Friday, December 31, 2010

George Fox's conversion and the New Year for You

God is Ultimate Reality; the essence of ethical religion is real and true, though religion itself is not literally factual. The way to Truth is relational not propositional, though speculating about philosophical and theological abstractions is productive and creative if such theorizing leads to enhanced ethical action.

On the other hand, much in the way of theology and ritual—that which divides, causes intolerance, ethnocentrism, suffering, and war—is wrong, not divine at all.

This was so creatively experienced by George Fox, the founder of the Friends. Though he often acted in un-Christlike ways including seeking judgment against his enemies, God’s love was powerfully manifest in his life when he lost all hope in formal religion and reached the end of his own human efforts.

At that dark point, Fox experienced God’s eternal love and care. Out of that transforming experience, he preached the Good News of Jesus all over Britain, Ireland, the Caribbean, and in colonial America.

Here is his own account of his spiritual/mystical encounter with Christ Jesus:

“But as I had forsaken the priests, so I left the separate preachers, also and those esteemed the most experienced people; for I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my condition. When all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing upwardly to help me, nor could I tell what to do, then, oh, then, I heard a voice which said,

"There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition"; and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy.”

Have you, too, found that so often the secular side of life, politics, and especially religion--in particular Christian churches--have let you down, and haven’t provided the mercy, peace, and compassion and communion that you and all human individuals so long for?

If so, turn (metanoia in biblical Greek) to Christ, and be transformed in this New Year.

In the Light of God,

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, December 20, 2010



So awe fulled the birthing
of God’s presents, new cauled
in humble manger’s destiny,

The base and apex of
a starred cave’s presence
of all future festivals

Yet abandoned, forsaken to
the crowned world’s nails,
every man’s cursedness;

Farthest reach of faith
this Apocalypso dancer
crosses the Cosmos,

Morning us night-less;
he compassions Earth
ever peopling Heaven,

Emptying the pitiless bottom
zeroing Apollyon
into ever’s Now

Beloved one, Yeshua
child of the masses
point man for us all.

Have a blessed Christmas.

Daniel Wilcox

Previsously published in The Greensilk Journal

Sunday, December 12, 2010

To Us a Baby Is Given

Toward an Understanding of Childhood...

What is an infant?

Don't ask theologians or become entangled in illusions and delusions, long-winded metaphysical splits/spit;-) of religious thinking.

What if we didn't focus on abstract philosophical doctrine, but viewed each baby as a gift from God, just as Christmas does?

Instead, most traditional churches claim the doctrine of original sin-- that all babies are born guilty sinners. In contrast, New Thought religion declares all babies are born divine. What a philosophical split!

What does either doctrinal extreme have to do with the real living being who is birthed from her mother?

Human beings at birth are neither divine nor depraved. A baby is a natural offspring of a primate species. But uniquely (probably unlike any other species of life, even dolphins and chimps) a human being has the potential to grow spiritually--to relate to her Creator, and to create, bring newness and improvements into existence since she has been created in the image of God.

What a wonder a baby is! I recently held my first grandchild. Experientially, the moment was blessed. How perfect her tiny living body. What a true gift from the Divine.

But a little later, when she got hungry, wow, what lungs and what a puckered face she suddenly developed!

I must admit, I don't think something called a "soul" enters a baby at conception, or for that matter anytime later.

At conception a new life begins with amazing characteristics from the genes of her/his ancestors. At conception, the life appears to have no awareness. But brain wave activity begins early in the womb.

Even after birth, however, a baby is sort of an eating and pooping blob;-) She has awareness, but probably not much except she wants to be fed, and fed now!

Then gradually her awareness grows month after month. Finally she becomes self-conscious. Then later her sense of conscience develops.

Finally, an awareness of her finiteness and the mystery of existence comes into her consciousness.

No, a baby doesn’t come into the world a walking, talking, mentally active philosopher/theologian/moralist/saint.

On the contrary she is a living breathing consciousness at the most simple level.

As she grows in the next 6 to 7 years in her consciousness, self-awareness, and her ethical conscience develops with a sense of ought, then she will become a moral and spiritual individual who acts. Sometimes she will fail, sometimes "miss the mark."

But even then she is still an innocent child struggling to function and to understand and to fulfill needs and desires and hopes, and the demands of the big people in her life.

Is not this the stage that Jesus referred to when he said those who enter the Kingdom of God must do so as a little child? And where he said to people to let little children come to him for of such is the Kingdom?

And this was my own personal experience—when so young. I don’t remember being a sinful-driven child that fundamentalist Christians claim all babies and small children are.

Instead, as far back as I can remember, I had very deep desires to do good, to be good, to know God and to love him. And I had a lot of childlike wonder questions about God, life, others…always asking why about everything:-)

Of course the slither of wrong thought, wrong action, wrong living does come to us all, but not yet.

A child's awareness will grow if she is introduced to God and is shown her responsibility to share, to think of others and their needs, even though she still doesn’t voluntarily give outwardly if it is to her own privation.

Finally, the ethical consciousness kicks in mid-childhood. At each given moment, there will be a tussle between her babyhood past (all spontaneous need and desire) and her adulthood future (potentially all give and bliss).

At that moment by moment juncture—that possibility moment--she must make continual ethical, spiritual decisions. She is finite and so will make mistakes and fail. She is learning in her emotions, her mind, her conscience, and her body as she moves through time. Her choices are a much more complicated version of the way she learned to walk and to talk three years earlier--by trial and error.

But now a new possibility rears its ugly or saintly head. If she doesn’t continue to develop holistically, widening outwardly her care, her helpfulness, her compassion, then she slows, stalls, or even regresses backward to a total need/want level. However, since she isn’t an infant but has the outer body and will and growing mental ability of a 6 or 7 year old, her regression hurts herself and other persons.

To try and fulfill life as a growing child, by returning to the barely conscious self-focused life of an infant actually distorts life and will bring harm to others to varying degrees.

Continued growing, in contrast, takes her through new stages of human development and new challenges. Each developmental advance brings new ethical and spiritual choices—either good or bad, advancing or regressing or a combination of both.

As anyone knows, when climbing a mountain, the higher one goes the more dangerous the climb becomes—not because the action of climbing mountains is evil, or because individuals who climb mountains are depraved sinful beings, but because the very nature of going "higher" also offers more options of choosing. Some of the ways are wrong, even could cause one to plummet to the bottom. Some of the ways are right, and lead toward the peak.

If a baby cries when she hungry that doesn’t show she is sinning.

On the contrary that is how God designed an infant, to get the attention she needs to survive. If a 4-year-old child throws a tantrum and takes her little brother’s bottle because she thinks she isn’t getting enough attention from her parents, while her action is wrong and to be corrected, it isn’t wrong yet because she hasn’t developed enough in her conscious awareness and ethical conscience to make altruistic decisions.

However, if at 8, she hides her little brother’s medicine, because she wants all the attention instead, this is wrong because by then her mental, moral conscience has developed enough to know that her action isn't the right way to get attention. And, besides, by this point she should be widening her compassion and care for others out beyond her own needs and desires.

If at 18, she steals her younger sister’s boyfriend to build up her own ego, deep wrong has occurred. By 22 if she joins with her countrymen and demonizes some other country and lies, steals, and kills the enemies, we do have actions of evil,
just as if in contrast,
she joins an outreach organization such as Habitat for Humanity or World Vision and sacrifices her time, talent, and money and inspires her younger sister to do so as well, we have actions of goodness.

Then the two sisters think of a way to get other people in their neighborhood, school, and city to get involved. One such inspired girl, about 13 years of age, raised thousands of dollars for starving, hurting people in a far off country.

See how the ethical growth of human beings happens. A human being is in process from simple surviving to becoming the acting being of ethical truth.

Now that is the beginning of Good News. Reminds me of several of Jesus’ ethical parables…

Go and do thou likewise...please stop talking about babies being guilty sinners…
Think instead of Christmas’ joy—

“Holy infant so tender and mild*,” except when she cries at 3 a.m. and the parents haven’t slept through the night for weeks;-)

Have a Blessed Christmas,

Daniel Wilcox

*”Silent Night” Christmas Carol

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Leaving Death Boat Ethics

At times, doesn’t much of religion and politics seem like a lot of crock? Yes, and so it did at the time of Jesus’ birth. And, even now, not much has changed.

Consider the modern views of the popular religious thinker Ken Wilber and his infamous system of Integral Theory, which is a modern re-envisioning of "death boat ethics."

