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Friends Meeting, the B Sides.
#11 Journal – a dream I had, 3/25/09
After reading Mary Coelho’s book (chapter 17), and a few other odds and ends came together.
Good morning friends. I had a dream which disturbed me.
You know, like I usually do.
Here are parts of the dream which I can remember and which seem intelligible:
a woman was disconsolate and hesitating about a course of action. I was trying to help this woman take a positive step, to start a course of action. There was a dangerous evil character lurking around which would kill the woman, I recognized him from a photo, he had very distinctive tattoos.
Now here’s where things get decidedly dream-like: we could apparently travel back and forth in time, or at least know what was going to happen. Specifically both the woman and I knew that the dangerous character does in fact kill the woman – we could see that as past tense. In our discussion about what to do, the woman and I are afraid of this consequence – being killed – and yet we seemed to have a chance to go back and forth past her death and look at different ways of handling it. I have heard that in dreams and mythology death signifies profound change, not necessarily the bitter end.
Also, there was a connection between the ambivalent woman’s actions and the killer’s actions in that the killer was waiting for the woman to lie down; he would not act until she did, and the killing was inevitable. Running away from the killer, complete escape, was not an option. Some kind of acceptance and transformation was inevitable, and the challenge or decision was discovering how to accept it.
The main point of the dream which I could remember was pleading with the woman to try praying to a Higher Power. With great compassion, with tears in my eyes I said something about how simply believing in a power greater than ourselves, which we could not understand, made it possible to put down the drugs and stay clean. We both had experience in the past with praying and believing and staying clean no matter what, one day at a time, one hour at a time, and sometimes we had to make it one minute at a time, but we stayed clean. I tried to convince the ambivalent woman that prayer and faith would also work now for this situation.
I’ve heard that all characters in my dreams are parts of me.
I can usually identify specific references in my dreams, no matter how oblique, to something I’ve seen, read or thought about recently.
As well as I can recall, the puzzle pieces, the sources of this dream are as follows:
Yesterday I read chapter 17, The Active Universe Within, of Awakening Universe, Emerging Personhood by Mary Coelho, and it sparked some reactions.
I also read a chapter from Illustrated Stories from the Bible (that they won’t tell you in Sunday School) by Paul Farrell (an American Atheist Press publication).
Recently I’ve been debating the role of Protestant theology, specifically Original Sin and Total Depravity, in religion as I have experienced it.
At a 12 step meeting a couple weeks ago, an acquaintance in recovery shared about removing obstacles between her and her Higher Power, which notably she finds within herself.
I have also been pondering formally joining Friends Meeting in Cambridge, but more broadly and profoundly, trying prayer and meditation in new ways. I have been trying to reconcile my faith and my skepticism, and I have been worried about whether or not others will accept me and my peculiar beliefs, or lack of beliefs.
That’s a lot of ingredients to unpack and correlate to one dream, but I hope you’ll find it illuminating.
In fact, you just might at last discover who Jesus of Nazareth really was and what he really did. I got it all figured out, trust me!
Identifying with the characters
I can clearly identify with the ambivalence the woman was feeling. Perhaps she embodies my religious aspirations. I feel that I will soon write a letter to the membership committee at Friends Meeting Cambridge (FMC), but I would like to discuss some touchy religious subjects with a weighty friend first. And I am concerned about how well I might be received by everyone given some recent evidence of divisions within FMC.
After many years of debating with myself about religion and its ties to politics, society, etc., I feel that I have found my own feet on certain issues, and I may have found my own voice to share with others how I arrived at where I am today. But I am still afraid of rejection, I generally avoid confrontation and feel that I have very little experience with sitting comfortably in the midst of sharp and profound disagreement.
