Category Archives: culture

Evangelical Christianity–We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us!!!

Evangelical Christianity is its own worst enemy.  Feeling their faith is being threatened, they have hitched their wagon to a man who can even be thought of as an “anti-christ” of sorts as he is the opposite of anything that Jesus taught.  These Christians feeling of socio-economic powerlessness has pushed them into seeking political power and they found a spokesman in Donald J. Trump.  But faith, certainly including the Christian faith, is not something that can be threatened if its focal point is the personal dimension of spirituality, not the ideological.  This phenomenon of the Christian teachings is termed the “Personhood” of Christ which, if kept from being itself merely another cold, sterile idea, can lead to an internal, “personal” experience not dependent upon ideology and dogma.  Obsession with ideology and dogma keeps any experience of anything from taking place.

But the ego, termed “the flesh” by the Apostle Paul, is always ready to co-opt our spiritual impulses and accomplishes this purpose by turning the teachings of any spiritual teacher into dogma.  When the dogmatic emphasis predominates, everything about the spirituality is kept in the mind and “worship” consists of some version of a repetition compulsion with words and ritual, usually including guilt-ridden do-goodism.  When this spiritual edifice is threatened the ego instructs the individual, and the group, to merely rely more feverishly on this repetition compulsion.  This addictive behavior is desperate as with all addictions the point is to keep one away from recognizing one’s inner emptiness which, according to the teachings of Jesus, is where “fullness” is found.

God does not reside in ideas or “Christian” behavior though both are necessary components of spirituality if they are seen merely as a means to an end and not an end in themselves.  The ego’s domain of ritual and ideas is the Pauline “letter of the law” and the Apostle emphatically declared that the “letter of the law killeth.”  And when this situation predominates in a culture, it is the seed-bed of atheism as many times, quite ironically, it is only the atheists that see through the Christian charade.

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Here is a list of my blogs.  I invite you to check out the other two sometime.

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

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Our Denial System Challenged by Lao Tzu and David Whyte

Thirty spokes are made one by holes in a hub,
By vacancies joining them for a wheel’s use;
The use of clay in moulding pitchers
Comes from the hollow of its absence;
Doors, windows, in a house,
Are used for their emptiness:
Thus we are helped by what is not
To use what is.

I want to write again about this little ditty, written in the 6th century B.C. by Lao Tzu that “moved in like a bitch” (to use a Trumpism) on my soul and has mesmerized me ever since. I was in my thirties and know that I must have been bewildered by this verse as it totally had no place the very literal mind of mine that predominated back in my innocence. Increasingly I have “grokked” this wisdom the past decade realizing the importance of recognizing that there is an “absent” dimension of life which is very present even in its “absence.” Actually, it is the only thing that “is,” but then it “is” not nor “is” it a thing. If you understand this, then “Bless you” and if you don’t, I encourage you to flash the sign of the cross to your computer screen and run away screaming! For understanding this will cost you everything you have and even deny you the ego-satisfaction of thinking you are any better off than those who do not get it.
It is so daunting to realize that one has spent his life denying reality, has lived his life in a trance designed to keep himself out of touch with himself, with the world, and with God. In some way I know this is the “hell” that I used to preach against though I now realize the “hell” I saw threatening others had already gnawed deeply into my own soul. The denial system that we acquire with birth and upbringing is very important, but it is so very important that at some point we find the grace and humility to own our dishonesty with ourselves, with others, and with God. And this is really no big deal as it merely means we have a chance to accept our human-ness, a dimension of which is our mortality, which civilization, composed of comforting “fig-leaves” is designed to hide. Poet David Whyte wrote in “Consolations,” that we are in denial of the grace that lies just beyond the horizon of our view of the world, described by Conrad Aiken as, “the small bright circle of consciousness.” And Whyte avowed that to be in denial is to find oneself with a lot of company, noting then that “denial is the crossroads between perception and readiness, to deny denial is to invite powers into our lives we have not yet readied ourselves to meet.”

Here is a list of my blogs. I invite you to check out the other two sometime.
https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/
https://literarylew.wordpress.com/
https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

The Dark “Divinity” of Donald Trump

Axios reported this morning that the Trump administration is now arguing that the President cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice because the constitution declares he is the chief law enforcement officer of the land.  Early in the Trumpian onslaught against our country last year, I began to liken him unto a god of sorts, a “dark” god who had a chthonic grip on a significant portion of the American population.  This was best illustrated in his brazen declaration that he could shoot someone in the streets of Manhattan and not lose support. Trump and his handlers are very astute in grasping when he pushes the limits and immediately huddle together and discuss, “Now, how do we justify this?”  Simple denial has worked faithfully for him as the base of his party believes everything he says and the rest of the party marches lamely in tow as they too have succumbed to the intoxicating siren song of power.  The Republican Party has created a monster which many of them realize they cannot control but they cannot admit this because, like Trump, they cannot admit having made a mistake.

