wisdom and compassion that is strong, resilient, and ever-present to us.

When we walk with the metaphysical Christ, we walk as a holy person, filled with promise and hope- we are enlivened, enriched, and we are ever more grateful for the blessings we have already received.

Despite the demands and the difficulties of living a more God-connected or inspired life, I wholeheartedly recommend the journey, and I wish you well…

Blessings! Bon Voyage! AMEN

 

Don’t Sleep Through The Revolution! Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 9, 2015 - 9:44 am Comments Off on Don’t Sleep Through The Revolution! Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Note: This is a reprint of the invitation to give The Ware Lecture to the UUA General Assembly in 1966… the excerpts and emphasis are mine, as the text is much longer and the emphasis points are, for me, particularly cogent and inspiring…

In many ways, this address can act as a synopsis of his most foundational ideas, quotes, and teaching for us… Given that the superb film, Selma, is being released today nationwide, it acts as a strong and clear reminder of the man, his words, and his cherished ideals…

Don’t Sleep Through The Revolution!

Excerpts from The Ware Lecture by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1966…

There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution. And there can be no gainsaying of the fact that a social revolution is taking place in our world today. We see it in other nations in the demise of colonialism. We see it in our own nation, in the struggle against racial segregation and discrimination, and as we notice this struggle we are aware of the fact that a social revolution is taking place in our midst. Victor Hugo once said that there is nothing more powerful in all the world than an idea whose time has come. The idea whose time has come today is the idea of freedom and human dignity, and so allover the world we see something of freedom explosion, and this reveals to us that we are in the midst of revolutionary times. An older order is passing away and a new order is coming into being.

The great question is, what do we do when we find ourselves in such a period? Certainly the church has a great responsibility because when the church is true to its nature, it stands as a moral guardian of the community and of society. It has always been the role of the church to broaden horizons, to challenge the status quo, and to question and break mores if necessary. I’m sure that we all agree that the church has a major role to play in this period of social change. I would like to suggest some of the things that the church must continually do in order to remain awake through this revolution.

First, we are challenged to instill within the people of our congregations a world perspective. The world in which we live is geographically one.

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All I’m saying is this: that all life is inter-related, and somehow we are all tied together. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of all reality. John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms, “No man is an island entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” He goes on to say, “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, therefore send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” This realization is absolutely necessary if we are to remain awake in this revolution.

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Secondly, it is necessary for the church to reaffirm over and over again the essential immorality of racial segregation. Any church which affirms the morality of segregation is sleeping through the revolution. We must make it clear that segregation, whether it’s in the public schools, in housing, or in recreational facilities, or in the church itself, is morally wrong and sinful. It is not only sociologically untenable, or politically unsound, or merely economically unwise, it is morally wrong and sinful.

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There is another thing that the church must do to remain awake. I thing it is necessary to refute the idea that there are superior and inferior races. We must get rid of the notion once and for all that there are superior and inferior races. It is out of this notion that the whole doctrine of white supremacy came into being, and the church must take a stand through religious education and other channels to direct the popular mind at this point, for there are some people who still believe this strange doctrine.

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It’s a strange notion that has made for a great deal of strife and suffering. Both the academic world and the disciplines of science have refuted this idea. Anthropologists like Ruth Benedict, Margaret Meade, and Herskovits, after long years of study, have made it clear that they find no evidence for the idea of superior and inferior races. There may be superior and inferior individuals in every race, but no superior or inferior races.

In spite of this, the notion still lingers around. Now, there was a time that people tried to justify it on the basis of the Bible. Strange indeed how individuals will often use, or should I say misuse, the Bible to crystallize the patterns of the status quo and justify their prejudices.

So from some pulpits it was argued that the Negro was inferior by nature because of Noah’s curse upon the children of Ham. The apostle’s dictum often became a watchword: servants, be obedient to your master. One brother had probably read the logic of the great philosopher Aristotle. You know Aristotle did a great deal to bring into being what we know now in philosophy as formal logic; and formal logic has a big word known as a syllogism, which has a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. So this brother decided to put his argument of the inferiority of the Negro in the framework of an Aristotlian syllogism. He came out with his major premise, “All men are made in the image of God”; then came his minor premise, “God, as everybody knows, is not a Negro; therefore, the Negro is not a man.” This was the kind of reasoning that prevailed. Now, on the whole, I guess we have gotten away from this; most people don’t use the Bible and religion to justify segregation, although there are a few left. I was reading the other day where one of our white brothers in Mississippi said that God was a charter member of the White Citizens’ Council.

Today’s arguments are generally placed on more subtle cultural grounds, for instance: “the Negro is not culturally ready for integration. If you integrate the schools and other areas of life, this will pull the race back a generation.” And another: “The Negro is a criminal; you see he has the highest crime rate in any city.” So the arguments go on ad infinitum.

Those who use these arguments never say that if there are lagging standards in the Negro community – and there certainly are – they lag because of segregation and discrimination. They never go on to say that criminal responses are environmental, and not racial. Poverty, ignorance, economic deprivation, social isolation breed crime in any racial group. It is a tortuous logic to use the tragic results of segregation as an argument for the continuation of it. It is necessary to go to the causal root to deal with the problem.

So it is necessary for the church, through all of its channels of education and through all of its work, to guide the popular mind, and rid the community of the notion of superior and inferior races. We’ve all seen enough to refute this idea.

We’ve seen Negroes who have given inspiring examples of ability to rise above the shackles of a difficult environment. They have justified the conviction of the poet that “fleecy locks and black complexion cannot forfeit nature’s claim.” Skin may differ, but affection dwells in black and white the same. If I were so tall as to reach the pole or to grasp the ocean at a span, I must still be measured by my soul; the mind is the standard of the man.

The next thing that the church must do to remain awake through this revolution is to move out into the arena of social action. It is not enough for the church to work in the ideological realm, and to clear up misguided ideas. To remain awake through this social revolution, the church must engage in strong action programs to get rid of the last vestiges of segregation and discrimination. It is necessary to get rid of one or two myths if we’re really going to engage in this kind of action program.

One is the notion that legislation is not effective in bringing about the changes that we need in human relations. This argument says that you’ve got to change the heart in order to solve the problem; that you can’t change the heart through legislation. They would say you’ve got to do that through religion and education. Well, there’s some truth in this. Before we can solve these problems men and women must rise to the majestic heights of being obedient to the unenforceable. I would be the first to say this. If we are to have a truly integrated society, white persons and Negro persons and members of all groups must live together, not merely because the law says it but because it’s natural and because it’s right.

But that does not make legislation less important. It may be true that you can’t legislate integration but you can legislate desegregation. It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless. The law cannot make a man love me, but it can restrain him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important also. And so while the law may not change the hearts of men, it does change the habits of men. So it is necessary for the church to support strong, meaningful civil rights legislation.

Fortunately we have seen some real advances at this point. It is very consoling to me, and I know to all of us, the role which all of the major denominations within the Protestant, the Catholic and the Jewish faiths played in the achievement of the civil rights bill of 1964, the voting rights bill of 1965. We struggled in Selma, Alabama, and in a real sense we developed right there in that little town something that the councils of the world have not been able to develop – a real ecumenical movement. Protestants, Catholics and Jews stood in Selma, and in a beautiful and meaningful way that was the ecumenical movement which created the voting rights bill.

That bill is a tribute to persons like James Reeb, Mrs. Viola Liuzzo and Jimmy Lee Jackson, those who died and suffered to make it possible. Now the President is calling for new civil rights legislation to deal with two old problems.

One is the mal-administration of justice in many sections of the South. It is necessary for all people of goodwill and for all church bodies to strongly support this bill, which will make murder or threatened assaults of civil rights workers or persons engaged in the promotion of constitutional rights a federal crime.

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But there is a more difficult title in that bill, one that must ultimately be passed if America is to rise to its full maturity. That is the section of the bill which calls for an end to discrimination in housing. It means that discrimination in all housing will be federally non-sanctioned. It involves the sale, the rental, and the financing of all housing. This is the difficult one because there still are many fears around. There are stereotypes about Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Mexican Americans and others.

Studies reveal that there are numerous forces both private and public which make for the problem, because they are profiting by the existence of segregation in housing. I am convinced that if we are to have a truly integrated society we must deal with the housing problem.

The school problem is difficult and it will never be totally solved until we solve the housing problem, and so it is my hope that we will go all out over America to bring this new legislation into being and to insist that it will be vigorously enforced, once it is passed, for there is still a gulf between legislation on the one hand and the enforcement of that legislation on the other. We see this in the South every day.

In 1954 the Supreme Court of Our nation rendered a decision declaring segregation unconstitutional in the public schools. Yet, twelve years later, only 5.2 per of the Negro students of the South are attending integrated Schools. We haven’t even made one per cent progress a year. If we continue this pace it will take about 96 more years to integrate the schools in the South. There is still a gulf between legislative and judicial decrees and the actual enforcement of them. It seems to me that an alive, relevent church should go all out to see that legislation becomes a reality and that it is vigorously enforced once it exists.