He, himself, takes a rather dim view of some forms of religion: “Worse, their [fundamentalist and evangelical Christians] real or authentic state of experience of love will actually reinforce their ethnocentrism. Only those who accept Jesus as their personal savior can find salvation; everybody else is consigned to eternal damnation and hellfire by an all-loving and all-forgiving God. Does that intense contradiction make any sense?"

Finally Wilber states, "Well, it does if you use the W-C Lattice...
Begin using IOS and suddenly it all starts to make sense, at least enough to climb out of the nightmare of fundamentalism…”
from The Integral Vision by philosopher Ken Wilber (pages 147 and 155)

But first, let’s start out with a positive point about Wilber’s own religious worldview of Eastern thought—yes, we’ll light a candle first, before cursing the ocean of darkness;-)

A number of Ken Wilber’s key ideas and concepts are powerful and demonstrably practical. For instance, his “Four Quadrants” map (page 71) shows how modern atheists leave out much of reality by confining the real to what is scientifically testable.

And Wilber makes plenty of other insightful points in the Vision and his other books. He shows the fusion of a vast amount of learning and much creativity, and has a light-hearted sense of humor as well. His Integral Theory seeks to combine modern psychology, spirituality, and science into an integrated whole. No small undertaking!

BUT...there is a definite downside to his philosophy/spirituality-- sharkish worms, dare we say maggots, lie deep in this shiny-appled vision.

The devil in the “Integral Vision” is hidden in the ethical details. Wilber’s worldview turns out to be much worse than the fundamentalist Christianity he thinks is a “nightmare.” His own philosophical dream makes even less compassionate sense.

How can such a brilliant, knowledgeable, insightful individual be so deceived?

Some ethical issues are so difficult, so ambiguous that morally concerned individuals may disagree.
For example, I could agree to disagree with Wilber’s strong support for execution.

His adamant support for capital punishment doesn’t seem to square with his own spiritual philosophy, but every ethical system has its conundrums. And, besides, capital punishment is a tough, ambiguous issue.

However, Wilber’s attitude/tone is very troubling. When asked if he thought that criminals guilty of murder should be helped to turn from their actions, to change ethically, he said that he didn’t think it was worth society’s effort to help them.

And besides, with reincarnation, the criminals would be reincarnated anyway, so it’s time to “recycle” them. (Ken Wilber’s answer in Kosmic Consciousness tapes)

Again, here is displayed a tragic, uncaring attitude that has often clung like dung to the belief of reincarnation in the past, where the doctrine contributes to the problem of human evil rather than encourages humans to try and solve and deliver sinners.

Why help the low class, low caste? Why help criminals? Why help the poor? They are all paying for bad karma!

Those humans did something wrong in their past lives. Or since ‘they’ do evil now; why help them? They’ll be back soon with another life.

That’s definitely not the way of the Light. Jesus showed compassion for all the lost, even for criminals and terrorists. While no one should be excused for murder, (like often happens in U.S. courts today, where intentional murderers sometimes get off with only serving as little as 4 years in prison), mercy to help is vital.

All of us need to keep in mind that something like 80% of criminals in prison were abused as children. As Thich Nhat Hanh so wisely pointed out, how do we know that we wouldn't be like the individuals we condemn if we had grown up in their abusive environment?

Though their evil actions as adults are inexcusable, and they do need to be separated from society to prevent harm to others, surely these morally deformed individuals (some of whom had their arms burned by their mother’s cigarettes or were bashed in the face, or sexually abused, etc.), surely they do deserve to be rescued.

Hopefully, they will choose to change. At least that is the philosophy of such organizations as Prison Fellowship and 12 Step Recovery Programs.

Ken Wilber does show thoughtful discernment in his nuanced support of early abortion but opposition to late term abortion.

What of stopping massacres? It is necessary, as he says, that the nations of the world stop tyrants if they are killing unarmed civilians. But keep in mind that the United States in just two years killed almost ½ million unarmed civilians far more than any Islamic Jihadists have done.

And we did so in the name of the Christian God. So we need to be sure to take the beam out of our own eye before we attack others preemptively and self-righteously.

But Wilber’s own ethical system takes a bizarre turn downward. He begins to argue for “Life Boat ethics.” According to him, not all humans can live on this earth; we higher ones must decide which lesser humans—people of less value-- to cast over the sides to their deaths.

How tragic is Wilber’s strong support of war (based in part according to him in the Hindu idea that it is our duty to kill others, even our relatives, because Krishna says so).

This is according to his “depth and span” ethical system. We should/must throw out lesser people from the Life Boat to their deaths! (Kosmic Consciousness Interview tapes)

Here we have the fallacious view that the “end justifies the means.” It is from just such ethical systems that so much of the horrific tragedies and mass slaughters of the 19th and 20th centuries came about.

Haven’t you noticed that when the “end justifies the means," it is to our own advantage.

If other countries torture, that is horribly wrong, but if we do it, well, it’s not really torture, and besides the end justifies the means for us.

If someone else lies, how wrong, but, of course, if we lie, it was necessary. Yes, Wilber defends some forms of lying!

And then, his views get really weird and morally sick: Wilber says that it’s okay for husbands and wives to have sex with individual outside of their marriage in an "open marriage!
(Ken Wilber website)

Furthermore, he seems to agree (?) with another author that Jesus may have had sex with Mary Magdalene.
(“The Meaning of Mary Magdalene” by Cynthia Bourgeault and Ken Wiber,

These “Life Boat” ethics are really anti-life. They go against the moral views of Jesus and Gandhi and Thich Nhat Hanh and Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

It’s time to realize that all such “Life Boat” ethical systems are really a moral death boat.

Of course, according to Wilber many of the humans who oppose his system are lowly “oranges” on his rating scale of human development. What is an “orange”? Don’t ask; it’s not good; a large number of stages down below Wilber’s own advanced spiritual trans-human stage.

Well, at least it’s better for us to be “orange” rather than being “red”. They are even worse. Wilber points out that we do need to include the lesser valued humans, up to a point, unless we have already bombed/executed them, of course. And besides, they will be reincarnated (my sarcasm intentional).

Doesn’t this sound a bit like the designations of humans in the highly satiric novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley? Or George Orwell's very bitter fable, Animal Farm?

What about Jesus’ statement to “to turn the other cheek” and love your enemies? No, Wilber emphasizes the opposite. He thinks even in a thousand years that humankind probably won't overcome the need to use violence.

In his novel, he has one character say “turning the other cheek is exactly what you don’t want to do with pre-orange memes.”

But Jesus, in contrast, reached out to the marginalized “less integral” humans, to his political enemies, to the ruthless Romans, to criminals, even to terrorists, etc.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus even said that we should show love [benevolence, altruism] to ruthless enemy soldiers.

But as mentioned above, Wilber emphasizes that it our duty to kill. Like in the Hindu religious classic, the Bhagavad Gita, where Arjuna doesn’t want to kill his relatives in war,but the God Krishna tells him it is his duty to go into battle and kill his relatives.

So the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria are justified and so are other wars which our particular nation thinks we should fight out of duty.

Again, the end justifies the means.

Are we to forget about the nonviolent ethics of Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Eli Chacour?

Jesus dealt with the powerful immoral Roman Empire, with ruthless Roman soldiers who crucified thousands of Jewish individuals, yet Jesus didn't become a zealot and slit their throats saying they hadn’t reached his level of spiritual development.

Instead, he emphasized the way of the cross. He even forgave the soldiers who executed him!

So have many other spiritual leaders down through history, going against the dominant human way of killing one's enemies.

In contrast, Ken Wilber’s view (as expressed by his characters at and in an extended interview in Kosmic Consciousness by Sounds True) is that nonviolence only works when your nation’s enemies are, basically, nice people.

Also, Wilber emphasizes that humans can’t/shouldn’t live by nonviolence because, not only does peace-living not work, but “your death doesn’t even buy you good karma, but the karma of the coward”!!! (

What? By implication Jesus is a coward?!

Wilber claims if we don’t kill in war, we are responsible for what the enemy does! So were the disciples and early followers of Jesus guilty for what Emperor Nero did? The Jewish people of Europe responsible for what the Nazis did? Etc.?

And what makes this all the more confusing is that Wilber has one of his characters later say that God is actually ‘behind’ all such human evil (after talking about the necessity of killing humans in war, etc.):

"Precisely because I am not this, not that, I am fully this, fully that. Beyond nature, I am nature; beyond God, I am God; beyond the Kosmos altogether, I am the Kosmos in its every gesture. Where there is pain, I am there; where there is love, I am present; where there is death, I breath easily; where there is suffering, I move unconstrained."

