All Saints Episcopal Church - Thoughts from Fr. Marshall
 
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I think that in order to address issues of morality in our society we must dig deep and search for our souls. We must search for that place from which St. Augustine says we must LOVE and do as you will.

In a society where people teach sexual morality to their children on the basis of this mandate to LOVE instead of on a morality based on fear and shame I might have more respect for social and religious leaders who express strong opinions about how other people should manage their own choices.

In our present society with all of its abuse, denial and hypocrisy it makes me more than outraged that men, many of them celibate (or so they claim) think they should have the power to regulate the decisions women and LGBTQ people make about their bodies and their lives.

The two issues, sexism and homophobia are deeply related. They are in fact one issue steaming from the sense of entitlement some in society thinks gives them a moral right to judge and decide for the rest of us on the basis of their particular sex role expectations, often claiming to be based on particular interpretations of their religious traditions which, as we experience time and time again, many of them make little effort to live up to or to apply uniformly.

In an ideal society abortion might indeed seldom be the desired solution for women but, it is clear opinion that that choice and others in regards to her reproductive choices must always be hers and not governments.

I also believe that all citizens, within the restraints of and equal application of common law, have a civil right to constitute households according to their own desires.

This is why I am so passionate about the separation of religion and state. I trust the church (said the priest) if possible, even less than the state. History has taught us. Will we learn?

 
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From the Huffington Post Religion and Politics Site. It is a comment on the Roman Catholic Bishop's claim that President Obama is trying to take away their religious liberty.

Providing standard coverage with insurance policies that allows one's employes to make choices about their own bodies is, in my opinion, not a breach of the employer's religious liberty.

Tailoring policies that exclude certain legally available options in our society sets a precedence of interfering with the relationship between patient and doctor and in the forum of conscience of the individual
which seems truly anti-democratic.

The religious leaders who seek such control and scream religious liberty violation are clearly admitting that their moral suasion has failed.

They are largely being ignored even by the members of their own communities. A state of hypocritical posturing that has little to do with the lived reality of faith within their communities (much like issues of sex and sexual orientation) invades the public discourse when these leaders should, in my opinion, be searching their own souls and attempting to convert the hearts of their own people.

Instead they are attempting to control their employs, who may or may not share their faith, through the civil law. They are not living with much respect for the social contract or the diversity of opinion that makes it strong. Not their job, again, in my opinion.

 
So, let's freely acknowledge that many of the details of Jesus’ life are remarkably similar to those of Joseph’s life in the Hebrew Scriptures and that many of Jesus’ prime utterances are clearly from the school of Hillel, a rabbi who lived before Jesus. Let’s also rejoice in the fact that many, many of the elements of his life are recapitulations of themes in the Hebrew Scriptures and that they present amazing parallels with the stories of Horus, Krishna, Zoroaster, Mithras, Attis, Dionysus-Bacchus, the Buddha and others.

Further, let's be clear that we understand that the Synoptic Gospels do not actually see with one clear eye. They present themes and timelines that do not always agree, and of course, John is even less in alignment. The gospels share this with many books of the Hebrew Scriptures, starting with Genesis 1:1, which presents a creation myth that cannot be synced with the myth that begins at 2:4b and forward.

Having freely acknowledged all of that, let us also remember that the ancient world did not deal in fact as we know it nor did the modern concept of history or science exist. Superstition and ignorance, still very present today, were certainly there when these stories were formed, but, poetry, deep meaning and mystical experiences were also very much part of ancient experience and communication.

The ancient world abounds in texts and stories that are powerfully produced from deep and intuitive places within the human psyche--places so deep that the texts still speak to us today because they are from, and point us towards, our own deepest humanity; a humanity we share with the ancients.

So, as an example, we decide to apply modern or even postmodern analysis to the story of Jesus. We, brilliantly, recognize all the inconsistencies in the story. So do we dismiss it as mythic garbage at best and Roman-originated political propaganda at worst. A tool used to brainwash and control the masses, which has been passed down through the ages from power generation to power generation and employed to keep the mass of us fearful and disempowered.

It is a neat theory and a clean cut with the confusion that surrounds religion in our time. It appeals to our sense of order, directness and simplicity. After all, we must be free from the ignorance and superstition that has made for such horror in the past. Remember the Crusades, the burning of witches, the sexism, racism and homophobia brought to us by the institutions that were using these ancient superstitions in order to keep power.