A second myth that we must deal with is that of exaggerated progress. Certainly we have made progress in race relations. And I think we can all glory that things are better today than they were ten years ago or even three years ago. We should be proud of the steps we’ve made to rid our nation of this great evil of racial segregation and discrimination.

On the other hand, we must realize the plant of freedom is only a bud and not yet a flower. The Negro is freer in 1966, but he is not yet free. The Negro knows more dignity today than he has known in any period of his history in this country, but he is not yet equal. There still are stubborn, difficult problems to deal with all over the country. I’m appalled that some people feel that the civil rights struggle is over because we have a 1964 civil rights bill with ten titles and a voting rights bill. Over and over again people ask, what else do you want? They feel that everything is all right.

Well, let them look around our big cities. I can mention one where we’re working now, not to say that it’s the worst city in the United States, but just to reveal the problem that we face.

( a descriptive summary of the current crisis in Chicago in 1966…)

Again, this is true in cities all over the country. These are stubborn, difficult problems, and yet they are problems that must be tackled, for I need not remind you of the dangers inherent therein. There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a large segment of individuals within that society who feel that they have no stake in it, who feel that they have nothing to lose. These are the people who will riot, these are the people who will turn their ears from pleas for non-violence. For the health of our nation, these problems must be solved. In the areas of housing, schooling, and employment there is still a great deal that must be done.

We’ve come a long, long way; we still have a long, long way to go and action programs are necessary. I’ve heard it said that the day of demonstrations is over; this is something that we hear a great deal. Well, I’m sorry that I can’t agree with that. I wish that I could say the day of demonstrations is over, but as long as these problems are with us, it will be necessary to demonstrate in order to call attention to them. I’m not saying that a demonstration is going to solve the problem of poverty, the problem of housing, the problems that we face in the schools.

It’s going to take something much more than a demonstration, but at least the demonstration calls attention to it; at least the demonstration creates a kind of constructive crisis that causes a community to see the problem and causes a community to begin moving toward the point of acting on it. The church must support this kind of demonstration. As the days unfold, I’m sure that we will need this more.

People talk about the long hot summer that’s ahead. I always say that I don’t think we have to have a long, hot violent summer. I certainly don’t want to see it because I hate violence and I don’t think it solves any problems. I think we can offset the long, hot, violent summer with the long, hot, non-violent summer. People are huddled in ghettos, living in the most crowded and depressing conditions. They need some outlet; some way to express their legitimate discontent. What is a better way than to provide non-violent channels through which they can do it? If this isn’t provided they are going to find it through more irrational, misguided means.

So the non-violent movement has a job to do, in providing the non-violent channels through which those who are caught in these conditions can express their discontent and frustration.

Now let me say that I’m still convinced that non-violence is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and human dignity. And I’d like to say just a word about this philosophy since it has been the underlying philosophy of our movement. It has power because it has a way of disarming the opponent. It exposes his moral defenses, it weakens his morale.

And at the same time it works on his heart and on his conscience, and he just doesn’t know what to do. If he doesn’t hit you, wonderful. If he hits you you develop the quiet courage of accepting blows without retaliating. If he doesn’t put you in jail, that’s very nice, nobody with any sense loves to go to jail. But if he puts you in jail you go in that jail and transform it from a dungeon of shame into a haven of freedom and human dignity.

Even if he tries to kill you, you develop the inner conviction that there are some things so precious, some things so eternally true that they are worth dying for. If a man has not discovered some thing that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live. There’s another good thing about non-violence: through it a person can use moral means to procure moral ends. There are still those who sincerely believe that the end justifies the means, no matter what the means happen to be. No matter how violent or how deceptive or anything else they are. Non-violence at its best would break with the system that argues that. Non-violence would say that the morality of the ends is implicit in the means, and that in the long-run of history destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends. So since we are working toward a just society in this movement, we should use just methods to get there. Since we are working for the end of a non-violent society in this movement, we must use non-violent means and methods to get there. Since we are working for an integrated society as an end we must work on an integrated basis on our staffs and civil rights organizations so that we don’t get to racial justice and integration through the means of black nationalism.

Another thing about this philosophy which is often misunderstood and that it says that at its best the love ethic can be a reality in a social revolution. Most revolutions in the past have been based on hope and hate, with the rising expectations of the revolutionaries implemented by hate for the perpetrators of the unjust system in the old order. I think the different thing about the revolution that has taken place in our country is that it has maintained the hope element and at the same time it has added the dimension of love. Many people would disagree with me and say that love hasn’t been there. I think we have to stop and talk about what we mean in this context because I would be the first to say that it is nonsense to urge oppressed people to love their violent oppressors in an affectionate sense. And I’m certainly not talking about that when I talk above love standing at the center of our struggle. I think it is necessary to see the meaning of love in higher terms.

The Greek language has three words for love – one is the eros, another is the word filio, and another is the word agape. I’m thinking not of eros, or of friendship as expressed in filio, but of agape, which is understanding, creative, redemptive good will for all men, an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. When one rises to love on this level, he loves a person who does the evil deed while hating the deed. I believe that in our best moments in this struggle we have tried to adhere to this. In some strange way we have been able to stand up in the face of our most violent opponents and say, in substance, we will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with our soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you.

We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail and we will still love you. Threaten our children, bomb our homes, send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hours and drag us out on some wayside road and beat us and leave us half dead; and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you.

Send your propaganda agents around the nation and make it appear we are not fit morally, culturally or otherwise for integration and we will still love you. But be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. And one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves, we will so appeal to your heart and your conscience that we will win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory. This is our message in the non-violent movement when we are true to it.

I think it is a powerful method and I still believe in it. I know that it will lead us into that new day. Not a day when we will seek to rise from a position of disadvantage to one of advantage, thereby subverting justice. Not a day when we will substitute one tyranny for another. We know that a doctrine of black supremacy is as evil as a doctrine of white supremacy. We know that God is not interested merely in the freedom of black men and brown men and yellow men; but God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race. He is interested in the creation of a society where all men will live together as brothers and every man will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. With the non-violent method guiding us on, we can go on into that brighter day when justice will come.

I talk a great deal about the need for a kind of divine discontent. And I always mention that there are certain technical words within every science which become stereotypes and cliches. Modern psychology has a word that has become common – it is the word maladjusted. We read a great deal about it. It is a ringing cry of modern child psychology; and certainly we all want to live the well adjusted and avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities.

But I must say to you this evening, my friends, there are some things in our nation and in our world to which I’m proud to be maladjusted. And I call upon you to be maladjusted and all people of good will to be maladjusted to these things until the good society is realized. I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry . I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few, and leave millions of people perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of prosperity. I must honestly say, however much criticism it brings, that I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, and to the self-defeating effects of physical violence.It is no longer a choice between non-violence and violence: it is now a choice between non-violence and non-existence.

….

Yes, I must confess that I believe firmly that our world is in dire need of a new organization – the International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. Men and women as maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day, cried out in

words that echo across the centuries – “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” As maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln, who had the vision to see that this nation could not survive half slave and half free. As maladjusted as Thomas Jefferson, who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery, cried in words lifted to cosmic proportions – “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. That They are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” As maladjusted as Jesus of Nazareth, who could say to the men and women of his day “he who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.” Through such maladjustment we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man, into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.

Let me say in conclusion that I have not despaired of the future. I believe firmly that we can solve this problem. I know that there are still difficult days ahead. And they are days of glorious opportunity. Our goal for America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s. Before the Pilgrim fathers landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before Jefferson etched across the pages of history the words that I just quoted from the Declaration of Independence, we were here. Before the beautiful words of the Star Spangled Banner were written, we were here. For more than two centuries our forbearers labored here without wages. They made cotton king. They built the homes of their masters in the midst of the most oppressive and humiliating conditions. And yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to grow and develop.

If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery couldn’t stop us, the opposition that we now face will surely fail. We’re going to win our freedom because both the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of the almighty God are embodied in our echoing demands.

And we can sing We Shall Overcome, because somehow we know the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. We shall overcome because Carlyle is right – “no lie can live forever.” We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right – “truth crushed, will rise again.” We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right:

“Truth forever on the scaffold/Wrong forever on the throne/Yet that scaffold sways the future/ And behind the dim unknown/Standeth God within the shadow/Keeping watch above his own.”

With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. We will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood, and speed up that day when all of God’s children all over our nation and the world will be able to walk the earth as brothers and sisters, and then we can sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual – “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last.”

Thank you.

 

Reprint: Letter From a Birmingham Jail by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

April 16, 2013 - 2:18 pm 46 Comments

As many people in our country will be eagerly lining up to watch the wonderful film, Selma, I feel that it is important to read more of the words from Dr. King speeches and especially this inspiring and challenging letter that he wrote during one of his incarcerations.

