Friday, June 15, 2018

MISREADING THE BIBLE

   One of the most dangerous and harmful traditions among some Christians is their picking one Biblical passage out of context and interpreting it according to their own view, especially their own political view.  This is what  happened when Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the government's horrendous act of pulling children out of their mother's arms by referring to Chapter 13 of St. Paul's letter to the Romans, in which Paul tells us to accept government authority because it has been established by God.   

   In doing this, Mr. Sessions disregards the entire New Testament which is alive with the infinite, self-giving, sacrificial love of Christ for all people, especially for the poor, sick and outcast.  

   What he said showed that his consciousness of the Bible and of Christ is as small as his politics.  It does not extend to the parents and children he is persecuting and most certainly does not extend to Christ.  Equally horrific, he is using the Bible to defend President Trump's decision to change the law to include the parents and children who are now being persecuted.  To put it bluntly, Mr. Sessions' statement came directly out of hell.

   At least we should be happy that he did not read from 1 Samuel 15:3, "Samuel, saying that he was speaking for the Lord, said to Saul, 'Go now, attack Amalek...  kill men and women, children and infants..."  This is a case of a leader of the people of God mistaking the people's own blood culture for the will of God.  Thankfully, Saul disobeyed Samuel and spared the people of Amalek.  Our politicians should not make similar mistakes against the people as Samuel made.    

   So knowing how to read the Bible is of maximum importance.  The Bible is God's unfolding revelation of love to God's chosen people, and through them to the whole world.  It is the story of the people's slowly unfolding understanding of God and God's love, and of their learning how to return God's love by living a life of gratitude, good will and love.

     For Christians of course, the Bible story reaches its glorious fulfillment in the birth, life, teaching, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and in his sending his Spirit to all peoples throughout the world, so that all people of good will and love can return themselves to God in love.

   It is God's all permeating love that we should see when we read the Bible.  First, of course, we see the printed words.  If we stop at this level of comprehension, we could say that the bible is a work of literature.  That is a literal reading of the Bible that is open to misinterpretation in accord with our own biases and prejudices.  To read the Bible correctly, we must look into the words and see God present and active in them with all of God's beautiful creative, healing and saving love.

     For example, a literal reading of the Bible makes the following story impossible to understand.  Jesus once asked Peter, "Who do you say that I am?"  Peter looked at Jesus and saw his human body and human soul, i.e., his "literal words."  So he could have said, "You are Jesus, our Teacher."  But Peter had a more sensitive consciousness.  He looked deeper and saw who Jesus truly was.  And he said, "You are the the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Mt. 16:16)  That's how we should read the Bible.

   The same is true when we look at people.  At first we see their physical shape and form, i.e., their "literal" meaning.  At this superficial level, we could see them as people whom we could use for our own benefit, or people whom we must compete with for financial dominance, or even people whom we could coldly disregard or even hate.      

   To Christians, the light of Christ is present, however dimly, even in the prejudiced, criminals and even terrorists.  In them, Christ is being crucified anew.  But in the poor, the displaced, the sick, vulnerable and outcast, the light of Christ shines very, very brightly.  It is this light of Christ being crucified, the light to which Mr. Sessions and President Trump are so glibly blind.  Finally, they loudly claim that such persecution is legal.  I would like to remind both of them that the Holocaust was legal. 
         
   Sometimes it's hard to say, "God bless America!"    
        













         

Friday, May 4, 2018

FAITH AND POLITICS

   On January 30, 2017 I wrote a Post about Jesus' statement to render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.  I pointed out that this was not Jesus telling his followers to stay out of politics.  It was a statement of how much he despised the Romans' cruel and heartless occupation of Israel.  He knew that the Romans would slaughter the Jews if they failed to pay their taxes.

   For Jesus to stay out of politics would be for him to stay out of his own humanity.  He came into the world as a fellow human to show us how to live, and this includes how to get involved in politics as Christians.