"On September 11, 2001, I attacked me in a distant part of the galaxy on an unremarkable planet in a speck of dust in the corner of manifestation, all of which are wrinkles in the fold of what I am. And none of which affects me in the slightest, and therefore I am totally undone, I cry endlessly, the sadness is infinite, the despair dwarfs galaxies, my heart weeps monsoons, I can't breath in this torture."

"Totally insignificant, infinitely significant--no difference, truly. Atoms and Gods are all the same, here in the world of One Taste; the smallest insult is equal to the greatest; I am happy beyond description with every act of torture, I am sad beyond compare with every act of goodness."

"I delight in seeing pain, I despise seeing love. Do those words confuse you? Are you still caught in those opposites? Must I believe the dualistic nonsense that the world takes as real? Victims and murderers, good and evil, innocence and guilt, love and hatred? What dream walkers we all are!”
(Ken Wilber Website)

So Wilber’s God is the One behind all the evil (as well as the good)!

Yet Ken Wilber thinks the “God” of Fundamentalism is a “nightmare”!
(Page 155)


Think about it: Somehow in Wilber’s philosophy humans need to be executed and bombed, but
behind all those horrendous evil actions is really Ultimate Reality playing:-(!

“until I decided to play this round of hide and seek, and get lost in the objects of my own creation.” (Page 204)

I am without words...other than I want to emotionally and spiritually puke, gag and vomit.

Instead, I will pray that Ken Wilber, Deepak Chopra, and all such other millions of deluded "death boat" thinkers will come to their moral sense and find the Light of the Real Truth.

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Arrival of Advent in the Storm

Advent comes to us from God, in the midst of our trouble.

The word Advent, from Latin, means “arrival,” the arrival of hope in the midst of despair.

Think of the horrific times that Joseph and Mary lived in. And consider many peoples’ tragic struggles now today in Syria, Haiti, Pakistan, Nigeria, the Congo, and Afghanistan.

Think of the young child with cancer, the elderly ones with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease...

Lying in bed day after day, staring at the ceiling, elsewhere...

Or stooped over stuck in a row of wheelchairs in a blank hall...

Wasting away, their memory gone

Yes, the storm of wrong, tragedy, and despair seems endless.

Our own bad experiences, probably, are slight in comparison. But all hurt hurts, does it not? What about the last time events blindsided you and things even seemed hopeless?

About a month ago, I faced relatively rough circumstances, one more challenging day in a slew of them. I was alone and hurting so I turned on Christian radio seeking inspiration and comfort--But tragically,
the minster was preaching,

"...all humans are without value, valueless."

Like a cancer cell, he kept repeating, expanding on his point, kept emphasizing these wretchedly wrong words—"humans are valueless, worth nothing."

According to him, God only loves a few chosen of us humans.

Another famous minister of a church in Oregon with many thousands of members even proclaimed that God created some of us humans as "toilets."

And God has created other humans as "spittoons."

And this horrific God, allegedly, does this all for his own glory!

Very angrily, I snapped off the radio both times, devastated, grieved, and despairing more than before.

When we humans suffer, we need good news, not deterministic, fatalistic despair, not being told we are worthless and depraved.

In wondrous contrast, the verses of Titus 2:11-14 in the New Testament give us the glad tidings of God’s love for everyone. Despite the worst that existence does to us, the blessed words speak comfort to our despairing hearts:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.”

Isn’t that last word glorious? The Good News to Mary, then to Joseph and outward from there, not limited to a certain few, but to all creation. These precious words “arrive” telling us about the incarnation—how God loves us even at our worst and isn’t willing for anyone to perish. Yes, even the natural world will eventually be redeemed.

And not only do these words of wonder bring us loving kindness now, they train us to renounce impiety and wrongful passions. They give us practical guidance and strategies of how to face our daily struggles and hard times. They give us a living blessed hope for the future.

Consider this humorous but insightful story.*

In the current severe recession, a door-to-door salesperson walked up to one more elegant house, pushed the button and waited to share his product. When the door opened, a gruff man grimaced, and said, “No we don’t want any” and shut the door.

Not discouraged, the salesperson came back the next week. This time when the door opened, the occupant cursed at him and slammed the door.

When the third week came and the salesperson walked up to the door and rang the bell, the antagonistic man raised a fist and spit in his face!

The salesperson pulled out a handkerchief, wiped his nose and eye, then looked up at the clear sky and said, “It must be raining.”

Think about it. If we had been that salesperson, we might have gone away disheartened, or angry at the man’s rudeness or disappointed, wondering why our product wasn’t of value to the customer or why he personally disliked us.

Have you been hurt lately by thoughtless words, or snippy gossip? Even been cursed out lately? Falsely accused?

How did you respond? How are you responding?

The salesperson in the spiritual parable (from a Jewish rabbi) doesn’t live in his or her circumstances, even of the spitting variety. He remembers the “worldwide company” he belongs to, is thankful he will never be fired.

No, she isn’t judged by the depressed economy, or by her success, or by how little or much money she makes...On the contrary, he is aware that his “boss” highly values him for himself alone.

This salesperson hopes that everyone will benefit from his/her product—“the love of God.” He has seen by hope the future and trusts that Truth and Love and Faith are eternally true.

So when he is spit upon, he doesn't take it personally, but thinks of dreary rain and its benefit.

Has it been raining—even hurricaning--on you today;-)?

Look up to the blessed hope of the Advent.

Dear Father, We thank you that You are the God of all comfort for everyone, that your love extends to all as the famous gospel song* sings,

“Could we with ink the ocean fill…
to write the love of God above
would drain the ocean dry.”

Please help us today to remember that when negative circumstances attack us, we can “reign” over them in You.

Thought for the day: When bad storms rain, God’s love pours, reigning over all for all.

*Paraphrased from Mitch Albom’s book Have a Little Faith

*Frederick M. Lehman, “The Love of God”

May you experience the love of God,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Paradox of Truth

Christian thought often seems dysfunctionally extreme, so very false. On one side are the exclusivists, the theological determinists (who I have already dealt with in past blogs), ones who claim God only wills to save a limited number of humans, and the rest of us are preordained to Hell for his pleasure and glory. Pray tell me where the Good News is in that hopeless despair.

On the other side, are the inclusivists, the universalists who emphasize that all humans will be saved, that Hell will eventually be emptied. This sounds so good and has found strong support among great Christians of the past from Origen to the Greek scholar William Barclay. The position has recently been championed by the Quaker writers Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland. But there is a huge problem here as well. See below.

In the New Testament, Jesus, instead, speaks in paradoxes. Consider this statement:
Matthew 7:14 NASB For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Why does Jesus talk so exclusively at this point when elsewhere in the biblical text, he is the ultimate inclusivist/universalist? He emphasizes how God is not willing for anyone to perish in his or her wrong ways, that God is like a father who longs for the return of his wayward son, like a woman who rejoices when her precious possession that was lost is found.

Here’s the key:
As appealing as the universalism of the Good News is—For God so loved the world; God sent not his son into condemn the world John 3:16-17—of what use is it to tell everyone that all people are saved, if we don’t help each individual change? For in fact, at this very moment millions of particular individuals are living in minor or major hells on earth or ‘living like hell’ hurting others. Of what use are liberal religious platitudes, no matter how wonderful they sound theoretically, if in fact we aren’t seeking to help ourselves and others to change right now? Of what use is theology claiming truth when at present Christians and Muslims are killing each other allegedly for God? Of what use is universalism when at present millions of individuals are suffering loss, being selfish, living immorally, being discriminated against, drinking to excess, abusing others or being abused, making war, living in greed, lust, envy…?

The Truth, the Good News, is only universal in the here and now when it is accepted, when we turn from our wrong thoughts, deceitful choices, egocentric ways, bad actions.

God doesn’t cease being True, Good, and Loving, but when we as humans refuse to respond to the Truth, the Good, and the Loving, God incarnate is again crucified within us and others suffer.

This is Jesus’ point! For example, Jesus loves the rich young man, but he can’t help him when the young man refuses to personally accept the truth and change.

The way to Truth is narrow though the Truth of the way is as wide as infinity:-)

In the endless Love of God,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Troubling Thoughts: David, a Terrorist, Thief, Liar...

David of the Jewish and Christian Bible receives much adulation from so many religious people, but I find his immoral actions very troubling. I am confused by his overly conscientious scruples but, contradictorily, brazen violations of some of the 10 Commandments in their essential meaning. This is not even considering or dealing with when he became king, committed adultery and killed one of his own soldiers. His sinful actions started long before that.