Personally, I feel that it one of the most important letters in American history. It is an urgent plea to my brother and sister clergy to awaken the call to a transformative ministry, rather than remain safely a part of the status quo, or remain content with modest outreaches and polite, non controversial forms of protests. His words have been a formative source from my prophetic ideas and actions all through my ministry…. Peter

 

Letter from a Birmingham Jail
16 April 1963

 

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle–have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,

King, Martin Luther King, Jr.

New Pentecost? From The Introduction to Spirit, Time, and The Future

June 12, 2011 - 3:21 pm 89 Comments

Introduction: A New Pentecost Awaits

The Holy Spirit has within her presence and potentials, a restless, powerful, and urgent expectation of continually giving birth to a new reality. This new Spirit-infused reality is both inclusive and paradoxical; Its effects are both individual and social, personal and cultural. The impulses and directives once they are actively acknowledged and released can be experienced as either gracious or tense. These urgings can be genuinely inspiring, and once they are felt, are life changing and undeniable.

 

At times, the release or re-birthing of these energies and principles can appear dramatic and challenging in its chaotic, alchemical, and transformative demands. As Spirit, the omnipresent energies and gracious expressions of God can be universally experienced. Succinctly, She can best be experienced and understood as the source of vitality, wisdom, and compassion. However, while available to all, most often it is the willing and the receptive who acknowledge this truth most readily. They are the more open and vulnerable to sensing and to experiencing God’s omnipresence as being a sustaining and loving reality that lives within and among us.

 

The new Millennia has dawned, but it has not yet become a conscious and widely acknowledged part of our dominant culture. The activity of The Spirit has not been perceived widely in our prevailing religious church practices. She has not been given serious regard in our current theological and liturgical understandings. It is also true that tracking carefully the turns of time and calendars does not guarantee the Spirit’s appearance as a growth in awareness or an advance in consciousness. While it remains true that the greater manifestations of the Spirit are continually available, yet most often they will lie latently within time or go ignored and unused in our lives.

 

Despite the intense and unsettling struggle we can easily witness all around us, we need not give up hope. When we consider the continual wrestling we encounter with the imposing ethically dark forces of human whim and will, the entrenchment within resistant and powerful patriarchal systems and as condoned by cultural inertia, we are tempted by feelings of resignation. However, by looking deeper, and searching heartfully, we can find that we are continually supported by those glimpses of increasing awareness. Our sense of hope can be restored by acknowledging the increase in spiritual investigations, and by our willingness to actively question and to reverently wonder. In that searching, and by that willingness, we promote a more constant access to supernal qualities of light, hope, and truth.

 

The evidence for establishing a new consciousness is becoming more available and more widely recognized in contemporary culture. If it is true that a new awareness is dawning, then as more people consciously attune their lives and actions to its insights and demands, it will certainly become progressively better known. Across the wide spectrum of human thought and spiritual practice, we can be assured that this new manifestation of Spirit will be revealed and Spirit will invite and extend Her influences into every home, and into every heart.

 

The Spirit is brooding over the world (Deuteronomy 32), and She is ready to hatch her offspring— the women and men of God who will fully recognize her, will see the Spirit as a tripartite source: First, as a world creating, Spirit acts as our indwelling vital and dynamic presence; Second, as a sustaining source for a shared relational wisdom and social experience; Third or lastly, as an ethical imperative for meaningful social reform and for ecological repair/transformation.

 

When individuals invite these energies and heed the influences of the Spirit, they open themselves to those life- transformative explorations and move consciously towards a greater commitment to pneumatic living or participating in a Spirit centered life.

 

To the degree that this Spirit’s invitation is welcomed, affirmed, and embodied, there will be an increase in compassionate awareness. This inbreaking spiritual energy will broaden and deepen our social conscience as well as enliven our spiritual imagination. From our receptivity, we can reinforce our insights personally and then work together to courageously transform them into necessary and ethical actions. The result will be an alchemical and gracious reordering of spiritual perceptions and baseline ethical realities. This realignment to Spirit will work collectively to foster a large scale cultural re-birthing- bringing forth a broader, and deeper comprehension of the Spiritual dimensions of our daily human existence.

 

How this Spirit centered effects are to manifest themselves, or how they will become more widely known and then more easily assimilated is not yet fully clear. What we can witness and affirm is that the cracks in our world’s icy indifference, in our rampant Western egotism, and all the deep veined fissures of cultural isolation that previously divided humanity from itself, are cracking open more readily than the polar ice caps! The indifference and isolation are giving way to the need for developing more cultural interdependence. Such compassionate cooperation will be a hallmark of this new age or coming consciousness. Because of the increasing cultural disillusionment that we can see running blatantly throughout our society, a tipping point or a crisis point is rapidly becoming necessary. Perhaps we can say, as a supernal counterbalance or as a gracious response to them, Spirit and all her ameliorative effects will be brought closer and become more available to our daily social awareness.

 

One author, Donald Gelpi,2 puts it in these words:

 

 

“A contemporary pneumatology faces then a formidable task. In order to counteract those forces that stifle Spirit awareness, it must prophetically challenge individuals and communities to rend their hearts and open themselves to the illumination of the Spirit.”

 

 

It is our crisis and our opportunity, our social demands and our soulful urgings that will move us into confronting this formidable task. One of the intentions of this book is to contribute to the background information and to the greater understanding of these powerful and dynamic forces. It is my goal to begin to outline how the Spirit works, and to clearly acknowledge the cultural changes that would be necessary to usher in a genuine Age of the Spirit.

 

Increasingly over the recent decades, our contemporary culture has written about the dramatic and idealistic possibilities of cultural change. Accordingly to current forecasts, these changes are thought to commence or to correspond to the date and time that is outlined in the Meso-American Mayan calendar. The time when such culturally predictive signs and expected wonders will seemingly occur will be on December 21, 2012. Now it is important to state that this wish for change or cultural transformation is not new! Similar to the recent, vain imaginations and hopes for a new spiritually inspired the social order linked to the Harmonic Convergence in 1987. (And even without appealing the wildly speculative and obtuse claims of the latest group of Nostradamus interpreters) We can easily see this American cultural and religious tendency dating as far back in Protestantism in North America and most notably with the Millerites3 in 1834. They were the religious sect who assembled on a New York Mountain-top; It seemed as if there was an expectation of calamity or collapse, of some impending doom, accompanied by celestial catastrophes, and at the end of such tribulation, there would be some arcane but nonetheless some Scripturally predicted and religiously assured form of divine deliverance! Each century, or so it seems, arrives with its own version of a Second Coming! These largely erroneous predictions abound in Western Millennial literature, and are wrapped up in the personal revelations of religious leaders who are “enraptured” 4 with their own world-view! Somehow, they are able to cajole and convince their followers into believing in its imminent appearing! Modern media has often been a willing, uncritical, and enthusiastic ally to these controversial and often unfounded assertions.

 

Without going into an extensive Biblical exegesis, or a rigorous religious examination of comparative texts, let me state clearly that there are no dangerous religious books per se, only dangerous interpretations. Those who lack a historical, and most importantly, an imaginative and metaphorical understanding of Scripture, are primarily to blame for being the source of such fear and apprehension! Those who would take a literal or fundamentalist approach to any text are the same ones who are most prone to insult and alarm. These same panicked individuals or the same fear fueled groups, are the ones who are the most likely to proclaim their distress to others. There is an uncanny and unfathomable desire to sound the alarm- particularly when the warnings are based on their own version of all the disastrous effects that are to come!

 

As for those dire warnings that created such alarm and panic in 2012, even the Mayans themselves are at odds with the current rash of books and predictions that offer dramatic warnings and portents of doom. As the long, extended article 5 cited in the end notes of this paper names it, our Western Christian understandings of the religious life, its examples and archetypes have been “exhausted.” This observation is one of my key concerns. Our Western religious language has been stripped of its power to proclaim dynamic and transformative messages. Because of this accepted infirmity, and the inability for conventional approaches to Western spirituality to inspire our culture, as I see it, the time is ready, even overripe, for a “New Pentecost” among us….

 

It is my contention that these changes are not literally connected to a specific time or place; they are not limited to a specific date in calendar or hour of clock time. When we are dealing with all the dire and scary predictions that we have been popularly given, first we have to make objective and scientific allowances for those uncontrollable events such as shifts in the tectonic plates that cause earthquakes, etc. That should quell some of more fantastic fears based on some supernatural punishment or fear. Next, comes the humble and honest admission that there are some events and changes that remain well beyond our human control. This humility and honesty can encourage the responsible and ethical imperative to learn how to cooperate, and to learn how best to prepare ourselves to respond to these cataclysmic events as effectively and as compassionately as we can.

