A Bi-Polar Holiday, Part One

A Bi-Polar Holiday, part one

2018.12.08-11

Everyday Miracles

Advent 2018

 

It is a most contradictory time of the year.  In the Northern Hemisphere temperatures are at their coldest and yet, we celebrate the holidays that are designed to bring out the warmest feelings in us all.  At the very time of the year when Mother Nature is experiencing death, we celebrate birth and rebirth.  For many of us the weather is a bit shifty.  Some days are moderate in temperature and then within twenty-four hours, we can experience a climate change of magnitude proportions.

 

Bi-Polar Disorder is a mental health disorder that causes periods of depression and periods of abnormally elevated or happy moods.  During such periods of mania, the individual behaves or feels abnormally or unusually energetic, happy, or conversely, irritable or depressed.  These extreme mood swings create these episodes of emotional highs and lows and can create changes in sleep patterns, thought processes, eating, and other behaviors.

 

The very mention of Christmas or other winter holidays can bring about similar reactions in many people.  Those with a bi-polar diagnosis might experience such episodes during seasonal changes and the winter time in many areas is ripe for such.  For others, though, the holidays represent loss or failure.  Very few people get through the month of December without some type of anxiety or depression.

 

Christmas is a holiday based upon the past events that Christians believe tells the story of the birth of a baby named Jesus.  Hanukah is a holiday celebrating the story of one night’s worth of oil lasting for eight nights.  Both of these have elements of a miracle occurring but perhaps the greatest miracle is that these stories are still with us.  It can be difficult for some to find a bill they believed they paid three months ago and yet, these two stories have lasted over two thousand years.

 

The story of Hanukah does not appear in the Talmud, since it occurred after its writing.  It is, however, referred to in the New Testament when Jesus is described as attending a feast of rededication.  The events that inspired the Hanukkah holiday took place during a particularly turbulent phase of Jewish history. Around 200 B.C., Judea, known then as the Land of Israel, came under the control of Antiochus III, the Seleucid king of Syria, who allowed the Jews who lived there to continue practicing their religion. His son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, proved less benevolent: Ancient sources recount that he outlawed the Jewish religion and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. In 168 B.C., his soldiers descended upon Jerusalem, massacring thousands of people and desecrating the city’s holy Second Temple by erecting an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs within its sacred walls. 

 

Led by the Jewish priest Mattathias and his five sons, a large-scale rebellion broke out against Antiochus and the Seleucid monarchy. When Matthathias died in 166 B.C., his son Judah, known as Judah Maccabee (“the Hammer”), took the helm; within two years the Jews had successfully driven the Syrians out of Jerusalem, relying largely on guerilla warfare tactics. Judah called on his followers to cleanse the Second Temple, rebuild its altar and light its menorah—the gold candelabrum whose seven branches represented knowledge and creation and were meant to be kept burning every night.  There was only enough untainted olive oil to burn for one night and yet, the flames continued flickering for eight nights, leaving them time to find a fresh supply of oil.

 

The celebrations of Hanukah for this year have just ended but the message burns brightly, even in the aftermath of the recent terroristic murders of eleven at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue.  Hanukkah is a joyous eight-day Festival of Lights in the Hebrew calendar. It is a time when Jews celebrate the Jewish victory over a tyrant king and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. 

 

We have a choice during this holiday season as to how we respond to the past, our present, and hopes for the future.  We can wallow in depression, lamenting the sins and problems of the past or we can choose to think positively and move forward with hope.  “Every person can be a small light,” said Hayley Miller, Associate Director of Digital and Social Media of the Human Rights Campaign nonprofit organization. “And just as the small quantity of oil that fueled the miracle of light for eight nights, when we are our authentic selves, we can be a beacon of light that shines.”

 

Creating Fear

Creating Fear

2018.10.31

The Creative Soul – Pentecost 2018

 

 

“We have this need for some larger-than-life creature.”  It may seem a bit ironic that one of the leading authors of a book on a giant, human-like mythological creature that may be real is actually an expert on much smaller animals that are real.  Robert Michael Pyle studies moths and butterflies and writes about them but in 1995 he also penned a book about the supposed primate known, among other names, as Yeti, Bigfoot, or Sasquatch.

