A Demonic Rant, or..one more thing I HATE about religion..

I became a Christian in 1984. At that time, there was great hub-bub on both “Christian” and secular media about Satanic rituals and the attendant child abuse allegedly happening with great frequency around the United States. As a new Christian, in a job in which I was in the car much of the day, I listened to the radio and lapped that stuff up.

I’ve spent many years since spitting it all back out. It turned out the whole Satanic Ritual Abuse scare was nonsense. It was founded almost solely on the imaginations of authors who discovered a real, ready, and gullible market for books that somehow confirmed for millions of book buyers that, if Satan was real, then their God must be real, too! Books like Michelle Remembers, Satan’s Underground, and The Satan Seller gave millions of grasping believers the confidence that their fight was a good one and that their God was vulnerable, and needed their help.

One by one, these books were exposed to be false, usually by more reputable Christian publications. Their authors were taking shreds of childhood memories and making the rest up. They were lying for the glory of speaking to thousands of hungry church-goers and, not incidentally, for quick and easy access to those listeners’ wallets and purses.

Some psychotherapists became envious of the spiritual gravy train rolling through town and came up with an elaboration of Freud’s Repressed Memories, called Recovered Memories, which enabled them to lead troubled adults backward in time to recover “memories” of their own Satanic Ritual Abuse. Thousands of families were wrongfully torn apart, hundreds of innocent people, particularly daycare workers, were wrongfully prosecuted, and all of Christendom took another hit (and rightfully so) for jumping uncritically, even enthusiastically, into the quagmire of this nonsense.

But, of course, the beat goes on. There are still “evangelists” tramping the back roads of America, regaling small-town audiences with tales of their involvement with witchcraft and their own halcyon days of (literal) hell-raising. They even do exorcisms! And- surprise! They can find demons in a roomful of desirous believers faster than a fly finds..melting ice cream. There’s the demon of nicotine, of alcohol, and of slothfulness. There’s the all-inclusive sexual demon of Jezebel, the specialized demon of Succubus, and the catch-all demon of Rebellion. There is a demon to fit the excuses anyone needs for wrong behavior, and these self-anointed demon-finders are happy to help you find one that will fit your needs! (Before “casting” it out of you.)

There’s much more I want to rant say about this, including special mention of the Grand Kontinuing Kleagle perpetuating this nonsense, Bob Larson; who, in my days of flirting with fundamentalism, I actually sent $40 to, in the absurdly mistaken notion that I was helping finance the cause of Christ. Turns out, I was more likely helping finance one of Larson’s vacations with his mistress-of-the-month.

C’est la vie. I have amends to make..

Just Because..It’s so beautiful! Franco Battiato singing “Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday”

I was watching the movie “Children of Man” last night and heard this song used in the score. There is no video here, just music. And such music..

(for whatever reason, the music stops before the youtube has run it’s course..do not attempt to adjust your television  sets..just continue on with your life.)

The Cicada’s Silence..

So soon to die

you can hardly tell it

by the cicada’s voice

 ~Matsuo Basho (1690)

cicada  Chinese

I will miss their song. The cicada’s season in the sun and on the branches of trees, is coming to an end now. Each day, there are fewer and fewer of the long, vibrating drones- one cicada signaling another of their procreative nearness, of their one, only, and final desire for the companionship of another.

Yet, even now, the final cicada songs are being sounded with vigor and enthusiasm: they are songs of LIFE. There are no beginnings to be heard in those songs, and certainly no endings: only the purest of be-ing. It is an awareness without the encumbrances of memory or imagination, no regrets or hope. It, simply, is.

I dare to call it, in my own human complexities, an enviable state of being. It is that place where the humans we admire most (think about it) spend the majority of their moments. When you are with them, they are with you; you do not perceive them to be remembering who you were yesterday, or what you are becoming tomorrow. They hear you, now. They see you, now. You are these moments to them.

