“They are not allowed to judge you,” I tell myself. “Not anymore.”
“Not then, not now, not ever,” Truth says to me.
“I allow them to judge me because I had, I have, no faith,” I say to Truth.
With Her reply, Truth holds my breath, and I feel my heart has either stopped or is racing:
“No, you are wrong,” Truth says.
“You let them judge you because you had, you have, no doubt.”
“Doubt what they told you and what they tell you about the world, about what is real, and most of all, about yourself. But above all, do not believe what you yourself tell you about yourself.”
And now, the judges, the liars, those who meant well, and those who loved me most, they all appear within the hurricane of my thoughts, tossing judgements at me like cast-off clothes that no longer fit me.
Truth appears within the swirling thoughts and forces me to look only at what is right in front of me.
“What you do not realize,” Truth whispers, “is that their judgments, just like constricting, mismatched clothes, have never fit you. Neither are your judgements suitable for them or you. Do not follow the fashions of emperors in any clothes that mask the naked truth. Tear them off your body and be naked in the wonder of how you were wonderfully created. Remove the hat of lies that tightens around your head, constricting thoughts of freedom and truth. Step out of shoes not meant for walking long distances in comfort and let your toes and heels feel the earth and know that even what you think is solid ground, is just a symbol of what always moves below, above, and within your very heart, and soul, and mind.”
I felt the urge to free myself, but stopped once more, to turn to Truth and ask, “But how then can I ever know what is real?”
Truth receded from me but with a smile, She asked, “Are you sure you need to know?”
And so, I began to seek doubt. To let myself immerse myself in doubting all I thought I knew. And when my thoughts rose up against me, claiming their rights, claiming their importance, claiming that I needed them, I gently shook free of them. I pried myself free from the lies of knowing, the lies of judgement, the lies of fear; and from their grasping, gasping, gawking specters, I began to run, to float, to fly in the freedom of doubt. And in freeing myself into doubting all I thought I knew, I found a little inkling of what was always truly meant by faith.
“You are not real,” I tell my thoughts, my judgements, and my fears. “But I will take you, nonetheless, and make and mold of you something useful. I will take the lies and judgements and fears; I will take the thoughts and feelings and wisps and whispers, and all that I imagine to be real, but which are only symbols of The Real, and with them I will create only beautiful things. Beautiful things for others. Beautiful things for me. Beautiful things for Truth. Because that is what real human beings do.”
And now, let Us create something beautiful.
And Truth stepped aside in hope that Wisdom would stay awhile with me. And as Truth left me here, just here for a little time longer, She gently sung:
If only they had listened to Jefferson: “The idea of amending constitutions at regular intervals dates back to Thomas Jefferson. In a famous letter, he wrote that we should “provide in our constitution for its revision at stated periods.” “Each generation” should have the “solemn opportunity” to update the constitution “every nineteen or twenty years,” thus allowing it to “be handed on, with periodical repairs, from generation to generation, to the end of time.”(The New Republic)
Lately I have realized how little I know about how things “should” work in my own nation and how they “do or don’t” work comparatively. I completely agree it is time every citizen was more educated in civics and through that education that the people are heard in terms of changes that need to be made yesterday. We must ask ourselves — when does a document like a government charter (which is what our Constitution is) become an idol to worship and not a tool to use for the good of the people? There are a couple other idolized documents I can think of that we should be better educated in and asking these questions about as well, but that’s a whole other can of manna.
As Jesus, the brilliant student of Torah law and the expert in the government charters of Israel said, we are meant to fulfill and live out these truths as guides, not worship or desecrate our written guides by our inability to change and be changed by “these truths that God and humans hold self-evident”…. We will be thinking about the story of that great statesman Pilate soon and his sad, sarcastic, narcissistic and oh so telling question that he asked of Jesus: “What is Truth?” We should not put up with our officials today asking the same thing — we should be the answer — We are the Truth of which you are merely the temporary guardians of.
To riff on an oldie — instead of “following the money”, we must start to “Follow the Truth”. And the questions are always the same for individual, community, and nation: Who do we want to be? What are we called to do? What changes do we need to make to be and do that which is our highest calling?
~~ Let’s do this, folks. Let’s help each other. I know I could use it. ~~Jane
There is an ancient Book. It began as one life, The Tree of Life, the Tree of Jesse, and it has sent seeds throughout the world, which have taken deep roots, growing into a mighty, world-reaching forest of life-giving beliefs.
Some people have taken the Book Tree’s branches and turned them into tentacles to ensnare. Some have taken the Book Tree’s roots and poisoned them in their desire to destroy the Life that the Book Tree offers. Some have worshipped the Book, and forgotten that a Book is just a book; and that it is always about something that is more real than any words on a page can hope to convey. And some have used the Book Tree for personal gain and profit, cutting away the branches so the fruit can not be easily gleaned by those in need, but only gorged on by those hogging the sectioned-off branches.
There are many people who have taught me about The Book, some because they understood its meaning and some because they refused to. A person can learn from those who get it right and from those who get it wrong, and that is the wonderful thing about this Book; it is full of stories of people who got the messages in it right and those who got it wrong. I have learned that the Book has stories about people who from the beginning of Time have been just like me – full of pride, full of brokenness, full of a desire to give in to the temptations of self-centeredness, full of fear, and full of need. I have also learned from the stories that people have always been just like the best of humans that I know – full of courage in the face of danger, full of love in the face of hate, full of determination in the face of injustice, full of faith in the deepest darkness, full of hope in what we can not see yet, and full of something that can always be a little, better, a little higher than the beasts but always still a little lacking, a little yearning, a little lower than the angels.
I have learned in the Book that people have mostly gotten it wrong, but that as long as there is breath, there is the possibility of finally getting some things right. In the Book the only thing that counts is that you admit when you get it wrong and that you keep trying to get it right and that in the end, if you get it right, you’ll be okay. The Book calls this “forgiveness”.
I have learned that if you are my friend, that does not mean I should make your enemy my enemy. The Book teaches that there is only one “team” that matters and that I should try to play for it; and that team is not in competition with any other team, but it is the one sharing with everyone else. I have learned instead of keeping my heart hardened toward an enemy, that if I try to understand and have compassion for everyone, then I will have no enemies, but only brothers and sisters. The Book calls this “love”.
The Book has taught me that I, like all before and after me, have many choices of what to believe, but that if I want to believe what The Book teaches, then there is One Being that I should worship whose name no one knows but Who nonetheless, “IS”. “I AM” is the sole consolation of The Book; there is no other prize, no other meaning than relationship with Holy Otherness. The Book is clear, and yet not comforting about this God. The stories teach that there is a Creator of this world and of me (and of you); that there is a Parent who is Love; that there is a Conscience Reality that judges between Good and Evil; and that there is a Giver who loves to give what is truly Right and Good for the Created Planet and for the Creatures we are. That’s it. That’s all we get to trust in about what we long to know. Trusting in this and acting on it, believing against all odds, and despite our lack of knowledge and assurance, is what The Book calls “faith”.
The Book has taught me that there were many humans that lived Good Lives, lives lived all in CAPS with exclamation points behind them; GOOD PEOPLE!!!! and that every single one of them sacrificed and suffered a lot to do the right things. The Book has taught me that it is these suffering servants who really get what this life on earth has to offer that is best of all; and that the people who think this life is about getting more, earning more, hoarding more, of anything, including wealth or power, never really live as we were created to live. We should feel sorry for these people, not envy them, at least that is what The Book teaches.
