May 25th, 2022 by Dave No comments »

What Does It Mean to Be Black, Christian, and American? 

Danté Stewart, a minister and writer, honors the central place the Bible held in his family: 

There’s an old King James Version Bible sitting on my bookshelf. It is black, rugged; the gold lining on the pages shines as light hits it. The jacket is missing, and the threads have unloosened from one another over the years. It has been tried. It has traveled across the South, across time. Now it sits on a shelf where it keeps the company of books written by Black folk. Black folk who have read a similar Bible, who have wrestled with it, been confused by it. Black folk who have held it as tight as I do today.

When I open up this old Bible . . . I am suddenly surrounded by preachers and mothers and friends and saints and sinners who tried to love and live well—while failing, learning, and trying again. When I read these ancient scriptures, I hear the way they flowed from my momma’s lips. . . .

This was her language. It was the language of my grandmother, the language of her mother. . . .

After many years of worshipping and working in white church spaces, Stewart came to a crossroads in his faith:

As I live and move and have my being in this country, I wonder to myself: How do I be Black and Christian and American?

So I return to this old King James Bible, and our Black prayers, and Black sermons. . . .

I have learned that many of us have not given up on faith, just the way our faith has been used to oppress others. We have not given up on the Bible, just the way it has been used to marginalize others. We have not given up on Jesus . . . we’re not becoming less spiritual or religious. It’s just that we have learned to put up with less, much less. Today many people talk a lot about people leaving churches, giving up on Christianity, and rejecting Jesus. In reality, they have given up on the white supremacist brand of Christianity that cares more about power than Jesus, that does not care enough to take either our bodies or our futures seriously. Like James Baldwin, we are holding on to Jesus while also living with our fear, trauma, doubts, and hope. Our story and the story of Jesus are bound together in faith, hope, love, and community. . . .

Faith—honest, deep, vulnerable faith, as Baldwin writes—is about growing up, becoming more loving, more honest, and more vulnerable. It is facing ourselves and what we desire. It is finding a way to begin again each day. It is not that we have the right answer, or all the right solutions. It is that we have found deep meaning in the story of Jesus. We have learned, as James Cone writes, that “being black and Christian could be liberating.”


May 24th, 2022 by Dave No comments »

Staying Out Loud

Over the decades Brian McLaren has had many conversations with faithful Christians who are also disillusioned by church and religion. After one evening spent in the company of two Roman Catholic sisters who have stayed in service to the church for over fifty years, McLaren reflects: 

“There are more than two options,” I thought. “I don’t have to choose between staying Christian compliantly or leaving Christianity defiantly. I can stay defiantly, like Sr. Ann and Sr. Jean [not their real names]. I can intentionally, consciously, resolutely refuse to leave . . . and with equal intention and resolution, I can refuse to comply with the status quo. I can occupy Christianity with a different way of being Christian.”

When I say stay defiantly, I don’t mean ungraciously. Srs. Ann and Jean radiate such gentleness and inner calm that accusations of being ungracious simply don’t stick. No, with firm yet gracious defiance, they will keep speaking their truths and will continue doing so from the inside as long as they can.

McLaren finds encouragement to remain a committed Christian in Jesus’ own decision to stay and wrestle with his Jewish faith even as he was rejected: 

I can no longer put a naïve trust in the structures of the Christian religion, seeing and knowing what I see and know now. But instead of rejecting my religious community, I remain paradoxically present to it, neither minimizing its faults nor hating it for its faults. . . .

Jesus, of course, counted this cost. He stayed out loud. And it’s worth noting where his staying led him. Not to winning. Not to success. It led him to the utter defeat and humiliation of the cross.

Was he a fool to keep faith through his dying breath, to translate his feeling of forsakenness into a prayer? Was he a fool to think that the legacy of the prophets, the legacy of his cousin John, and the legacy of his mother, Mary, were worth staying for, to save that legacy from corruption by the religious gatekeepers of his day?

Was he a fool to stay in the fray with the religious company men of his day, naming their corruption and toxicity with carefully chosen words like “whitewashed sepulchers” and “brood of vipers” [Matthew 23:27, 33]? Would he have been wiser to leave quietly for India and become Hindu, or to go quietly to China and become Buddhist instead of challenging the status quo of his own religion?

Was he a fool to think that the tiny handful of people who got only a tiny sliver of his message and saw some faint glimmer of what he saw could outlive him and do greater things than he had done?

Are you willing to be that kind of fool? Am I?

Today, at least, inspired by the example of Sr. Jean and Sr. Ann, I am.