 

However, there is a larger, more harsh admission to be made: Most, if not all of the social crises and environmental dilemmas we now face are humanly authored, and they are culturally created. These systemic imbalances and the shifts in our planet’s ecological extremes are primarily perpetuated by our dominant myopic social priorities. It is a case where our ethics controls our climate, and that our weather imbalances are being directed by our secular and monetary values.

 

On the positive and transformative side, Spirit is manifest whenever the heart is warmed and whenever the will is informed. I believe that our lives can be activated to receive the spiritual impulses of grace and change, and then we can, as a result of that leavening, act to make those effects evident in our lives. From our individual transformations, we can come together and apply it as a social force within our culture.

 

The aim of this book is to be an updated, expanded consideration of the depth and dimensions of the Holy Spirit. It will offer new perspectives without losing sight of its original, linguistic definitions and will recount some of the wider understandings that are to be found within our Western Judeo-Christian heritage. This concern for keeping a consistent dialogue with theology, however, is not a defensive, turgid, or a brittle one. It will align itself with a progressive working definition from both theological research and the writings of depth psychology that holds to a more inclusive and universal understanding. As such, it freely goes beyond the traditional dogmatic definitions and any of the narrowly accepted orthodox scope of language and its conforming beliefs. Consequently, the ideas expressed will be along a line of thoughtful consideration that never loses touch with its foundational integrity. As an inclusive theological overview, this research affirms that the Spirit always has been and will remain an omnipresent correspondent with every archetype that affirms and honors her place, her possibilities, and her potentials.

Advice and Admonitions on Church in America: Radical Reflections on the Words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

January 15, 2011 - 4:13 pm 120 Comments

“… we must not forget that there were three men crucified on Calvery’s hill… two for immorality and theft, living below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, for truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. So, after all, maybe the South, the nation, and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

… Things are different now. The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things just as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century

. I am meeting young people everyday whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright disgust.

Maybe again, I have been too optimistic, Is organized religion too in extricable bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Maybe I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ecclesia, and the hope for our world.”

from Letters From The Birmingham Jail

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

As I see it, without a willingness to consider becoming creative extremists, the mission and vision of any spiritual and/or religious group is at risk of never developing beyond being an irritant to the status quo, a socially troublesome but treatable rash, that will easily be placated and then ignored.

With being willing to become more “creatively maladjusted” is there enough of a sense of dignity and justice that makes any person or group capable of presenting the dis-ease and lament of the people of God effectively and powerfully enough to those who oppose them and who, by patriarchal religious and often penitential tradition and their theological assertions have effectively have controlled them.

Throughout the centuries of Western civilization, churches have come to occupy places of religious prominence and cultural importance. There is an undeniable historical reality that informs us… But that fact of culture and history cannot limit our understanding of what a church is, or what it stands for in our respective communities. Just as it is certain that there is a need for our churches to stand against any intrusions by government concerning one’s right to worship as one sees fit, and to remain separate from mutual entanglements, so, too, is it important for churches to assert their ethical presence in a community. As I see it, our progressively minded churches stand as stately sentinels; they can act as the guardians of individual freedom, and stand watch over the issues of justice and compassion in all civic affairs and interpersonal relationships.. In a world that seems to have lost its moral compass, our inclusive churches can act decisively to promote a concern for corporate responsibility, governmental accountability, and personal ethics. Furthermore, their presence in any conservative community acts as a vibrant religious alternative; a place that promotes freedom and safety, dialogue and self discovery, along the many diverse paths of human and spiritual inquiry towards greater comprehension and understanding. Our progressive and inclusive communities offer a welcoming and affirming environment that promotes a variety of opportunities for rational exploration, self discovery, and personal affirmation, which was traditionally aligned with the idea of the ripening and maturity of one’s soul or awareness.

If King is right in his prophetic sense of where the church of our contemporary culture is today, then the world of culture, consciousness and church life is now, more than ever before, in need of creative extremists. The time for timidity is over; it is Gospel based temerity that longs to assert itself- to present itself as being fully believable- fully and without reservation on the side of compassion, justice, equality and radical change.

If the mission and vision of a spiritual and/or religious group is sincere, it will have to be honest about the degree of obstinacy and frustration it faces in our larger religious world. The power of clerical inertia and the hierarchical arrogance that lies at the base of that power it held on to fiercely. Its desire for keeping up the dysfunctional status quo will remain stolid, intransigent, cold, and callous to the need for change, unless it go unheeded, and people vote to secede with their wallets and their feet! In that regard, it is not too strong to suggest that much of what functions in our culture as mainstream church, and what passes for a purposeful or meaningful spiritual life has already separated from the people of God it claims to serve!

Ask yourself this: If King waited until all the churches aligned with him on civil rights, then the battle would not yet have begun… If Ghandi waited until the English Raj and the Crown police demurred, or until they saw the errors of their inhospitable, dehumanizing ways, then India would still be a colony. So, too, if the faithful today have to ask ourselves this preeminent question: Are we willing to wait?

The history of the Western Church has evolved violently- It was through disagreement with the powers that were ensconced or enshrined, be they be creed, book, prince, or tradition, and that only through reformation, revolution and reform, did visionaries and dissenters have sufficient energy and impetus to create all the many varieties of church that can fill many almanacs and reference books.

As one radical example among many- Who is to say that the time is not right for an American Catholic Church? Or a People’s Catholic Church?

If there is an earnest desire to defeat the systemic evils that we clamor to remove, its arrogant crassness and the icy unresponsiveness that creates so much of the heartache in the women and men of conscience within the institutional church, then to simply protest by declining to agree is insufficient– a rash that is treated with indifference.

Only substantive action will create meaningful reform. Only with an acceptance that one has to be maladjusted to the status quo can there be enough energy generated that will definitively support deep reform and foster genuine change. Only with the affirming and encouraging creation of a new paradigm for spiritual community and ethical service, can the real or true ecclesia that King recommends come into being; Only then will energy of an inclusive and compassionate mission manifest, and only then can a vision that is clear and strong to be seen that exposes the long held, tolerated abuses of the Senex and patriarchal mentality. It is only then that we will arise as the hope for the world, and affirm ” Let the revolution of God’s people ” begin!

Guidelines for A Spiritual Community From Creation Spirituality: 12 Principles

November 15, 2010 - 2:00 pm 32 Comments

The Twelve Principles of Creation Spirituality

1. The universe is fundamentally a blessing.

Our relationship with the Universe fills us with awe.2. In Creation, God is both immanent and transcendent. This is panentheism which is not theism (God out there) and not atheism (no God anywhere).

We experience that the Divine is in all things and all things are in the Divine.

3. God is as much Mother as Father, as much Child as Parent, as much God in mystery as the God in history, as much beyond all words and images as in all forms and beings.

We are liberated from the need to cling to God in one form or one literal name.

4. In our lives, it is through the work of spiritual practice that we find our deep and true selves.

Through the arts of meditation and silence we cultivate a clarity of mind and move beyond fear into compassion and community.

5. Our inner work can be understood as a four-fold journey involving:

– awe, delight, amazement (known as the Via Positiva)
– uncertainty, darkness, suffering, letting go (Via Negativa)
– birthing, creativity, passion (Via Creativa)
– justice, healing, celebration (Via Transformativa)

We weave through these paths like a spiral danced, not a ladder climbed.

6. Every one of us is a mystic.

We can enter the mystical as much through beauty (Via Positiva) as through contemplation and suffering (Via Negativa). We are born full of wonder and can recover it at any age.

7. Every one of us is an artist.

Whatever the expression of our creativity, it is our prayer and praise (Via Creativa).

8. Every one of us is a prophet.

Our prophetic work is to interfere with all forms of injustice and that which interrupts authentic life (Via Transformativa).

9. Diversity is the nature of the Universe.

We rejoice in and courageously honor the rich diversity within the Cosmos and expressed among individuals and across multiple cultures, religions and ancestral traditions.

10. The basic work of God is compassion and we, who are all original blessings and sons and daughters of the Divine, are called to compassion.

We acknowledge our shared interdependence; we rejoice at one another’s joys and grieve at one another’s sorrows and labor to heal the causes of those sorrows.

11. There are many wells of faith and knowledge drawing from one underground river of Divine wisdom. The practice of honoring, learning and celebrating the wisdom collected from these wells is Deep Ecumenism.

We respect and embrace the wisdom and oneness that arises from the diverse wells of all the sacred traditions of the world.

12. Ecological justice is essential for the sustainability of life on Earth.
Ecology is the local expression of cosmology and so we commit to live in light of this value: to pass on the beauty and health of Creation to future generations.

