Thursday, February 26, 2015

Responding to the fact of Islamism (ISIS)

Hello again.
   It's great to have this avenue of engagement/escape, where I can muse, wonder, question and share, assuming the best, that some might read and ponder on their own, similar things. Now, where angels fear to tread.
  Who can not be affected by the self-righteous, judgmental violence happening in our world? Nearly every day we hear of educated and fairly well-off youth  in our own culture (the country doesn't matter) leaving it all behind and trying, successfully or not, to join ISIS, offering their young lives in attempting to establish a radical Islamic Caliphate, where all who don't agree with their thought are killed or enslaved. If this fact does not evoke a reaction in people everywhere, they are brain dead.
  How do we react? 'BOMB THEM ALL!' is an automatic answer, one that is hard to argue against, because we all know of the evil ISIS are enacting. They must be stopped. That much is certainly true.
  I have a problem, however. I really do think that the Way of Jesus of Nazareth is the Way of God. Though I must take seriously that members of ISIS also have that understanding, that their way is that of truth, I cannot allow their understanding from paralysing me. As in all things, the question I must ask of myself is, "What is the Way of Love?"
  Firstly, ISIS must be contained. Even though that will assume violence, even though the Way of Jesus was that of non-violence, I must, relunctanly and in sadness, advocate and support violence, the way of evil, hopefully, a lesser evil, to contain a greater evil, in the hope that dialogue and understanding might prevail in the future. So, a policy of containment, military action to hold ISIS to the territory they have already under their control, and to re-take some areas in which they are most harming and killing.
  But 'BOMBING THE HELL OUT OF THEM'? No. We must love them at least that much.
  Above all, we must recognize that in this world, especially in this modern world, nothing happens in a vacume, in and by itself. All things have causes.
  The history and very nature of Islamism is a recent one, a movement in the Middle East and Africa that has blossomed in the last 60 years or so. Every place where it is flourishing is a country or area that was under power of a foreign (European) power for generations, where probably the very 'country' was a creation of foreign empires and where the local people have really never had a chance to grow and be empowered, at least, not for any length of time. The people's identity is still in the local tribes, peoples who have always been exploited and not recognized.   So, politically and socially, they are frustrated, angered and suffering. They are open to another way. They need a new way.  The old ways have betrayed them.
  Spiritually, they have seen nothing good in the so-called 'modern world', its greed, injustice, systemic violence and the system of education that has come with it.  It has offered only false promises. They have experience only the corruption of the wealthy of their lands, those that accepted the 'modern' and 'western' ways. Only those in power have benefited in any way from the obvious wealth and opportunities of the world at large. Their moderate Muslim faith has been as ineffectual in their lives as had the usual Christian faith in theirs. THERE MUST BE A BETTER WAY!
  Do any of us disagree with them, really, not with their resultant actions, but in with their frustrations? Who of us do not think that there must really be a better way? That there must be a way of life that blends spirituality, commerce, life and the whole of our existence? Do we all not know this and yearn for this? How can we blame people who, however terrible their actions be, for their motives and dreams?
  In the near past, our young people might have joined cults, the Moonies, Jones Town, etc.. The youth are idealistic, yes, but often their vision and priorities have much to teach the older, who are more apt to just let things slide. We usually complain about the youth being unmotivated, but when they are, they often call the statusquo into question and react against their elders. That is usual.
  So, what can I do? Not much, on one hand, but everything I can, on the other. I can try my best to clearly announce the deadness of the present 'belief-but-non-action' that passes off as Christianity in most churches. I can encourage/critique/challenge people of all and no 'understandings' to accept their role in the earth and humanity, to the awareness that we all, even ISIS, are in this journey together, that we can respond (are responsible?) to and for each other, that only the law of    love will bring us through this journey into a lasting future.
  If we allow the  power of reaction, violence to violence, to prevail, in this instance and into the future, there is simply no future for us that I want to share. All governments will urge us to travel that path of easy answers. Only a rational loving people can oppose that assumption.                                       There is a chance, however small, that this challenge of Islamism will be remembered as the beginning of a change, the start of a movement where people of all stripes started to look at the world, to challenge the powers and  values that are responsible for the conditions that foster fundamentalism of all brands. May we stretch ourselves to see more than comes to us in the usual news.
  Please, ask yourself what the loving response is for you. And share your answer. Dialogue with your neighbour and try to imagine what that conversation would be like if you could talk to those who have been through enough to support ISIS.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Very Old and Very New and Radical Idea of One-ness

