Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Praying Like Jesus

Prayed the Lord’s Prayer when I woke this morning.*

“Our Father”: Jesus teaches a way of prayer that emphasizes God is OUR's, not mainly the Father of ME, but OUR communion.

“Father” emphasizes in contrast to the non-theists—whether militant secularists or religious humanists—that the Ultimate Reality of the Cosmos is personal, loving, guiding, disciplining, and generating.

“in Heaven” seems a strong contradiction to the theologizing of so many who now emphasize the omnipresence of God. My understanding of this difficulty is Jesus thinks of God as mainly transcendent, beyond this present physical reality.

How then is God immanent? By his Spirit. For instance, in John 14:20, Jesus says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” And in Luke 3:22, Scripture states, “and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.”

Here, again, God speaks from heaven (as in Jesus’ Prayer), but his Spirit is pictured metaphorically like a dove coming “down” into this immanent world. And in Luke 4:14, the text says, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee…”

We see this reference to “spirit” on the human level as well when Paul writes to the Colossians at 2:5, “For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit…”

The Bible in John 4:24 states, “God is Spirit." So I suppose, if we want to get into abstract theorizing, then God in his transcendence is “in heaven,” God in his immanence “descends on earth,” and God incarnates into humankind, present in "the Chosen One," Jesus.

But, remember, there has been 2,000 years of tempestuous, violent Christian-infighting over theological theorizing, so to me as a Friend, it seems better to speak experientially and pictorially. Besides, the abstractions almost always make Jewish and Islamic people think we are talking about 3 gods, weakening the central truth of monotheism.

Is it not better to stay with the descriptive focus of Scripture such as in the last book? Revelation speaks of “the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him…and from the seven spirits (“seven-fold Spirit”).”

In most of the Bible, Ultimate Reality is described this way:

__________________________Transcendent Eternal God_______________________________






God’s Spirit
Descending

To
Creation

/ \

/ \

/ \

Then in the “fullness of kairos (the right or opportune time)

|
|
|



Into Humanity
Through Jesus
(“The Chosen One”)


/ \

/ \


By God’s Spirit into each of us,
and into our communities of individuals

This is just a pictorial of the New Testament descriptions, not any claim to ultimate invisible Truth. But it seems to make more sense than the Trinitarian creedal explanations which were esoterically theoretical and didn’t use biblical language but argued over abstract points such as whether Jesus had two natures, etc. All of that gets so complicated, confusing, and contradictory, and makes no sense in human terms.

Besides, of what practical ethical difference did it (does it) make whether Jesus was (is) essentially one Greek term or another, terms most people can’t even pronounce, let alone understand?!

Terms that many scholars can't even agree as to what they originally meant. And for which Christians in the past slaughtered other Christians! And for which Christians still verbally attack each other. Terms so confusing that Jewish and Islamic people think we aren’t monotheistic. Terms at the popular level of Christianity that have led to superstition contrary to Scriptural descriptions.

Back to Jesus’ model prayer:-)

Isn’t it odd that Jesus hasn’t taught his committed followers to pray? Instead one of them speaks up when Jesus himself finishes praying and asks to be taught to pray like John the Baptist has already taught his committed followers.

Why didn't Jesus start out at the very beginning to teach his disciples how to pray? Did he assume they already knew how? Or was he intentionally waiting for them to ask?

Or did he want their prayers to God to be made spontaneously like his own? Maybe he intentionally, at first, modeled how to pray.

* Meaningful in a way that openness praying and meditation haven’t been in the past few months, and definitely more meaningful than my daily, nearly, constant petitionary crying out to God. I admit I feel much more like the Psalmist in Psalms 88 than George Fox or John Woolman or John Wesley…though such leaders, also, had their “dark nights of the soul.”

Fox spoke of “an ocean of darkness” that covered him. At one point in his life he lay in bed for days, oppressed! And late in his life, during a despairing time, Wesley wrote in a private letter that he had never truly loved God!!

But God loves us even in our doubts and our despairing…

In the Light of God,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Nature of God's Glory versus Some Protestant Theologies

Not that this brief reflection on God's glory summarizes the whole nature of God (What finite being could do that except some theologians?), but surely this meditation brings out the heart of God as our father, our friend, our lover, our savior…*

God is patient, is kind; God is not jealous; God does not brag and is not puffed up, does not act unbecomingly, does not seek God’s own, is not provoked, does not take into account wrong suffered, rejoices not over wrong, but rejoices as the Truth—covers, trusts, endures:

God never falls.



*A welcome alternative to the wrong emphasis by many famous Christians proclaiming that all human evil actions, natural disasters, sickness and suffering are all planned for the glory and pleasure of God, etc., as if God is a self-centered, jealous tyrant.

Nothing could be further from the Truth.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, December 9, 2011

All is not calm, all is not bright...

All is not calm, all is not bright…
One of my favorite hymns from childhood is “Silent Night” by the German priest Josef Mohr written in (or maybe before) 1816.

Needless to say, northern Europe in the early 1800’s was neither calm nor bright, nor holy, nor at peace, nor filled with love’s pure light, nor redeemed by grace.
There was a high infant mortality rate, crop failures, ravaging disease, and horrendous slaughter. Europe had had almost continuous, calamitous war for 25 years! No “calm” there.

Napoleonic troops and anti-French troops had ravaged back and forth. 558,000 French-lead soldiers died during the campaign into Russia. In 1813, over 600,000 soldiers fought in one battle alone at Leipzig, Saxony. As many as 110,000 were killed or wounded.

Approximately 1 million or more civilian died from the war. Total war deaths reached between 3 to 6 million! Then Germany as a confederation was created from parts of the former Holy Roman Empire, however, German nationalists assassinated leaders…

Speaking of assassinations, that takes us back to the time of Jesus’s birth in Roman Palestine under Herod the Great in about 4-3 B.C..

Not a time of love, peace and light either.

Nor was Britain at the birth of the Quaker movement (so dear to my heart). Strangely, not even the early Quakers waged peace, contrary to Friends histories and popular understanding! Many of the Quakers fought in the great slaughter of the English Civil War.

George Fox, who would later emphasize the peaceful way of Jesus, at one point urged the Puritan killer Oliver Cromwell to carry forth his holy war all the way to Rome!! “Let thy soldiers go forth…that thou may rock the nations as a cradle.”

Not at all like the cradled-manger of Jesus.

So much for “silent night, holy night”…

Instead, even with the Friends of Jesus, the Children of Light, we have an "ocean of darkness" at first…

Nor was America peaceful in the time of my own childhood, when in a small Nebraska village, we sang this beautiful carol, shining the God’s light out into the overwhelming darkness of fighting and killing…

Consider this powerful “Silent Night” meditative song by Simon and Garfunkel:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZazHqdNeXA

What a paradoxical contrast between the way of Jesus and the, too often, horrific way of us.

May we truly witness of the love and peace of God in this often Christ-less, unholy season.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lines of Why, Wonder, and Loss



Missouri's Travail

Midwestern agony, thrice told
Tolling again, and again, and again:
Said one surviving son repeatedly—
“My Father, Father, why?”

Against the suffering onslaught,
Forsaken, to the priestly ‘preying’;
According to brazen ministers,
God Father's brass knuckles slam,

Supposedly that gangster god’s attack;
Lacerated and lambasted humans
Shaking from wrathful damnations,
Condemned before time, before their birth.

Our travail


Ravaged by Calvin’s sovereign despot
Slaughtered in another mighty wind*--
That savages across our land, rampaging
So many perishing in this world,

Not eternally loved, not compassioned,
Only sworn global news gone timelessly old,
Voltaire's crushed Lisbon, so many descendants
'Job'd' in another cosmic trial again.

Our travail

Selah.

"This is a miracle," after the torrential wind,
Intoned one smiling survivor hugging another,
Not the tornado slashing through, or the homicidal attack
Not surviving nature’s unholy debacle but rather

When his little sister, a virgin, was delivered
From the womb'd ruins of a dead minster’s deceitful home,
She one of hundreds of thousands injured;
But no longer about to be molested.

Our travail

Not seven days later, nor those triple sixes!
Beware that horror ended sign of last things--
That's supposedly yet another god-appointed disaster;
But now only a quarter to a third million dead

Including a few ravaging leaders,
Stained ones of sacred public cloth;
Those who distort the Divine into wrath
While intoning mumble-jumble ritual.

In these endless natural horrors,
So many sons and daughters who do not rise;
To quote the 'vained' Preacher, “Mere breath,”*
So billion'd the god-hysterical body count;

Our travail

Another ‘whether-vein’ rake-off
For now torn-asunder winds flail
These abject supplicants lost from hope,
Lamenting, lamentable 'patients' of Job;

But contrary to insolent religious doctrine,
Which lays all evil at the foot of God's throne,
One son of man wept, endlessly for all,
Crucified weeping.