May 22nd, 2022 by Dave No comments »

Rebuilding from the Bottom Up

For over fifty years as a Franciscan priest, Father Richard Rohr has worked to reawaken Christians to the radical and transformative message of Jesus. It’s a message that is often distorted by culture and even by the Christian tradition itself. Richard reflects:

Our religion is not working well: suffering, fear, violence, injustice, greed, and meaninglessness still abound. This is not even close to the reign of God that Jesus taught. And we must be frank: in their behavior and impact upon the world, Christians are not much different than other people.

Many Christians are not highly transformed people; instead, they tend to reflect their own culture more than they operate as any kind of leaven within it. I speak especially of American Christians, because I am one. But if you are from another country, look at the Christians where you live and see if the same is true there.

Let’s be honest: religion has probably never had such a bad name. Christianity is now seen as “irrelevant” by some, “toxic” by many, and often as a large part of the problem rather than any kind of solution. Some of us are almost embarrassed to say we are Christian because of the negative images that word conjures in others’ minds. Young people especially are turned off by how judgmental, exclusionary, impractical, and ineffective Christian culture seems to be.

Most Christians have not been taught how to plug into the “mind of Christ”; thus, they often reflect the common mind of power, greed, and war instead. The dualistic mind reads reality in simple binaries—good and bad, right and wrong—and thinks itself smart because it chooses one side. This is getting us nowhere.

Throughout the history of Christianity, it would seem Jesus’ teaching has had little impact, except among people who surrendered to great love and great suffering. Could this be the real core of the Gospel? Such people experience God rather than merely have disconnected ideas about God. We need to rely on the mind of mystics now to offer any kind of alternative—contemplative or nondual—consciousness. We need practice-based religion that teaches us how to connect with the Infinite in ways that actually change us from our finite perspectives.

We must rediscover what St. Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) called the “marrow of the Gospel.” [1] It’s time to rebuild from the bottom up. If the foundation is not solid and sure, everything we try to build on top of it is weak and ineffective. Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise that so much is tumbling down around us. It’s time to begin again. In the year 1205, Jesus spoke to Francis through the San Damiano cross: “Francis, rebuild my church, for you see it is falling into ruin.” If Jesus himself says the church is falling into ruin, I guess we can admit it also without being accused of being negative or unbelieving. Maybe we have to admit it for anything new and good to happen.

Christianity’s Violence Problem

CAC teacher Brian McLaren has long asked questions out loud that many have often asked only to themselves. In his new book Do I Stay Christian?,Brian outlines compelling reasons both to leave and stay within Christianity. Today we share his critique of Christianity’s complicity with violence. Such truth-telling can be difficult to read. We invite you to practice the contemplative stance of “holding the tension of opposites”:

Echoing its founder’s nonviolence, the Christian faith initially grew as a nonviolent spiritual movement of counter-imperial values. It promoted love, not war. Its primal creed elevated solidarity, not oppression and exclusion [see Galatians 3:26–28]. . . . The early Christians elevated the equality of friendship rather than the supremacy of hierarchy (John 15:15; 3 John 14, 15).

This commitment to nonviolence rapidly eroded in the early fourth century when the emperor Constantine declared Christianity the religion of the empire. This led to an acceptance of violence and domination against the empire’s enemies, but also perceived “enemies” from within: 

What the empire wanted to do, the church generally blessed. . . . This cozy relationship with empire continued long after the Roman Empire had fully collapsed. The church supported the empire’s many reincarnations in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, British, Russian, German, and American imperial ventures. Each empire could count on the mainstream Christian church to bless its successes, pardon its failures, and pacify and unify its masses.

A community with a history of violence to Jews . . . does not sound like a safe place for non-Christians. But as a chaplain to empire, Christianity was not a particularly safe place for Christians either—at least not those who chose to differ from the authorities of the church or state. Choosing to differ, in fact, was the root meaning of the word heresy. . . .

Historians generally agree: while the records are unreliable and incomplete, at least tens of thousands of suspected nonconformists were prosecuted by church courts between 1180 and 1450; many thousands were tortured; over a thousand were executed by church authorities. . . . In a seventy-year period starting in 1560, 80,000 women were tried as witches and 40,000 were killed. . . .

Today, abuse of Christians by Christians tends to be more emotional and spiritual than physical. But shunning and disowning (forms of relational banishment), public shaming and character assassination, private humiliations, church trials of nonconformists, blacklisting, and other forms of Christian-on-Christian cruelty continue, and more and more traumatized people are coming forward with their stories. . . .

