Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I want to go home to America;
they taught me about it in school.
We were a rich country,generous, compassionate --
brave champions of everyone's rights and needs.
Everyone welcomed our soldiers,
and we, in our turn, welcomed foreigners
who came here for Freedom and garbage disposals.
The young were the hope of the future
and everybody wanted us to learn.
So I learned, and came to realize
I yearned to return to that fantasy.
I've missed it so!
[revised (c)2014, permission granted for free noncommercial use, as written, with attribution.]
My outward doings may stop anytime, don't know. That is up to WHO I answer to, beyond who I am.
Forrest & all
For some reason this poem and line of discussion reminds me of "vote against amendment one" by the Carolina Chocolate Drops (youtube)
Just sharing a thought
I'll agree with that, Rick -- one link to them here. Thanks for sharing that.
In both cases, there's a lot of Spirit coming through. I was telling Forrest that the poem didn't sound cynical, but wasn't sure that made sense. This helps me to see that more clearly. Rather than anger there's a wistfulness and a beauty and an honesty that just seems laid bare.... and (so?) one is left just feeling that there's Spirit all over the thing. I'm sure that having me "analyze" this doesn't help, as that's quite the wrong spirit, but when you're IN IT, it's good.
Keith Saylor, if you wish it, may everything that blocks and misinterprets the only Presence there is to be present in you or in anybody else, everything that's led you in such a dreary, repetitious round of "Nobody knows the Presence like me," cease, desist, and be out of here. Whether you wish so or not -- and I think that you do want to be/see a clear window into that Presence -- This is my discussion, and I have found your contributions generally derailing.
That Presence is what we need to govern our self and to cooperate usefully with one another. But each person does see it through the lens of his/her self. When I find somebody tripping himself and others by trying to depersonalize an intensely personal Reality -- that One who persons in and through each 'person' -- then I need, have needed, to ask it: Boss, what do I do about this?
And that question is very relevant to what we're discussing, yes?
This is my discussion, and I have found your contributions generally derailing.
I can respect that you don't like others "derailing" your discussion as long as you hold yourself to the same standard concerning other people's discussions. You have derailed any number of discussions here and you don't see it.
It is too bad all you can see is the dreary repetition of a depersonalized message.
I will honor your request Forrest and not contribute to your discussions any longer. I acknowledge your frustration with the message and agree we do not share the same consciousness and conscience. We are on separate paths.
What moves us about this is that we have a strong sense of God's will for human beings -- that people are meant to be free, healthy, loving, secure in our embodied needs, enlisted in God's service in whatever role we're best suited to fill -- and that we grew up believing that the United States was a nation that served those purposes.
Whether we 'blame' anyone -- or assign responsibility, or seek explanations -- the fact is that it's become increasingly difficult, in fact impossible, to see the United States in that role anymore. All right, human institutions in our 'Fallen' (or should I say 'immature'?) condition quite typically fall short of embodying the Kingdom of God.
But that "City on a hill" that's been mentioned in this discussion (Penn's hope? -- certainly the hope of a Puritan or two, though we might not have personally enjoyed their versions of it) ... is a much older dream than ours; it points to Jerusalem as people hoped for it to be, the center of a world where God's will would be done 'on Earth as it is in Heaven.'
Twice -- on the same day, by the Jewish calender -- Jerusalem fell because it had failed to fulfill that intention. We grew up believing that some day our nation was going to succeed in it... but have instead found ourselves drifting into a second Gilded Age -- or as others have put it: 'Brave New World for the rich and 1984 for the poor.' What does this mean; what if anything are we given to do about it?
What is this a reference to? "Twice -- on the same day, by the Jewish calender -- Jerusalem fell because it had failed to fulfill that intention."
My thoughts in that whole paragraph (that ends in "what if anything are we given to do about it?") was about the story of Balian of Ibelin and his role in freeing the people of Jerusalem, captured in Hollywood glory as the movie "Kingdom of Heaven," but one which is told in many ways and about many people over time: something that perhaps should simply be summed up as "walking the Christ line". Bonhoeffer would be another profound example of this specific thing.
In Balian's case he won the profound respect of both Christians and Muslims, saved many lives, and created peace along the way....all while in fact giving up the city Jerusalem. His commitment to the lives involved, and the life of Christ within each of them on all sides of the fight, seems to have had a profound effect on his circumstances. This story moves me in a new way -- that simultaneously feels like a very old way -- again, this must just be "what can happen in the world of Christ-possibilities."