Our travail

Selah

*Job 1:19, Ecclesiastes, and recent world news

--

Cape May Light

Back then
Her young wedding eyes glistened
More than the prism‘d Fresnel lens
That centered our lives
On the Jersey shore;

Now here,
From our rising 'light-tower', her loving gaze
Warm loving brilliance, still
Signals out guidance through violent storms,

To those lost in the raging sea of conflict,
And her belled joy sounds through blinding fog
To endangered others--
So many lost ships passing in the night.

She’s a Keeper.



--


Ventura Beach

cleaning up
on the beach street,
swaying date palms feather-dusk
fading crimson
but miss
gang scrawl

--


Markers

The pressure
Presses down, sure,
All four billion years

On to gleaming cars,

Glaring windows
On Maui's narrow beach shore--
Juxed up against a worn
Row of ‘withered’ gravestones


-Daniel Wilcox

Peoms first pub. in hotmetalpress.net;
also in a handful of stones
and the poetry collection, selah river


Edit--the poetry magazine, hotmetalpress.net no longer exists.


In the Light of God's Love,

Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why the Violence at Penn State, Oakland, New York?

None of the violent protests whether in Oakland, Vancouver, D.C., New York...and now Penn State make any sense--
especially in the last case--students rioting in support! of a coach who failed to report sexual abuse! They turned over a news van, tore down light poles, threw cans, attacked police officers!

This is not an isolated incident but has been happening across the nation, even in Canada.

Of course there are superficial reasons--such as in the case of Penn State students, the loss of their favorite legendary coach. But I could sooner understand if the students rioted against the staff for not reporting the sexual abuse of one of their coaches!

Some blame the violence on the violent media these young adults have ingested since childhood, some blame the economy, some blame parents, some blame copy-cat phone messaging, some blame politicians, some blame God,some blame...

What do you think is the deep cause or causes of why so many young adults are turning to violent rioting, even attacking police officers?

In the Light and Peace of God,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The True Stories

From Beyond Ourselves

“Where do you get your stories?”

by Stanley W. Green of Mennonite Mission Network

"Poet Muriel Rukeyser suggests that 'the universe is made of stories, not atoms.'"

"Rukeyser’s observation reminds us that while we can advance our understanding of the discrete aspects of our lives (especially in the physical realm) through the analysis and identification of atomic and molecular structures, meaning is found in the stories that surround those physical particulars.

We were intrigued, inspired, and encouraged as we heard stories from our workers and partners that told of transformed lives and healing and hope that came into the lives of prostitutes, prisoners, drug addicts and alcoholics, among others.

It is so easy to become trapped within the horizon of our own stories—those of our family, our culture, and our country. When that happens, our view of world becomes truncated, even tribal. Our lives become fragmented and we lose sight of our connectedness to the rest of the world...This fosters alienation...may even lead to war and destruction.

When, however, we pay attention to these stories that come to us from beyond...we are able to weave all the fragments of our lives into a meaningful whole...

We are to become responsible global Christians...to value sensitivity, learning and connection...The stories...help us to see and experience people around the world whom God loves...enrich our understanding of the global church and the context in which others seek to follow Jesus.

The world is filled with stories. Many are trivial, trite and banal.
[And he could have added, way too many are given to injustice and evil. But others] "help us to live into God’s vision...the larger story of God’s..."

Read the whole article at http://www.mennonitemission.net/Stories/BeyondOurselves/OurStories/Pages/Home.aspx
--

In the Light of God,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Problem of Nationalism

Don't miss reading this powerful analysis of the biased conflict between President Abbas versus Prime Minister Netanyahu at the United Nations.










Again, nationalism and ideology trump truth and peace. If only we humans could be delivered from our human nation-self-centeredness.

from the website http://www.musalaha.org/default.asp
Musalaha (which means reconciliation in Arabic) is a ministry of reconciliation in the Middle East, established by Salim J. Munayer.

"In conflict situations, these two merge more closely, and each side has a historical narrative made up of truth and myth in which “our side” is portrayed in a positive light, and 'we' are always the protagonist hero and victim in 'our historical narrative.'

We saw elements of the Israeli and Palestinian historical narratives in the recent UN speeches. Abbas opened his speech emphasizing the Palestinians’ openness to previous negotiations, their tireless attempts at presenting their position, and their sincerity during the process.

But these endeavors proved futile, primarily as a result of Israel’s refusal to “commit to terms of reference” and its continued engagement in settlement activities.

From the beginning, Abbas, in effect, presented the Palestinians as the protagonists who are committed to a two-state solution, arguing that the Palestinians are the reasonable party as the Palestinians came to the negotiating table sincerely and were willing to compromise; the Israelis then are the antagonists, unreasonable and unwilling to compromise.

Throughout his speech he discussed the effects of the occupation on Palestinians, and recounts the Nakba of 1948 in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were exiled from their homes. In effect, he established the Palestinians as the victims of the conflict.

While renouncing terrorism and violence and affirming peaceful resistance to Israel, he never recognized the detrimental and traumatizing effects of violent Palestinian actions against Israel.

He talked about the Holy Land being a land holy to Muslims and Christians, pointedly excluding the Jewish people from their historical and religious connection to the Holy Land. In spite of the Palestinian people he detailed throughout his speech, he emphasized that the Palestinian people extend their hand to Israel for peace.


When Netanyahu gave his speech responding to Abbas, he constantly emphasized that Israel also extends its hand to the Palestinian people in peace. He stressed Israel’s constant hope for peace and its willingness to make sacrifices for peace, not only with the Palestinians, but with the rest of the Middle Eastern world.

In effect, he presented Israel as the peace-seeking protagonist, summoning the Palestinian people back to negotiations. He rhetorically reasoned with his audience, asking if they would wish for danger so close to their cities and families, reminding his audience of the resultant barrage of rockets that followed Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.

He discussed the suffering of the Israeli people as a result of the rockets fired by Hezbollah in the north and Hamas from Gaza, presenting Israel as the victims of the conflict, never recognizing the detrimental and traumatizing effects of Israeli actions on Palestinians.

Consequently, he presented Israel as reasonable in its demand for military presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as he argued this is necessary for Israel’s security.

In effect, he showed that the Palestinians do not understand and are not reasonable in their requests. He argued that the primary issue is that the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.


Toward the end of his speech, he discussed the ancient and undying Jewish connection to the land of Israel, but he pointedly failed to mention (thereby excluding) any comparable connection the Palestinian people have to the land, giving only a brief nod to them in closing as they “dwell” on the land.

Is it not interesting to note that reading between the lines, they are mirrors of each other?

One side is reasonable, the other unreasonable. One side is the aggressor, the other the victim.


Both sides claim to extend their hands in peace, yet they make no room for one another in their narratives. Neither side is willing to publicly acknowledge its contribution to and perpetuation of the conflict.

Both sides reference their religious heritage to justify their historical narrative...it is internally focused, often contains half-truths, and when the other side is addressed, it is morally excluded and devalued.

In order for us, both Israelis and Palestinians, to make progress toward reconciliation, we need to learn to truly listen to each other’s needs and be willing to recognize our own shortcomings.


The basic needs for mutual legitimization can be found in the speeches of both Netanyahu and Abbas.

Words of peace can be found in both speeches, but words of good will quickly dissipate when they are not coupled with acts of good will.

Instead of recognizing each other and respecting each other, they belittled and excluded each other. Instead of employing self-criticism, they criticized each other.

...we are all called to repent of our sins and shortcomings and seek peace, but this does not preclude us from reading the Bible in light of our own historical narratives...We can also read the Bible as an ethnic group, taking certain passages and using them for various purposes.

We should apply Biblical passages to our own lives, but we have to be careful that we do not do this in isolation. We have to be careful not to read the Bible selectively, overlooking passages that may be uncomfortable to us.

Above all, we are called to peace, love, and fellowship. We work for this every day and we hope you will continue to walk alongside us as we pursue peace, encourage love of our neighbors, and journey toward reconciliation. Musalaha is a non-profit organization that seeks to promote reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians as demonstrated in the life and teaching of Jesus."

By Salim J. Munayer
Edited by A. Ben-Shmuel


[1] See “Stages of Reconciliation: Encounters between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs” for more information http://musalaha.org/articleview.asp?offset=20&ID=9.


Let us live in peace, for peace, with peace
in the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

God's GRACE, Love so Infinite

For 50 years, I've fought against the "Doctrines of Grace," the Reformed view of existence, the one of theological determinism, where humans are born without a choice, where in God even planned the Holocaust!

I got so I absolutely hated this religious term, "grace," since it stood for all that is most abhorrent in religion. How sad since once grace stood for infinite mercy, divine love, generosity, goodwill...

