Inauguration Day..

“Write in recollection and amazement for yourself.” Jack Kerouac

I’ve started to write an Inauguration Day statement many times in the last two days. As it is with writing sermons, though, I can no longer think in straight lines. I can no longer understand anything in cause and effect formulas; there are too many unexpected appearances by ideas in flight, information in juxtaposition, and concrete conclusions built, in the end, of sand.

I am overloaded on images, as we all are. The tears of old black men and young white women are now indistinguishable within the headwaters of the mighty stream of righteousness. The edges of our individuality have blurred- a little, a lot. The human differences we have historically institutionalized at times, and even celebrated, fought over, and died because of, have begun (begun, yes, but- hallelujah!- begun) to fade- a little, a lot, and here and there even: altogether (my God, hallelujah! they have!).

President Obama’s first executive action as president was to set in motion the disassembly of the Guantanamo prisoner facilities. That there are significant numbers of Americans who believe that this was a wrong first action- who believe that some rights should be denied and that some torture should be allowed, indicates the depth and infections of the wounds we have suffered as a country. Even more important, far more important than economic recovery, will be the recovery of our shared decency. As the President signed those orders, a light began to shine. It’s Our Light and it is overcoming (because it must) the shadows which have grown inch by dark inch behind us in our time of politically encouraged fear and intentionally coerced separation from the world.
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I think of the million little boys who can look over the heads of Kobe and LeBron and see Barack.

I thank God for the million little girls who are able now to look past Beyonce and Brandy and see Michelle.
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A praise song for the day. I can’t stop smiling and neither can you and those smiles are on our hearts in ways some of us didn’t know they could be and in ways others of us had forgotten.

I’m sure there is someone who didn’t like Aretha’s hat, but I loved it because Aretha was singing about this day in 1967- “Respect”- before she knew this day would be, and before the King had been to the mountaintop and before all that goddam gunfire and before the dreams some of us dreamed had been scraped from our hearts and before the Twin Towers were built and before Watergate, Katrina, and Lewinsky and that hat, on her, this day, on this stage of stages in front of this crowd of crowds, just before a man stands up and says “I, Barack Hussein Obama…”

R, E, S, P, E, C, T……………
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(Like I said, there is nothing linear possible for me here- I can only do this in recollection and amazement.) But there is one more thing:

Jess is 87, a neighbor here in this little red town in this big red state where I live. Jess told me yesterday about an episode in 1944 when he was in the service. A black soldier- a cook- had been assigned to the unit Jess was a part of at the base in NY to which he’d been assigned. After training, the unit was sent to Virginia, in preparation for their assignments in Europe.

Just outside of Washington, D.C., part of the unit stopped for lunch at a local diner where- of course- the owner of the diner insisted that if the “n—–“ was going to eat, then he’d have to eat in the kitchen. Jess said that it was pointed out by the NY members of the unit that the man was a soldier! But the Southern soldiers, like Jess, knew how these laws worked and so they told their black friend to go ahead and go to the kitchen. So he did.

He did, and they followed him. Along with their Commanding Officer, the soldiers, white and black, Northern and Southern, lined the kitchen and ordered their food. And were served.

Jess was telling me this and he said he’d never forgotten that day, that meal, that soldier. His eyes were telling me – 64 years later- that they had, together, done something right and good that day, and they knew it.

And, I think (hell, I know), that day was a part of this day, too.

Goodbye, George W. Bush

On Tuesday, Barack Obama will become our 44th president of the United States. At the same time that is happening, George W. Bush will be on his way to his pretend ranch in Crawford or to his new cul-de-sac digs in Preston Hollow, in Dallas. I really don’t care where he is going; I am simply relieved that he will be gone.

Obama will swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. The Preamble to that document is always worth reviewing:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It is also a worthwhile thing to remember that when that Preamble was written, persons of African descent were not included in the phrase “we the people.” But that’s another day’s topic. Today, I want to say goodbye to the 43rd President, and urge the 44th President to uphold and and defend the Constitution in all ways– among them, the investigation and possible prosecution of his immediate predecessors for falsely and knowingly leading us into a war that has cost 5000 American lives, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives.

Scroll down the pages of this blog and you’ll see that I’ve changed my mind on that subject; it was not long ago that I simply hoped Mr. Bush would fade away. But when he spoke, at his final press conference earlier in the week, of one his greatest regrets being the inability of Allied forces to find Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, I was pushed- hard- from the “compassionate” attitude I had taken toward him. 

His greatest regret; the thing which he regrets the most about his presidency…is that his predication for the war was not vindicated. Forget the thousands of new terrorists which have been ideologically birthed over the last six years; forget the suffering of American, English, Canadian, and Iraqui families who have lost so many sons and daughters while  our armies desperately sought phantom evidence that would- for once and for all- prove Bush was right about at least that one thing; forget about “Brownie” and the administration’s “dress for success” shirtsleeve response to Katrina’s meteorological rape of the Gulf Coast; forget the $12 billion per month which has been landing in the bottomless coffers of everyone with a round round of ammo to sell the federal government, or the wiping out of pensions because Wall Street traders came up with formulas the SEC couldn’t make sense of let alone a commander in chief who seemed to parade with pride his inability to speak (which, in his case, is a pretty good indicator of his inability to think); forget all those things. BECAUSE WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT IS THAT THERE WERE NO WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION TO BE FOUND!

I know that increasingly tiny band of Bush supporters and defenders continues to believe that history will be kind and that, in retrospect…whatever and yada, yada, who cares?

