Whatever one’s belief system, this is historically a good weekend to meditate on what makes a belief “true”. If I say I believe something, but don’t in fact, myself, act in accordance with it, what is the meaning and purpose of my belief? If I say I believe Someone loves me enough to suffer for me (and some believe die for me), but I accept that Someone’s love only to make myself feel better, and not in order to love those others in the world in need of a belief in A Love Without Strings Attached, what does that say about what I truly believe about the quality of a Higher Love?
As we look to what we say we believe, we often get stuck in the childish questions, like, “How has it changed me? How am I better a person? How does my future look brighter?” But the real questions to ask myself that the events commemorated in this weekend ask, the grown-up questions of The Christ are: “How does what I believe make me want to change the World? How does The Divine make me a better human being? How do I bring the future Kingdom of God to earth — now, today, here, for all — as The Christ did?”
If we aren’t suffering with others on Friday, and mourning for the whole world, the whole Earth on Saturday, we will never truly know what it is to celebrate life and resurrection on Sunday. No matter what one claims to believe, this is a good weekend to ponder as the philosopher might ask, What do we owe each other? And as the prophets or saints might ask, What would happen if some of us began to really believe in Love?
I got in trouble once teaching at a “Christian” school (my family reading this is thinking right about now, “only once?!?”). Well, I did have issues with a few of the places I worked at (yes, plural). I had a hard time shutting up about the fact that so many people at these “Christian” schools thought by sticking a label on ourselves and calling ourselves “Christian” or “evangelical” was enough. (You will get tired of my constantly putting quotation marks around the word Christian, but if you know anything about the differences between Christians and “Christians” or the differences between The Christ and “Christianity”, you will possibly understand why.) So, yeah, I didn’t mean to stir the waters, but I did mean to stick my oar in. I just couldn’t get around the fact that so many people wanted to label themselves “Christian” but at the same time felt that the label in no way should be allowed to effect their behavior or address the inconsistencies in their proclaimed and overriding worldview.
Don’t get me wrong, labeling one’s institution by a religious nomer is quite helpful. After all, how else do we get out of paying taxes on a business venture but still make sure it doesn’t matter if what we do or say is inconsistent with the worldview of that religion? But in terms of calling something “Christian” and actually letting it effect our relationships, our community, our ethics, our behavior, our systems, or our worldview, well, that all depends on whether you toe the company line and support the right team. It often depends entirely on whether you give a lot of money to said “Christian” institution or whether you are picking up on the current political trends. And sometimes, “Christianity” is reduced to the lowest common denominator of whether you are posting the currently accepted FB meme du jour.
However, it usually seems to me far too consistently, I am sad to say, that the most vocal and accepted formation of the religion of Christianity, at least here in America, has very little to do with the worldview as presented in the Bible and even less to do with the life of the guy we all claim to have gotten our name and lifestyle and beliefs from — The Christ. At any rate, actually living the life or comprehending the consequences of saying we want to follow Jesus, doesn’t seem to be part of the current trend in “Christianity” ala American worldview. Fun fact about this idea of “worldview”. I was told at one Christian college I was teaching at, that I shouldn’t use the word, “worldview” any more as young people no longer understood what that term meant. Call me flabbergasted, because I actually thought one reason I and others are hired to teach, is to well…. teach. And I actually had the nerve to think that when one is hired at a “Christian” school one is expected to have an understanding of what different worldviews are and what we are agreeing upon together are basic tenets of our own unique worldview.
So, yeah, I guess I got in trouble a few times or more for thinking out-loud. I have a problem. My mouth or the words I type on the computer just fall headlong into truth-telling. I just so darned often seem to have no control over the truth being blurted out. I have been told that speaking the truth is rude, judgmental, “unchristian”, and not nice. And when someone calls me one of those things I know I must be finally doing something right, because the guy I’m supposed to be following, The Christ, was rude, judgmental, definitely not Christian, and very often not at all nice. So anyway, about that one time…
I was an English teacher who also happened to be teaching a Bible class and I mentioned that one of the major themes in both Literature and the Bible is that of the conflict of Good versus Evil. And you know what? I got called into the administration and was sat down before the Sanhedrin, I mean, before the “evangelical” men and one token woman leading the school and they, with all the saccharine sweetness that unthreatened powerful people can always muster told me that I really shouldn’t use the term “evil”.
After I cleared the flies out of my dropped open mouth, I did let what I thought was an obvious truth pop out: “Isn’t the reality of Evil versus Good sort of the point of the Biblical worldview?” I didn’t actually understand their response through their hems and haws, so I can’t tell you what their counter argument was, but it didn’t matter for long; my days as a “Christian” there were numbered.
I was eventually let go from this school and one other I was actually an adjunct professor of at the time for allowing students to discuss the incompatibility of their Christian beliefs with newly elected Donald Trump (Who knew “Christians” had to believe in Republicanism no matter who the Golden Calf at the helm was?!?!). The other school couldn’t come right out and tell me why they let me go, but I was told by one of my few friends there, that the straw that broke their camels’ backs was that I had allowed my class to make a statement about gun violence in America by joining in the nation-wide School Walkout and Moment of Silence after the Parkland shooting (who knew that “Christians” had to be NRA-worshipping, do or die (literally) gun rights supporters?!). Well, Duh! Obs, not I!
I was clueless, and still am, because I honestly can not get my mind around the fact that helping each other see where we might have gone wrong is not kosher in today’s “Christian” circles (oh, that was fun to combine a Jewish term with the word Christian). Speaking truth or disagreeing with the in-crowd of “Christianity” in America today, is considered judging. That is you are judgingif the person you are trying to speak truth to labels himself a Republican Evangelical Christian and you are not one of those things. Or if you refuse to turn the Bible or Christian creeds into a referendum on American nationalism. And believe me, there is nothing worse, other than supporting a woman’s choice, than a woman who knows something about the Bible and Jesus and thinks it ought to effect how she lives.
But be of good cheer! You too can make judgement calls if you have correctly labeled yourself. It is NOT considered judging if a Republican is judging a Democrat or a person who was raised “Christian” is judging a person who was not raised Christian. It not considered judging if you are comfortable and you are judging someone who is struggling to make ends meet on minimum wage. Neither are you considered judgmental if you are a white person judging a person of color. None of those things is judging. And that is just the plain, real facts, folks, not the double-dirty-down claims presented by the fake media.
I guess a lot of what I keep hearing real “American Christians” believe and preach is not part of what I keep understanding the worldview as presented by the Bible and Jesus are. I guess that would make those things I keep thinking are the fundamental truths of a Christian worldview, actually in fact, just the claims of the fake Jesus, right? I mean, you couldn’t honestly be expected to believe in the actual words spoken by the actual Jesus or even attempt to follow the actual life lived by this actual person called Jesus, The Christ. I mean, c’mon? How would a real American Christian even begin to take seriously the radical Jew named Yeshua without a check account to his name, with a following of people who didn’t carry guns and wouldn’t know a smorgasbord from a water-boarding, and who began life from the wrong side of the border and ended it as justly executed common criminal? #notourAmericanJesus!
I honestly don’t recognize the “Christianity” of America today. I certainly don’t remember it being anything like this when I was first learning about it in the Sunday Schools of the Midwestern plains, in little churches where everyone knew everyone else and didn’t just see each other on Sundays but all week long too. Today, even the people I know who personally grew up right along side me in those same churches, are angry and entitled, afraid of some unknown changes they can’t control; they are prejudiced but unable to admit it, and they are convinced that America, not God is the foundation of their belief system. I understand all of that, and of course everyone, including I, have every single one of those issues. But what I can not understand is how they can keep using the Bible and person of Jesus to defend those attitudes when the Bible and Jesus are meant to change those attitudes in us. Jesus taught us that we should only let ourselves stay angry about injustice. He taught that if He, the Son of God was not allowed to be entitled, none of His followers were either. Jesus believed that every single human being was worthy of being called a child of God, that the true way of living in God’s Kingdom kind of Life was much more available for the sinner, the broken, the weak, and the minorities.
Jesus was quite clear right before he was put to death by Rome and the Moral Majority of his time, that there is no nation that belongs to God; there is no nation, state, or congregation that is “of this world” that is his kingdom. No, the Kingdom of Jesus and his followers is “not of this world” because those who want to live in The Way of God do not use fear, or anger, or entitlement, or prejudice as the means to bring about their ends or justify their beliefs. Jesus taught us to start living right now in a different kind of kingdom, a different kind of nation, a different kind of synagogue or church, a different kind of community. He taught us to be a very different kind of friend, neighbor, and enemy. And I just am gob smacked to know so many people who seem to have forgotten that; or who have decided they would rather have something else, some Golden Calf to comfort, some idol who has flesh and blood to follow, and tragically, some enemy they can hate and try to over-power. And often that enemy is merely a neighbor with a different label than they have given themselves. But they still think they are following Jesus. So the real question is, as Jesus asked his own disciples, “Who exactly do we think this Jesus person is?”
I mean, at some point way back probably about the time of the Crusades or the Inquisition or maybe as recently as the formation of the Moral Majority, most people just accepted that they didn’t have to actually follow the teachings of that wild-eyed, crazy Jewish Rabbi / Guru (who can’t have really been Jewish because he was “Christian”, right?). It must continually be such a relief to those in the current religious majority who want to label themselves, “little-Christs”, that the operative word is “little”. Just a little dab of Jesus will do ya’, as the old Brill Creme commercials used to assure us. People must just thank the God of the Hebrews (that old Jewish God that they no longer need since Jesus came along) that though basically Jesus came to show humans how to live, he never really expected us to do it. Just like that old God never expected Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree, or expected that the Hebrews would actually live-out the ideas for the perfect earthly community He gave them the instruction manual on.
Jesus very kindly got himself killed so we wouldn’t have to accept any responsibility for our actions as long as we said we believed he was God and that he rose again so we can go to heaven. If we said a little prayer and go to the right church and think it’s okay to kill adults and children but not fetuses, why, we are all set for a Christian America and a future Heaven some where far away from the planet we are destroying. And unless you are a big mouthed non-labeling person like I am, then it seems you don’t need to worry about any future or current judgment of your actions. I can’t quite figure out though, how today in America it seems that you can’t be judged if and only if, you vote Republican and attend church on Sundays even during a deadly pandemic. And I have noticed that as long as we keep paying salaries to the professional teachers and preachers who run the company businesses of Christianity and toe the trending company line no matter what those famous important rich “Christian” leaders do or say, then we’ll be okay; I mean after all, those top dogs do so much for America, they are national treasures. I mean, it is almost as if they are the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus time come back to life to guide us.