The Book has taught me there were many people who were saviors of their people, and that there was one person who lived a perfectly Good Life and he is The Savior of all. He was also the most suffering servant of all, so it is astounding that so many people since he lived on earth claim they want to live like he did. Of course, it is hard to come up with actual examples of any of us who have lived like The Good Man lived, but the point is, so many people keep trying to, and that has made all the difference ever since.
The Book has taught me to follow the example of all of the Good People in the World, even if they never have read the Book or know anything about the God in it. The very best person to follow in life is the One Perfect Human, but this person is a very, very, very hard person to follow. He is a hard act to follow and at the same time, he is also exactly like me. And so, the Book teaches that I have great responsibilities, great need of forgiveness, and great hope of rebirth into the kind of Life that this particular Savior who is part of the Story of The Book, taught us about. This Man is what The Book calls “Son of God”.
The Book teaches me that every human comes into the world with a sense of right and wrong called a conscience, but that our conscience is a part of us like our hands or our lungs or our livers, and we can either care for and nurture our conscience or we can abuse and starve it, so that it becomes weak and sickly. The Book teaches that there are universal laws that will lead to being the best sort of human our species can offer and that everyone knows these laws but also that everyone always wants to make new laws that aren’t good for everyone or to apply the laws to others to follow but not follow themselves. The Book teaches that unless we follow the laws of caring for the planet and for all who live in it, then we are lost. This is why the Book teaches that the one thing most hated by the God of The Book and by our own best natures, is our ability to turn Truth into Lies. The Book teaches that from The Beginning, when First Man and First Woman lied to The God and lied to each other, that that is when they began to die. Lies are the roots of Death. The Book teaches us that we can kill our conscience, that we can kill that very thing that makes us “like gods”. This thing that is in all of us that we are to care for above everything else is what The Book calls “the soul”.
The Book teaches that though we may not see it clearly, there is beyond the mist and fog and in the darkest of darknesses, a Light of Truth that has no end. This Truth can only exist as a Co-Creator with Love. And Love as a powerful force of Goodness and Truthfulness and Joy is that which will remain long after The Book is no longer needed, on earth as it is EveryWhere THE IAM of LOVE lives.
I learn from The Book about Life and what the stories in The Book do in my own life and my own relationships and my own Relationship, is a matter of how I live each day in The Garden. Like seeds planted, each moment, it matters on an unfathomable scale, how I choose to nurture those seeds, how I protect them from weeds and drought, how I nourish them, how I grow them, and how I trust in The Sun to freely give them Life. The Book teaches that to whom much is given, much is required of her to give back, to give others, to give forth, to give freely. Because The Book teaches me that there is nothing to fear if I keep my hand to the plow and the other hand outstretched to my neighbor and that I can live boldly and joyfully, like the other people whose stories are told in The Book. I can be at peace in this world with a “peace that passes understanding”. The Book calls this “wholeness” or “shalom”.
I am so grateful to have found the Book, so many years ago now. It is a compass that always points to True North, it is a map and a guide on The Way; it is a consolation in times of trial, a rod and staff when I err and need redirected; it is a wealth of good tales with stirring events and teaching moments, with characters that I can relate to, admire, and either cheer or boo; it is a source of eternal proverbs and excellent poetry; and it is an eternal clarion call to live justly and righteously in a world of naysayers. And greatest of all, The Book is a hint – a small little hint—that there is Someone who wants to know me and be known by me and that That Otherness called simply “I Am” is as real as the Perfect Love that I have always imagined truly exists.
The Book is a Tree, and we are the branches. Let me reach forth my own small branch so that even the small birds of the field may find shelter there. Let me be secure in the Truth that The Tree produces enough fruit for all and let me share the fruits of my own small labors and my life so that all may live in the shade of Love. Let the leaves of The Book be like leaves of a mighty forest bringing Life to the whole world. May it be so for you and for me in this very moment ~~ Jane
But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. (Psalm 52:8)
“The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.” (The Book of Daniel 4:10-12)
There is nothing more foolish than continuing to try to change the mind of a fool or the heart of a hater. Better to go ahead and change the world and let all benefit from it. The fools and haters will never thank you for it, but you won’t need their thanks. Heroes don’t need the praise of fools any more than the Sun needs the earth in order to shine its light. World-changers don’t need the haters to love them, any more than the weeds and stones need to love the Sun in order for it to warm them. As the Good Ones say, “The Sun shines on the good and the evil”. The Light illuminates The Path for those who will walk it and for those who will stand on the sidelines and look for any excuse to sit in the dark. Just as the Sun does, we must let the light of truth and the warmth of love touch all, even those who will continue to prefer darkness and coldness.
Let your light shine and let your love warm. Do not fight or worry about those who refuse to step into the light or embrace the warmth. World-changers don’t waste time trying to get fools and haters to believe that the world doesn’t revolve around them, any more than the Sun needs to convince us that She doesn’t revolve around the Earth. Each day, the Sun shines, whether a person believes in it or not.
The Sun will shine because it is created to shine. You are created to shine.
The Sun will warm because it is created to warm. You are created to warm.
And the Earth will continue to exist to revolve around the Light and Love of the Sun as long as there are Good people willing to keep their lamps full of the sacred oil of love and their lights burning bright, conspicuous and bold with the power of truth.
Be a Sun in the world today. Be the unsung, un-thanked Hero of this moment in the sun.
Be the light and even the fools will feel your power.
Be the warmth and you will find that even the haters will feel less cold.
Be the Light and do not let darkness delay you in your quest for a better world. And when you leave the fools and haters behind, you will find that there are many more heroes in our world than you ever dreamed there could be.
And the unsung heroes are the ones that will one day, receive the only thanks that truly matter in a better world where all will live in The Light of the Sun; the heroes of today will receive the thanks of the children of tomorrow.
Be of good cheer; have hope even in the darkness; shine your light; find joy in your journey; and rise to your very own task of being a light on The Way and a hero to others today – Jane (P.S. And remember that all real superheroes wear masks. 🙂 )
Hello friends, you can read my latest by simply clicking on my name in the picture below. It is about universal truth, no matter where you find yourself in the journey today. I hope you will check it out and have a “salty” and “sweet” day. — Jane
Thanks to my son, Gordon, I was introduced to a profoundly spiritually wrenching song called “Zombie”. I try to listen to this song weekly at least. This song was written and originally performed about twenty-five years ago by Dolores O’Riordan of “The Cranberries”. Dolores was raised a Catholic in Ireland and was a great admirer of Pope John Paul II. O’Riordan bases her song’s haunting lyrics largely on the religious violent catastrophes that have on and off engulfed Ireland since 1917. The second version of this same song that I listen to as often as possible is by “Bad Wolves”. It was supposed to have included Dolores’ vocals, but she left the world before it could be recorded. The version by Bad Wolves, opens up the specific context; the singer, Tommy Vext remarks, “(Dolores’) lyrics in that song still reflect social unrest, political turmoil and humanity’s persistence in modern struggles,” Vext told Rolling Stone. “The reasons might change, but there’s still collateral damage with people’s struggle for power and freedom.” Tommy Vext is an American heavy metal singer who had to testify against his twin brother who, while high on drugs, tried to murder Tommy. Tommy speaks at 12-step groups and for relapse programs across the country.