I’m done with Bush, on these digital pages anyway. I’ll join in cleaning up the mess that’s been left, although I’m not sure this mess can be entirely or ever cleaned up. We’re all going to be forced to try, however, if we want anything resembling the United States as it was, to be passed on to the generations to come, who will be paying for this mess.

Hello, Barack H. Obama..</

God Stuff, Chapter # 8,004,897,254

I sit with a group of people every Wednesday night that help keep me focused on both the enemy and the Great Love. Enough said. If you want to know more, my email is around here somewhere.

stp We’ve been reading together from a book, Sought Through Prayer and Meditation, published by Hazelden. Last night, as we read, a phrase jumped from the page and began running around in my imagination. The phrase is running around there turning on lights, discovering new metaphors, writing poetry, and turning over dumpsters full of old, rancid, even carcinogenic dogma.

Here’s the sentence (found on page 15) in which the three word phrase appears: “The very moment I surrendered myself as completely and honestly as I could, the supernatural rush of the life of God invaded me.”

Life of God.

You may have to bear with me for awhile here, read the white spaces between words and lines, or maybe even allow my words and phrases loose in your imagination, to do there what they will. I promise I will only describe my reactions and thoughts in terms personal to me, without telling you how you must or should or are commanded to react or think for yourself about that phrase.

Because the life of God is different in me than it will ever be in you. The life of God is not a sometimes sharp-edged definition formulated by others and passed on over the centuries through dogmatic teachings, for which I am a modern agent who must somehow coerce you today into accepting this phrase in its ancient form and colors. In fact, I doubt that the life of God has colors which could be defined anyway; they’re probably off the rainbow somewhere in infrared or ultraviolet or gamma light where birds and insects and fish are swimming and flying through colors you and I have never seen (and will never see!). I’m almost certain that the life of God could never be honed or trimmed for the convenience of my linguistic limitations, from the light-year-spanning breadth and quark-deep-depth that the life of God must , among many other dimensions, occupy. I know for a fact and I am proving to you at this moment that the life of God is a force and a fact that cannot be written about, bought from any purveyor of abstract notions, or referenced in Google, history, the Bhagavad-gita, Quoran, or Bible.

The life of God is slippery, and not. It is big, and not. It full, empty, dark, light, complete and whole, partial and growing, Mysterious, and –if not Knowable- perceptible. And that is the word I’ve needed here: perceptible. The life of God is perceptible. But impossible to explain. And now I’m laughing so I’ve just confirmed that the life of God is funny, too.

It is the life of God which I want animating me, defining me, motivating me, and using me. I don’t want your definition of “God” no matter how good that definition is, doing those things. The word “God” in me has been learned. The life of God in me is giving birth:

To the Me with no name.

To the Creation without boundaries.

And to You, whether you know it or not.

(Which is why I’m laughing again, and why metaphors are searching for new homes, why dumpster spills need cleaned up, and why I’m trusting that the life of God has made the jump into your consciousness as well!)

The Body of Christ, Redux

A response from Lyndon (here) to what I wrote a few days ago about Religion, caused me to go back and look at a piece of art and Christian history that I have loved: The Isenheim Altarpiece: 

111Jesus isenheim

Painted in about 1515 by Matthias Grunewald, the three part work sits on top of a painted altar. There is much to learn and understand about the painter and this  piece and Wikipedia is a far better place to begin more research than here. But, I want to look specifically at the middle section and even more specifically at the body of Christ, as Grunewald depicted it.

           isenheimaltarpiecedetail

The Isenheim Altarpiece was to be placed in the chapel of a sanitarium where patients with skin diseases were hospitalized. Grunewald painted this Christ as a suffering, contorted being with terrible lesions all over his body. Here was a Christ with whom the people of Isenheim could relate. This was a Jesus who was like them, suffered like them, and- they believed- died for them.

This was a Jesus with scars. This was a Jesus who died alone, unappreciated, unloved, shunned. This was a Jesus who who screamed in pain before he died. And amazingly, John the Baptist was painted to the right of the cross, pointing to Jesus and saying, “He must increase: I must decrease.” This was a suffering Christ, but a Christ who, according to the Baptist, should, could, and must be emulated.

So who is looking for this sacrificing Jesus today? Who is following this injured,bleeding, lashed and slashed Jesus anywhere? I turn the TV on and hear preachers talking about gay marriage and supporting Israel’s onslaught of Palestine. I read sermons extolling the virtues of teenage abstinence, the necessity of keeping “God” on coins, and laments about some clerk at Walmart who says “Happy Holiday.”

I watch “Christians” fussing at each other over the age of the earth, and the importance of using the right language regarding abortion (while doing nothing about it). I see clean, unbruised, never scarred church goers tsk-tsking over Sally’s bare shoulders, Timmy’s cruddy-looking tennis shoes, and..”Have you seen Bob with that new friend of his-Bill?”

Meanwhile, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are being pummeled by Israel with nary a whisper of protest from American Christians. Most of the world’s children end each day hungry. There are more slaves in the world than at any time in history. We (US) are spending $12 billion a month to fight a war over..what? I’ve forgotten. The high school drop out rate is higher than ever. We are the most incarcerating country on earth. And we (Christians) actually send money- lots of it!- to scriptural pimps who promise if we send more money to them, we can have bigger houses, shinier cars, better clothes, no cancer, great kids, vacations on Christian cruise ships, to Christian hotels, near Christian theme parks, after stopping at the mall to buy Christian CDs, Christian knick-knacks, bumper stickers, and jewelry, so that atheists and Muslims and Democrats and lesbians will know- without a doubt!- where we stand on the issues!

Unless the church begins to bleed, it will die. He must increase; we, fat and healthy and happy and lazy, must decrease.