 

The giants in American Indian folklore are as varied as the different tribes themselves.  It is important to remember that although they are grouped together much like the term European, the designation of American Indian applies to many tribes, most of which are now extinct.  Many millions of Americans over the past two hundred years could and should claim American Indian ancestry.  The story of Bigfoot is the story of their ancestral mythical creature.

 

The Bigfoot phenomenon is proof that there is a real place for mythologies in the present day.  The past several years saw people viewing a popular television program, “Finding Bigfoot” which aired on the Animal Planet network as well as being replayed via internet formats.  A group of four traveled the world, speaking and exploring the myths about a large, here-to-fore undocumented bipedal primate thought to be a link between the great apes and Homo sapiens.   One member of this group was a female naturalist and botanist but the other three were educated men in other disciplines.  To date, the three men have yet to convince their female scientist companion of the existence of the myth known as Bigfoot although she has dedicated several years of her life to searching for something she claims not to believe exists.

 

Even the more popular terms are modern additions to the myth.   A photograph allegedly taken by Eric Shipton was published with Shipton describing the footprint as one from a Yeti, a mythological creature much like a giant snowman said to inhabit the mountains of Nepal.  Several years another set of footprints was photographed in California and published in a local newspaper.  This time the animal was described as “Bigfoot” and a legend dating back to the earliest settlers in North America had been reborn.  The interest in such photographs is proof of the opening quote of today’s post.

 

The Lummi tribe called their giant ape/man mythological character Ts’emekwes and the descriptions of the character’s preferred diet and activities varied within the tribal culture.   Children were warned of the stiyaha or kwi-kwiyai who were said to roam at night and steal children.  There were also stories of the skoocooms, a giant race which lived on Mount St. Helens and were cannibalistic.  The skoocooms were given supernatural powers and status.  A Canadian reporter also reported on such stories and he used a term from the Halkomalem and named the creature “sasq’ets” or Sasquatch.   Rather than to be feared, though, some tribes translated this name to mean “benign-faced one.”

 

Mythologies of such giant creatures can be found on six of the seven continents and if mankind had been able to survive on Antarctica for thousands of years, there would probably be some from there as well.  We do seem to need to believe in something larger than life, as our mythologies bear witness.  What if there was proof of these creatures?  What if they really did exist and perhaps still do?

 

The Paiute Indians, an American Indian tribe from the regions between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains also had folklore of such a character.  Their legends tell of a tribe of red-haired giants called Sai’i.  After one such giant gave birth to a disfigured child who was shunned by the tribe, The Paiute believed the Great Spirit of All made their land and living conditions barren and desolate as punishment.  Enemies were then able to conquer the tribe and kill all but two – Paiute and his wife and their skin turned brown from living in such harsh conditions. 

 

In 1911 miners working Nevada’s Lovelock Cave discussed not the guano or bat droppings for which they were searching but bones they claimed were from giants.  Nearby reddish hair was found and many believed the remains were those of the Sai’i or Si-Te-Cah as they were also called.  However, some like Adrienne Mayor in her book “Legends of the First Americans” believe these bones and others found nearby are simply untrained eyes not realizing what they are seeing.   A tall man could have bones that would seem large and hair pigment is not stable and often changes color based upon the conditions in which it is found.  Even black hair can turn reddish or orange given the right mineral composition in the soil in which it is found.

 

What the mythologies of the world tell us is that mankind needs to believe in something. In ‘The Magic of Thinking Big”, David Schwartz writes:  “Believe it can be done. When you believe something can be done, really believe, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to solution.”   

 

Maybe you believe in the yeti or Sasquatch and maybe you believe in the disproof of them.  We create giants in our own minds every day – those problems that seem insurmountable or the dreams that seem impossible.  The only Bigfoot that matters is that one foot that takes a big step towards progress, towards peace, a step taken with hope.  The dawn of a new day requires us to take a step forward.  If we believe in ourselves, that step will have purpose and accomplishment.  The longest journey really does begin with a single step.