There can be no doubt that a portion of the truth is to be found in this evaluation of our religious and political history, and it continues to be expressed in this way today.

The problem is with this story and similar stories in all their forms and versions in every culture. They present a real obstacle to this easy dismissal.

For a moment let us lay aside questions of historical evidence and proof of actual existence for all of the heroes of these tales. Just for a moment please. Each of us can choose how to deal with the demands of evidence at anytime. For now let us simply consider the stories on their own merits, as stories.

If we can approach them with an open mind and simply consider them without imposing upon them struggles with belief and critical methodology, we may well realize , at least, that they are damn good stories.

We may even have a sense of how powerful and deep they are. The power and the depth of the stories might even hint to us that they are true in a sense that is far, far deeper than our concern with scientific methodology or historical fact.

 
Consider the story of the birth of Jesus. If we focus on whether to read it as metaphor or as history, or upon how to respond to the science and gynecology of the idea of virgin birth we may become so frustrated that we will walk away in disgust before we catch the poetic, nay, mystical power transmitted by the story--a power that offers us pointers toward a radical shift of consciousness and values that may transform our very sense of reality. I believe this story and many others in many traditions have done so to generations of mystics and continue to work as leaven in the loaf today.

The story is radical. It is from a deep well of human longing and expanded consciousness. It pits a “powerless” woman, out of sync with the values of the culture in which she lives, with no recourse to the power structures of her society, against that very power structure and tells us that she is instead connected, through her voluntary submission, to the very source of life, the very ground of being, and is indeed pregnant from and with that Source and Force.

She utters, in her vulnerable state, perhaps the most revolutionary utterance of the Christian scriptures, the Magnificat. She utters it in the full power of the prophetic tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures. She utters it as an announcement of the fulfillment of all the hopes, dreams and aspirations of her society at its best and most profound. She utters it as the very voice of the manifest world. She, the flesh-giver, is Matter. She heralds the breaking into human history of a Word that will shift, turn upside down, the established order of human society. She speaks of a value system that will fill the hungry with good things and send the rich empty away, that will indeed pull down the mighty from their thrones and exalt the lowly. I believe she speaks as the voice of evolution, not of revolution, and her voice still calls us toward those ideals.

We might almost miss these insights if we remain fixed in our critical approach or if we are constantly defending against the fear of criticism. Fundamentalism and literalism are the enemies of new insight and correction. Wisdom is to live always open to new insight and correction. Both  literalist religious believers and fundamentalist critics from the world of scientific method and historical-critical analysis seem to be too involved with being right to even hear a good story, let alone be shifted or transformed by it.

It is not that I don’t care about the critical concerns, both, or all of the camps; it is just that I cannot share their perspectives because the story of the baby born in a stable in a world that had absolutely no room for him has so touched me and changed my sense of reality, of the good, the true and the beautiful, of the meaning and purpose of life, that I don’t have the energy to fight their fights with or for them.

Perhaps the issues they raise can’t be resolved or reconciled. Even so, If I knew for a surety that the stories were one hundred percent lacking in fact and produced fully from the minds and imaginations of human beings, I would marvel still at their power and at the depth of our common humanity that in every culture and in many times has produced such stories which have presented us with our deepest aspirations and the most profound longings of our souls and have born fruit in the lives of individuals and communities that, no matter how ignorant and imperfect, continue to strain to live into the ideals presented. We are marvelously made, however that came to pass.

Yes the stories have often been perverted and misappropriated for sometimes horrific ends, but their truth always seems to emerge again.

Think of the power of the stories of Moses and the Passover as well as the Resurrection of Jesus in the slave community of the United States in the nineteenth century that bore fruit in the civil rights movement of the twentieth. The language of these ancient stories was again powerful and transformative.

If Jesus existed in history then he stands as a model for our full humanity and its graceful potential. He stands to beckon and guide us toward that shift of consciousness, that transformation that will change us and promote our evolution.

If Jesus has only ever existed in the imaginations of humans then he stands there in that imagined world as a call and a guide toward that same fullness of humanity that the story represents to us.

In either case, we are the one’s charged with his coming, first or second. We are the ones called to be transformed into the Imago Dei, to become Alter Christus.

The story of Jesus is the story rooted most deeply in my heart and it’s grounding in the images and ideas of cultures long before it was first told makes me glad. My concern is with trying to live into the story, not deconstruct or prove or disprove it. My direct experience of the power of the story is my motivation and reason.