As a young adult, he lived as a terrorist in the strongholds of the desert and attacked towns (I Samuel 22:1-2, 27:9). How is he a man after God’s own heart, the apple of God’s eye when he acts like Osama ben Laden, Al Qaeda and the Taliban? Surely, David’s more like a rotten apple.

I guess like most of us. None of us are as we should be; certainly, I struggle, too, to live in God’s love to others, and not live in self-centeredness.

But David actions are horrible. He is supposed to be a spiritual example for us. While he feels guilty for a minor wrong action that hurt no one, he brazenly violates essential ethics. He kills two hundred men, mutilates their sexual organs, giving their foreskins to King Saul so he can marry the king’s daughter Michal! (I Samuel 18:26-30). Then the verses say that “the Lord was with David” and “that David behaved more wisely than all the servants of Saul, so that his name became highly esteemed.”

What?! No wonder that the nonreligious and the skeptical have doubts about Christian faith. Ben Laden and the Taliban don’t even act as evilly as this.

How can David be so conscientious, yet commit such abhorrent acts?

When King Saul is sleeping, David secretly cuts a corner of King Saul’s robe. I Samuel 24:5: “David’s heart troubled him because he had cut Saul’s robe.” Seems very conscientious here, does he not?

Yet, David shows no sorrowful guilt for the repeated slaughter of women as well as men (I Samuel 27:9). This wasn’t self-defense; the people hadn’t attacked him; besides, killing women smacks of modern terrorists like Ben Laden who kill not only enemy soldiers, but unarmed women.

Then David steals their possessions to boot! It’s bad enough to kill people in towns, but to then take their possessions while they lay there bleeding! That reminds me what the atheist revolutionary Che Guevara did: stole an individual’s wrist watch after killing him.

Then David lies about his terrorist acts (1 Samuel 27:10-12).

Furthermore, he then takes a widow to be his wife soon after her husband dies. Plus, he marries another woman too, Ahimoam. He thus has two wives (I Samuel 25:39-43), neither of them his wife Michal that he killed two hundred men for. Should he not have waited and tried to get Michal back, especially since she helped him escape (I Samuel 19:11-13)?

It would appear that David also violates the law against coveting too, is into revenge such as telling others to get revenge for him after his own death:-(. Etc.

But let’s stop here…

Now, of course, apologists try and excuse David’s immoral behavior. They point out that standards were different, that this was before Christ, etc. But that is all beside the point. David is supposed to be a shining example, a prefigure of Christ, which he is not, by any stretch of the imagination.

It is not so surprising that later David commits adultery and kills one of his own countrymen. He had violated the most basic of ethical truths early on in his life.
What a very sad commentary.

Don’t look to David; look to Jesus.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, May 24, 2010

Be Perfect, as Your Heavenly Father is Perfect

God, contrary to what many theologians claim, isn’t self-focused, doesn’t seek his own glory, never acts for himself. On the contrary the wondrous glory of Jesus’s God, is eternal love--that of a loving, forgiving, self-sacrificing father. The opposite of the sovereign determiner, the true God is endless, limitless love for every human being ever born and ever to be born.

Of course, this doesn’t make rational factual sense; it’s the “foolishness of the Good News.” Like the foolishness of holding that all humans are created equal, when we all darn well know that no humans, from a factual scientific point of view, are equal in any shape or form—not mentally, not physically, not economically…

But ideally, spiritually, transcendentally, humans are all equal, all precious, all valued.

Consider Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son where the father waits, watching, longing, and then embracing his formerly rebellious, sinful son who squandered his inheritance. (Luke 15:11-32)

This is the God who is love of I John, I Corinthians 13, Luke.

And the message for us is that we are to be perfect like God is perfect. How is that? Obviously, not in infinite ultimateness, nor in any or all of the omni's that religious people like to throw up skyward, attempting to describe the glory of God.

No, Jesus says we are to be perfect like our heavenly father is perfect by loving all others--that means everybody. (Matthew 5:48, the Sermon on the Mount)

We are called to perfection like Martin Luther King says in his famous statement: "I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the 'isness' of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that forever confronts him."

We live in God's love and let God's eternal love spring up to others.

We won't become perfect for a long, long, long time, but now is the time to start:-).

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Part #1: Stories of Truth

Unlike so many Christians and other religious people of the present time who fixate on how they belong to God and are good Americans (insert your own nation) unlike "them out there"--whoever that "them" happens to be: undocumented workers, those preordained to eternal torment, people of enemy countries, heretics, those of other races, creeds, or ethnic backgrounds, the down and out, homeless transients, druggies, criminals, prostitutes...

Jesus was just the opposite--he spoke of how he had come to call all the "thems," all the lost. If anything, he tended to criticize the very religious us'es, the ones who outwardly look like they are good. Notice in the story of the rich young leader in Mark 10:17-22 and Luke 18:18-23 that Jesus reserves the adjective "good" for God alone. He won't accept the term for morally upright religious people or even for himself!

Jesus, the Son of Man loves the rich young leader who is so morally upright, but he is not impressed! Shock of shockers! It isn't enough for a human to keep all the 10 Commandments from his youth up!

Imagine the consternation and chaos and church splits, if the ministers at some of the mega-churches in the U.S. got up and said "Jesus is calling all rich Christians to give their money away for outreach to the countries where most people only earn less than a dollar a day, where millions of children die for want of basic clean water and food, where many don't even have one Bible to read"?

Of course, some individuals do heed Jesus' call to live sacrificially for God. The millionaire founder of Habitat for Humanity gave sacrificially of his large resources. R. G. LeTourneu the inventor of earthmoving equipment, allegedly was giving 90% of his income away by the time of his death!

Then is the meaning of the story of the rich young leader that we are "in" if we give up all our money?

No, Jesus is speaking much more broadly and much more deeply than that. He is speaking to our inner heart, our deepest motivations, our ultimate concern (to use the phrase of the theologian Paul Tillich). Until each of us gives up putting some finite thing, interest, person--including ourself--as ultimately important...and give our all to God, we are lost and have no opportunity to live in God's presence, the ultimately Good.

God the Truth and Love must come first. Even nice people fail to measure up to such Truth, even those who try and keep all the 10 Commandments.

Some of us, if not all of us, at this point may feel that this is an impossible demand of Jesus.

But it's not. Jesus says we must come to Truth like a little child comes to her loving father or mother--openly, sincerely, spontaneously, humbly... We need to realize that such little children are what God's reign is like. And we need to remember, contrary to how most religious people spend much of time putting down others different from themselves, that Jesus is not willing that any human should perish, be lost. Jesus is seeking those who are are spiritually needy.

And he emphasizes that God rejoices when even one person "changes his mind" (metanoia in Greek). This is far more important than all the seemingly nice people in the Christian churches who seem to, at least outwardly, need no repentance.

To emphasize this, Jesus tells the story of a rancher who has lost a cow and is trying to find it.(Well, that's my version since I used to work in Montana and grew up in Nebraska--the beef state;-)

To be continued

In the Light of the limitless love of God,

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Part 2: The Abyss of Meaninglessness

Ecclesiastes 1:2 "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." (NIV version) and Ecclesiastes 1:14, 17-18 I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is futility and striving after the know also striving after the wind. Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge, increasing pain.

Rather totally pessimistic about everything, isn't the Speaker?

But there is some superficial truth, I suppose to his nihilism. When I was a young Christian fundamentalist growing up in a small village in Nebraska--before I had gone to several universities, read extensively, suffered tragedy, lived in various places in the world, met humans with totally contrary worldviews, etc.--I didn't understand this hopeless wail.

I thought I understood life and God and the world. However, I was ensconced in much illusion and some delusion, though I didn't know it.

So I was happy and productive and filled with hopes and dreams. Aren't most kids, before the harsh realities of life wear us down?

But even after some very tough times, I still wouldn't have identified with the Speaker's utter feeling of futility, because I had a secure foundation in my faith in Christ.

My faith in God gave me a deep spiritual life. Thank God, I didn't live on the surface of life chasing after this world's glitter or, worse, its glut.

But then tragedies came...

And the worst one of all is when I discovered at 17 years of age that most Christian leaders for 1,700 years (beginning with Augustine) had claimed that God doesn't love most people, that infants are "in essence, evil," etc.

I battled against this horrific version of Christianity for most 50 years, until I finally realized to my deepest self that Christianity can't be true, that the Good News version I heard as a kid and young teen was a delusionary aberration.

Well, you get the point...

