Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

the Christian left, words of faith and love and hypocrisy ~

A short while ago, a Facebook page called ‘The Christian Left’ asked its members to help support a FB ad. There was an innocuous ad:

Are you a Christian? Are you a Liberal or a Progressive too?

Do you feel alone in the ‘Conservative Christian’ world?

Join us.

However, FB pulled it. “Negative user feedback.” The idea that you can be Christian — follow the words of Jesus, believe in Christian salvation, and support liberal ideology — is antithetical to conservative, fundamentalist and evangelical Christians. Who seem to have the airwaves these days.

I don’t get it. My beginner’s heart hurts over this one. The same way it hurts when people justify homophobia, or racism, or Islamophobia through Biblical text. It’s the worst, most dangerous kind of cherry-picking. And it seems, to this Unitarian Buddhist who was raised in a traditional Christian home w/ years of vacation Bible school and Sundays w/ Mr. Morris (my long-time Sunday school teacher :), flat wrong.

Even if you believe in an historical Jesus, and are a devout Christian, the actual Bible was written by men (really — no women :(). It was edited, reworked, revised and translated by men. All human, all fallible. Even if you believe in divine inspiration, all of it — each word, each punctuation mark — was filtered through the infinitely flawed persons involved. Not one himself perfect.

And it’s such a complex, contradictory text. If you want to look to Leviticus for words against homosexuality, you have to take the rest of Leviticus as well. And really? We don’t want to… But Paul isn’t much better — rife w/ contradiction, spelling out in detail sexism, racism, and homophobia. Do we want to return to a time when women couldn’t cut their hair or speak in church, when slaves were acceptable, when widows couldn’t remarry…? In other words, we choose what we will follow from both the Old Christian Testament and the New Christian Testament. And far too little of what we choose is loving, these days…

You may think a Buddhist shouldn’t worry about such things. But Unitarians — and Buddhists — believe in the unity of all belief, of all beings. Every faith is a ladder to whatever home we all return to, if indeed we return :). It’s all different rooms in the same house, I used to tell my sons when they were small. If you want to dismiss and ridicule the various laws of the Qur’an as a Christian — and I know several Christians who, cloaked in ‘religion,’ do just that — several laws in Leviticus are at least as punitive and ridiculous. Be wary, Matthew says, of the log in your own eye, hypocrite…

My beginner’s heart grieves when I hear people defend a homophobic agenda — one that preaches hatred of dear friends, family members and wonderful colleagues.  That it’s clothed in a Jacob’s coat of colourful religious belief is even darker, and far worse. I can’t imagine the historical Jesus or the Christian Jesus preaching hatred of anyone. When organisations w/ honourable pasts, and admirable names, make statements like gays are responsible for Adolf Hitler, his Brown Shirts, and the Holocaust, I wonder what  Jesus they believe in. Certainly not the one who loved all the little children in my VBS class, even the gay ones. And not the black ones, according to several ostensibly Christian churches — racist Christianity is known as ‘Christian Identity.’ One presidential front-runner’s church even labeled the Pope as the Antichrist

So when the Christian Left has its ad yanked from Facebook because of ‘negative user feedback,’ you have to wonder: who doesn’t think Jesus believed in clothing the poor, feeding the hungry and being good Samaritans? Who has a problem w/ treating everyone w/ loving kindness? What’s wrong with believing that the Jesus who likened the rich man getting to heaven as a camel going through the eye of a needle, would have real problems w/ current corporate behaviours…? And if you do believe that hatred, class warfare, racism and homophobia are Biblically sanctioned, how do you call those fears Christianity…?

‘speak truth to power’ ~

 http://irregulartimes.com/stencilspeaktruthtopowershirt.htmIt’s an old Quaker saying — one I’ve always loved. The saying hearkens back to the 1950s, although it has taken on a life of its own. It goes well w/ a poem I read today, “Albatross in Co. Antrim,” where poet Robin Robertson likens today’s poet to the unlucky albatross: The poet is like this prince of the clouds/ who rides the storm of war and scorns the archer; /exiled on the ground, in all this derision,/ his giant wings prevent his marching.