That’s what the cicada’s song reminds me of each year. Being is better than remembering, though remembering is good and precious. Being is better than planning, though planning is necessary and enhancing to our lives. Being is certainly better than regretting what is past, or being anxious about what is to come.

Being allows us to not only hear and see what is around us, but to be part, a vibrant part, of that place we are in, that person we are with, those circumstances in which we find ourselves. It allows us to breathe and renew and to be nourished and active. Our Being is our affirmation, if we allow it to be, of all of Life which preceded us yet is still a part of us (no beginnings) and of all of Life which will come after us, and which we will have influenced for eternity (no endings).

It is our song, a song which can be heard in gratitude by others and sung in celebration by us. It is the harmonious chorus we sing with the cicadas, and with all else that lives.

The War Prayer.. by Mark Twain

“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle-be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.                                                                                                      

O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it-for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!                                                                                                                                              

We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts.

Amen.

A Christian’s Response to Harry Potter

Read ’em. If you want to. That’s my response.

I am not (cannot be!) one of those Christians who, because of rank or status (ordained or self-anointed), would label what comes out of my mind or mouth as doctrinal. I am not one of those who would have the audacity to label anything I say or write as THE Christian response to anything. I’m just a guy who tries to follow Jesus, makes mistakes in doing so from time to time, but has (as you can probably tell by now) LOTS of opinions.

HarryPotter2

(for anyone unable to tell, all the people in the above picture are actors)

I’ve never read a Harry Potter book, and never will. But among the people whose opinions I value, my wife and daughters do read Rowling’s books, enjoy them, and none of them have become witches. I did see the first movie, and smiled all the way through it. I’ve missed the others, and don’t remember why; I probably had building committee meetings or something equally invigorating to go to.

If you want to see THE Christian response to Harry Potter, here are three of them:

here- Focus on the Family

here- Christian Answers for the New Age

and here- Exposing Satanism (this one’s the most fun!)

The common objection by these defenders of the faith seem to center around, “But what about the children??” Yeah, what about them?

Half the kids between 10 and 20 that I know have read all the Potter books. And I have yet to see any of them on broomsticks, doing incantations, or so much as carrying a magic wand. I don’t know how the reading of Harry Potter manifests itself among children in churches where there is more talk about the fear of Satan than about the love of God, but in the churches I spend time in (the latter), Harry Potter has not had any behavioral impact that I can see.

Except for the fact that there are a bunch of kids who have learned to love to read and are not watching some dismal sit-com on TV while they do it!

Can I suggest that no one anywhere has seen a child doing occult, witchy, or otherwise “dark” things because of their having read Harry Potter books? Kids are not the stupid lumps of clay many adults think they are. They have, at the age of 9 or 10- about the time most would even begin to read these books- real abilities to discern between truth and fantasy. Notice that you can’t fool them with your silly magic tricks, the way you could when they were 2 or 3; none of them will play peek-a-boo with you anymore. That’s because they are learning the difference between what is real and not-real!

And that will continue! If they are older than 8, 9, or 10, children’s cognitive abilities are getting even better, and more complex. Even the ones who think, for a moment, that there might be something to this broomstick business, will, after about three seconds of experimentation, realize there is not.

Relax. That’s another of this Christian’s responses to almost everything, come to think about it. Relax and, while doing so, take a look at the money angle of those who have lots to say about the Potter books. Are they raising money for themselves through their usual ploy of fear, yet again? Are they, through their own painfully minute exegesis of the Potter books, trying to build more credibility among those who willingly hand over their own abilities to discern to these “experts”?

Just relax. Stop reacting to the “panic” of others. I’d be far more concerned about my young child watching anything on (so-called) Christian TV than I would about her reading a Harry Potter book. (Which wouldn’t be hard to do, since I’d have NO concern over her reading a Potter book.)

Relax; stop trying to scare children into loving God. Take a child outside today, to the park or to the woods, and let God do all the talking.

For once.

God Damn Dog Fighting

(That’s a prayer, by the way..)