Simply put, I want to be like Jesus and to submit to the will of the Whole, the Source and Ground, as his mother did. 

The fact that the story of Jesus is tied to many of the great mythic cycles, to the movements of the stars and to the grand cycles of nature, and that it can at the same time present us with an image of the relationship between God, the All, the Source and our humanity that is as intimate as the breath shared in a kiss exchanged between a mother and her baby, causes the story to resonate even more fully and passionately in my consciousness. Amen.

Love and Light,
Lewis Marshall

 
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I wrote most of this several weeks ago but for some reason it did not post. I will try again.

On the last Sunday After the Epiphany each year we read the lesson about the transfiguration of the Lord. There he is up on the mountain, accompanied by a few of the boys, and he is caught up in glory between Moses and Elijah. He is shown to be the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.

Soon, he will be lifted up on a hill again, the next time between two thieves and though his glory will not be shone in the same way His crucifixion is the ultimate epiphany for which he came and for which he prepared his followers. It is the epiphany that these two thousand plus years later we are still trying to grow into.

Dear Peter rushes forward at this glorious epiphany to proclaim how good it is that he and his buddies are there to see this glory and to propose the building of three shrines to mark the spot and the event. He does not yet fully understand.

The good news about Peter is that he lived to grow into the epiphany of the cross. He lived beyond his denial that is contrasted with his three time declaration of love and he live to embrace even  his own death on a cross with a humility and willingness that I, at least, can hardly imagine.

There is within the system of insight and understanding which we call Christian such a richness and joy! It resonates with all good, truth and beauty and needs never to be defined over and against other attempts to convey love, grace and truth. Our job, like Peter's, is not to enshrine our religion in stone but to incarnate it in our own bodies and express it in our own lives. This is the transfiguration we are called to, this is the glory we are intended to be an epiphany of in the world.

On the Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, we embrace humility (humus--our earth element) by having our heads marked with ashes and our minds and hearts reminded of our nature. On our own we simply return to the dust from which we were formed; "Remember that thou art dust and unto dust shalt thou return." But! we are not on our own, we like Peter are not our mistakes and limitation. We too are being transformed more and more into his very image. We too are part of the new creation prepared for by the law and the prophets.

It is good indeed that we are here and that this light of Epiphany is here and has dawned in our lives. May our Lenten discipline cleanse us and prepare us for the glory that is to come.

Love and Light,
Lewis Marshall
 
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So, we started to thrive when we discovered the division of labor. One person, very good at something produces more than she or he needs for her or his family and they sell the excess or barter it for something else they need.

We create a system of exchange and economies other than nature's economy come into being. Currency is invented and one thing leads to another and soon we have global economies.

I think this is very exciting. I grew up on a farm. I know how labor intensive things were in past generations. I love to garden and I like preserving as much of my own food as I can. I am very interested in hand made and home made things, but I am also very glad that I can go to the store and buy what I cannot or do not wish to produce for myself. I exchange my services, my talents, my work for money which allows me to purchase what I cannot or do not wish to produce for myself.

Excellent!

The problem comes in when the ones producing what I wish to purchase fail to guard the quality of their product or they produce it or process it or add to it or transport and market it in ways that offend my pallet or sensitivities or damage the ecosystem we all share.

When economies grow so large and begin to be concentrated in the hands of huge corporations who destroy local production and sacrifice quality for a kind of highly manipulated chemical dependent agricultural mass production, we have a frightening situation in which we are cut off from the source of our food often by thousands of miles.

We have been sold a bill of goods. We became a fairly mindless consumer society based on the promises made to us in advertisements that General Mills and Nabisco and Wonder Bread (enriched in twelve ways) could and were doing it better for us than our local baker or our grandmother and they could do it cheap too and save us the intense labor.

While the price of our food remains relatively low compared to other societies (a smaller percentage of our earnings spent on it) we have been promised much and receive less and less in quantity and in quality.

It is past time for us to demand the availability of more seasonal, less processed and more nutritious LOCAL food. Our health, on many levels, depends upon it.

Now, for the switch on my part. The church has done this bait and switch on us as well. This is why while I deeply and profoundly love the catholic christian tradition and believe that it is rich and deep with information that points us to a direct experience of the living God who's Grace is always already being poured out all around us at all times and in all places, I also have a very protestant sense of the necessity, nay, the moral obligation, to always question authority.

