Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Few Books--Lighthouses of the Spirit

A few books--among the many tomes I've read over the years--have been lighthouses to me by which the Spirit of God has guided me past the Scylla's and Charybdis's of this
temptuous, troubled life.

When I have failed, such books have helped rescue this wayfarer from life's raging sea and helped in my recovery.

In the next few weeks, I'll take time to reflect on some of these shining lights. I suppose it goes without saying that the Bible is the foundation.

However let it be extremely clear--carefully cautioning all you readers--that Scripture is Light only if interpreted by the good reasoning and reflecting faculties that God has given us humans.

Tragically the Bible has been sincerely wrongly applied resulting in much suffering, tragedy, and many horrors in history done by the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformers, etc.

For instance, based on the Bible, Martin Luther spewed forth his hate and invective against the Jews, calling on his readers to destroy their synagogues, confiscate their Jewish Bibles, and so forth. For hundreds of years millions of people followed such immoral advice until finally one generation carried these appalling misinterpretations of Scripture to their demonic conclusion.

I hope it is very clear to the reader that I am NOT a literalist, nor when I recommend a book do I necessarily subsribe to how others have interpreted its words. For that matter some of the books which have been lighthouses to me, are also seriously flawed and cracked in their lenses. I have been helped despite their errors.

Second on the list, after the Bible, would have to be--I have no idea:-) I won't try and do a descending top ten, but cast out the winners like bread upon the waters.

The Eternal Promise (and A Testament of Devotion) by Thomas Kelly;

The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener by Martin Gardner

The Journal of George Fox and The Journal of John Woolman;

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonnehoffer;

Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton;

Clowning in Rome by Henri Nouwen;

Slavery, Sabbath, War and Women by Willard M. Swartley;

The Nature and Destiny of Man by Reinhold Niebuhr;

On Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau;

Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich...

These books reached me when I was adrift., drowning in American Christianity's arid doctrinal disputes while my own personal life was barren, and I was bereft from seeing so much evil done in the name of Christ.

To upside-down the metaphor, these books were Living Water in my life when all else was empty--only broken cisterns, poisonous wells, mirages of deception...

I often re-read parts of these books when I get discouraged or am caught in the morass of some temptation or wrong action or faced with daunting circumstances.

Read on dear Friends:-)

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Irony of Christianity

Isn't it ironic that in a number of recent studies and surveys--and in the ugly politcal and social discourse in the United States--Christians as a group are shown to be immoral, indeed less ethical in some cases than non-religious people? I am well aware studies and surveys can be skewed and that statistics are often misleading, however, these recent news reports are still troubling. Where in recent months do you see the Good News shared?

Must it not grieve Jesus (as he grieved outside of Jerusalem) to see his followers who are supposed to be known for their compassionate love, are instead known for their warring, their intolerance, their arrogance, their self-centered nationalism, ethnocentricism, divorce, hypocrisy, slander...The list seems endless.

Of course such dissonance between Christ's way of love, peacemaking, patience, mercy, compassion, purity, generosity, thankfulness, praise and Christians' immoral behavior is nothing new. But let us not dig up the awful past--the Inquisition, Crusades, Thirty Years War, English and American Civil Wars, slavery, colonialism, etc.

We can do nothing about the past. This generation--we are here and now--is called to live the Way of Christ, to share, to give, to help, to bring peace.

May God help us to live in the Center, not in the ways of the world.

Daniel Wilcox

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On the Nature of Reading and Life

from another blog:

When I was a child, if I was afraid or unsure of something, all I had to do was to open one of my favorite books, and I would drown in the characters' experiences and problems. Now that I have my own problems, dealing with real life, when I open a book, all I can do is compare my own experiences with the characters'. So it kind of made an opposite effect - I now start thinking of the problems in the book, which reminds me of my own problems, which in turn makes me angry: "Why in the world do I worry about a non-existing character? I've got my own things to worry about!"
Katya Timmons

Yes, how often have I drowned out my own problems by drowning in the much worse terrors of storied others of another time and place which then brought rescue to me in my own life.

However, unlike your present situation, I still am able to find succor in the past difficulties of characters. I just finished reading several historical novels set in the 17th and 18th centuries, one during the horrors of the English Civil War. Seeing through the eyes and feelings of one character (so very different from me and my own life) actually helped me endure, recently, one of the worst experiences of my life.

Indeed, rather strange.

Also, is it not strange, how sometimes characters out of fiction--someone else's vivid imagination--are more real than the physically present people around us now(who keep themselves distant and unknown)?

More later

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Veterans Day Held Up to the Light

Veterans Day (also called Armistice Day or Remembrance Day)is November 11th, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I--so in a sense it is a day for celebrating peace or originally was meant to be so, but now, in the United States at least, it has become more of a promotion justifying unjust wars of the present and the past.