   House Speaker Paul Ryan's firing of Jesuit Chaplain, Fr. Pat Conroy,  was a perfect example of how a Christian--in fact, a Catholic--should not  express his politics.  And it is a disheartening example of the ignorance of our Faith that afflicts so many American Catholics and other Christians today.  Ryan's action was a sad capitulation to the low-level political wishes of some members of the House, including members who are Christians.  In their dangerously limited consciousness they could not see past their own political interests, which they limit to the preservation of their own jobs, with no care for the Great Reality within which they live and work.

   Speaker Ryan says he is a Catholic.  In fact, one writer called him a devout Catholic.  He should then see the Greater Reality of Truth that energizes his commitment to serve the people's general interest.  The Chaplain's prayer that the Republicans' Tax Bill be fair  to all people, especially to those in the lower income levels, meant nothing to Ryan and most of the Republicans.  It meant everything to Jesus. 

    The religious leaders in Jesus' time were also the political leaders and the wealthy of the land.  Jesus never hesitated to tell them what a bad job they were doing, most especially how they were oppressing the poor.  He went so far as to call them shining mausoleums filled with dead men's bones.  How's that for a political editorial today!

   Jesus' humanity placed him fully within this world.  He was not a mythical figure floating above the ground and never touching it.  He got so deeply involved in caring for the ordinary people, especially the poor, that the leaders couldn't tolerate him and finally had him crucified by the Romans.  How far is that from Ryan's telling the Chaplain not to get too close to politics?

   The question is not that we should be involved in politics but how we should be involved.  First of all, we should understand that the American separation of Church and State means that the Church organization and the State organization have the right to exist and carry out their own business without interfering with each other.  It guarantees our freedom of religion and the the freedom of our government to carry out its business.  It does not mean that Christians cannot be involved in politics.  If that were so, then we should not even vote.

    A great problem is that there are many American Christians who are not just involved in our political life but are trying to take control of it.  Some would turn America into a Theocracy with themselves in charge.  This is neither Christian nor American.  As Catholics we should humbly and strongly tell these Christian brothers and sisters of ours that they are a real danger to our country.

   So, how should American Christians get fully and effectively involved in our politics?  In general, our involvement as Christians should include that we fully expect our government to work for the fullness of our humanity in all things, e.g., our right to freedom and justice, especially in our economic activity, which includes the government's obligation to tax the people fairly and justly.  The shortages of money for such things as Medicare and Social Security are totally the result of the failure of government officials to do their job.  

   Also, our government should provide excellent education for our children, keep our infrastructure in good repair, and choose diplomacy and peace in our inter-connected, inter-related and inter-dependent world.  Our government should be merciful and give special preference for the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast.  It should be truthful and intelligently and maturely face all challenges, successes and setbacks.

   The prayer that Fr. Conroy said about the Tax Bill is a good example of how Christians  should be involved in our political life.  He spoke the truth.  Speaker Ryan, however, does not seem to realize that politics is meant to protect, serve and elevate our humanity in and through truthful legislation. He does not seem to understand, as every Catholic should, that everything we do in this world, including our politics, should be aimed at building up the Kingdom of God on earth, i.e., the Reign of Overflowing Love, that Jesus prayed for, "Thy Kingdom come...on earth."  He, and all Christians, need to note what St. Irenaeus said in the 2nd century, "The glory of God is people fully alive."  American politics can and should be dedicated to helping our citizens and all peoples to be fully alive in good will and love, whether they are people of faith or of no faith.

   Certainly, it is all right for Christians to be Liberals or Conservatives, as long as we are all dedicated to the building up of our nation in justice, peace and love.  But the angry, contentious tone of today's politics is a disgrace to Christianity and makes a mockery of any Christian's claim to be acting in Jesus' name.

   Before we make the next contentious remark in Jesus' name, let us get on our knees, ask his forgiveness for misrepresenting Him, and start working ever more vigorously to raise our consciousness closer to that of Jesus.  And then as Catholics,  i.e., as people with a universal view, let us proclaim and implement the Good News of the overflowing love of Jesus for all our American brothers and sisters, as well as all the peoples of the world. 


