Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The American Patriots Bible- My Thoughts From Borders....

I am at Border's again.  This  time typing as I read....
I am leafing through the American Patriots Bible. I wanted a first hand look without having to pay 39.99. Besides, I have a couple of hours "to kill" before it is time to pick up Beth from work. Borders is a great place to do just that. 

The first article that catches my attention is a 5 page section in the front of the Bible called The Seven Principles of the Judeo-Christian Ethic.  I want to talk about this later in the post...or perhaps in another post...but for now, I want to touch on another article that I found very moving.  It is on page 3.  The scripture verse is Genesis 1:1.

In the beginning, God created.....

It goes on to say:

Apollo 8, the first manned mission to circle the moon, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1968.  That evening, the three astronauts--Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders--did a live television broadcast during the ninth lunar orbit, in which they showed picture of the Earth and the moon seen from Apollo 8.  At the time, the broadcast was the most watched TV program event ever. 

About 6 weeks before launch, a NASA official had called Borman and said, " We figure more people will be listening to your voice than that of any man in history.  So we want you to say something appropriate."  Appropriately, the Apollo 8 team ended the broadcast taking turns reading from the Book of Genesis. 

William Anders began by saying,

"We are now approaching lunar sunrise and for all the people back on earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send to you. 

He then began to read Genesis 1:1.
Jim Lovell continued reading from the first chapter without commentary. 

Frank Borman finished the chapter...

And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. 

He concluded by saying:

"And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, and a Merry Christmas--and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth. 

I was alive when this was going on.  I was 12 years old but I really can't remember any of it.  I find this story so moving because of the perspective those three astronauts had looking out the windows of Apollo 8.  Even though it was merely a "microscopic" glimpse of the universe that God presides over, it was a bigger glimpse than I am ever going to see. And no, even if there is some kind of commercial space flight available for the general public before I die it is a view I will never see. You would never (and I do mean never) get me on any ship orbitting the Earth (other than, perhaps, at gunpoint) 

earth and moon



But those three astronauts were there...and they saw the Earth and the Moon from that perspective...as they read the Creation account on Christmas Eve.  Amazing.....




About those nine principles of Judeo-Christian ethics?  More on that tomorrow....

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Do No Harm...

Sometimes I don't get very far on my Internet voyages...at least not very far in the direction I originally intend to go.  Isn't there a saying that declares the joy is in the journey more than the arriving at the destination.? Anyone who has ever traveled with young kids might be apt to dispute that theory....but it seems to work for me in my travels around the internet.  Today, I clicked on a link on one of the message boards where I mainly lurk.  It took me to a blog called Travis Eneix-Adventures in Atma Vichara, Aikido, Writing and Fitness which was interesting in and of itself (although not the subject of this post) You might want to make a visit to read interesting blog posts like Conditioning: You’re Soaking In It and Tripping the Intertubes. Also check out the plethora of links to sites both mainstream (beliefnet.org) and eclectic (mojomonks1000cuts)

Following one of the links took me to the site that is the subject of this post.  Do No Harm.  Catchy title.  Don't doctors have to promise to do this?  Oh...and look how well that worked out in some cases.  But it begs the question...how do we know what actions/reactions actually promote the cause of doing no harm...and which actions "do more harm than good?"  Sometimes "which is which" is not as glaringly obvious as we think. 

Take the doctor, for instance. A good, kind, empathetic physician who really wants to "do no harm."  Through the eyes of a child, some of the medical procedures the doctor inflicts upon his patients would certainly seem to be harmful...when in fact, in the long run, they are beneficial.  Thinking here of inoculations, surgery, amputation of cancerous body parts, stitches....

And in our personal relationships, sometimes what seems to "do no harm" is actually enabling...co-dependency disguised as something more noble than it is.  What about with our kids? Lord knows I've had beaucoup trouble with one or more of my kids. I attempt to judge each infraction and less than ideal situation on a case by case basis...weighing the extenuating circumstances on the scales of justice.  Which do I choose, mercy or punishment?  Sometimes not really clear cut at all!! 

There is a comments section where guests (many of them bloggers) have posted their thoughts about the Do No Harm campaign. There are links to other sites and videos.  There is even information about free stuff.  Oh and they do not accept donations.  The following is posted in several areas of the website:

Please do not send money! We do not accept monetary donations! Please support the movement by doing no harm and if you can, please spread the “Do No Harm” message.

And so with this post, I guess I am spreading the message.....


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Interesting Website...Sites Unseen

I spent the day today running (as in baby you were born to run....) Emily started off the festivities with a 5 am departure for her mission trip to New Orleans. The I drove Beth to work and hung out in the vicinity ( the nearby library with free wifi...and the next best thing to a library...perhaps better because they serve coffee...the Border's book store.  It was actually enjoyable. No laundry calling my name to take it from the washer and put it into the dryer.  No dusty coffee table...no dishes in the sink.  I would rather not be the Muncy Valley Shuttle Service, but since I am sometimes, I am glad I can make use of the time. It is too far to drive there and back then there and back again four hours later. So I hang out.  The time usually goes pretty quickly.

At the library, I came across a few interesting websites on Sites Unseen...a collection of extensive (and eclectic) links to all things Christian.  Today I went to several of the sites listed in the section called Contemplative Revelation: Union with God in ChristThis section has 2 hundred or so links to websites whose focus is Christian mysticism and contemplative prayer....The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina...everything you can think of that has to do with mysticism.  There are links to sacred writings of the famous mystics...the Ekhart Society (as in Meister not Tolle).  One link is called Christ in Y'all.  Similar to a post I wrote a while back called Christ in All Y'all.  But anyway...check some of them out.  If you've never been to Sites Unseen...or if you haven't been there for all while...well Y'all stop by..... 

Friday, June 26, 2009

Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

Two years ago, Keith and I spent several months of our summer dealing with the "tree branch fiasco." In the course of a day's work, he found himself on a street with many low hanging limbs...and had no choice but to keep going until he was off the street. There were no side streets where he could turn...no way out but straight ahead to a street (where the height of the branches did NOT violate city ordinances)  So with branches scraping the top of the truck, sides of the truck, making all kinds of noise, he slowly made his way. Unbeknownst to him, he downed a branch..which fell on a car..in front of several witnesses...and all in the vicinity of the police station. He was nabbed..the truck scrutinized by 4 or 5 police officers..all of whom seemed to be intent on "getting the truck driver."  A few days later, the citation arrived in the mail.  Leaving the scene of an accident...an offense which would cost him his HAZMAT endorsements if found guilty...which would cost him his job.  He didn't know he'd caused an accident...was not irresponsible in not knowing (because of all the scraping of the branches...down the length of his tractor and 52 foot trailer) so he really was not guilty of leaving the scene of an "accident"  The Bloomsburg police really didn't give a crap about innocent or guilty. 

So we had to go through all kinds of expense and red tape to get the charge reduced.  The point of this little trip down memory lane?  From the lips of the lawyer we hired to help us....our justice system claims innocent until proven guilty but in reality it is just the opposite.  Guilty until proven innocent.  I came upon a striking example of this while clicking around on AOL.  An excerpt from the AOL article....

Troy Davis has been at death's door before. On Georgia's death row for nearly 18 years now for the murder of a police officer, the former sports coach has received several stays of execution -- including one last fall just an hour before he was scheduled to die. Now, despite the fact that there was no physical evidence linking him to Mark Allen MacPhail's death; despite the fact that seven of nine witnesses have recanted or contradicted their original testimony; and, despite the fact that the NAACP, former president Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, Nobel Laureate archbishop Desmond Tutu; conservative former Georgia congressman Bob Barr, and former FBI director William Sessions have all have called for a new trial, Davis may have finally run out of options.