The refrain of “Zombies” repeats, “in your head, in your head” followed by phrases like “they are fighting” or “they are dying”. I try to listen to this song at least once a week as an important prophetic message. It reminds me of what humans can become if they allow violence and the worship of money or power into their heads, hearts, religions, and politics. Humans all too easily become zombies. Today when I listened to “Zombies”, I was suddenly struck by the irony that earlier today I had been listening to Selah’s version of “O, Sacred Head Now Wounded”. The historical attribute of the words of this song, go to Bernard of Clairvoux, a medieval lyricist and poet. Bernard grew up in Burgundy and as a young nobleman, he was stinking rich and powerful. He gave up all his wealth and power to follow The Christ and remains one of the most revered historical followers of God; revered by people across the spectrum from John Calvin to Martin Luther and is considered to be Dante’s last guide in The Divine Comedy. The actual lyrics and music of this hymn were composed by a man named Paul Gerhardt, a Lutheran in Germany who lived in the mid-1600’s. He spent a lifetime composing hymns and trying to convince his church going brethren to stop attacking and fighting with other over doctrinal issues within the church. He died primarily of a broken heart and his last words are reputed to have been “us –no death has power to kill”.
I guess what I am thinking with a heavy heart and spirit today, is that perhaps, as that profoundly heady writer, C.S. Lewis (an agnostic when young who later became a leading voice in Christianity) wrote, we might make it “further in and further up” into Christ’s Kingdom on earth, if at the start of every church service, we listened first and prayerfully to the lyrics and music of the world’s prophets like the Doloreses and Tommys of this world. The prophets of the ages who sing the songs of change were and are all very flawed humans, but the words of their prophetic messages survive the ages because they are true Truth, whether we call them hymns or alternative music.
All of God’s Truth in fact presents to us an alternative music of sorts. But singing the hard words of songs that demand change; singing boldly and feelingly on the shores of Israel or Babylon or Ireland or America as the ancient souls and prophets of all times must, can be dangerous; sometimes dangerous to others and sometimes dangerous to themselves. Bernard believed in the persecution of Muslims and Dolores most probably died of a drug induced suicide. Alternative music doesn’t make us perfect; truth doesn’t keep us from sin and brokenness; and prophets are human like every one else; but at least they are trying not to be zombies.
There’s a movie I have never seen, called “The Zombie Apocalypse”. The title is enough for me because I think this is what the end of the world will look like to the angels: a bunch of zombies who still honestly think they are human, killing each other. The human race has, since the first murder by Cain of Abel, been stupidly and fearfully at war with ourselves. We are all at war with God. We long for peace but defeat ourselves with our mutually exclusive longing for power. Maybe if we began each day by personally accepting our vulnerability as humans, we could reverse the zombie process. Maybe if before church or synagogue or mosque members try to perform super-human Godlike, spiritual acts, they would face their own inner zombies, then just maybe we could truly begin to create a kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven — a kingdom of peace and love and joy and hope and real boys and girls created in the image of God. Perhaps if we realized that most days we are behaving like Zombies rather than the human beings created in a God’s image that we are called to be, maybe then we would really begin to understand how to worship the Savior who is the Protagonist of Paul’s lyrics in “O, Sacred Head” but who is also the Protagonist who dies in Dolores’ wars. Maybe to be fully in Christ’s image, we need to hold within our own heads and hearts the contrast and paradox between these two sets of lyrics.
(originally by The Cranberries)
Another head hangs lowly
Child is slowly taken
And the violence causes silence
Who are we mistaken?
But you see, it’s not me
It’s not my family
In your head, in your head, they are fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their bombs, and their drones
In your head, in your head, they are crying
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie-ie, oh
Another mother’s breaking
Heart is taking over
When the violence causes silence
We must be mistaken
It’s the same old theme
In two thousand eighteen
In your head, in your head, they’re still fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their guns, and their drones
In your head, in your head, they are dying
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie-ie, oh
It’s the same old theme
In two thousand eighteen
In your head, in your head, they are dying
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie-ie, oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh yeah
“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”
by Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676
O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss, till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.
Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee,
Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee
And flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish
That once was bright as morn!
Now from Thy cheeks has vanished
Their color, once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished
The splendor that was there.
Grim Death, with cruel rigor,
Hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou has lost Thy vigor,
Thy strength, in this sad strife.
My burden in Thy Passion,
Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression
Which brought this woe on thee.
I cast me down before Thee,
Wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee;
Redeemer, spurn me not!
My Shepherd, now receive me;
My Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me,
O Source of gifts divine!
Thy lips have often fed me
With words of truth and love,
Thy Spirit oft hath led me
To heavenly joys above.
Here I will stand beside Thee,
From Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me!
When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish
In death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish,
Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.
The joy can ne’er be spoken,
Above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken
I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of life, desiring
Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring,
I’d breathe my soul to Thee.
What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
Outlive my love for Thee.
My Savior, be Thou near me
When death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me,
Forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish,
Oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish
By virtue of Thine own!
Be Thou my Consolation,
My Shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy Passion
When my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,
Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfold Thee.
Who dieth thus dies well!
In Lewis’ end to the Narnia books, it is the unicorn, that almost angelic and mystical creature of lore and myth, who says on reaching the Promised Land, “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that is sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!” I like to imagine that today while I listened to their music, Dolores and Paul and Clive were all singing together, “I Belong Here”. Someday we will all wake up to a new world the prophets of the ages have passed through to, and we will suddenly realize that either we spent our lives on earth as zombies and didn’t know it; or we thought we spent our lives as mere humans, but were really fantastic and myth-like creatures of angelic stature.
All of us humans, just like Dolores, Tommy, Bernard, Paul, and yes, even Clive, spend our whole lifetimes looking for the answers to “that same old theme”, even in 2019. We long to see what this world is really like, could really be like and there are moments when the planet, the soldiers, the immigrants, the mothers, the fields all look a little bit like what we imagine they all could be — should be –but never fully are. Some of us spend lifetimes singing against and fighting against the zombies of hatred, racism, prejudice, greed, lies, violence, and self-idolization that surround us. Some of us spend lifetimes fighting those zombies who sidetrack us into theological quagmires and even try to convince us they are not zombies but Godly. Some, like Dolores and Paul, just keep crying out truth in the streets until they die of broken hearts. Some of us like Tommy and Bernard and Clive spend lifetimes trying to fight the zombies of false idolatry masquerading as religion, and fighting the demons of greed and self-pride masquerading as guardian angels. Some of us may only have enough alternative music within us to give someone a jug of water at the border or our extra coat in the winter or a hug across the aisle, just trying to help other humans not become zombies. Some of us only have enough strength to try for just one more hour, to fight the zombies within our own heads.
Some of us look to The Christ; who layed down His sovereign God-head, and took us his creatures, “in to his head, in his head”. And took us into His heart. In His heart. And then He layed down that Sacred Head, despised, wounded and killed, so that we might never again be alone; so that we might have the ability to fight the zombie within; so that we might have the ability to destroy the zombies without. So that we might know how to survive the temptations and powers of the zombies, both without us and within us. So that we might live as the humans Christ’s God created us to be.