But some Christians are seeking to bring back the word from Sheol. Here's a new acronym use of "grace" which delivers the basics of the Good News:


God’s image in us, but broken

Restored and renewed through faith

Atonement from Christ for all humans

Capable of free choice in love

Enduring through Christ


from The Meeting House




In the Light of God's love,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, September 30, 2011

THE QUESTION

"Jesus raises the question: 'Are you living now the way you want to live forever?'"


From The End of Religion by Bruxy Cavey
A good introduction to the Way of Jesus.
Get the whole book free via the Internet
at amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/End-Religion-Encountering-Subversive-Spirituality/dp/1600060676/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1317414051&sr=1-1




In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Change Our Minds/Our Lives (Metanoia)

Great spiritual guidance, life-changing ways, have come from this one Greek word (metanoia: change one's mind) in Scripture. One powerful study on this came from Clarence Jordan, the Greek scholar and Southern farmer, who helped start an interracial community committed to equality and nonviolence in Georgia back in the 1942. Despite hatred, repeated violent attacks and several bombings, the interracial farm shone as a witness to the love of God for all. Not only was their community a powerful example, but the farm eventually led to the founding of Habitat for Humanity.

A second explanation of this enlivening word came today in a spiritual study by Rick Bloom based on 2 Timothy 3:2-5. How are we to change our minds, our lives?

We need to confess humility, pray with tenacity, seek God with intensity.
AND we need to change our minds by turning from these wrongs which plague modern life (as they did ancient times):

TURN from
philautos--self absorbed, egotistical

philarguros--focused on money, greedy

alazon--self-promoting

huperephanos--status conscious, stuck up

blasphemos--God-insulting, contemptible

apeithes--rude, disrespectful

acharistos--unappreciative

anosios--crude, profane

astorgos--unkind, heartless

aspondos--unwilling to forgive

diabolos--slander, gossip

akratess--uncontrolled, impulsive

anemeros--loves violence, cruelty, brutality

aphilagathos--cynical

prodotes--back-stabbing, double-dealing

propetes--reckless, rash, irresponsible

tuphoo--puffed up with pride

philedonos--choosing pleasure over God ("addicted to lust, allergic to God")

Sounds like the description of a new show on HBO or ABC doesn't it? Or a new movie
about the "beauty of revenge"? Or a talk show on the radio? Or the present U.S.A. political campaign for president? Or how we treated our coworker or neighbor or a driver on the freeway yesterday?

Time to change our mind! Time to change our lives!
To know Jesus and to make him known.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Peacemaking versus Warmaking

Insightful points from an article by Dave Zarembka of Friends Peace Teams:


"Let us imagine that in the last decades the international community had supplied everyone in_____________[Fill in the blank with one of the many places on earth where war is destroying humans]
with clean water/sanitation, basic medical care, universal primary education, decent housing, and those other things are are needed for a wholesome life. To do this for the whole world would have cost much less than what is presently spent on the military.

At the beginning of the genocide in Rwanda, all expatriates who wished were evacuated (while their Rwandan colleagues were left behind
for slaughter). This included 257 Americans.

However one American, Carl Wilkens, a Seventh Day Adventist aid worker, evacuated his wife and four children but refused to leave his Rwandan colleagues himself and stayed behind. During the genocide, the interahamwe were closing in to kill the Tutsi boys at an orphanage that Carl was supplying with food and water.


By chance, Carl ran into the Rwandan Prime Minister, Jean Kambanda, and asked him to call off the interahamwe.

This the Prime Minister did and the boys were saved. In other words, this one American who stayed behind saved more Rwandans from genocide than did the total US Government with its military might of fearful bombs, ships, guns, and billions of dollars."

Now, of course, those who argue for military might--probably will--point out that usually such an appeal by one caring human like Carl Wilkens will go unanswered. But that isn't the point Zarembka is making.

"What if there were 150,000 Tom Fox's [a peace witness in Iraq who was murdered by the Islamic militants] or 150,000 Carl Wilkens in ____________?"

What if we in the United States and other countries spent as much money on mission and peace outreach as we give to their governments to conduct war now, and pay for past wars, and create new weapons for future wars?
by David Zarembka,
coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of Friends Peace Teams

*Read David Zarembka's whole article in PeaceWays, a magazine of Friends Peace Teams.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"God does not need the cross..."

Sometime back I wrote a blog on the Atonement. Since then I came across this prosed wellspring of truth:

"For many with a hurtful understanding of Christianity this is vitally important. For them the cross is something terrible. It shows them a cruel God who accuses and condemns us for something we cannot help and then murders his own son to appease this bloodlust...[but]
God does not need the cross to forgive us or love us. Jesus forgave and loved people before the cross. But some of us needed the cross to be able to really accept that forgiveness. God does not need the cross to love us: God has always loved us. But many of us needed the cross to really grasp that. God does not need the cross to be reconciled to us. But many of us needed the cross to be reconciled to Life, to break the cycle of rivalry and to heal our estranged authority image.

"The cross speaks to us at the point of our need. And while these are not God's problems, but our alienation, still for us that alienation is very real. So to the one wracked with guilt God says through the cross, `I take the blame. I pay the price.' To the one who is locked in self-hate God says through the cross `I love you so much I would give my life defending you.' To the one in rebellion to life God says through the cross, `See me here. I am not a threat; I am love.'"

"On the cross God in Christ took on our sin. That means he at once bore the weight of the harm that we have done, and also bore the pain of the victims. This was not, as [Penal Substitution] would say, God punishing the human Jesus, but the incarnate Jesus revealing the compassionate heart of God to us. On the cross we see that God suffers with those who suffer, and always has. God carries the pain of every victim of rape, incest, torture and starvation. As Christ cries out `my God my God why have you forsaken me' God shows his solidarity with every person so overwhelmed with doubt they don't have the will to believe anymore."

from The Rebel God by Derek Flood


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Part 2: Back to the Future of Duty, Honor, Country

‘Just war’ is just violence, just killing, just suffering, just inequality, just wrong. (Quote from poster by Mennonite Central Committee, a mission agency of Anabaptists including the Brethren in Christ and the Mennonites)

On the way to Vicksburg in the American War of Secession (usually called the Civil War though it wasn’t civil by any definition), Yankees “burned Jackson..laying waste to the countryside…tore up railroad tracks, pulled down telegraph lines, burned cotton fields..killed poultry and livestock, emptied crocks of molasses and vinegar; and burned homes, smokehouses, barns, stores, and warehouses."

Other animals and wagons were confiscated. Some soldiers "stole jewelry, china, and silver, slashed feather mattresses; and took clothing..a Union soldier wrote home that he had seen forty or fifty plantations burn in a single day.”

During the bombardment of Vicksburg by Grant’s forces, 22,000 shells by Northern gunboats were launched into the town. The Lord’s house took a direct hit--“a bombshell burst into the very center of the dining room, blowing out the roof and one side, crushing the well-spread table like an eggshell, and making a great yawning hole in the floor...”

Like others, the Lords soon moved into caves. I suppose you get the irony. The Lords were the pastoral family of the Episcopal Church of Vicksburg. If you recall from Part 1 of this blog, Reverend Lord was a Yankee who had moved from New York 10 years before.

Soon the families and Confederate soldiers were down to eating corn, peas, weeds, and rats, and in one family even a child’s pet bird to stave off the beginnings of starvation. They finally surrendered.

Afterward, martial law was imposed by Grant. People could be jailed or banished from the city for even minor offenses. “In one incident, five women were banished after walking out of a church service rather than participate in a prayer…”

A “Vicksburg hospital took a direct hit from a shell [from a Union gunboat], killing eight and wounding fourteen. A surgeon saved himself from bleeding to death by tying off an artery. His leg was later amputated. Dr. Lord’s wife and youngest daughter almost got hit “when two large shells fell nearby and exploded simultaneously, filling the air with flames and smoke."

Mrs. Lord “tried to soothe her four-year-old daughter, saying, ‘Don’t cry, my darling. God will protect us.’ To which the girl replied that she was afraid that God had already been killed.” (From Under Siege by Andrea Warren)

Which he had! At least the god of each side, both of whom were declared to be leading, directing, and supporting the war like so many other horrific wars in history. Consider the words of Abraham Lincoln: “I am almost ready to say this is probably true--that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet.“

And the South’s motto was Deo vindice (“God will vindicate us.”) And in the 20th century, German soldiers wore on their belt buckles “God With Us and British soldiers, “For God, King, and Country.”

And consider these stirring words from an American preacher in World War 1: “It is God who has summoned us to this war. It is his war we are fighting…This crusade is indeed a crusade. The greatest in history—the holiest…a Holy War."

"Yes, it is Christ, the King of Righteousness, who calls us to grapple in deadly strife with this unholy and blasphemous power."
(from For God and Country or the Christian Pulpit in War Time, 1918). ETC.