A motion before the Supreme Court to reopen the case due to new evidence was to have been heard today, but chances that the justices will grant the necessary writ of Habeas Corpus aren't great. The high court has not granted a writ of Habeas Corpus since 1925. Should the Court deny the motion, the countdown to Davis' death begins again, and his execution date could be set within weeks.

Calling this case "the most compelling case of innocence in decades," NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous has waged a no-holds-barred media campaign to get the condemned man a new trial. Many of the witnesses now say they were pressured by police or prosecutors to finger Davis, and several have identified another witness, Sylvester "Redd" Coles, as the true culprit. Meanwhile, Davis has reportedly been a model prisoner.

Said Jealous in a recent essay:

I met with Troy a few weeks ago. I watched the eyes of the guards who are clearly touched by Troy's plight, the stony masks that guards are supposed to wear crack as Troy told his story. I met a woman in the parking lot who said her next door neighbor, a former guard, quit rather than have to oversee Troy's march to the death chamber.
I was moved talking with his sister, diagnosed with breast cancer and given months to live in 2001. I had a chance to hug her son – who I had met almost a decade ago as a NAACP youth member -who visits Troy once a week and looks to him as a mentor.
Source: The Grio

The NAACP, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, is urging Georgia governor Sonny Perdue to intervene. Larry Chisolm, the new African American district attorney for Savannah, also has the power to reopen the case. With the clock ticking, the NAACP is also calling on us to appeal to these men to spare Davis' life.

Will you help? It's as easy as visiting IAMTROY.com.

In the end, Keith agreed to plead guilty to a lesser (bullshit) charge...disorderly conduct.  It will stay on his record forever.  The stakes in our situation were a loss of income for a while...something we would have lived through and eventually recovered from (although at the time I was very concerned).  This guy is fighting for his life.  The stakes are so high.  Can you imagine the frustration of being innocent, yet facing execution? 

If there had only ever been ONE Troy Davis in the history of our penal system...one innocent man convicted and sentenced to death...that alone makes capital punishment unacceptable in my view.  A link in the AOL article shows other black men who were exonerated after years of imprisonment because of new DNA evidence. This begs the question....how many innocent men have not been exonerated and were actually executed for a crime they did not commit? 

Check out these other informative pages on Troy Davis...including pages with things you can do to help him win a new trial. 

An online petition at I Am Troy

Amnesty International Page on Troy's case...also with a petition

And another page with all kinds of information about his case and situation



Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More Than the Bucket?

The following post is kind of a stray post. I found it hiding out in the Drafts file on Windows Live Writer. I think it might have been the tail end of a series..written a couple of weeks ago. I am going to post it as is...and without trying to find the series it was originally meant to be a part of.....

In a lot of what we are reading and talking about on EU and SCT, the thought is that we are the containers for God. I think I’ve even said it myself here on this blog. Preston Eby sees it differently. In Part 2  Union by Fusion he says:

Furthermore, this mystery of union with God is entirely beyond our being containers of God. We have had the notion that we are containers of God, in the way a bucket is a container for water, and that God is a great container for us. But when we see God in us as that which fills a container there is still a separation from God. When you fill a bucket with water there is no mixture, no commingling, no union, no oneness between the bucket and the water. The two touch one another, there is a relationship and association, but no blending of substance. The water is still water and the bucket remains the same. Each is separate and distinct from the other. When we see ourselves as a container for God and God as a container for us we remain one element while God remains another element. There is no fusion. And, therefore, THERE IS NO NEW CREATION.

In fusion everything is so blended and compounded until each element loses its own identity and an entirely new thing comes forth. Something that neither element inherently possessed is brought into manifestation. How great is the majesty and the wonder of it! "Therefore," says the apostle, "if any man be IN CHRIST, he is a NEW CREATION: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (II Cor. 5:17). Oh, may God help my reader to see this and cease separating between himself and the Christ! God is making a New Creation. It is the Word again made flesh, it is God birthed again as man. It is the glory of the incarnation. It is the compounding of the divine elements of God Himself with the elements of the human personality that God may be formed into an expression as man. There is ONE SPIRIT. "He that is joined unto the Lord IS ONE SPIRIT." The one spirit is not just IN you – it IS you. The one spirit is not merely God in you – it is God and you joined in union.

So then, while our bodies do house the spirit of God…the purpose, the end result will be a new creation. A “hybrid” (my thanks to Ron Sigler from the Heart to Heart message board for that concept) Like Jesus, perhaps? Fully God and fully human? The New Creation Man? Sounds good to me…..

More to come....

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Quotes About War....

While I've been “researching” this “series” I came upon some quotes that I found striking.  Striking too because of the person who authored the quote. 

 Proverbs 3:31 (KJV)
Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.

That pretty much is self explanatory....when you think of it in terms of war.

Benjamin Franklin said "There never was a good war or a bad peace."

Colman McCarthy Warmaking doesn't stop warmaking. If it did, our problems would have stopped millennia ago.

What is that well known addage....if you keep doing what you've always done, you'll get what you've always had. Something like that.  Cindi's paraphrase. 

David Friedman The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations.

Dwight Eisenhower: Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.

Howard Thurman: During times of war, hatred becomes quite respectable, even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism.

General Douglas MacArthur: I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a method of settling international disputes.

Now this is a guy who, when he speaks of war, I really take note of what he says.....

In order for us human beings to commit ourselves personally to the inhumanity of war, we find it necessary first to dehumanize our opponents, which is in itself a violation of the beliefs of all religions. Once we characterize our adversaries as beyond the scope of God's mercy and grace, their lives lose all value. We deny personal responsibility when we plant landmines and, days or years later, a stranger to us — often a child – is crippled or killed. From a great distance, we launch bombs or missiles with almost total impunity, and never want to know the number or identity of the victims.
JIMMY CARTER, Nobel Lecture, Dec. 10, 200


There is also a large collection of anti war quotes on Anti War.com

Monday, June 22, 2009

More What Ifs?

I came across three articles that dealt with this”what would you do if?”" question.  In this post I am going to take a few quotes from each…and, of course, give you the links to read the articles in their entirety. 

The first article is entitled, What Would You Do If? By Joan Baez.  It is a question and answer session between Joan Baez and someone named Fred.  Fred comes up with all these increasingly unlikely scenarios which might incite her to violence.  The first question he asks….

Fred: OK. So you're a pacifist. What would you do if someone were, say, attacking your grandmother?

The next question kind of evolves from a series of questions into a what would you do if…in the following very unlikely to happen circumstances:

Joan: What would I do If I was in a truck with a friend driving very fast on a one-lane road approaching a dangerous impasse where a ten-month old girl is sitting in the middle of the road with a landslide on one side of her and a sheer drop-off on the other.

In the article she goes onto explain the very real havoc and damage and destruction that violence and war wreak in situations that are not hypothetical.

In Non violent Response To Assault , Gerard A. Vanderhaar discusses some very practical suggestions on how to prevent an attack..and how to react if one occurs.  He talks about four or five different circumstances, when, confronted by the possibility/probability of a violent encounter, would be victims do something very far out of the ordinary and stave off an attack.  The point being that criminals and violent perpetrators expect their victims to behave in a specific way.  When the victims do not oblige them and behave differently than they expect, it throws the perpetrator off balance. In several of the situations they simply walked away.