Unless daily, His Sacred Head wounded and bleeding, bleeds from my own thoughts; unless daily His Sacred Heart beats within my own chest; until and unless His God-like humanity is revived and reborn in me, a zombie in need of a human Savior; unless all this and daily this, then I will be just another zombie pretending that I know what it means to be human and pretending that I know and am known by a God who loves all humanity. Pretending, not being; zombie, not human. “For that Being who is neither human nor anything humans can truly understand, loves His creaturely humans so much, that He begot a human son and gave Him a life on our planet; and whosoever turns from his or her sinful and broken zombie-ways and follows the human life and death Way of God’s Son, shall not die a zombie, but live forever, more human, and more God-ly than we could ever imagine.” (John 3:16 paraphrased)
For safety and hope today, and for worship of a God who made me in Imago Dei, I pray these words and sing with the saints of alternative music:
“My Savior be Thou near me. My Guardian, own me thine. Another head hangs lowly. Heart is taking over. We must be mistaken. Zombie, zombie, zombie. Oh, Sacred Head, now wound me. Remind me of Thine Passion. My Savior be Thou near me. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah…. Further up and Further in. Amen.”
All the assumptions we make. And we just take it all for granted that because we call ourselves something, label ourselves something, that these things are true. And we like them to be true because that is what gives us personal meaning and usually a paycheck or two. One of my favorite sayings of the current younger generation is when someone says something, and they sing-song with a bit of Socratic sass: “But is it? Is it really?” “Was he? Was he really?” “But did you? Did you really?” With the emphasis on really, this seemingly silly question has all the power of Pilate’s “What is truth?” I imagine if Pilate and Jesus were talking today, as they did in John 18, their conversation would go something more like this.
Jesus :“I have come into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth, hears my voice.”
Pilate: “But do they? Do they really?”
Here are some assumptions I hear people making, and being the stickler for the needed role of an antagonist in any good story, I will present how one might wonder about the “truth” of things people base their lives, livelihood, and even salvation on. This of course is a partial list of just my own particular meditations today. We can add on to these and ponder them for eternity; or rather until God’s Kingdom comes. Then the fat angel sings and it’s game over.
People say a lot of stuff about what “Christians” believe. Here is some of my personal “Socratic” dialect about some ideas that I have been struggling with lately. As is my bent, I will open my stream-of-conscious rather bent and banged up thinking here. I will use the second person “you” as a more colloquial version of the more proper third person “one”, meaning of course this is at heart, a first person reflection in the final analysis.
We should lead like Jesus. Jesus was a good leader. But Jesus proclaims himself not a leader at all but a servant and follower. In fact, Jesus flees the leadership role that could make Him a king of nations. Jesus flatly states that he can do nothing in His own power but only what His Father, Jehovah, does through him. To put the final “nail in this coffin”, It is very clear that when we are judged, if we have been a leader, we will have gotten our reward while on earth. Only those who serve as and with the least of the least will be chosen to lead with The Christ. We may all be created as equal, but we do not go through life as equals which brings us to false idea #2.
All human life is sacred. There is, I am afraid, nothing at all in the Bible that implies this. The metaphor found in Psalm 139 is merely that, a personal poetic reflection on the part of the servant of God and chosen Jewish king, David. This current Western idea that each human life is special and sacred is purely a religion born out of Humanism and wealth and the warping of “Christian” thought. This humanistic, individualistic religion that we erroneously call worship of God is nothing more than worship of self, and is not a Judeo-Christian worldview at all. I could go on and on with proofs from God’s Word about this but read it for yourself from beginning to end and you will wonder how we got to believe that each human is sacred. To give you only one indication, read the story of God and Sodom and Gomorrah and of Abraham’s plea for God to save just ten people worth saving. This idea that a human life is sacred is blasphemy in fact. There is none sacred but God, the Bible says. We can choose covenant with God and be chosen in that way and only in that way to have a life that is more than dust. But it is by our keeping covenant with God and living as The Son of God lived, that we become holy, sacred, eternal soul. I am afraid it is an incredibly important thing to think through in this day and age of the rather (sometimes literally) “Micky Mouse” -Americanized- Christianity-ese. It is critically important because people use this idea of all life as sacred to be “pro-life” about the abortion of unborn fetuses, but not “pro-life” about the born lives of illegal immigrants or not pro-life about people who do not vote or worship as they do. People support this idea of each human as sacred, in the ridiculous worldview that you can “ask Jesus to be your Savior” and then he is because “God loves you no matter what”. There are so many “Christian” songs that flat out say this over and over and it makes me tremble because if you read the actual tome that we call God’s Inspired Word”. You will realize that:
God does not love you no matter what you do. There is absolutely no indication in God’s Word that this is true. Let me just give you one example: Moses. Yeah, that star among God-followers. God was going to kill Moses and then – well, read the story for yourself of Moses’ wife, that wonderful pagan woman called Zipporah. Which brings me to this.
God is not my friend. God is not that friend Who comes whenever I call Him to help my team win the game. God is God. Again, read God’s Word. Actually read it; don’t show up to have the experts tell you on Sunday how much they love you because Jesus loves you and died for you. He didn’t. Jesus, a Jew, died for a Holy God, his Father, Adonai. Jesus completed the whole cycle of being human in perfect covenant with a Holy God. Jesus died to show us that we could be reborn through our own deaths (both literal and figurative, as He did) if we lived in covenant with Yahweh, as Jesus did. Jesus is very, very clear that He did not come to throw out the Bible, what we blithely call to our peril, the “Old” Testament, but to fulfill and live it as it was meant. Not as the religious leaders had interpreted it but as The Christ lived it. We are meant to live it too. But it is not this wide road that is easy to stroll down because your own particular life is so sacred. Nope. It is a narrow road that you choose, but as Robert Frost said, that choice will “make all the difference”. I should be different because God loves me enough to make me different enough to be with Him. Which bring us to #5.
God loves me. Well, yes and no. God loves me but not because I’m me. The Bible tells us that God loves “the World”. God made the world perfect and He made humans perfect. And then we messed ourselves up and messed up the world and continue to do both of those things. Read the bits in the Bible about how God “chastises and disciplines those He loves” and then decide if you want A Holy God to love you. Because frankly most of us live like animals. This is where those who don’t believe in God have it partially right. We are like animals and we can choose to live like animals if we want; “eating, drinking, and being merry” for tomorrow we die. And that’s it. Scripture implies that if we live long enough, we get three choices in this world: 1. To live for self and get as much as I can for me and my family, just like the doggie families, and ape families do. When my days are over enjoying this wonderful life, I will either lay down with gratitude or regrets or a mix of both, and then return to dust and cease to exist. The place of buried animal bodies, or the ground from which no man returns, is what the Bible calls Gehenna. 2. If on the other hand, you lead your life and choose to be cruel, wicked, to abuse God’s name, to abuse power, to abuse others, to enjoy evil in word and deed, and perhaps even if you just commit those things we call the sins of omission, ie not doing the things you were meant to do for Good; then God is pretty clear you will be punished even after you think you escape judgement through death. Those people will go to hell, complete with the demonic gods they have enjoyed while alive on earth. 3. You can spend your life living on the planet as best you can in relationship to a God we can no longer see. We can no longer see God as Adam and Eve could, because we have chosen sin instead. But God provides a way “back to The Garden” so to speak; and that is by following the rules, worshiping only Jehovah, and loving others as we love our own selves. This is the option we have to live in a covenant with The One True God, Yahweh. These people live to glorify the name of Jehovah, live for the least of the least in this world, study Truth, learn how to love and trust and hope again after The Fall, and resist the temptations that The Christ did: those temptations of power, greed, and self-worship. These people will rise from death to a new earth and to even something new and unknown – a “Heaven”, the place where at last we can be in the same space as God is and not die. These people will see God and live.