 

In the past week, the United States has seen great tragedy.  The monster currently at foot is the monster of fear derived from a created hatred.  Words spoken without thorough thought as to how they could be perceived and the aftermath of these words having been heard and misinterpreted are in part responsible for creating such hatred.  We have created a bogeyman, a monster that exists not in fact but as a result of our own insecurities.  The ego might want quantity of followers but the world needs us to be sincere and in communion with each other.

 

The best thing to believe in is you.  Let yourself be your creature to believe in today.  Walk away from fear and into your bright future, a future in which you believe you can do anything.  The reality is you can do whatever you set your mind to doing.  Turn your fears into lessons and steps toward success.  Believe in yourself.  You are amazing!  The world is waiting for us to create a better tomorrow.

Women, Life and Beliefs

Life and Beliefs

Lent 28

 

Religious freedom is not just something discussed and guaranteed in the United States Constitution, although said document was one of the first to include it in a government’s laws and stated human rights.  It has been the goal of mankind since beliefs became diverse and openly discussed.  Clearly the first deliverance of the Jewish people from the bondage in Egypt was not a cure-all.  In the mid twentieth century Adolf Hitler sought to not only enslave them but to eradicate them, even though he himself was of Jewish descent.   “We were redeemed from Egypt because of the righteousness of the women of that generation.”  This sentence is found in the Talmud, the Jewish holy book.   

 

Today many people are seeking freedoms, both for religious purposes but also for just basic living.  Sarah Aaronsohn was born at the end of the nineteenth century and spent her life trying to obtain freedom for Palestine from Turkish rule.  She was tortured for her efforts but remained strong and determined, faithful to her religion.  Lina Abarbanell was an opera singer of high acclaim.  She retired from singing but not from the stage and became a worldwide director of such wonderful operas as “Porgy and Bess”.  Born in Germany immediately after the end of World War I, Rosalie Silberman Abella took her experience as a refugee and used it as motivation to help others.  She became the first Jewish woman elected to the Supreme Court of Canada.  Ruth Abrams became the first woman to serve on the Massachusetts Supreme Court, championing both women and minorities through her legal career.  Ruth Ginsberg is a vigilant and powerful presence in the United States Supreme Court today.

 

Lithuanian Dina Abramowicz was a Holocaust survivor from World War Ii.  While many hold that librarians are quiet, dull people, usually female, Dina proved them wrong.  As the head librarian of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, she helped recreate the rich heritage of the Jewish culture and people after WWII.  Bella Abzug was a New Yorker who also proved the strength of the Jewish woman.  Throughout her three terms as a U.S. Congresswoman, she advocated for and helped pass ground-breaking legislation for equal rights and particularly the right of women to play intramural sports in schools.

 

More recently Jill Abramson was the first female executive editor of the New York Times and promoted women within the organization as well as featuring stories regarding gender equality and racial injustice.  Rachel Adler sought to achieve gender equality within her own faith and was a pioneer of the Jewish feminist movement.  Born fifty years earlier, Paula Ackerman had taken over leadership of her rabbi husband’s congregation upon his death, a move that was met with support from the members of their synagogue.   Amy Alcott is a fantastic golfer who was recognized in the World Golf Hall of Fame.  Sue Alexander is a founding member of the International Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. 

 

The Beatitudes offer us a reason to continue to believe, in spite of what life throws at us.  They also have, for many, provided a foundation for which to live.  With no mission board to support or guide her and less than ten dollars in her pocket, Gladys Aylward left her home in England to answer God’s call to take the message of the gospel to China.  Amy Carmichael is an Irish missionary who spent fifty-three years in South India without a break.  Both women believed that their Creator would provide for their needs.

 

Dr. Helen Roseveare graduated in medicine from University of Cambridge in the late 1940′s. A well-known missionary doctor and author, with several of her works still in print, she worked in the north-eastern province of the Belgian Congo with the Heart of Africa Mission in the 1950′s & 60′s.  Art critic John Ruskin enthusiastically proclaimed her potential as one of the best artists of the nineteenth century, but Lilias Trotter’s devotion to Christ compelled her to surrender her life of art, privilege, and leisure. Leaving the home of her wealthy parents for a humble dwelling in Algeria, Lilias defied stereotypes and taboos that should have deterred any European woman from ministering in a Muslim country. Yet she stayed for nearly forty years, befriending Algerian Muslims with her appreciation for literature and art and winning them to Christ through her life of love.