 

The Seed of Life- An Easter Sermon ( inspired by studies in Creation Spirituality)

April 13, 2017 - 11:49 am Comments Off on The Seed of Life- An Easter Sermon ( inspired by studies in Creation Spirituality)

The Seed of Life
An Easter Sunday Sermon
The Reverend Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.
As most of us know, many of the parables used images and metaphors from nature. Jesus used those agricultural stories for ethical instruction, or to increase personal and spiritual awareness, often inserting references to the natural processes of growth and change. Many of these stories… Like The Mustard Seed, or the Sower, are among the most central, beloved, and familiar teaching stories we remember from either our childhood instruction or from our adult study as a part of our liberal religious heritage.
Easter reminds all of us of our seed potential. Jesus taught about how the Kingdom or Queendom of God can grow within each of us, and that it can also take root and grow among us as a community. We can extend this metaphor to say the human potentials for greater intelligence, creativity, ethics, and compassion can also grow within us and become known to us.
The great 13th century mystic and German advocate for women’s rights, Miester Eckhart put it this way: He stated that “the seed of God grows into God… Let yourself go, let God be God in you.” That is, we are to let false selves or our egos go, and then by making room in our awareness, we invite principles and ideals that are more ethical and spiritual to grow graciously and persistently … Steadily changing, evolving, or transforming us into our larger, greater, higher selves.
Similarly, our children can be seen as seeds of ourselves… Growing and greening with life, they are guided by our active love and care, growing into the fullness of their humanness. Through the ongoing guidance of family, church, and school, they are cultivated, and will grow into their best potentials for their lives.
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In this way, we can see that growth, itself, is more than a biological process; it is the changing, ripening awareness that serves to bridge or connect us to each other and to an interdependent life on earth.
Through a natural growth in our expanding awareness, we lose the concept of being separate, and we come to realize that our lives depend on a common reality, that there is a desire for unity within each human heart.
As our growth continues, these metaphors accompany us… We come to realize that everything that is alive is connected through tendrils of grace, by common roots of experience, by branches of concern, by leaves of wisdom, and we can understand the fruits of deeper understanding as those motives, desires, and aspirations we humans hold, reach, and can share…
The evolutionary biologist Gregory Bateson believes that there exists a common source of intelligence… That there is a universal, cellular pattern, that connects… connects us to all of the Creation, and to the universe where we live. In this way, we are never apart, separate, alone…
Another scholar, the geologian Thomas Berry, states it this way:
” We bear the universe in our being, just as the universe bears us in its seeding.” From the ancient mystics to contemporary theoretical physics, from the origins of life, to the discovery of its component parts, we become more closely connected, more aware that humanity shares one spirit, that all the creatures, that all life is connected through the patterns of God or the good, and that there are important and crucial breakthroughs that happen to us; that change our perceptions, and increase our appreciation, devotion, and our sense of sustaining reverence that links eons to ions, solar systems to solar plexus, science to soul.
Seeds, then, can be seen as acting much like human beings… They are like our families, churches, neighborhoods, even nations. Their life cycle teaches essential and inescapable lessons about the shared nature of growth, death, resurrection.
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Seeds or cells, be they political or biological, personal or communal are systems or patterns of connection. The patterns carry within themselves, predictive DNA… They are the patterns of destiny and demise, discovery and determination. Seeds and cells also carry within them the demands of change: that every living thing, every family, group, or organization will, of its own necessity, need to adapt, need to redefine itself… Often the seed , group or organism needs to go through its own decline and death, on the way towards its own restructuring and resurrection…
People, like societies, empires, even planets and stars are faced with an ultimate choice: rot or grow, change or die. While this sounds like a harsh truth, it is fair and just, because it applies universally, and can be seen as an agent of transformation in that it bears within its pattern, a compassionate promise- that as we adapt, we survive; as we adjust, we come to understand, as we affirm, we learn what traits, qualities and ideals we wish to support, and which ideas and ideals, which principles and purposes, will work effectively to encourage us to thrive and grow.
Seed casings must burst and die to its old encased ways… Being in contact with the earth, and the elements, encourages the process of softening, then breaking open, set its roots, and then direct its stems and shoots upward and outward and allow its leaves to unfold towards the Sun… Inactive pods, dormant seeds are like our old ways of staying content, staying safe, staying dormant, then when they become exposed to the light and other forces that compel change, we will feel unsettled, anxious while on the way to bringing ourselves into a new awareness and becoming comfortable with an emerging new identity. Identity gives stability without holding the new growth static, and the stems or ideas of further development and exploration push out from the old bark, or release the old stems to make them give way to new leaves of emotion and discovery…

4
The old protective shell that once insulated them from change falls off, replaced by a new dynamic faith in possibilities, and growth towards a new sense of its potentials for greater interconnection and larger unfoldment.

The seminal message of Easter teaches that we must die before we can be reborn. In the process of dying, we are being transformed into new creatures. And when we are changed by our ethical and spiritual realizations, we mature into becoming resurrected with new views of life; new views of family, new views of church, neighborhoods, countries, a new sense of cooperation with the world and with one another.

Both seeds and souls can bear good fruit once the hard shells of our past become broken and a new sense of a shared heart becomes encouraged to grow within us. I affirm and I believe that The Earth is holy, and that all the seeds of God- human, animal, vegetable are connected, are sacred. [What has been seeded is the capacities for conviction and for conscience which often manifest as wonder, awe, dedication, devotion and love that serves to renew and regard nature and our community as precious, valuable, and worthy of our time and care.]
Easter reminds us that the seed or source of God or good is within us… And as it grows, there is a renewed sense of inspiration, commitment, and caring that works together to foster and create a world of blessing-
for our children, our church, the earth, for all of life!

AMEN and So BE IT!

Opening Words:
Springtime Prayer

For the flowers that bloom about our feet,
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet
For the song of bird, and the hum of bees,
For all that we hear and see,
[Father- Mother God, Source, Author] in Heaven, we thank Thee!

For the blue of stream and the blue of sky,
For pleasant shade of branches high,
For fragrant air and cooling breeze,
For beauty of the blooming trees,
[Father- Mother God, Source, Author] in heaven, We thank Thee!
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Benediction:

As Jesus proclaimed, ” That we shall be known by our fruits!”
May this Easter time be the time for seeding new visions, and planting new foundations. May we choose to expand and grow- bearing witness to the fruits of great witness: To justice, equality, dignity, to caring and compassion.
As Easter signals the earth’s emergence and the hope of Spring, may we welcome a new manifestation of community, and the growing sense of mission and purpose among us.
PEL

Joys And Sorrows:
The Unitarian poet, e e cummings, stated that life, in its spiritual dimensions, “Easters in us …”
That the lessons and experience of Easter act as a continuing catalyst, as an annual verb of gracious action, as it cycles through our awareness and serves to guide our decisions and actions. It awakens us in Springtime to the need to rejuvenate, and to resurrect our spirits and to regenerate our hopes… For we are all given creative capacities, and we are all capable of transformation.
Each day we are reborn, and as we grow through life’s changes and challenges, we learn to die to the old ways of doing and defining our lives, and seek new expressions, new dimensions, new patterns for our growth…
Eastering is the name we can give to those changes… To the human process of becoming renewed and transformed…
This Eastering that takes place within us, also brings with its lessons and adventures, both suffering and celebration, wounds and wonders…
And the effects of this Eastering becomes best known to us through our relationships, as it comes to us whenever we connect or commit to someone or some group… be it through marriage or through church membership.
From those meaningful connections and commitments, we are both consoled and inspired, accepted and challenged, to be more fully human, to be more fully alive and in touch with how meaning and purpose can be found.
Each time we gather as a community, we bear witness to the full range of emotions that our Eastering has created within and among us…
As I see it, it is a special gift and blessing to gather to celebrate and to be
understood, to be invited to share your joys and your sorrows on this day…
Pastoral Story/Reflection: How Awareness and Perspectives Shape our Interpretations Or maybe better known as the Pope and the Janitor….