The dangerous and evil character is more cloudy and connections with him sound a bit more far fetched. The methods of science: logic, empirical testing, gathering and weighing evidence, can burst one’s religious bubble to say the least. Confrontation, “bursting a bubble” seems violent. In an argument or debate, people’s feelings inevitably get hurt. There’s part of me which has wanted to confront religious claims of the supernatural for many years, but I have generally avoided it because our society teaches us that it’s impolite and unfair to challenge another person’s religion. And of course I’m afraid of the negative emotional fallout which can ensue, which might include rejection, retaliation, and besides, I do genuinely try to be considerate of other people’s feelings.
I suppose there is still part of me which wants to believe, believe in anything, believe in the possibility of anything, regardless of what it is.
In simplest terms – the ambivalent religious Woman is pondering “Yes”, and the male killer, the skeptic and doubter will say decisively “No”.
A religious, trusting, imaginative mind, open to new mysterious possibilities sounds feminine in that here is the power to bring new life into the world – a woman can agree to become pregnant and through remarkable powers endowed by Nature can create Life, something which men can never do. ( To be fair, a contribution from a man is required, but compared to 9 months of morning sickness, gaining over 20 lbs and painfully giving birth, a few minutes of exertion seems like nothing. Men can, and hopefully do, contribute a lot more, but now I’m getting sidetracked.)
On the other hand, to survive in the real world of competition for limited resources we have to cut away misleading appearances from bona fide goods. Our potential ancestors who aimed indiscriminately at every passing target wasted their precious hunting energy and starved to death. Many of those who naively wolfed down every berry and mushroom available died of liver failure.
Darwin explains that we have deep-seeded reasons for both “yes” and “no”, faith and doubt, trust and caution.
Perhaps in my dream there is a sexual context in that the ambivalent woman’s fate is to lie down and the killer won’t attack until she does. (yes, fortunately I am familiar with more sexual positions and attitudes than just the missionary one, but that’s not my point.)
The resolution which I tried to convince myself of – acceptance – almost explains itself.
In my latest meeting with my sponsor we discussed step 11: “we sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out”. My sponsor, who practices no formal religion, said that the clearest example of a Higher Power at work he can remember is the whole experience of getting clean and staying clean.
Another friend in recovery likes to say: “I used drugs every day for over twenty years. When I first got clean I obsessed about drugs every minute of the day for many days. Eventually I got better. Now many days go by and I don’t even think about drugs. If that’s not a miracle it will do until a real miracle comes along.”
Only during the last 2 years (out of 10 years) of recovery have I practiced a formal religion – Quakerism. And while I have found some wonderful resources in Friend’s Meetings, nothing points more clearly to a benevolent Higher Power than my experience of early recovery. I can’t think of anything as heart warming as watching a newcomer find their way onto the lifeboat of a recovery meeting, keep coming back, and find freedom from addiction. Hopeless dope-fiends can become dope-less Hope-fiends.
Simple faith, in the most basic sense, that there is some benevolent power greater than myself, which can restore me, was a key to early recovery. There was a specific example of a higher power in the 12 step group itself, in other words, I had to learn to trust at least some of the people in the recovery group. Metaphorically I could accept that a god works through them. I certainly did not have to believe they were perfect, on the contrary it was precisely their failings, their human-ness which allowed me to identify with them. They still had a few warts left, so maybe I am like them enough that whatever is improving their lives will work for me too.
Belief in a Higher Power in the 12 step program does not have to include any supernatural beliefs at all. For some people that belief in God does become specific, but we try to avoid endorsing specific religious beliefs in our meetings.
I sense within myself changes about how I view a Higher Power approaching and I don’t know what the next step will look like. I can outline forces of both faith and skepticism and I suppose there may be a synthesis of these polarities, but I have no idea what it will be. I don’t know what I may become and I fear change.
Faith and acceptance are the keys to navigating change.
The cycling Yin-Yang of faith and skepticism may be never ending, but to jump start it there must be 51% Yes to overcome the inertia of 49% No. The evolutionary ancestor who never shot at any prey for fear of missing also starved to death.
