Syria and Moral Duty

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“While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?’ When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, ‘Lord, should we strike with the sword?’ Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him.” Luke 22:47-51

This parable about Jesus, as told by Luke, could be classified (according to John Dominic Crossan) as a challenge parable denouncing violence as a means to an end. In the New Testament, whenever there is some form of miraculous healing, look beyond the action as there is almost always a teaching moment. In this story Jesus is quite emphatic in his response to violence saying “No more of this!” This is an authentic teaching from one who used non-violence as a means for change as well as pointing towards the path of salvation.

Now wait a minute, you may ask, I thought salvation was a personal matter; it’s between me and God. I would argue that salvation is a global matter with the outcome not in one person’s hands, or country for that matter, but a global issue embracing ramifications far beyond religious traditions known to humankind. Jesus’ striking command, “No more of this!” is universal, and a challenge for all humanity. Jesus’ statement held true for his followers including the people of Israel in the first century, and the Roman occupation of his region — one of the reasons he was killed.

“No more of this!” pretty much sums up much of what Jesus taught, but as with many teachings, the challenge has been turned upside down by moral justification and half truths in the name of a moral obligation.

In global power politics there is no morality. Countries can and will use power and might to gain an upper-hand in order to dominate other nations or its own people. An augment using morality as a precursor for violence is false. Small, medium and large scale violence or what is sometimes called atrocities rejects wisdom in favor of an idol named “force.” When a nation trusts in force it says that one way of killing is worse than others without taking into account that all forms of killing are unacceptable. When a nation trusts force it says that it would not get involved if nations use regular weapons to kill one another but draw a line in the sand when more drastic means are used. The reality is that true moral response taught should be “No more of this!”

Discovering Le Sacre du printemps: the formation of intellectual synergy

Arts & Entertainment, Current Events, Journey No Comments »

le sacreAt age 14, I was thumbing through recordings in my High School music teacher’s office when I came across a series of recordings meant to be used as part of a Music Appreciation class. One of the tracks I played was the famous section from The Rite of Spring where the strings perform a series of down bows with the brass accentuating syncopated rhythms. My entire body and soul connected with the drive of the music and I immediately had to find out the name of the work. Shortly after this encounter I went to the public library and checked out the recording of Stravinsky conducting The Rite of Spring. I had never in my life heard music with such power and raw energy. At the conclusion of the work, with musical accents falling on what seemed to be arbitrary beats, I was so startled that I thought the record was scratched and cleaned the needle. I played it over again soon discovering that this was not the byproduct of a dirty record player needle, but the way the music was interned to sound. Seemingly over night my taste in music changed. Led Zeplin and Iron Butterfly had met their match in the name of a Russian composer named Igor Stravinsky. Read More

Stations of the Cross: a cross made from newsprint

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Way of Cross

Many churches, during Holy Week, set aside time for people to pray the Stations of the Cross. This medieval practice began as a chapel devotion, created by St. Francis of Assisi and has continued to flourish in many variant forms most notable in Rome, and Jerusalem as the Via Dolorosa (Way of Grief).

It wouldn’t take much to notice that the focus of these gruesome images highlights one person’s suffering with the second main focal point placed upon the large wooden cross.

I can understand why many who have no religious background might look at the set of 14 images and wonder what this has to do with our lives today. People might look at the character of Christ depicted and note that Rome had fallen a long time ago, we no longer nail people to a cross, and we certainly don’t carry people into a stone tomb.