What Would You Do If Someone Attacked Your Family? by Greg Boyd kind of brings this all together for me.  Although he acknowledges that he doesn’t know for sure how he would react, he believes there is no getting around how a follower of Jesus SHOULD react.  Non violently. And he brings up a point I hadn’t really considered.  Duh. 

The situation is not necessarily as black and white as it seems.  We think the only choices are to react violently…or not but perhaps when we ponder these hypothetical situations, we are forgetting something.  Boyd hones in on that when he says:

Not only this, but this person’s day-by-day surrender to God would have cultivated a sensitivity to God’s Spirit that would enable him to discern God’s leading in the moment, something the “normal” kingdom-of-the-world person would be oblivious to. This Christ-like person might be divinely led to say something or do something that would disarm the attacker emotionally, spiritually, or even physically.

The peace that passes all understanding is not  doled out until it is needed, so too, perhaps, discernment on what to do in an attack is also not given until it is needed.  Why do we consider it so unlikely and farfetched that the spirit could and would tell us exactly how to disarm our attacker?  God knows the ins and outs of everyone’s heart.  He knows their fears, their weaknesses and their needs.  Boyd goes on to tell about a situation where a would be victim followed the leading of the spirit…..

For example, I heard of a case in which a godly woman was about to be sexually assaulted. Just as she was being pinned to the ground with a knife to her throat, she out of nowhere said to her attacker, “Your mother forgives you.” She had no conscious idea where the statement came from. What she didn’t know was that her attacker’s violent aggression toward women was rooted in a heinous thing he had done as a teenager to his now deceased mother. The statement shocked the man and quickly reduced him to a sobbing little boy.

The woman seized the opportunity to make an escape and call the police who quickly apprehended the man in the park where the attack took place. He was still there, sobbing. The man later credited the woman’s inspired statement with being instrumental in his eventual decision to turn his life over to Christ. The point is that, in any given situation, God may see possibilities for non-violent solutions we cannot see and a person who has learned to “live by the Spirit” is open to being led by God in these directions (Gal. 5:16, 18).

I have a few more posts I want to write on this topic, including another one (or two) about the American Patriots Bible.  Stay tuned.  If you are interested in reading more about active non violence…

There are two “courses” on peace…put on the internet by the San Antonio Peace Center.  One is an eight part course, the other a sixteen part course.  They both feature writings of well known and lesser known peace keepers.  Much food for thought. 

John Yoder was another prolific writer about peace. 

Preston Eby has an awe inspiring writing on non violence that I’ve posted here on this blog  in its entirety….

More tomorrow…

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Jack Bauer Theology….

Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Omar N. Bradley

Sometimes it seems as if we live in a world that has adopted a "Jack Bauer theology.” Jack Bauer is the main character in "24".....an action filled, worst case scenario, the bomb is ticking and you better hurry up and DO SOMETHING about it drama. A "the end justifies the means" kind of show. Great entertainment...but how does that fit with the teachings and directives of Jesus?

In the article I mentioned a few days ago, You Can't Be a Christian and Tolerate Torture, the author says something similar.....

The final, desperate counter-argument I sometimes hear is the theoretical "ticking time-bomb" scenario in favor of torture: "What if your wife or children were kidnapped, put in an underground chamber with only one hour left of air and you had the kidnapper before you. Would you not then torture to get the information in time?"

But this scenario is a chimera. It has never happened and probably never will outside of the fictional world of action movies and the television series 24. If the torture proponents had a real-world example, they would use it. But instances of innocents being tortured are legion, including multiple examples of detainees who were tortured to death.

More to come on these "what if" kind of questions....

Saturday, June 20, 2009


How about that...I am commenting on some current news for a change. Well, fairly current. Usually I am finding stuff in my internet travels that I missed when it was new news!!!

This time, however, while reading all these nonviolence and peacekeeping websites, I came across a snippet about Tiller's murder a few weeks ago. Tiller was one of the very few doctors in the country who perform late term abortions. There used to be ten. Now there are nine.

Again (and I'm sure I've declared this here on my blog) I think even one abortion is too many. And late term abortions are especially hard to reconcile. That is not the point of this post. The point is the irony of a prolife activist gunning someone down...in cold blood...in church.

I had kind of forgotten about this case and had no plans to write about it, but I came across an article in my web travels today on the National Catholic Reporter that spurred me on. The article is called "To be pro life is to be nonviolent" written by Father John Dear.

And he makes several points in this very short writing that are ?profound?

First of all, just what defines pro-life? Does it go beyond the narrow definition of some anti abortion activists? Pro-life = anti-abortion. Does a pro-life ideology encompass more than the cessation of abortions? I think it does. The following except says it well....

On April 19, Kansas City’s Bishop Finn addressed a group which claims the name “Pro Life,” saying, “We are at war.” His remarks, peppered with militaristic imagery, failed to demonstrate the sweeping love of the nonviolent Jesus. He spoke only of the unborn, of “pro life” issues, but showed no concern for those targeted by our bombs in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan. He expressed no concern for the billions of people who have no homes, food, healthcare, education, jobs or dignity. He shed no tears for those who die from poverty due to our first world greed. He does not concern himself with nuclear weapons or global warming -- which, even from his standpoint, will harm the unborn.

As a priest and a human being, I too am against abortion. But as a follower of the nonviolent Jesus, I prefer Cardinal Bernardin’s “Consistent Ethic of Life.” One cannot pick and choose contradictory issues. Are you “Pro Life,” “for life,” “for the God of Life?” Then stand against every war, handgun, weapon, greedy corporation, and execution. Stand against poverty and starvation and disease and extinctions and racism and sexism and environmental destruction. As well as abortion.

This article goes on to talk about the claims of support of nonviolence by pro-life groups. He uses an example from the life of Ghandi...and a similar situation

This is what Gandhi said in the early 1920s, after some of his movement activists beat five British soldiers to death. He called off the whole national civil disobedience program, went on a fast of repentance and resigned from the movement. He insisted, from his daily reading of the Sermon on the Mount, that there is no cause, however noble, for which we support the taking of a single human life.

Seems Ghandi understood the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount and took them more to heart than many Christians.

Father John closes the article with the following:

My hope and prayer is that all of us -- “Pro-lifers” and “peaceniks,” “liberals” and “conservatives,” “left and right,” -- can become Sermon on the Mount people and learn the Gospel truth that killing is never justified, that abortion and murder and war and nuclear weapons and violence of all kinds are wrong, that all of us are summoned to an entirely new way of life, a life founded on the wisdom of Jesus’ nonviolence.

Friday, June 19, 2009

You Lose the Cross.....

When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.” Greg Boyd

I've talked about, read about and written about violence and non violence quite a bit. On cyber lists (where I spend a great deal of my time) On this blog. With my family. I just don't have a handle on what I think/feel/believe yet. I feel in my heart that non violence is the way of the kingdom...the way of Jesus...yet the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. I've talked about that before too. How irate I've gotten at Confusion Corner and at the grocery store. Yet, these kinds of issues are small potatoes when pondering the bigger questions.Questions like.... Would I/could I kill someone to save my own life? The life of one of my kids? Probably. That's just the honest truth.

Yet, war grieves me. Killing grieves me. Violence grieves me. I loathe guns but acknowledge that perhaps at this stage in the progression of weapons being beaten into plowshares, guns are a necessary evil. And from where I sit right now..I think I could and would use a gun to protect myself, and would almost certainly use a gun to protect my family. I realize that is not consistent, however I am very much a work in progress!!