The clerical establishment comes into existence in the early church in order to allow some people to preach and teach and serve in special ways for the promotion of the kingdom. They have perhaps greater time for study and writing and for preaching and teaching and they can support us in our growth and in our spiritual development. Jesus had already established a sacramental life for his church and we allowed this clerical establishment to carry responsibility for taking it forward.

While this sacramental life has been enriched and developed and has many treasures to share with us it has also in local practice, often been reduced and treated as a collection of  commodities to be controlled and distributed by the clerical establishment in ways that help them to perpetuate their own dominion over the faithful and to enrich themselves in very venial ways.

The true nurture is sometimes hard to find in the life of many clerically dominated establishments and in many cases true perversity and abuse have been put in the place of spiritual encouragement and support. The nurture has been processed out of the "product'.

It is time for the reformation of both our physical and spiritual food sources as we move forward. We should be loving and patient but relentless in demanding this reform. To say yes and mean yes is necessary but to say no and mean no is equally important. We must question and demand clarity and honesty from our leadership at all levels and we must be sure that we act in our individual lives in the very same way we expect our leaders to act and live.

In this complex world the stakes keep getting higher and higher. It is clear that the way we have been doing business is not serving. How far back we must go before we are able to move forward is not clear. Systems ultimately devolve to the last place in themselves that is in integrity. That place is the place at which we must meet no matter how painful it may seem.

It will actually be very exciting to build from that place. May it be said that our generation has learned its lessons and will leave the food supply better than we found it.

Love and light,

Lewis Marshall

Sex

1/26/2011

7 Comments

 
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I was listening to the radio in the car yesterday. It was an anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. I do not hesitate to say that I believe passionately in a woman's right to choose. I have always, however, known that the issue of abortion is not one of black and white, good and evil. It is an issue that, in my opinion, can only be looked at clearly by considering the context of the very complex set of circumstances that form and deform the way we live together in this culture at large and certainly within the Church.

I actually think that very, very few people inside the Church and or other religious establishments, or out for that matter, liberal or conservative, pro-life or pro choice are looking at the whole picture.

I believe that by and large we are very immature and confused about human sexuality. We are flat minded and actually do not understand how truly powerful and important sexuality is and so our responses to issues that arise on the subject are usually addressed in relatively shallow and reductionistic terms that often miss the most important and central truths of the situation. I believe this applies to almost all popularly taken positions.

Sexism, sex role expectations, sexual orientation, are all part of one mystery. All ethical and moral considerations that relate to our sexuality are by their very nature issues of community and collective identity. What concerns one or a minority must ultimately concern all and it is in the best interest of all that health and wholeness is made possible for every member of our society.

Abortion is no exception. The conception of a child and its birth are among the flowers of human sexuality. In order to reflect upon child conception and birth or the morality of interfering in this process we must understand the complexities of human sexuality in general and in the context of human community.

As the Book of Common prayer says in the wedding service, producing and nurturing children is a gift along with the fulfillment of the couple's mutual affection and the reaching out in love and concern for others that it should produce. This defines some of the larger context we need to examine.

The wedding service envisions relations confirmed by a solemn vow that will last and be healthy and strong. In this context we will bring children into the world and raise and nurture them. This is one ideal. Perhaps there are others of equal value.

Of course, the above ideal represents the lived experience of fewer and fewer of us and if the truth be known about our whole sexual histories, almost none of us. It never has. I suspect that at this point very few people are prepared to take solemn vows of marriage with much clarity or with mature judgment.

Sex role ideals and sex role expectations in our society often insist that we act in ways for which we are not suited nor prepared and actually have never meshed with the truth about how we live our lives. Those of us who did not or do not know this have available to us the overwhelming research evidence of Dr. Kinsey and many other researchers through the years.

We have not been living with an honest and truthful anthropology that reflects our true nature and behavior. The truth is not in us.

This fact of incongruence is no surprise nor is it a reason to abandon the ideal, but, it is cause for us to examine our foundational assumptions and to ask ourselves what we really know and deeply believe about human sexuality and human relationships. Are there a variety of possibilities all of which contain ideal potential? On what basis do we teach morality to our children and what standard do we as a society hold up for ourselves? What is the balance of autonomy and law that we should impose in response to issues arising from questions of human sexuality. Is coercion, legal and social, a loving or even a practical response to disagreement or confusion arising in this relationship we share as human community?

