Tuesday, January 10, 2017

AMERICAN CATHOLICISM IS IRRELEVANT

   I write this for the church in the United States.  But I believe it is valid in other countries, in their own way.

   Recently, when Cardinal Joseph Tobin was installed as Archbishop of Newark, NJ, he said there is a chasm between faith and life.  He was right.  The chasm is caused by the fact that the Church has become irrelevant to life in today's society.  As a result, very many Catholics have confirmed the chasm by walking away from the church.   

   With some exceptions like Cardinal Tobin and Cardinal Cupich of Chicago, most of today's bishops don't understand the faith problem of church-going Catholics and the chasm created by the many Catholics who have walked away from the church.  Looking out from their clerical bubble they blame today's society.  They are unable to see that millions of Catholics have walked away from the church because they can't find a faith there that is relevant to their life in today's society.  They can't find an effective, active, adult spirituality that will help them effectively challenge and correct today's society and elevate our graced, luminous humanity.

  Between the bishops and the people, the priests are left on their own to do whatever they can.  

 What parish organizes its people to actively challenge and correct the harm that our government is about to inflict upon America, especially the sick, poor, vulnerable and outcast?  What parish is actively involved in putting pressure on those who are responsible for our sinful income inequality?  What parish is helping our public schools give our children a truly life-enhancing education?  What parish is actively involved in the ever growing need to save our environment?  All these efforts are essential expressions of today's faith and spirituality.

   Pope John XXIII and Vatican II taught us to "read the signs of the times," i.e., to see the problems, challenges and opportunities of our everyday world, and actively work to correct them where needed and thereby elevate our lives and make us more luminously human.  Today's spirituality is about our evolving in Christ so that we can build up the Kingdom of God on Earth, as Jesus prayed for.  Thy Kingdom come...   As I say in this blog's heading:  People are suffering.  Waiting is not an option.

   Most bishops are living inside their clerical bubble and do not recognize that the spiritual problems, challenges and opportunities I mentioned are the concerns of the church.  From within their clerical mindset they work to get people to come back to the church building, to Mass.  It won't work.  Those who have left know that they will return to a liturgy that is disconnected from their everyday life, with tired sermons on sexual conduct and lessons based in poor Biblical understanding and outworn theology and spirituality.  They know they will receive no meaningful spiritual help or formation for facing today's spiritual challenges as effective, spiritual adults. 

  Even worse, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has publicly stated that those who leave are "imaginary Catholics."  They are not even real, not worth the title of "lost sheep" whom the shepherd must go out and search for.  With such an attitude as Chaput's, why would they even want to come back?

   Is all lost?  No.  Today there are millions of young and young-in-spirit people of Catholic heritage who are searching for a faith and spirituality of active and effective good will and love, but without reference to the Catholic church or Catholic religion.  I call them the Spiritual but not Religious People of God.  I fully believe that they are being led by the Spirit of Christ.  They are to be encouraged in every way possible.

   Being Americans, they enjoy a strong sense of individuality.  But they also have a positive sense of community.  (The negative sense is leading young people, e.g., to "drop out" or form gangs.)  For example, they form Internet communities, tech communities, art communities, political communities, e.g., for Bernie Sanders; fan communities for their favorite performers, etc.  And very importantly, they constantly text one another.  So their connectedness already exists.

   Mature individuals know that they live and grow in community without losing their individuality.  Today's science and theology clearly show us that community is the basic, ever-evolving form of nature and of the universe itself.  Sub-atomic particles naturally form a community that is an atom; atoms naturally form a community that is a molecule; molecules naturally form a community that is an element, and so on up the scale.  God, One and Trinity, is a community of inter-related LOVE.  All our positive communities are images of God.  

   If the young seekers are encouraged to move in the right direction, they will naturally begin looking for one another and create small communities of faith and spirituality.  People like me, and this blog, will best encourage them by giving them general encouragement and leaving the particulars up to them.  We should especially encourage them to clarify and fully appreciate the norms and values of being an American, e.g., a community of people of all races, colors, creeds and social and economic standing, who live as one inter-connected, inter-related, inter-dependent people.     

    Very importantly, we need to give them an acceptable contemporary image of God, not of a monarch or judge but of an Infinite/Eternal Community of Inter-related,Inter-related, Inter-dependent, Ever-evolving Living Love.  Simply put, we are expressions of inter-related, inter-connected, inter-dependent Love.  So just being who we truly are energetically unites us to God. 

   The young will not relate what they are doing to the church they have rejected.  Instead they will relate to the community they have created.  That's fine.  In time, these new communities will coalesce and grow into a new Catholic community.  By that time, "Catholic" will have come to mean, The World-Wide People of Universal Inclusion in the Loving Spirit of Jesus Christ.  It will be a People who are actively and deeply committed to working with all others of good will in building up the all-inclusive Kingdom of God on Earth. It will be ecumenically open to all People who truly want to walk with them the Way of Life and Truth that is relevant to the real, everyday world.

   I am sure that this can happen because it is already happening.  As of us who are deeply experienced in today's world must encourage the young and young-in-spirit to keep doing what they are doing.  With our encouragement and counsel in the general norms and values of life, they will supply the particulars for living a spiritually mature life in their own everyday world.  They are our only hope.

   In the meantime the church will continue to be irrelevant and our country and our culture will continue to decline.  Maybe our country, culture and church will have to hit bottom in order to rise again to new life.  Maybe our young can catch them before they hit bottom.  I don't know.  I can only repeat; they are the only hope we have.

   God bless them.   








    











    













  

      








                      

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A HOPEFUL, HAPPY NEW YEAR

   This new year brings with it a special concern for us Americans and for people all over the world.  Our many divisions are all too clear. 

   The early signs are ominous, especially in the areas of terrorism, racism, anti-feminism, income inequality, nativism, climate change, and world peace.  

    Congress is set to attack Health Care and the long standing financial and social help for those who need it most. 

   So I am especially pessimistic this New Year's day.  And yet I have my Christian Hope.  Hope enlightens us to see that there is a better, more luminously human way to live.  And Hope challenges and empowers us to speak out and stand in the way of the negative forces that appear to be ready to come  our way this year.     

    No matter what the odds, the Kingdom of God on earth that Jesus prayed to come, can be built up, however slowly, even now.  We all have our own sphere of influence, however small or large.  We all need to get involved, so that Hope can bear some fruit this year. 

    In the light and grace of our Christian Hope I wish everyone, here and throughout the world, a Happy New Year.

     

Friday, December 16, 2016

RENEWING OUR CHRISTMAS AWARENESS

   By "awareness" I am referring to the higher level of consciousness that Christmas calls us to reach this year.  In a country and world that continue to spin out of control, we need to raise our awareness to see anew that everything we are and do, and everywhere we go, we are celebrating Christmas within the living, healing, peace-giving, loving presence of Christ.

   Christ is literally everywhere.  In the page, "A New Creation Story," I explain that Christ is a living, universal, cosmic Reality.  In today's scientific language I could say that Christ is a living, cosmic force field of peace and healing love that permeates the entire world and universe.  Christ is the divinely filled universe!  "Where can I hide from your spirit?  From your presence, where can I flee?  If I ascend to the heavens (sky) you are there.  If I lie down in Sheol (the underworld) you are there."  (Ps. 139:7,8)

   With our raised level of consciousness we can look into ourselves and see anew that Christ is alive within us.  We can enjoy our own participation in Christ's consciousness!   We can look to our families and see that Christ is there.  We can look to our schools, corporations, governments, etc., and see that Christ is there.  Christ  is within and beyond us, in all peoples of good will, waiting to be born anew today, tomorrow and every tomorrow thereafter.

   The gift of a raised consciousness of Christ's omnipresence is a Christmas gift that Christ has already given us and is ready to renew in us.  Christmas awakens us to appreciate Christ's presence anew and to intensify our consciousness anew.

   In our everyday lives, we live within our "everyday" level of consciousness.  We go to school, care for our children, work, run businesses, vote, govern, etc. But there is a danger that it is so easy to concentrate on these activities that we restrict this level of consciousness, and sometimes even lower it to the self-serving level.

   Christmas doesn't call us to forget our everyday level of consciousness.  But while we stay within our everyday level, Christmas calls us to look to see that there, we are alive with Christ's all-encompassing presence. Christ fills our everyday lives with his gift of peace, healing and love.  Christmas shows us anew that all our everyday joys, and especially all our tensions, worries and sufferings, take place within the Spirit of Christ.  And each Christmas shows us that there is room for us to raise our level of consciousness anew and appreciate Christ's coming anew.