To state the obvious: Jesus never tortured or killed or ruined the life of anyone, but the same cannot be said for the religion that claims to follow him.

Knowing what I now know, if I were not already a Christian, I would hesitate in becoming one, at least until the religion in all its major forms offers a fearless, searching, public moral accounting for its past crimes . . . first, against Jews, and also against its own nonconformist members.


Transformed by the Dark Night

May 13th, 2022 by JDVaughn No comments »

If something does not give birth to humility, and love, and dying to self, and godly simplicity, and silence—what can it be?
—John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, book 2, chapter 29

Although the dark night of the soul is a deeply personal experience, it has far-reaching implications for how we show up in our lives and interact with others with whom we live, work and pray. In the CAC podcast Turning to the Mystics, James Finley speaks of John of the Cross as a model for how the union of our souls with God in the dark night transforms our humanity.

When we look at the Spiritual Canticle and the light that shines out of the darkness and being married to God, mystical marriage and so on, [John] was really known for a sensitivity to the poor, his sensitivity to the sick. He was also known for his compassion. One of the friars writes in their journal, “When we go off on our little Sunday groups and small groups for our walk, we always hope John of the Cross will join us because he always makes us laugh.” The deep love he had for Teresa [of Ávila], this deep mystical friendship bond that they had, he was fully alive. At his death, the monastery that he went to, he deliberately chose one of the superiors who didn’t like him. On his death bed, he called the superior, “So whatever I did to contribute to the conflict between us, I want to apologize.” That’s how he died and it [was] said the superior came out crying. It changed his life.

So that’s the evidence of this [dark night]. It radicalizes, which I think is Christ consciousness in the world. It’s beyond the darkness of this world in a way that paradoxically radicalizes our presence in it to the holiness of life on life’s terms. . . . Sometimes I say to myself a little prayer in my advancing years, “God, help me to be the kind of old person young people want old people to be. Help me not just to talk like this, but help me to walk around like this and answer the phone like this and talk to my grandchildren like this.” We’re all trying to do our best here to walk the walk. [1]

Finley speaks of the fruit of our fidelity to the experience of the dark night:

If we stay the course and go through this, we find our way deeper, deeper, deeper, and then we can see that at any given moment in these ways, through marital love, through parenting, through solitude, through oneness with the world, through silence, through service to community, through art, in any given moment, there can come flashing forth our unexpected proximity to this mystical dimension of union. [2]

Sarah Young……

Thank Me in the midst of the crucible; look for areas where you need to let go and surrender.

1 Peter 5:6-7…⁶Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. ⁷Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Psalm 62:8…. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

1 Thessalonians 5:18…Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Love

May 12th, 2022 by JDVaughn No comments »

The mystic is not somebody who says, “Look what I’ve experienced. Look what I’ve achieved.” The mystic is the one who says, “Look what love has done to me.”. . .  There’s nothing left, but the being of love itself giving itself away as . . . the concreteness of who you simply are.
James Finley, Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate

Father Richard affirms love as the heart of all mystical experience:

It seems to me Christianity has put major emphasis on us loving God. Yet the mystics consistently describe an overwhelming experience of how God loves us! In their writings, God is the initiator, God is the doer, God is the one who seduces us. It’s all about God’s initiative. Then we certainly want to love back the way we have been loved. As Franciscan Jacopone da Todi (1230–1306) would say, weeping, “Love is not loved! Love is not loved!” [1] I want to love back the way I have been loved. But it’s not like I’ve got to prove my love for God by doing things. My job is simply to complete the circuit!

Mystics experience a full-bodied embrace and acceptance by Divine Love, and then spend their lives trying to verbalize and embody it. They invariably find ways to give that love back through forms of service and worship, but it’s never earning the love—it’s always returning the love. Can you feel the difference? Returning God’s love is almost a different language. It’s not based in fear, but in ecstasy.

God is always given, incarnate in every moment and present to those who know how to be present themselves. It is that simple and that difficult. To be present in prayer can be an experience of being loved at a deep level. I hope you have felt such intimacy alone with God; I promise it is available to you. Maybe we just need to be told that this divine intimacy is what we should expect. We’re afraid to ask for it; we’re afraid to seek it. It feels presumptuous. We don’t trust that such a love exists—and for us. But it does.

Mystics often use erotic language to describe the deep human-divine relationship found in contemplation. I have often wondered why God would give us such a strong and constant fascination with one another’s image, form, and face. I think it’s because all human loves are an increasingly demanding school preparing us for an infinite divine love.