But this phenomenon is an expression of not just the Republican Party but of the American psyche.  If we find the humility we will have to acknowledge that our nation has been, as the prophet Daniel put it, “weighed in the balances and found wanting.”  Our inherent arrogance and smugness is now egregiously apparent for all to see and many can respond only with a lame, “Oh, that is not true.  That is fake news.”  One historical example is in the Manifest Destiny theme in American history when we were consumed with the belief that God had brought us to this new world, had created us as a nation, and then given us the “manifest” task of carrying our “truth, justice, and the American way” westward to the Pacific Ocean.  This “divine” mandate meant that the Native Americans were merely an obstacle and could be slaughtered in the interest of our goal being accomplished.  “God is leading us,” we said, and how can one argue with God?

The attitude that was present then, and did bring these United States to the world stage, is now having the dark, daemonic dimension of that Manifest Destiny impulse exposed.  Our task now is having the humility to let “self-awareness” dawn upon us, “self-awareness” being merely the light of day which any tribe always resists experiencing.  This cultural blindness is not exclusive to our tribe by any means.  It is present with all individuals and all cultures but now we are in the position where we could humbly acknowledge this human frailty and grow from the experience.  But, as Auden told us, “When truth met him, and held out her hand, we clung in panic to our tall belief and shrank away like an ill-treated child.” And it is very interesting to note that significant numbers of Christians in our country…especially evangelicals…adamantly remain ensconced in their arrogance as they too, just like Trump, cannot admit that they made a mistake.

(The following is a link to the Axios article— https://www.axios.com/exclusive-trump-lawyer-claims-the-president-cannot-obstruct-justice-2514742663.html)

Alabama: Politics and Moral Rectitude

Alabama’s Governor Kay Ivey has demonstrated the mind set of many conservative Republicans in announcing her support of controversial Senate candidate Roy Moore.  Though she “has no reason to doubt” the numerous women who report his inappropriate sexual advances on them, some in their youth, she declares that she will put her Republican Party loyalty first.

I do not think she lacks in intelligence nor moral rectitude.  She is like most of us she is a rational human being and she puts her faith in her rational ability more than any other dimension of her experience.  One could even say that she has no experience that is not over-ridden by rationality and therein lies the problem…in my estimation!  For, we are not rational beings in the depths of our heart, which is to say, in our unconscious depths, which is why we are so susceptible to the prevailing winds in our culture and ripe for manipulation by political and religious leaders. This is because most political and religious leaders have their positions because of their ability to be in tune with the “prevailing winds” of their milieu and to have climbed to a position of influence.

This Alabama morass illustrates the profound political and socio-cultural impasse in my country and each side tends to demonize the other.  Speaking as a Progressive, yes, I think there are “deplorables” amongst the Conservatives as Hillary Clinton alleged last year but they are a real minority and I happen to know there are extremist “nut-jobs” among my ranks.  But there are many Conservatives whose rational thinking is of the Kay Ivey variety and though I passionately disagree, and feel there are moral and spiritual issues that need to be addressed, that does not mean she is stupid or is a bad human being.  And there are “moral and spiritual issues that need to be addressed” by the whole of this country, starting with yours truly!

Biblical Literalism and Human Culture

Biblical literalism is very much related to what I see as a cultural literalism in my country.  Many conservative people, especially in Alabama at present moment, are seeing their world in such literal terms that they are oblivious to the long-term consequences of what they are doing.  Just as they approach Holy Writ only on the surface level, so they approach their daily life and the life of their community and nation only on a surface level.  They do not grasp the nuances of life and therefore the nuanced dimensions of life, unbeknownst to them, are grasping them firmly.  One might say their individual, as well as the collective unconscious exerts inordinate influence on them.

Our need to conceptualize our experience with God parallels are experience of having been conceptualized ourselves.  We first lived as an awareness, an amorphous Presence ready to soak up this substantial world and thus form an ego identity.  This state of “awareness” was what the Buddhists call the “world of 10,000 things” which is a metaphor for “a world of everything,” of undifferentiated wholeness.  The Biblical fall is the experience of being reduced to the conceptual…a thing among other things…which then reduced our Creator Him/Herself to a concept, a thing.

Spiritual teachings of all stripe are intended to facilitate an escape from bondage to this “letter of the law.”  But gaining this freedom…or even tippy-toeing near its periphery…requires an awareness of the predicament which is a profoundly existential phenomenon.  This awareness is not cognitive, though cognition is involved…somewhat…and is greatly influenced by the experience.  This experience takes place deep in the heart, in the unconscious, that, “foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.”

Understanding this phenomenon can be transformative.  One could even say it can be, “being born again.”  Grasping this dimension of life changes our relationship with our self, with others, and with our world.  We begin to see and understand ourselves as related to all “things”, to be part and parcel of this cosmos, even part of what some describe as, “the Cosmic Christ.”  But this experience is inherently threatening to the rugged individualism of our culture which instills within us the notion, “I am the captain of my ship, the master of my soul

Yes, we are individuals but our individuality has value only in the context of our unity with all things.  This experience of the Great Round often comes to us first as the feeling of an impending threat to our sense of being a separate and distinct individual.  This threat is that of impending doom, of fragmentation or dissolution of the ego, which is actually merely the ego having its tyranny loosened and learning to live in harmony with the body and the rest of the world.

A Doff of My Hat to Karl Marx!

I’m back, after a long hiatus.  The “Get a Life Gods” intervened and made me deal with reality for a bit but I’ve done penance and now am free to frivolously self-indulge with blogging again!  And what could be more frivolous than to “hold forth” about religion!

The escapism of religion becomes more apparent to me almost daily even as my faith deepens; and the “deepening” is taking place sincerely and with some semblance of intellectual and emotional integrity.  I hope!!!  It helps me to understand that Karl Marx was right, religion is the opiate of the masses and being part of the mass…as is the case with us all…I must take my daily hit, no?  I’m not being completely facetious here as I do believe there is an opiate dimension to faith and acknowledgement of this actually gives me comfort.  Failing to appreciate the “opiate dimension” of faith leaves one with the ego-pursuit of blind escapism in some neurotic or even psychotic desire to escape reality which I don’t think spiritual teachers like Jesus had in mind.  I think Jesus knew that, “The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,” and that we need moments when we indulge with the comfort of a platitude or banality.  If we have any humility remaining in our spirituality we can accept this.  But most of my experience with my Christian faith has not allowed any such humility and I don’t think it was only myself who has been, and is, plagued with this spiritual arrogance.

In spiritual culture…and spirituality is a culture in some sense…there is an emphasis on “getting it right” and “breaking on through to the other side” or even having “the real McCoy” compared with those spiritual plebeians who are wasting their time in the “shallow waters.”  But this attitude is the essence of the Pharisaism that Jesus took umbrage against.  If God blesses us with an occasional dollop of humility…or if our arrogance can abate a moment to receive it…we can meekly accept the grace of a simple platitude or banality and perhaps be less condemning of those who live there

An Alternative to Perfunctory Forgiveness

My foray into A Course in Miracles (Acim) the past year and a half has been very helpful in learning to view reality, including my faith, through a more critical prism.  One of the most important lessons has been about forgiveness which is more than the perfunctory “performance art” forgiveness that I have been accustomed to.  This “performance art” forgiveness is when you forgive someone who has offended you because that is the thing you are supposed to do.  You have learned that when someone has “been naughty” to you, it is your Christian duty to forgive them, especially if they ask you to.  But Acim teaches that forgiveness goes much deeper than social obligation into the depths of the heart where you recognize that in an important sense you and the offending party are one, that “there go I but by the Grace of God.”  You forgive because you realize that you are connected to that person, are “cut from the same bolt of cloth,” and are in some sense guilty of the same offense.

Performance art forgiveness is often a transaction of power.  You are the bastion of moral virtue and godliness and before you is the lowly miscreant seeking absolution.  The miscreant walks away comforted with your forgiveness and you walk away basking in the comfort of knowing that you have, once again, been noble and Christian.  Acim teachings put each party on a level playing field…and that is where the teachings of Jesus want us to be with others. His teachings were intended to be a great equalizer among humankind, not as a means to facilitate some of us being “noble” and others “not so much.”

But performance art forgiveness, and the whole of performance art faith, has its place in human affairs functioning kind of like a set of training wheels on a bicycle. And perfunctory forgiveness is better than none at all and, if given a little thought and humility, can lead to the understanding taught by the Course.

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Here is a list of my blogs.  I invite you to check out the other two sometime.

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/