Thankfully, it doesn’t matter at all if any of this, or any of our current beliefs are completely incompatible with what Jesus or the Bible from the beginning in the book of Genesis to the end in the book of Revelation says is the real truth. We have gotten just too smart to buy into what the Bible and the Life of Christ reveals about human nature and the world of the Divine. We certainly are not meant to give up any national or individual or denominational power we have worked so hard to achieve. There is no way we are expected to be both American and humble servants of all. (Jesus was only one of those things, by the way.) No, we are not expected to change or be changed. That is a worldview, and we don’t believe in worldviews any more.
I recently splurged and bought myself “The Complete Jewish Bible”, a version by David H. Stern, who calls himself a Messianic Jew. That amazing and beautiful version of Tanakh and New Testimony is a great discussion for people much more knowledgeable than I. But each morning as I read it, I find myself tearing up as the names for God and God’s people, including Yeshua, The Jewish Messiah appear in my meditation. I have written before about the dangers of people who worship a book instead of a living God who changes with our understanding and Who is always Mysterious Being, not pocket-sized easy to please and control genie nor raging, abusive male household-leader nor national god who works through the powerful and mighty so that they may be treated like gods themselves. But the Bible is an ever surprising, shocking, glorious minefield of Vision. It is replete with spiritual guidance and dire warnings. It has story after story of human beings who tried to be good and failed, and those who were quite bad and failed at staying bad after God got a-hold of their hearts and souls. It has poetry and imagery that never fail to inspire and delight, sober-up and amaze. And it has the story about the strangest human who ever lived who believed that every human being would be happier, more fulfilled, safer, richer, and better if they lived just as strange a life as he did and his name was Yeshua, Jesus, Jewish Messiah, Westernized as The Christ.
The book that Jews and Christians alike read as religious requirement and personal counsel and enlightenment uses many different genres to achieve one singular end — to shape the reader’s worldview. That Judeo-Christian worldview, even before it was all written down and put into a book has been affecting and infecting the world since the beginning of Time. It is the only worldview that matters no matter what one calls one’s religion or lack thereof. Most people don’t follow it, many people don’t know they follow it; many people know nothing about the religion or book that best describes it; and every human alive except for Jesus fails at living it. I fail at understanding it, having faith in it, believing in the best of it, and definitely daily fail at doing it. But good golly Miss Molly! I still believe I should try. And when I fail, I believe people who care about me should judge me so I can learn what to do better. Because that is the expectation — that God sees we are imperfect but believes that tomorrow, we can do better.
My many ex-students were “forced” to learn a term from me and most of them giggle now whenever I remind them of it. The term is “Judeo-Christianity” and it is my “worldview”. Many years ago, I began to realize that I wasn’t reading like other people seem to be doing, the book that Jews and Christians call their “Holy Scriptures”. And then once I realized that, I of course, realized well, yes there are many people of many different faiths and some of no religious leanings at all who read the things collected in Tanakh and Testament in the ways I was trying to read them. Years ago, long before the recent morass of confused morality, I secretly stopped calling myself by the same label that others did when they called themselves “Christians”. It had become offensive, through no fault of its own; and it wasn’t offensive in the ways that Jesus was offensive. The Christ, who said things like “hate your parents compared to how much you love me”, meant it to be offensive. He got that from His Heavenly Father, who is so offensive in His insistence to let the sun shine and rain rain on both the good and the evil. Jesus didn’t accidentally offend either, He made sure people knew they were being offended. He did it however, without abusing one ounce of his divine and magnificent power. Jesus did not make personal affronts in the way a bully means to be offensive. He was trying to break up the team-mentality that had caused people to stop caring for others. He was trying to get people who had so much entitled wealth at the hands of Rome and Religion to be humbled and revealed for the “death maws and empty caskets” that he called them. He was trying to help all the people who didn’t have power or money or the right job or the right color or even the right religion know wherein the truth and the reality of God and the world really lay.
Today we seem in so many ways to be back in the times of Rome and the religious power structures of Jesus’ time. Just as then, it had become about a team, not a God, about a memory, not a present reality; about winning a ticket to heaven, not making a heaven on earth; so too today in the country and churches of our time and place. The Chosen People of Jesus were warned they would be judged for what they did to the prophets, with Christ foremost among them. We who read the Bible or look around at the way the planet, nation, world, and our communities are going have been warned as well. And a person just can’t claim to follow Jesus and not believe that we too will be judged; and as Jesus says, we will be judged most of all if we come claiming we did things in his name. So, I seek daily a way to go “further up and further in”, as C.S. Lewis would say; but I will not let myself think it is enough to go alone. So in every flawed, big-mouthed, offensive way I can, I will have to try to drag my brother or sister into The Way, the worldview walk on the narrow path that Jesus showed us how to take and promises to help us complete. Neither will I restrict access to The Way, however someone may find his or her spiritual path towards it. I am incredibly humbled by my own selfish, greedy, sinful life to not accept my part in presenting a false view of the God of Love and the Jesus who came to change not my little heart alone, but the whole wide world. I accept my responsibility to those who will never be able to hear the life-giving words of The Christ over the din of those who choose to cheer only their own team from the sidelines or refuse to march into the lion’s den for Truth or heal the sick and broken-hearted if the needy have the wrong color or label.
We do not know the Truth or Love of God; that is a mystery like a vast ocean, that we can only appreciate from this far shore. God has the Eagles’ view; we, only that of the sparrows, who peck along the ground and squabble with each other over fallen seeds. We keep forgetting that “if God sees and cares for even this little brown and grey bird, how much more does The Mysterious One care for this little brown child, or this little grey-haired lady, or this little pecking and scrabbling human being”?
We may not have an eagle’s view of the world, or even a clear view of reality, but we all do very much in fact have a worldview. As the truism goes, we all believe in something, we just don’t always realize what we truly believe in. It is quite obvious to others what your view of the world is from how you live your life. The old adage that actions speak louder than words is never more true than when we slip-up and our real worldview is revealed. And one of the most helpful things, I have found, from the worldview that all the people and the God written about in the Bible believed in is this:
There is Good. And there is Evil. And both of those things are making a constant play for power over my mind, heart, words, and deeds. They are making a constant bid to be the controlling factor in every government, every system, every company, every town, every church, every synagogue and mosque, every family, and every individual. They are part of every thing that is a human system or human being, and they are in constant flux trying to gain power over each human being alive today. The question is, not if they exist, but whether or not I can recognize which of them is trying to influence me. The question is not if everywhere Good and Evil vie for the controlling shares of power, but whether I recognize which one is winning now.
If I cannot recognize the good and evil that vies for power over my own daily life and recognize it is up to me to be in control of which one takes the lead, how can I be expected to recognize it in the many systems humans create and that I have such little control over? But the paradox that Jesus taught is this, the less I think of me, about me, the greater chance true Goodness, True God, has to be within me, of me, flowing from me, upholding me, and fighting against the powers of Evil that love to lull us into thinking they aren’t real. The more I turn my eyes away from myself and towards The Way of Jesus, the more power I will have over what evils try to keep me from The Good Life.
I am moored in my worldview when I realize that Jesus believed in Evil. In Christ’s worldview, Evil was both an unearthly, un-human power called Satan and a human predicament that comes from our fallen natures. Evil is both an outside force like Good is, in fact a Satanic power like Good is a Godly Power. Evil is also the slippery slope of ethical relativism and self-centered pride that we all keep falling down and trying to climb back up out of. Satan or just human evil desires both consistently tempted Jesus to adapt to a false worldview of what is real and true and important and good and spiritual and divine. But The Messiah, the Godly-Man was also tempted to give credence to the Evil that comes from human beings creating systems of power and mighty institutions of ownership of material goods. Jesus was tempted in all things as we are. But Christ didn’t slide down that slippery slope or put his faith in the systems of this world — not even once. Jesus remained true to His Word. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
A rather famous follower of Jesus who tried to convince non-Jews to follow the Judaism of Jesus and tried to help his fellow Jews get back to the real spiritual foundations of something they had warped into a misunderstanding of what religion is supposed to do; and tried to help everyone, even the pagans and the Romans, understand what the real God might actually be like, left us all this wise meditation on worldview: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”. (I Corinthians 13:12) The disciple of Jesus named Ya’akov has this to add:
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:22–27)
The operative words in Paul’s metaphor of “the mystery in the mirror” that reveal the truth about our own ignorance (even about the very things we think we know about in this world), and the imago-Dei infused desires of every human heart to seek a spiritual reality here in our lives and in the systems of this world, are Paul’s words: “now” and “then”. We cannot help ourselves for Now to be overwhelmed by the setting in which we live our lives — the here of place and the treadmill of our days and the fears of our needs being unmet. The Now greatly effects how we see the world, how we see ourselves, how we see others, and how we see or rather don’t see God. But the “Then Worldview” that God provides and Jesus lived out, teaches us that we need to have faith that the Now- Worldview is incomplete, incomprehensible, and inconclusive. We can know this if we look in our mirrors and look at our neighbors and enemies and see in every face, the reflection of the divinity that is in us all. And while the reflection of the Divinity on the other side of the glass is foggy at best, broken for the weakest, and fallible and fallen for each of us, we are all created and instructed to gaze and gaze and gaze until our eyes hurt, seeking the glimmers of the Other Side until we get that glorious glimpse of the Goodness that Love creates. Then we are meant to keep trying to live into the Then as Now of Heaven on Earth.
Just because the Now clouds and mars the Then, doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to keep trying to see through it all to what we are meant to be, what God has waiting for us if we truly love God, love ourselves, and love others. Good defeats Evil with the delight of a child who plays a game she knows she will win; and Love conquers fear with the hope of perpetual spring-like, springing-forth Eternally-secured Life.
The Hebrews were constantly instructed to “remember the God who saves”. And we who claim to believe that the ultimate revelation of Who that God is was met in the life, death and eternal glory of a human being named Yeshua, are also instructed to remember. “Whenever you eat or drink, whenever you worship or celebrate, whenever you are together talking, arguing, discussing, planning, laughing, singing, posting on Facebook, or driving your car; whenever your country is at war or at peace, whether you have lots of money or none, whether working, playing, or resting, whether despairing or worrying, whether alone or in a crowd — Remember Me.” (Jesus, at his final dinner with his followers, at least for a while; as recorded in the Gospels.)