Everyone wants to go to heaven. No, they don’t. You may have been taught that you will go to hell if you don’t listen to Christians. Well, ironically the only people Jesus, the founder of the little Christs sect, says will go to hell, are the leaders of the religion he practiced. Matthew 23:15: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” This is sobering to say the least for any of us who have taught any thing about Jesus. And while, I have always loved the practices and people of today’s churches, the incremental off -course steering that The Church has done for the past centuries, has us so far off course as to frighten me. Which brings us to something we might call semantics in #7, but semantics are crucial to explore when you are thinking about Jesus who is called The Word.
Jesus loves his church. He doesn’t. He couldn’t because he never used the word and there was no such idea as we now know “the church” in any of Christ’s teachings. In fact, in what we call the “New” Testament, another scary thing we’ve come to believe, there is not a single time the word “church” is used. Church is a misinterpretation of several Greek words. Again, you can read and google this for yourself. There is, of course, much proof that to follow God, we must live in communities, caring for each other and worshiping together. There is much proof that we are to live as followers of Christ with others who want to follow Him, like his disciples did. But the point is, we have turned the religion of Christ (and by extension of His early followers, including the people who wrote the Gospels and Paul) into something they would neither recognize nor I would venture to boldly say, would they approve of. So let’s just say this for now. Jesus was a Jew. Jesus believed that He was the Messiah of The Chosen People who were the Jews, the Hebrews. Jesus believed that it was through the Jewish Scriptures and lives of the Hebrew covenant keepers that God, The Father is best revealed. He also believed though that the Jews had abused their status and that “there would come a day when God will be worshiped neither on the Jewish Mount nor in the chosen confined temples of any other peoples, but by all peoples in “spirit and in truth”. Then He claimed that the day had in fact arrived with His way – The Way – of worship of God. Jesus did not come at all to form a new “organized religion” and we have programmed and capitalized on Jesus’ beliefs out of all recognition and wisdom. The main word that Jesus used that should make all the difference in our understanding of who He was / is was not “church”, congregation or synagogue. The word Jesus used was “Kingdom”. And He did not preach His own earthly kingdom, but The Kingdom of Yahweh. Which brings us back to the “really”, “is it really” of #1, in #8.
The Gospel / Good News is that Jesus is the only way to heaven. No, He isn’t. Jesus is the only way to The Father. And Jesus came to bring The Kingdom of The Father back to our understanding and to make available the germination in us of how The Father’s Kingdom can be restored to our world / planet/ Eden. What Jesus taught is that: “I am The Way (to God), The Truth (about God), and the Life (with God). No one comes to Jehovah except by means of my way.” In fact, this is why early followers of Jesus who were Jews or converted Jews would never have called their religion “Christianity” because it wasn’t. It was Judaism. They called what they believed what Jesus called what He believed: The Way. If you don’t want to truly know a Holy God and become holy, you won’t go to “hell” (necessarily). You will merely have enjoyed a good or an awful life depending on your status, personality, and circumstances and you will return to the dust of this planet like all animals and plants will. Nothing wrong with that choice. If however, you think that you want to live forever in the presence of God as we were intended to do in Eden when humans were created in the image of Divinity, then it is best to try to figure out how we are really meant to live now.
Because claiming to be something, doesn’t make it so. I would love to claim that I am a gorgeous twenty-three -year -old with a million dollars in the bank and five houses in various parts of the world and a private plane and that every one who meets me loves me and that I could rule the country, maybe even the world in the way it should be run, and that I get do-overs on every minute I’ve messed up and that God loves me no matter what. And you would have to ask me with all the Socratic sass you could muster, “ But–Are you? Are you really?”
If you think Jesus did all the work for you, or that because you were born into some cultural religion or other, or that just because you are alive, that those facts– which the Bible says, fall randomly like rain, on the good and the evil — that those facts make you something you want to be; and that God loves you no matter what; well then, you may want to look around at what we are doing to God’s world, to God’s other children, to our own bodies and souls, to God’s planet, and what we do in blasphemy of God’s Holy Name, and you may want to humble yourself; and ask yourself when you think you have it all figured out:
Some Musings on a Facebook Conversation between “Believers”
by Jane Tawel
July 13, 2017
I don’t know any of you in this Facebook exchange, except Scotty. Disclaimer: I have claimed a “form of” Christianity as my own Worldview and worked with Scotty at a Christian high school. Second Disclaimer: I struggle with the idea of calling myself a “Christian” in the same way I might struggle with calling myself an “American”. I am both, but the violence done to both of these titles and in the name of both of these identities has led them to be misnomers in my own heart if not elsewhere. As a person who values the integrity of words and truth, I am content to continue to struggle with both.
Pete –your arguments are sound and I find they point to something I have been struggling with for the last several years perhaps especially as I continue to work and “play” in “Christian” circles and assess what we have “done to” the Judeo-Christian worldview in the First – World Orders in which we live. I don’t want to intrude on this conversation but at the same time I don’t like to “snoop” on conversations that I find important and I think this one is.
My own experience throughout my life is that God as a Being will be as relational as I, as a being, want Him to be. At various points in my life, I made different choices in whether I wanted to be a “Christ-follower” and a “God-believer” or did not. There have been lots and lots of days when for my purposes God worked best as an afterthought. I have found that God is perfectly okay with leaving me alone but He also doesn’t just come when I whistle for Him. He is faithful but not on a leash. He has no need at all for me to believe in Him or do anything for Him. He has an Otherness and a love for humanity that people from the very beginning have tried to communicate with varying degrees of success. Those who call themselves “Christians” believe Jesus communicated it best in the flesh.
A person having no need of what we know as god(s) is an historical, rational non-belief life choice, as you rightly say. There is nothing new about it nor can we blame science for it. We also therefore cannot look to science or any other religions as a basis for argument. The very tenant of the Judeo-Christian Worldview is “Shut up for once and Just Know that Yahweh is The God.” (Psalm 46:10) If anyone has forgotten the mystery of this it is probably us yakking, arguing, bullying, world-conforming “Christians”.
Perhaps, Pete, what your friends are trying to argue but choosing what I would say is merely an unhelpful word choice — faith — is more that everyone believes in something. Perhaps what you are correctly pointing out is that it is also true that many think they believe in something like God who is Otherness, when in fact, they believe in god who is a reflection of their own desires and need and self image. It is kind of like people saying they believe in “free market” or don’t believe in everyone having healthcare and yet their actions show what they really believe in for themselves — just not for others. Believing in God has always meant actions over words. And this is what the non-believers rightly shake their heads at as our actions too often show what we really believe. Hence, we try to argue Otherness empirically and temporally and personally and get ourselves all tied up in nonsense. No wonder you keep trying to point that out. I can only apologize for myself not for all of us, but I feel a great sense of guilt in all of this. I’m sorry.