The journey is filled with mourning, but the truth that transcends that mourning makes even the surrender of the city (or even Bonhoeffer's "failures" that led to his death) filled with joy. In Balian's case, one could wrongly sum up what happened as the city being "lost to the Muslims" but that's another version, and in the view of many he was a life-saver and a king-maker by his spiritual integrity in the face of typical patterns of war and hating of one's enemies. As we know, the same is true of our friend Bonhoeffer. We do not see his efforts as "lost" but as life-saving, freeing, and in fact very powerful.
...am not sure where this leaves America or the City on the Hill...but this is what your thoughts about Jerusalem led me toward.
Jeremiah's speech in the Temple, which Jesus alluded to in his own prophetic denunciation of it:
"Amend your ways and your doings, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: 'This is the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord.'
"For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers for ever.
"Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Ba'al, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say 'We are delivered!' -- only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I Myself have seen it, says the Lord. Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of My people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things, says the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen; and when I called you, you did not answer. Therefore I will do to the house which is called by My name, and in which you trust, and to the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh."
Shiloh was the first centralized place of worship we know of in Israel (not counting Jerusalem, which at that time was foreign territory.) 'Samuel' portrays the priestly family who kept the shrine there as corrupt -- reduced to one pious old man who could not restrain his sons from stealing choice bits from the sacrifices, nor from groping the women who brought them there. Samuel is said to have predicted that family's destruction -- but prophets weren't simply predictors: They spoke of the meaning of events.
---- ---- ---- ----
Thomas Jefferson, whether or not he was good by the standards of our own time, fulfilled some of that same function, as in the Declaration of Independence: He articulated the ideals that people hoped this country would embody. But he lived on into the 19th Century, some decades before the Civil War: "... In a warm climate, no man will labour for himself who can make another labour for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labor. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just..."
A political man? Certainly, and as you will find if you read the Bible searchingly, so were the prophets and Jesus among them. None of these people could be reduced to their political roles; in fact their politics were clearly based on religious beliefs and values (whereas it seems more typical for people to base their religion on their political values...)
I hadn't heard of your hero, Olivia, nor do I know how closely the available fiction shows the meaning of his life... (the role of actual 'historians' until pretty recent times.) You admire him (as depicted) as a peacemaker, which reminds me of a message yesterday in a local worship group -- re Alan Lew's take on Jacob's story. Until his change of name, Jacob was a clever, conniving man who conspired to take his brother's birthright, his father's blessing, etc. His bad ways kept him on the run from one place to another, cheating and being cheated as he went. And then, having noplace left to run to, he returned to brother's territory, where he heard that brother (Esau) was coming to meet him with 300 armed men. And then he has that sleepless night of 'wrestling with the angel', is given a name that could mean 'Wrestles with God.' His future conduct shows that he is still a clever, conniving man -- but that cleverness is now directed towards throwing himself on his brother's mercy, towards making peace and reconciling. Says Lew ~'The thing we hated most about ourselves can turn out to be our true name, our greatest gift.' [When that trait at last develops as God intended.]
Two new attenders at my Meeting are rightly horrified that an old woman seems likely to die soon in an alley near their place. One is from a foreign country where government policies have kept this sort of suffering extremely rare -- as it was here, when I was growing up.
My favorite aunt got through the Depression by the unusual good fortune of getting a job at the Post Office. Since Post Office employees were paid monthly, she worked about that long while awaiting her first paycheck; and one day her boss found her passed out from hunger on the steps, bought her lunch, made sure she had enough to tide her over...
When I was growing up, economic conditions for most Americans were improving and reaching a sort of peak of relative fairness... Black people were still largely excluded from that prosperity, but people assumed this was being rectified. The civil rights movement that was to blossom later, in the 60's, was barely in the background of our awareness, despite the suffering and dedicated work that kept it smoldering there.
One day in elementary school we had an air raid drill. Someone had dug trenches out beyond the playground; we were told to lie down in those trenches, facing away from San Francisco, with our coats over our heads... and then the bell rang and we returned to school.
Times change; times will most certainly change -- and although we are all nice and good, our precarious comfort rests on a system that brings unimaginable suffering to millions. We are offered many rationales for why things need to be, even ought to be this way -- and how charity dollars and committees of experts are mitigating, will someday overcome these 'problems'.
David Bohm, toward the end of the last century [paraphrased]: We keep getting new and uglier 'problems'; what does this have to do with the way we keep solving the old ones? -- and -- If we go on as we are, either the economy will crash or we'll destroy our own life-support environment over the next several years.
Since his death, we've managed to do both, though most people we know are insulated from that reality.
One of my college housemates: "We could accidentally blow up our whole world at any time. And yet I keep living, have to keep living, as if things were going to go on as expected."