In chapter 17 The Active Universe Within, of Awakening Universe, Emerging Personhood, Mary Coelho writes about spiritual awakenings (which is the entire aim of 12 step programs):
If we are not carefully reflective, the source of awakening experience is imagined to be from a source exterior to the person, totally “above” or “higher than” the person. Images of God as a male authority like a King and Lord, and patterns of contemporary ego consciousness, predispose us to this.
If the source of these experiences is not understood to be intrinsic to the person and to all of the unfolding whole*, the individual is left isolated when experience is withdrawn; indeed there is a deep self-negation involved in the projection of such experience into an exclusively transcendent source and the resulting narrowing of human identity.
*[my note – by “unfolding whole”, she is probably referring to the entire Universe, or plenum, which is constantly unfolding, and of which all beings are intimately a part. She often cites David Bohm and other physicists and cosmologists who describe the Universe in these terms.]
German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach declared that the very ideas of God and Absolute are mere projections of the human spirit, that it is man’s nature to idealize, and that this aspect of his nature has been objectified and split off from its true basis in the human spirit and declared to be God. Having posited all his goodness in God, man is left with only negative aspects and so prostrates himself before his self-made deity and accuses himself of having no good in him.
When I read this I could not help but exclaim: “Now that sounds awfully familiar!”.
For years I have “accused myself of having no good in myself”. I suppose there may be a variety of reasons why I have had low self esteem. In fact I wrote many of them out on paper and talked them over with my sponsor, which we call the 4th and 5th steps in recovery. I have also discussed these things my therapist.
Notably we examined those factors contributing to my low self esteem over which I have some control: poor choices I made, unhealthy attitudes, unreasonable expectations, etc. For example, when I had dreams and heartfelt longings to grow and become someone, when I dared to set some goals for myself and started out on those goals, but quit and gave up on myself, that took a toll on my self-esteem. When I compromised on values that I believe in, regardless of how others around me might feel about those values, and gave into fear of rejection, that also damaged my self-esteem.
Rebuilding my self-esteem includes daring to dream, setting some goals, working steadily towards achievements, but also finding the joy in the journey, discovering that I can enjoy being here now. Some goals are achieved, others are not, but I learned a lot, I became a bigger person overall. These are some of the efforts I’ve made towards a healthier and happier me.
Now, what about those factors which contribute to low self-esteem, over which I have no control? This might include “friends” or perhaps even relatives who harm me repeatedly, perhaps unknowingly, and perhaps because they are simply repeating behavior patterns they learned from their environment. One thing I can do to preserve my-Self from this harm is to find new friends. “Change your playgrounds, playmates and playthings” is a cliché for the newcomer in recovery. Avoiding people who use drugs and the concomitant violence, crime, strife, manipulation, head games, mayhem, chaos and insanity is essential to start recovery.
And recovery happens in stages continuing over many years. We say that discovering the Truth is like peeling back layers of an onion: after removing one rotten outer layer you think you’ve discovered the truth, which is certainly an improvement. But after a while this new layer is found to be a bit dry and cracks, revealing yet another layer below. And removing these layers does often involve tears.
Perhaps lately I have been dissecting out the damaging influences with Protestant Evangelical Christianity, namely the concepts of Original Sin and Total Depravity.
Trying to have compassion for all my potential readers, including beloved family members, I wish to stress a few points here:
1) Individuals working within an organization - especially if they’re “just following orders” - can do harm without being aware of it.
1A) Social evolution, like biological evolution, can be a blind process. Repeated patterns of behavior and cultivated attitudes can be used towards ends which the teachers and managers of the system are unaware of.
2) Words are like watercolor paints, they spread into the paper, color, and blend in ways beyond the exact control of the author.
In other words, my family and the religious people I grew up with may have taught me some mistaken beliefs without intending to.
There can be quite a gap between what an author says and what the audience hears!
Much religious teaching, and for that matter, patriotic indoctrination, compulsory education, corporate training, etc. includes an awful lot of unexamined hearsay. Human communication skills evolved with a bias towards trust. It seems to me that we all have strong tendencies to believe the first version of a story we hear and repeat that to the next person we meet.