         
   
    

     












       

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

TODAY'S YOUTH: A NEW EASTER PROMISE

   This past Saturday hundreds of thousands of today's younger generation rallied throughout the nation to demand a change in our gun-crazed culture.  

   They did not ask for this change, they demanded it.  And they fully deserve to demand it.  Many of them have personally experienced the slaughter of their classmates, and also the murders of their friends on the streets of our cities.  So they fully deserve to demand change.  They justly deserve an Easter Sunday after far too many Good Fridays.

   I am old enough to have experienced other times when our youth demanded change in our society.  But never like today's youth.  In the 1960's for example, the young tried to change our society, not by building a new one but by naively dropping out of the established one.  The Hippie movement was fun for a while, and even had a serious side in protesting the war in Viet Nam.  But it inevitably died.  Without any real effort of their own, the young expected a Phoenix to rise from the ashes of the culture of that time.  But all they got was ashes.

   In the 1970's, the Watergate scandal heaped more ashes on our declining government.  And today, our federal government has fallen even farther to a frightening and dangerous low.  But this time, even against the heavy odds, I believe that maybe, just maybe, today's youth may have started to bring a true moral change to our government and our society.  The promise of a new Easter may be dawning.

   One sign that they may succeed this time is the  newly awakening opposition to the National Rifle Association, which has devolved into a mindless lobby for the gun manufacturers.  Also, there is some opposition arising against the heavy weight of so many Americans who openly carrying rifles, even military AR-15 assault weapons.    

   So I see some hope.  In Catholic terms, we may be on the verge of what Vatican II called, "A New Pentecost."  In and through today's enlightened and dedicated youth, America has a new opportunity to rise up to new life from the disunited, passive culture that we older citizens have created, and that has brought us too many paranoid gun owners and too many political leaders who can't work for anything other than their own re-election to their corrupt power.  

   On Sunday, we will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, and his gift of a new life in his Spirit.  Wouldn't it be great if this Easter we elders could contribute our participation in Jesus' ever-new life to the vigorously alive youth in whom new life and hope may very well be rising.  Wouldn't that make for a wonderful HAPPY EASTER.













    

Sunday, February 25, 2018

GUNS AND CHRISTIANITY

   Imagine someone handing Jesus an AR-15 automatic rifle.

   I see him looking at it very sadly and then even more sadly handing it to a soldier.  Yes, in this world of ours it is will be necessary at times for soldiers to fight just wars of defense.  Of course, we must do everything we possibly can to make any kind of war a thing of the past.  But we are not naive.  Obscenely, even now we are faced with threats of war, even a nuclear war.

   The Second Amendment gives us the legal right to have certain guns in case we need to form a militia.  Today's militia takes the form of the National Guard units of the various states.  The "militias" that are paranoically formed for defense against the federal government are corruptions of the militia mentioned in the Second Amendment.  

   We can legally have guns, for example, for target shooting, hunting and personal self-defense.  That is reasonable.  But as a Christian and spiritual theologian, I deeply believe that no one, no one, outside the military should have an assault gun, which is a weapon of war.  To permit civilians to have such weapons is not necessary, not reasonable, not human, not Christian.

   Philosophy and science describe us as rational animals.  To be human is to be able to act rationally, reasonably.  How rational or reasonable is it for civilians to own and use weapons of war whose only purpose is to mutilate and destroy an enemy?  

   We are images and likenesses of God and the people of Jesus the Christ, who is the greatest expression of God's peace and love.  Christians who present God as a war-like, avenging judge who, for example, sends hurricanes to punish us because of homosexuals, seriously misrepresent God.  They never move forward in the Old Testament to see God's great love for us all and for all creation. (Ps. 23; Jer: 31:3; Joel 2:17-14.)  And when they arrive at the New Testament they can't worship and preach a God who is Infinite, Overflowing, Self-giving Love, as revealed in the person of Jesus, who taught us how to live in love.

   In the name of Jesus, the Christ, and of human reason, how necessary is it for anyone other than a soldier to have an assault weapon like the AR-15?  The children in the Florida high school who were murdered were not just pierced with the killer's bullets.  The AR-15 mutilated and destroyed their young limbs and organs.  Were these precious children so horrifically destroyed so that we American civilians could have the right to own and use a weapon of war?