Many, many years ago, during the Middle Ages, there was a Pope who wanted to banish the Jews from Rome. He had an official edict or law drawn up that allowed him to ask anyone who wasn’t Catholic to leave the city…. And he was successful… Well, all except a small band of Jews who had built a synagogue just outside the Vatican walls…
They sent their rabbi, and he asked the Pope to reconsider…. The Pope, being a reasonable and fair man, offered him and his synagogue members a sporting proposition: Let the Jews appoint someone to debate him, and since there was a language barrier, it would be in Pantomime… Gestures…
The rabbi went back and reported this proposition with his congregation… They concluded that to turn down the debate meant sure banishment from Rome, but to accept such a debate would signal a sure defeat! What to do! Given that the Pope would be both the debater and the judge it seemed like a slim but necessary possibility… After weighing all this , they looked around for someone among them who would be willing to debate the Pope….
No one came forward…. That is, none of the Rabbis felt prepared, and no of the scholars felt capable, and so there didn’t seem to be anyone who was willing…. Then the janitor volunteered!
Well, said the rabbi, since no one else would come forward, the janitor it is!
When the Pope heard about this , at first he was insulted, but the debate would go on…!
There in the Vatican, with all of his ornate cardinals, bishops and priests around him, the Pope was ready for the debate… On the other side of the square, was a small band of simple people, dressed in black….
The pope stepped down from his throne, walked to the center, and faced the janitor who had come out of his group… And so the debate began….
The Pope raised one finger, and then he traced it across the heavens…. Then the janitor promptly responded by emphatically pointing downward towards the Earth….
The Pope seemed taken aback, puzzled, and a little amazed!
Then the Pope raised one finger and waved it in the janitor’s face… The janitor responded by waving one, then three fingers in the Pope’s face! The Pope was astonished!
Next, the Pope thrust his hand inside his cloak and pulled out an apple….
Whereupon, the janitor, reached inside his pocket, and pulled out a piece of matzo!
At this point, the Pope exclaimed in a loud voice, ” The janitor has won the debate! The law is revoked. The Jews can stay! A a cheer went up in the little band across the square!
Afterwards, the Pope met with his cardinals and scholars, and they were befuddled, confused… So they asked him, “Your Holiness, what happened?” The Pope wiped his brow because of the strain of the debate, and he exclaimed, that man must have been a scholar in disguise…
He was a brilliant theologian, a master in debate, as good as any of us!
You see, when I first raised my finger, I proclaimed that God reigns in the whole sky… But then he reminded me that the Devil rules over Hell, and judges those on earth….
The second time, I raised my finger to declare that God is One! Imagine my surprise when that fellow responded by first putting up one finger and then three- thereby proclaiming
Our own sacred teaching that God manifests himself as the Holy Trinity!
Well, now I knew that I will not get the best of him arguing theology, because he was a genius, so I tried to trick him by claiming that new fangled, non sensical theory I have been hearing about, that our earth is round, so I showed him an apple…. Well, then he took out a flat piece of bread, and proclaimed what we teach- that the earth is flat! So, I had to concede! He had won!
By now, the small band of Jews had returned to their beloved synagogue, and they were bewildered at their good fortune, and so they had to ask the janitor what had happened! The janitor was indignant. The whole thing, he said, was a bunch of rubbish!
Look, first that Pope moves his hand like he s telling all the Jews to get out of Rome!
So, I pointed downward to say, we, Jews are not going to move!
So then, he points his finger right at me… So I point back at him to warn him, if he said once we had to leave, I would say three times, we are going to stay!
Next, he pulls out his lunch, so I pulled out mine!
Ah, how our perceptions dictate their truth and their silliness to us….
May we all become more aware of how something really is rather than judge by how it appears!

Resources for Invocation/Opening Words and Benedictions/Closings Words

Glory Be To God

Glory Be to God for dappled things- For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; flinches wings; Landscape plotted and pierced- fold, fallow, and plough; And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange; Whatever is fickle, freckled, (who knows how?)
With swift; slow; sweet; sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him!

Gerald Manly Hopkins

Love Flows
Love flows from God to humanity without effort
As the birds glide through the air, without moving its wings-
Thus they go whithersoever they will, United in body and soul

Yet in their form separate- As the Godhead strikes the note, Humanity sings! The Holy Spirit is the harpist, and all the strings must sound, which are strung with love.
Mechthild of Megdeburg
I Thank You God

I thank you God for this most amazing day; for leaping greenly spirit of trees
And a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural, which is infinite
Which is yes…

(i who have died, am alive again today. And this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
Day of life and love and wings; and of the gay great happening illimitably earth)

How should tasting touching hearing seeing breathing any- lifted from the no of all nothing- human merely being doubt unimaginable You?
e e cummings

I see humanity as one vast plant, needing for its highest fulfillment only love, the natural blessings of the great outdoors, and intelligent crossing and selection.
In the span of my own lifetime, I have observed such wondrous progress in plant evolution that I look forward optimistically to a healthy, happy world as soon as its children are taught the principles of simple and rational living.
We must return to nature, and nature’s god.
Luther Burbank

Dr. Matthew Fox’s Pastoral Letter To Paul Ryan- Speaker of The House of Representatives

March 19, 2017 - 4:14 pm Comments Off on Dr. Matthew Fox’s Pastoral Letter To Paul Ryan- Speaker of The House of Representatives

Is Ryan a Religious Hypocrite?
A Priestly Letter to Speaker Paul Ryan from Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox

by Matthew Fox
March 13, 2017

Dear Speaker and Congressman Paul Ryan,

As a priest who commemorates his 50th year in the priesthood this year (28 as a Roman Catholic and 22 as an Episcopalian), and as your elder, I am writing you this letter because I am worried about your soul.

We all know you take good care of your body, working out frequently in the congressional gym we taxpayers provide for those in Congress, and that is a good thing. But I am concerned that you are neglecting your soul. It too requires work-outs and practice to stay healthy.

You claim to be a good and a practicing Catholic Christian but I have serious doubts that you are. Our Christian beliefs include these words of Jesus after all: “What does it profit a person if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?” These powerful words are surely important for anyone serving in public office or any other places of responsibility, whether in government or business or church or wherever. Yes, they even apply to your close buddies the Koch brothers, upon whom you depend so fully for your income and ideas and campaigns and job.

You see, another passage that grounds Catholicism and Christianity is found in Matthew 25: “Do it to the least and you do it to me.” Not to mention the Golden Rule which is found in Matthew 7:12 and is reflected in some form in every world religion since the time of Hammurabi: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Now I want to ask from a spiritual and theological perceptive how you can possibly reconcile these basic teachings of the Gospels with your continued efforts to create budgets for our entire nation that do the following:
Threaten to privatize and thereby destroy Social Security for elders and disabled people.

Destroy critical health support systems for the sick, handicapped, mentally disabled, and homeless by effectively scuttling Medicare and Medicaid.

Dismantle the EPA so that the rest of God’s sacred creation is imperiled by human narcissism (Pope Francis’ words). Have you not read Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si that teaches everyone—believer and non-believer alike—that we humans are not here to destroy but to support creation for the good of all beings on earth now and in the future? If you have studied this great document—as you must as a thinking believer—where is it to be found in your legislative agenda?

Another Biblical teaching is the warning that we are not to worship idols. But Wall Street is a purveyor of the idolatry of money. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer in that system. Pope Francis has spoken to that truth also when he speaks of the “savage capitalism” and the “god of money” that dominates so much of decision-making in western culture.

Your naked efforts to give more and more tax breaks to billionaires like your supporters the Koch brothers is proof that you have up to now chosen to be on the side of the savage capitalists and the gods of money. Have you no shame? Have you no conscience? Do your faith and Jesus’ teachings mean nothing to you because you are mesmerized by power and the powerful? Do you not know—or do you simply not care—that when the uber-rich do not pay their fair share, the struggling poor and middle class must pay from their meager resources to subsidize the rich? And when the uber-rich get still more tax breaks, the poor and middle class are forced to make up the difference?

I am worried about your soul. It is not too late to repent and start over. It is time to examine your commitment to the values that drive your heroes the Koch brothers, who want to worship the idols of Wall Street instead of caring for God’s sacred creation, and who refuse to pay their fair share of taxes to contribute to the common good.
And who buy the loyalty of politicians like you to commit sins against the poor and creation itself to make their fat wallets even fatter. Shame on you!

Yours are not the values I learned growing up in Wisconsin (indeed, my godmother lived in your hometown of Janesville) and growing up in the Catholic Church. How have you wandered so far off track? Was it the ridiculous narcissistic writings of atheist Ayn Rand that enticed you to surrender Gospel morality for Mammon? (Let me add that I admire many atheists for their ethics and morality but Ayn Rand is not one of them. Not by a long shot. She has rendered selfishness a virtue.)

I wish through this letter to awaken your soul. Your sweet Wisconsin smile and gym-toned body notwithstanding, through your choices you are dancing with Evil.

The gospels teach such truths. So too does Pope Francis who, as a Roman Catholic, you supposedly respect and listen to. Have you listened to his warnings and his teachings lately? Allow me to remind you of some of them.

The Pope minces no words when speaking of the divergence of wealth and poverty today. He speaks to globalization this way: “The globalization that makes everything uniform is essentially imperialist…it is not human. In the end it is a way to enslave the nations.”[i] Is globalization enslaving the nations? It seems to me that much of Trump’s success as a candidate was built around this very idea—only his solutions seem to me to be dark indeed. What is your agenda, Mr. Speaker, about this “inhuman” globalization that is hurting so many citizens of our country and beyond?

Pope Francis says: “Christianity condemns both Communism and wild capitalism with the same vigor”[ii] and one needs to reject the “wild economic liberalism we see today” and “seek equal opportunities and rights and strive for social benefits, dignified retirement, vacation time, rest, and freedom of unions.” [iii] Are you on board with this set of values?
Or are you in the camp of “savage capitalism?” Why do you want to destroy the dignified retirement of American people by diminishing Social Security instead of building it up? And to destroy social benefits for the very poor and working classes while giving tax gifts to the super rich and corporations? And to eliminate a current health insurance program that provides assistance for many millions of people instead of improving it?