It looks like Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick will feel the revulsion of the NFL for his off-the-field pastime of dog fighting, as Commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to announce Vick’s suspension this week for the 07-08 season.

Hopefully, Nike and other members of Vick’s endorsement gravy train will follow suit.

Any doubts about what the NFL is doing to Vick? This should eliminate any thoughts of “unfairness” someone might still be harboring:

dogfighting

That’s what a human fingerprint looks like, gouged into a pit bull’s face. If it’s nauseating, that’s my point. It is meant to be.

It is almost unfathomable at times what humans are capable of doing to animals. Dog fighting, cock fighting, exotic animal hunting, and even rattlesnake round ups are systemic manifestations of the religiously chauvinistic attitude that humans are at top of the food chain and, therefore, “have dominion..over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1: 28) That single biblical phrase, twisted in the minds of men who measure their virility by the blood they can cause to flow from other living beings, or by the neglect they have institutionalized under the agenda of economic development, puts us- this generation- directly in the path of what has been called the Sixth Great Extinction.

440 million years ago, 85% of marine animals were wiped out in the First Great Extinction. 367 million years ago, many fish and 70% of marine invertebrates met their doom. 245 million years ago, 95% of all animal species died. 208 million years ago, another extinction of sea animals primarily, but also some land animals took place. And 65 million years ago, 3/4 of all species, including the dinosaurs, were eliminated.

All of these five great extinctions occurred because of volcanic eruptions, meteorite strikes, and changing climates. This sixth great extinction is one we are able to witness and one which we are largely the cause of. (Statistics from Earth Policy Institute)

It is estimated that 10 million species inhabit the earth with humans. And each year, 1000s of these species, including microrganisms, are lost forever. Deforestation, mining, urbanization, and ocean pollution and over harvesting are the primary reasons.

How do the attitudes and actions of Michael Vick fit into this dismal picture?

Perfectly.

As long as our human and predominate worldview is one which regards everything outside of ourselves as, well, outside of ourselves, then the abuse and death of pit bulls behind barns in the Virginia countryside, as well as the poaching deaths of Mountain Gorillas in the Congo, will continue. As long we crush our natural empathetic response to other living beings, with the mechanistic attitude that we’re in control of the toolbox, then it will continue to be easy to regard other species as things– in our way, expendable, toys for our amusement, even trash.

Imagine the outcome of a democratic vote by the world’s species on which species should be next in line for extinction?

Amen

 

 

 

Epiphany

An Appearance of the Divine

I fumble for the words. I grasp at metaphors and seek after similes. But my language is never adequate; there is always more that must be said and that cannot be said. So I watch, and listen, and touch when possible, the experiences of others who have seen God. It is the most precious part of what I do.

I am not talking about the trivial quest for finding theophanic revelations in the clouds, on the smeared dirt of a windshield, or in the aberrational shape of a Rice Krispy. The world does not need a single other manifestation of the Blessed Virgin on the side of a tree. I am talking about those moments when someone sits with their mouth open, their eyes wet with wonder, and their hands grabbing for some means of sharing an experience they have had with something much larger than themselves.

Andy, an oil field roustabout, tells me in words wholly inadequate to the vision he’s had, about suddenly feeling pain one day as drill bits tore holes into the earth: “I just stood there: it was the first time I saw that everything in this world comes out of the earth, like it was giving birth almost, all the time. Does that sound crazy?”

Marla, an 85 year old invalid widow: “I woke up and the room was vibrating. There was no difference between me and the walls and the sheets. I couldn’t tell where they ended and I began. I just laid there and let it happen and I haven’t been the same since. I don’t know what it was.”

Ed, a 75 year old retired lawyer: “I was only 5 when my grandpa died. I was crying and so I went and got under my bed. And someone was there with me, and I’ve never told anyone this- not even my wife, but I felt loved that day in a way that I have I have never felt since then but have never forgotten, either. I think that time under the bed when I was 5 made me who I am and I don’t even know what it was, really.”