The only completely consistent people are the dead. Aldous Huxley
But.....let's not be a culture that glorifes war and violence!! I think it is the attitude of many who support war...who justify it....brag it up...badmouth the enemy that is so hard to take. Jesus died for those enemies just as surely as he died for us. Perhaps if it was approached with a bit more sorrow..more solemn reverance for the lives lost and not just a “Wa-hoo-let's go kick some Iraqi ass!!!!" A bit more....thy kingdom come....thy will be done....rather than being so sure that Jesus hates the same people we do!!

I noticed a truck in front of me the other day with a bumper sticker that read, “God bless our truoops, especially our snipers” What the heck does that mean anyway? In particular bless those soldiers who sneak around and shoot people who cannot see it coming? Snipers who hide in the bushes and behind buildings and metiiculously and methodically pick off unsuspecting targets?

Should we glorify something like that under the umbrella of patriotism?

As I expressed in my last post, if we embrace the God of the OT and his immoral "posess the land" directives, then it is a short journey to justifying the bombing of Hiroshima...Nagasaki....and the other blights on the history of the US....what we did to the Indians...the Trail of Tears, the slaves, the Japanese war camps. When a nation considers themselves God's chosen land...the "doers" of his will, the keepers of his rules..atrocities are easier to excuse. Something about filling the pages of a Bible with patriotic images, most of which include pictures of war, just does not seem right.

I am very glad I was born an American. I just don't think we are beyond reproach, nor do I think that all of our actions are justified, let alone righteous.

More tomorrow...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"As a Christian, I know it's wrong...."

In order to write more about torture...as promised in yesterday's post, I had to read more about torture. Specifically how Christians feel about it and how those who approve, reconcile that belief with the teachings of Jesus.

We all know what Jesus said about the way to treat our enemies. Love them...do good to those who persecute you. Although not specifically addressed in scripture, I think it is a sure bet that waterboarding was not on the list of ways to "love your enemy."

I suppose a quick google search would yield many webpages that support "justified" torture. A (surprising) poll by The Pew Forum showed that evangelical Christians....people who attend church at least weekly are the most likely sement of our population to support torture. But I wonder how surprising that really is. Evangelical Christians are also the most likely to believe that the accounts in the OT are the literal retelling of the God ordained directives....instructions to the Children of Israel to possess the Promised Land. (And the atrocities committed against the people already living in the land...well...all's well that ends well for God's chosen people)

They are also the most likely to believe in a literal, firey, "age without end" torture pit. A literal hell. A place where God not only tortures the prisoners with fire and brimstone and demons and worms that never die but arranges to keep them conscious forever so that he can continue to torture them.

Keith retold a joke the other day, a joke I originally heard a while back. It does expose the inconsistency in the beliefs of many who claim to follow Jesus.
This is from a live comedy routine by Daniel Tosh which can be viewed in its entirety here.

Does everybody have their WWJD bracelets on? They're not magical. They're just a reminder to be a better person...to live a better life. It's true.Cause I was wearing my bracelet recently, and I was in the movie theater, and this guy's cell phone went off -- don't you just hate that? Then he picked it up, 'Hey, how's it going? I'm in a movie.' And I'm like, 'Hey! Get off the phone!' And he's like, 'Mind your own business.' And I almost went crazy, but then I looked at my bracelet: what would Jesus do? So I lit him on fire and sent him to Hell. I'll be honest, I felt a lot better afterwards. Those things work."

Just a joke...but it gets the point across!!!

Among some of the results from a google search on "Christians and torture," I came upon several websites from yesteryear (2005ish) that talked about the abuse perpetrated by American servicemen at Abu Ghraib prison. At the time the story hit the news, I must not have been paying much attention. An article on Wikipedia gives a thorough overview of the situation, including the verdicts of those found guilty.

As I scanned the articles, I came upon an oft repeated quote by Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr

"The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself.' "

An article on anitwar.com called You Can't Be a Christian and Support Torture is worth the read.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Did We or Didn't We?

Pretty much what I found on the internet after about half an hour of looking was the rehashing of a blog post on the Huffington Post written by Paul Begala called Yes, National Review, We Did Execute Japanese for Waterboarding. I read it...read some of the rehashes of the rehashes and have determined it would take a lot longer to research this that I want to spend doing so. I came across another article on Politifact.com and one other link if anyone feels led to look into it farther....but as far as this blog is concerned, I am going to let it drop here. I can't say with any certainty...without further research....if they did or if they didn't.

One thing about the use of "torture," that I think we can say with certainty is that upon pondering the WWJD question in relation to waterboarding or any other kind of similar abuse, the answer seems fairly obvious. For anyone interested in pursuing this farther...Wikipedia has an article that talks about the Tribunial where some of these Japanese war criminals were tried. There are several other articles I came across....

Torture Memos and the Bush Administration-Time to Move On

Torture Did Not Make Us Safer

Take note of the fact that these articles lean toward the left...

More tomorrow about the Christian view of torture....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

And About "that" Bible....

Okay...so now onto the topic that actually birthed the idea for this series, the blog post from Boyd about the American Patriots Bible.  He wrote 4 posts in all....and a two part book review for Out of Ur....Christianity Today's blog.  Boyd is not impressed with this Bible.  Neither are a lot of other people....

The description from the publishers of this Bible found on Amazon:

THE ONE BIBLE THAT SHOWS HOW 'A LIGHT FROM ABOVE' SHAPED OUR NATION. Never has a version of the Bible targeted the spiritual needs of those who love our country more than The American Patriot's Bible. This extremely unique Bible shows how the history of the United States connects the people and events of the Bible to our lives in a modern world. The story of the United States is wonderfully woven into the teachings of the Bible and includes a beautiful full-color family record section, memorable images from our nation's history and hundreds of enlightening articles which complement the New King James Version Bible text.

On Amazon, the customer reviews were both positive and negative.  Some praising the Bible and it's content...others going so far as to say it sickened them.  Following are some assorted and varied remarks from some of the reviews......

There is simply no better a resource than the American Patriots Bible to illustrate the factual and critical link between our Creator Father and our Founding Fathers. This Bible details the strong and ever present connection between the Judeo-Christian ethics used to found our nation and the God that continues to bless the greatest country on the face of his Creation.
This is a must have in every library.


This book should sit on the shelf of every library in America, both public and private. It is one of the those special tools which will be used over and over again; read, studied, and treasured for it's depth of content and insight into our country's history and founding ideals.

Okay so those are obviously the positive reviews...and there were a lot of positive reviews.  But there were negative reviews too....plenty of them....

Really Disturbing
As an Evangelical Christian, I love the Bible. I also love this country, and I am descended from a line of men who have served in the American military since the Civil War era. However, I am deeply disturbed by this Bible and by the nationalistic "Christianity" that it exemplifies.
To conflate American Patriotism and militaristic American Nationalism with Christianity is to turn America's Wars into Holy Wars. To literally weave together the Scriptures and the Flag, presenting them as one united and holy blend, is unholy. The effect is to create an "American Jesus" who is really a War God. With all my heart, I believe that to print The American Patriot's Bible is to desecrate the Word of God.

But after the anger has burnt off, I am just saddened by this Bible, deeply saddened, because I know that many American Christians, even some who attend my own church, will not feel revolted by it at all. I am terribly afraid that Thomas Nelson made a wise business decision in producing this blasphemous Bible.

Please know that there are American Christians deeply wounded and ashamed of the existence of this Bible.


And another that connects this Bible and evangelical's approval of the use of torture.

