Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ferguson's Accomplishment

       I have watched the TV coverage of the destruction of Ferguson . . . I almost couldn't watch, so I walked away, only to be drawn back over the days.  My first reaction was anger; then anger turned to sadness, then sorrow.  How can so many people support violence as a solution to the problem of injustice?  What happened in Ferguson was not a cry for justice, it was an excuse for unleashing a primitive howl for vengeance--yet to whom was the vengeance directed?  --to the very town in which the people live!

       The violence that reaped such harm against small businesses and homeowners so far exceeds the perceived injustice it can't be calculated.  And for what and why was vengeance sought?  There are so many complicated threads to this complex problem, but all real issues are lost in the melee.  We are all flawed humans needing to find the way to live together--it is a work in progress.  Is there police injustice?  Do they profile young black males?  It is a possibility, but why are young blacks profiled?  Are the police inherently prejudice/bad?  Or are there problems in the black community that feed the polarization?  Is it not a fact that there is a strong current of disrespect for police and disdain for the law--just listen to the years of rap music and look at the prevalence of the drug culture.  The legal system, imperfect though it be, is there not to oppress but to bring order to society and it works only when there is public support.

       With the extreme violence of November 2014, you perpetrators have desecrated the memory of Martin Luther King, a true black hero honored by all people regardless of race.  He emerged from a society much more deeply steeped in prejudice, yet he brought non-violent pressure to right the injustice of segregation.  He, along with Gandhi and Nelson Mandela demonstrated the effectiveness of non-violent protest and changed whole nations . . . the violence of Ferguson accomplished only the destruction of a city.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fundmental Change

       Life is a gift outside and beyond anything of man's own making; because of that, humanity has always felt a need for allegiance to the unknown source. (we call that Religion).  Many names have been given to that source, in Western Judo-Christian cultures we commonly use 'God'.  Our sacred book is the Bible, considered to be inspired by God . . . inspired by God, but delivered through the thought processes of man.
       In the Bible there are stories, and there are directives (as well as history and poetry).  The stories tell essential truths cloaked in narratives appropriate to the time and culture of its origin.  In these stories--or myths--complex concepts are introduced in ways that can reach the understanding level of those addressed--as in the creation story.

       The directives are unvarnished statements believed to be the direct word of God such as Deuteronomy 30, 'I set before you life and death . . . choose life'; or the Ten Commandments--what is said is meant.  The directives are not negotiable whereas the stories are interpreted and undergo changes in meaning as knowledge and understanding evolves.  Literalists fail to differentiate and assign the same value to everything insisting upon a yes or no answer to the Bible's overall veracity.

       Just as mankind has a need to honor life's source, so too mankind has a need to seek knowledge to understand the world (we call it Science).  Slowly we accumulate knowledge and periodically new discoveries call upon us to readjust our thinking.  Our earliest understanding of our world was of a flat earth surrounded by oceans--mariners feared sailing too far and falling over the edge. Above were the heavens in which the sun, moon, and stars revolved around us--our earth--and God from his heavenly vantage point watched man's every move--yes we were that important!  When Coperinicus' calculations indicated our most basic premise about earth and celestial bodies was incorrect and Galileo with his telescope confirmed that the earth was not the center of the universe but rather one of the many planets that moved in orbits around the sun, many found that fact intolerable and Galileo almost lost his life for making the claim--yet with time, thinking was readjusted to accommodate the truth.

       All philosophy, metaphysics and science up to the mid-nineteenth and twentieth centuries were ignorant of humanity being the product of evolution.  Until Darwin's discovery it was taken for granted by Religion that man was 'created apart', an instantaneous spontaneous creation of God.  As science grew in prominence,  doubt of God's reality crept in, then increased. God couldn't be seen, touched nor measured!  Science and Religion parted ways.  The theory of evolution seemed to complete the sundering between Science and Religion that had begun with the Enlightenment.  Darwin's theory appears to turn the human being into 'just one more' random creature among the multitude of beings populating the earth . . . thus we seem to have moved from all-important (via Religion) to of-no- importance (via Science).  Something is amiss there!  The human alone thinks, reasons, and reflects upon being--it is of another order.

       Today there is a need once again to readjust our thinking.  A fundamental change is called for to reunite Science and Religion.  What is humanity's place in all that is?  Evolution is the central governing principle of all that is--and if we study it carefully we can see in it a pattern and direction toward ever greater complexity, finally yielding a being with reflective awareness who knows and knows he knows, who can shape the future.  There is room for God.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Evolution Embraced

     It has been in the news that the Pope endorsed evolution saying "evolution is not inconsistent with the notion of creation."  Some people are surprised by that because they assumed the Catholic Church also opposed the idea of evolution as do many of the Evangelical Protestants--not so--as far back as 1950 Pope Pius XII said there was no opposition between evolution and Catholic doctrine.

     The evidence of Science is irrefutable, evolution is regarded as fact rather than a theory; any threat to religion arises from the popular interpretation that Darwin's theory denies God a place in creation.  It is possible to see evolution as God's plan.

     As we search to discover our origins we ask, "Are we of earth or of God?"  There seems to be a conflict:  Scripture says clay and God's breath brought us into being while Science argues that our being is merely a happenstance result of random blind choice.  A narrowness of vision closes the possibilities: 1) either in literal interpretation of Genesis, God fashioned man out of clay, breathed upon him and, poof! magically there was man fully formed and perfect; 2) or out of primeval ooze over eons of time elements, then cells, happened to combine simply because of proximity thus forming different species until finally, by randomness, man emerged.  Both possibilities in this simplistic view seem equally absurd!  Eliminate the absurdity (implausibility) in each choice: 1) many of the Old Testament's stories are symbolic.  Symbolic, not untrue, not a lie, but pointing to a truth beyond that age's ability to comprehend; and 2) evolution is more than random happenstance, the long view shows pattern and direction; that of complexification and the rise of consciousness.

    A brilliant Jesuit Paleontologist, Teilhard de Chardin, while studying ancient fossils in the deserts of China was able to realize that regarding evolution, besides either/or choices, there is also 'AND', thus opening a new portal of understanding.  Science and religion are not in conflict.  Evolution is God's plan for Creation.

                                                                     - - -


We are born as either/or people.
    Jesus, the Christ,
       is the beginning of 'and' . . .
       Of clay and sky we were fashioned.
       We've chosen to follow the nature of our birth
                        earth's clay we can touch--
                        God's breath is not palpable--

       The finite and material
               we can manipulate, can measure.
       The infinite and eternal
               we cannot grasp, cannot contain.

       So we elect to negate--
               choose one or the other:
                        either/or, either/or . . .
       Finite man locked in 'choosing limits'
               rendering choices that create our reality
                        either/or, either/or . . .
       These decisions skew the balance,
               there is weaving together to be done
                        --open to 'and'.

                            - - -

We are finitely mortal,
    God--infinitely expansive;
       through Immanuel those poles are joined.

                   Son of God; Son of Man

       Being itself unfolds gradually to consciousness
       First, survival and discovery--individuality and freedom
       Then, a New Law--love and unity.

       Because we are limited
       we have limited what can be--
                        a shell of narcissism
                        locks out the greater reality.
       Finite man choosing between
                        either/or, either/or . . .

                   Come, O Come, Immanuel!

       Because time cannot contain eternity,
       Eternity enters time--
              And asks us to see what cannot be perceived
                       hear what cannot be understood
                       know what cannot be comprehended
              to burst out of those limits into which we are born

                   to become the people of 'And'.