Monday, November 29, 2021
Sunday, November 21, 2021
Years ago I heard a wise man say, “I believe there is a God, but if there isn’t, we’d have to invent one.’ I didn’t immediately ‘get it’. I thought he was just being flip—but the thought stayed with me.
Recently I have returned to that thought. It seems that in the 21st Century, as a society, we’ve lost touch with God; God has become irrelevant. When, by law prayer was eliminated from classrooms and public assemblies, the idea of God gradually faded. That isn’t to say that all thoughts of God have disappeared, but its place in society’s consciousness had been relegated to the back seat, whereas it was once front and center.
In the time when references to God were common-place, many people would say grace at meals and prayers at bedtime—that is now a rarity. Before radio and TV, it was fairly common, especially in rural areas, for families to gather round a table as a family member read from the Bible. In 1912, at the realization that the Titanic was sinking, the ship’s string ensemble spontaneously began playing ‘Near My God to Thee’—that would never cross the minds of people today.
We can’t know God because God is so beyond our human understanding. It is worse than unfortunate that so many different ways of attempting to grasp what a God must be and what One would want of us, led to different images, definitions and demands which led to conflict and division. None of the images can capture God.
Whether God is, or is not real, our understanding in the contemporary world is that God represents the source of all that is good and desirable . . . all hope, truth, love . . . the vessel of all goodness. Ergo the opening statement, ‘if there isn’t (a God) we’d have to invent one. We need a reminder, an incentive to continue striving for the good. Only if good surpasses evil will the planet continue.
As thoughts of God have faded from our awareness we have seen an escalation of dangerous and destructive behaviors. On the large scale: explosions of violence and vandalism during peaceful protests; political polarization where each side flatly rejects anything proposed by the other; widescale polluting of the planet; increasing presence and threat from nuclear weapons; terrorism in the form of suicide bombers and individuals with assault weapons opening fire on innocent strangers and vehicles driven into crowds. On a smaller scale: a willingness to close eyes to facts and fabricate alternative ‘truths’; airline passengers attacking flight attendants over being told to mask up for public safety; brawls at sports events—both professional and little league; school board meetings interrupted by parents shouting and demanding changes in the curriculum . . . a general demise of civility.
The general public seems to accept this as ‘the way things are’ and not realize it is in our hands to change. We need God; either embraced as real, or ‘invented’ by a return to intentionally seeking ‘the good’.
Friday, October 29, 2021
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Now that the Taliban has returned to power in Afghanistan, girls over 13 are once again denied education and all women’s freedom is restricted. There, women and girls are regarded as chattel to be controlled by men. That was the ‘norm’ of all history prior to the 20TH Century.
As humanity gradually inches toward enlightenment, we now see horrible mistakes make in the name of ‘progress’.
--historically, kingdoms sent adventurers to find and conquer ‘new lands’; then, subjugating the natives, claimed the territory for their far-away monarchs.
--in the 1600’s, an emerging ‘industry’ was designed to capture and restrain dark-skinned humans, then transport them across the ocean to sell them to white slave-owners.
--in the mid1900’s, a nation perceiving itself as ‘superior’, rounded up other humans deemed ‘inferior’; then devising a ‘final solution, gassed and burned them in incinerators.
Ever since the earliest institution of government, women were not included. That position came to be known as: Patriarchy—a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded. In our time the Taliban demonstrates that.
In general, men and women have different fundamental perspectives on life. Individually, points-of-view vary across the spectrum, but taken as a whole, males tend to value power and control; while females value nurturing and compassion. Each perspective has its value, but it was patriarchy that determined the unfolding of civilization. By having excluded the ‘female voice’ from participating in shaping the world, our world has become distorted. That is not to suggest either voice is superior . . . the problem came from males believing their voice was superior, and disavowed the female voice.
Bible stories tell of how people of that time sought to understand their world. They lacked science and used story-telling to explain life. Because it was only males in control, stories were heavily male oriented. We wonder how the stories might have been different if the story-tellers were women. How might a woman have told the story of Genesis?