We are meant to always remember and to never forget that there was once a human being who lived in time and space, and never forgot that though human beings had broken the mirror of our own worldview, if we followed in his way, The Christ Way, we would catch just enough glimmer up head to keep journeying away from evil and darkness and toward Goodness and Light. That is the Judeo-Christian worldview, whether we recognize it or not.
One day over a decade ago by now, I had to leave a place that I really loved. I didn’t want to leave but I had tried my best to be a Judeo-Christian there and they just weren’t having it. Go figure. I don’t mean to set myself up on a pedestal or imply that I am not fully aware of the tree trunks in my own eyes before I try to help a sister with the bit of dust that blew into her own. But I am finally coming around to learn somethings (I love that expression “coming around to learning” because the very best lives are lived in circles, circling around and around the Center of Truth). So, a few things I am circling around that I would relate to my insistence on clinging to this idea of having a Worldview that learns a thing or two from Judeo-Christian thought.
First, always speak the truth even if it falls in a forest and you think no one hears it. Secondly, if the person you are truth-splanning too (why yes, I do believe I just made up that word. Cool, eh?) — if the person is unwilling to even think about what you are saying or think about what they are saying or doing in any kind of way that most worldviews at least used to call “rational”, then walk away. This is what Jesus meant when he told us not to throw pearls before pigs — it’s not because we see others as “pigs” and hate them, but because we see others as struggling with what it means to be fully human and we love them and there isn’t a blasted thing that a pig can do with a pearl, not eat it, not wear it, not even see it for the value it has. This is just the way some people are with truth, especially God’s truth. I know because I have been a pig looking at pearls a lot of times in my life and it took me a long, long time to recognize certain pearls of wisdom that I just didn’t want to believe were true, for what they were and are.
Secondly, go in to any situation and any conversation — actually go into each day — as a disciple of Jesus’ Worldview would do — with high hopes and love as your motivation. BUT, always keep in mind the very good advice that Jesus gave his own disciples in Matthew 10:14: “If anyone does not receive you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet as you leave that house or that town.” Back to ten years ago and the place I loved but had to leave — -When I left the place that I loved but that had stopped loving me, I stood teary-eyed in the parking lot and then I picked up one sneakered foot and I leaned down and brushed the dust off. And then I picked up the other foot, and I wobbled a little bit and then flicked the dust off that shoe. Then I got in my Prius and drove away from Then and toward Now.
Finally, I am at last coming around to understanding that it is not enough to walk away from a negative, untruthful, unloving, unbalanced, irrational, or un-good situation or person (or group or church or political party or business or friend). It is not enough to shake the dust off my feet, if I don’t continue to shake the dust off my thoughts and memories. That is one of the worst and sneakily real evils that attract our souls and our waking and sleeping moments. That remembrance of a wrong, whether done to me or by me, is very often the motivating force behind the little devilish attitudes and actions we are victims of or perpetrators of.
And if you are still claiming this has nothing to do with the existence of evil, let me present to you this idea. Far too often the evil that festers and grows and seems to defeat the good in the world and in us, lies not so much in our not seeing the truth — we usually see it if we want to or eventually do; evil doesn’t exist just because we don’t believe in or truly know a loving, gracious God as revealed in Scriptures or Nature; evil doesn’t thrive because we judge others or judge ourselves, whether legitimately or not. True Evil gains power when we choose to nurture it and save it to justify how we feel and act today. Real Evil purrs inside us like a half-asleep but watchful hyena, waiting to pounce on the corpses of our sins and errors, fears and pride. Evil rejoices in its continued half-life that comes from our inability to let it go, to walk away, to lay down the gauntlet of truth about our need to resurrect the dead zombies of our yesterdays. Evil delights in preventing us from doing the very most loving Good-thing we can do for ourselves and others — forget about it, forgive it, and choose love.
I have wasted so much of my life, my time, my mindfulness, my wholeness and my joy, by going back to the parking lots of my memories and picking up more dust to put back on the soles of my shoes. I just keep picking away at these past problems, slights, sorrows, fears, worries, angers, irritations, etc. etc. — picking at negative thoughts like scabs on soft skin. And the dust? — the bloody scabs? — Oh, those are what evil loves. Evil can’t stand a clean slate of forgiveness and a pure moment of release. Evil can’t stand a healed wound. Evil loves to throw the dust back on the soles of my “soul” and make me believe that if I let a scab heal over, I’m not dealing with reality, I’m letting someone or myself “off the hook”, or maybe I am just not smart enough to figure out a problem. And so evil becomes a reality most often, because I want it to be.
The problem is, when evil becomes reality, Goodness and God seem unreal, unattainable, and unknowable. And while Goodness and God may be mysterious, they are more real than any negative feeling or idea that has ever existed in the world and in the human heart or psyche. It is evil that we truly only see as if through a foggy, dim glass or broken mirror. Evil is the dust that will one day return to being but dust — shaken off and left behind. When God’s Kingdom Life is lived by human beings on earth as Jesus did, and lived in heaven as God does, then Evil won’t be real at all any more. But Goodness, Faith, Love, Light, and Truth — those things will remain and be more real than any reality we ever knew, more real than our deepest longings and our wildest imaginations.
Good Things are what Life is really made of. Goodness is what you and I are really made of. And the ultimate Good, which is Love, is what our God-image is made of, because God’s reality is only Love and that kind of Love is Pure Light and Joyful Truth. And that is the only worldview that has ever truly existed; on our planet, in all religions, all kingdoms and nations, all communities and families. It is not just label, it is reality. That is the Judeo-Christian worldview. And I don’t want to step away from it or leave it in the dust.
What do you need to shake the dust off of Today, Now; so your feet are free and your soul is free to move forward on the path of Tomorrow, Then, in truth, righteousness, freedom, and joy?
Who do you need to stop treating like a pig who can’t eat a pearl and instead, treat them as a fellow human being who is in need of a little more time to find the narrow path and The Way of Christ today? I try to remember as instructed to do, that tomorrow, I might need someone else’s help to see pearls of wisdom for the gifts they are. I remind myself of all the times I used wisdom and truth as weapons and all the times I felt someone was hurling little stones at me, because I couldn’t yet make out that they were throwing me pearls, full of worth and beauty.
Where do you need to walk away from today? How do you need to journey away from the Past, and toward a Now that believes the Then has much to teach us; a glimmer of a reality we can have in part Today?
What scabs do you need to let heal over? What fear is keeping you from letting past hurts be buried? Who do you need to forgive so you can move forward? Is it really so hard to forgive another person for what they did so you can find goodness within your soul today? Of course, it may be that the hardest person to forgive is yourself, and if that is true, then I have found that Jesus can come in quite handy.
And finally, how can you more fully embrace the reality and follow the truths of your own Best, Good -defeating -Evil Loving Worldview? You may only see it dimly now — as in a fun-house mirror or a scratched up darkened window pane, but believe me — it is real and at the very minimum, you owe it at least a chance to affect the world and infect your soul with Goodness and Love and Life.
A final teaching from Jesus about how to see through the fog to the reality of a consistent, motivating and healing Worldview. This is a story about a Good Man facing the Temptations of Evil.
When Jesus was tempted in the desert, he was tempted to deny the realities of this world (turn these stones into bread and no one will ever go hungry again). Then he was tempted to worship the reality of what power can accomplish when wielded over the reality of what love is meant to accomplish. (Satan assured him that the end always justifies the means). Finally, Christ was tempted to believe that as long as he had the right labels, God would protect him from the reality of the material world and twist the reality of the spiritual world to suit Jesus’ desires. (Jump from this high tower and angels will appear to save you.) Jesus was tempted with the idea that Good was relative and that morals could be used for political ends. Satan responded to Jesus with his own carefully chosen verses from the Bible, wielded as personal defenses against doing God’s Good Will, and some cleverly warped manufactured interpretations of Scripture. Jesus was starving and alone but he knew Satan’s worldview for what it was — evil masquerading as a means to justify a good end.
Jesus was tempted by The Evil One to abuse his divine power over the very qualities that all humans share and that God in infinite wisdom gifted to the World of human beings. We are all connected and gifted by God with these three things: our needs, our abilities, and our dreams. But we are also each and every one of us tempted to abuse our humanness by corrupting our divine natures. We do this by corrupting our own understanding of what we need with what we merely desire. We misuse our abilities when we use them only for our own personal gain or glory and not for the good of our fellow humans or the solvency of the Earth or the worship of our God. And we confuse our dreams for our rights, when we put lies to truth, or choose greed over love. We struggle in our confusion between our present reality in this needy, broken world and our longings and search for that perfect future World that we want to be a present and perfect Now.
Jesus was tempted to choose Evil means to achieve Good ends. He would later achieve both ends and means through pure love and perfect goodness. Jesus would choose miraculously good means to achieve eternally fulfilling life-giving ends.
Satan created evil temptations, out of the qualities and guidance given to all human beings, those that connected Jesus to all of us then and now. He was tempted through his needs (Jesus was hungry); his abilities (Jesus was powerful and smart); and his dreams (Jesus could have ruled the world). And do you know how he resisted? By being very, very sure of His Worldview.
I am not all that sure that what I think or do today will survive the future blindingly bright Light of Truth or that I will pass tomorrow’s Test of Being Good. I am not sure of myself at all in terms of my feelings; my feelings, maybe like yours, are a continually bubbling oxymoron made of the gossamer and steel of my broken needs, my eternal desires, and my personal life’s events. And I am not always too sure about God. (Remember that poem I wrote that one time entitled, “Maybe You Have Left Us?” Yeah. That.) It is probably why I love the Psalms as contained in the Tanakh; poems full of all our questions about God’s presence and humanity’s condition. No, it is very hard most days to be sure about the Mystery and Otherness of God. But I am sure of one thing and that is this —
There is a way to view the world that is right and good and true. There is a way to see through the mists and the charades, just slightly, just temporarily, just humbly. There is A Way, and the dust and the scars can be left behind; and we can understand that there is absolutely both evil and good; but we can also have just enough small little bits of faith, that in the end, Good is always, always going to win over Evil.
Jesus shows me, that there is a way to love others as I want to be loved and that there is a way to love a Mysterious Being just as much as I want to have Someone love the mystery at the center of who I am meant to be. And because I am completely sure that those are realities that I have been circling around for all of my life, I will call it what it is — Our Judeo-Christian Worldview.