If we evolved in small tight-knit hunter gatherer tribes, it would be advantageous to Trust the scouts on your hunting party, and quickly pass on the directions to coordinate the capture of dinner, instead of conducting a congressional inquiry into every statement every person makes. We generally don’t assume that charlatans, back-slappers, con-artists, suck-ups, butt-kissers, lackeys, yes-men, actors and politicians are in charge.
Well, now I do…but I digress.
Getting back to aspects of organized religion which may have harmed my self esteem, I’ll just let Johnathan Edwards do the talking:
Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun does not willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air does not willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of God's enemies.
Do you ever get the feeling that no one likes you? That everybody hates you?
Does Capitalism give you the impression that you are expendable? That you’re just not needed?
Well it’s worse than you imagined: the Universe itself hates you! The sun does not even want to shine on you! The very air does not even want you to breathe!
Like they say on TV ads: “But wait – there’s more!”
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.
Something tells me that little Johny Edwards’ daddy was one hell of a mean drunk! And he unreservedly shared his childhood’s poison with his congregation as a preacher.
Can I have a witness here?! Does this shit not sound like Toxic Waste for your self-esteem?!
Looking back at my points 1, 1A and 2, trying to size up broad swaths of American Culture, I’m reminded of a gem I came across recently:
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
Connecting back to Ludwig Feuerbach’s theory of Man projecting his good traits onto an idealized God, an external Male authority like a King, leaving himself empty of good qualities, I wonder how that “social evolutionary trait” might have plugged into the juggernaut of emerging Christianity.
In another piece of writing concerning the selection of the New Testament and the formation of the early church I tried to outline a picture of the diverse sects of Christianity in the 1st and 2nd centuries. Some Christian sects were competing, while others coalesced into larger bubbles, like a froth. And at some point Emperor Constantine intervenes and selects some brand of Christianity, perhaps even handpicks a few bishops, out of this froth (and possibly forms a hybrid with the Mithra and Sol Invictus cults).
Don’t you suppose that somewhere back along the line of the evolution of Christianity, some male authority, like, oh, I don’t know, maybe a King, or Emporer, or before that, a Bishop or Archbishop found the metaphor of God as King to be useful in controlling their unruly congregations of pesky independent thinkers?!
Note that the Gnostics, the losers in the early contests of “what is the one true faithTM?” game show, were independent, and some in fact called themselves “kingless”.
I suspect that the mechanism of acquiring the social DNA in organized religion has always had a selection bias for hierarchical tendencies. Any group larger than about 60 people (approximately the limit of hunter-gatherer tribes imposed by evolutionary forces) is simply not capable of True Democracy, Equality or Unity. Humans in groups larger than about 100 start to stratify into classes topped by a self-appointed, assuming, arrogant and entitled “leadership class” and the process of ignoring the lower ranks begins. The larger the society grows, the further detached the leaders become with Potemkin Villages being just one symptom of how far this self- delusional diseased social state can deteriorate.
From, Wikipedia: Potemkin villages were purportedly fake settlements erected at the direction of Russian minister Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin to fool Empress Catherine II during her visit to Crimea in 1787. According to this story, Potemkin, who led the Crimean military campaign, had hollow facades of villages constructed along the desolate banks of the Dnieper River in order to impress the monarch and her travel party with the value of her new conquests, thus enhancing his standing in the empress's eyes.
Even if Potemkin villages are a bit of an exaggeration, I’m sure it’s not too difficult to find propaganda and self-delusion on a similar scale.
In fact, John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton of prwatch.org demonstrate how “promiscuous amplification”, believing your own propaganda, misled the U.S. to invade Iraq in 2003, in their book Weapons of Mass Deception.
But again, I digress.
So my best estimation of the organized religion that I grew up with is that it is born of a legacy which includes commandeering by the Emperor, selling its soul for social prominence, sometimes unwittingly. And this process continues today, quick example, “one nation under God” in the pledge of allegiance is a religious ritual enforced on all public school children, it identifies American Empire with God. Politics is organized religion, and organized religion is politics.