 

Khadīja Khuwaylid Even was an important figure in her own right even before her famous marriage to the Prophet Muhammad, since she was a successful merchant and one of the elite figures of Mecca. She played a central role in supporting and propagating the new faith of Islam and has the distinction of being the first Muslim. 

 

One of the most important mystics (or Sufis) in the Muslim tradition, Rābi‘a al-‘Adawīyya spent much of her early life as a slave in southern Iraq before attaining her freedom. She is considered to be one the founders of the Sufi school of “Divine Love,” which emphasizes the loving of God for His own sake, rather than out of fear of punishment or desire for reward. She lays this out in one of her poems:

“O God! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell,

and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.

But if I worship You for Your Own sake,

grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.”

 

March is Women’s History Month so today I have dedicated this post to women of great faith.  Throughout history women have lived and fought for their religious beliefs and freedoms, finding strength in the cause and effects echoed in the Beatitudes.  These named represent a small minority of the thousands of thousands of brave and spiritual women who have lived according to their beliefs.  The list just goes on and on as these women have found purpose and strength from their faith.  After all, why do we believe if it is not to help us live better and leave the world a better place?

 

 

 

 

 

Embrace and Tolerate

Embrace and Tolerate

Epiphany 23

 

Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?” He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”  He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”  “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”  Looking for a loophole, the scholar asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”

 

The above paragraph was in a post I received on Facebook from a young man of strength and character.  This paragraph has become the topic of the world news because of recent events occurring in the United States.  The man elected in part with the support of conservative religious groups seems to have forgotten this part of faith – all faiths.

 

In times where terrorism seems to occur several times a day in some part of the world and several times a year in others, fear is an understandable reaction.  Fear responses are our body’s defense system.  It serves as a reminder to act – not to hate.  We take cover during a storm because our body fears the consequences.  We use medicines productively to combat illness because our body is telling us something needs attention.  When used appropriately, fear can serve great purpose.

 

To hate one’s neighbor, though, is not productive and none of the world’s top religions encourage it although they all speak of it.  “Looking for a loophole, the scholar asked, “And just how would you define your ‘neighbor’?”  In other words, who do we embrace, loving them as ourselves?

 

We all have had neighbors with whom we were not friendly.  It is inevitable that at some point in time our neighbors will not share our interests or respect for boundaries, play loud music, push their leaves onto our yard, etc.  In some settlements, the neighbors have guns aimed at the houses.  How on earth are we supposed to embrace these people?  Surely they are not our true neighbors.  Or are they?

 

“Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side…”.   This quote is from the Quran, 4:36.  Islam speaks highly of the one who not only sees their neighbor and embraces them but also tolerates them and treats them with respect.

 

“The Scale of Wisdom” is a collection of sayings of the Prophet Mohammed and the Twelve Imams compiled by M. Muhammadi Rayshahri.  “It is to help him if he asks your help, to lend him if he asks to borrow from you, to satisfy his needs if he becomes poor, to console him if he is visited by an affliction, to congratulate him if is met with good fortune, to visit him if he becomes ill, to attend his funeral if he dies, not to make your house higher than his without his consent lest you deny him the breeze, to offer him fruit when you buy some or to take it to your home secretly if you do not do that, nor to send out your children with it so as not to upset his children, nor to bother him by the tempting smell of your food unless you send him some.”

 

What does the Torah say about loving one’s neighbor?  “Do not take revenge and do not bear a grudge. Love your neighbor as yourself. I am God.”   This passage from Leviticus 19:18 is important as is the Jewish definition of love.  Judaism defines love as “the emotional pleasure of identifying virtues in another person.”   It is not seen as an act of fate nor a physical pleasure but a deliberate embracing of another and a purposeful identification of their existence.

 

The third of the world’s largest religion is Christianity, the third of the Abrahamic faiths.  Scripture for this topic is found in many places in the Christian Bible but it appears first in the New Testament in the Gospel of Matthew, in the twenty-second chapter.  To the question at the end of our first paragraph, the man known as Jesus of Nazareth gave this answer earlier in this book.  Matthew 5:43 states: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. 