I don’t plan on stepping away from my search for the Worldview of the Judeo-Christians who infected the world with truth, justice, freedom, life, light, and love. I don’t plan on giving it up, any time soon, but I do hope to keep seeing how it changes and how it changes people. I hope it keeps changing me, radically, rationally, and realistically. I hope to keep believing that no matter what people call what they believe, all people who are trying to be better humans today than they were yesterday are God’s Chosen People. I hope I find that someday I no longer feel a need to either defend my strange, radical Judeo-Christian worldview, or even completely understand my worldview anymore. I hope someday that just like God intended, just as Scriptures teach us, just as Jesus lived it, I too will simply live my worldview and never look back.
The Message of This Season is Change; but The Story is Open-Ended
By Jane Tawel
December 15, 2020
The Year 2020 has been the most remarkable paradox of stagnancy and change. This is true on a global scale, (due to what it’s always due to, which is that old theme of Good vs. Evil); but it has been brought home to us as individuals on a vastly more knowable and just plain bigger-impact scale. Health, Wealth, Stealth, The Poor and War — those are the things that have always effected nations, communities, and individuals. The Year 2020 decided to “go all out” on all of the above.
I have known people this past year who have raged against the dawn of big changes either foisted on them from outside or accumulated by a lifetime of choices. I have known those who stick their heads in the sand or pull them back into their shells like turtles, pretending none of it is happening. There are good friends who abhor change and decide that they don’t have to accept it but instead can recreate a past where changes were all in their favor and everyone like them went to bed happily, healthfully, and securely, singing out “Goodnight, John Boy! Goodnight Mama! Goodnight Moon!” And I have friends, who have been hit by the changes like a sudden bolt of lightning, suddenly understanding things in a very different light, a light that reveals the darkness for what it has always been and the great need for changes, both personally and systemically. Of course, at various times in the past year and throughout my life, I could check the box of being all of the above “sorts of person”. So Change in order to make a difference must be both reflected and mirrored back.
There are those in my own country and in countries around the world, who protest against change and those who protest for change. There are those who long for change, write songs about change, or work to prolong the winds of change. It seems that John F. Kennedy was partially right when he said, “There is nothing more certain and unchanging than change and uncertainty”. But there is also nothing more certain that when change and uncertainty combine on a world-wide scale, people will either rise to action or fall into inaction. Which brings me to what some call their “reason for this season” which is also called Christmas.
Christ-Mass is supposedly in celebration of the start of a story. It is a story that begins with the birth of and the earthly journey of the god-figure and ancient Hebrew man named Jesus, later called Messiah, or The Christ. The story told for a couple of thousand years now, has become rather stale and stagnant for many believers and non-believers alike. The same bath-robed small shepherds appear in Children’s Nativity Plays and the same people gather to see how to best combine Jolly Old St Nick and lots of overspending on Christmas gifts with the reality of the birth of a poor, minority, despised class of person of color religious minority human being who somehow revealed to humanity the nature of God. But this year of 2020, everything is slightly askew, isn’t it? And because of that, anyone who wants to celebrate the reality of Jesus should be rejoicing. Because if there is any one word that we should associate with the person of Jesus The Christ, it is Change.
From babe born in a sheep’s straw pile to convicted and state-sanctioned-murdered religious radical, Jesus was the personification of “Be the Change”. Change with a capital “C”. CHANGE writ large. Change that is painful, unnerving, invigorating, unexpected, programmatic, outstanding, surprising, awe-inspiring, terrifying! Change that is individually and systematically, outside, inside, upside-down Change. A Change that was meant to effect me; and that “e” in effect is not a typo, since the old usage of Effect is intended. The kind of Big World-View Change that Jesus represents is world-upending Causal and meant to Effect you, Effect that guy, that woman, that child; Effect that town, that family, that nation; that river and tree and rock and lion and bird; that friend and that enemy. Jesus was and is meant to be the Changing Causal Reality that was and is meant to Effect the whole World. In fact, when compared to Jesus The Christ, pandemics can look rather small change.
So how can people who claim the Name and espouse the Belief-System, be surprised when we “Christ-ians” are asked, required, forced or even blind-sided and run-over by Change. It is, after all, the Stunning Way of God- Change that the person of Jesus was meant to signify; a change that was meant to effect this town, that nation, this government, that education, that art, this science, that environment, and this whole world. It is The Change that was mean to effect and infect the user with Love and Hope. It is the earth-shaking, evil-shattering Change that is meant to Effect the walk in The Way of all who would claim to want to be changed by a knowledge of Jesus.
If Christ-Love and Christ-Life is the Cause, then surely we who call ourselves “little-Christs” are meant to embrace the Effects of Changed Lives lived-out boldly but humbly in an ever-Changing World.
Followers of Jesus were meant to be changed by unanticipated pandemics and by anticipated stumbling’s. We are meant to be changed by not just the knowledge, but by personal involvement with starving children, with immigrants and sojourners, by the plight of prisoners, and by the reality of long injustices. We are meant to care deeply and rise to the challenges needed to heal fetid waters and burning forests and dying ice-caps. We are called to believe that we can change our violent ways and turn guns into farm tools and eradicate wars and rumors of wars. We are meant to protest greed in our places of commerce, government, and worship as well as practice personal commitment to root out greed insidiously lurking in our own selfish ways. We are meant to abhor the lies of any Judas, whether friend or official. We are meant to give freely, love fiercely, and practice peace; and we are required to practice rest and restoration as is the intent in the meaning of Sabbath.
Followers of Jesus are also meant to be changed by the homeless person on their very own street corners. Followers of Jesus are meant to be changed by someone else’s pain, to mourn with all mourners, to grieve with others, and to be willing to give up everything to follow in the ways of The Son of Man, a homeless, family-less, in the end friendless radical Lover of the One Parent that Jesus himself sought to be shaped and changed by. This is what it means to see Change as ultimately not Against us, but For us. Change is For our good. Change is for making us Good. But it can only make us Good if we receive Change as Gift, not curse; as Life-affirming, not Freedom-stealing; as the Truth of what we are meant to be, not a threat to who we are. This is what it means to believe in our great ability to change into something / someone we haven’t yet imagined; some one amazing and miraculous and profoundly whole-ly Human. As one of Jesus’ early followers said, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it is not yet revealed what we will be. We know that, when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is”. (I John 3:2)
So here is a little story for this 2020 Year of Changes:
“In the fullness of Time”, Jehovah Jireh sent a Savior, The Begotten One, to bring change to a world stuck in the stagnancy of sin, sorrow, helplessness, hopelessness, brokenness, pain, and death. The Begotten One was born among the poor, uneducated, country-less, minority, despised of this world, to show the world where and how Change had to happen. He was educated by radicals living off the land in the desert; lived life away from his family and the comforts of work and home, and gathered a rag-tag bunch of students that he could teach the meaning of Life to. He was crazy-smart and very, very kind, miraculously so. He loved life and lived it with abandonment and joy de vivre. He showed people what humans were meant to be like and he lived to tell his stories and teach his disciples for a scant three years before the Religious / State Combo Powermongers of his day, used the inquisition of their time to convict him and the capital punishment of their day to murder him. But before that sad death came to be; something had already happened…..
Everything had changed.
Changed with a Capital C.
Because when Christ with a Capital C was around, “the blind received their sight and the lame walked, lepers were cleansed and the deaf heard, and even the dead were raised up, and the poor had good news preached to them.” (Matthew 11:4)
And once His life was “over”, Life had really and truly only just begun.
And in His Changed Life, New Life for All had just begun and was forever Changed.
Jesus lived so that we might be changed, “reborn”, reshaped, renewed, resurrected — because that is What he taught, that is What he lived, that is What he offered, that is What his life was. But the story of Jesus Christ really changed the world because that is Who he was and Who he is and Who he will one day be and Who we can become in him. The Christ asks only one simple thing of any one who wants to claim to follow him and worship His Father; Christ asks simply that we be willing to be completely and utterly Changed.
We who say we love Him, must be “formed into his likeness”. In the same way that in The Beginning, The Genesis, humans were formed “in the likeness of God”, we “second-wave humans” are to be “formed in the likeness of The Messiah, Yeshuah. We do this by becoming like him but more importantly by seeing him in everyone we meet and treating them like the King we claim Jesus is. Jesus says, “I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant [they seemed], you did for me.” “Give up everything, come, follow and learn to Be Me. Be completely changed from who you are to Who I AM.”
When Saul / Paul of Ancient Tarsus got this part right, he was a man completely changed by his experience in understanding who Jesus was, what Jesus offered, and the extreme changes that Jesus required. The disciple John got this part right, and was able to not only seek to be changed in the here and now, but to imagine great change in the world through the radical realization in changed lives of those living in and leaning into The Kingdom of God and Christ. John received a dream, a revelation, a vision of reality that John recorded in the Revelation, and one that compares with the great dreams recorded by the forerunners of Jesus, the Jewish prophets Ezekiel and Daniel and Isaiah. The dreams of the prophets were that there would be a “new creation” on Planet Earth that would compare with that we can now only imagine to be in God’s Heavenly Places — a world changed into what it was all meant to be, a Kingdom where Love rules, Goodness reigns, and Peace, Joy, and New Life are internalized, externalized and actualized. Change will ultimately mean an Abundantly Healthy and Whole reality for All of us.
For All Good Teachers, All Messiahs, All Gurus, Rabbis, Preachers; All Saints and Prophets and Radical World-Changers, The Message has always been the same. The Message is — Change. But my story, your story, even the whole planet’s and World’s Story is open-ended. Because Change must be allowed into not just our halls of power or our own front doors, but into the deepest recesses of our hearts, our lives, our very souls. Change must be, if not welcomed and embraced, at the very least, given room, given a chance, given, if not a leading role, at least a small role to play in our stories. The role change plays in my life might be as large as a pandemic or as small as a virus. The change that changes me might be as sweeping as an army of Angels or as small as a baby in a manger. Change is always, however, one type of catalyst or another, throwing me back upon my stubborn insistence on self-centering, or leading me forward into a centered wholeness. The Story of Jesus is not told as history but as prophetic dream of mythological proportions. The Story of Jesus is the archetype of what real change can do in the human condition we all live and die in. And we are promised that all who seek, will find. And all who change, will be changed. “It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be changed. We will all be transformed” (I Corinthians 15:52).