  I'm going to try, very hard, to not make such a big thing about blogging here. I've been quite hesitant to share and it's not done me any good. Here it goes.
  All of the old faiths share one common assumption, that there is a 'one-ness', somehow, in the totality of things. The approach may be different and the names, of course, will vary, but that One-ness is still there, beyond and within, seen and unseen, in all we can imagine and far from our imagining.
  Until recently, this concept has been seen as merely 'spiritual' and 'other worldly', beyond reality and normality. It's quite wonderful and affirming that this concept of 'one-ness' is now in the science books, that even the so-called god-less  people of science (according to the fundamentalists, who insist that the earth is 6000 years old) all affirm the one-ness and wholeness of creation in their various theories, of string, quantum, wave, particle, etc..
  If we would really take the time to think about this reality, most of our problems as humans, would change for the better. What if the wealthy and powerful  really begin to understand that they were no more important than a leaf on a tree, a mole in her hole? What would happen if people really began to understand that we who control the earth are no more important than what we control, that the earth is just as 'holy' as we are?
  Science now teaches us that All really is ONE. All thought, matter, energy, light, ALL is ONE.
  That includes what we are: our joys, sorrows, hopes and dreams. Everything includes and influences everything else. WHOAH!  That's scary, for it implies that what we think, dream, etc, influences everything else, not just what we do. This idea implies that maybe, even with certainty, that we people (and maybe the whales, dolphins and others?) who can imagine, are influencing much more than we have thought.
  In all of the space that we have been able to see (not much of it, I admit) we have yet to find other life. If thought is part of the whole, if what we think, projects to all else, how important it is for us to grow in love, for all of creation is affected.  From our isolated little planet in our small solar system, might be coming the power to change and affect the unimaginable.
  What damage is greed, hatred and intolerance doing, even beyond our earth? What eternal changes will be made if we change our ways of thinking, really trying to grow in love beyond all other desires? Up to now these goals have been for rather selfish reasons, to 'get into heaven' or some such. Those might have been good enough reasons, in their time, if you believed in a God of heaven and hell. But now, the goal of love is way beyond the merely personal. We are told that it connects to everything, and even is beyond time.
  Take some quiet time and think about this stuff, no matter what your religious beliefs are. This reality makes our specific religions subservient to a greater whole. Thank God for that! It brings us all  together, like it or not. We really are responsible and influenced by each other. None of us can get off the hook, claiming to be isolated and mere  individuals, able to think and do what we will and  be  unaffected by others. That has  always been a lie: now, it's just officially the truth. What we think, our degree of love or hatred, does make a difference. Luckily, this is in our control.
  Thanks for being here. Send some loving thought my way.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Don't Give Up: Give Your Spirituality a Chance.

Hello and happy new-year, again. It's official. Less than half of the people in our so-called western culture call themselves 'religious' in any way. The reason for that, it seems, is that they know they are not Christians. People know only what they have experienced and most of us know that Christians come in two bunches. One branch believes that a God, even while claiming to be loving, condemns most of humanity to a hell and insists that people 'believe' that He had his one and only son killed because all people are so terrible, that somehow this death makes right all the world's wrongs. To most westerners today, this simply doesn't make sense. They know they aren't like this, so they can't be religious, since those 'fundamentalists' claim to be religious, to have the only true understanding.
   Then there are those of another stripe of Christians, those who don't really believe in heaven or hell, but don't really believe anything else either. They claim to believe in a God of love but you wouldn't know it by what they do. They're going about the business of wrecking the world, just like everyone else. There's no reason to take them seriously, even though they, too, claim to be religious people.
 If these  two types were all there is to religion, I guess I'm not religious either. But there is more.        Most people claim to be 'spiritual', and of course, they are right, in that we all spiritual in nature, how-ever we might define it. Dozens of people each year make it a point to tell me how 'spiritual' they are. In a second sentence, they assure me that they don't need anyone else.
  They're right, of course. We believe on our own. That is a truth. Another truth, however, is that we can only grow with others. If we stay alone, we wither and die, never being challenged, fed, encouraged and helped in ways that count. It is tragic that increasingly, because of the faults and limitations of existing churches, people are becoming even more isolated and small in love and life. We are made to share and grow in love. This is the purpose of life. When this is not the core of any religion, that faith needs to change or die. But it is most tragic to throw out the baby. The fact that the Nazis were elected to power does not mean that democracy is evil. The fact that Christianity is now in the hands of the narrow minded or the small-hearted does not mean there is no love nor meaning in the core of the faith.
  There has never been a time when the world more needed love and understanding, a time when all are called upon to put the common good before all else, a time to challenge the wealthy and powerful. Nothing short of a spiritual revival will meet this challenge. At the heart of any change is going to be the understanding that we are all connected, not only two each other, but to the earth. In that this means sharing and growing  'in spirit' with others, it will be 'religious' in nature. In that it will not be dogmatic and judgemental, not so.
  May all of us claim our spiritual abilities, needs and potentials, knowing that we are all needed as never before. If the old paths upset you, leave them. But don't let them stop you. Giving up and limiting your spiritual/religious journeys is stupid and so harmful to yourselves and to all of us. Give yourselves and love a chance, by any and all names. But DO it. A-men!