Yet James of the N.T. has it right when he says "Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn't it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves...you fight to get your way by force." (JB James 4:1)

And now the gods are fighting again in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, etc. And, again, humans because of duty, honor, country, and God deal out death... Speaking of Back to the Future…

Look instead into the Light of Jesus’ Way,

Daniel Wilcox

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Tragic Nature of Duty, Honor, Country, and God

Duty, honor, country, God...aren’t these sacred nouns of what dreamed ideals are made?
What every good human seeks or should quest after?
How could such great exemplars possibly be the source of tragic, unmitigated evil?

In my childhood and youth, duty, honor, country, and God meant nearly everything to me. I still remember standing tall to receive my God and Country Award in Boy Scouts--months after many hours of preparation and achievement to earn the medal--then wearing it, proudly, on the green khaki of my Boy Scout uniform on important days.

The award hung there next to my merit badge sash emphasizing exactly those virtues of duty, honor, country and God. And hard work, reverence, etc., all those ethical characteristics of the Boy Scout Oath and Law: “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

But then all hell broke loose…

But before I explain what happened, wind back to one section of the past in U.S. history to get a more generic overview of these vaunted words—duty, honor, country, and God.

Consider the complicated, convoluted, tragic American Civil War in which two dutiful heroes stand out--Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant.



Take the latter first. Grant joined the war effort to keep Southerners from leaving the Union. Unlike Thomas Jefferson, Grant didn’t think Americans have a right to leave a government they oppose. Strangely though, he had previously violently supported Americans taking land from another country, Mexico, helping kill many for that right!

Oddly, also, Grant's family owned slaves and he worked them. From 1854 to 1858, Grant used the slaves of his wife’s father on the family farm. And Grant bought a slave in 1858, only three years before the Civil War but sold her in 1859.

His view of slavery may have been changing. However, his family didn’t free their slaves until after the Civil War ended and Missouri abolished slavery. So ironic that Grant was killing many Southerners when his own family back in Missouri still owned slaves!

While Grant gave partial support slavery, he seems to have been committed to an almost mystical vision of country, the United States. Like Lincoln, he didn’t think states had a right to democratically leave. “There are but two parties now, Traitors & Patriots and I want hereafter to be ranked with the latter…”

So, like Lincoln, he was willing to abandon slavery if it would stop states from seceding. Grant said, “If it is necessary that slavery should fall that the Republic may continue its existence, let slavery go.”

Previously, Grant had served in the U.S. Army invasion of Mexico. New American immigrants to the area had wanted to bring slavery into its portion of Mexico, but slavery was outlawed in Mexico. Isn’t that the beginning of irony—that this Union which Grant so valued, was actually born of land theft, and that the U.S. had supported the importation of slavery into Mexico by Americans who had recently immigrated into Mexico!

Already, 15 years before Secession, duty is again shown to be morally twisted.

Isn’t it strange that Grant warred to support rebels who supported slavery against the Mexican Government, but opposed democratically elected states, who supported slavery from leaving the United States? What a moral tongue twister!

And Grant, himself, later recognized the wrong nature of the Mexican War. He called the latter war “unholy.” And said, the “Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican War. Nations, like individuals are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment..”

But as always with so many well-meaning humans, duty calls: According to Grant, “Experience proves that the man who obstructs a war in which his nation is engaged, no matter whether right or wrong, occupies no enviable place in life and history.”

I suppose some people will say, ‘At least in the Mexican War, U.S. soldiers fought dutifully against people in another country, who believed differently, and even looked different. But when duty called in 1861, it called for brother to take up arms against brother. Like the story in the Jewish and Christian Bible-- the senseless murder of Abel by his brother!

But, in the case of the Civil War, both sides were Cain, though, as the defender against invasion, the Confederacy less so, since they only wanted to go their own way, not invade the North. In fact, technically, the Civil War wasn’t a war about who controlled the nation, but about the North refusing to let Southern states leave after they had voted to do so.

Striking ironies. The Confederate general protecting Vicksburg from the invasion and assault by Grant’s troops from the North, General John Pemberton, was himself actually a Northerner. Two of his brothers, in contrast, joined the Union army, supporting the Northern invasion of the South! How tragic!

The rector at Vicksburg’s Christ Episcopal Church, the Reverend W.W. Lord, had also moved from New York 10 years before. He and his wife, also, supported the Confederacy!

So, hopefully, it is clear, that while a small group of Southerners, the ruling class of plantation planters, owned slaves, most didn't. Furthermore, most Southerners fought against the Union, not mainly because of slavery but because the Yankee army had invaded their homeland, their country.

This was exactly the case of Robert E. Lee. Known as the soldier’s soldier, Lee was admired even by his enemies. As a Christian and a Southern he followed duty and honor and country and God, enlisting in the Confederate Army even though he himself opposed Secession.

During his time at West Point, he got NOT one demerit, a very unusual achievement. For him, duty, honor, God and country were most important.

Lee had, at first, been offered command of the Union forces set to invade the South, but he said he wouldn’t attack his own state of Virginia. No, he would instead go back to defend his home.

Like Grant, Lee and his family owned and used slaves. Like his opponent Abraham Lincoln, Lee supported the freeing of slaves and having them emigrate to Africa. He did recognize slavery as a social evil that, hopefully, would eventually be ended.

Lee wrote to his wife in 1856, “In this enlightened age, there are few I believe but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil in any Country.”

Lee chose to obey the state government of Virginia (and other Southern states, rather than the northern states who had a monopoly in the U.S. government) He stated, “Obedience to lawful authority is the foundation of manly character." But weren’t he and his state rebelling against lawful authority?

Wasn’t Lee one of the “traitors” that Grant railed against? Not according to Lee and millions of other Southerners. They weren’t rebelling but withdrawing from a democratic voluntary association, just as Thomas Jefferson, also a Southerner, had said everyone has a human right to do.

Unlike many a human when violently attacked, Robert E. Lee didn’t hold to revenge. He even emphasized forgiveness. “We must forgive our enemies. I can truly say that not a day has passed since the war began that I have not prayed for them.” Not the usual image of the battle-hardened soldier in either historical tomes or popular media is his famous statement?

Yet here is the tragedy, the moral evil: Lee ordered hundreds of thousands of Americans into battle to kill other Americans, Christians to kill other Christians.

By following duty, honor, country, and God, Lee was directly responsible for multi-thousands of deaths. Of what use is it to pray for your enemies, and to forgive them, if you order them killed?

Keep in mind that some of his opponents in the Union Army were also Christians who believed in prayer, forgiveness, duty, honor, country, and God! Yet they invaded and killed countless numbers of Southerners, stole their produce and animals, confiscated and burned their homes and factories, causing untold suffering and anguish that lasted for many years!


Furthermore, many Northerners were racists, even in the Union army, and opposed Black equality. After the Civil War, racist Black Codes came into being in the South.

But racist codes were also evident in places in the North. And there were"Sundown towns" such as Hawthorne, California which had a sign outside its city limits in the 1930's which read, "Nigger, Don't Let The Sun Set On YOU In Hawthorne."

So much for honor and that God loves everyone, "red and yellow black and white..."

What came of all this high-sounding moral code of duty, honor, country and God? Over 800,000 needless deaths, millions of wounded, the ravaging of half of America, untold suffering to civilians, unjust and immoral laws for over 100 years against Negroes, and die-hard racism.

One major secular philosopher, Immanuel Kant, emphasizes how duty shines above all, how duty is the highest call of humankind—the one true ethical act.

But not in the case of the very unCivil War.

The one good side effect of the war was the emancipation of the slaves, though when Lincoln emancipated slaves, he did so only for states in the Confederacy. Most historians say that Lincoln did this primarily as a war measure.

Slaves in the North continued to be enslaved until the end of the war! Lincoln's Emancipation didn't apply to them. So strangely, Lincoln freed slaves where he didn't rule, but enslaved Negroes where he did rule!

Then Lincoln also advocated that freed slaves should leave the United States. In March 1861, Lincoln said, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."

He further stated, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves I would do it…”

“I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” Etc.


Of what strange things are duty made, and the slaughter of others, and the hypocrisy of religion.


To be continued…

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Sacred Act of Pole-Vaulting and Other Conceits

The Sacred Act of Pole-Vaulting and Other Leaping Conceits
‘Donne” While Surveying and Surviving the Tragic and Absurd Conundrum Called History and the Human Condition

When a young teen in P.E. one year, I jumped the pole vault a few times. The anticipation for and mild fear of the run and leap, tensed us up. The vault didn’t rank with the sheer frighted fearfulness of the high dive in swimming, but it sure beat the dickens out of pushups. As difficult as it was to run and leap up balancing on the wobbly rise of the limber pole, in its back arch and then its swinging forward, up, and over the cross bar, I did manage to clear the bar at low levels.