Finally, it's no surprise that a recent survey revealed that the group that was most supportive of torture by the U.S. on enemy combatants was conservative, evangelical Christians. Have they forgotten Jesus' admonition that "Whatever you did to the least of these you did to me."? Ironically the very torture that the U.S. is guilty of (waterboarding - simulated drowning) is the very act which 5 Japanese officers were convicted of and sentenced to death. But wait, when we did it we had reason to fear a catastrophic attack against our people and that was something the Japanese never had to fear- was it?

What was that?  5 Japanese officers were convicted of and sentenced to death for waterboarding....???  Are you sure about that?  More about that tomorrow....and more about the survey which showed that evangelical Christians were the most likely to approve of using torture as an interrogation method following that....

Monday, June 15, 2009

Interesting Websites....Douglas Harding and more....

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent a lot of time on the computer this weekend.  I didn't have the girls...and thus did not have the responsibility of running them to and fro...fro and to.  I did get an unexpected phone call from Beth on Saturday.  She missed her bus to work. Ugh.  Could I get her?  Ugh. Ugh.  But I did.  That took a two hour chunk out of the day...all told...but included a stop at Sam's for gas, and at Wegman's for a few groceries and a quick stop to drop something off for Emily.  And it still left a good bit of internet time, time that I most surely took advantage of. And in so doing, I found all kinds of delightful treasures.  Here are several more of my fabulous finds that I want to share here.

On one of the lists where I mainly lurk, someone mentioned Douglas Harding.  Hmmmmm...."and just who is Douglas Harding," I said to myself....and then off I went, via google to answer my own question. 

I came upon his site, The Headless Way.  It has lots of teachings by Harding and others who have adopted his way.  Harding is dead and there was a pretty interesting article written by Richad Lang called "Douglas Dying"....a quick read, well worth it...

In the article's section, I also came across a writing called "Harding's Way" and I was almost to the end of the article when I realized the author was in prison...quite likely for the rest of his life. His name...his pen name, that is....J. C. Amberchele. He writes from a Buddhist paradigm.

He has authored several other articles available on the Internet--The Light That I Am and Freedom.  He has also authored two books.  One also titled "The Light That I Am" and another, a work of "fiction," entitled "How You Lose."  It chronicles the life of a young girl who witnessed her father's murder and who was also shot and left for dead.  The crime was committed by a drugged up "kid."  Proceeds from this book go to victim's rights.  Perhaps in this book, there are biographical insights into Amberchele's life.  This is just a hunch of mine.  I really have no concrete info to support that assumption. 

There is also an article written by Richard Lang, Not In Prison, that tells of his meeting with Amberchele in the lunch room at the prison where he is incarcerated.  

Lots of stuff on these sites...worth a visit...and I gotta' run.  It is Monday morning, afterall...and duty/work calls. 

Sunday, June 14, 2009

All Over the Internet...

I've been all over the Internet this weekend....quite the trip....gathering quotes, web sites, links and more heretical ideas and thoughts to ponder.  I swear I could research (surf) 24/7 if I didn't have to work/eat/sleep. Still, I fit in as much research (surfing) as I can...and am always amazed and fascinated by what I find!!!  I wanted to post the link to a series of MP3 messages called "Understanding Our Incarnate State" by Gary Sigler, Barbara Symons and others. They are messages from a recent conference at the Clear River Teaching Center in Dalton, Georgia.

Today, while trying to get out of a trip to the gym with a walk around the neighborhood instead, I listened to the two messages by Barbara Symons.  I barely realized I was walking, in the hot sun, at high noon, up a big hill. The short walk turned into a much longer one than I originally intended to take. 

She said it was the first time she has spoken publicly in ten years...when she laid down everything spiritual in her life and started from scratch.  She is writing a book entitled, My Journey Out of Christianity and Into Christ. 

I think some of my friends on EU and SCT would really enjoy her message since there are shared experiences.  She is the moderator of Gary Sigler's Heart to Heart message board.  She also has a web site called Imortal Son

More about these messages to come....

Controversy #2

Yep...the series of sermons preached by Boyd... that birthed his book, Myth of a Christian Nation, caused quite the uproar in his church.  So much so that 20%....or about a thousand people....up and left...and as one article I read worded it...."took their tithes with them."  I found quite a few articles on the internet that discuss the controversy that took place back in 2004ish but following are some excerpts from a book review I came across on the web....written by someone named George West.  This, along with a few quotes from Boyd at the end of this post ....should give you the gist of the book...and the firestorm that followed....described by Boyd as similar to "poking a stick in a hornet’s nest"

Mr. Boyd’s thesis focuses primarily on making distinctions between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world.

The kingdom that Jesus came to establish, Mr. Boyd argues, is not of this world (John 18:36); it operates differently than governments of the world do. The kingdom of Jesus has no geographical boundaries, nor devotion to any particular ethnic group or nationality.
Mr. Boyd contrasts two kingdoms: the kingdom of the world that acquires and exercises “power over” others; and the kingdom of God, incarnated and modeled in the person of Jesus Christ, advanced only by exercising “power under” others; for example, self-sacrificial and Calvary-like love.The kingdom of the world is the kingdom of the sword; the kingdom of God is the kingdom of the cross. This kingdom transforms people from the inside out; the kingdom of the sword rules over others using force to govern behavior.
Mr. Boyd cites the power of the ethic of love — as exemplified by the life and teaching of Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. — as the way to break the cycle of hate and violence in our world.

The kingdom of God, as taught by Jesus, is very demanding and antithetical to the views of the world, in that it calls for us to “Love those who hate and despitefully use us.”

He also acknowledges some ambiguity and struggles with some very difficult questions one faces when applying the teachings of Jesus in our world. Some of those questions relate to Christians and violence; for example, self-defense and the protection of one’s family, Christians in the military, wars with positive outcomes, Christianity and passivity, and helping the oppressed by overthrowing the oppressors.
He shares his honest struggles with these questions, seeking to provide answers from his understanding of scripture; while empathizing with those who, like he, wrestle with these questions

In another article...on the Christianity Today blog, Out of Ur,  he says:

For some evangelicals, the kingdom of God is largely about, if not centered on, “taking America back for God,” voting for the Christian candidate, outlawing abortion, outlawing gay marriage, winning the culture war, defending political freedom at home and abroad, keeping the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, fighting for prayer in the public schools and at public events, and fighting to display the Ten Commandments in government buildings.
I believe that this perspective is misguided, that fusing together the kingdom of God with this or any other version of the kingdom of the world is idolatrous and that this fusion is having serious negative consequences for Christ’s church and for the advancement of God’s kingdom.
I do not argue that those political positions are either wrong or right. Nor do I argue that Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics. While people whose faith has been politicized may well interpret me along such lines, I assure you that this is not what I’m saying. The issue is far more fundamental than how we should vote or participate in government. Rather, I want to challenge the assumption that finding the right political path has anything to do with advancing the kingdom of God.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Controversy #1

So anyway...as I was saying....Greg Boyd was involved in two big controversies (that I know of)...and he didn't flinch even though there was a lot of backlash involved. 

The first was the open theism thing.  From what I can ascertain from reading online, the firestorm began because of a sentence in Boyd's 1994 book, "Letters From a Skeptic"  The following is from an article in Christianity Today - Feb 2001.  It is in the archives...and looks like an archive, with many of the links going to those annoying "page not found" error messages. 

Open theism, the idea that God does not fully know the future because humans have not yet made the choices that will affect it, has been called everything from "an enlightening new paradigm" to "merely an extreme form of Arminianism" to "heresy." Open theism did not originate in--and is not limited to--the BGC (the Southern Baptist Convention, for instance, added an anti-open theism clause to its Faith and Message at its June 2000 meeting). But so far it has created more turmoil in the BGC than in any other Christian body.
The leading proponent of open theism in the BGC, Gregory Boyd, teaches at Bethel and pastors Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, one of the five largest churches in the conference. Last June, he found himself fighting for his theology--and his job--as his denomination debated whether it could be open to openness.