The Story of Jesus, that we celebrate at Christmas, is the paradigm-shifting story of Embraced Change, of Worshipped Change. There are always people who fight that change, the Herods and Pilates, the religiously powerful, the nationalists and legalists, and even the common-place, normal friends and family members who reject change, who want to live in the past and stay in control, keep things as they were. But there are always the unexpected change-makers, too, and the amazing thing about this year 2020, is that we each have had the possibilities of real and radical change revealed to our imaginations as perhaps never before in our life-times. The revelations have not come without great pain, great fear, and much sorrow or depression, but if we look past the clouds, we can see Light, and if we keep the Darkness in perspective, we can walk forward with Hope. Like the trumpets of Angels or the brilliance of a previously unknown Star, Change has been born. And humble shepherds will listen to it, and Wise humans will seek it.
This is the message of The Year 2020: Change happens and each of us is Effected, one way or another. Am I going to fight Change, or let Change, change me into something better? To believe in the Cause of Christ, is to believe in the Effects of Radical Change. To believe in the World’s and my own ability to Change for Good, is to believe in the Power of Love. And the Power of Love is the most powerful force for Change in the Universe.
That is the Story of The Christ Child, the Story of Jesus. It can be the story of you and me as well.We just need to change the ending to be a new beginning.
There seems to be a lot of confusion these days in and about certain religions, perhaps my own particularly at this juncture in the limitations of place and time. Just a few thoughts from those a million miles better than I; who are convicting and (I hope) instructing me. We of a certain faith don’t need to fear national changes as much as we should fear actually doing what Christ asks us to do if we want to follow Him. I know it scares the “American” right out of me!
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:21–25)
Bishop Dom Helder Camara: “When I fed the hungry, they called me a saint. When I asked WHY people are hungry, they called me a communist.”
Dorothy Day: “Don’t call us saints; we don’t want to be dismissed that easily.”
Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
“The Lord has told you what is good. He has told you what he wants from you: Do what is right to other people. Love being kind to others. And live humbly, trusting your God.” (Micah 6:8)
I am (sadly) curious about what the “Christian” lemmings’ take / excuse is on the latest news that Donald Trump, in order to treat his Covid 19 symptoms, took a drug that is made from aborted fetus cells. Anyone? Anyone ready to look at the definition of hypocrisy, now?
I speak here from what I hope is an evolving, growing Judeo-Christian Worldview and a belief system that reaches out to all forms and belief systems of truth, light, joy, love, and peace. However, every now and then, I simply cannot remain silent when I see so many, at least in my country, America, claiming a type of “Christianity” that I don’t recognize as either Biblical or God-loving. We used to do these things called “testimonies”, in the churches I grew up in. Here is a little one of mine for today.
If I claim a Judeo-Christian worldview, it is not about whom I support, but WHY I support them, for we believe God looks at the heart. And for the one who claims either Judaism or Christianity, there should be only one “WHO” that matters — our Parent/ Creator/ God. My choices about anything and everything are important because of what that says about my walk, my religion, my soul, my God. As Jesus makes tragically clear: “What does it profit me if I gain the world, but lose my soul”? The only WHO that matters is Whom I say Christ is. The only WHO that matters is the God of LOVE of the whole world, the whole planet, the whole of Us, from the least to the (temporarily) greatest.
I will once more recommend a deep dive into the actual words of The Christ that many of us have claimed to follow. Matthew 23 is shockingly bold and convicting for starters. Warning: there is absolutely nothing at all on abortion in Christ’s words or in fact any of God’s, but there is quite a lot on hypocrisy and lies.
As just one little sheep myself, I am trying to follow the right Shepherd, not the wolves in sheep’s clothing. I am trying to take these words to heart from Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Jesus is very clear that there will not be any politicians or even church leaders to stand beside me on judgement day. He does promise me judgement however, on how I treat others and how I follow “the Truth, the Life, and the Way.”
Sorry to be so preachy, but it just matters so very, very much to me. Not this man, or that man matters one whit in The End; and I matter not all; but it all and all certainly matters about The Son of Man and what some of us do in His name. #nocheapgrace#nocheapSavior
May you today find your own way to Truth, Life, Love, and Joy. May you know the value of your very own soul above all things temporal. May you be bold and brave enough to stand up and be counted among those who would change the world, even just your own little corner of it. May you have the assurance that Good will always win in the end if we truly believe that “faith, hope and love will reign eternally”. And above all, may you know that there is a Spirit-God Who loves you — just little old you.
Since I have put a bird feeder outside my “reading window”, I can now spend my early mornings looking down at my book, looking up at the birds — down, up; down, up; down, up. Come to think of it, I look a bit like a bird, with a head full of grey feathery hair atop my long scrawny neck, bobbing up and down as if pecking among the philosophies and fictions strewn across my table; and looking up at the birds — down, up, down up. I am like the scout-bird who is often a part of a small group of birds; the one that sits not at the trough of seeds but up on the top of the post, or in a nearby tree branch, the guard-dog of the others, (to mix animal metaphors). I sit with my pack of people imagined and real in books and pictures and thoughts and memories, and my own life-flock is with me in spirit, if not in truth. And I guard them, both in my memories of feeding them, and their continual feeding of me.
I like to see the little red-breasted, red-throated birds, who might be robins or finches but might be neither since, even though my daughter, Verity and my dear friend Heather, have tried to teach me and help me, I remain blissfully ignorant of types and names. The birds in the air swoop in and peck in their persnickety ways among the feeder’s offerings. I love the cool, grey pigeons — so seemingly unremarkable compared to the others. The pigeons are the sheep of birds, quietly feeding on the seed that has fallen to the ground. They may not be flashy or particularly bright, perhaps being two feathers short of a quiver, but they calm me and I feel my divine pathos rise up to surround them with thoughts of hope for their protection and delight in their innocence.
There is often one little sparrow — at least I think it’s the same one. I least I think it’s a sparrow. I watch the birds — I am not a bird watcher, a birder. I actually mostly don’t want to know anything about them — their names or anything like that. I just want to observe them. To be with them, apart, but a part, similar in cellular makeup, but oh! So very different! If there is anything that can assure me in the dark hours before the Sun rises, that there is a Loving Creator who somehow spoke into being, our planet Earth and all of the awe-some-ly unique creatures that roam it — for me, a belief in a Creative God is stronger, now that it has happened to be that I have time to sit and quietly watch the curious qualities of “birdness”.
So back to this one little sparrow. The minute he comes he pushes or scares the other birds away. He is a horrible bully and I feel so sad for the little birds that he scares from their places at the bird feeder as they fly away in fear and shame, while the bully bird takes their place. Notice I assume a male dominance factor going on here, but the bird could easily be female. Remember, I don’t want to know. It is unimportant to me. With the birds, I am able to do what I seldom can with people. I can judge the behavior without judging the character.
This sparrow, let’s call him / her a non-gendered name, shall we? This sparrow I will call “Jody” is a true bully. There isn’t a morning when Jody does not feel that no matter how much room there is, no matter how peacefully all the other little birds are getting along with each other, no matter what side of the nest Jody woke up on that morning — there is not one single morning when Jody does not immediately swoop in to bully the other birdies. He doesn’t stop to assess the situation. He doesn’t offer a deal or make some small talk. Jody doesn’t wait for the other birds to strike first or snap at him with some unpleasantry. She just hops on the feeder, flaps her quite normal-sized and frankly, rather drab colored wings, and chases away whoever got there before her that day. And if one of the others tries to sneak back on the other side of the feeder to finish its breakfast, Jody leaves her spot and chases the interloper off again. Don’t try to make excuses for Jody. This has nothing to do with being a “leader” or a “chosen and favored one” (Jody is nothing special, being a bird just like other birds). Her behavior must not be excused with some silly idea about it being evolution or natural selection. I am sorry, but it must simply be accepted — Jody is just a bully.
And I feel like sneaking up one morning on Jody when he’s at the bird feeder, his attention somewhere over his birdy shoulder looking for perceived enemy/victims; and I feel like grabbing Jody up in my gigantic godlike paw and holding Jody powerfully in my right hand and saying,
“Jody, my birdy-pal, my darling, I, the God Who Peers Through the Window, She who observes the Sun rising, and the deeds of all birds; I, Who have watched you each morning of your miserable little birdy-life; I, the Goddess who gives the birdseed to nourish the good and the evil birdies — and who cares for even the naughty, cheeky squirrels, for Heaven’s sake! I forbid you, small wee Jody, to keep bullying the other birds. Fly now, away with you — you are forgiven but Sin No More!”
And then, because I can’t kiss Jody on his little beak or hold her little foot as I would a naughty child’s small hand, I will stroke Jody on the head and assure her, and assure the whole little flock that now has come to see me deal with Jody– a flock of all kinds and colors, genders and abilities of birds — a multitude of birds that has by now gathered at my Godlike feet, stunned into birdy awe at my great supernatural appearance, and who are all bobbing their little birdy heads as they listen to my righteous message. And I will say to the flock that, foolish though they be, are my own, and are all those whom I have come to love and care for, even Jody:
“There is plenty. There will always be plenty for all in My Kingdom. Do you not know, that I can take these small seeds that I hold now in my hand, and I can turn them into a Costco sized bag of food to feed you? There is room at the bird feeder for all, for the pigeons and sparrows, for the meek and the red-breasted, for the shy and the brave, for the protectors and the children and for those who sing like angels, and yes –there is even room for the Jodies. There is scattered seed on the ground for those who must scratch in the earth to get their daily meal. And there is seed in the feeder for all that I watch over from my own perch, behind the window.
Do not worry, little flock of beloved birds. Do you think by worrying you can add one feather to your head? Do not worry, Bully Jody. Do you think by bullying you can add one hour to your life? Be peaceful in your bird-brains, and at peace with each other. If God can care and provide for both the good and also the naughty humans, how much more will He care and provide for you, the birds? Yea, even for the Jodies.”
I think Jesus observed birds often and knew them well. He used them as illustration and metaphor quite often, along with ones about seeds and grain. Maybe every morning, he woke up and read the Torah and had some pita bread, maybe throwing the crumbs out onto the ground to share with the birds. I like to picture him quiet before the world woke up, meditating prayerfully, reading and learning from the words on the scroll, and then looking up at the sparrows eating his crumbs and the grey pigeons pecking at the seeds in the fields. I imagine The Great Teacher and Miracle Worker in the early hours of the mornings before the hungry, needy multitudes gathered and the crowds and his friends and followers, who would swoop in, full of need, full of chatter, full of fears and hopes, and with broken wings and bent tail feathers they wanted fixing. A flock of followers who just as I do, just as you do, keep searching for something to feed us body, mind and soul, but miss the common, ordinary miracles of life and our planet and the miracles of other humans. We miss the miracle of seeds. And so we have rarely seen, that we too can fly.