I sometimes wonder the spiritual reasons for participating in this yearly devotion. Is the focus centered around Christ’s suffering, and humiliation? Maybe the stations demonstrate the struggle between good against evil, darkness surrounding the light of God. Maybe it’s about sadness; grief over the fact that a healer and teacher was killed by his enemies? Maybe the stations are a good way to experience Easter morning; a vindication that the bad guys tried to kill the Son of God, and Jesus pulled a big sneaky switch rising from the dead to live again. Read More

Leadership here and there

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I began writing this entry the day before the United States celebrates “Thanksgiving Day”, a holiday in which we offer thanks for the many blessings in our lives. I am very thankful to be able to work daily at my vocation in an atmosphere of support and trust. I am thankful for my little half decorated apartment I share with my partner, it’s cozy, and welcoming. I am thankful for the ongoing support of friends and colleagues. I’m thankful for my national church which recognizes three unique and important areas of clerical leadership (Bishop, Priest and Deacon) as well as focusing on the greatest aspect of church ministry our bright, and amazing Laity.

This week news reached us that the Church of England refused to accept the reality that women can be chosen to be overseers of their national church, affirming that women clerics can be raised up to serve as bishops. At a slim level of thought, it makes me wonder if the Middle Ages are too present, refusing some to recognize the present is not the past.

It is good to remember that women were very, very important in the formation of the Messiah-Folk Movement, long before this body of people were given the title “church.” It is safe to assume that the vast formation of home communities throughout the Roman Empire would not have taken place without female leadership. In Roman culture, where men took care of business, politics and war, females had total control over the household, sometimes opening their estates to Messiah-Folk Gatherings, often supporting apostles with financial backing. Two names crop up in Paul’s letters referencing both Priscilla, and Junia as apostles and important players in the formation of what eventually became Christianity. Read More

National Coming Out Day Service, 2012

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It’s almost time to celebrate National Coming Out Day with a special service at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Long Beach. On the whole, especially in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, GLBTQ members of churches know they are cherished, and are recognized as full and equal members of the body of Christ. So, if that’s the case, why continue to put together a special service for people no longer suffer from institutional oppression?

When the institutional church is at its prophetic best, its people not only think of themselves, but its relationship with the rest of the world; the world within the circumference of a singular church,  and the rest of the population encircling the city in which it resides. The world outside the halls of a sacred space might present a need to spread words of comfort; a bright shining voice offering welcome to others who continue to hear that they are less than human, that their love for one another is less than natural, and that their spiritual well being is hampered by disgust. Read More

‘Til Divorce Do Us Part

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Recently, in the Yahoo’s “Shine” section, I came across an article entitled, “Facebook Billionaire’s Girlfriend Priscilla Chan Has Big Week Too (and Not Because of Mark’s Money.) The story goes on to congratulate Zuckerberg’s  long time girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, upon her graduation with a medical degree (with honors) from the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine. The feature also shows how she is responsible for the new Organ Donation program included in Facebook profiles. As expected, the story reference recent news of Facebook’s entry into the stock market with her boyfriend garnishing a 21 billion dollar profit.

Mention is made that two years ago there was rumor of the couple’s engagement, but this had not turned into a reality, suggesting that with the couple living together they have ” a new improved model for the so-called billionaire’s wife…make that partner. ” Read More

The Occupy Movement: Your Kingdom Come . . .

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Wall Street Jurnal Front Page "Occupy Movement"

Latin American theologian Leonardo Boff once said that the Holy Spirit always works in groups. His statement, I believe, is true, and is evident within the Occupy Movements springing up in cities across the  United States and the world.

If there is a mantra to the movement, it seems to be centered around the concept that 1 percent of people have the money to buy power and retain control over the remaining 99 percent of humanity.  As far as I can tell, no solutions have been expressed, and no demands have been made. It’s a movement without centralized leadership, but the message expressed is strong:  those who have, have too much and the powers that be are complacent, allowing one small fraction of humanity to flourish while the remaining 99 percent struggles.  If the reader thinks slavery is no longer viable, think again.  Slavery is flourishing under the name of consumerism entirely backed by corporations, and the banking industry.