God is a choice, not a fact for everyone’s life. I think what many Christians fear is the admission that they have lived their lives exactly as you surmise is the truth — God as a convenient Santa Claus or God as a convenient excuse and more wrongly — God as personal power and justification– and so we give in to this constant need to convince the rest of the world that we are “right”. (Side note: I keep recommending this but I highly recommend Kathryn Schultz’s Ted Talk on “Being Wrong” or her book if any of you Facebook folk have the time. It has nothing to do with “religion” and everything to do with thinking and believing unscathed in anything at all including the infallibility of science.) Also, with people I love, I feel very sad when they don’t want to believe in God but I have erred so many times on letting that sadness be anger and worry. It is a Mobius Strip paradigm, is it not?
Many of us who claim to be “Christians” — and I put it in quotes time and time again because our idea of Christianity is too often like people who think selfies are art — We too, too often have no more realNeed — or real love or conception and pattern of worship of Another Being — than you do. This of course is why much of the world sadly has found no need of us or Our God. I believe we will be “judged” for this as individuals and also as religious institutions and nations. I don’t know exactly what judgment means and I understand that to you, Pete, it has no sense in eternal terms, but perhaps if I might just say that I think that somehow what I have been given as soul-life is mine to develop and will someday either be connected to an Otherness Eternity and a “Lifeforce” that I know and love and that knows and loves me or not.
We too, who call ourselves “believers” have quite often created a god in our own image. And sadly, this is what people see in today’s religion called “Christianity”. I say sadly because –mea culpa. It is why some of us are seeking a new name and new pattern of living spiritually and relationally even as we continue to turn to the Scriptures and other spiritual writings for direction and reality checks.
You are correct of course — there is something inherently irrational about both Otherness as a God and divine souls in humans — and when we keep trying to prove its rationality to atheists we do in fact “spin our wheels” as Scotty said. Spinning one’s wheels in my experience, just throws a lot of dirt on everyone nearby. Those who believe in True Myth — and again you are correct — all religions have some coherent similarities in terms of true myths– know myth to be as divinely inspired as art or communication or sunsets or tornadoes or the inexplicable love at one’s first sight of one’s baby — or anything that we “feel” and thereby “know” to be a Truth truer than “reality”. I know this idea of “True” myth sticks in your craw. If it helps you any, it also bugs a lot of Christians for the opposite reason! 🙂 Throw it around sometime with “Christians” and have some fun.
The two things that I have been dealing with the past few years are: One — God is not a one way street and faith, hope and love are my part of living intentionally in the world daily and living in a covenant with God daily — not once and then arguing with non-believers for the rest of my life that I am right and they are wrong. Just like my marriage, there are days and nights that I want out of this covenant with God because I just don’t love Him any more or He doesn’t love me enough any more. But just like my marriage, a covenant goes beyond “reality” to a different level of living together and that kind of loving relationship is quite different than anything else I know.
As those who claim “Christ” continue to use Him as a weapon or excuse or battering ram or fear tactic or successful hierarchical corporation or “community”, we create resistance, disbelief, anguish, unfaith, anger, disgust, and as you rightly say again, war and more war and more war. This is a team mentality that has made us all so small, I fear, at best. At worst, it has made us “cursed are those who give the name of good to evil, and of evil to what is good: who make light dark, and dark light: who make bitter sweet, and sweet bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).
Secondly, I think a lot about this idea that belief is not about what I do or what God does or what tenets I believe, or what I can prove. If I read and think about what my Worldview clearly says time and time again, the purpose of my journey is about whether I know God and He knows me. Whether I love God and whether He loves me — because the idea of “Know” in the Judeo-Christian parlance is that most intimate of knowledge that marriage partners have.
So — all of this to say — these are the kinds of discussions that we should be having with JOY– with excitement — because respecting and being connected to another human’s “innerness” — albeit unusual and uncomfortable in the age of reality TV — is so much more fulfilling knowledge than knowing about a two fanged snake or whatever you were referencing as a proof. Our need to communicate with each other, our desire to love or direct each other to “truth”, our own inner light — all of these inexplicable but true facts of self and other — are the greatest “proofs” I know of that there is a Something, and I believe, Someone, greater than just “me”. Wrestling with it as you all are doing is mentally and emotionally exhausting work, but as my family says at the end of certain work days — It’s a good kind of tired.
… Thanks for a good start to a thinking working day via Facebook!!! Thanks for letting me go on and on as I think through the important ideas you all raise.
Thanks to my friend, Charles Hampton, for sharing a link to an opinion piece on Fearless Girl and Raging Bull, the two statues in New York which are recently making exactly the kind of controversy both artists and marketing firms like. Okay, I know the piece is not called Raging Bull, but thinking about all of this stuff can give one a head ache, much like the headaches boxers might feel as portrayed in the movie “Raging Bull”. The first of several things that gets me about these dueling gender specific statues, is that while it is okay to have a raging headache thinking about things and thereby proclaiming our “masculine” side or “yang”, it is not okay to have a heart-ache when feeling about things, feelings as expressed in the feminine side or “yin”. And both of these sides of the human psyche are or should be nurtured and celebrated in and by all of us. To truly have our God-given rights and the dual sides of our human strengths, we all – male and female – must be able to balance the yin and yang of our feminine and masculine attributes and characters. Just to pull the Jesus card right from the get-go– Jesus treated all genders as equals and His apostle later reminded us that in Christ there is “neither male nor female”. In the image of God, we were created. God as God, and we IN God, means there is neither female nor male but God as a Being that we can only vaguely understand as the spiritual essence– quality and gifting– of both. Which means we were created with the essence and character of both.
So here’s the second but different thing about having a statue of a little girl instead of a woman. Making a statement about female empowerment with the image of a little girl, ensures that the statue represents someone whose power must be supernatural since she isn’t old enough to be powerful through experience and physical and intellectual strength. We still just don’t really like women who are powerful through experience and intelligence but we especially don’t like those women who still have strong and apparent emotions. Yet, somehow we give many men a pass on emotions that we wouldn’t in a woman. We might have very different standards for a woman who was, oh, let’s just say for a random example, an emotional woman who was the POTUS That career woman of intelligence and experience but who shows emotions would be at best kicked out of the job and at worst, institutionalized.
But why have we allowed ourselves to buy into the belief that emotions are meant to be clamped down, sanitized and shelved? When did we forget that the emotional sides of us want to make a difference in the world too? How did we accept the lesser goods of brain as emotional-less and brawn that is fearless? Isn’t it often the things we feel emotional about that cause us to act? Isn’t our fear an indication that something must be fought against? Can’t we historically (in the world and in our own family histories) point to the people who changed our lives exactly because they have felt deeply emotional and from the heart about things that matter? Aren’t these empaths often held up as the very people who get big things – things that change lives – done? And when did we stop believing that emotions are valuable and good? Even fear? Even anger? Even pain? Has not the human heart made more difference in the world than all the powers and big brains combined? Well, yes, one argues rightly– emotions can be used for evil and bad things – for us and for others. Let’s mention just two bad uses of emotions – nationalistic emotionalism in 1930’s Germany or racist emotions anywhere anytime. But the point is emotions are not bad or evil in and of themselves. The Judeo-Christian belief is that somehow strangely, humans were created with the same emotions as a God. Even to the extreme of feeling jealousy. Or suffering. A suffering God who is jealous for our love is one of the great paradoxical truths of my religion. One word alone should be able to help us all make the connection between emotions and meaningfulness and that word is LOVE. I can give endless examples, of the life-changing qualities of love from my life, from countless poems, stories, and scripture references, from various religious beliefs. And of course, any one reading this could do the same. Love makes the difference between a fearless, inactive statue and a fearful yet faithful godlike slayer of giants.