The miracle that real food and spiritual food are always available is what Jesus tried to show the people; the reality that there is plenty and that no one needs to take more seed than what they need that day, because tomorrow, there will be more seed. That is the miracle of the seed.
Good birds will share space and seed; but even bullies could have much more than they could ever dream of, if only they would just ask. If we would only look around, and scoot over to give more room to others, and enjoy the seed set before us in just this moment, why then — those everyday miracles would become common place. Most people came to Jesus looking for a handout, anxious to fill their stomachs. But Jesus offered them what he knew they really wanted, which was the bread, the manna of his life that gives us life, and the “living water that will make us thirst no more”. Many came to the one they called Messiah, Rabbi, Lord, looking for an edge, a way to rise above the hungry, dirty masses and be better than their neighbors, richer than their enemies, more favored than those who were different than they; and to have Jesus do the heavy lifting but grant them a ticket cheaply bought to a better, far off heavenly place, a new, select feeder made just for them and not for the crows and ravens, those they considered scavengers, or the weak and meek, those they considered worthy only of what we in our pride and greed, had made of this filthy, untended, sinful world. But what they were really looking for was the beauty that had been forgotten, an earth full of possibility and hope, joy in the journey, and fullness in every moment. What they longed for was not someplace out there, but to finally be truly right here; in a new Garden, a better Kingdom to live in, a world that is this one, but reborn, renewed, recreated, in every glorious breath we take.
Since the beginning, some humans have struggled with the fearful reality that tomorrow the feeder will be empty, and others have hoarded and stored up more than they need, with the despairing anxiety that The Feeder will desert us for good. We are all afraid that that which has held the world together, and The One Who has cared to create us, will leave us on our own, leave the fools and the bullies that we are, in the shadows, in the burnt out husks, in the arid, drought-deadened fields, in the wilderness without Him. So since First Woman and First Man bullied each other into eating from the forbidden fruits of greed and need; and since the manna in the desert wilderness rotted in the storehouses of both the greedy and needy alike, we seekers of seeds and soulfulness, have tried to bully God. We pray without listening, look without observing, take without trusting, and we try to force God into understanding us, rather than the other way around. We whine that our hearts feel empty even when our stomachs are full. And we refuse to believe that we might be able, — even now, even all these years, after the beginning, after the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us — we refuse to believe we might be able to fly.
Many start their mornings and end their evenings at the feeder of thoughts and prayers, yearnings offered up to a God that in truth, we doubt can really care that much for us. After all, if there was a God who loved us, wouldn’t He give us more seeds and crumbs? So some of us bully the weak, and hoard the grain that rots in our storehouses, and we convince ourselves that it is our own power that provides the food in our feeders, and our own abilities that keep us aloft. Some of us choose to believe that there is a God who is as weak as we have let ourselves become, and so we convince ourselves that we need to do nothing but assent to the idea of the existence of a Bird Feeder, and we can let the world turn as it has always done, being only as weak as the God we have fashioned in our image. We worship a God whom we have made in our likeness and so She is either a bully or a weakling, or some days one and some days the other. We keep chirping and squawking, “Why? Why do we have to keep coming daily to the feeder for our sustenance? Why don’t You bless us with something more than manna or crumbs? Why must I share?”.
People came to Jesus and some of them learned that he loved them and that he believed in a Greater Good that also loved them just as any wonderful Mommy and Daddy always love their children, even when those children might be very naughty or unable to fly because of a broken wing. Jesus showed people that there really was Someone behind the window, and that even though the window was so foggy and scratched up and cloudy, you couldn’t really see Who was sitting there, you could sometimes see movement; and you knew that it was The God Behind the Window who each day, provided the seeds for us.
People came to Jesus because they were hungry and wanted to be fed, just as my birds come each morning to my yard to be fed. The people came to The Christ in their foolishness and pride and neediness, and they drained him of power and fought over who got the best and biggest crumbs of divine knowledge and holy interference. We are all people who never quite trust there will be enough of God’s good gifts. But there are seeds strewn throughout the world, freely given, gratefully received, enough for all, created by The Feeder’s righteous hands and shared by those of us who scoot over to make room for more hungry beaks. I think of these people who came to The Christ, people who depleted the Giver, like the hungry birds deplete my feeder full of seeds. I like to think after a long tough day, that Jesus returned to sit by himself, or maybe with one or two other bird-watchers, sharing a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread but not talking much, just sitting together, listening to each other’s breathing, and relaxing, and observing, and very glad to be alive.
I, too, want to follow in the footsteps of those who have left us evidence that they were Masters of Life and Living. I want to rise each morning to learn my lessons and share seeds with the birds, and to let the Great Gurus and the small birds teach me as I look up and down, up and down, up and down. I want to sit in the cool of the evenings somewhere quiet and alone or with those who also watch and wait, and we will end as we begin, by watching the birds.
When I sit watching Jody bully his neighbors, or the pigeons meekly graze, or even those cheeky, naughty squirrels catapulting through the branches or skittering across the yard in their games of tag, I imagine the mornings before the Father’s Sun rose, when Jesus sat alone, but never felt alone. I think of The Man as that one who would suffer all we do and more, much more, and yet who was able to care for the birds; a man perfectly content, happy, mindfully watching and waiting, just a human being, like me, reading, observing, smiling or shaking his head at the foolishness of birds and of men; someone who saw everything for what it truly is, but deeply loved and cared for it all. And I imagine that those were the times that he understood most truly that he had fulfilled his mission for living among us, as he sat with his head bobbing — up and down, up and down, up and down.
I understand a bit more now about my own task in this world and my own joy in the journey of a moment, now that I too, have made the time I always needed but seldom took, to sit and study, and watch and observe, and just be — just be with the goings on about me on this planet, and to be with the birds. I know more about why Jesus, The Teacher, told us the Parable of the Sparrows, because knowing birds a bit better, I am learning that we are all so much less important than we think we are, and we are also so much more loved than we believe we are.
Whether today, you are a struggling pigeon of a person, pecking and hunting for your sustenance. Or you are a Jody — a bully who thinks he has to overpower and overcome others to get ahead, to get more, to get what he deserves, to have the best perch, the most seeds, the top spot, or whatever it is you think you must have. No matter what kind of bird or being you are, remember that there is One Who Makes the Seed; One Who creates and plants and tends; One Who gives each day the Sun and Rain to grow the seeds; and One Who cares as much for you as for the sparrows. Meditate today on The God Who is a Feeding, Watching, Caring Being that even when you can’t see Her, loves you and has provided plenty of food and room at the feeder.
Then we must all try to understand, that the final instructions that Jesus gave before he flew off, were:
“Feed them. In the same way you feed others, you will be fed. Trust in Goodness, and that there is enough for all. In the same way you share seed and give place with others, I will give to you. Now go — and you must not just feed the birds you like, but you must also feed your enemies, the Jodies. I say, unto you, love The Watcher in the Window, and love your neighbors and your enemies just as much as you love yourself. Know that by doing so, you are like Your Heavenly Feeder and Father, whose feeder is full to overflowing, available and free for all of us.”
Remember to look around at the world, to observe the birds of the air, and the beasts of fields, and as you peck and scratch, or you hop and flit from here to there today, be assured —
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the unbelieving and faithless who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.~~Jesus as recorded in The Book of Matthew by one of his followers.
I have an acquaintance who is all worked-up about America becoming Communist. I just don’t have enough hair left on my head to keep pulling it out trying to explain things to some people, but remaining silent is also not always an option for me, at least at a first go. I do not engage in fruitless argument, but neither will I engage in the mock-niceness of not saying anything. Not saying something to people is not only not nice, it is unkind. If people want to go out and play in the traffic, I at least have the responsibility as someone who has learned that playing in traffic is not only wrong-headed but dangerous to try to convince them they aren’t seeing things the right way. I have to at least try to be ethical and to warn them and tell them: “Hey, you know you don’t have to play in the traffic, you can play right here in my safe backyard with me. C’mon in”. I can’t force them to change their minds, but I also can not be silent while they play a game of chicken with speeding semitrucks. And no this is not about things that are truly open to one’s own opinion. For more on that you can see my post of July 6, 2020 (janetawel.com/2020/07/06/unapologetically-thoughtful-woman-seeks-thinking-humans/)
So, back to the person who lives in fear that the people who are protesting throughout America today are “commies”, and that all of the people who want real change in this country are “socialists” (a term some people erroneously associate with synonyms for “thieves” or God help us, with that frightening term “French People”) (and let’s just pause here for a moment of silence to let this settle in: this man and others are upset only about the Black Lives Matter protests – about the way Black People protest or the way we are protesting as white people for the long disenfranchised people in America. In the name of Saint Colin Kaepernick, isn’t it as clear as Black and White by now folks what the real issues are?!?!) This person and tragically too many like him actually believe that the federal government of America is right to send camouflaged troops into cities to protect property rather than allowing local governments to decide how to protect peacefully lawfully protesting people. I mean, can we get this straight – some people are still more upset about property destruction as a bad side effect of good people protesting long after they have forgotten what the protests are about – people!)
And when my friend brings up the cold, cold-war corpse of Communism as a specter, he is right (but oh so wrong because he doesn’t see it)– right in that it is always the abuse of power by those who lead that corrupt a system of government and thereby decay the moral integrity of the very foundations of a nation. This is absolutely true today, if we look only at nations and governments in which the philosophy of communism fell to the greed and power-mongering of the entitled, and this is true no matter what they may claim their governing philosophy is today. Of course, as Orwell predicted, our founding philosophy of American Democracy and the ideology of a “republic for all” has fallen just as low, if not lower than that of the original intent of Marx’ and Engel’s ideology. This is what we should be looking at – not where we might be headed as we change, but where we have sunk as we have changed.
And can we just actually look around at our nation with open eyes and ask, “is this really what we want to believe in?”. It may be what we “want” since we can be as self-centered and greedy as the next person, but is it what we want to believe in? Are we willing to follow along with the folks that have drunk the kool-aide and let ourselves think that a little more “communal-ism” would even be the worst thing that could happen to our self-centered nation?