And now at 62, after doing spiritual battle against Augustinian-Reformed theology, and for so many years against inner failings and testings, and destructive worldviews, trying to help others caught in confusion and dysfunction and sin, and grieving over unanswered prayers, and experiencing deep heartache, I, too, understand what the Speaker means when he finds even wisdom to be a striving after the wind.

And what do we do, when even more and more modern Quakers are supporting Augustinian-Reformed thinkers or at the opposite extreme, claiming that there is no Ultimate Meaning or Purpose to existence?

Why do so many leading Christians now and in the past adamantly support theological determinism which claims the vast majority of us humans are preordained to eternal torment/damnation?

And why are so many modern Friends, exactly contrary, denying that God even exists?

It's so much like the horrific wall in Herman Melville's conundrummed short story, "Bartleby."

And then there are the everyday heartaches, trials, and tribulations...

And when a certain political figure, President Barrack Obama, is elected on the theme of hope, but then reverses many of his solemn pledges and ideals.

And when the natural world heaves, and the striving of hurricane winds and drought and disease and more disasters kill millions.

Yet the vast majority of leading Muslim, Christian, and New Age thinkers claim God planned and foreordained all that evil!

Even most Atheists, too, claim that all horrific human choices for slaughter and rape and rapine, and all natural disasters were determined at the moment of the Big Bang!
We humans are only "illusions," "wet robots," "puppets," etc.

So much nihilism in human philosophy.

No doubt, someone will point out that this is the way life has always been--tragic, brief, and short.

And, no doubt, the person is correct. That is why Ecclesiastes came to be written by a Jew living about 250 B.C., because so many of the promises of God in the Torah and the Prophets and in Proverbs and the Psalms hadn't come true.

Where had the Psalmist been hiding that he could claim, "I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread (Psalm 37:25)?

So sometimes, like millions of others at present, or in the past, I too drown in the abyss of meaninglessness, plummet for days down into the bottomless pit of despair.

If as the Speaker emphasizes through most of the book, we only have this life, we then are only like a live dog versus billions of dead lions and dead dogs who have gone before us.

Is not this life then a senseless striving after the wind?

An emptiness and meaninglessness like a transient vapor--here and then gone?

This is where Paul's statement in the New Testament shocked contradictorily and was life-saving: "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21) until I realized finally that it can't be true.

As I teen, I loved the first part of that verse. Jesus was my ideal, my hero, my best friend.

As for the latter part, I couldn't see Paul's view at all. But now many years later, past innumerable struggles and heartaches, I can see how, for Paul who suffered much, that Heaven did beckon.

But now I realize that there is no afterlife, that religion is mostly delusion.

Thankfully, however, I do hope in God yet--that despite all those tragic details which I briefly explained.

I do hope with all of my brief finite self, that there is Meaning and Purpose in our existence even though we humans don't know what it is beyond seeking to live compassionately and to support human rights and justice...

To seek the Good, the True, the Reasonable, and the Beautiful

in the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Of Skepticism and Meaninglessness

Speaker of one among the gathering (Ecclesiastes 1:2-4a)
Vapor of vapor, says the speaker,
vapor of vapor! All is vapor.
What's the profit of all the hard work under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes..

Not very encouraging words. But then the Bible isn't often a pie-in-the-sky book, contrary to what many people think. Consider that this is the volume which quotes the Son of God as saying, "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" It is a book which often dwells upon the worst and the most horrible in life. If you doubt this, read through Judges and several of the prophetic books in one day. For Jeremiah, things weren't getting better and better. Then there's Job...

True, at the end of the Scripture, Goodness, Meaning, and Purpose do win, but that is getting ahead of the story:-) and of this particular reflection.

Most of us are in the middle of life somewhere, not either still bright-eyed and tale-dreaming, very young ones with endless hopes and dreams, nor old codgers (and codgerettes;-) at death's door, living in pain and suffering, There are a few oldsters who are healthy, spry, and accomplished with no regrets. I heard of one who still drives his own car at 106 years of age and cares for his younger wife!

But that isn't the experience of my own extended family or anyone I know personally. Most humans deal with plenty of problems, sometimes so overwhelming they seem hopeless. Or when successful, still ask, "Is that all"?

Even the rich and famous and brilliant, (as the news this week repeatedly showed), suffer and come to the end of their rope. It doesn't matter if it is threaded with gold cordage. As the Speaker says, "a live dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything..." E.9:4

But most of us live in the middle, in transit--experiencing both the positive and negative of life, though too often for too many, the negatives far out weigh the positives. At least that is where I live.

I know that outwardly, when it comes to necessities and creature comforts, my family and I are in the top 1% of humans who have ever lived. But then why am I so dissatisfied, so often given to a vivid sense that life doesn't make sense, that at times it seems pointless, empty, meaningless, fleeting, futile, etc.?

And this empty despairing place is where the Speaker complains from. He, indeed, is so pessimistic, I've often wondered how his book ever got included in the Jewish and Christian Bibles. Yes, in my time, I've heard plenty of sermons on the book, but most of them seemed to be reading a book other than the one that is in front of me. They mostly seemed to read and speak of Ecclesiastes through rose-colored glasses.

Instead, the book has much more in common with Albert Camus, the French Existentialist who said that life is absurd.

So here we go...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Part #4: Women in Tragedy--Ruth

What does one do when all chaos breaks out, when everything collapses to hell, when all hope and joy is yanked low and hanged?

Where can Haitians in the midst of over 200,000 dead and a million homeless find hope and joy? Where can the wife who just lost her husband in a terrible wreck or to cancer ever find meaning and hope?

The Book of Ruth starts out in such deep tragedy. The story is set at the time of the judges (probably a better translation of that for contemporary understanding is "chieftains") when as Scripture says, everyone "did what was right in his own eyes." Judges 17:6 That phrase says so much of the evil that was in the land. When everyone lives by subjectivism, not transcendent values, but only by their own culture's mores or their own wants or ideas, look out.

Furthermore, "there was a famine in the land." Elimelech and Naomi leave their country for Moab--the despised enemy country across the river. And then it gets much worse for the couple, Elimelech dies--doesn't say how. And then Naomi's young sons die too.

The story-teller is setting us up for truth she wants to share. Notice (as I mentioned last week) that the author of the book has given allegorical/parabolic names to the characters and places. Her home where the famine comes is Bethelehem which in Hebrew means "house of bread." How ironic!

Naomi's two sons who die are Mahlon ("illness") and Chilion ("cessation").* Naomi means "sweetness," before the tragedies. When she returns home bereft and hopeless, she says call me "Mara" ("bitter"). So not only has she suffered greatly, but she is bitter about her lot in life. And she, like so many humans past and present, blames God.

In our own time countless famous American leaders have given God the credit for everything from war to disease to catastrophe, as do even insurance documents: This policy insures you except for acts of God--meaning flood, earthquake, etc. God is left holding the bag of wind, is caught opening Pandora's box, is the destroyer, the master puppeteer who majors in destruction. So the story goes, in the Book of Ruth and for countless religious people even to this day.

But that's the bad news.

What about the good news?

Enter Ruth and Orpah. They plan to return with Naomi/Mara to the House of Bread. But then Naomi/Mara tells them her life is over and that they should stay in Moab and make new lives for themselves. Both Orpah and Ruth genuinely care for Naomi/Mara, but finally Orpah goes back (her name literally means "back of the neck," meaning "back-turner."*

In contrast, Ruth clings to Naomi/Mara and refuses to leave.

Let's cut to the end quickly--ie give you the short version (what my wife's always asks of me when I start talking;-)

It is intriguing and refreshing that in the Jewish Bible, which usually focuses on men's exploits and faith journeys, that the book of Ruth was included: a story where at this point, no men are involved; they're dead. This instead is a story of women, about a woman's initiative, a woman's commitment, a woman's loyalty, a woman's humbleness, a woman's hard work , a woman's ingenuity, a woman's...well, you get the point. Too bad that Southern Baptists, Roman Catholics, and other religious groups which still deny women equality with men don't.

While there has been much questionable allegorizing of Scripture since St. Paul and Origen, the book of Ruth does appear to be an allegorical story.

Ruth represents the true follower of truth, the friend who sticks closer than a sister. Indeed, her name "Ruth" probably, etymologically, means "companion, friend." It's not that Orpah isn't a nice person; she isn't a dabbler or fair-weather friend; but when all goes to Hell, she is the one who finally leaves, looking for a better life.

In contrast, Ruth's commitment is to death, loyalty without end: "for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die..."