In some countries, writers are not only honoured, but actually feared. When rebels in a small Latin American dictatorship wanted the plight of citizens made public, they contacted the poet Carolyn Forché, whose subsequent poem ‘The Colonel‘ became a sensation, with its brutally beautiful images of tyranny and cruelty. Forché said she demurred initially, when asked to go to El Salvador, arguing that she was ‘just a poet.’ But the persuasive El Salvadoran urging her to come responded that poets in his country were feared. And that when Forché returned, she would write poetry that would help Americans see the truth. And then things would change.

Metta ~ the symbol for loving kindness

Speak knowledge to power. Beginner’s heart. Poets, beginners, all of us who feel that to speak up for those who lack voices (or the power to make themselves heard) is critical work. And it’s work we need desperately as the poor go unfed, and the ill untreated, and the homeless unhoused. When profit becomes more important to power than peace and kindness, we all need to speak up.

the wind, ventifacts & advice to a young teacher ~

I’ve been trying to spend time outside each day, even if it’s only to sit and watch the birds jostle each other at the various feeders. And I’ve been thinking about wind — always a presence in Oklahoma.

If I’d had this word yesterday, it certainly would have been in yesterday’s post. The word is ventifact. While the precise term refers to stones shaped by the wind, so many things are artifacts of the wind. Certainly Tree, from yesterday’s post, is :).

But the smooth polyhedron of this rose-coloured rock appeals to me. What did it look like before water or the wind cut it loose from its mother boulder, and wind pushed it around? Was it rougher? Larger? How substantial a change shaped and polished it?

Obviously another metaphor, but one I like as well as Tree. The idea that even when I feel most isolated, I once belonged to something larger than myself — what I call The Web :) — and that the forces in my life I often feel beset by may well be making me more beautiful… Well, that’s another kind of elemental magic. I’m not beset. I’m a ventifact in the making :).

It’s a thought that could only occur to me in the combination of sitting outside — and a long-time familiarity w/ rocks :) — and thinking about words, seeing them as physically connected to real life. Metaphors. Which is why, when one of my favourite former students wrote me not long ago, her heart cracked open by life and love and the growing pain of the two together, here is what I told her:

GO OUTSIDE! Take your favourite journal, a coloured marker or pen. A GOLD marker or pen. A set of coloured pencils or crayons. Find water. Sit by it. Take something special to eat, and a thermos or go-cup of something hot. Even if it’s 111 [yesterday's temperature :(]. Take your inner child for a picnic. When you get there, just sit. In your car, on a bench, on a blanket on the grass. Then draw, write, doodle, colour. And think: big sky mind. The clouds come, the clouds go. But the sky remains.  And the ventifacts beneath it…

 

another tree, a different lesson ~

This conifer grows in front of where I park at my mother-in-law’s assisted living wing. The complex is situated on the outskirts of a suburb of the city where we live — in other words, pretty much surrounded by fields. So the wind really does come sweeping across the plains. Or at least the pastures…:) This is important, as you’ll see.

I was parked at Mom’s, looking out, and I really saw this tree. Although I go to Mom’s regularly, usually parking in front of the tree (we’ll call it Tree, since we don’t know its name :), I’d never really thought about it. To be honest, I’m not sure I ever even noticed Tree before.

But today, something about the windswept curve of Tree’s branches spoke to me. Anyone who knows me will warn you I think in metaphors. Heck, I live in metaphors — breathe them, dream them, swim through them. But this one, a tree I never thought about before, is a strong one.

Notice anything about Tree? How she lists to starboard as you face her? She’s blown that way by those prevailing, sweeping winds. But look closely. Because the winds come from the east, Tree lists to the west. Okay — that makes sense. But I see something else when I look at Tree. She’s fuller on her port side — more green, more growth, thicker. The stress has actually made Tree stronger.

http://troymayr.com/gallery/art/01.php

picture by Troy Mayr

So why did Tree respond this way to the stress of those winds and the tree in the other picture not so much? Who knows? The religious will say faith. I’d be more apt to say heart — the ability to bend w/ the wind and dance into it, leaning against the pressure as if against a wall.

It’s the way I want to face the pressures in my life these days: like Tree. Growing stronger, more beautiful, and dancing through them. Not a bad metaphor, if you think about it :).

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