I said that these people- I believe- had “seen” God. It doesn’t matter to me whether one can force their experiences into an “approved” and traditional category of epiphanal experiences, based on a chapter and verse of a particular sacred book. I’m guessing that the epiphanies experienced by Moses, Mary, and Peter- for instance- were first shared in the same kind of grasping, open-mouthed ways that the ones above were shared. The problem with reducing any experience to words, though, it that it then remains forever reduced.

There is no word more inadequate, in fact, than the word God itself.

Moses said God could only be seen after God had passed by and that is true. Real sense of epiphanies (and there is always sense to be made) can only come with contemplation.

In every case I know of- biblical, personal, and those of others- the person experiencing an epiphany has their awareness of the divine enlarged. They experience God where they have not experienced God before, and usually with increasing frequency and sensitivity.

Andy has not been able to handle his vision of the earth being hurt very well at all. It has now become a part of the heightened sensibilities which causes Andy and many alcoholics to try to manage the onslaught of emotions they experience by “dulling them down.” I can urge and encourage, and I have, but sometimes sadness is simply overwhelming.

Marla and Ed have both died now. They used the revelations they had had to understand, reach out constantly, and enfold unto themselves that which they knew– beyond all shadow of doubt- to be beloved. Their homes were jungles of potted plants and rooting twigs. They were highly social, and not merely in chit-chat ways. They attracted people. People felt safe with them, loved by them, and important to them. And, indeed, they were.

I know I have only opened the door a little here. And that’s all I will be able to open it. There are no adequate words. But, hopefully, there is some Light shining through. Grab whatever of it these words allow you to, and make it your own.

On the Beach..with a BlackBerry

A banker, on vacation in St. Tropez, quoted in an article this morning at Financial Times:

“Everyone is on a high state of alert, so there are going to be many people like me making sure we keep in touch – and that means keeping your BlackBerry on. Normally in August banks run on half or two-thirds of normal staff, which can make it difficult, so every banker has to remain vigilant, even if you’re on the beach like me.”

There will come that one, last perfect day when such a comment is spoken to others, acknowledged affirmatively by others, and embraced by others, both enviously or in agreement. It will be heard that day uncritically, acceptably, without questioning. The importance of the statement will be unchallenged. The normalcy of the statement will further add to that last perfect day’s harmonious discourse.

Then, somewhere, perhaps on another beach- almost certainly on another beach, a mountainside somewhere, in a field full of wildflowers, or beside a trout stream- someone will ask, “Does it matter?” Does it matter that I have more than I need, less than I want? Does it matter that the markets a world away are defining, even here, my relationship with all that I can see around me? Does it matter that I cannot hear the symphonies of the sunshine and oceans for the the digital clatter that is filling my heart?

And, over days, decades, centuries perhaps, that one last perfect day will be remembered as the day humankind began to turn- away from themselves, and toward the Light. One by one, unnoticed for years, first here then there then there and there and there, the Light will be seen, acknowledged, and begin to shine through the darkness born of religious tradition, economic acquiescence, and national historical perspectives. Light will begin to shine across political borders, across chasms of cultural chauvinism, and through masks of ego-driven motivations.

There will be that one last perfect day, before someone, somewhere looks at their BlackBerry one last time, then drops it. And steps on it. And lifts their eyes to see the blue, crystalline waters of the Mediterranean for the first time ever..

Walking out of ourselves..

forest3

“When you walk into a forest, learn to tremble with the magnitude of what you are about, and you will never walk out. There will no longer be that self that approached the forest, for you will be new, you will bear the presence of the forest with you. Forests are alive with music on all sorts of hidden levels, and when you hear this music you will know that forest has permeated every cell of your body. Sip a cup of coffee the next morning, and all the fir trees will grow warm. The natural, human, and divine worlds flow together into our feelings. You need no teacher. The universe is your teacher, the forests are your teachers. You will know when you fail to learn, for failure is punished with boredom. If you develop the least flicker of sensitivity, the universe will come alive in you.”

(from The Universe is a Green Dragon by Brian Swimme)