And this Organized Religion (handmaid to the state) imposed on the masses discourages individual, personal divine revelation, and impedes or distracts from communication between free thinking people of faith.
William James in Varieties of Religious Experience, examined what he called “saints”, individuals who experienced profound transformation of their personality, e.g. the profligate gambler who became penniless and changed into an industrial miser who died wealthy. James says that some of these saints had their transformation inside the Church, some outside the Church, and some in spite of the Church.
It’s not unreasonable to suppose that many people today, including myself, experience a spiritual awakening, or profound personality change in spite of what they learned in organized religion. (geeze, was that so hard?!).
So, enough about my theories of organized religion as a whole, the roles it plays with the rest of society, and how it affects individuals.
Lately I have been searching for a deeper connection with a HP and I just have not been feeling anything. I’m pretty sure I’ll join FMC, but interestingly enough, the centerpiece of Quakerism – Meeting for Worship, is precisely the place I have the most trouble, where I feel that I’m just not getting “it”.
For one thing, I, like more than a few others, am not happy with the “popcorn” phenomenon (too many people speaking too frequently, with not enough time left to contemplate the previous vocal ministry). I’m reminded of when I was involved with a charismatic Christian group (in retrospect I wonder if they qualify as a cult) which believed in speaking in tongues.
There are uncanny parallels between the practice of speaking in tongues and unprogrammed meeting for Worship. (even the word “worship” still gives me the creeps sometimes). Point is – we are all supposed to trust each other and believe the when anyone speaks, they are in fact sharing a message from God. (sigh. Roll eyes.) In FGC Quaker meetings, which include non-theists, that criteria of “a message from God” stretches the imagination I guess! Perhaps it could be re-defined something like, vocal ministry must come from a place deep within, and you must discern to be super-duper sure that the message is really, really, really important.
In other words, as my Mom asked, how can you tell if it’s not just someone’s ego speaking instead of God? Good question – how do we spot our inner Elmer Gantry, or Glenn Beck?
And how do I trust that other people in FMC are also screening out their opinions, biases and self-righteous punditry?
Honestly, my first reaction to anyone who starts speaking at a Quaker meeting is: “if you’re disturbing the Silence, this had better be really fucking good!” (yeah, I got attitude problems to work on).
One answer that has been nagging me is to meditate. And I resist meditating because it seems like too much work. More discipline. (I gave up drugs, I quit smoking, I exercise regularly, I brush my teeth, I’m gonna try to lose a few pounds, now I hafta sit quietly every day for how long?!)
I suppose that from my dream, part of the route to the next level, the resolution between the ambivalent woman and the waiting killer, involves meditation.
Another piece of the puzzle which suggests that I’m near the brink of a big change came from an acquaintance at a 12 step meeting. A woman shared about removing obstacles between her and her Higher Power, which notably she finds within herself. She described a process of looking within herself and removing layers of guilt, shame and fear which impeded her from connecting with God as she understands God (or Godess, as she says).
While listening to her words, but also her tone of voice, facial expressions and gestures, the penny dropped: Why would I look for God within if I hate myself?
Quick metaphysical or theological clarification: whether it is God who is within, or a connection to God which is within, is almost trivial. I suspect the defenders of Johnathan Edwards will find it necessary to prove that God is Not within you, but perhaps a connection, of which they are the exclusive licensed distributors, is what you find inside. I’d like to say that the difference between “God” and “connection to God” is moot, because my emphasis is on Where are you looking – Out there or In here?!
Further reflection on why do I hate myself, and why do I avoid looking within for God brought up this idea: ministers teach the doctrines of Original Sin and Total Depravity, wittingly or no, to serve the purpose of stopping you from looking with yourself.