The Pope praises St. Francis because “he contributed an entire concept of poverty to Christianity against the wealth, pride, and vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time” and for this reason “he changed history.”[iv] Are you putting obstacles in the way of the wealth and vanity of the powerful in our day? Given your responsible position as Speaker of the House, why don’t you try to change history for the poor and neglected instead of for the 1% who are already over their heads in favoritism and success and (too much) power?

The Pope takes on the neocon preoccupation with “world terrorism” and the fear such language arouses when he declares that “human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.”[v] How important is that? He equates economic structures with terrorism. Yes, he is telling us that Wall Street terrorizes. Ask any Main Street citizen: we all feel the effects of this terror and that is why many in Main Street voted for Trump, out of fear of this terror from Wall Street. But your buddies the Koch brothers are those very terrorists the Pope is speaking of. Yes, how does it feel to be in bed with terrorists? And of course, Trump has turned his back on his promises to the working people and has appointed an unprecedented number of billionaires (terrorists) to head his cabinet positions.

The Pope also denounces the “flight of money to foreign countries” as a sin because it dishonors “the people that worked to generate” that wealth. [vi] He also condemns those who hide their wealth in off-shore accounts to avoid paying taxes that are so important for the common good. What are you doing to challenge those hiding their wealth in off-shore accounts to avoid taxes? Aren’t you in a powerful position to do something about that?

Pope Francis has said: “The option for the poor comes from the first centuries of Christianity. It is the Gospel itself.” And he has remarked that were he to preach sermons from the first fathers of the Church on the needs of the poor, he would be called a “Maoist or Trotskyite.”[vii] Are you leading legislation that puts an option for the poor in the forefront?

He says: “Human rights are violated by…unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.”[viii] Are you on the side of human rights and against economic structures that create huge inequalities? Or are you on board to actually increase those inequalities by passing legislation that gives tax breaks to the 1% who in fact need them the least? Pope Francis warns that “The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any human goal.”[ix] Where do you and your fat-cat donors stand on the subject of the “cult of money”?

We need, Pope Francis says, a “balanced social order that is more humane”[x] and that resists consumerism. Pope Francis says further that “Money has to serve and not rule.”[xi] It is a “savage capitalism” that teaches “the logic of profit at any cost” and exploitation of people.[xii] Where do you stand on the topic of “savage capitalism” and the cult of money? In your very responsible position as Speaker of the House what are you doing to address these important issues—issues that touch all the people in America, especially the downtrodden and left out? If you had addressed them before the 2016 election, maybe the strongman Trump would not have been able to tap into the frustration of as many blue-collar Americans as he did.

Finally, as a Catholic, where do you stand on the notion that corporations are people (see Citizens United and Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decisions)? Are you in bed with the neo-fascist Catholic members of the Supreme Court who, contrary to Catholic teachings, are telling us to believe that a corporation is a person? How could you possibly reconcile that with the teachings of the Church on the immortality of the individual soul and more? While we are on the subject of neo-fascist Catholics, where do you stand on Opus Dei?

Unfettered capitalism is, according to Pope Francis, a “new tyranny.” [xiii] Where do you stand on this new tyranny? What limits are you setting on unfettered capitalism by your legislative leadership? Are you keeping Dodd/Frank laws on the books? Says the Pope: “Today we are living in an unjust international system in which ‘King Money’ is at the center.” This “throwaway culture discards young people as well as its older people…..A whole generation of young people does not have the dignity that is brought by work.” A “diminishing of the joy of life” is the result of such idolatry. [xiv]

In his document entitled “The Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis speaks bluntly as all the prophets do. He says No—as all the prophets do. He denounces “trickle-down” economics as “never having been confirmed by the facts” and being built on a “crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power….Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”[xv] Where do you stand on trickle-down economics? Have you learned from its blatant failures? Are you aware how many Main Street citizens are “still waiting” for good wages and jobs to reach them?

Following are some of Pope Francis’ No’s presented in his own words:

1. No to an economy of exclusion….An economy of exclusion and inequality kills….Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.[xvi]

2. No to the new idolatry of money….While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few…..Self-serving tax evasion has taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits….Whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a defied market, which becomes the only rule.[xvii]

3. No to a financial system which rules rather than serves. Ethics is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person….Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.[xviii]

4. No to the inequality which spawns violence. [Violence happens not] simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear…..Evil crystallized in unjust social structures…cannot be the basis of hope for a better future.[xix]

And “NO” to the despoiling of Mother Earth about whose peril Pope Francis has written an entire encyclical. Clearly you have turned your back on the sacredness of the Earth as well: you support for the head of EPA a man who has shouted that he wants to destroy it, while you make ridiculous mumbles about climate change that you are not a scientist. Well, sir, isn’t that all the more reason to listen to scientists who do tell us that humans are bringing about climate change and the destruction of many, many species as well as the rising of the oceans? How can one be a Christian and not recognize the sacredness of creation?

Where do you stand, Speaker Ryan, on these issues that the Pope raises? How are you using your position of power and responsibility to alleviate the ills he addresses? Isn’t what the Pope says true, that the violence the current system provokes is one reason why many victims of this system voted for Trump—and even admire his violence?
Pope Francis speaks out against an “education that would tranquilize the poor, making them tame and harmless.” [xx] And he defines injustice as “evil.”

I pray that you may be converted and return to the teachings of Christ and the Church striving to teach in his name very soon. Time is running out for our species and you are in a position of trust and responsibility and leadership in our country at this time. Earn it!

Meanwhile, until you and your party pay attention at last to these basic issues, I as a Christian priest and theologian can only conclude that you are not at all a Catholic or a Christian but just one more hypocrite flaunting your bogus religion on your sleeve to garner more votes and stay in a cushy job while you sell your soul to the Koch brothers and other Wall Street misers. People who don’t have a clue about the “weightier matters of the Law—justice, compassion, good faith!” (Mt. 23:23) that Jesus preached, and who could not care less.

Jesus had something to say about that too, remember? It was strong stuff. He was speaking to you, Paul Ryan, and your fellow politicians when he said: “Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption. In the same way you appear to people from the outside like good honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness….You are the sons of those who murdered the prophets.” (Mt 23.27-28, 31).

I hope and pray that you and your fellow politicians, Mr. Ryan, so beholden to the rich and uber-rich, might heed Jesus’ words. And if not, at least do him the courtesy of not invoking his name to justify your lawlessness.

Sincerely in Christ’s name,

Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox

Notes:

[i] Jorge Maria Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka, On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the Twenty-First Century (Image Books, 2010), 158

[ii]Jason Berry, “Pope decrying ‘anesthesia of the heart’ heads to Brazil,” PRI, Public Radio International. 19 July 2013

<https://www.pri.org/stories/2013-07-19/pope-decrying-anesthesia-heart-heads-brazil>

[iii] Bergoglio 172

[iv] Bergoglio 231

[v] Mark Rice-Oxley, “Pope Francis: the humble pontiff with practical approach to poverty” The Guardian, Guardian News & Media Limited. 13 March 2013 <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/13/jorge-mario-bergoglio-pope-poverty>

[vi] Bergoglio 160

[vii] Michael Warren, Jenny Barchfield, Marcos Aleman, John Rice, “Pope Francis: Liberation Theology Priest Sees New Hope for Catholic Church,” Huffington Post, The Huffington Post. 28 April 2013 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/28/pope-francis-liberation-theology_n_3173986.html>

[viii] Oxley, “Pope Francis.”

[ix] Pope Francis. “To new Ambassadors of Kyrgyzstan, Antigua and Barbuda, Luxembourg and Botswana accredited to the Holy See (16 May 2013) | Francis.” Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 16 May 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2017 <http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2013/may/documents/papa-francesco_20130516_nuovi-ambasciatori.html>

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Naomi O’Leary, reporter, and Michael Roddy, editor, “Pope criticizes ‘Savage Capitalism’ on visit to food kitchen,” Reuters. 21 May 2013 <http://www.reuters.com/article/us-pope-capitalism-idUSBRE94K12K20130521>

[xiii] Eamon Javers, “Pope Francis: Capitalism “New Tyranny,” CNBC. 26 November 2013 <http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000221701>

[xiv] Hugh Bronstein, Reuters, “Pope Francis: ‘King Money’ system has failed unemployed youth, older people.” NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, 28 Nov. 2013. <http://www.nbcnews.com/news/other/pope-francis-king-money-system-has-failed-unemployed-youth-older-f2D11670341>.

[xv] Aaron Blake, “Pope Francis denounces ‘trickle-down’ economics, The Washington Post, Nov. 26, 2013.