The eventual goal aimed toward was to set the cross bar higher and higher and yet still achieve the swinging leap up and over. But the higher the bar the more difficult the leap with the rise of the pole and the more dangerous the fall, even if one succeeded in clearing the cross.

Fortunately, pole vaulting lasted only a week or two for us P.E. students, was not required on a regular basis like for the athletic superstars of track and field. Still, isn’t this all intriguing that after many years of hectic adult life with career and family-raising, a few minutes of pole-vaulting still comes back to me so vividly?

Rather conceited wasn’t that opening paragraph? Not proud like a rooster, not like a guy who acts brazenly self-centered, always leaping into the center of any discussion. No, in this short article, we are talking about the extended over-reach of a long-winded, leaping metaphor, in the manner of the metaphysical poet John Donne (you know the 17th century English writer who spent a whole poem comparing his love for his wife to a geometric compass!).

Anyway, such a conceit, an extended metaphor of track and field makes a powerful analogy for the spiritual ‘pole-vaulting’ of faith in the sacred. Consider Christian history.

The bar of belief and action was set very low when Jesus first called his disciples. But then he spoke more and more in metaphoric theological conundrums and esoteric parables such as when he compared Christian faith to a vulture gathering over a dead body

Obviously the bar was being raised higher and higher--incredibly high, and the disciples balked, scratched. Scratching in pole-vaulting means one steps over the line or somehow misunderstands or violates the rules. And many disciples and other humans scratch at life down to this day. Metaphor.

One of the most difficult high raisings of the bar came when Jesus didn’t return in the ‘soon’ time of Paul and John (I Thessalonians and Revelation), but somehow Christians adjusted the bar down and up at the same time! Some biblical theologians reinterpreted the word ‘soon’ to mean ‘rapidly’ rather than in the common sense definition of ‘in the near future.’

They said the return of Christ could happen thousands of years in the future, but when it did it come, it would be ‘rapid’. This seems a very dishonest scratching of language. It is more than an accidental rule violation, but a situation of sure chicanery--straining the gnat and swallowing the camel.

Such fixing of the pole vault should be disallowed. Other Christians have said that ‘soon’ is different for God compared to us, (again a suspect vault, sounds like a scratch).

‘Liberal’ Christians admit Jesus and the NT authors were mistaken, but in so doing they are trying to pole vault up a steep incline while sliding down the slippery slope of increasing doubt and skepticism. If the NT isn’t historically accurate about such a key doctrine as the return of Christ, many ask, how could one rely on Scripture being accurate about anything else? After all, the bar of requirements for historical writing has been set very high in the modern age.

All things, people think, need to be factually accurate, inerrant to be of value. Religion, the spiritual, and the transcendent all need to be judged with the measuring tools of science.

A compass of accuracy needs to discern the geometric lines of theology and faith, to eliminate and banish any heresy that deviates from the true.

The nature of truth is a difficult subject bar none (to throw in a pun and lighten this heavy post;-) The difficulty of faith versus delusion (false faith) and reason versus despair (false reason) is a very high bar indeed--one which guides and misguides. Let us pray moment by moment and think moment by moment so as to rise upward into the transcendent, knowing within that we are loved by God as Jesus said.

Another difficult raising of the cross bar of Christian faith came 1,500 years after Jesus, in the time of Galileo and Copernicus. The Church claimed supreme understanding and control in all matters.

Yet a minority of scientists contradicted the teachings of the Church and, allegedly, the Bible. They claimed to have proved that the sun doesn’t round the earth each day; indeed, the earth is not the center, not the focal point of all creation as Genesis claims.

Soon science increased its claims--our sun is only a very minor star. Contrary to the Scriptures’ statement, “God made the stars also,” in actuality, those stars are much more vast than our puny solar system.

We are on an edge of a galaxy, which is one of millions of other galaxies! So much for the literal understanding of the Bible and common sense! Scratch!

Of course, many choose to twist the plain text in the Bible, cheating again in the sacred game of pole vaulting. They argue Genesis describes the creation of the sun on the fourth day from the perspective of God’s Spirit at the level of the surface of the planet looking up, so it does look like the sun comes after the earth rather than before. What has happened?

A dense, heavy cloud of vapor has hidden the sun during the first three days. The sun finally appears above the earth on the fourth day. But the verse in Genesis doesn’t speak about the sun appearing from behind fog on the fourth day, it says:
“And God said, 'Let there be light in the vault of the heavens to light up the earth.' And so it was. And God made the two great lights…” (Genesis 1:14-16)

Yipes, what convoluted rhetoric! Another scratch. Disqualified.

Other faithful humans leaped, instead, out of fundamentalism, and so out the metaphysical window plummeted the 3-storied universe. These Christians leaped over the new cross bar level to a spiritual universe where Heaven still exists with its pristine streets of gold ‘up there’ and Hell abysses ‘down below’ though this spiritual reality has nothing to do with the observable world measured and manipulated by science and technology.

So we got a dualistic existence, where science concerns itself with the observable, and religion concerns itself with the spiritual and moral. Many Christians of the present time manage to make this philosophical leap.

I made the leap as a young adult.

However, I feel uncertain, in brutal honesty, whether I only scratched.

But the bar for Christian faith when faced with the conclusions of science kept ascending. Much more difficult to leap over—maybe impossibly so—was the discovery by Darwin in the 1800’s that life proceeds not by a sudden miraculous creation 6,000 years ago, but by a combination of cosmic luck and survival of the fittest over millions and millions of years.

Later in succeeding years, other scientists tabulated their technical findings and showed the earth came about 4 billion years ago, not 6, 000, and the universe has existed at least 16 billion years!

This setting of the sacred bar careens outrageously high so that only the most blind, or most compartmentalized, or the most ultimately determined can leap the bottomless chasm up and over the cosmically high crossbar of faith.

For where is God if all comes about by accidental meandering and by dog-eat-dog, possibly dog-lick-dog evolution?

Is not God reversed in a kind of spiritual dyslexia, into doG?!

Evangelical Christians simply reset the bar slightly lower, explaining God started Life, so there!

Intelligent Design! We get the God-of-the-Gaps, a creator who hides in the shadow areas of existence where scientists haven’t yet figured out methods of inquiry and extensive evidence. So this compromise hardly solves the problem.

And don’t forget the dogged Fundamentalists and Calvinists. They, despite over whelming evidence, continue to claim scientists are just closet atheists, or brazen ones like Richard Dawkins, who are only rebelling against God by coming up with preposterous geological and biological lies.

But none of this is very encouraging for the honest and the circumspect individual. Why would the Creator start a creative process but then not guide it if God is all Loving, all Kind, all Good, all True?

Why would God major in pain, allowing or predetermining for billions of animals to suffer for countless eons and then go extinct, and for millions of humans to agonize, living excruciatingly painful lives down through a chaotic and vicious history? Why one endless moral/ethical scream?

And what happens to the bar (not speaking of the legal court or the local drinking den;-) if, as many scientists claim, eventually science will be able to explain from a natural point of view even abiogenesis, how first life started?

Then won’t God, the Creator, be simply a superfluous empty word, unneeded (as many scientists claim is already the case) and unwanted?

Then religion will be reduced to the garbage bin like other popular superstitions—astrology, phrenology, humoralism, etc. Astrology led eventually to astronomy, but once scientists understood the mechanism of the scientific method, astrology became so much delusionary baggage to be jettisoned.

The same goes for religion, so they say; once religion gave meaning to humankind, but now science gives meaning to our lives. The account in Genesis has been shown to be fallacious.

Of what use are fanciful myths like the Garden of Eden or 6 days of creation?

They smugly point out that Christians and other religious people have been crying “God,” like the boy of long ago who cried wolf, for so long without any evidence.

Now the evidence for evolution is overwhelming. Why should anyone listen to our theological yelling?

A few humans take one last incredible leap. They point out that while the natural observable world is as Darwinians say—a naturally meandering survival game—such a scientific scenario doesn’t prove a Creator doesn’t exist, for the true God is hidden, is a philosophical reality “outside” of the province of the scientific method.

While this is perfectly arguable—this author is embarrassed to admit, in the past, he himself sometimes used the method--this philosophical God is, obviously, not the Creator in Genesis, not the God of Scripture (the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Scriptures) who micromanages every moment from eternity.

Thus, this last incredible leap is the most impossible of possibilities (to paraphrase a statement by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr).

This last impossible leap of spiritual pole vaulting jumps so incredibly high ones seems only able to do it by the sheer choosing—an existential leap, philosophical choice, in the manner of Kierkegaard, where one doesn’t weigh the possibility, or the rational doubts, but leaps, because not to leap is to despair.

Martin Gardner, the famous skeptic in his powerful philosophical book, The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, says he made this spiritual leap, and continues to trust in God because, the leap of Fideism, is worthy, and provides hope.