 

 Later in that same book, Matthew 22:36 we find this:  “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.   And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  We are to embrace all and tolerate them.  In Islam this is illustrated by not having your house higher than your neighbors so as to prevent him from the breeze.  In Judaism, it is to recognize that we are all different but those differences have value.  In Christianity it is to allow that your enemy is still your brother and sister as children of the Creator and should be treated as you would wish to be treated.

 

Who is the neighbor you are to embrace and tolerate?  The person who is standing beside you, the person standing halfway around the world, the person who looks nothing like you or whose speech is unfamiliar because they exist and are, therefore, your neighbor.  We should embrace and tolerate.  To do anything else is to live a lie and hasten the end.  This is not political or even religious.  It is simply good common sense.

 

 

 

 

Age and Renewal

Age and Renewal

Christmas 3

 

This blog is published daily or at least publishes a blog for each day, today being the 1030th blog post.  The different series are divided into sections based loosely on the liturgical calendar of those religions with an historic episcopate.  This blog is not religious in nature though.  The spirituality of the world is also included and recently someone asked me why.  Why do I not just publish from my own perspective?  Why include other religions and discuss various spiritualities?

 

The purpose of this blog was to have an outlet for discussion, discussions which, I hoped, would expand my own thinking and possibly that of others.  Hence, the title of this blog is “n2myhead” or… “into my head”.  As we approach the end of 2016, I found it fitting to have been asked this question because life really is about age and maturity and renewal, the very things we often reflect upon at this time of the year.  Age and renewal is also the history of the world’s religions and spiritualities and is the timeline for the cultures of humanity.

 

Today is the third day of Christmas, the second day of Kwanzaa, and tonight will be the fourth night of Hanukkah.  It might seem that a Christian holiday, a cultural commemoration of African heritage, and a Jewish celebration of a miracle have little in common, just as viewing the parade of representative in their native garb at the United Nations seems like a party rather than history.  Those perspectives, however, belie the truth and the connections all have.  They deny the connections we ourselves have.

 

Hinduism is considered the world’s oldest religion, followed by Judaism and Zoroastrianism.  There were no You Tube videos of the first worship services or spiritual practices but it is believed that the beginnings of Hinduism trace back to India’s pre-Vedic times, somewhere around 2000 BCE.  Called the oldest of the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism traces its beginnings to the time of Abraham or 1800 BCE.  Zoroastrianism is a bit more difficult to track but it is estimated to have begun in Persian from either the eighteenth century BCE to somewhere around the six century BCE.  Jainism, Buddhism, and Confucianism also began around the sixth century BCE and the text of Taoism has been attributed to Lao Tzu with a date also in this same religiously spiritual sixth century BCE.

 

Christianity is approximately two thousand years old with Islam coming six hundred years later.  Because it also is an Abrahamic faith along with Judaism and Christianity, some claim it had its beginnings with Abraham as do some Christian scholars.  The word “Islam” translates as “submission to the will of God” so it is understandable that since the Quran considers Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses as submitters, they might claim this earlier date.  As an organized religion, nonetheless, it came into existence with the prophet Mohammad in Arabia in the seventh century ACE. 

 

History is a nondenominational, non-spiritual recording of the history of the world and those in it and yet, even history did not escape the influence of spiritualties and religions.  The western of Georgian calendar used worldwide uses the Christian birth of Christ, the man known also as Jesus of Nazareth, as the axis point or divider for historical events.  Up until recently the terms “B.C.” and “A.D.” were used, referring to “Before Christ” and “Anno Domini” which is Latin for “in the year of the Lord”.  Now the terms are “BCE for “Before the Common Era” and “ACE” or “After the Common Era”.

 

Shinto is considered the indigenous or traditional religion of Japan and it came into being somewhere around the eighth century ACE.  The world’s youngest religion is Sikhism which was founded in India by Guru Nanak approximately in 1500 ACE.  These major religions are not the only ones practiced in the world, however.  Another religiously active century was the nineteenth century.  Baha’i  in Persia, the modern-day Iran. Christian Science in Boston, MA, USA,  and Mormonism in Western New York are made an appearance during the 1800’s. 