If we look at Genesis (2 & 3)—the very beginning of scripture—as written, the story is told of God placing the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the center of the Garden of Eden and forbidding the human couple to eat of the fruit . . . but Satan tempts them, saying they will be like God if they eat the fruit. The woman picks the fruit and eats, then gives it to the man to eat . . . (here we see the male author blaming women for original sin . . . and thus justifying millenniums of oppression of women and establishing the superiority of the male gender) and then we see God, learning they disobeyed him, so in anger, he curses them and their children and drives them from the Garden.
Had a woman told the story in Genesis, it would have gone differently . . .
Retelling the Story
In the beginning, God placed the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden, saying to the human couple it was their choice to eat or not; but for their own good he cautioned them not eat it because it was the nature of The Garden to hold only the good, so if they ate of the fruit and came to know evil (it would become part of them) they would have to leave. They would then have to make their own way in the world.
When Satan told them that if they ate the fruit they’d know all things like God, Adam became restless. He wanted to be like God. He was curious, ‘what was this thing called evil?’ and he longed to see that world beyond the Garden. He talked of adventure to Eve, how exciting it would be to explore the unknown. She’d listen and agree that it sounded interesting, but she was more content with the garden and it didn’t seem wise to go against God’s advice. One day as they sat under the tree Adam said:
“Eve, reach up and pick me one of the fruit.”
“I think that’s not a good idea” she said.
He laughed and said, “Come on, Hun, trust me, it will be OK.”
“But God said not to”
“No, God just advised against it—and how do we know what we are missing if we don’t’ try it?”
“No, we shouldn’t” she pleaded.
“Come on, if you really love me you’ll do it.”
“Well, . . . I don’t know.”
“Go ahead, just pick one. That one right above your head.”
As she reached up gingerly, he said, “Great going, Hon! Now take a bite and give it to me.” She did.
After a while as the awareness of evil seeped into them, they knew they could no longer live there. Together they walked out of the garden; God watched with great sadness as they left, knowing the tribulation ahead.
Friday, October 8, 2021
Saturday, September 25, 2021
In listening to a tape on the Buddha which quoted a phrase of his; ‘the bonds of civility are fraying’—signaling a danger to social order—I realized that speaks to our culture. The bonds of civility refer to the invisible agreed upon ethics and etiquette which support civilization. Our world is under a great many stresses . . . covid pandemic, climate change, and society’s polarization to name a few. They strain our ability to cope.
During WWII the U.S. pulled together magnificently, but that unity of purpose has long since disappeared. Today we are divided, polarized, and implacable. The multiple crises are magnifying our unrest. We are in peril. The demise can be seen in everything from the increase in gun violence, to disruptive passengers on airplanes, to most pointedly—the fight over mask wearing to prevent the spread of the covid pandemic. Covid is an airborne virus which is spread by coughing, sneezing, talking, and simply breathing. It has been demonstrated scientifically that wearing face coverings sharply reduces the spread. We don’t know who is carrying the virus and masks are to protect the general population (as well as the self); it is in the interest of supporting civilization that it is done. To make it a personal rebellion, demonstrates an unwillingness to support the public good for selfish reasons. Even as a very young child during the war effort, I was aware that ‘everyone must do their part’ . . . we fail our children by not conveying that message.
Society’s polarization has increased by a deliberately manufactured lie—that the election was stolen—which is being peddled as ‘Truth.’ Although proven to be a lie, it is still being supported by many. Few thing can be more dangerous to social order than a significant falsehood be loudly proclaimed as truth.
The ‘bonds of civility’ are rooted in morality. Morality is defined as: principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong, good and bad, truth and falsehood . . . leading to a system of values and principles of conduct. Morality’s roots are inherent in human consciousness, but it requires nurturing—we choose to keep it flourishing . . . or don’t! When we fail to choose for the greater good, we are fraying the bonds of civility.