While I don't know or 'believe' much and while I have more questions than answers and therefore don't feel qualified to dictate morality to others with rigidity, I can actually speak from my own experiences. Certain general principals seem to me to be applicable.

The rule is the rule of love. How do we define love? In the Christian tradition, everything proceeds from the relationship, the Love, among the persons of the Blessed Trinity therefore everything proceeds from, is sustained by and is called back to Love--into the life and community of the Trinity.

How did we, in the Christian tradition, get from that to the shame and guilt version of morality that is our stock and trade?

How did the message and invitation into the life of Love and Grace--how did it get reduced to a bunch of politicized  and often angry, condemning and hateful issues and rules?

I'll cut to the chase, if we really loved with the love of the Trinity, in who's image we are all created, we would respect one another enough to listen to one another. We would examine our assumptions and listen humbly, especially when one of us is speaking from her or his own unique experience. Even after listening and still disagreeing, we would love and not condemn nor reject, punish, exclude nor judge.

In this context, that is in our failing to love with the Love of the Trinity, the polarized moral climate surrounding abortion looks more like a collective failure and therefore addressing it at its root becomes a collective responsibility based on the desire to build healthy relationships, not to legally dictate or judge.

Of course, the protection of children and a love for all life, including the unborn is part of our obligation. We must make working judgments in order to protect and to maintain a safe and peaceful society but this does not give us an excuse to disenfranchise or stop loving those who disagree with us.  We must respect their autonomy as far as possible and be willing to examine and not act from our prejudices when we extend acceptance, if not agreement. This applies even when we act legally to restrain our sisters and brothers for the protection of society and of those not able to protect themselves. It ends the punishment industry among other things.

While the unborn may indeed be seen as not able to protect themselves and fully deserving our societies protection, I believe the reality is more complex (actually, more foundational and in a sense simpler). I will address it by first asking, how do we teach morality to our children after they are born?

What would happen if we were to be honest and to teach sexual ethics to our children by teaching them to truly act lovingly. We would not teach them to deny the passion and pleasure touch and embrace can bring but we would teach them the responsibility of being truly loving before or when engaging sexually. We would not teach them to hide and deny their feelings or to feel such shame if their choice of partner does not meet with social approval that they may think their lives to be untenable. We would teach them not to be ashamed when they make a mistake but to lovingly learn from their mistakes in order to become stronger, wiser and more loving people.

In this kind of world the context in which we are discussing abortion would be radically changed. Our society would be one in which the birth of a child is always a cause of joy and not of shame even if the conception was not accomplished in the most responsible or loving way. Our society would be so truly committed to life and to love that no mother or father would ever have to worry about the support and nurture of their child. We would all share in the responsibility.

In my opinion, an abortion is never a happy nor an ideal response, except when the life of the mother is at risk, but until we mature into a truly loving society I frankly don't think legal coercion, nor harsh judgment and condemnation has any place in the discussion.

Respecting a woman's right to choose, even if we think the choice is wrong, is in a very real way a necessity brought about because of the hypocrisy of our false and unloving society and religion. Religious people in particular should look to the plank in their own eye first and help create a true environment of choice grounded in a recognition of our corporate responsibility as our brother's and sister's keepers.

Coercion would not be an option in any case. A profound respect one for another, a mutuality in relationship is foundational to true, Trinitarian love. What we can do is insure that we truly allow one another a sense of real choice. I believe that most people will make the loving one in a loving society.

So, I can hear the cynical, "yeah, like this is going to work!" Well, is what we are doing now working?

Love and light,
Lewis Marshall

 
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 I remember at age eight, living in the Jim Crow South, sitting in a mimosa tree and my grandmother telling me that Dr. King had been killed.

Unlike many white people we were very sad. Dr. King had the great admiration of my grandmother and of both my parents.

As an adult and as a high school teacher in two private schools in which I taught, I remember arguments with other teachers and administrators who did not think Dr. King deserved a national holiday and they didn't want to give the holiday to our students, mostly African American.

Their point of view did not prevail I am  happy to report and I like to think that like many politicians they think back with some shame.

One history teacher said to me in a faculty senate meeting "you can't believe he deserves an observed holiday more that Washington or Lincoln." He said it with great anger. I replied as calmly as I could that actually I did.

I said then and I believe now more than ever that Dr. King took leadership like no other person in our history in moving all of us toward the creation of a more perfect union.

