Times such as these often tend to bring out both the best and worst in us as human beings, and to be certain we live in tumultuous times. This past week entire religious and ethnic groups were barred from entering our country by the swift motion of an executive pen. Protests against these executive orders broke out all over the country. Sad news of another violent outburst by a zealot in our neighbor to the North added to the growing death toll from such madness. When these things become our daily news reel, it is easy to become overwhelmed and fall into one of two camps; that of being overcome by grief or being enraged and wanting to attack the “other.” I am guilty of this, and have been in both camps at one point or another, but usually only because I have failed to listen or to consider another posture or way of being. Thich Nhat Hanh once said,
“In order to rally people, governments need enemies. They want us to be afraid, to hate, so we will rally behind them. And if they do not have a real enemy, they will invent one in order to mobilize us.”
Certainly our own government has excelled at this strategy for years, and sadly, many have fallen right into the trap of believing this same government will save them. This tactic has been used by both the “left” and the “right”, and now, it is being used quite effectively again, made manifest by the new administration and fueled by the so-called “religious right” and “conservative Christians”, who have been stirred into a frenzy of believing to have won some divine victory over Evil with this past election. Some are even suggesting, incredulously, that our new leader was placed in office by God Himself, and that God is guiding the President’s hand in order to restore America to being a “Christian” nation…though it never was one from the beginning. As we can see, the game is in full swing…but much like the graphic above…when we focus on the problems between us rather than look into the eyes of the other and consider another point of view than our own, we lose sight of our neighbor and become fixated on the correctness of our own position and what divides us from one another, and not what unites us together.
“So this is the new year, and I don’t feel any different.” – Death Cab for Cutie
It has been some time again since I last posted. Primarily the reason for this was not lack of words or rumination, but rather an often silent and sinister creeping depression and melancholy that I had slipped into for some time. I fight this from time to time. It has been more pervasive of late. 2016 was a year. A big crazy year.
In the span of those few short months, I’ve watched sadly as fascism, racism, violence, hatred, anger, fear, and the raging of the nations overtook so many. I have had an inexplicable and overwhelming sense of impending doom, culminating in a singular day of late, in which I literally felt the sorrow and anguish of others physically, as I listened to the most unusual presidential inauguration I have ever witnessed in my short life here in my beloved America. To be clear, this is still my beloved home and I am not leaving, because my love for this land and for my brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors, children and family who live here is not dependent on who sits on the throne of the American Empire. And let us be candid – it is an empire. In many ways, if not all ways, it is THE Empire – the greatest superpower – and its commander-in-chief is considered to be the “most powerful person in the world.” Be that as it may, regardless of who sits in that oblong office, or what you think of that individual as a person, to me the truly terrifying thing about this latest Empirical election was watching what can only be described as predominantly white Christian American privilege showing its seedy underbelly to the shock of many, and we are now in, as Aladdin says, a whole new world, whether we believe it to be good or not. Whether it was a campaign gimmick or not, those who have quietly or vocally held racist and fascist beliefs have been emboldened and encouraged by the rhetoric thrown around this past year by our new President. While fascists, racists, bigots, misogynists and other hate groups have always existed, the difference, this time, seems to be that so many of those people also identify themselves as “Christian.” Continue reading
“…but first, it will make you miserable.” While it has been some time since I’ve written here, as I sit outside only a couple of weeks after the deadly attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, I find myself finally able to finish this post that I started several months ago. All that I have seen and read since that Sunday, as well as time to reflect, has given me a chance to try to make sense of something that I have worked through for some time – the notion or theory of cognitive dissonance – and primarily its relationship to so much of what I have experienced both in my life, and what I see coming forth from others, especially those from my own Christian faith, and especially in recent days.
For those unfamiliar with Cognitive Dissonance, it can best be described as our psyche’s response to conflicting beliefs or actions entertained at the same time and our tendency to increase the value of one belief over another, be it true or not, in order to restore consonance – in other words, to “set our mind at ease.” I believe that it is precisely a rapid growth in CD that is behind much of the division we see in the world today. As people become increasingly isolated by the very technology created to connect them with others, and there is an increase in the unwillingness to change as people, especially when confronted with something that is contrary to one’s own deeply held beliefs, the result is what we see in the news. If we are to be balanced, sane, and healthy people, then we must, from time to time, take stock of our lives and reevaluate whether we are on a good and level path, and more importantly, if what we believe is true because it is true or simply because we want it to be true.
It is the week of giving thanks. The US holiday of Thanksgiving is tomorrow and most of those in the country will be doing their cooking, baking, basting, and often traveling to be with family and loved ones, to celebrate the holiday or at the very least, to enjoy the time off of work. It is one of those magic holidays where, regardless of your beliefs, religion, or stance on any issue, being grateful for what you have and giving thanks for things is a universally recognized virtue.
It seems rather ironic that, at such a time, there is now a raging debate in the United States about whether or not to welcome and care for refugees fleeing from atrocities in their homeland that most of us cannot even begin to imagine. The governor of my state, along with many others, issued a decree that our state would not welcome these refugees until such time as the federal government “made assurances” that proper security measures are being followed. While I often refrain from posting and commenting on political issues, this one seemed to jump out to me as being an issue that is neither political nor difficult to understand, but rather, a crystal clear moral issue at its root – whether or not to welcome and care for refugees who have abandoned everything they’ve known and risked their lives to ensure the safety of their families and loved ones – and yet it is sadly being used as political fodder, religious rage, and fear mongering. What is most disturbing to me is the response I have seen posted on social media and in the news from “Christians”, who have vehemently stated that such refugees should NOT be welcomed and cared for by the United States, UNLESS they are proven to be of no threat, or, even more unbelievable, ONLY if they are also “Christians”, in which case they would be considered “safe.” I find myself wondering at times…often, actually…if I believe in the same “Christ” that these other loud voices believe in, or if there is some disconnect with the words and the Man and how that is lived out. The times are very strange, and so, to be as informed and certain as possible, I have read factual documents on refugees and the processes they must go through to legally enter the US, and I have also reviewed the Gospel writings and saying of Jesus as well, to be sure that I understand what is written and what He told His followers to do, and you know what…I still can come to no other conclusion than that it is a fundamental responsibility of anyone claiming to be Christian to care for those that seek help and to welcome them.