One point: in relationships with others, and, of course, ultimately in following God, we should give our whole heart and commit totally--no matter how terrible the circumstances.

In the Light,


*Quoted again from Brettler

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ruth: A Love Story?

When I first heard sermons on Ruth as a teenager, the book was called a love story. But I didn't get it. I would re-read the few pages looking for romance, passion, even a little affection--and find little to speak of (speaking of Cupid). Where were the passionate verses like in the Song of Songs?

And what was this? Ruth obeys her mother-in-law to go see an old man named Boaz rather than meet a young guy? Lastly, near the end of the story instead of a marriage celebration, the verses focus on Boaz being involved in a complicated legal land deal related to Ruth. Where's the details of their relationship after the meeting night and their wedding?

So why am I, then, writing this blog on Valentine's Day weekend?

Because, later when I studied the story academically, I discovered the nuances and euphemisms, and the transcendent themes in the book. Consider the pivotal scene of the story: Ruth 3:3-7 Ruth washes herself, anoints her body, puts on her best clothes and then goes down to a dusty farm workplace in the middle of the night to secretly sleep next to Boaz, a rich man. Sounds rather suggestive does it not?

But the literal Hebrew is even stranger, more provocative. After Ruth sneaks into the workplace, she is to "uncover his feet and lie down" next to where Boaz is sleeping. In Hebrew, "the feet" often refer to human private parts. For instance, angels are said to cover their feet with their wings; the text isn't talking about their toes.

Furthermore, the words "lie down" are often a euphemism in Hebrew for sexual intercourse. Notice in verse 4, that "lies down" is referred to three times and then again in verses 7, 8,13, 14. Also, Boaz who was eating and drinking until merry is sleeping near a heap of grain. And he later gives Ruth much grain. These images "eating and drinking" and "grain" are images used for sexual lovemaking in the Song of Songs--probably so here too. And there are more such implications in the verses, but this probably suffices for the plot line.

By now, you probably, also, are beginning to notice some intriguing comparisons and contrasts between the books of Esther and Ruth. In both a foreign young woman marries an old leader; in both people are eating and drinking. But in the former the leader is lazy, superficial, and selfish while in the latter, he is hard working, deep, and generous. In the former, Jewish separate identity is the focus, in the latter individual choice is emphasized, not ethnic background, nationality, or bloodline. In the former, it ends with a slaughter of one's enemies (probably including women and children); in the latter the story ends with love of opposites, the marital joining of two opposing human groups in the conceiving of a baby. Sound familiar? Hold on.

One of the central themes of this love story is openness to others, even enemies and an ethical polemic against ethnocentrism and religious exclusivism seen elsewhere in the Jewish Bible. For example, Deuteronomy 23:3-6 says "No...Moabite shall enter the assembly of Yahweh; none of their shall never seek their peace or their prosperity..." and Ezra 9: 1-2, 10:2 ..."The people of Israel...have not separated themselves from the...Moabites,,,for they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves...And Shecaniah..said to Ezra, We have been unfaithful to our God, and have married foreign now let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and their children..."

Instead, at the end of Ruth, the text says "Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in to her. And Yahweh gave her conception, and she gave birth to a son...Blessed is Yahweh who has not left you without a redeemer."

Without necessarily arguing that the story of Ruth was originally intended as a messianic promise, one can see how followers of Jesus the Redeemer saw in all of this an allegory. Jesus was a descendent of Ruth, a Moabitess, a hated enemy of the Jews, and allegedly the Moabites were a despised result of incest. Yet from this union of Moabitess and Jewish leader came a child. And so in the case of Jesus, Ruth's descendent, another child born of a foreign woman under questionable circumstances which would reconcile enemies, and bring love to all humankind.

What if instead of emphasizing ethnic identity, nationality, religious differences, and bloodline, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs would fall in love at the "threshing floor"? What if they would join together, not separate or battle one another? What if they would marry, become one in love?

There is truly good news--the true meaning of Valentine's Day, not heart-shaped cards, but open hearts of love for others.

Don't be ruthless;-) like most humans, playing to divisive religious texts or nature's lowest denominator. Instead, become like Ruth and Boaz--be passionate and generous and loyal, live for others, and love your enemy.

To be continued

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Esther versus Ruth: Part 2

The book of Esther is so filled with reprehensible characters and abhorrent behavior, it baffles me as to why Jewish people have celebrated Purim for centuries. The Persian king and his cronies come across as completely evil jerks, but even the heroes, the persecuted Jews seem to descend to their enemies' own sinful levels. When the king establishes a decree for the Jews to kill all their enemies--men, women, and children, the Jews kill 75,000 people.

Instead of getting such revenge, why didn't the Jewish people reject the king's decree? Why didn't they explain to the sovereign that they, as followers of the God of hesed and justice, wouldn't stupe to the evil behavior of their enemies?

Also, what's with the total war? Or did the Jewish killers ignore the evil king's decree and only kill the adult males of the households? But then what happened to all of the women and helpless children?

Lastly, as admirable as Esther is because of her courage, should she be held up as an ideal when she agrees to go into a foreign emperor's haren, especially since she is replacing the heroic queen, who refuses to be treated like a plaything?

There are so many troubling issues and actions in this Jewish Bible story. I wonder how I ever read and heard it lectured on as a kid.

Last but not least, it is puzzling why God isn't avidly involved in the story.

That's the bad news.

Next time, we'll take a look at Ruth, a heroine of so much good news.

In the Light,


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Two Biblical Women Fight It Out

Quoting from Brettler*:
Esther [addressing Boaz]: "How can you stand being married to your Moabite wife? Don't you know that Moabites are the worst--they sin and cause others to sin! [Deuteronomy 23:4-7] And if that isn't enough, they are all the result of incest! [Genesis 19:30-38] You are going to dilute our "holy seed" by having children with her!"

Ruth [upon hearing Esther's verbal attack]: "Moabite, shmoabites! People are what they become, not how they are born. A Moabite woman who performs acts of kindness is better than a Jewish man who doesn't. Don't listen to that fanatic "holy see" notion--it is just plain wrong. And, while we are at it, your tone makes you sound like you don't like women too much either."

Esther [responding to Ruth]: "That's an overstatement. Some women are wonderful to look at, and when they listen to their husbands and other male relatives, good things happen. But beware the woman who shows independent initiative. She is the "highway to Sheol (hell)" (Proverbs 7:27) --stay away from her!"

Ruth: "That view sounds shortsighted: 'Beauty is illusory' (Proverbs 31:30). But more important, it's unduly harsh and judgmental. I prefer to judge women as we judge foreigners--by what they do, not by what they are. Don't you know that a Moabite woman was the ancestor of King David?" [and according to the Christian scriptures, a greats-grandmother of Eashoa!]

Esther: You don't expect me to believe that myth, do you?*

*from the chapter "Ruth vs. Esther" in How to Read the Bible by Marc Zvi Brettler PhD, chair of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University

For many years, I've had conflicting, paradoxical views toward the books of Esther and Ruth. I could say they rub a reader the wrong way, but realize the double entendre of that. An individual must use care when trying to write a serious article. A few students in my literature classes couldn't seem to get through their homework but were brilliant at noting possible double meanings in innocent words in lectures...when talking about a counter point in, say, The Scarlet Letter, "... critics can't bear this, but we need to look..."

First, let's consider the probability that both books are historical fiction. Contrary to what fundamentalists claim, they aren't inerrant history but are short stories of the Jewish Bible. Brettler makes an intriguing point that the personal names in Ruth are symbolic. They are characteronyms, names assigned to carry the story and to instruct, "clearly symbolic: her sons who die young are named Mahlon ("illness") and Chilion (Cessation"); and the daughter-in-law who follows Naomi only partway to Israel is named Orpah--literally "back of the neck" meaning "back-turner."* As TV's Huell Houser so often says, "Amazing."

In the book of Ruth what we have is parable or allegory. And what of Esther? Why were the books written? What do they teach?

What do these stories of two women so long ago mean for us at this moment, in this time?
Why are they so different, indeed, so contradictory? Of course, obviously, I will be speaking from a man's viewpoint:-) giving that particular point of view.

Hopefully, we will discover, to use the question of many spiritual teachers, "What is God saying to us?"

To be continued

**A funny event happened on my way to write this week's blog. I was set to get prophetic (one of those books) when my current research in the Jewish Bible--
am currently reading Brettler's book, and reading Robert Alter's literal Hebrew translations and commentaries, The Book of the Psalms and The Five Books of Moses--
uprooted the planned apple tree;-)

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, January 25, 2010

Part #4: The Most Personal Is the Most Ultimate

In my speculative opinion, I would say Jesus of the Good Messages in the New Testament is the meeting point of God and the human, that Jesus' message and Jesus himself are the crossing of the finite and the Infinite. Jesus is the Chosen One. The nature of Ultimate Reality (God) is Good, Personal, and Loving. What is most personal is most Ultimate.