Though Boyd had long espoused openness views, these views invited relatively little debate until five years ago, when BGC pastors started asking about this sentence in Boyd's 1994 book Letters from a Skeptic: "God can't foreknow the good or bad decisions of the people he creates until he creates these people, and they, in turn, create their decisions."

The complaints increased in volume and frequency until, in 1996, Bethel formed an internal committee to evaluate this position and its effect, if any, on Boyd's employment status. The committee found Boyd's views "within the bounds of evangelical Christian orthodoxy and compatible with the theological commitments expected of faculty members at Bethel." Boyd thus retained his teaching post.

But the battle was just beginning. BGC proponents of classical theism, led largely by John Piper, senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, were dismayed by this decision. Groups formed with such names as the Edgren Fellowship (named after Bethel's founder) and Concerned Pastors. Primarily through open letters and print publications, they took their concerns to the conference as a whole, arguing that the denomination's Affirmation of Faith be changed to unquestionably exclude open theism.

As the debate heated up, leaders at Bethel and the BGC discussed ways to maximize the information and minimize the misinformation disseminated to conference members. Out of these meetings, the Foreknowledge Web site was born.

The article goes on to talk about how this Foreknowledge Web site epitomized what we've all witnessed on internet forums...a sort of free for all of argumentative opinions, angry posts, disrespect....and discord.  Another similar situation comes to mind....the UR debates between Gary Amarult and other UR believers and Matt Slick.  It became so heated that Matt Slick banned all discussions of Universalism from the message board on his site....CARM.  He said that universalists were too nasty and meanspirited to debate (the pot calling the kettle black there for sure) and because of that, he banned that as a discussion topic. 

That was the main topic of the Christianity Today article....using the internet for discussions. Pros and cons. It just so happened that this open theism debate was used as THE example.  Probably in part because it involved well known pastors (Boyd and Piper) and large organizations such at the Southern Baptist Convention and the Evangelical Theological Society.

I should add that the Foreknowledge web site is no longer in existence...at least not anywhere I looked.  I would like to check it out simply for the curiosity factor.

So that is a bit about the open theism controversy that caused quite a bit of commotion for all involved.   More tomorrow on another biggie spurred on by Boyd's book, "The Myth of a Christian Nation"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

About Greg Boyd....

A few weeks ago I received an email notification about an update on Greg Boyd's blog.  The post was about The American Patriot's Bible...and his comments on and feelings about it.  He posted several times on the topic.  It triggered the thought process that triggered this series. 

I've written about Pastor Boyd here before.  He is top notch guy; a really smart guy with a Ph.D from Princeton Theological Seminary and M.Div. from Yale Divinity School.  He was a professor of theology for 16 years at Bethel University (St. Paul, MN) where he received the Teaching Excellence Award and Campus Leadership Award.  Plus,  he is founder and pastor of a mega church in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a dad...a grandfather...an all around interesting guy. 

In an article I came upon just a few minutes ago, he talks about how he felt led, along with 3 other couples, to move to inner city St. Paul...to live and minister there.  Putting his money where his mouth is.  What is it the Bible says about faith without works being dead....
Following is a snippet
from the article:

Six years ago, we all began to feel that God was calling us to move out of the suburbs into the city. We now live on the same city street within a couple blocks of each other. Until a decade and a half ago, I dreamed of living far out in the country, atop a mountain or in an isolated cabin in the middle of a deep forest. But now I find myself living in the middle of a densely populated city surrounded by an amazing diversity of people—and I love it.

As a result of our new proximity, the group's level of interdependence has increased even more. We now share everything from cars and shovels to salt, salad dressing and sometimes even bathroom facilities (we all live in older houses where things don't always work). Our new location has also opened up new ministry opportunities. For example, we now partner with a nonprofit social service agency that serves elderly and mentally disabled shut-ins in the inner city. As needs arise, we get together to repair homes, mow lawns, shovel snow, buy groceries, lead Bible studies or just hang out with the shut-ins. You get the picture.

I have been acquainted with his ministry for a while now....beginning several years ago when I dipped my toe into the stream of apostasy known as open theism.  Boyd is the most well know teacher of open theism...with several books and quite a bit of mean spirited cult watcher type fodder going around the internet from those who see it as a big...and I do mean BIG...theological no-no.  But spurred on by his post, I did some "research" about The American Patriots Bible and came across a lot of information that I thought might make an interesting series.  That is, if I can figure out how to clump it so it follows some coherent kind of order.  I'll try...but I'm not promising anything, mind you. 

So in the midst of all this googling and looking through old files I have on my computer, I came across some interesting info about his book, The Myth of a Christian Nation."  It seems it caused quite the stir....quite....but that was the second "stir" he was involved in.  His first "stir" was back in the day when he began to teach open theism. 

More about that.....tomorrow......

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Who Sinned? The Blind Man or His Parents?

The evidence for pre-existence is the Bible passages about the blind man...blind from birth.. if not immediately apparent, seems pretty darn plausible upon further contemplation. The following excerpt from a LDS writing, explains it very well.  Excerpt follows.... 

Perhaps the most salient to consider at this point is the exchange between Jesus and his disciples recorded in John 9:1–2:

"And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

"And his disciples asked him, saying Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"

Was this a rhetorical question on the part of the disciples? No, the question indicated that the disciples thought one possible answer to the blindness of the man was that he had sinned. Since he was born blind—a fact the record indicates that both Jesus and His disciples knew—then the wording of the question indicates that the sinning must have taken place before the birth of the man, by the man himself. How could the man have sinned, resulting in a punishment of being blind at birth, unless he had lived before he was born?

If the concept of a premortal life was in error, then the Master Teacher had a perfect opportunity to correct His students. His answer is recorded in John 9:3:

"Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."

Jesus then proceeded to heal the man, foregoing any opportunity to correct the concept of the man having lived before birth. Instead, He acknowledged the concept by saying that the man had not sinned. In the words of one non-LDS scholar:

"The question posed by the disciples explicitly presupposed prenatal existence. It will be also noted that Christ says nothing to dispel or correct the presupposition. Here is incontrovertible support for a doctrine of human preexistence.

"It is perfectly reasonable to surmise on the basis of this episode that Jesus and his followers accepted preexistence and thought so little of it that the question of prenatal sin did not even call for an answer."

And that does, indeed make a pretty good case for pre-existence...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Did Jesus Talk About Pre-existence?

While reading through the gospel of John, the gospel that leans more toward the mystery of Christ than the history of Christ, I came upon two verses that, when pondered deeply, may mean more than meets the eye. They both struck me as verses hinting of pre-existence, even before the conversations geared up about such things on EU.

In John 15:26-27 Jesus is talking to his disciples and says:

"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

At face value, that seems to mean from the beginning of Jesus' ministry.  But couldn't it also mean from the beginning...the origin..in God, in the spiritual realm...in "eternity"?  Keith said something about that a while back.  I rediscovered it while scanning some of the files I've saved on my computer about pre-existence:

If someone wants to contend for the belief that eternity means unending time, then my support for pre-existence would be that which is eternal is eternal then in both directions of time. It would have no beginning and no ending. Something that has a beginning MUST have an ending. Which is why God always was, and so must we, having come from Him.