I am skeptical of fundamentalism, materialism, and fideism.

They all seem to scratch.

Oddly, unlike Gardner, my faith in God isn’t mainly emotional, but intellectual. But like him and other thinkers I admire, I know my days are numbered now that I have passed the halfway bar in my brief life, compared to incomprehensible cosmic deep time.

To half quote the famous metaphysical poet of extended conceits, John Donne: “When one has ‘donne’ his best, one is not done but have more” (from his poem “A Hymn to God the Father”).

There are still more difficulties, higher bars to jump over. Try leaping over not only the moon, but the universe!

The best answer would seem to be Hegelian—that a synthesis is better than either the former thesis (Christian orthodoxy) or antithesis (the Enlightenment).

We humans both yearn and learn.

Francis Collins, a Christian and a scientist, the leader of the Human Genome Project has created one such synthesis and created the BioLogos Foundation: Science and Faith in Dialogue.

We spend whole life-times seeking, and yet still have difficult questions.

Be honest, avoid scratching.

Leap with faith and reason.

Keep them in creative tension.

And cross the bar of existence with zest,
not only with confusion and “my God, why” despair
but, finally, in purposeful “it is finished” hope.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, July 4, 2011

Part 2: Sexuality

Since the word “sex” only has three letters, how did it become a four-letter word (the “plow” word and the “love” word)?

How does an instinctive procreative act characteristic of all humans (and most forms of life down to fish and below) come to mean everything from the degrading and sadistically obscene to the uplifting and creatively divine?

From the violently aggressive to the joyfully receptive?

From one-sided self-centeredness to intimate communion of two lives?


Regardless of one’s worldview, most humans* think humankind has reached a state in evolution
wherein individuals of our species can creatively use human innate characteristics,
adapting them for many different purposes and in very different ways.

This “plasticity” of human abilities enable billions of individuals to use their physical and brain skills, not only for time-immemorial practical acts such as plowing a field or constructing a building,
but
for transcendent goals.

Humans can use their brain consciousness and muscles to do acts that have no practicality at all such as play suspenseful sports in the Olympics or dance in complex moves across theater stages or construct beautiful poetic songs.

This “plasticity”—for good or ill--is, especially, true for human sexuality as shown by the wide variety of statements about sex by famous individuals in the first installment of this series.

Here is another striking example:
Alan Watts, a former Episcopal minister, became a prolific writer and famous transmitter of Buddhism to the American cultural scene. (When I was a teenager, and still a Baptist, I watched his show every day on PBS at 6 pm, marveling at his spiritual points and esoteric philosophical explanations.)

So far, so good, it seemed.

But then I read his shocking, repulsive autobiography, In My Own Way.

Alongside such spiritual gems as “The cross is at the heart of the universe,” which Watts quotes from a mystic,
he then describes his view of human being and sexuality.
“…Deep down inside, almost everyone has a vague sense of eternity. Few dare admit this because it would amount to believing that you are God..."


"My own sexual mores...I do not believe that I should be passionately in love with my partner...and still less, married."

"For there is a special and humanizing delight in erotic friendships with no strings attached..."

"My life would be much, much poorer were it not for certain
particular women with whom I have most happily and congenially committed adultery...”
Alan Watts

HUH?

Most of us aren’t too surprised by the sludge coming out in the media or by so-called red-necked vulgarity.

The guttural view of sex has probably been around since cavemen first spoke;-), but when a highly educated, philosophical, spiritually oriented individual such as Alan Watts glorifies promiscuous sex,
we surely know that human sexuality
is, indeed, very ambiguous with many strange variations,
and many of them destructive,
and so contrary to the Truth, the Good, and the Beautiful.

When he writes, "I most happily and congenially committed adultery...," it is clear that somewhere he took a disastrous ethical detour.

We’re all sexual, and in different ways, but, hopefully, we don't major in being unfaithful, disloyal, and promiscuous and, even worse, declare our harmful dysfunctional behavior with pride to the world.

Speaking of Buddhism, actually the latter, contrary to Watt's view, for most of its history had a very different view of sexuality.

The Vietnamese Buddhist nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, Thich Nhat Hanh, emphasized that humans seeking to become enlightened live their sexuality in enhancing ethical ways.

Other forms of Buddhism go to the opposite extreme from Watts' adultery and promiscuity. These Buddhist leaders
have a very negative view of all human sexuality and even state that women must become men before they can be enlightened!

“...a large part of Theravada texts is devoted to the depiction of women as disgusting creatures too repulsive to touch.”
--Rev. Patti Nakai

Touching--now that reminds me of my own spiritual tradition, the part I hated as a fundamentalist teenager, words from good ol' Paul:
“Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.”
I Corinthians 7:1, New Testament

Maybe that would have been good advice for Hugh Hefner and most of the secular individuals I knew at university who argued for 'free sex.'

But Paul's extremely negative remarks were difficult for me, especially when first going out on dates with friendly Nebraska country girls:-)
Remember the famous Beach Boys song from that era, "California Girls"?

Paul's advice was exasperating.

Don’t get me wrong. I am talking about hand-holding and kissing,
traditional “necking,”
not anything below the neck.

But get it, my even having to explain our particular religion’s very conservative sexual understanding shows how wide human sexual understanding and behavior is.

Why, hey;-), when I was very naive in junior high, our Christian books so warned against kissing
that I really thought girls got pregnant from smooching!!

Shows I lived in a small village and attended a very strict Baptist denomination where movies, dancing, rock music were banned,
that I didn't grow up on my grandfather’s farm where many animals did 'it' all the time.

Contrast this religiously-sheltered ignorant upbringing with the ninth grader I encountered when I moved Lincoln,
the capital city of Nebraska.

The knowing teen smirked and demanded to know if I knew all about “69.”

I knew it was 1962, and did know the “6” and the “9” weren't referring to years, but to something sexual and forbidden.

Just what I didn’t know, and tried to not think about. But sure did:-)

Enough on autobiographies from Watts to Wilcox...

From New Age Buddhism to fundamental Baptist Christianity...

Then there's orthodox Judaism with its Jewish men's prayer thanking God for not making them a woman or a slave:-(.

I’m sure you get the general point, without my bringing in many details from Secularism, Hinduism, Islam and Paganism.

Yes, sexuality is a very powerful force/drive within humanity which has been shaped like soft plastic into countlessly different configurations by humans and their worldviews.

The earlier modern quote about the basketball player and his wife catches the true spirit of human sexuality, as God intends sexuality to be—a joyous monogamous daily choice by two equals.

Sexuality is a whole life response by a couple committed to a life-long relationship, neither temporary glandular instinct nor a restricted negative necessity.


Here’s another fine explanation: “...Your understanding of love will change as you get older...I remember my second date...I totally lost my cool and told her I loved her. On our SECOND date!!"

"You know what? I recently told that very same girl how much I love her, and how glad I am that I married her...But what I meant when I really meant it 23 years ago is a lot different from what I mean when I really mean it today!"

"In 23 years, I’ve learned to put aside my selfishness more often, and I’ve learned more ways to love and cherish her...the heart of genuine love [in human sexuality] is an immovable decision to put your lover’s joy and welfare ahead of your own."

"Usually, you don’t fall into that kind of love; you climb into it. It’s not just something you feel [nor an instinctive urge]. It’s a decision you make.”
Duffy in Breakaway
--

Sexual love is a monogamous life-long commitment, a unique “ultimate” relationship—where two individuals give themselves to each other emotionally, mentally, and physically.

That’s true love.

True love (in the marriage sense) is unlike any other human relationship, except in sacred writing where God is often spoken of as each individual human’s lover.

Indeed, romantic sexual imagery is often used in literature to describe the ecstasy of “knowing” God intimately. Makes sense doesn’t it?

After all, the Creator came up with the ideal and the actual actions of human sexuality.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

*Except, of course, for the theologically and materialistically fatalistic

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Meaning of Human Sexuality

Surely, I must be joking? Thinking I can take on the herculean (adam-evesques) task of explaining the meaning of human sexuality? That would be like climbing Niagara Falls or trying to explain the theological significance of Viagra;-).

The meaning of human sexuality is so deep and so transcendent and so complicated and so controversial, it would first be better to tangle with the behemoth or leviathan mentioned in the Book of Job. But since none of us can get away from the topic (and I seldom have ever wanted to except when revoltingly sick).