Slavery is a historical reality that mocked the words of our founding documents. Extending the full and equal protection of the law, first to women and then to people of color, brought an integrity that has made it possible for us to envision a future free from constructs that have robbed generations of much potential and possibility.

The union is not yet perfect, but the continuation of the behaviors that violate the integrity of the ideals upon which we claim to stand, become more and more obviously incongruous and destructive as time passes.

Dr. King did perhaps more than any other person in our history to shine light upon and to help us see both the tragedy of our mistaken behavior and choices and the glorious possibility of living beyond those limitations and mistakes. Following his master, Jesus, he helped us once again have a clearer vision of our potential.

Our religion is all about relationship. There is no one who exist who is not the image and likeness of God. Dr. King did so much to articulate this reality and did God's work in helping us see and understand the lack of integrity with which we mocked our highest ideals as a nation and a people.

He did not stop with race but went on to speak of the shame of a people who allow and even profit from maintaining their sisters and brothers in poverty, without adequate opportunity to live life and pursue happiness and liberty.

Yes, I believe that Dr. King did God's work. I do not disparage the great contributions of Washington and Lincoln but the stand taken by Dr. King, paid for in his blood, is so fundamentally and universally humane and required such courage and personal integrity, against, not with the support of society or government, that I honestly believe it belongs to a special kind of offering to humanity that Americans of all races and faiths should hold dear and celebrate with humility and gratitude-- his gift to the evolution of our race on this planet.

May Dr. King's story be told and may we, with pride, pass it on to all of our children for all times to come, Above all, may we live into the ideals he modeled and eloquently articulated for us all.

Love and Light,
Lewis Marshall

 
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The Last Judgment
The idea that sin or pathology, if you will, is completely a matter of individual choice and responsibility seems to me to be very shallow and in fact ignorant.

We are corporate creatures. We are born into a history and a society and a culture. We inherit constructs that can at their best communicate the wisdom of many generations of lived experience and sometimes deep insight and at worst can truncate our human potential and enslave us to false and confused understandings and assumptions.

While I believe in individual responsibility it seems foolish beyond all credibility for people to claim not to see and not to admit that both through our actions and our failures to act, through our choices and the things we put into the ideosphere, we share in a collective shaping and forming of our reality and our global environment on every level from material through the ideological and even the spiritual.

We are our sister's and brother's keepers.

On 9-11 the few brave souls who suggested that we look deeply at what had happened in order to find out not only what had prompted the attacks by a radicalized minority within Islam but also what larger social factors including the role we as a people through our government and its policies and we as a people acting in a global economy may have played in encouraging and enabling the attacks, were vilified.

These voices were not suggesting that the attacks could ever be justified but were attempting to communicate the profound necessity for taking a brave and completely honest look at the situation in order to find a clear understanding of what was happening so that we could stop it and prevent further attacks, further dysfunction. They knew that what was required was a deep examination of the situation from every perspective. Nothing on this planet happens in a pure vacuum. We are complex creatures and we have developed complex realities that are increasingly global.

In theological terms, recognizing the corporate heritage of sin and confusion is what I think we mean by original sin.

Wisdom, in my opinion, has nothing to do with blame or punishment or judgment, all of those are for God, it has to do with solving problems beginning with understanding the source and nature of the problems and then formulating responses that are able to address them in effective and successful ways. It has to do with understanding and then acting in order to avoid, as much as possible, the destructive and pathological eruptions that break through into our corporate life from the lives of those most diseased and damaged and usually isolated in our collective exercise of living.

Yes, it is enlightened self interest among other things.

The uncontrolled growth of our punishment industry, which is crushing us economically in many places, is forcing us to look at issues of crime and punishment more deeply. The military, on the front lines, has been teaching us about approaches to problems in these most often chaotic places that can effectively address the sources of the pathologies that grow where there is great anger and little hope or opportunity for healthy living. These successful military strategies use force to protect and not to punish, to clear space for the building of hope and possibility in places where the lack thereof promoted the anger and destruction that  often arises in response to despair.

Of course, some individuals will always make selfish and destructive choices. We must protect ourselves and our children and society at large, but we can best do this if we look into these matters deeply and find what can be changed that can ultimately change our corporate life for the better. This almost always includes being willing to change ourselves and our attitudes and understandings.

An honest and a wise person is one who also examines one's own life, attitudes and heart in order to be aware of ways in which we may be, even unconsciously, contributing to the growth of pathology.