   The NRA and the politicians who depend on the NRA for money and reelection have actually said that the mentally ill should not be prevented from owning a gun--any gun.  Now they are reconsidering their irrational stance.  But what do we mean by "mentally ill?"  Do we mean clinically diagnosed paranoid schizophrenics?  How about people who are  depressed, or upset, or politicized against our government, or angry at their parents?  And in today's overly individualized and broken culture, how much do I have to stretch the point to say that if I believe I just have to have an AR-15, am I in some way mentally ill?

   Thank God for the students of the Florida high school who, having seen hell first hand, are bravely speaking up.  With rightful anger they are crying out to all adults to wake up to the truth about assault rifles and to the special sacredness of human life.  Isn't war horrific enough without bringing it upon our own children!?  May their voices grow in volume, redound to heaven and bring reason and sanity especially to our legislators and President!

   As an American and Christian, I cry out to all my fellow Americans.  For the sake of reason, of humanity, and of our very souls, "Enjoy ordinary guns if you want to, but leave military weapons to the military!"   






    

   

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

REDISCOVERING OUR ONENESS

   Our faith tells us that we are one family under God.  But our churches remain divided as the ecumenical spirit wanes.  And sadly, the heavily politicized Evangelical churches blatantly defy the oneness given to us by God.

   Our American founders dreamed of one nation under God.  But the Declaration of Independence excluded the slaves from enjoying their inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  And racism continues to poison our nation.  Our Constitution begins, "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union..."  But under President Trump we are a very sorely divided nation.  Our national motto, "E Pluribus Unum," is losing its meaning.

   Our economic system divides us into the very rich and the many poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast.

   The great philosophies of both East and West have been abandoned by most schools

    Yet, there is hope.  It is coming from today's science.  An increasing number of physicists are offering a radically new view of the oneness that is the universe, the world and all of us on earth.

   Here I will repeat a little story that I told in a previous post.  Two young fish were swimming along a stream when an old fish came swimming toward them.  As the old fish was passing them, he said, "The water's fine today, isn't it?"   The young fish did not respond.  When the old fish had swum past them, one of them turned to the other and asked, "What's water?"  They didn't know the world they were living in.

   The physicists I am referring to are saying that the universe/world we live in is not made of material but is all non-material energy.  The universe, they explain, is made of atoms.  Until recently we thought that the atoms were made of material nuclei and electrons that scientists saw as little balls of matter.  Now they say that the nuclei and the electrons are actually little non-material waves in non-material energy fields.  The atom has no physical dimensions!  So the universe is made of non-material energy that has no physical dimensions.  

   (Our brain turns the non-material universe into a three dimensional, "physical" world but that's another story.) 

   Also, these physicists say that the non-material energy that the universe and we are  made of is living, intelligent consciousness.  To go back to our little story of the fish, the "water" we are swimming in is an ocean of universal, living, intelligent consciousness.

   Every galaxy, every star, planet, rock, plant, animals and person arises as an individual expression of one, living, intelligent, universal consciousness.

   So at one point in our history we were all one, same reality.  If we trace ourselves  back to our original reality, each of us is an individual expression of the one, basic living, intelligent consciousness that is the universe.

    Today, to many of us, especially the young, science is more respected than religion.  And more respected than philosophy, which also tells us of our basic oneness in terms of essence, i.e., we are all human.  So I wonder if today's science can do what our politics, education and mainstream religions are not doing.

   God can now be described as Eternal/Infinite Living, Intelligent, Divine Consciousness, who is Love.  The universe can be described as the space/time, finite, created image of Eternal/Infinite Living, Intelligent, Divine Consciousness/Love.    

   Genesis tells us that God created the universe and then entered into it, filling it with divine presence.  (Gen. 1:1-3)    The God-filled universe  is the living, evolving Christ Reality.  As Teilhard de Chardin said, "Cosmogenesis is Christogenesis."  