Here goes—

A little introductory humor:
How can you tell if a man is thinking about sexuality? Is he breathing? LOL

A few quotes to set the tone before the texted tome, and to show the inexplicable contrariness and contradictory outlook of various human beings toward this incessantly fascinating topic:

And God created the human in his image,
in the image of God…male and female…
And God blessed them, and God said to them,
Be fruitful and multiply
…and, look, it was very good.
Genesis 1:27-31


"The [marriage] vows should be written like a dog's license that has to be renewed every year…I think vows should be changed because they've been in existence for 600 years when people used to live until they were only 35. So they only had to be with each other for 12 years, then they would die anyway. But now it's a big commitment because you're going to be with someone for 50 years. It's impossible…It's such a rarity for people to stay together that 68% of marriages fail. I don't want to urinate on the party, but one must consider that before getting married.
Rock Musician Rod Stewart


“Sex is like pissing. People take it much too seriously.
Painter Diego Rivera

“If I ever loved a woman, the more I loved her, the more I wanted to hurt her. Frida was only the most obvious victim of this disgusting trait.”
Painter Diego Rivera


“Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?”
Yeshua, the Messiah (Anointed One)


“Chastity: The most unnatural of the sexual perversions."
Aldous Huxley


"I think I could fall madly in bed with you."
Anonymous


“Vanity, revenge, loneliness, boredom, all apply: lust is one of the least of the reasons for promiscuity."
Mignon McLaughlin


“To me heaven would be…two lovely houses in the town; one where I would have my wife and children and be monogamous and love them truly and well and the other where I would have my nine beautiful mistresses on nine different floors.”
Ernest Hemingway


“The sweetest joy, the wildest woe is love.”
Philip James Bailey


"Love is the word used to label the sexual excitement of the young, the habituation of the middle-aged, and the mutual dependence of the old.
John Ciardi


"I never knew how to worship until I knew how to love."
Henry Ward Beecher


Roman and Grace are a married Spokane Indian couple. He is standing close to her with his basketball between them, as if the ball represents the expectant infant they will soon create…
“Michael Jordan is coming back again,” he said.
“You can’t fool me,” said Grace. “I heard it. That was just a replay.”
“Yeah, but I wish he was coming back again. He should always come back.”
“Don’t let it give you any crazy ideas.”
Roman pulled the basketball away and leaned even closer to Grace. He loved her, of course, but better than that, he chose her, day after day. Choice: that was the thing. Other people claimed that you can't choose who you love—it just happens!—but Grace and Roman knew that was a bunch of happy horseshit. Of course you chose who you loved. If you didn't choose, you ended up with what was left—the drunks and abusers, the debtors and vacuums, the ones who ate their food too fast or had never read a novel. Damn, marriage was hard work, was manual labor, and unpaid manual labor at that. Yet, year after year, Grace and Roman had pressed their shoulders against the stone and rolled it up the hill together.

In their marriage bed, Roman chose Grace once more and brushed his lips against her ear.

From “Saint Junior” by Sherman Alexie


To be continued in Part 2: Since sex only has three letters, how did it become a four-letter word (the "plow" word and the "love" word)?

In the Light,
Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Part 4: Only Visiting—a Mere Breath

We humans are a “mere breath” here for a brief time and then gone—so very finite, as religion and modern science both teach us.

None of us can permanently “own” anything. The sheer delusion of history has been and still is that anyone--any individual, any group, any nation can “own” land and that their owning this land gives them the right to kill other human beings created in the image of God.

Only God is eternal, only God theoretically “owns” any physical reality. When God gives land to groups of humankind for a finite time (“…he made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation,” Acts 17:26), God does so in order that each particular nation or ethnic group may be a blessing to others! Life is not about taking, but about giving.

Even when God chooses one people to be special messengers to bless humankind and then gives this group a portion of land, their living on the land is always to be based in justice and mercy as the prophets say. “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24 and “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does God require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8 and “… if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness.” Isaiah 58:10 ETC.

The horrors of human history and the tragic news of the present day show what happens when humans turn to lethal violence in order to “own” land.

No national group has an ethical right to claim sole ownership of any land irrespective of the needs of others--of goodness, love, and justice. Instead, we are to give, to be generous, to share, even sacrifice.

The Spirit of God divides asunder all the honest misguidance, illusion, and pretension of both Israelis and Palestinians who claim some parcel of land is theirs alone! Wait 100 years and the proud “owners” will be gone. These warring nationalistic individuals will be gone with the wind. Only God knows where.

But, agonizingly true, the deeply, incredibly difficult agenda is how to implement a loving, just, fair policy for all people in the Middle East. How does one put into practice the spiritual truth that Jewish people and Arab people need to share, because they are only visiting this earth like the rest of humankind?

#1 The first step would seem to be for the warring parties to become “compassionate listeners” (http://www.compassionatelistening.org/about/history). Tragically most Israelis and Palestinians avoid each other. Not only do they not share, they often do not know each other, let alone have deep open honest conversations. They need to listen to the grievous hurts of the other.

#2 Secondly, they need to ask each other for forgiveness for the past. Horrendous acts of violence, theft, lying have been committed by both sides.

#3 Thirdly, the Israelis and Palestinians need to remember that they as individuals created in the image of God are far more important than any land claims.

#4 Fourthly, they then can go about the difficult task of working out how to function together despite having different cultures, different religions, different mindsets.

#5 Lastly, they will then be able to tackle the issue of how to SHARE the land, not to “own” it, not to fight over it, not to claim exclusive right to it.

There are many more steps, all of them difficult.

Having lived and worked in Palestine/Israel myself, and knowing how difficult human relationships are in my own life, I realize, none of this will be easy nor will it come about in a few years.

But agreeing to LISTEN and agreeing to SHARE are a good place to start.

In the Light of God,

Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Part 3: Jew or Arab? History and Religion

Historic claim when it comes to ownership has much appeal and quite a bit of historic precedent. If you have owned your car since it came from the factory, but then someone steals it, then it makes not only legal sense, but common sense and I dare say philosophical sense, that the property should be returned to its original owner—you.

If your family and ancestors have lived on the same land for hundreds of years, maybe in a few cases even a thousand years, then unless you are a murderer, etc., it would also seem common sense to assume you have the right to stay there.

But this is where the case of historic claim gets tricky, and downright conundrumed! What if another family’s ancestors lived on your little spot of heaven before your family, way back many hundreds of years ago. Now they have returned and want their ancestral land back?

To use the simplistic crass example, what if the car you have owned for 29 years didn’t come to you from the factory but was passed down to you by your grandfather? What if it turns out your grandfather originally bought it from a neighbor, who bought it from a friend who it turns out stole it from the original owner? Who gets it? Who’s on first?;-) We end up with a complex semantic confusion of mumbo-jumbo absurdity very quickly, not unlike the Abbot and Costello baseball skit. 'Whadad' you say?

This is where lawyers and court justices make their living, trying to sort out all the legal complexities of complex conundrums of claim.

And, of course, the simplistic example is just that. Though complex from a legal standpoint, it’s simplistic in comparison to figuring out the historic nature of land ownership covering hundreds, even thousands of years! In real life it so convoluted. For instance, in Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life by Sari Nusseibeh, the author states his family first came to Palestine in the 7th century. Think of it! His extended family has lived in the area for 1,300 years! Then how could Jewish people moving from the United States in the 21st century possibly claim land ownership? Because they go even further back, another 600 years backward, to when the Romans decimated the Jews and their Jewish leader Bar Koba in 132-136. Before then, they claim Jews continuously owned the land for a long time, well, except when it was owned by the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Philistines, etc.

Of course, some Palestinians such as Yasir Arrafat, claim they can out trump such long-winded history, stating their own ancestors were the original Canaanites, who owned the land before the Jewish conquerors came, slaughtered them and took their land away from them.

And so if we rely on the historic claim, we end up becoming sleuths of history, mining the ancient past for evidence. The most huge difficulty of all this is, as any student of history knows, nearly everybody came from somewhere else at some time so living by historical claim not only gets questionable (based on various countering reports by historians, turning into an imponderable legal question), but nearly everyone everywhere now would have to move from their land.

Californians would have to leave their land of the last 150 years and give it back to the Mexican government who would have to leave and give it back to the Chumash, etc. who need to leave and give it back to what unknown tribe who now claims to have a previous claim. The English would have to leave England, the Scots Scotland, the French France, etc.

Also, the historic claim often leads to the next claim--the religious/worldview one. For instance, historically the Jewish people have claimed that God ordered them to take over the land in question and to slaughter every man woman and infant of the Canaanites.

Thus, we have a religious claim by the Jews that the God of the universe ordered them to take the land versus the opposite religious claim of the Arab Christians and Muslims who present alternative claims for the Trinity or Allah ordering them at some point in the past (the Crusades or the Jihad) to take over the land and kill the inhabitants. Many modern American Evangelicals/Fundamentalists argue that the Israeli government is going against God now if it gives even a few yards of Gaza or the West Bank to Arabs!HAMAS claims God is on their side. I wonder what Buddha thinks;-)

Sheesh! See why most humans, when faced with land ownership in the Middle East throw up their hands and cry, “It’s hopeless.”