   Now, we are not naive.  Christ's presence does not make us or our world perfect.  We will never have a perfect life here on our space/time earth.  But we don't have to look longingly for the end of the world as some of our Christian brothers and sisters do.  We have the graced discernment and strength to move forward toward an ever better, ever more peaceful, joyous and loving life here on earth.  Christmas renews our blessed discernment and the prophetic strength we have to face our everyday troubles and sufferings with more resolve, and to work harder to do something about them.  Christmas opens the way for us to ever new hope and life, even while we know we will never reach perfection.

   Given today's dire circumstances here in America and in many parts of the world, we can feel helpless to make any progress.  Yet there is something we certainly can do.  We can stand up and cry out to the people in charge of our societies.  In the Spirit and consciousness of the Universal Christ, we can rightfully and prophetically cry out to them to provide the freedom, peace, opportunity and care that is everyone's God given right as a human being. 

   All our leaders and all who are more fortunate in our societies have the special obligation from Christ to change our societies, especially for the sake of the poor, sick, downtrodden and outcast.  No matter how great or small our place in society, there is no exception to this sacred obligation.  And there certainly is no exception for those Christians who would sell their souls for positions of wealth and power.

   The greatest gift we can give ourselves and others this Christmas is to raise our own level of consciousness and then to help others raise their level of consciousness to a higher and more luminous level of humanity.  For it is there that new insights and opportunities for justice, peace and love are born.  Christ within us and the whole world is waiting to be born anew, ready to raise us and others to new levels of humanity.

   In the Christmas Spirit of Christ, let us prayerfully and gratefully move ourselves to raise our vision and celebrate a humbly determined, peacefully active Christmas.  Then, in the Spirit of Christ, we can truthfully wish ourselves and all others a Merry Christmas.




  









   










        

Thursday, December 1, 2016

THE SECULAR IS SACRED

   The coming of Christmas brings with it the perennial tension between what is secular and what is sacred.  In our malls, on TV and in our towns we struggle with the clashes:  Advent vs. the Christmas Season; prayer and reflection vs. frenzied shopping;  Jesus vs. Santa Claus; "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays;" a Nativity Scene in front of City Hall, etc.

   Of course, we should not overdo our Christmas preparations, to the point of overshadowing the peace, generosity, joy and love that mark the sacred meaning of the holiday.

   My point is that our secular Christmas preparations, reflectively carried out, are sacred.  The entire secular world is sacred.  It is a common mistake for us to believe that the secular is the opposite of the sacred, and therefore, not sacred.  This mistake is strengthened by the false spirituality of believing that in order to be holy, we have to avoid this world and think and do only heavenly things.  In truth, every good thing that we do here on earth is a heavenly thing.

   Secular means pertaining to space/time, i.e., to the created world we live in.  It means the opposite of the infinite/eternal.  It does not mean the opposite of the sacred.  Space/time, the secular, is God's creation and therefore is essentially good and holy:  sacred.  As we see in the Creation story of Genesis, "And God saw that it was good."  

   God is present within the entire secular world, and so all peoples, families, education, business, economics, politics, science, art, etc., are sacred.

   By its nature, space/time is limited.  So while sacred, it is imperfect.  As part of imperfect space/time, we humans can misuse and even pervert our humanity and fall into cheating, lying, murder, etc.  God calls and empowers us to use our sacred humanity to work to make our world more luminously good in the loving and saving grace of Christ.

   The true opposite of the secular, then, is not the sacred but the profane, the sinful.  Getting back to the Christmas season, we can profane this sacred time by over-emphasizing the buying of things to the detriment of enhancing the sacredness of our lives and the lives of our family, friends--and especially in these times--of our non-Christian friends and neighbors.    

   And stupidly, we can also get involved in profane silliness by trivializing our "devotion" to the sacred by declaring that there is a "War on Christmas!" being waged by people who say, "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."  

   Certainly, the Christmas season must be lived within a spiritually mature, prayerful reflection of Advent, as we once again anticipate celebrating the birth of Jesus, who by coming to Earth and personally sharing in our space/time, secular humanity, showed beyond all doubt that the secular is sacred.   






 

        

Saturday, November 12, 2016

THE ELECTION: WHERE WERE THE CHRISTIANS?

   The election of Donald Trump has left many Americans fearful and anxious.  In his campaign, Mr. Trump wantonly vilified Latino immigrants, women, Muslims, African-Americans, the disabled, and even the parents of a fallen American soldier.

   All through his campaign Mr. Trump showed himself to be a narcissist and pathological liar.  The attitude and values he displayed harshly contradicted the values of the Kingdom of God on earth.  Jesus gave us his Spirit of good order, justice, peace, purity of heart, joy of life, and love.  Mr. Trump gave us lies, anger, insults, sexual depravity and hate.  Where were the Christians?