 

The twentieth century, known for its industrial revolutions and advancements in computer technology did not omit spirituality either.  Rastafarianism was found in Jamaica in the 1930’s; L. Ron Hubbard began his Church of Scientology in New Jersey, USA in 1953 and the Unification Church was founded in South Korea the following year.  Also during this time Great Britain saw a revival of ancient European indigenous paganism with traditions being unified under the heading of Wicca.

 

This timeline illustrates how we are connected not only with the use of a common sense of time but also by the aging and renewing of beliefs with different perspectives.  This time of year is the perfect time to emphasize those connections and take heed of the gifts we all have with them.  Each celebration serves a purpose and gives us an avenue to reconnect.  Just as we age and learn, growing into our own person, so does the world age and renew itself. 

 

Writer Deborah Day believes that “Renewal requires opening yourself up to new ways of thinking and feeling.”  I agree.  It is the very nature and purpose of this blog.  The Roman writer Ovid in his “Metamorphoses explains why this is important or should be important to us:   “As wave is driven by wave and each, pursued, pursues the wave ahead; so time flies on and follows, flies, and follows, always, forever and new. What was before is left behind; what never was is now; and every passing moment is renewed.”

 

During these eight days of Hanukah, these twelve days of Christmas, and six days of Kwanza, we are called to remember, revere, and renew.  It is the essence of life.  It is our purpose for living.  It is proper, then, that each includes the lighting of candles.  They serve to help light the path before us and to take us out of the darkness of the past.  “For within your flesh, deep within the center of your being, is the undaunted, waiting, longing, all-knowing. Is the ready, able, perfect. Within you, waiting its turn to emerge, piece by piece, with the dawn of every former test of trial and blackness, is the next unfolding, the great unfurling of wings, the re-forged backbone of a true Child of Light.” (Jennifer DeLucy)

Intention and Disconnect

Intention and Disconnect

Advent 15

 

One cannot approach the concept of grace either objectively or subjectively without including the religious community.  Indeed, many do not even attempt to define the concept of grace outside of a religious and theological construct.  I have asked you to consider it a form of living but today we will discuss it not as an inevitable part of one’s spirit of living but as it relates to organized religion and its followers.  Why?  Because often the religions of the world have become stumbling blocks to grace, especially when seen through a subjective lens which is our perspective in discussing grace this week. 

 

Beyond Intractability was developed and is still maintained by the University of Colorado Conflict Information Consortium. The missions of the Consortium and, more specifically, the Beyond Intractability project reflect the convergence of two long-standing streams of work. The first is an exploitation of the unique abilities of Web-based information systems to speed the flow of conflict-related information among those working in the field and the general public. The second is an investigation of strategies for more constructively addressing intractable conflict problems — those difficult situations which lie at the frontier of the field.

 

We will begin our discussion with a quote from the Beyond Intractability website:  “At the dawn of the twenty-first century, a casual glance at world affairs would suggest that religion is at the core of much of the strife around the globe.  Often, religion is a contentious issue. Where eternal salvation is at stake, compromise can be difficult at or even sinful. Religion is also important because, as a central part of many individuals’ identity, any threat to one’s beliefs is a threat to one’s very being. This is a primary motivation for ethno-religious nationalists.  … However, the relationship between religion and conflict is, in fact, a complex one. Religiously-motivated peace builders have played important roles in addressing many conflicts around the world.

 

“Although not necessarily so, there are some aspects of religion that make it susceptible to being a latent source of conflict. All religions have their accepted dogma, or articles of belief, that followers must accept without question. This can lead to inflexibility and intolerance in the face of other beliefs. After all, if it is the word of God, how can one compromise it? At the same time, scripture and dogma are often vague and open to interpretation. Therefore, conflict can arise over whose interpretation is the correct one, a conflict that ultimately cannot be solved because there is no arbiter. The winner generally is the interpretation that attracts the most followers. However, those followers must also be motivated to action. Although, almost invariably, the majority of any faith hold moderate views, they are often more complacent, whereas extremists are motivated to bring their interpretation of God’s will to fruition.  Religious extremists can contribute to conflict escalation. They see radical measures as necessary to fulfilling God’s wishes. Fundamentalists of any religion tend to take a Manichean view of the world. If the world is a struggle between good and evil, it is hard to justify compromising with the devil. Any sign of moderation can be decried as selling out, more importantly, of abandoning God’s will.”