Among the Strong's definitions for the word "beginning" are the following:

beginning, origin/that by which anything begins to be/ the origin, the active cause/the first place, principality, rule, magistracy

Nothing there really disproves a more awe inspiring definition of the "beginning" (as in "before the foundations of the world").

Another verse that struck me is found in another conversation between Jesus and his disciples.  In John 14 Jesus says:

1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going."

Did you catch that? 

You know the way to the place where I am going."

Did they know the way because...perhaps...they had been there before?  Had they already traveled that path to "where Jesus was going"? 

If that is what Jesus meant, they weren't getting it

Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"

So the question is, did they really not know or did they know but couldn't remember? (because they drank from the river of Unmindfulness...on the Plain of Forgetfulness?)

And later, in the chapter, when Jesus assures them:

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

The King James translates it as:

he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance

So the next question is...things from their earthly time together...or from before that...in the spiritual realm?  This is not an original thought birthed in my own head (although the possibility of an alternate meaning of first verse I mentioned did occur to me,myself and I).  I've heard Willie Hinn talk about the remembrance thing...and Keith, too...probably Preston Eby....perhaps Ray Prinzing.  But it is an intriguing thought, no?

And tomorrow...another intriguing thought....

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Myth of Er...

I came upon Carolyn Myss' website, Sacred Contracts last summer.  It is a very interesting site...very detailed explanation of the concept that we choose our lot in life while in the spiritual realm...and in keeping with the reincarnation theme of late, there is the possibility of choosing that lot and that life again and again and again.  So it was brought back to current status from the archives stored in my head by all this talk of reincarnation and also because Dena happened upon the site the other day and posted about it on one of the lists that we cohabit.

Interesting concept about different archetypes, with a detailed description of 70 of them, including attention grabbing names like

Avenger (Avenging Angel, Savior, Messiah)

Healer (Wounded Healer, Intuitive Healer, Caregiver, Nurse, Therapist, Analyst, Counselor)


Rebel (Anarchist, Revolutionary, Political Protester, Nonconformist, Pirate)

Trickster (Puck, Provocateur)


Seeker (Wanderer, Vagabond, Nomad)

According to Myss, we all share four basic archetypes:

Child, Victim, Prostitute, and Saboteur

And then, if I am not mistaken, we each get 8 more...of our choosing.  We pick these along with our lot in life as part of a "sacred contract."  We are living out our very own sacred contract right now...perhaps for the umpteenth time in an endless stream of life spans.  But I am digressing. 

Is that an archetype, I wonder?  The Digressor?  The Divagator? The Meanderer?  Seems like it should be :) 

But back on topic, here is a snippet of what Carolyn Myss has to say about Sacred Contracts...and The Myth of Er.....

 I believe that we each agree to the terms of our Contract before entering the physical realm of this world. This applies whether you accept the concept of reincarnation, or believe in a single lifetime followed by heaven or hell -- or neither. I go into the background for my beliefs in much greater detail in "Sacred Contracts", but one fascinating parallel occurs in the writings of Plato. In the tenth and final book of his great work The Republic, Plato relates the Myth of Er.

In brief, the story concerns a Greek soldier named Er who is left for dead on the battlefield. Twelve days later he awakens on his own funeral pyre, and later tells a remarkable tale of what he observed while he was suspended between life and death. Er found himself in a kind of way station between heaven and earth where souls were passing from one plane to the other. Dead souls were waiting to be judged and assigned to their reward or punishment, while other souls prepared for their journey to earth. Some were old souls returning for another go-round; others were freshly minted and awaiting their first life on Earth.

At one point the waiting souls are presented with many possible life scenarios, and are advised to choose from these "samples of lives." Plato informs us that "there were many more lives than the souls present, and they were of all sorts. There were lives of every animal and of man in every condition," including tyrants.

Before entering life on the Earth plane, however, the souls were led to the plain of Forgetfulness, a barren waste with no vegetation, where they were required to drink from the river of Unmindfulness. They then promptly forgot everything that had just happened to them. The reason should be obvious: if you know in advance exactly what's going to happen in your life, you would have great difficulty making decisions or taking actions that are intended to teach you something, often through painful experiences. You might naturally be reluctant to begin a relationship with someone who you knew would hurt you, even though you needed to learn a valuable lesson from that person.

Whether we take this myth literally or simply as a teaching device of Plato's, we can use it to gain a higher perspective on our life. If you think of your life's direction as something to which you have agreed, then what formerly seemed like arbitrary or even absurd conditions can be seen in another light. They are part of the roadmap that you've agreed to follow. Each event, each person of any significance whom you encounter, has an agreed-on role in your learning experience. Sometimes the learning is difficult because you don't always surrender to the situation. It may take time for you to see the reasons for it. But the sooner you do, the less painful it becomes. In time, you can learn to accept each event as it happens without struggling against it and prolonging your psychic -- and physical -- suffering.

Intriguing, no?  The Plain of Forgetfulness. The River of Unmindfulness?  Have we roamed that plain in the spiritual realm?  Did we drink from that river before we were born in this life? 

More to come....

Sunday, June 7, 2009

And Now the Topic is Reincarnation…

In this post, I want to return to the ponderings about what we are/what we are not. I started to talk about this in What's Left and Absorbed Into the Whole....before I got off topic (no big surprise there, eh?) Anyway, following is the next post I had planned in that "series"....

Further proof of the very real danger of taking one teeny, tiny step onto the proverbial, oft warned about slippery slope and the subsequent spiral down,down,down into apostasy….the topic on EU  shifted to reincarnation. Just kidding about the apostasy part, of course, however, I’m pretty sure I'm not all that gung ho on this reincarnation stuff. The main drawback for me is that I don’t want to believe it. It scares me because it involves forgetting/losing the identity I’ve come to know as Cindi.

Just what is the pay off in reincarnation, anyway? Going through those unsettling déjàvu  moments over and over again for hundreds...thousands of years? No thanks. And truly, I don’t care if I’ve been here since the first century BC in some spiritual form….hanging out waiting to get a body…nor if I have reincarnated dozens (hundreds) of times through the centuries. If I don’t remember any of it, what good does it do me? To me that equation equals "dead as a doornail." I know what Paul said about the inner man being renewed while the outward man is perishing…but does it really have to happen again, and again and again. Does it take a couple of dozen lifetimes to accomplish this?

Maybe. And listening to the conversations on EU, I can see that if it is a choice God allows us to make…and we are up for the adventure, it might not be too bad. But would we ever, eventually, get to remember all of the lives we’ve lived? I would never want to forget the births (and lives) of my kids. I wouldn’t want to forget what I’ve learned in this lifetime. I wouldn’t want to forget annie or my other buddies on EU and SCT. I would not want to forget that I married Keith and that I love him. I wouldn't want to forget my sister...my grandparents (dysfunctional as they were) or this life.  But, hey...there are parts I would like to tweak, refine, completely change.  I have quite a few regrets about opportunities squandered, boats missed, and ships that never came in. 

This reminds me of something I read by Plato (ever the intellectual, I am...reading Plato and all :) which I will talk about in my next post.

I did come across something on reincarnation from a Christian perspective via google…and not while googling reincarnation either. I was looking for some background information on the Odes of Solomon for an upcoming blog post. Coincidence that I happened upon a long, detailed writing about reincarnation from a Christian perspective? Did God somehow sneak that in there?  Hmmmm…..