Jesus represents not only someone who had ethical insight such as in saying "Love your enemies"; more importantly he personally lived out his statements (when he rose above his own ethnocentrism, which sometimes shows up in his speaking).

He demonstrated the love and moral idealism he spoke of, became the image of God. He revealed God most clearly in not violently resisting the Romans, in rejecting the tempting motivation to mount a revolution like the Messiah was expected to do according to the Jewish Scriptures. He also rejected other temptations many charismatic individuals have succumbed to in history such as to use their power and influence to control and manipulate. Instead of giving into humanity's incessant egotism, he humbly gave of himself ultimately.

Infinite Truth and Goodness and Love showed through his temporal self.

Exactly how all of this works out depends on one's Christology. I tend toward a lower Christology similar to Henry Emerson Fosdick or Walter Rauschenbusch.

I think God at times shines through other "human windows or images" too such as Martin Luther King, but often the Infinite in the finite is tragically marred, distorted, or destroyed by the sinful acts of the human. For instance, in MLK's case the FBI caught him committing adultery repeatedly, being very unfaithful to his wife.

Of course, as I referred to in my first post, we don't know what weaknesses Jesus had that didn't get written down that may have dulled his being the Son of Man, Son of God. However, I am not one of those kind of textural critics who think they can get behind the text, not of the sort of scholars who cast doubt on most of the received text or even question whether Jesus ever lived. Nor am I like the more conservative ones who think we have a mostly accurate recording of Jesus' words and acts. I think Jesus was very much a human being in whom God indwelt.

I also think the personal is reflective of the Ultimate, that Jesus is the Christ because I've been influenced by the philosophical views of individuals like John Cobb and Daniel Day Williams who considered personhood as more real and more important than the physical and the cosmic. It is via the personal that the universe is being influenced eventually to move toward the more spiritual.

Currently many of the big weights in science and philosophy consider human consciousness a "fluke," and they laugh dismissively at those who think that human consciousness represents anything real or important in the Cosmos. They call such theistic outlooks "species-ism" and emphasize that on the contrary, humanity is just one twig on a branch of evolution existing for no reason or purpose.

In my opinion, they are woefully wrong and we can already see the very bad influence such thinking has on humanity.

In the past, I've also had spiritual experiences which have given me a new way of seeing Life. On a rather mundane level, I've encountered a deep love for Jesus to the point I've been overwhelmed.

On several occasions, I've experienced God in what I suppose would be called "openings" or mystical awarenesses which also lead me to think that what is most personal is most Ultimate.

In those very personal encounters with God, I was highly aware, most rational, not overwrought emotionally or out of control, but very much balanced, not delusional. I was so aware of my finiteness, yet expansively aware of the Infinite. And felt boundless love despite my very temporal insignificance.

Later when I was reading Friedrich Schleiermacher's On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers, his passages about the Infinite encountering the finite suddenly jumped off the page reminding me of my own encounters with God.

Change your mind, take up your cross and follow Jesus:-)

To be continued:-)

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Part #3: Son of Man, Son of God

What do these long-ago N.T. terms mean for us in the 21st century? Let's use Aramaic again, the language Jesus spoke to help get us out of our verbal, cultural, and theological mindsets...maybe ruts.

In the Good Message of Mark, the opening line says "The beginning of the good message of Eashoa the M'sheekha, the BarElah (Son of God). And later Eashoa is called and calls himself the Barnasha (son of a human).

First, many scholars agree that Eashoa and the other N. T. writers meant two paradoxical meanings when using the term Barnasha (son of man). First Eoashoa was probably referring to the Jewish Bible's meaning of "human being." We see this often in Ezekiel's calling of himself "a human" and of the same meaning in the Psalms and other books of the Jewish Bible.

Eashoa is emphasizing he is one of us, a human born of woman like every other human being. The term often is used in a humbling sense, as a contrast from all that is exalted. (I remember studying this for my term paper on the Book of Daniel at the University of Nebraska, but now days, you can find much about the term without going to a university research library; just do a google search.)

That leads us to the second definition: "the Son of Man" is an exalted term, a reference to the heavenly being at the right hand of God in the Book of Daniel (Daniel 7:13-14), a messianic and eschatological reference. Unless you are willing to take the view of a minority of secular scholars, it would appear that Eashoa and the N.T. writers are emphasizing that Eashoa is the messenger of God/from God, the one who is bringing in the everlasting reign of which Daniel 7 speaks.

One of the best results of my writing a term paper on the Book of Daniel for my philosophy of the Jewish Bible class at the University of Nebraska is that it helped me realize how almost no one agrees with almost anyone else when it comes down to the details of these passages. Millions of pages have been written in the last 2,000 years on this issue. Even today, liberal scholars, not only disagree with conservative scholars, but they disagree with each other, and fundamentalist scholars disagree with other fundamentalist scholars. Many brilliant humans have shipwrecked on these verses including a NASA engineer who wrote a book about this prophecy, and so many countless PhD's who had degrees in Semitic languages, etc.. None of that kept them from getting lost in the words.

Thank God, I was overwhelmed early on in my life by all of this and thus have mostly avoided the endless arguments about prophecy. But if this is so--if prophetic terms such as BarElah and Barnasha are so difficult to understand even after 10 years of Middle Eastern language study, of what possible meaning can the terms have for regular human beings?

#1 Point one is that we don't have to learn Aramaic and Hebrew and study theological tomes to see a basic truth: Eashoa represents to us the meeting point of the temporal and the transcendent, the joining of the human and the divine, the expression of eternal truth in mortal presence.

Surely all varieties of people--at least all individuals open to a little religion--from different backgrounds and contradicting theological biases can agree that Eashoa (Jesus) is at the very least, the image of the Eternal (even if they do strongly disagree about what exactly that means).

All the kinds of intricate theological descriptions and explanations from conservative evangelicals like William Lane Craig to the ultra-modernist exBishop John Shelby Spong agree that Eashoa is important, is a way to God. Some Jews who reject Christianity, still see Eashoa as a Jewish prophet who said truth. And Muslims hold Eashoa (Isha) to be from God, as do various versions of Asian religions and many theists.

#2 Eashoa's parables of truth and ethical insights can be fervently followed even if one is uncertain about the abstract theological doctrines and creedal statements of Christianity. Eashoa's life-giving is present to rescue every human even if one doesn't understand how. Change your mind and follow the Son.

My commitment to Eashoa, to his Way of Life has continued with me, in me, through many outward and abstract changes in my life. I've traveled a long spiritual journey from Fundamentalist to Deist to Quaker to Evangelical to Mennonite to Quaker again to Theist, etc.

But amazingly enough, my faith in Jesus (Eashoa) and his ethical way has been a continuum in the midst of all that intellectual and social change.
I see great truth here. Living for Eashoa, isn't a religious organization, nor set of doctrines, nor a complex philosophical system, or an intellectual outlook, or a political plan...

Being a follower and friend of Eashoa is the Way of peace, love, and hope.

To be continued

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Part 2: Change Your Mind

How do we humans overcome the ocean of darkness that inundates and blinds us? What are some steps for personal and cultural transformation?

#1 First, we need to realize that we are in the dark and that we need help. Then we need to seek, to have hope that there is Light, Truth to be found.

Listen to the words of Scripture:
"Eashoa came into Galilee proclaiming the good message of God, and saying, 'The time (kairos in Greek) is fulfilled, and the reign of God is come near; change your mind (metanoia) and put your trust in the good message...and Eashoa said to them, 'Follow me...'" Mark 1:14b-17a

#2 Note that Eashoa first emphasizes the positive. The message he has for humankind is of the goodness of God. All the bad news of our world especially the ponderous negativity of religions isn't the Truth.

#3 Become aware of the time. Eashoa isn't speaking of chronological time. After all, he came into northern Palestine/Israel and spoke these words nearly 2,000 years ago. If it's a matter of calendar time, it's a bit late:-)

What Eashoa refers to is the right time, the time of decision.

When is the time for you to seek Truth with total commitment? NOW. Don't tell yourself, "At present, I am too busy, but later..." or "I have plenty of time." We may or may not have plenty of chronological time, but we all have crisis time now.