But I don’t think the final answer, Visitor Status, is hopeless. Come back for the fourth installment:-)

In the Light of God—the Ultimate Reality of the Cosmos who loves every single human who has ever been created and who loves the whole cosmos, and who is wooing all toward Goodness, Truth, Beauty, and Love in the final consummation.

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Part 2: Who Owns the Land in Palestine-Israel?

As I explained in Part 1, there is no easy solution to this many-thousanded year old dilemma. Surely the folly and tragedy of inhumane history, especially, the last two hundred years of failed diplomacy, war, and genocidal hatred must caution us against quick or even slow solutions to very complex situations.

How does one even begin to deal with Israeli settlers or Palestinian HAMAS—both who claim the Ultimate Reality of the Universe is exclusively on their own side, that their opposing Gods call them to kill their enemies?

How does one get two diametrically opposed killing nationalities to reconcile?

What would we do if our enemies played soccer with the decapitated head of our son, as did Palestinians with an Israeli soldier’s head in 2004 in Gaza?”!

What would we do if we were caring doctors, but while we helped the women of our enemies, they dropped large shells on our house and killed four of our daughters as did an Israeli tank in 2008 (I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza’s Doctor on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity by Izzeldin Abuelaish)?

To be utterly honest, even given my faith, I don’t think I could handle such horrible actions. Only in a Godly love as displayed by some individuals like Jesus, when he forgave the very Roman soldiers who tortured and crucified him, can we hope.

At present, I find it difficult to deal with several people lying about me. I’ve prayed to forgive them, but these individuals’ actions have deeply harmed me and my family, and will have very bad results for years to come. I admit, though I am writing this article in hope it will be one tiny blossom for peace in the Middle East, I, myself, wouldn’t know how to handle what Israelis and Palestinians go through daily—the oppression, the lying, the stealing, the cruel actions, the killing…

Also, keep in mind, very ironically, that many Palestinians and Israelis are actually closer to each other than they are to their own ethnic/national groupings. Did anyone see the video of Palestinian Fatah members who had their kneecaps/legs shot off by their “brothers” of HAMAS when the latter attacked them in Gaza? They are being helped, strangely enough, in an Israeli hospital. And don’t forget the tragic story of the Palestinian gynecologist who helped treat Israeli women for infertility but lost his three of his daughters, killed by Israeli soldiers!

Or what about the Israelis who agree to meet in equality with Palestinians in reconciliation groups such as the grieving parents organization, Parents Circle—Families Forum, and Musalaha, who share more in common with their “enemies” than with the Israeli government of Netanyahu?

What about the Palestinian Elias Chacour (the author of Blood Brothers and We Belong to the Land) who has founded a school for hundreds of children? The school includes Muslims,Druze, Christians, and Jews all working together!

The solution of the unending crisis has been tried by at least eight methods. What about #6 Diplomacy? We have seen over the last 50 years, political diplomacy, even at its best, is usually little more than a smoke screen for furthering one’s own national agenda. While the Israelis claim to be seeking reconciliation with Palestinians, they continue to confiscate land from Palestinians, siphon off far more than their share of water, water needed much more by the Palestinian Arabs, abuse and demean the latter, etc.

And while Palestinians claim they want peace with Israel, they actually continue to stock arms, and tell their own people, teach in their schools, that they plan for the eventual extinction of Israel. Their diplomacy is for most Palestinians only a mask for their real intentions.

As for #7 Legal Claim, surely anyone who has dealt at all with the convoluted legal system in the United States, knows this method is by far the worst of the eight for the tragedy of the Middle East. Legality seldom if ever has to do with what is ethically good, loving, and kind.

If you think #3 Present Possession is the key, are you prepared to give up your car to the thief who stole it last week because he is now driving it? Present possession for the most part is only the frosting on the cake of #4 Military Might. The latter is, of course, the most popular and the most successful of land decisions. If in doubt ask the Indians why they don’t control California, or the Mexican Government. Or why the Saudis, one of the most oppressive governments in the world, is still in power after nearly a hundred years. It’s called survival of the fittest, meanest, cruelest…

But I presume if you have come to this site, which has the longwinded name, Infinite Ocean of Light and Love, you are not among the millions of humans who espouse stomping out your enemies and so do not want to hear a defense of that method. There are endless websites and books for those who do.

Does anyone think #5 Best Use is ethically sound? Strangely enough, many Israelis claim they get all of the land because they are better builders, farmers, scientists, etc. than Palestinians. But no doubt you know what infamous political group in the twentieth century actually espoused this doctrine before the Israelis. It’s very strange that Jewish people would dare touch this view let alone strongly support it.

Now we come to the three best methods, but they, too, are fraught with severe problems…

To be continued in Part #3

In the Light of God (The God who loves every single human who has ever been created and who loves the whole cosmos, and who is wooing all toward Goodness, Truth, Beauty, and Love in the final consummation.)

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who Owns the Land? By What Right?

“According to Beinin and Hajjar, the Turkish census for 1878 listed 462,465 Turkish subjects in the Jerusalem, Nablus and Acre districts: 403,795 Muslims (including Druze), 43,659 Christians and 15,011 Jews. In addition, there were at least 10,000 Jews with foreign citizenship (recent immigrants to the country), and several thousand Muslim Arab nomads (Bedouin) who were not counted as Ottoman subjects.”

“By 1946, Jews had purchased 6 to 8 percent of the total land area...” *

How then has a Jewish state, Israel defined by the current Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, come to “own” most of this area and control all of the area?
How have Arabs such as Sari Nusseibeh, whose family has lived in the area since the 7th century, been left with no country? (Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life by Nusseibeh)

It’s long and complicated, convoluted, hate-filled, prejudiced, violent, genocidal, discriminatory, unjust, unmerciful, unloving, and ungodly. Most people know of the Jewish side, how many of the Arabs sided with the Nazis!, how some fanatic Arabs repeatedly rioted and killed innocent Jewish civilians…

Not as many know of the Arab side, but one can read a moving account in Eli Chacour’s short autobiography, Blood Brothers, which tells of how his father emphasized that they as Christian Arabs should help and love the Jewish people. But then the Jewish army kidnapped this loving man and a couple of his sons, blew up their church, and destroyed their town!

I’ve read thousands of pages about this area, the unending conflicts going back thousands of years, and lived and worked there the better part of one year. Then for many years taught the history and selected literature of the area to high school students.

How can this question “Who Owns the Land?” be resolved? How can contrary different religions get along? How can people learn to share?

My Cliff Notes version for those who hate long blogs: There are no easy answers. Skip to the poem for the best answer.

For Part #1 of the long answer:

In the last few thousand years this area, this land, has been ‘owned’ by the Phoenicians, Canaanites, Hebrews, Babylonians, Arabs, Turks, British, French, Jews, etc.

So who gets it now and upon what basis?

Here are eight possible views of land ownership:

#1 Historic Right

#2 Worldview/Religious Claim

#3 Present Possession

#4 Military Might (The most popular view with most people in most of history.)

#5 Best Use

#6 Diplomacy/Compromise

#7 Legal Claim

#8 Visitor Status (No one group, nationality, religion “owns” the land. Humans are merely visiting. We must share.)


Three Sons No Longer Fight

Disking the rock strewn
Objected earth near Bet Shean,
Underneath the Middle Eastern sky
Rows of mean earth riven by the blades,
We cut away our anger, hate, and pride,
Stopping to drink, not from the liquor of
Fanatic corruption but from the
Precious water welling up,
Our oasis of Jacob'd sharing,
In this Hanukah season
Of Christ's mass after
Ramadan.

We three sons of Abraham,
Muslim, Jew, and Christian,
Fight the true battle
Not each other but
To be found worthy
In compassion
Giving,
And purity--
The true
Submission
To God
Over
All.

Previously published in outwardlink.net

* http://www.mideastweb.org/
“The major goals of MidEast Web are:
Popularizing Humanitarian Values
Building a Common Reality
Building a Human Network
Amplifying the Work of Others
Reaching Everyone
Building Friendships and Skills
Humanizing the "Enemy"
The Future Must be Better than the Past”

To be continued…

In the Light of God,
Daniel Wilcox

Friday, May 20, 2011

Don't Miss "We Refuse To Be Enemies"

This week, I have been filled with a deep sense that I need to be doing even more than my family and I are for Christ in meeting the needs of so many people and challenging the injustices, poverty, and other sins of the world.

I was praying about where I could get involved more when I came across World Vision's powerful article on peacemaking in Palestine/Israel. "We Refuse to be enemies" by the president of WV. Again, like his powerful writing in his book The Hole in Our Gospel, Richard Stearns grabs us with the call of Jesus to reach out to those mistreated--to go deeper than the nationalism, secular politics, and distorted religious zeal of this world.

Read and be changed:
http://blog.worldvision.org/stories/we-refuse-to-be-enemies/

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox