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Words do “Wear Out” and Need to be “Re-vivified.”

Words wear out.  Infused with great meaning when they are first uttered, the significance/meaning diminishes with the passing of time as they become common coinage in the verbal soup that we live in, to the point that perfunctory usage depreciates language to mere social cache.  As T. S. Eliot put it, “Words slip, slide, decay with imprecision” as they are employed by our common tongue. They become the, “well-worn words and ready phrases,” according to Conrad Aiken, which have the primary function of blocking out the unpleasantness beneath the surface, a process he describes as, “having built comfortable walls against the wilderness.”

It becomes the responsibility of each generation to re-invigorate language by using words in terms of personal experience, not merely for the purpose of gaining and maintaining social approbation.  And when words are used in “personal terms” they can occasionally offer a fresh look at the meaning of words stripped of their perfunctory usage.  T. S. Eliot put it this way, “Last years words are for last year’s season and next years words await another voice.”

Carl Jung had important insight on the need of this re-vivication of language, especially regarding, “Eternal Truth,” that religions often purport to purvey:

The church’s, “truth may…call itself ‘eternal,’ but its temporal garment must pay tribute to the evanescence of all earthly things and should take account of psychic changes.  Eternal truth needs a human language that alters with the spirit of the times.  The primordial images undergo ceaseless transformation and yet remain ever the same, but only in a new form can they be understood anew.  Always they require a new interpretation, as each formulation becomes obsolete, they are not to lose their spellbinding power over that fuges Mercurius (i.e. Mercurius fuse) and allow that useful though dangerous enemy to escape.  What is that about ‘new wine in old bottles.’?  Where are the answers to the spiritual needs and troubles of a new epoch?  And where the knowledge to deal with the psychological problems raised by the development of modern consciousness?  Never before has eternal truth been faced with such a hybris of will and power?

And I close with a short Carl Sandburg poem, “Precious Moments”;

Bright vocabularies are transient as rainbows./Speech requires blood and air to make it./Before the word comes off the end of the tongue,/While diaphragms of flesh negotiate the word,/In the moment of doom when the word forms/It is born, alive, registering an imprint—Afterward it is a mummy, a dry fact, done and gone.

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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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“Specious Faith Has Its Good Side!!!

The speciousness of the Christian faith is being exposed in my country, particularly that of the Evangelicals; but, the hypocrisy is relevant to all Christians and all believers of any stripe.  The “luminaries” of the Evangelical Christians are conspicuously displaying this speciousness as they “dig in at the heels” in their support of Trump, not able to simply acknowledge, “Oops, I made a mistake!”  This is because the specious veneer of their faith does not permit erring, their faith’s ego dimension…present in all expressions of faith…not being permitted into their consciousness.

But “speciousness” in faith provides an heart-level “faith opportunity.”  Realizing that hypocrisy has been present in religiosity to some degree, at least, allows us one to simply acknowledge what the Apostle Paul called, “the flesh,” and swallow pride while recognizing, “Oops, I only ‘see through a glass darkly’ and was not aware of the extent of this ‘darkliness.’”  This is what Jesus recognized in the religious establishment of the day and really pissed them off when he called them, “hypocrites,” a word meaning that they were mere actors, merely practicing spiritual, “performance art.”

Humankind are merely mortals.  And being simply mortal, we can’t help but take ourselves too seriously, assuming that we are more noble than we actually are.  But occasionally the Cosmos, i.e. “God,” intervenes and “Trumps” us to show us just how shallow and insincere we are.  The resulting disillusionment is so painful that usually our ego will merely resort to “industrial strength” armament and we will “hunker down” and cling to our charade.

The hypocrisy I’ve addressed here with reference to the Christian tradition applies to all “belief systems,” especially those who are so sure they are not ensconced in any, “belief system.”  Atheism, for example, is but one of the many havens for that some escape to just to avoid the flimsy grasp we have on this precious gift called, life.  The alternative would be the intrinsically human experience of vulnerability.

Richard Rohr Prophecy, Part 3

Christians are usually sincere and well-intentioned people until you get to any issues of ego, control, power, money, pleasure, and security.  Then they tend to be like everyone else.  We often give only a bogus version of the gospel, a fast-food religion, without any deep transformation of the self; and the result has been the spiritual disaster of Christian countries that tend to be so consumer-oriented, proud, warlike, racist, class conscious, and addictive as everybody else and often even more so, I’m afraid.  (Richard Rohr, posted in “Mindful Christianity” on Facebook.)

Here Rohr alludes to addiction that often besets Christian countries, making people in these countries, “tend to be like everyone else.”  His teachings emphasize the addictive dimension of faith, a malady that leads him to encourage meditation as part of spiritual practice. He sees meditation as a means by which one can quieten that “monkey mind” that is often present in all spiritual practice, leaving one’s quest for spiritual depth to consist largely of a lot of thoughts bouncing around in one’s skull.  The core issue is addiction to thinking and even if “spirituality” characterizes one’s thinking it does not mean that this “rhapsody of words” (Shakespeare)  is anything but rhetoric disguised as spiritual truth

Rhetorical spiritual truth, i.e. “the letter of the law,” is upon closer scrutiny merely a means of avoiding the spiritual truth that is hidden in the literal grasp of the holy writ.  Meditation facilitates the opening of space between the rhetoric and the Essential, allowing that Essential dimension to begin seeping through into our consciousness and therefore into our day to day life.  It “quietens the mind” and allows that “still small voice of God” to filter through a lifetime of accumulated cognitive detritus. However, when one is addicted to his “cognitive detritus” and it happens to have the label “spiritual,” it is very challenging to understand and admit that it is merely detritus, an obsession with the superficial dimension of teachings without allowing experience of the Essential meaning.  This is the circumstance Jesus discovered in his life time with the religious establishment, leading him to say some rather “uncharitable” things to the Pharisees because he realized that they were so often merely, “straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel.”

Another dimension of this problem is addressed in the Eastern teaching, “the word is not the thing,” succinctly captured with the Buddhist observation, “The finger pointing to the moon is not the moon.”  Just because we use words like, “God” or “Holy Spirit” or “the Bible” etc. does not mean they have any real value other than that of the aforementioned detritus.  These words are mere “pointers” and their value is found when we allow them to lead us into the Essential dimension.  French philosopher Gabriel Marcel, a devoted Christian, recognized this when he noted, “Words have value when they ‘open up’ into a region beyond themselves.” When the word is but a thing, it is only an object and is not allowed to open up.  This closely parallels the dilemma of “letter of the law” believers who are unable to “open up” as they take even themselves literally, not recognizing that they are but an expression of a mysterious and ineffable presence.  Their bondage to the “letter of the law” reveals the bondage of their life, a bondage that spiritual teachings seek to free them from.  But for this truth to begin sinking through to them they would have to admit, “I have eyes to see, but see not; ears to hear, but hear not.”

Evangelist Disabuses Children about Santa Claus!!!

A Christian evangelist was at the North Pole yesterday, warning children waiting for a visit with Santa Claus that Santa was not real, doing so in the interest of telling the truth!  In a recent year he held an actual mock execution of a Santa.  He is also the head of a “Repent Amarillo” and “Repent Alaska” organizations. Now, this gentleman…ahem, “man”…is easy prey for my cynical and critical mind but I realize he is not the best representative of Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christians, most of which do not take their arrogance to his extreme.  I prefer to focus on the illusion that so many have that they “know” what “Truth” is and then have to convince others of this truth, revealing to every observant person, “Oh, this person really doesn’t have much confidence in this truth.”  Otherwise he would not be so exorcized about the issue that he has to convince others to agree with him.

A more pernicious expression of this “Trutherism” is now taking place in Alabama with the ultra-devout Roy Moore and in the whole of the country with the hyper-conservative Christians who offer their allegiance to Trump, even when his fraudulency is apparent to most of the world.  Trump’s “Evangelical Advisory Board” is a particular gripe of mine because these gentlemen…evangelical “luminaries”…stand by Trump because they have in their heart the “Truth” that the Lord has raised him up to lead this country, to “Make America Great Again.”  And if you believe something is true, and if your unacknowledged needs for power and glory are great enough, you can convince yourself that anything is true.  But the greater the deep-seated doubt of this, and the unrest in the heart that it creates, the greater and louder will be one’s affirmation of “the Truth.”

I myself believe in Truth.  But I see Truth as something spiritual, not intellectual, something so subtle that one can’t wrap his head around it, something that we never have but which we can increasingly realize that “it” has us.  Those that don’t have confidence in this Divine Ground can learn from Shakespeare who noted, “When love begins to sicken and decay/It useth an enforcèd ceremony./There are no tricks in plain and simple faith./But hollow men, like horses hot at hand,/Make gallant show and promise of their mettle.”

(Link to the story about the Santa-hating evangelist—https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/christian-evangelist-santa-alaska_us_5a263048e4b0f9f0203ecc54)

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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/

 

“They’re All a Bunch of Damn Hypocrites”!!!

Well, actually I exaggerate…kinda.  Technically I think that describes all of us as we are intrinsically complicated critters and beneath the surface of our lives can be found a myriad of unsavoury thoughts and impulses. But at times one of them bubbles to the surface and wreaks havoc on our lives and even those around us.

Just yesterday a young, vocally anti-gay legislator in Ohio, resigned after having an homo-sexual encounter in his office weeks earlier.  Yes, hypocrisy is on the table but that is not my concern as hypocrisy is common with most of us, especially in the sexual arena.  But in conservative Christian circles it is even more egregiously problematic and subject to severe disapproval.  Four years ago the pastor of a Florida mega-church, whose father was a spiritual mentor of Obama, committed suicide when it came out that he had been abusive of his wife and had been sexually involved with a woman on the staff of his church.  There is not a lot of forgiveness a mega-church context.  Oh, God offers it but he followers have a higher standard of moral excellence than He does.

I actually feel sorry for this young legislator who is now brought face-to-face with an inner haunt of his.  He might not even be gay…though apparently whispers of this issue go back years… but his hetero-sexuality is not as pure has he once thought.  And related to that and the whole gamut of human experience, nothing is as pure as we were taught and maturity requires learning to live with ambivalence and contradiction.  But conservative religion, being intrinsically linear, leaves no room for such vagaries.  And neither does conservative politics.

This issue reflects a threat to conservative expressions of the Christian faith more serious than the bogus annual “war on Christmas.”  This threat is internal, stemming from their historical focus on the surface of life and neglecting the depths of the heart where lies myriad, “beastly little treasures.”  But the treasures will always lay hidden, often beneath the surface of perfunctory Christian charitable behavior, until the beast is acknowledged as Carl Jung encouraged with his emphasis of the shadow in the human soul

Well, actually I exaggerate…kinda.  Technically I think that describes all of us as we are intrinsically complicated critters and beneath the surface of our lives can be found a myriad of unsavoury thoughts and impulses. But at times one of them bubbles to the surface and wreaks havoc on our lives and even those around us.

Just yesterday a young, vocally anti-gay legislator in Ohio, resigned after having an homo-sexual encounter in his office weeks earlier.  Yes, hypocrisy is on the table but that is not my concern as hypocrisy is common with most of us, especially in the sexual arena.  But in conservative Christian circles it is even more egregiously problematic and subject to severe disapproval.  Four years ago the pastor of a Florida mega-church, whose father was a spiritual mentor of Obama, committed suicide when it came out that he had been abusive of his wife and had been sexually involved with a woman on the staff of his church.  There is not a lot of forgiveness a mega-church context.  Oh, God offers it but he followers have a higher standard of moral excellence than He does.

I actually feel sorry for this young legislator who is now brought face-to-face with an inner haunt of his.  He might not even be gay…though apparently whispers of this issue go back years… but his hetero-sexuality is not as pure has he once thought.  And related to that and the whole gamut of human experience, nothing is as pure as we were taught and maturity requires learning to live with ambivalence and contradiction.  But conservative religion, being intrinsically linear, leaves no room for such vagaries.  And neither does conservative politics.

This issue reflects a threat to conservative expressions of the Christian faith more serious than the bogus annual “war on Christmas.”  This threat is internal, stemming from their historical focus on the surface of life and neglecting the depths of the heart where lies myriad, “beastly little treasures.”  But the treasures will always lay hidden, often beneath the surface of perfunctory Christian charitable behavior, until the beast is acknowledged as Carl Jung encouraged with his emphasis of the shadow in the human soul

The “Judgment of God” is More Personal Than Some Would Like to Believe.

An absent God, still very much disembodied in spite of what many Christians say, sits up in heaven wielding judgment on hapless mankind.  This is the attitude of former tele-evangelist Jim Bakker and the same mind-set of Rush Limbaugh with the present hurricane season.  Bakker, the former PTL host, long-since disgraced by financial improprieties, is now hawking the gospel and end-of-the-world survival food, noting again that God is judging we miscreants with these hurricanes.  Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh is blathering on his latest conspiracy theory, that Hurricane Harvey is implicated in a plot to increase sales of bottled water and batteries.  (For Jim Bakker story, see:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jim-bakker-hurricane-doomsday-food_us_59af847be4b0354e440d93dd)

Cause-effect is important as otherwise the world as we know it would not exist.  There would be no possibility of a structured whole that facilitates human culture.  But when the spiritual dimension of life is missing, or at least ossified in meaninglessness, the cause-effect view of the world is devoid of perspective. This is very much related to the time-space continuum about which I pontificate often. The time-space continuum, and its off-spring, cause-and-effect, is basically the nuts and bolts of “reality.”  And I am certainly not against reality but I’m very much a proponent of another dimension of reality, which I will call Reality, without which life will become meaningless.  This “Reality” is the domain of what some of us like to call “God” but unfortunately when the notion of God gets consumed by culture it too loses its value.  And I deliberately used the pronoun “it” for a deity that is confined to cultural conveniences, including language, is an “it.”

Let me put this phenomenon on personal terms.  It is easy for we Progressives to blame Trump and Trumpism for the ugliness that is abounding in my culture currently.  And, he certainly is a contributor to it.  But as Salman Rushie recently pointed out, Trump is only the symptom of the problem and when he takes his place in the dust bin of history the problem will still be with us.  For the problem is very much related to this notion of “Reality” that I proposed and the “god” intertwined in that dimension of human experience is not an absent, disembodied deity but one who lives in the very core of our being and, according to none other than Jesus, “is us” in a very critical fashion.  The problem is our intrinsic disavowal of that intrinsic dimension of our being, opting to focus on the external, one example being our hedonist consumerism. But as long as we continue to be externally oriented, given to blaming others…including God…we will not come to recognize and experience our own God-given human agency which would allow us to be better care-takers of this beautiful world we live in.  As Jesus told us, “The Kingdom is within.”  (Re Salman Rushie and Trump, see the following:  https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/sep/02/salman-rushdie-interview)

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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/

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/