#4 The reign of God is come near. Wow, what a deep philosophical concept! As a literature teacher and writer, not a biblical scholar, I don't presume to know all that this central key idea of the N.T. means. But at least the starter point is Eternal Truth/the Ideal/the Transcendent/the Perfect/Ultimate Reality has come near, has shown Light into this world.

The inequities and iniquities of human governments and cultures and individuals are to be defeated. The ruthlessness in Nature is to be overcome. Matter, Energy, and Chance aren't the last word, not the only reality. Indeed, they are only temporal. The Eternal Personal is the ultimate Truth.

#5 Change your mind. That is what the cliche word "repentance" means in the N.T. Eashoa isn't talking about beating yourself up emotionally or physically (like some religious individuals do) for your wrong thoughts and acts, nor of seeing yourself as worthless, totally depraved. Nor is this time to have an endless cycle of pity wallows.

Instead, if you are impatient, given to outbursts of anger, change your mind. Practice walking/working meditation of God's presence. Learn to pause when given to emotionally negative feelings.

Instead, if you think your earned income is your own, or even your family's, change your mind. If you already give 10% of your income to others for God, change your mind and adopt the graduated giving method suggested by Ronald Sider of the Brethren in Christ. As you earn more money (or have more time), you give more of it away--giving more and more to others in need as you income (or free time) increases.

Some followers of Jesus have reached a level of giving 90% of their earned income to meet the need of others and to proclaim the good message of God! Give of yourself to an organization working to heal and transform such as World Vision, Mennonite Central Committee, Compassion International, Habitat for Humanity, Care Net Crisis Pregnancy Centers.

Instead, when you are at your computer on the Internet and see an alluring image, change your mind. Click out and go help your spouse, or maybe find time for a few moments of holy passion;-)

Instead, when people all around you are living in the "God bless America"-mindset, change your mind and defend undocumented workers, dysfunctional teenagers, even misguided Muslims. Remember the shocking point of the leader of Open Doors: I.S.L.A.M. for every person who follows Jesus should stand for "I Sincerely Love All Muslims!"

Change your mind like Clarence Jordan, the N.T. Greek professor who started Koinonia Farm (Greek for communion), an interracial reconciliation community in Georgia in the 1940's.

His integrated farm was attacked by racists. Despite several bombings and other violence, eventually its influence grew and has helped change the world. For example, one very rich couple that joined the farm, Millard and Linda Fuller (millionaires), helped found Habitat for Humanity.

Instead, when you think you need to buy a new lawnmower, paint set, power saw, change your mind and buy the item with friends, sharing the equipment amongst the group. Then use the surplus money to invest in micro-businesses in impoverished countries.

Instead, when attacked, slandered, or verbally maligned, and you understandably feel resentful, change your mind. Do as Eashoa said in the Sermon on the Mount: Forgive and pray for and bless your enemies! Not easily done!

I am still very upset because I was slandered, not defended and trusted, and thus lost my career! It deeply hurts and grieves me and probably will for the rest of my life. Yet each day, I remember that I need to forgive.

C.S. Lewis tells of how it took him many years to forgive someone who mistreated him when he was a youth. And think of how difficult it is for those whose loved ones have been killed. To forgive is definitely divine, comes from God.

#6 Follow Eashoa (the real Jesus). Those two words encompass many pages of concepts and actions so that will have to be put off for another post.

In the Light of God and Eashoa,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Encountering the Son of Man

Of late, like the psalmist of the Jewish Bible times and George Fox at the start of the English Civil War, I have despaired observing the ocean of darkness that is again inundating, drowning this present generation.

Fundamentalists of all stripes justify violence, from Christian rightists to Israeli settlers to Muslim jihadists to Hindu extremists. Even Buddhists are getting into the attack mode in the name of truth. And while this bloodletting stains the world on the physical level, all manner of darkness comes forth from various worldviews twisting our understanding...

Some polytheists claim that malaria and Death aren't evil; religious nontheists assert, with amazing certainty, that there is no Ultimate Meaning or Purpose to Existence.

Reformed leaders inundate the Internet and bookstores with their claims that God loves and wills only a limited number of humans to find the Truth. They assert that God preordained the vast majority of humankind to be eternally damned for his glory.

On and on this deluge of despair keeps 'reeking' havoc in the lives of human beings.

So, again, I turn to the one who I follow for rescue--for hope and joy and peace and love. Let us encounter again this one human who lived 2,000 years, this "son of man" (his own term) who stood against the evil of his generation to the extreme point of torture and death.

Tragically, however, this individual now has so many false selves, so many utter distortions and reversals of what he stood for that I am going to use his name in Aramaic/Hebrew for a few paragraphs rather than the common English version.

Hopefully, this will keep reminding us that the one I am referring to isn't the religious figure who Augustine, the crusading Popes, Cromwell, Dabney, Sproul, or Piper follow. Of course, I realize that this is my own limited perspective. I am an average joe:-) academically. I don't read Aramaic, and only started Hebrew class when in Israel/Palestine so I am not a scholar, but rather simply an individual who hopes to help shine a little of God's light into this current overwhelming darkness.

The story of Eashoa/Isho'/Yeshua Bar Yehosef/Yeshua Nasraya in the Good News of Mark starts with a prophet named Yokhanan HaMatbil "who appeared in the wilderness proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins..."

"And it came about in those days that Eashoa came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by Yokanan in the Jordan." (NASB Mark 1:4 and 9, except for Aramaic names)

If we take these verses in the plain sense of the text, (without theological abstraction or tradition) it would seem to be that Eashoa came to be baptized for his sins! But of what sins? Traditionally, most followers of Eashoa have claimed he is perfect and sinless. Most even claim he is omniscient, is God.

So what sin could this Eashoa have committed that led him to want to be baptized for repentance? Only one is mentioned in Scripture. Eashoa is shown to have "missed the mark"--to have sinned when he took off for 3 days without permission and without notifying his parents.

At least most parents, whose kid at 12 years of age takes off without permission and disappears until they finally find him 3 days later, would consider this less than perfect behavior.

Luke seems to be aware of this difficulty because he emphasizes that after this Eashoa was obedient to his parents and "kept increasing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men." (NASB Luke 2:52)

Also, note that at this point, (as well as later in his recording of the disciples'' speeches in the Book of Acts), Luke describes Eashoa as a human being, not as God, certainly not omniscient. Luke emphasizes that Eashoa is separate from God, but increases in favor with God and in wisdom.

This is a very different picture of Eashoa from the Nicene Creed. As a student of religious history I understand what motivated ancient church leaders to create the Creeds.

But I never have seen Eashoa as God--not even when a young and fervent fundamentalist Baptist, nor as an educated Evangelical, etc. It's been much clearer for me to understand my rescuer and leader as Colossians 1:15 says: "And He is the Image of the invisible God..."

In this understanding, I follow William Barclay the N.T. Greek scholar, and others, who point out that the vast majority of Scriptural texts emphasize that Jesus (Eashoa) is the Son of God (not literally but spiritually, metaphorically), is definitely not God.

Barclay says there are only two verses in the Bible which assert Jesus is God. The familiar statement of Thomas after the resurrection and in some manuscripts of Titus 2:13 "our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." However, Barclay points out that some manuscripts say instead "the great God and our Savior Christ Jesus."

While some early followers of Jesus, even in N.T. times, must have seen him as God (probably Thomas), generally this is not the N.T. view. Even the book of Revelation one of the last books of the Bible separates God and Jesus.

Contrary to many Christians in history and today who claim Jesus is God, including being omniscient, the author of Revelation says this: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him..."

Notice that even though this is at least 70-some years after his resurrection, Jesus isn't omniscient, nor is he God in many other ways.

The text states God gives Jesus a "revealing" of the end of the world.

Also, while there is great value in the Book of Revelation, observe that the author of the book gets verse 3 wrong: "for the time is near." But, of course, if one reads the plain meaning of those words, they are incorrect.

Nearly 2,000 years of human history have passed and the end of things hasn't come yet. Obviously, the author was in error.

So what's the first point of this reflection?

#1 Jesus, at least in the openings of the Good News of Mark and in the Book of Revelation isn't like what most of church history has theorized him to be. And, to me, at least that is a relief--is indeed wondrous Light, for it means that the "Jesus" of theological determinism, of the Inquisition, of the many Christian wars, etc. isn't the real Eashoa.

There is in Eashoa an infinite Ocean of Light and Love which overcomes the ocean of religious darkness.

To be continued:

How does this give us hope?

Why did Jesus call himself the Son of Man?

How is Jesus the Son of God?

What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?

In the Light,