If you really believe that you are just utterly evil by nature, and if the preachers (and teachers) squashed your self esteem, you will start to look outside yourself for affirmation. And to whom will you turn? You will turn not to God, because the real God was already inside you, but to their substitute commandeered god, the patriotic god, the Emperor’s god, the god amenable to religious devotion to capitalism and corporations.
The preachers are making you dependent upon them and the system of organized religion, the tool of social control which they represent and promulgate.
Actually, John Taylor Gatto’s book Underground History of American Education outlines the same process which teachers in compulsory public schools subject all students to. (just a continuation of Organized Religious control, perhaps?).
Here’s a few gems from The 7-Lesson Schoolteacher by John Taylor Gatto
(New Society Publishers, 1992). http://www.newciv.org/whole/schoolteacher.txt
The fourth lesson I teach is emotional dependency. By stars and
red checks, smiles and frowns, prizes, honors and disgraces I teach you
to surrender your will to the predestined chain of command. Rights may
be granted or withheld by any authority, without appeal because rights
do not exist inside a school, not even the right of free speech, the
Supreme Court has so ruled, unless school authorities say they do.
The fifth lesson I teach is intellectual dependency. Good people
wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. It is the most important
lesson, that we must wait for other people, better trained than
ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives. The expert makes all the
important choices; only I can determine what you must study, or rather,
only the people who pay me can make those decisions which I enforce.
The sixth lesson I teach is provisional self-esteem. If you've
ever tried to wrestle a kid into line whose parents have convinced him
to believe they'll love him in spite of anything, you know how
impossible it is to make self-confident spirits conform. Our world
wouldn't survive a flood of confident people very long so I teach that
your self-respect should depend on expert opinion. My kids are
constantly evaluated and judged. A monthly report, impressive in its
precision, is sent into students' homes to signal approval or to mark
exactly down to a single percentage point how dissatisfied with their
children parents should be. The ecology of good schooling depends upon
perpetuating dissatisfaction just as much as commercial economy depends
on the same fertilizer.
John Taylor Gatto won Teacher of the year for New York City, and then again for New York state. He wrote in an essay published in the Wall Street Journal, entitled I Quit, I Think:
If you hear of a job where I don’t have to hurt kids to make a living, let me know.
Let’s see, “emotional dependency”, “intellectual dependency”, “provisional self esteem”, “perpetual dissatisfaction”… starts to sound like Addiction.
In fact –
"I've come to believe that genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us... I began to wonder, reluctantly, whether it was possible that being in school itself was what was dumbing them down. Was it possible I had been hired not to enlarge children's power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy on the face of it, but slowly I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to *prevent* children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior."
One question I’ve had is how to finish purging that self hate?
And are there any aspects of Quakerism as I experience it, defeating any of this? Fortunately Quakerism, of the liberal, un-programmed, FGC variety, is at the far democratic and egalitarian end of the organizational spectrum. On the other end of the spectrum are cults, steep hierarchies, and in the middle are medium-sized hierarchies. Quakers seek unanimity, a sense of the meeting, not enforced by ostracism and emotional blackmail, but by listening very carefully to Everyone as equals – because “there is that of God in everyone”… e.g. before they ever met a Quaker they already had that of God inside of them.
The particular image of the killer. From Buzzfeed. Did not click to see, but guessed the tattoos were eyes on eyelids to make it appear that he’s awake, when he’s asleep.
He allegedly drank the blood of his victims.
Orwell, rough men stand ready to do violence. Keeps society stable.
Necessary b/c wealthy oppress everyone else.
Strong tendency for people to take back what was stolen from them, which is the true function of government and law.
Zinn – law has the look and feel of fairness, but it’s not. By far most law was written by people working for wealthy interests. Duh!
John locke – the sole purpose of government is to protect property. – tawney Religion and rise of capitalism.
Cheney hired assassins. Ford hired prize fighters and ex cons to beat up and intimidate union organizers.
Everyone with political power uses violence and intimidation. The more powerful a govt is the more violent it is. – Chomsky.
Yes, individual monsters like that hit-man is scary.