Today we recognize this school of love as the only real training ground for “all the saints,” and it can never be limited to those who have fully graduated. As the entire New Testament does, we must apply the word “saints” to all of us who are in kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, or graduate programs. Love is one shared reality, and our common name for that one shared reality is “God” (see 1 John 4:7–21).

Sarah Young

Learn to relate to others through my love, not yours. My unlimited supply of Love is always available to you.

Psalm 36:5.. Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.

Exodus 33:14…The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28-29…”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. ²⁹Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

May 11th, 2022 by Dave No comments »

Unknowing

In his poem “Glosa á lo Divino,” John of the Cross reveals his deep trust in the mystery of “not knowing,” confident that it will lead him into greater intimacy with God. We share with you Mirabai Starr’s translation.

I would not sacrifice my soul 
for all the beauty of this world. 

There is only one thing
for which I would risk everything: 
an I-don’t-know-what
that lies hidden
in the heart of the Mystery. 

The taste of finite pleasure
leads nowhere.
All it does is exhaust the appetite 
and ravage the palate.
And so, I would not sacrifice my soul 
for all the sweetness of this world. 

But I would risk everything 
for an I-don’t-know-what 
that lies hidden
in the heart of the Mystery. 

The generous heart
does not collapse into the easy things, 
but rises up in adversity.

It settles for nothing.
Faith lifts it higher and higher. 

Such a heart savors
an I-don’t-know-what
found only in the heart of the Mystery. 

The soul that God has touched 
burns with love-longing.
Her tastes have been transfigured. 
Ordinary pleasures sicken her. 
She is like a person with a fever; 
nothing tastes good anymore. 

All she wants
is an I-don’t-know-what 
locked in the heart of 
the Mystery. . . .

I will never lose myself
for anything the senses can taste, 
nor for anything the mind can grasp, 
no matter how sublime, 
    how delicious.
I will not pause for beauty,
I will not linger over grace.
I am bound for
an I-don’t-know-what
deep within the heart of the Mystery.

—John of the Cross, Glosa á lo Divino, trans. Mirabai Starr


May 10th, 2022 by Dave No comments »

Silence

What we need most
in order to make progress
is to be silent
before this great God
with our appetite
and with our tongue,
for the language
he best hears
is silent love. 

John of the Cross, Sayings of Light and Love, trans. Mirabai Starr

John of the Cross describes the doubt that disrupts a soul in the dark night, when all sense of knowing God is absent. Mirabai Starr translates from John’s classic work Dark Night of the Soul

The deep suffering of the soul in the night of sense comes not so much from the aridity she must endure but from this growing suspicion that she has lost her way. She thinks that all spiritual blessing is over and that God has abandoned her. She finds neither support nor delight in holy things. Growing weary, she struggles in vain to practice the tricks [prayer practices] that used to yield results. 

John of the Cross encourages those experiencing this dark night to trust the silence that comes when we surrender our need to speak to God using our own words: 

This is no time for discursive meditation. Instead, the soul must surrender into peace and quietude, even if she is convinced she is doing nothing and wasting time. She might assume that this lack of desire to think about anything is a sure sign of her laziness. But simple patience and perseverance in a state of formless prayerfulness, while doing nothing, accomplishes great things.

All that is required here is to set her soul free, unencumbered, to let her take a break from ideas and knowledge, to quit troubling herself about thinking and meditating. The soul must content herself with a loving attentiveness toward God, without agitation, without effort, without the desire to taste or feel him. These urges only disquiet and distract the soul from the peaceful quietude and sweet ease inherent in the gift of contemplation being offered.

The soul might continue to have qualms about wasting time. She may wonder if it would not be better to be doing something else, since she cannot think or activate anything in prayer. Let her bear these doubts calmly. There is no other way to go to prayer now than to surrender to this sweet ease and breadth of spirit. If the soul tries to engage her interior faculties to accomplish something, she will squander the goodness God is instilling in her through the peace in which she is simply resting. . . .

The best thing for the soul to do is to pay no attention to the fact that the actions of her faculties are slipping away. . . . She needs to get out of the way. In peaceful plentitude, let her now say “yes” to the infused contemplation God is bestowing upon her. . . . Contemplation is nothing other than a secret, peaceful, loving inflow of God. If given room, it will fire the soul in the spirit of love.


Violence Begins with the Personal

May 6th, 2022 by JDVaughn No comments »

The basic I-You can be spoken only with one’s whole being. . . . I require a You to become; becoming I, I say You. All actual life is encounter.
—Martin Buber, I and Thou

Lyrics to Someday….