Religious people, who claim to follow Christ (the who loved his enemies and calls us to do the same), instead use their worship time to glory in their own nation and its wars, even current conflicts (from their own side, of course).

Yet James of the N.T. had it right when he said "Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn't it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own fight to get your way by force." JB

Have you noticed that almost invariably each nation thinks its cause is right and just and that it is the other nation who is the evil one?

From the Faith and Practice of Pacific Yearly Meeting of Friends:

We utterly deny all outward wars, and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever, and this is our testimony to the whole world...The spirit of Christ which leads us into all Truth will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for kingdoms of this world. George Fox

The Kingdom of God is both present in each of us and a goal yet to be fulfilled. The task may never be done but sustained by God's love we are called to pursue it.

When I lived in the Middle East (worked on an Israeli kibbutz and stayed with a Palestinian family, too, in Nablus), I found loving people on both sides of the conflict, yet both peoples were prepared to kill each other for ideology and for land, even for God! And they are still doing so this week.

And I remember during the Vietnam War when I was encouraged by my Christian youth leader to go to Vietnam and kill communists for Christ. It was God's will, he said.

How tragic!

Such thinking is not from the Light of God.

On this Veterans Day, let us who are committed to peace, seek to spread the good news of Jesus, "Love your enemies..Blessed are the peacemakers."

When thinking of Muslims who oppose us, we ought to remember Brother Andrew's insightful acronym--He says, "ISLAM, for Christians, means I Sincerely Love All Muslims."

God bless all countries, all people's--no exceptions!
from the recent bumper sticker

The Nature of Baptism

As a Friend I am convinced that baptism is primarily a spiritual reality. For one reason the physical ritual includes all sorts of Christians who claim the other brands aren't even Christians. They attack each other verbally and often have slaughtered each other in so many Christian-sponsored wars.

How can there be ONE baptism in one Spirit when that happens?

And think of the many thousands of other disagreements among Christians:
Calvinists declare there are no Gifts of the Spirit but charismatics and Pentecostals claim the opposite.
Evangelicals claim the Bible is inerrant but liberals state Scripture has many errors.
Fundamentalists argue the Bible is scientifically accurate, evolution is a satanic lie, and the end of the world is coming in this generation
while mainline Christians think those views are ludicrous.

There are many Christians who support killing unarmed civilians in war, who think that the nuclear weapons are given to the U.S. by God, that using torture is justified, that becoming wealthy doesn't mean one needs to share with the world's impoverished.

Where is the love of Christ in this? Where is the Spirit of their formal baptism?

It seems rather that true baptism is spiritual and unseen, when God's Spirit begins to slowly transform a person toward the Truth, the Good, and the Loving.

Physical acts of baptism may be used by some who derive much comfort or inspiration from outward signs, but the danger always remains.

Allegedly, most Germans of the Great War and the Nazi Holocaust War (WWII) era were baptized
yet that didn't show forth in their lives as they went out to slaughter other Christians of the Allies.

And Allied baptized Christians returned the evil favor, urged on by war promoters such as American evangelist Billy Sunday.

Don't forget the Thirty Years War, the American Civil War, and the English Civil War (where Cromwell's "New Model Army" which killed while singing Bible verses! attacked the King's forces who also killed for Jesus Christ).

Sounds more like a baptism into injustice and sin.

No wonder Jesus wept.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Destiny, the Way of God, Versus Evil and Disaster in the World

"God doesn't cause messes for a purpose but he brings purposes to the messes."
Greg Boyd

What deep waters in a pop maxim of only 14 words!

Such a hope-'comet' to hang one's life onto!

Instead of the despairing and severely misguided theology of religious people--from Calvinists to Muslims to Hindus--who claim God wills all evil and all suffering, that every typhoon, earthquake, and war are God's idea and plan.

On the contrary, in this imperfect, actually messy, world, in this unfinished cosmos, God is Unlimited Benevolence and Goodness seeking to guide the cosmos and us finite conscious humans.

God wants to help us redeem the time and the place of where ever we are.

Our destiny is not today's momentary temptation, superficial experience, or tragic event.

We are called to live in the Light of God's eternal becoming.
I John, I Corinthians 13, etc.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Inclusive or Exclusive?

"It is true that I have tried to make sure applicants understood that the Society of Friends they want to join is at its heart a Christian movement, but I DO NOT believe that retaining or recovering our Christian focus is a matter of policing who can join our meetings. Our spiritual clarity will not come from defending our "borders" with the outside world, but from affirming our Center from within."
Brooklyn Quaker

This Friend speaks to our condition. His statement reminds me of Thomas Kelly's comments in A Testament of Devotion and The Eternal Promise and
the many words of the Good News beginning in the New Testament that God is love and does not wish anyone to perish.

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