(I refer you to a commercial break here so you can listen to that great prophet, Bob Dylan and one of his many protest songs: “Gotta Serve Somebody” https://youtu.be/wC10VWDTzmU )
People who think this way about what they fear happening in America don’t understand either America’s true system of current leadership which I would describe as “Oligarchical Unethical-Uber-Capitalism”; nor do they understand very much about the theory of Communism as a governing ideal rather than the way Communism has come to be used by history’s dictators and shysters.
So when this acquaintance of mine, who happens to claim Christianity as his religion, posted a scary meme about America becoming Communist, I responded thusly. (For those of you that don’t know much about Christianity, the cult of Jesus Christ was originally the most philosophically “Communist” religion since Abraham gave Lot the first choice in land ownership. It still has elements of the ideals of communism that can be found in many communities that practice Christianity including nuns, monks, the Amish, and the Bruderhoff communities.)
I told my friend, that in fact he was right – America’s Federal Government is behaving like a Cold-War-ish Communist regime, in a frightening way, perhaps not seen on a federal level since the civil rights movements of the 1960’s or the student riots which caused Neil Young to pen the words to the song “Ohio” in 1970 (https://youtu.be/xy7FgTKPaMc) . Change a few words and names in Young’s song, and we horrifically, sadly seem to be right back in those days of the American Federal Government abusing its power against its own peacefully protesting citizens. So, to my friend’s fallacious argument meme, this is what I said:
Why yes, my friend — the fact that you see freedom of speech as vandalism is exactly the point of propaganda such as regimes like Communism and Fascism have used in the past. Or Nixon’s “bums” at Kent State. Or Hitler’s Jewish enemies of the state that led to the Holocaust. It is called propaganda for a reason and the reason is to persuade people that lies are truth and truth is a lie and to create an alter-enemy narrative so that the people in charge can divert your attention away from the problems they are supposed to help solve. Read your Orwell. Read your history. Read news accounts of what is actually happening — your government employees lining their pockets by abusing their power (golf tournament in Scotland anyone? So worthy of a petty, greedy strongman like a Stalin or a Putin.) Your federal government acting against its own citizens let alone against immigrants and sojourners. Things allowed to happen because someone was “elected”, even though it is unconstitutional, breaking the laws and the rule of law of the Constitution, tear gassing innocent people, not “vandals”. Oh, you are quite correct — that is all something that communist countries do (see China vs. Hong Kong) or dictators (see history of Tienanmen Square, Arab Spring, just for a few in our lifetimes). Caring more about their economy numbers than the health of their citizens is indeed so worthy of a communist dictator — you could not be more right on this, if you are pointing the finger at our current federal government. And please, if those points of true history or current events don’t convince you, read the Bible for it’s great and God-origin calls to justice and sharing and equality and freedom and love — and then just picture Jesus (who was frankly nothing at all like an American capitalist) — imagine the Guy who people want to claim as their Savior, turning over the tables of the politically sponsored religious money making businesses, while he was being teargassed and hit with rubber bullets by Caesar’s camouflaged men while the religious leaders washed their dirty hands of it rather than washing the protesters’ and sinners’ dirty feet.
For me, a person who has long tried to figure out what that figure of Jesus Christ is supposed to mean to my very own life, has there ever been a better time in my own country – in my own community – in my own family – in my own soul– to serve and love others as He did? Do I, as Jesus did, fear G-d enough to stop fearing Caesar? As Martin Luther King and John Lewis did?
And even if you don’t believe in any god at all – is your life not worth more than letting your fears define you? Don’t you want to be defined by what you believe IN, not what you fear is OUT there?
So, I told this friend of mine, and I say it to us all:
Be careful what you are allowing yourself to fear because it will end up being what you are left to serve.
Honestly, I have never liked talking about politics. I don’t have a desire to spend my remaining time on earth to write about them or even think about all this stuff. After learning and thinking about all the issues currently swirling around in America today, I feel like I have just willingly put myself in the eye of a storm much too big for little ole’ me and I am watching the pressing needs and problems swirl around like a million Amazon packages in a Wicked Witch’s Tornado.
But I must. If I am forced to run into the oncoming traffic only because it might save somebody else, then run into the speeding cars I must. It is my time. It is The Time. As that great sage and prophet, J.R.R. Tolkien said in The Fellowship of the Ring: We must decide what we are called to do with the time we are given.
A previous student of mine posted this today. Another day to thank the Dorsey Family for trying to teach me and help me. You know I was privileged to teach three of the Dorsey “kids” years ago, and I didn’t realize it then, but I do now — they began to teach me some truths during those years, and now they have become some of my best teachers at this critical point in my life and the life of this nation and the life of God’s Kingdom.
I can not even imagine what this feels like — generation after generation. This brings it home…
I wake up trying to fight and stand with, every day now, and I am so tired and exhausted and I say to myself — “you stupid baby — stop whining. Imagine being this exhausted by fighting every day of your life, every generation of your family, just because you woke up black today. Get over yourself, Jane Tawel! Time to wear out myself in this cause, and get off my old white duff.”
The time is now — it has to be– the time is now — don’t let any one tell you otherwise. May the spirit of Lord truly rise up, May His Kingdom be known by justice, truth and love on this planet, in this world, in His true people as it was meant to be, may we be fearfully aware that we will be judged by how we rise to this challenge in our own lives today, may we be fearfully aware we will be judged by the lies we let ourselves believe and live by, and may we be changed to Be the Change.
To my white friends — make yourself a student today of the experts — you can tell who they are by their skin color.
To my religious friends — make yourself a student today of The Expert– you can tell who that is by His Love.
To my American friends — make yourself a student today of the experts of a balanced and humbling History. — you can tell what that is by how uncomfortable it makes you.
And to young folks today — you are going to have to become quick studies but deep, wise thinkers in how to be the experts for making this world a better place for the future. Some of us old folks will try our best to help you — you can tell who we are by our humility and willingness to learn from you.
Love, hope, prayers, and I commit to continued action! — “Mrs. T”.
Left Speechless but Speaking Out by a Humbled White Person
By Jane Tawel
June 1, 2020
George Floyd, 2020
And so it is, as we see that black lives still don’t matter to my people, the white people; that social justice still does not matter to my people, the people in power; that we are all for equality as long as my people don’t have to give-up any thing to make America a more equal playing field for people; and so it is we see that Langston Hughes was right all those years ago:
“What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?”
“Harlem” by Langston Hughes (1951)
(FILE – Protesters demonstrate against the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis, Friday, May 29, 2020, in New York. The massive protests sweeping across U.S. cities follow the police killing of a black man in Minnesota. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
We see that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ever so right, was so right, when he wrote:
Let me say as I’ve always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. … But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. [Martin Luther King Jr., “The Other America”]
Years and years go by. . . deaths and deaths go by…. Are we really still surprised, when black people have to shout, still have to try to make themselves heard over our white complacency, still have to shock us as they cry out: “Can you hear me now?!”
We have failed to hear that we have not met our promises. People say, “oh but two wrongs don’t make a right”. But the question for me, a white woman grown up in America all these years, isn’t about being right – it is about being righteous. Righteous indignation is all very well for a white person, but righteous action is what is needed now. My intellectual assent to what black people are feeling, or doing is all very well, but that doesn’t help them two bits worth if I do not act on that assent. As it is said, “faith without works is dead”.
How dare we like spoiled children cry over our broken toys, more than we weep over the dead bodies of black boys and girls. How dare we demand self-righteously that the playground rules be changed to punish black people, and not ever demand just punishment for the white looters sitting in the halls of power, looting our democracy, looting our economy, looting our health system, looting the very foundations of any remaining morals this country might have tip-toed toward. The playground has never had fair rules for blacks and whites, because we white people hog all the swings and slides. How dare we continue to let people keep killing our citizens just because they are black and then complain that they don’t know how to control their anger. We dare because we are white. It is that horrifically simple.
And so I am left speechless in the flood of prophetic, condemning, heart-breaking, angry, fearful, mournful and sorrowful words and actions, protests and riots, preaching and venting — I read by and about and hear by and about black people in this nation. They are the stored words and feelings of centuries and they rise once more like a flood of tears that is never dammed.
And yet, though I do not have the right, I have not earned it as I should, I was not born black with so few other equal rights other than the right to speak up on this now –I must speak. I will not stay silent just because it is not “my fight”, for until we white people make it our fight, nothing will ever change, as we have seen. I will not condemn the reactions of people whose shoes I have never walked in. I have never been black. I can try my hardest to walk in those shoes, but it will be an exercise in moral thinking only, not moral action, unless I am truly walking with, standing up for, acting for people of color.
But I have spent a lifetime walking in a white person’s shoes, and so I get to decide what it means to “walk the walk and not just talk the talk”. I get to decide what I believe my own life is worth. Is my life merely worth the gathering of more stuff for me, the avoidance of conflicts that might be difficult, worth only the “niceness” of staying silent, and the ease of retiring into a life that was never all that hard to begin with? Or is my life worth more than that? Is my life worth believing that small people doing small things in the name of justice and truth and love, is the only real kind of life worth living?
So, I will speak when spoken to, and I will condemn and call out white people—my people–, no matter whether they are people I love or not. I will call-out white people who use racist language to defend their unease with black anger. I will call out those white folks who sit in judgement of others, while the giant planks in their own eyes prevent them from seeing their own sins against God and others. I will call out the white pastors and white Christians who claim their rights to practice their religion and earn their salaries are more important than the death tolls, the health, the salaries, the murders of black people in this country. I will call out those who listen but do not act. I will call myself out, first and foremost.
And I will not stay silent when I grope for the words I continue to try to say to my black fellow Americans, to my black brothers and sisters, and forgive me for using a phrase that has given so many white people like me a false sense of solidarity, to my black friends: Please forgive me. Please help me. Please.
I am so sorry. I am here and now accepting my own egregious culpability and the egregious culpability of my nation. I have tried to say many things during this time with words that will only remain pathetic if I don’t act. I speak as someone who has long believed in a world view that is only as good as it is acted upon. Unlike what you may be hearing from those who claim it today, the Judeo-Christian worldview is one of acting for love and truth and justice, against hatred and injustice and deceit. In fact, the only thing worth believing about God, Jesus or the Bible is that it doesn’t matter what we think, since in light of God we are all stupid. It doesn’t matter what we believe if it doesn’t change us. The only thing that matters is that we humans are meant – required –to act out goodness – goodness for the whole earth, the whole world, good hearts and minds that translate directly into wills of loving actions for the betterment of all, but especially for those who have less than we do. Period.