There is one rock we can build our lives on -- and it isn't an insurance company. There is justice; there is mercy even in those few (but unpleasant!) sufferings I've known.
But I'm sorry, I keep waiting for that Shoe to fall...
I hear this and I hear it good. One thing strikes me first, from my profession. Since I am a clinical social worker I know that there are options for an old woman ready to die. I know there are sometimes obstacles and I have had the frustration of having to turn a mentally ill person out to the street, but if this is an elderly ill person there should be some options regarding her status as an adult in need of a protection. It is possible she wants to die on the street, has anyone asked her what she wants? "Mother Jones" recently published an article and "Reader's Digest" reprinted it concerning the issues health professionals come up against in obtaining and yes, at times forcing care on the mentally ill. I can't remember the name of the article, I will look it up. I don't know if this elderly woman is mentally ill, physically ill or both. I understand that the point of your discussion has a deeper issue than going off into the specifics of this one case, but nevertheless, we can only resolve sufferings one person at a time.
I just haven't given up. Sure, it might all end. But then again it might not. I say, "Let us not tire of doing good."
First Day School Lessons: Shall we sing "This Little Light of Mine, I'm gonna let it shine" or perhaps meditate with the little ones on this, "Life's a Bitch and then you die". I will opt for the first should I ever be blessed to teach First Day School.
I believe in supporting public programs to help those in need, and organized church programs and also just helping individually as needed, not relying on the first two alone to ease suffering.
Forrest, someone can ask the old woman what she needs. The two horrified Quakers can bring her food and blankets, they can inquire as to what would help. If she will accept help they can make phone calls on her behalf and find her care.
Many times these folks are turning down help from a program. Sometimes the help can be forced on them and they lose their freedom. It is an ethical issue those concerned with the mentally ill homeless face.
I keep backpacks with snacks, old coats and emergency supplies with me to hand out to the many people I encounter on the streets in the coastal towns of Northern California. No this doesn't solve the problem on a global level, but it is a small kindness and perhaps may help them eventually be more open to real help. Or they may be taking advantage. I don't really try to sort that out. If I speak with them often, I may ask them if they have tried to go down to the social service center for more solid long term help. They may tell me that they don't trust the case managers or something like that. I just express sympathy and say, I hope things get better soon.
So, my little efforts don't do much. What would the world be like with no little Golden Rule boats protesting war and violence? What if wars went on and no one ever ever put forth a different view?
What if no one ever reached out to ease suffering in whatever small way they could? If we think our world is dark now. . .
Bruce Cockburn song, "Kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight". Who will kick with me?
Or should I go out and slap the "Life's a Bitch and then you Die" bumpersticker on my bumper?
The taboo against seeing homeless people doesn't block everyone; I think this couple have talked to her. And been told that this city's arrangements for dishoused people are entirely inadequate, overwhelmed, too often oppressive. That a person might rather die in an alley than strapped to a wheelchair is not a sign of mental illness.
My impression is that they do intend to help, in whatever small (perhaps large) way they can find.
One of the more common things homed people hear when they do talk with homeless people: "I never thought I'd end up out here."
Look, I could talk forever about the dehumanizing assumptions people make, the demeaning roles they force people into, the malign neglect and smug neighborhood persecution campaigns, the entrenched political-won't, that make this condition such an intractable feature of what we've come to know and accept as American life.
Norma Rossi started the local 'Coalition for the Homeless' here back in the 80's; when some friends of mine were active in the 90's we talked with her about it, heard how she'd led groups of women and children to City Hall to be greeted by police in riot gear. Her organization had become a charitable 501(c)3 by our day... but by then she knew some lawyers, and every few years there'd be a few homeless people willing to sue the City for the deliberate destruction of what little personal property they'd had. They'd win the suit and get a few thousand dollars; the police department would stop making sweeps of homeless peoples' possessions for several years. Once (we saw the film) the department made a training film for new officers explaining the reasons these were illegal and unconstitutional. And then, all that would gradually unhappen. Real estate owners still wanted homeless people discouraged from living anywhere, everywhere that was possible -- and so the dumpsters would return. Whenever someone isn't throwing their lives, fortunes, etc into the fray... Things get worse.
I fled this battle because I was sick to death of impersonating a good person... & we were both (Anne & I) getting too old to sleep out with the troops... (even though they loved us for it when we did) and because I'd come to see the problem as a mere symptom of our collective spiritual state... I admire those few people who are still hanging in there after decades of good dedicated work [Terry Messman of AFSC's 'Street Spirit' for example], but I'm very relieved to not see it as a personal calling anymore.
What is our illness and Where do we turn for the cure?