But delta force members and seals are no less scary.
They are self-confessed terrorists.
As in my dreams, I can see myself in all of these characters.
If I were in their shoes, it would make sense, given what I knew or believed at that time, to do what I had to.
I am capable of denial – still have to recover from it in layers.
e.g. from Brain Injury assoc. to driving under influence.
I could easily see my brother being promoted through the ranks of delta force to assassinate for Dick Cheney, believing that he’s defending his family.
That’s certainly better motivation than getting high, whatever addictions drug money fuels for that hitman.
But net results are similar.
Dead is dead.
The grieving families of dead “targets” are still grieving. And mistaken identity and “collateral damage” happens, and gets excused with such euphemisms.
We all need to recover from denial, wishful thinking, prejudice and selective memory.
I feel that to have a complete picture of the world, I have to account for some real evil and suffering. I can start to picture the path that hit-man followed to get to where he is, and I don’t feel like clicking any more links to get a better look. I’m forever grateful that my downward path of addiction was stopped as early as it was.
And I have no doubt that the rest of society needs protection from people who’ve gone as far as he has. And we also need protection from those SEALs and Delta Force members too. They also need some kind of re-hab.
Through boot camp you force the it’s-ok-to-kill-humans-genie out of the bottle and maybe it doesn’t go back in whenever you want it to!
Evidence – the Halliburton employee Jamie Lee Jones, about a dozen more like her talking to a law firm in Houston,
And LaVena Lynn Johnson…
Some Synthesis of religious forces and ideas,
An attempt to be creative and find new common ground.
– my take on Jesus of Nazareth.
A Friend shared vocal ministry around Christmas time a couple years ago that the true message of the nativity is that every child born is the messiah. If we do not subject them to the emotional abuse of compulsory education as described by Mr Gatto above, I suppose their potentials will unfold in a loving, welcoming atmosphere, and they can become “rescuers”, “saviours” in the sense of being leaders, innovators, cooperaters, share-ers, care-ers, etc.
I have an image of Jesus which is rather human, and perhaps remarkable. To me this idea about Jesus is compelling because although all claims of supernatural are purged from it, much to the dismay of fundamentalists, it’s plausible, and still radical and breath-taking.
After reading the Bible through in a year, I came up with this story line of Jesus:
Jesus was in fact a remarkable prophet, teacher, and healer. He was a healer in the sense of palliative care commonly available in the Roman Era. Changing bedpans, applying a cold compress, holding someone’s hand, making eye contact and listening to them is nothing to be sneered at, nothing to be taken for granted while you search for bigger and better “miracles”!
Exactly who exaggerated certain aspects of real events or added supernatural claims is not my concern. I suggest the entire culture from which this story arose is to blame for the supernatural embellishments.
Quick example – Matthew 12:27/ Luke 11:19, Jesus says to the Pharisees that they and their followers cast out demons. Jesus commisions his followers and they cast out demons (except for one real hard case Matt 17:19). This sounds like a national pastime, everyone’s casting out demons!
And then it became clear to me that the entire culture at that time believed in this stuff (perhaps a few curious and intellectual ruling elite did not believe in these things, but let the masses persist in superstitious fears). So it’s perfectly understandable that any supernatural claim could be added as an emotional way of saying “this man was really important. No really! You must pay attention to this. There’s just something here that happened that has to be heard.” Perhaps miraculous embellishment and mythmaking is the Id’s way of red-flagging a story to get our attention?
It’s plausible that many influences traveled through Palestine by word of mouth, and a few handwritten copies here and there: Greek philosophy, Egyptian myths, Hindu teachings, etc. on top of Jesus’ Jewish heritage. A number of skeptics have pointed out that many of Jesus’ teachings can be found in earlier Greek and Hindu writings. But what do traveling preachers do, especially before the printing press and broadcast radio and TV? They borrow each other’s stories.
Some of Jesus sermon’s are original, some not. It’s long since impossible to know which parables are his, and which were borrowed, and adapted.