So here are some thoughts related to a few things my black connections, and other people of color, have been trying to help me with and that I have been struggling with. I don’t say that there are not white friends of mine who are also speaking out and speaking up and standing for, but they like I am, are the “roar of the crowd”; we are not the players who literally have skin in the game.
I have to start with my own worldview as shaped by American Christianity but which has drastically morphed in recent years, to something that I hope resembles more like what a real God, and real Savior, and a real Holy Book would teach. If you believe in the truths about justice in the Bible, and the idea of how the world is supposed to be as Jesus taught, as I do, then we know that accordingly, the nations are continually and will be in the future judged. Check out the books of Amos and Isaiah and the words of Jesus, if you don’t believe me. America will be judged, and I think God will start with what we — our whole nation of white, colonizing, slave owning, genocidal, violent and silent– people have done to people of color, indigenous peoples, and in this country, especially, to black people. It makes me tremble to hear people call this country “back to being” a Christian nation — it never was, never has been, never will be. Christianity is as Christianity DOES. As God has always called His people to do, we must decide “as for me and my house, who will I serve?” Will I serve the false idols of this nation, or serve the Lord? As all individuals from Abraham to Moses to Joshua to David to Jesus, we can choose to side with the power of a nation of kings who are not just, not truthful, not caring of the least of society, not “loving the whole world as God so loved the world”, a nation built on racism and greed. Or we can stand up and be counted. We can leave the Babylon of our false religion, we can stop wandering in the wilderness of our grumbling and greed, or we can leave the Promised Land to those willing to risk for it. But this is “religious” talk. What is happening in our country today is about humans, and humanity, no matter what your beliefs and disbeliefs.
The transgressions and consequences of racism and violence of our nation continues and I can not imagine if I were black and having to witness atrocity after atrocity. But until everyone who is not a person of color, accepts their own responsibility, either by commission or omission, we will not know how to change. I must accept my own shame — we carry the sins of our fathers and mothers generation after generation. I carry the stain of my own prejudices, spoken or “only” thought. I carry the heavy cost of my own laziness in not fighting for others, silence in the face of pure evil, and for not mourning with so many people of color who continue to mourn, and mourn, and mourn.
I have no substantial say in my nation except with my vote and my money, but I do have a say before my God and my brothers and sisters, and fellow humans, and even a voice that should be heard by those who do not believe as I do. Perhaps they cannot believe in my God because they have suffered at the hands of this white “christian” nation for so long – and that is on me.
I am angry, and I am sorrowful. And I am so, so sorry for everything. To claim it is not “my fault” may have philosophical credence but it has no bearing on what must change in my own heart, my own life, and in the hearts and lives of this nation.
And to those who would see me as a spiritual person, I repent. And I confess my own sins humbly with repentance, for my owns sins of both commission and omission, done and left undone. I honestly believe, that in this life and the next, God will weigh us all in the balance. I know I, too deserve to be judged, for my prejudices, my racism, my not being who God has called us to be, and I pray that I might understand the weight of these words: “Repent and be saved. I, Jesus, do not judge you — so go and sin no more.” And sinning no more in white America today, means that I am also being told: “Now get out there and do something about this as God has commanded you to do.”
To look at oneself in the mirror of truth is to face one’s own hypocrisy. Black people in this country are understandably incensed not only at the institutionalized racism of centuries, at police murders of black people, of white racists killing innocent black people and getting away with it in the courts meant to uphold our laws, but they are also angry at the blatant hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is the other monster head on the Hydra of white privilege, hatred, inequality, and greed that lives and is fed in America.
I am finding that hypocrisy is one of the most difficult things to call people out on. It makes sense, because hypocrisy is not only in the very foundations of our egos, but is a founding father of this nation and of the major religion we claim as “Christianity”. Our foolish lazy stance that we are merely called to a belief in the idea of democracy but not a fight for it, and our complacent belief that we need not do anything other than pray to earn God’s favor, has led us to jump off the cliff of reason and understanding, and into a raging tide-pool of hypocritical insanity-producing self-justification and destructive false mores and unsustainable values.
My heart breaks most of all at what people are doing and not doing in the name of God or Christ. A white pastor I know and whose church I once attended, posted the other day to all his followers that maybe we should stop speaking out on social media and stop speaking out in the streets, and try “listening”. Dear Lord, does this man not see his own complacent hypocrisy? Answer: no. The man has a cushy job in an all-white church with a house on a golf course (paid for in God-money) in a pretty much all white state – a place he fled to a few years back after Los Angeles got a bit too much for him. What black people is he “listening” to? I’ve tried calling him and others out before and they just delete or unfriend me. LOL! But isn’t it really the same for most of white people, we live in all white glass houses and throw rocks at the reactions of black people throwing rocks in riots?
Frankly, I’m always rather thankful when someone decides to “break up with me” over issues, because I feel I must be doing something, maybe even doing something right. Also, when someone unfriends or deletes me because they don’t like how angry I am, or my truth-telling, or my trying to discuss something I don’t agree with, then I get a little bit closer to understanding what is it to walk in the shoes of a person of color. To be shut down, to have no voice that is worth listening to, to be “listened to” and then ignored. I can pity these people who decide I am not worth it, who think God’s love is for being nice, that God’s command to love others as self, is for Sunday pew sitting, and not protest marching, tables turned over righteousness. I am aware that I am being “deleted”, being dismissed, being shunned or judged because I am in-your-face angry. I can almost imagine how angry I’d be if I were black. When white people get upset and angry with black people for demanding truth, demanding righteousness, demanding change in thinking and acting, for “calling out” and calling to account our wrongs, our deeply entrenched problems, our race issues, and our “Christian” failings, do we not see our own hypocrisy? Do black people also have prejudices, do they also make mistakes, do they also have to be accountable – why of course, but as a white woman, I take to heart these words from a person of color, Jesus Christ, who said “to whom much is given much will be required”. Mea culpa. Much is required of me and it’s time I started paying my dues, not just skimming off the top.
So we keep at it – all of us. Listening, yes, I am listening, but “faith without works is dead”. And listening without change and action is like watching a meal without eating it. It is like eating a communion wafer, the body of Christ given for us, without becoming the person of Christ, without acting out the life of Christ, suffering unto death for the love of others.
Ah, listening. Is the corona virus “listening” as more people of color die than white people do because of years of entrenched greed and racism and institutionalized inequality? Did the cops “listen” to any single one of the black men and women they have pulled over for being black, arrested for being black, killed for being black? Did they “listen” when they heard George Floyd cry, “I can’t breath”? Are our government leaders “listening”? Are schools and those who will educate the future “listening”? If they are truly listening, they will hear the thunder of the waves — the flood is here–and they –we– will all DO SOMETHING. It is not time to take cover, white folks, it is time to fix the broken dams.
Who do we admire, black and white folks alike? Gandhi? Mother Teresa? Abraham Lincoln? Martin Luther King, Jr.? Did they merely listen and then “pray” or “discuss” or “promise change for the future”? How about Jesus? Did Jesus just “listen”? Heck no, He led a one-man riot, he turned over the tables, folks. Jesus actually lived out his whole life as a single-handed protest against racism, injustice, and greed and pride. There was no one who understood better than The Son of God what having great power means and so he used it by laying it down for the least of the least in this world. There was no one who suffered more at the hands of conspiracy theories and racism and false religious leaders and persecution than the Son of God. How dare we treat him with such contempt today with our hypocrisy of inaction.
We have got to stop giving powerful or entitled people the “pass card” on their actions (or inactions) and for us white folks, we must stop giving people the green light on their hypocrisy. I confess humbly, that it is easy now at my age, with my color, in my place to speak out. Far too easy compared to George Floyd, a black man who cried, “I can’t breathe”. It’s kind of a relief that all the “Christian” places and the schools that I used to work for “let me go” for being a bit radical, a bit different, for speaking out, for questioning authority, for protesting. I’m not complaining as it has helped me understand prejudice more intimately. I don’t have to weigh any more who might read my posts and decide that students or other “Christians” “can’t handle” something or that hard truths are merely “opinions” that should be kept to oneself, or worst of all – that Jesus came to preach “why can’t we all just get along?”, which is the very last thing Jesus would have said.
What Jesus did say was, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” What Jesus did say was, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
White folks, we keep “swallowing camels” and “straining out gnats”. And that is the truth we seem unable to “swallow”.
What students can’t handle – what young people today can not tolerate – what people who do not believe in the religions of today can not stomach, what people of color cannot swallow — is the broken world we are leaving them and the excuses we are still clinging to.
So, you are right, no matter how the words may come out, my friends, to call out and call to account each other and ourselves. We must all call-out folks, but let’s start with calling out our own folks. Let’s call out especially educators of young minds and hearts, especially white people, especially self-proclaimed religious people, especially powerful leaders, especially the “listeners” and not “doers”.
When there is a seismic earthquake going on in this country, a destruction of the very foundations of morality and democracy, then people can’t keep silent. We can’t just enjoy sharing recipes. It’s why it has all been a “recipe for disaster” — our complacent acceptance and our soul-destroying hypocrisy of those who are privileged to live white. The foundation is crumbling folks, don’t keep painting over the dirty walls.
I am calling out myself, because it has always been easier for me, a white woman, an American, a “Christian”, to speak out and speak up. It has always been easier for me to post and write things like this than it has been for a black person, a person of color, a Muslim or Jew, or an immigrant. I refuse to give myself a pass card, and don’t you either, my friend, “To those who have been given much, much will be required”.
Thank you to the black people, to all the people of color, in America today, throughout the world, in fact, who love me enough to speak out and to speak truth. Who care enough to believe that I can change. Thank you. Be brave, be safe.
Thank you to all the black and yes, white people who have been acting in ways seen and unseen for all these years to bring justice home to America in real ways. Be tireless in doing good, be hopeful.
I will continue to think and pray, listen and take in, and find ways to actually ACT, not just talk and write. I will keep listening and keep listening and never feel that it is my right as a white person to be tired of listening. I will mourn in anger and sorrow with black mothers and fathers and spouses and children and friends across this nation for the terrorism and tragedies that no one should have to endure time and time again.
And I will act, without knowing for certain whether it is the “right thing” to do, but with the hopeful assurance that it is the “righteous” thing to do.
~~ “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
(Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quoting the ancient prophet, Amos)