[xvi] Pope Francis. The joy of the gospel (Evangelii gaudium): apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium of the Holy Father Francis to the bishops, clergy, consecrated persons and the lay faithful on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world. New York: Image-Crown Publishing, 2014, Kindle edition, 43

[xvii] Ibid., 44

[xviii] Ibid., 45

[xix] Ibid., 46

[xx] Ibid., 47

Matthew Fox is author of thirty-two books on spirituality and culture including Original Blessing, A Spirituality Named Compassion, The Reinvention of Work, Letters to Pope Francis, The Pope’s War, and most recently Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times.

tags: US Politics

Reprint and Commentary: The Path of Evolution by Fr. Richard Rohr

November 4, 2016 - 10:29 am Comments Off on Reprint and Commentary: The Path of Evolution by Fr. Richard Rohr

Reprint From The Writings and Reflections
of Fr. Richard Rohr, OSF

The Pattern of Evolution
Perhaps the reason it is so hard for us to see the evolution of the Cosmic Christ in our individual lives and in the arc of history is that this groaning and this giving birth (see Romans 8:22) proceeds by a process of losses and gains, and the losses are very real. There is no doubt that history goes three steps forward and two steps backward, but thank God there always seems to be a net gain. Even though we continue to see war, racism, classism, genocide, and ignorance, violence is actually declining. We may be more aware of the world’s suffering now than ever before, but as compared with previous periods in history, we are living in a relatively peaceful time.
Historically and to this day, it seems that when a new level of maturity is found, there is an immediate and strong instinct to pull backward to the old and familiar. Thankfully, within churches and society at large there is always a leaven, a critical mass, a few people who carry the momentum toward greater inclusivity, compassion, and love. This is the Second Coming of Christ: Christ embodied by people who know that hatred and greed are always regressive, and who can no longer live fearfully or violently. …
Teilhard de Chardin writes: “Everything that rises must converge.” In other words, higher levels of evolution are always a movement toward greater unity.
Along the way there will be differentiation and complexity, but paradoxically, that increased complexity moves life to a greater level of unity, until in the end there is only God who is “all in all” (see 1 Corinthians 15:28).
If it isn’t moving toward unity, it is not a higher level of consciousness.
But along with differentiation and complexity there will also be an equal push back, fear, and confusion. We see this in our current political climate in America and much of the world. The United States has suffered eight years of nonstop gridlock and opposition to any creative governance. It mirrors Newton’s Third Law of Motion that “every action elicits an equal and opposite reaction.” Today many people are reverting to tribal thinking, denial, fear, and hatred, rather than turning to compassionate, creative solutions to real challenges of poverty, climate change, and the many worldwide forms of injustice.
I highly recommend here any of the writings of Thomas Berry, who in many ways brings Teilhard de Chardin realistically forward because he has sixty more years of science, and also sixty more years of planetary push back, to bring to the present conversation. …”
Peter: While I had a great respect and appreciation for the insights of Fr. Rohr, I would also encourage reading books by my mentor, Matthew Fox, whose has provided a library of information about the Cosmic Christ, Creation Spirituality, inclusive spirituality, social justice and social change, and timeless wisdom, insights, and advice from the mystics for our personal and communal paths towards evolution… I would add that for many years I have seen the path of personal and cultural evolution to be a dynamic spiral… that could also include an upright cone that would symbolize the upward unifying purpose or the merging of mystery, metaphysics, and meaning… When working with people on their personal spiritual path, I introduce this as a way to explain how spirituality moves us towards a place of unity…

Sharing In God’s One Spirit

August 11, 2016 - 9:15 am Comments Off on Sharing In God’s One Spirit

Richard Rohr’s Meditation: Sharing in God’s One Spirit – pelanzillotta@gmail.com – Gmail

Sharing in God’s One Spirit
Sunday, August 7, 2016
The Holy Spirit is God’s very own life shared with us and residing within us (see John 20:22). When we pray, we are steadfastly refusing to abandon this Presence, this True Self, this place that already knows we are beloved and one with God. But our false “contrived” self is so needy that we must practice living in this presence through conscious choice (“prayer”) at least once, but preferably many times, every day. Contemplative prayer is “our daily bread” that keeps us nourished so we can dare to believe the Gospel, to trust the Divine Indwelling, and to remember our God-given identity. Gradually, we learn how to abide in this spacious place more and more, how to draw our strength, dignity, and solace from this Stable Source. When we live from this place of conscious unity, we are indestructible.
The True Self cannot really be hurt or offended. The false self–our egoic identity–is offended every few minutes. But if we notice when we take offence, and what part of us is offended (always a provisional identity), this will train us to gradually reside more and more in the Big Truth. (Most of John 14-16 circles around this message.) Thomas Keating charts conversion as a series of necessary humiliations to the false self.
In order to fully experience the intrinsic union we already have with God, who is Love, it seems that we need to first be love ourselves in some foundational way. We can only see what we already partly are, which is why I like to call it a mirroring process. Contemplation helps us to rest in this love; as we gradually take on the likeness of love, we will see love over there too. What you see is what you are. That’s why Jesus absolutely commanded us to love. This is necessary for the mirroring process to begin! Our inner state of love is alone able to receive and reflect the ultimate outer Love (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Sometimes people will come up to me and say, “Oh, Richard, you’re so loving!” But I know I’m not–and I know they are! They are seeing themselves in me. Spirit recognizes Spirit. To know the Truth, one must somehow be abiding in that Truth, and the deepest Truth of every human is Love, as we are created in the image and likeness of an infinitely Loving God (Genesis 1:26-27), which Christians call Trinity.
If we are in a state of negativity, what Julian of Norwich calls “contrariness,” we won’t be love or see love. We must watch for this contrariness–we all experience it quite frequently–and nip it in the bud. This contrary self often takes three forms: comparison (common in the female); competition (common in the male); and contrariness or oppositional energy (common in all of us). Our false self is actually relieved and empowered when it has something to oppose. The clearest identifier of untransformed people is that they are living out of oppositional energy, with various forms of comparing or competing, judging and critiquing. As long as we do this, we never have to grow up; we just show how others are wrong or inferior.
The True Self needs none of these games to know who it is. It is a child of God, sharing in God’s own Spirit, and its energy is foundationally positive and generative.
Gateway to Silence
God in me loves God in everything.
Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, True Self/ False Self (Franciscan Media: 2013), discs 2 and 4 (CD).

An Interfaith Prayer for A World Religions Service for Charleston and Orlando

June 27, 2016 - 11:55 am Comments Off on An Interfaith Prayer for A World Religions Service for Charleston and Orlando

An Inclusive Prayer for Remembrance
(an opening prayer for an interfaith service
The Charleston and Orlando tragedies)
June 26, 2016

Holy One, Source of All that which lives within, among, and beyond us; Hear our prayers of recalling your truth and remembering the value of Your sustaining love and care…

We are gathered here to recall those who have died, and to remember, that is will be up to us, the living, to actively honor their memory; We are being called back to our true selves, our best selves whenever we reflect on our sincere and lasting intentions for peace, benevolence, and understanding…

We are gathered to recall the essential facts of our lives- that we share this one world and our humanity as one. Together, we make its elevating possibilities manifest, and we also make visible its shortcomings for all to see… As Teilhard de Chardin puts it:
“[We are one, after all… you and I… Together we suffer, and together we exist, and together, we can heal… ]”

We gratefully admit that we have been given the gift of life, and what we do with it, is our gift back to You… for as Scriptures puts it, We love, because God first loved us… (I John 4)
The monk and mystic, Thomas Merton reminded us that there is a part of us, call it our souls or our hearts, that belongs entirely to God; It is the gift of a pure truth, unending affection, comfort, and affirmation… We must draw our actions from this!

Because of this great gift, there is no tragedy so big that it can rob us of hope, or steal away the resolve that knows, in our hearts, we can do better, we can love more deeply, and we must share it more widely- that this love we bear knows neither race nor gender, nor class, nor status; It cares little for political debates, unless they truly serve dignity, equality, and justice…

Holy One, the One Reality we share, we gather here this day to remember… and to know in our hearts, that we are to come together and grow beyond our illusions of our separate egos, and become, in Your name, one harmonious and loving whole;

We remember our fractured innocence, we know we can repair our wholeness, and we can come back together as friends, families, and as citizens to promote peace, and understanding.
We remember that we belong to one another as there only one race, one planet, and there is only one ultimate reality that binds humanity and the planet together- the love of good, God.

Only as we remember this truth, can we become strong enough to face any of our earthly fears… after all, you and I share this world, and we will make of it what we will…
That can be our motive here today… and everyday… that our actions are first directly by a shared compassion and we can choose to be unselfish and charitable towards all…

O Source of Truth, of Wholeness and Peace;
Hear our words this day, words spoken and sung that come from many sources, that will together express our shared hopes and universal desires… . Grant us a holy audition, so that we can hear, not just with our ears, but with our hearts…

May this time together, this time of recalling and remembering, stay with us, serving to initiate any needed changes, serving to strengthen our resolve for the future …

The future we wish to create and promote for our planet, for our lives, and for our children…

Amen; Salaam; Shalom; Namaste; Blessed Be!