   Jesus was a 1st century Jewish male who at his conception became the universal, God-filled Christ Reality.  He was both human and Divine.  He is God's living, intelligent, conscious Reality/Love overflowing into the world. 

   In and through Jesus, we work to build the Kingdom of God on earth that Jesus prayed for, "Thy Kingdom come...one earth..."  In Jesus' power and love, we evolve, slow step by slow step, toward the full meaning of our lives, which is global wholeness in love.    

   Thanks to the new insights of today's science we have a contemporary and very persuasive way to renew our understanding and our faith in God and in Jesus the Christ, so we can renew and reinvigorate our lives and the world in the Oneness and Wholeness  of Love that God created us to be.   



   
         

Saturday, December 16, 2017

CHRISTMAS: A DOUBLE BIRTHDAY

   Christmas, of course, is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, 2000 years ago.  But if we are to understand and appreciate the wonder that is Christmas, we must also celebrate the birth of Christ, who was born 13.8 billion years ago.  For at Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Christ.

   Genesis tells us that at the beginning of creation the universe was in a state of chaos.  And then "a mighty wind swept over the waters," bringing calm and order to the chaos.  (Gen. 1:1-2).  We understand the mighty wind to be the Spirit of God.  From the first moment of creation, God was present in the universe.

    In the Hebrew mentality in which Genesis was written, we could say that God became present in the universe by anointing it.  The universe became "the anointed one."  The Hebrew name for "the anointed one" is Messiah.  The English translation of "Messiah" is Christ, or the Christ Reality.  The universe with God present in it is the Christ Reality.

    The Christ Reality, or simply, Christ, was born 13.8 billion years ago along with the creation of the universe.  God's living, conscious, intelligent, self-giving loving presence in the world/universe makes the world/universe the Christ Reality. 

   Christ is all in all.  (Col. 3:11).  Every galaxy, star, planet, all water, soil, rock, insect, plant, bird, animal and person lives in the God-present, Christ-ed universe.  God is present in everything and everyone.  Theologian-scientist Teilhard de Chardin said that we live in, "The Divine Milieu." 

   Note:  God's universal presence in the universe is not Pantheism, which makes the universe God.  It is panentheism:  God is present in the entire universe, which makes the universe the Christ Reality. 

   "Unto you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord."  (Cf. Lk. 2:11).  When Jesus was born
2000 years ago, the Christ that he was, was already 13.8 billion years old.  The amazing, joyful wonder of Christmas is that Jesus was the living, conscious, intelligent, loving, universal Christ Reality in the form of a first century, Jewish man.

   The word, "Catholic" means "universal."  Our Catholic faith in Jesus the Christ opens us beyond the Jewish faith to a global, universal faith, from within which we look back to the Jews as our beloved elder brothers and sisters in faith.  

   Jesus the Christ moves us through the dualistic thinking that occurs naturally to us, e.g., I am me and not you.  I am White and not Black, or Brown, or Yellow.  I am a Catholic, not a Protestant, or Jew, or Muslim, or Hindu, etc., to unitive thinking that arises from a global, universal faith.  In and through Jesus, the Christ, we open our consciousness to embrace the entire world in love.  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28).  Christ is all in all. (Col. 3:11). 

   Also, as Jesus did, we turn believing into acting, and we reach out, as effectively as we can, to all other in love.   

   Being the global, universal Christ, Jesus knows no boundaries or restrictions of love for the world and everything and everyone in it.  So as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Christ, we should make a new effort to open our eyes, minds and hearts and extend ourselves in good will and love to everything and  everyone, without exception.

   We are not naive.  We know that some people will reject us.  Some will hate us and even want to kill us.  Nevertheless, we should offer to join with everyone of good will, whether people of faith or of no faith, to work together to build up the Reign of Love in the world, especially in the form of order, justice, peace, joy of life, and gratitude, and with a special option for the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcastThis year we can especially note that the political and corporate culture contradicts Christmas very deeply.

    As we gather up love of all others in Jesus the Christ, we offer that love to God, The Father, through Christ, in the Spirit of joyful gratitude and worship.  With Christ and through him we joyfully proclaim, "Peace on earth, good will to all."