The problem with the little girl being “fearless” is that we demean the importance of feelings – of the heart-life. And this is perhaps why we have so often lived as soul-less consumers who remain desperate but unwilling to risk drinking deeply of meaning and trustingly becoming meaningful. Feelings are not the soul’s second class citizens but critical components for survival. Our needs for holistic living include all that we might call feelings, whether of fear or anger or love.
Oh, Artistic Muse Fearless Girl – Couldn’t we have a statue of desperate aching –hearted rural white grandmother? Or a representation of a scared –to- death but determined Midwestern black man? How about one of “I’m –about- ready- to- pee- my- pants- menopausal –mama- but -I’m -going –to- do -this -any -way -because –we- must –keep- trying- to- love- in- spirit- and- in- truth?”
Or– could we have maybe a statue of a homeless Asian U.S. veteran with arms outstretched towards the Wall Street Bull? Or across from the Bull, a very large unemployed woman clutching with one hand her world’s belongings in a shopping cart and in her other hand, her dread-lock haired child who holds a used and tattered public school book in his little hand, both fearfully but determinedly facing off against the increasing rampaging tides of greed, injustice, prejudice, hate, hunger, and violence?
I’ve included the link at the end of this to the thought provoking piece that got me thinking about all this. Greg Fallis points up the moral and artistic conflict in the fact that a business named SHE appropriated the original meaning of a work of art (the bull) for a marketing tool. SHE, the business, evidently has some nifty ideas but it has manipulated emotions and commissioned art and disguised and sold both as an altruistic, empowering belief system. Sadly, many religious institutions do much the same. This analysis by Greg Fallis about the two NYC statues is fascinating as it comes after the brief but infamous Pepsi commercial and that particular shameless, Mad-Men appropriation of someone else’s Truth and Meaning; appropriated not for adding onto the meaning but for marketing it. But come on, we have been sitting impotently by for years as our medias sell us meaning and belief for the price of a well-timed commercial break. Our religion has become The Show, and The Show, our religion. And well, of course how does one even begin to get one’s head around the whole appropriation of our democracy for one particular family’s marketing of their businesses? Where is Fearless American Citizen in all that? You know even many churches now pay big bucks for marketing? Yowza — we have really lost control. No, we have lost our way. No, we have lost The Way.
Before today, without knowing any of the controversy about these two statues, what I have been a bit surprised no one is talking about (or maybe they are) is why does it have to be a little girl? Why is it not a fearless woman? Oh, that’s right, no one wants to vote for a fearless woman. 😆 Accept it or not,there is an insidious gender and color inequality — and I mean inequality of Meaning. I refuse to keep reducing inequality to something about money. Money inequality is an astute indicator but it is not The Problem. The Problem is that we do not give all people the same depth of meaning. We do not give all giftings the same depth of meaning. We do not give all of our parts, the same depth of meaning. And this where Jesus should make a difference but doesn’t always. And it is so often because we are afraid to live like Jesus lived. We don’t feel so fearless when Jesus asks to think, speak, and act the way He did.
What would it say in the world today for someone to make a meaningful statue of Fearless Black Boy? What would it mean in our First World belly –button- looking world for someone to make a statue of Aged Mexican Gardener facing off The Botoxed Bulls of Wall Street? What would it mean for a statue representative of whomever I claim myself to be, with my hands openly outstretched, placed face to face across from whomever is most fearful and unacceptable to me, with his hands openly outstretched? What would it mean for more of us to be symbolized by the helpless, fear-clenched, blood drenched hands of a God stretched motionless on a death machine called The Cross?
Thirdly, speaking of empowering, how do we think we make a woman feel powerful by making a statue of a little girl fighting weaponless with an above -the -knees dress on? Really??!! Come on. We really need to stop confusing our uses of the word “provocative” when it comes to females.
I cannot watch recently made Disney movies. I am so glad my children grew up watching movies like the animated version of “101 Dalmations” or “My Friend Totoro”, and the movie about different types getting along with each other through love and understanding as in the wonderful movie, “Babe the Pig”. At some point and I don’t know when, Disney and, well, to be fair, Hollywood in toto, decided that rather than making girls damsels in distress being saved by Prince Charmings, they would make girls act like tough little boys (but the girls will still wear provocative clothing) standing up but, flirtatiously, to Prince Charmings who themselves are masquerading as the bad boys mothers still warn their girls not to date – oh that’s right the Disney mothers and fathers are either evil foster parents or adults too flaccid, weak and uncaring to go themselves to find their missing little girl –so we still need the bad boy to accidently while robbing someone’s castle, find and save the girl. And said little Disney girl (who still has beautiful white- chick hair no matter her animated skin color and who has the body of a Victoria Secret model) ends up cutely saving the hot and handsome but naughty bad boy Prince Charming – oh what a twist! And the Prince is saved by the delightfully coifed girl which she does by beating the phooey and snake snot out of temporarily evil people (Because in Disney’s colorized gray worldview, no one is really good or evil). And the sweetly gowned princess fearlessly, with toned arms akimbo, magically without breaking a sweat defeats evil by bopping it on the head with a sauce pan or mowing it down with an Uzzi. Thankfully in the finale, the tough little girl reverts to stereotype and assumes her inherited third generation Princess role and goes goo-goo ga-ga in love with previously weak, both physically and morally, but now miraculously ethical, strong, and wealthy bad-boy turned good guy (who really was a nice guy all along) AND – best of all – we find out he is a stinking rich Prince himself so she can relax and stay at home while he goes out and conquers the world and become James Bond and conquers other women as well. Oh those locker room bad boys will be boys! And a whole generation of young girls and their moms LIKE these stories and they want to enter the world of television just like Mike TV in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and live out the Disney version of the American Dream. And every day a new Reality Show Life is born. And another soul dies.
But all of this is not meant as a feminist rant; It is just as disheartening and misleading a worldview for little boys and men. I am not an expert on the male psyche but surely we can all look around us and see that men want the same things as women – purpose, love, and meaning. We women and men are the same and yet not the same and so in thinking about any of this, we must as so many of us are trying to do today, including Greg Fallis, hold together two equal and opposite thoughts at the same moment or however long it takes for the achievement of a greater end – the end being one of understanding and feeling, of enlarging the soul, and of journeying further along the circle of life’s completion.
This is perhaps why people choose to make statues of little girls staring down bulls, rather than little boys staring down men. Little boys fearlessly facing off and thereby saving grown men doesn’t have the Disney vibe we crave today — that proverbial dike has sailed, to mix two ancient allusions. But back to the importance of true minds and hearts created as genderless- God-given spiritual giftings to all souls. I want my girls to see their father as a hero for working hard, thinking deeply, and feeling so much love for them that he cries when they graduate, fall and skin their knees, or come home for his birthday. I want my son to see his mother as someone who works hard, thinks deeply, and cries with joy when he succeeds or is kind to others, and cries with anger, fear, and loss when he –or anyone– falls down. And I want my Princesses and Prince – Justine, Clarissa, Verity, and Gordon – to find people of both genders, of all ages, of varied colors and creeds and salary levels— people whom they can love and respect for all that those individually created and creative beings do, think, and feel – whether they fall “in love” with said people or just happen to meet them at a homeless shelter.
Finally, I long to be the person who has a heart for saving. And I will just let that word sit there with all of its varied and important nuanced meanings.