 

Manichean may be a word unfamiliar to you but its meaning is how many people view the world and try to live their lives.  Manichean comes from the word Mani, which is the name of an apostle who lived in Mesopotamia in the time frame of 240 ACE, who taught a universal religion based on what we now call dualism. If you believe in the Manichean idea of dualism, you tend to look at things as having two sides that are opposed. To Manicheans, life can be divided neatly between good or evil, light or dark, or love and hate.

 

In other words, in an attempt to live their doctrines of peace and love, people tend to think with a narrow field and view the world as either black or white.  Human beings are complex creatures and no one is one-dimensional.  In other words, no one person is all anything.  In our intention to live a doctrine of love and peace, we allow our subjective narrowness to trip us up.

 

To be certain, some things are either right or wrong.  You cannot murder someone halfway.  A person is either killed or alive.  However, the quality of life then comes into question and such is often what leads people to commit suicide.  Rather than offer grace, their expectations, based upon their belief system, suffocates any grace they might find.

 

So should we assume religion is the problem and not the answer?  Absolutely not!  Religions tend to connect us and remind us of that which we are deep inside.  They are, I believe, most necessary to life.  Religions offer us ways to show, recognize, and live grace.  Life is hard but grace makes it not only possible but worthwhile. 

 

Quoting David Smock, the Beyond Intractability website offers one solution to consider in finding grace amid all this conflict and discord.  “Religion is inherently conflictual, but this is not necessarily so. Therefore, in part, the solution is to promote a heightened awareness of the positive peace building and reconciliatory role religion has played in many conflict situations. More generally, fighting ignorance can go a long way. Interfaith dialogue would be beneficial at all levels of religious hierarchies and across all segments of religious communities. Where silence and misunderstanding are all too common, learning about other religions would be a powerful step forward. Being educated about other religions does not mean conversion but may facilitate understanding and respect for other faiths.”

 

We all have intentions and the faith-based communities of the world are no different.  However, when need to give closer attention to our efforts and revitalize them every day.  Grace might very well be the key to world peace and it certainly makes each of our lives better.  Rather than being the problem, grace is the answer.

 

 

 

 

A New Idea

A New Idea

Pentecost 137

 

I received a complaint over my last post.  The thought in dispute was not the actual post but the fact that I discussed both the Jewish and Islamic New year celebrations in the same post.  Apparently one reader, whom I shall not name because I firmly believe in their right to remain anonymous, did not believe the two holidays should be discussed together.

 

New Year celebrations are as old as mankind.  The Jewish calendar begins with the Feast of Trumpets or Rosh Hashanah which started last night at sundown.  Today the Islamic New Year celebration period of Muharram began and will continue for ten days, ending with a celebration for Moses escaping the Egyptians.  The Christian liturgical calendar celebrates the beginning of their calendar year with the First Sunday in Advent which this year falls on November 27, 2016.  The secular calendars of course celebrate New Year’s Day on the first day of the year, January 1st.  Each celebration, though, is really about giving thanks and living hope.  We all share that in common and so, I included the first two celebrations together.

 

What if we never celebrated different things together?  What if we never thought about new ideas?  What if we never grew in knowledge or understanding?  What if there were no new ideas?

 

Letting yourself have a new idea or be open to diversity is not just a sign of modern times.  Mankind has been doing it forever.  Otherwise, we would all still be living in caves without plumbing or technology.  You would be reading once I had carved it in stone on the wall of some cave.

 

It is natural to fear the unknown but we cannot let the unknown stop us from growing.  We must be open to new ideas, even it is means discussing two schools of faith that are seemingly at opposite ends of the spectrum.  Belief in something and a passionat4e love of that belief is shared by all who believe in something.  We cannot restrict that which we share because then we deny who we are – human beings.

 

Celebrate these two New year celebrations in your own way, positively and with hope.  Then in eight weeks, celebrate again.  Life is to celebrated, not destroyed or feared.  New ideas take us down paths of success and perhaps together we will create a better tomorrow, a brighter new year for all.