   Political analysts tell us that Mr. Trump won because his appeal to "Make America Great Again" resounded with white voters, both male and female, who are fearful and uneasy about the changing demographics of our country, and worried about their ability to keep their family financially above water.  Many saw an uncaring and even hostile government working against them, and wanted change.  Finally, the ill-conceived and ill-timed FBI report on Mrs. Clinton's emails helped diminish her vote count.

   These fears and anxieties are understandable.  But the trust and hope that these people placed in Mr. Trump was naive.  They failed to understand the "signs of the times" that Pope John XXIII told us to watch for a half-century ago.  They failed to see that Americans are people of every race, color, religion and sexual orientation.  Very importantly, they failed to see that their economic problems are heavily due to the fact that greedy business leaders moved to maximize their profits by sending their jobs overseas, never to return, with no concern for the American workers who lost their jobs.  And American bankers gambled away the people's money.  And they failed to see that every job-creating program that President Obama presented to the Republican Congress, e.g., rebuilding our infrastructure, was soundly rejected.  Mr. Trump's proposed jobs program will help the rich to get richer through tax cuts and the national deficit to explode--to the further detriment of the American working people.  

   Mr. Trump appealed to those who voted for him in a truly evil way.  Turning their attention away from the greedy banks and corporations (including his own business), and a deeply uncaring Congress, he created scapegoats, falsely blaming Hispanic immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans, and foreigners for America's troubles. And he denigrated women in a sickening way.  This is the method of a would-be autocratic dictator.  Where were the Christians?

   He was aided by people such as Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Kellyanne Conway, and in the background, Paul Ryan.  All Catholics.  Where was their fight for good order, truth, justice, peace, respect and love?  Where was their special protection for the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast?

   So now, immigrant families are terrified that children and parents will be separated. Latino children are bullied in their schools.  African-Americans are increasingly worried about their safety.  American Muslims are wondering how they will fit into American society.  Gays and other sexual minorities are newly vulnerable to attack.  Foreign victims of wars that we started will be turned away from our solace and protection.  And women of all ages must live disheartened by the fact that a sex-offender will now be in the Oval Office.  And it is now possible that there will be more destruction of the life of our planet.  How far off was commentator Bill Moyers when he said, "America died on November 8th?"

   Where were the Christian voters?  Here's one answer.  With encouragement from bishops and other church leaders, many American Christians disregarded Christ, who is the entire God filled universe, they narrowed their view to the point of voting so that Roe vs. Wade will be overturned, and abortion will be made illegal.  Let's have a Reality Check here.  In a report I found, last year 1.21 million abortions were performed in our country.  A truly horrible number.  Of these, abut 290,000 were obtained by women who identified themselves as Catholic, and 317,000 as Protestants.  That's 56% of all abortions.  

   Why can't the Catholic church prevent so many of its members from having abortions?  For starters, where is the church's program for creating discerning, actively prophetic, spiritual adults who will work to build a culture that will bring ever stronger care, protection and love to every expression of today's society?  Without such a culture, why do we think a simple law will prevent most abortions?

   Back to President-elect Trump.  In his meeting with President Obama, he showed surprising restraint and sobriety.  Is there something in him that has been touched by his new, awesome responsibility, or was he just mouthing words programmed into him by his handlers, only to return to his true narcissistic, pathological self at any time?  I fear the latter is true.

   For example, when Trump, the psychopathic liar, saw thousands of people protesting his election in the streets of several American cities, he tweeted a lie that the protesters were "professional protesters inspired by the media."  Then, ever the narcissist, he added, "Very unjust."  Very shortly afterwards, a new Tweet came out, "Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud."  Obviously, this second Tweet was written by a shaken consultant to Mr. Trump.  Another lie.  And another:  the second Tweet appears on the Trump Pence website, but not the first one.  This is a very bad sign for America.  It shows that Mr. Trump may be a puppet President, made to "say" things that people close to him make up, while the psychopathic liar sits quietly in the dark.

   Yet some people are anticipating that he might undergo a true conversion.  For example, they look to the fact that just four years ago, he was a Democrat with some liberal ideas.  Well, miracles can happen.  After all, look at Ebenezer Scrooge's Christmas morning conversion.  But Scrooge was a fictional character.  In the meantime, God bless us, everyone!