Wisdom teaches us to seek to prevent and to heal and if necessary to protect and shows us the shallowness of seeking to blame and to punish and to label as evil instead of doing the hard work of understanding and engaging.

There are times, no doubt, when employing force, even deadly force, is necessary but wisdom teaches us that we can minimize these times, which tend to perpetuate violence and prove to be very expensive in every way, by looking deeply and responding lovingly to the disease that we find in our midst and in which we all share. "For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God." Romans 3:23.

Love and light,
Lewis Marshall

 
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The violence in Tuscon, like the instances of violence we have experienced in this country with horrible regularity, tend to leave us with questions profound and powerful-- questions as a society and sometimes as individuals.  Questions of and about our faiths.                                                                                                                                         

Let me propose to you the idea that the very central image of the Christian faith is aimed at addressing these most horrible moments that may come into our lives. The real life lessons that the liturgy and sacramental and prayer life of the church are intended to teach us are not only for day to day, peaceful life but for the eventuality of having to face even these most horrible events.                               
Christina Taylor Green, the nine year old who died in Tuscon, left behind two parents and a brother. In a way, she became the child of all of us. She died at the hands of a madman. She died in her innocence and her curiosity. It is difficult to make sense of such a senseless death.

It points out to us how fragile life is and how interdependent we are as human beings. We discovered that on a global scale on the day Christina was born. We are, for good and ill, all in this together. What happens in every society on the planet now clearly happens to all and can and will ultimately effect all.

The message of the cross is that nothing, even this horror, can separate us from the Love of God. As Jesus did, we may feel abandoned, but, we never are, even for one second.

This understanding of our interdependence and ultimate oneness, all of us including the sick and mad, countered by an understanding of the constant Love of God which sustains and upholds us even in the face of  tragedy and horror, while not stopping the horror from manifesting keeps us from being enslaved to fear and gives us freedom and strength for life, not just in the by and by but in the here and now.

This is to say, living in the light of the Paschal Mystery, the knowledge of the Resurrection,  makes us sons and daughters of Light. Our human bodies are still fragile bags of mostly water but our essential Being is of the very substance of the Divine.

The greater our awareness of our true nature as daughters and sons of the Light the greater our power for living transformed and transfigured lives and the greater our ability to participate in the healing of the world.

Jesus' power to heal came from his humanity in perfect alignment with his Father's will. He taught his followers the same lessons and helped them to understand the same gifts of healing. I believe they are still there for us. They may manifest in different ways but beyond fear and cynicism there is healing and power beyond all knowing. The power source is never withdrawn, never waivers. The power is the Love of God which is both shown to us and demonstrated in the face of the horror at the cross of Christ.

Love and light,
Lewis Marshall
 
 
Epiphany-theophany
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I don't believe much. I am also not very interested in what people believe.

Frankly, I think most people's beliefs are best transcended. For the most part, in my experience, beliefs keep people form experiencing.

I think many things and I believe a few. I believe that we are capable of experiencing love and that we are therefore capable of experiencing oneness with the ground of all being. In our tradition we call this absolute essence of the kosmos God.

We point toward the possibility of this direct experience using all that we have available to us, that is, metaphor. Our life is filled with this use of metaphor. It appears in beautiful language, art, music but also in science and philosophy. Every epistemological thing we do, that is, every thing we do in an attempt to know and understand, is directed toward this final goal of union, communion, with this absolute reality.

Jesus, our teacher, told us we find it within, "the kingdom of God is within." In him we believe we  have our perfect example. We believe that the Divine Image, in which we are all created, is completely and perfectly reveled in all situations and under all pressures in the life, teachings and example of Jesus.

He is our guide and example, but we must look inside ourselves and experience this Divine Image in our own lives. The Holy Spirit is here to inspire and guide us into this direct experience which we call heaven and we can begin to experience it here and now for it is here, now, "the kingdom of God is at hand."

The kingdom is only obscured by our own false consciousness and so we practice, pray, study live in community, in order to purify our consciousnesses.

The way of Jesus is my way. I love the way of Jesus and believe it to be unique. I do not, however, believe it to be only. Who are we to attempt to control or limit the paths to this direct experience? Who or we to try to hem in God with our doctrine or dogma? So, I believe few things. I tend to believe them deeply because they have pointed me toward this experience of the unutterable reality of the Ground of Being.

Love and light,
Lewis Marshall