   And to all, a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!







           









        

Sunday, December 3, 2017

ADVENT HOPE IN TODAY'S DARKNESS

   In this Advent season, as we anticipate celebrating the birth of Jesus, a new wave of spiritual darkness has invaded our country.  

   The Senate just passed a Tax Cut that is going to do great harm to the poor and sick of our country.  The House will no doubt follow through with their own votes.  If there was ever an example of something that clearly and totally contradicts the joy of Jesus' birth, this is it.

   And yet, Franciscan spiritual writer, Richard Rohr, is writing of a newly emerging spirit of Christianity.  I see it too and it encourages me.  But first, let's understand the depth and thickness of the darkness we now face.

   The senators who voted for this Tax Cut are driven with the need to pass some kind of legislation, any kind, to show that they can govern.  Any spiritual adult knows that they are not capable of governing.  The proof of their incompetence shows in that the bill will serve only the super-rich to the detriment of the majority of people.  Many will suffer.  For example, doctors who treat cancer patients came to Washington to tell the senators that there will be less money for them to treat their patients.  In the face of such looming suffering, the doctors' plea fell on hardened ears.

   These same senators have constantly demanded that every tax cut has to be matched by some cut in service or new revenue, so that national debt, whose greatness they routinely condemn, will not rise.  Yet they voted to raise the national debt by one trillion dollars.  That's the figure their own accountants gave them!

   Many senators say that they are Christians.  Then how could they not see what they have just done?  Sadly, the answer to my question is easy.  The senate is one example of the very serious breakdown of Christianity in our government and in our country.  To understand the breakdown of Christianity, I look to my fellow Christians who are Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and to fellow Catholics who are woefully malformed in understanding our faith. With such Christian darkness in our land, our politicians have degraded themselves to the level where they are acting on the basest of motives.

   And in the White House the very notion of Christianity and sanity has disappeared along with the notion of governing.  We are faced with an autocratic, narcissistic president who daily shows that he understands absolutely nothing about being president.  And as the pressure is mounting that he might be exposed as having been involved in criminal activity, he slides in and out of psychosis, as we see in the wild rants he tweets daily.  

   There is no need to diagnose him personally; his public behavior is more than sufficient for any mental health professional to see the truth of his condition.  He has become dangerous even to the point of bringing us close to nuclear war.

   And yet in all this darkness, Rohr sees a new birth of Christianity coming.  As I said, I agree with him.  In fact, this blog is one way that I look to contribute to the new birth.  It is rising especially within Christians who have put away the old institutional notion of church, and who are working to create a new, loving Christianity in the everyday world, in communion with all people of good will.

   I highly recommend that you log on to Richard Rohr's Daily Meditations.  Yesterday, for example, he outlined the way we can process our pain and frustration with the institutional and inherited forms of church.  He tells us to manage our idealism.  As I have written often in this blog, neither the church nor Christianity itself will ever be perfect here in space/time. We are building the Kingdom of God on earth; it will never be completely built here but will be complete only in eternity.  

   Also, we can't do everything.  Yes, we can and should vote to put more spiritually alive and responsible people in our government.  And we can and should work to heal our society from the curses of racism, poverty, sexism, and all forms of ignorance and hatred.  We do all this by being directly influential within any group we can be, e.g., our family, our friends, our workplace, our voting, etc.  For example, a good friend, after retiring from a career in Catholic education, is now engaged in what he calls, "The ministry of speaking up."  This past year he has written thirty-one relevant an substantial letters to the editor of a Philadelphia newspaper.  They have printed nine of them.

   We should celebrate our victories, large or small, with humility and with praise and thanksgiving to the Spirit of Christ, in whom we live and breathe.

   Yes, today's darkness is deep and cruel.  We are not naive; we do not deny it.  At the same time, we can and do look forward to the star that will shine in the heavens this Christmas.  We will experience renewed life in the peace and good will of Christ.  So in the darkness, we say anew, "Come, Lord Jesus."