Anyway, the article is called May a Christian Believe in Reincarnation? It covers topics such as scriptural references, the words of Jesus, early Christian writers, belief of the apostles, the Jewish people and more. Swami Nirmalananda Giri is the author. Yeah, I know.  Not exactly your stereotypical Christian name.  It is posted on the author’s website Atma Jyoti…which is actually a site well worth checking out. It has many sacred writings from all different kinds of religious persuasions.

More on the Er thing….tomorrow…..

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Reading at Borders Again...

Actually, I've been there a few times since I wrote several posts about Paramhansa Yogananda's writings about the second coming of Christ. (in you/in us/in me) Every time I stop at Borders (which is often since I am running Beth to and from work so much) I read from one of the books in the two volume set...The Second Coming of Christ.  I will be disappointed when someone purchases the set.  I should note that Borders has a "read whatever you want to read, and have a cup of coffee while you're doing it" policy.  I am careful not to stain, bend, rumple or as the saying goes....staple, fold, spindle or mutilate. 

Some people do..and others leave stacks of books sitting there for the staff to pick up and put away.  Rude...very rude. I mean come on people, if they let you read the books for FREE..with no obligation to even buy a cup of coffee, at LEAST put them AWAY!!! 

Anyway...I've gotten some pretty interesting quotes from the book. Not all of it resonates.  Probably not even half of it resonates...but every time I take it off the shelf and settle in a comfy chair in the Border's coffee shop, I find a gem.  Some recently found gems, you ask?? Okay....about prayer and meditation....

Mediation- concentration upon God, is the portal through which every seeker of every faith must pass in order to contact God. Withdrawal of the consciousness from the world and the senses for the purpose of communing with God was taught by Christ in these words:

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet (draw the mind within) and when thou hast shut the door (the door of the body and senses) pray to the Father which is in secret (within you) Matthew 6:6 Volume one, page 232

I like that...

And how about...

The Hindu scriptures say, "The flower falls when the fruit appears" The flowers of meditation and prayer must be conscientiously nurtured to blossom in the garden of the devotees consciousness; but when the fruit of God realization comes, the flowers of meditation and prayer, having served their purpose wither away. 

I like that, too!! 

It makes me think of the reminder that says...never forget that the finger pointing at the moon...is not the moon.  And does go on to say that these things continue to have a place in the Devotees life.  Odd that I was reading from Brother Lawrence's Practicing the Presence today at the gym...and found similar sentiments. But that is fodder for another post....

Anyway....in my journeys around the world wide web today, I came across a site devoted to Paramhansa Yogananda and his teachings.

I found an online version of his well known book Autobiography of a Yogi.  Plus a really interesting magazine called Clarity which contains many of his teachings.  In the archives, the Summer 2007 issue has excerpts from the two volume book I've been reading at Borders. 

Fall 2002 Clarity Magazine

Check out the other volumes in archives, and the latest edition, too.....

And God As Mother....

I know that God is not really a male....nor is he really a female and that he has characteristics of both sexes.....which only makes sense since we came out of him and humankind is made up of two genders. I've read that the name for God, El Shaddai means breasted one. I read the following definition:

Meaning and Derivation: (from Blueletterbible.org) El is another name that is translated as "God" and can be used in conjunction with other words to designate various aspects of God's character. Another word much like Shaddai, and from which many believe it derived, is shad meaning "breast" in Hebrew (some other scholars believe that the name is derived from an Akkadian word Å adu, meaning "mountain," suggesting strength and power). This refers to God completely nourishing, satisfying, and supplying His people with all their needs as a mother would her child. Connected with the word for God, El, this denotes a God who freely gives nourishment and blessing, He is our sustainer.

Consider the following quote from a site that I found while internet researching the meaning of El Shaddai.

"In this chapter, we see Jacob giving last words to his sons. Beginning at verse 24.

Gen 49:24-25

24 But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God (El) of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)

25 Even by the God (El) of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty (Shaddai), who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:

The usage of the names here is obvious. It is God as El (Omnipotent, Almighty, All-Powerful) who helps in time of need, but God as Shaddai (All-Sufficient) who satisfies with abundant blessings "of the breasts and of the womb". This clearly indicates that the righteous and loving God Jehovah cares for us as a mother cares for a newborn child. Everything we could possibly need, exactly when we need it, God IS! "

So perhaps like God reveals himself to us in the way we can most relate to him.  In the Shack (for Mack) he was a big, black woman.  To some, perhaps as a mother...a "she" is the revelation that will most resonate with our hearts.  But "everlasting Father" works best for me.....

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Father's Love Letter

The Father's Love Letter was very popular a few years ago.  I liked it then, I still like it now. I thought it fit well into this discussion about God as Father. There is a website devoted to it...devotionals, links, video etc.  Worth a visit. 

My Child,
You may not know me,
but I know everything about you.
Psalm 139:1

I know when you sit down and when you rise up.
Psalm 139:2

I am familiar with all your ways.
Psalm 139:3

Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
Matthew 10:29-31

For you were made in my image.
Genesis 1:27

In me you live and move and have your being.
Acts 17:28

For you are my offspring.
Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived.
Jeremiah 1:4-5

I chose you when I planned creation.
Ephesians 1:11-12

You were not a mistake,
for all your days are written in my book.
Psalm 139:15-16

I determined the exact time of your birth
and where you would live.
Acts 17:26



You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:14

I knit you together in your mother's womb.
Psalm 139:13

And brought you forth on the day you were born.
Psalm 71:6

I have been misrepresented
by those who don't know me.
John 8:41-44

I am not distant and angry,
but am the complete expression of love.
1 John 4:16

And it is my desire to lavish my love on you.
1 John 3:1

Simply because you are my child
and I am your Father.
1 John 3:1

I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.
Matthew 7:11

For I am the perfect father.
Matthew 5:48

Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand.
James 1:17

For I am your provider and I meet all your needs.
Matthew 6:31-33

My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

Because I love you with an everlasting love.
Jeremiah 31:3

My thoughts toward you are countless
as the sand on the seashore.
Psalms 139:17-18

And I rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

I will never stop doing good to you.
Jeremiah 32:40

For you are my treasured possession.
Exodus 19:5

I desire to establish you
with all my heart and all my soul.
Jeremiah 32:41

And I want to show you great and marvelous things.
Jeremiah 33:3

If you seek me with all your heart,
you will find me.
Deuteronomy 4:29

Delight in me and I will give you
the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

For it is I who gave you those desires.
Philippians 2:13

I am able to do more for you
than you could possibly imagine.
Ephesians 3:20

For I am your greatest encourager.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I am also the Father who comforts you
in all your troubles.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

When you are brokenhearted,
I am close to you.
Psalm 34:18

As a shepherd carries a lamb,
I have carried you close to my heart.
Isaiah 40:11

One day I will wipe away
every tear from your eyes.
Revelation 21:3-4

And I'll take away all the pain
you have suffered on this earth.
Revelation 21:3-4

I am your Father, and I love you
even as I love my son, Jesus.
John 17:23

For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.
John 17:26

He is the exact representation of my being.
Hebrews 1:3

He came to demonstrate that I am for you,
not against you.
Romans 8:31

And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

His death was the ultimate expression
of my love for you.
1 John 4:10

I gave up everything I loved
that I might gain your love.
Romans 8:31-32

If you receive the gift of my son Jesus,
you receive me.
1 John 2:23

And nothing will ever separate you
from my love again.
Romans 8:38-39

Come home and I'll throw the biggest party
heaven has ever seen.
Luke 15:7

I have always been Father,
and will always be Father.
Ephesians 3:14-15

My question is…
Will you be my child?
John 1:12-13

I am waiting for you.
Luke 15:11-32

Love, Your Dad
Almighty God