The Occupy Movement is, on the whole, secular. I would venture to say that few involved could, if pressed, place a theological name on anything taking place.  The movement, however, has strong theological implications. One connection to be made can be found in The Lord’s Prayer:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your Name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. “

Aside from the patriarchal nature of the word “Father”, which was natural in the century in which the prayer was written, the sub-text of the word “Father” denotes a leader, the head of a household. Since God is holy, we are then reminded that we are not given the name for God as this Father is beyond our capacity to know in the fullness of being. It was believed knowing a person’s name gives up some of their power. God is hallowed (holy, set apart) so we are not given a chance to take from God any power. As the one who is hallowed, and head of the cosmic household we pray God’s will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. What then is God’s will? What is God’s kingdom?

A theme which permeates Biblical Literature is what John Dominic Crossan calls “distributive justice.” This is not justice as we know from judicial courts, but justice in the form of all people free of want, all given according to their need — not out of personal emotive gluttony, but enough to flourish. This is very much in tune with what the Occupy Movement. If this movement is truly an act of the Holy Spirit, then it must not ask for justice in the name of retribution, but a paradigm alteration exploring what it means to have “enough.” It is asking us to define, within God’s kingdom, the meaning of having enough. What is enough, and can we live within these boundaries. It is asking us to consider, or reconsider the meaning of success.

The Lord’s Prayer bids, “give us dating sider for tatoverede today our daily bread.” I highlight the word “today”, as it appears that some people, or corporate entities feel as though having daily bread means that it should be enough to last three life times, and should also include the bread of their neighbors, or for that matter, the bread of other countries as well. The famous prayer merely asks for enough bread for today building upon the trust that there will be enough daily bread for the next day as well.

At the present time it is not known if the wellspring Occupy Movement will last. I highly doubt it will become a political movement  and I don’t think it was intended to become an organized political entity. But, as a theological expression, the cries of the people are viable enough to push against the rampart of the one percent, displaying cracks in this fortress of gluttony.

Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.

Beyond the Symptom

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Like most, I am still pondering the tragic events which took place in Tucson this Saturday, and as a human being, and a person of faith, my deepest sympathy and prayers are with all who were killed, and those gravely injured by the actions of what can be described as unmitigated lunacy. My heart goes out to all who have been touched by this madness.

Over the next few weeks, and months to come, we shall read a magnitude of words of pointing fingers adding to further name calling. One side will point fingers at Conservatives as though they are a blight which must be removed, and there will be an other group blaming Liberals who are the true cause of all ills. The blame game will continue.

There are many causes which helped stir this weekend’s emotional stew, bringing the pot to a boil, and there will be some truth in each reasonable conclusion. Yes, words are important, and the rhetoric of hate can and will cause harm, and should have no place in a republic. This blog will state my own thoughts. Read More

A Vetran’s Untold Story

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My mother and father's engagement picture

As is with big events, I once asked my father where he was when he heard the news about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He told me that he was already in the Army, and was resting in the barracks. It seems prior to WWII, he had enlisted in the armed forces, and the day after seeing Gone with the Wind in 1939 embarked on a new life, and hopeful career which was, in fact, a way to move forward, away from an economy lacking in jobs, and opportunity.

As time wore on, my dad had moved up the chain of command, but seemed stuck; especially if he was going to remain in the Army as a career choice; he had reached the top rank of a non-commissioned officer. On or about 1943, he took a test, and qualified to enter Officer’s Candidate School (OCS) which was designed to provide the Army with enlisted men who possessed leadership skills, but were unable to attend West Point. OCS was an intensive training period of 90 days after which the candidate would graduate with a commission as First Lieutenant. Read More

Bishop Robinson: The New Frontier

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News broke this weekend regarding the impending retirement of The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, IX Bishop of New Hampshire, taking place in 2012.

Much of the news and blogsphere have quoted the bishop as someone who accepted, and bore the burden of being the first open, and authentic “Gay” bishop in the Episcopal Church, and the wider Anglican body. Others writing about the announcement focused on the pressures placed upon him, the death threats, and the burdens of his witness. Read More


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