Giving the common people some credit, to make an enduring impression on people it’s not just your pithy words, melodic voice, weighty timbre or perfect sense of timing and polished delivery that matters. Actions speak louder than words.
I suppose that Jesus did have some new, or at least locally new, interpretations of classic religious themes. But he also lived it, with some guts.
He drove the money changers out of the temple. He took sides in a religious-political conflict, and he sided with the poor. Or at least the higher ideals and principles to which he pointed in word and action were very inconvenient for the wealthy, powerful elite few, and already widely grasped by the vast majority who were poor.
I see Jesus knowing intuitively that his principles and dreams of a New Way to live in harmony with your fellow man (a.k.a. The Kingdom of Heaven) as described in the Sermon on the Mount* brings him on a collision course with The Status Quo, and its enforcers. *(or was it the Sermon on the plain? Luke 6:17)
For a while Jesus skirts around the concentrated religious-political power center of Jerusalem, maybe building up his courage, or at least seeding a popular base amongst friendly ears. At some level he knows that for a New Message to revolutionize it has to go nationwide, it must compete in the center ring of everyone’s attention.
It’s common knowledge that if you blaspheme, if you just speak incorrectly, you will be killed. (No 1st amendment for you!)
If you show any high profile sign of resistance to the Romans you’ll die, and die horribly, as a high profile sign of the futility of resistance.
But Jesus holds on to his dreams, he believes that there is some profound message, which he might not even be able to put into words* that he has to deliver, and deliver with everything he has to give. *(Luke 13:18, searching for words…”to what shall I compare it?”)
Every human behavior is an attempt to communicate. Even those annoying and whacky avant-garde performance artists, if we give them the benefit of the doubt, they are trying to tell us something. (Like they want more grants and need mood stabilizing medication?).
Perhaps intuitively he knows where he’s headed before he consciously knows what he must do. Maybe he starts the journey to a show-down with human religious and political authorities with some faith that he’ll learn what he’s supposed to do and find the strength to do it on the way, just in time.
Maybe he believes in some supernatural events, or at least the possibility of supernatural events, like all the stories of the TaNaK he studied. Furthermore, people around him encouraged him and maybe convinced him that he did perform some remarkable cures.
Perhaps he agreed to head towards execution and in this way he really did feel betrayed by a God who did not rescue him at the last minute. “My God, why did you forsake me?” (Matt 27:46).
Maybe he had a mixture of intellect and faith.
Perhaps he knew intellectually that, more than likely, there will be no Deus Ex Machina to save me. But his emotional and spiritual side kept urging him forward, maybe a little wishful thinking, like the way I buy a lottery ticket a couple times a year: you never know until you try…
But overall he accepted the cost of completely delivering a message of a New Way to live in harmony with one’s Self and others. And without any supernatural events at all.
Now – is this not still remarkable and extraordinary? Not that many people are willing to die for a cause.
And in a way this still is victory over death, without the bodily resurrection, (which fearful fundamentalists insist upon to win arguments over whose religion is the best).
For anyone to continue a course of action in spite of fear of death, e.g. a firefighter or coast guard swimmer plunging into danger to rescue someone, is some victory over death, is it not?! It’s certainly a lot more than what my chicken-shit ass is currently willing to do!
After reading George Fox’s journal, I suppose I was inspired to live more spiritually, generously, but it was clear that I wouldn’t last five minutes by his side. I keep reading about protesters in the U.S. being clubbed and tazed by cops and I just ain’t going there! The police have indeed served their master’s purpose of suppressing the first amendment, not protecting it.
Quick example – police in Colorado violated American Citizen’s rights at the DNC in 2008, then made a T-shirt to commemorate their work: “WE GET UP EARLY to BEAT the Crowds 2008 DNC.” (http://coloradoindependent.com/9276/denver-police-beat-the-crowds-t-shirt-no-laughing-matter-protesters-charge )
(navigate back up a level to Writing pages, including 'Spirituality')