Oh,fearless girls and boys! Do not let the world market designate for you what courage is.
Oh, cheerless boys and girls! Do not let the world takers rob you of feeling deeply.
Oh earless souls, let they who have ears to hear, hear. It is written, “where our treasure is, there our souls live.”
We must look inside at the art waiting to be created in our very own souls. We have to truthfully and lovingly call each other out. We must keep asking Why? Why we like girls to be fearless on the soccer field but not in the halls of Congress? Why we promote the idea of fearless men as Navy Seals and veterans — thereby also marketing something– rather than truly grappling with the fearsome inequities of the unjust wars we proselytize them to? Why we do not embrace fearful boys who do not like to compete, but would rather nurture. Why we do not respect fearless girls who will not lead like men, but will lead nonetheless. We must keep asking why as a compass, not an ending.
The tragic irony is as we sell our spirits for the winning edge, for the increase in market shares and donations and in taking and in giving, we keep trying to figure out how we can combine them to make ourselves feel whole. We keep trying different combinations to create more meaningfulness, just as NYC is trying to figure out how to combine these statues so the meaning will be more appealing. Who said living meaningfully was supposed to be appealing? Every time I buy something now, from the grocery store items in my basket to the shoes and socks on my feet, I am asked if I would like to give a donation to someone less fortunate by donating more money or paying more to the faceless corporation for the mediocre item I am convinced I want. And then that corporation will feel better about itself by making money off my need to feel good about myself with my open generously giving pocketbook and I will feel better about buying more stuff and both of us can take and give at the same time –AND – get a tax write-off for our need to give and take and consume and donate. And yet in the same breath I am told not to vote for entitlement programs or give a dollar to the homeless guy on the street because it doesn’t help them. And the more money I spend on faceless charities never answers the question of why I can never buy enough to fill the big hole in my heart or hunger in my soul. And I wonder why it all gives me a head ache from trying to get my mind around it and a heart-ache from trying to get my soul above it.
The meaning within meaning upon meaning of this statuesque non-Mexican artistic standoff, sans walls, is a fascinating sub-topic into where Orwell did warn us unchecked capitalism eventually leads — to the same place unchecked communism does, to the same place any unchecked self-centeredness always ends. But don’t take Orwell’s dystopian word for it. Jesus did quite a bit of warning about this as well. We have willingly succumbed to living life as a marketing ploy and accepted the symbolism of equality and courage as childishness, something to admire in children who as adults will eventually get trampled by the world. And Jesus keeps asking adults to become more like children—to in fact be infants fresh from His Womb, daily reborn as children in need of a protective and loving Father who comes running to stand between His beloved ones and the world’s oppressive greed. The Mother/Father/God Spirit is as powerful as a Father and as tender as a Mother as He eternally invites us all, even the prodigals, into His embrace.
The NYC display is truly a perfect combo of statues at a timely American juncture in a well- chosen location. Here we see: A statue meant to symbolize American citizens’ strengths which now merely symbolizes American greed masquerading as the dream of luck on Wall Street facing-timing a plucky Disney heroine who it is blithely assumed will win against evil merely because we manipulate the storyline and alter the facts. And so we can watch from the sidelines and go to bed at night feeling good about ourselves and bad about the other side. After all, a little girl might be able to take on a raging bull but she certainly can’t hurt me or convince me out of my own entrenched narcissism and self-serving belief system, right? And of course, in the Disney version the Bull Market and the little girl with super powers become friends and live together in contentment, never growing old, with large 401Ks, and sexily in love happily forever after. And because The Great Oz says it, well, it must be true, right?
And we look on. And we no longer seek “The Way, Truth, and Life”. So often, tragically, even when we say we seek The Way, we still want to get our money’s worth. Even our churches market their programs and speakers and coffee bars, and sell us on how “Awesome” we are, but how THIS church can make us even better. Christians selling spirituality as a way of trying to make Americans feel better about themselves? Really? Are you kidding me? My kids think I’m crazy, but every time I drive by and see this one particular large sign marketing a local church that reads, “You are Awesome”– I shout out, “NO! YOU AREN’T! BUT GOD IS!”
I am not awesome. And please don’t pander to me as if you think I write that merely to garner compliments. I don’t believe in my awesomeness in the same way I don’t go to church to make myself feel better about myself, but to worship a God infinitely more awesome than I could ever know. I don’t want to feel awesome, I want to feel humbled enough to feel beloved and then paradoxically more capable. Through humility in the presence of an Awesome God, and forgiveness of daily failures, I become more capable of truly and deeply knowing the right way to live and feeling with all of me a love for my Creator and all those whom He likewise created.
I am a flawed sinful human being with absolutely nothing inherently awesome about me except for the fact that I can serve a fearful but faithful Risen Savior who is in the world today and that I can know and serve an awesome Creator who is not the author of fear but who created me – and you—and him—and her—and them—in His Image to be loved by the gender-bending, multi-colored Being. And we are all equally but uniquely and differently wired to go into the world as His beloved ones, “in fear yet in truth” and to lovingly do likewise, as the Son of Man did, being mutually, lovingly creative in His Image.
I always like people who struggle with opposing ideas while still marching forward. I know there are so many opposing ideas to any thing I could say or think and yet somehow the really true stuff always ends up on the same eternal path under the same Eternal Light. Spiritual Paradoxes as all true metaphors lead to great and eternal Truth. That’s why Fearless Girl is Bull, and Bull is Fearless Girl. It is a combined metal Pinocchio for our own time.They are two opposing ideas and the metaphor they create together, like all good metaphors is a puzzle to be solved. The juxtaposition of two realities creates a third reality to be discovered. The two statues make slightly different meanings in different individual’s understanding as much great art does. But the experience of the two statues is only a metaphor and must wait for meaning to infuse the hearts of living, breathing humans with purpose. As in all available truths, it longs to give life to real people’s actions.
What I liked about Fallis’ article, “Seriously, the Guy Has a Point” is the balancing act of different truths that good writing tries to accomplish. Good people must try to balance truths as well. Maybe that’s what we need a statue of — a person holding two opposing ideas and walking forward juggling those ideas through a hail of verbal bullets? But then isn’t that sort of what the scales of justice are supposed to represent – holding opposing ideas in the balance one’s hands so that one can truly feel the balances minute shiftings? Feeling deeply and sensing truthfully as the scales change levels? Can we not start re-developing some feeling in our hearts and balance in our minds so that when the scales of justice and morality tip, we know it? So we can feel when the scales tip on things like prejudice? Or freedom of speech? Or – on how capitalism is working? On fighting other peoples’ wars? On weapons? On health rights? On education? On freedoms to choose and safety? On the sanctity of all lives? Or on that most God-like attribute –merciful justice? And — When things tip and we feel in our hearts’ hands and our reconditioned souls’ scales, what has changed has really been what has been The Way, Truth, and Life all along –can we not then change our course and catch ourselves from over balancing in The Fall? Can we give them up to save our souls? Isn’t that what Jesus did? He commended His Soul into the perfectly balanced hands of His Father. He held the opposing ideas of Love and Enemy in His hands? And He held the opposing Truth of Death and Life in His body and soul? He was the perfectly calibrated scale of God and human being. And He is what every Fearless Girl should lead like and every Fearless Boy follow after.
“Oh, what does it profit a fearless girl or bullish boy if they gain the whole world, but in the process, lose their souls?” —- The Christ, 2000 years ago.