Sexual harassment – nuclear reactors
Natural disasters from here to L.A.
Drug importers
New world order
Wars over borders
Murder on the subway
The social classes – the high rise of taxes
Diplomats are passive with a promise again
Talk of recession – people in depression
Dow Jones, bank loans, the Japanese yen
I wait for Kingdom Come
When love will be here to stay
It will change us, everyone
Someday, someday
Violence in the movies
Drive-by shootings
Rioting and looting
With the boys in the hood
Cults and religions
Deadly premonitions
Fiery oppositions
Evil battling good
AIDS awareness
Temporary marriage
Pro-life, pro-choice
Roe v. Wade
Ethics and the Media
Tabloid T.V.
The Kennedy conspiracy
The trial of O.J.
I wait for kingdom come
When love will be here to stay
It will change us everyone
Someday, someday
There peace will make a stand
And the anger will fall away
We’ll see the lion with the lamb
Someday, someday, someday
Ooh, ooh
Oh someday
Ooh yeah
I wait for kingdom come
When love will be here to stay
It will change us everyone
Someday, someday
There peace will make a stand
And the anger will fall away
We’ll see the lion with the lamb
Someday, someday, someday
Someday, someday
There peace will make a stand
And the anger will fall away
We’ll see the lion with the lamb
Someday, someday

Theologian Pamela Cooper-White has thought deeply about gender and sexual violence, and believes that at its heart, violence is a failure to see the other person as a person.

Violence against women is connected to all other forms of violence, just as all living beings are, in reality and in spite of our forgetfulness or callous indifference, interconnected. We are confronted daily with the many forms of violence in our world. We often end up feeling that our powers are fragmented, as one worthy cause after another is lifted up. . . . What is needed is a way for understanding how, from a personal and holistic perspective, all violence is one.

All violence begins with the personal, with the I, and with a point of decision, a crossing of a line, where each of us chooses momentarily to view another living being as an It rather than a Thou. The ultimate purpose of each act of violence, each reduction of another person from a Thou to an It, is to control the other. . . . Our choices matter, even on what seems like a small scale. They have resonance in the universe. When we truly see another person or living being as a Thou, we cannot dominate or control them. We then must enter into a different kind of covenant, where power is shared. This is the “universal reciprocity” that Buber recognized as mysterious, connected with the divine. . . .

The I-Thou relationship is not simply an attitude of love toward others—although it is that—but also actions of making connections and actively working for justice. . . . The gospel message that is the great ethic of our faith is that we do reach out across borders and across cultures, both within the United States and abroad, and we honor the millions of Thous of every race and creed whom we recognize as our brothers and sisters throughout our neighborhoods and throughout the world. [1]

For Father Richard, Jesus becomes a person so that we, too, can receive and pass on the divine gaze of love:  The intimacy of what Martin Buber called an “I-Thou” relationship is a deep and loving “yes” to God, to others, and to the life that is inherent within each of us. When the face of the other (especially the suffering face) is received and empathized with, it leads to transformation of our whole being. It creates a moral demand on our heart that is far more compelling than laws. Just giving people commandments doesn’t change the heart. It may steel the will, but it doesn’t soften the heart like an I-Thou encounter can. Many of the Christian mystics talk about seeing the divine face or falling in love with the face of Jesus. Love is the gaze that does us in!

Sarah Young…..

Do not search for security in this world nor seek to gain control of your life. Focus instead on My presence.

Hebrews 3:1
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest

Isaiah 26:3 NKJV
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

2 Corinthians 4:18
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

War is a Spiritual Problem

May 5th, 2022 by JDVaughn No comments »

One of the CAC’s early prophetic actions was to protest regularly at nuclear arms facilities in the Southwest. In this updated reflection from the 1990s, Father Richard reflects on the connection he observed between our focus on smaller issues which allow us to feel in control and even holy, while we tolerate war and the proliferation of nuclear weapons that create widespread death and destruction:

The nuclear myth, with its false promises of deterrence and security, gets us off almost all the hooks that the Divine Fisherman uses to draw us to deeper levels of spirituality and consciousness: our powerlessness, our essential insecurity, the desire to give one’s life for something bigger than oneself, our fear of death, our capacity for faith, trust, and forgiveness, our restless hearts that long to be united.

Once we squelch spiritual energy in the name of hard-headed intellect and will, three not-so-obvious demons will move in to take the place of Spirit: expedience, law, and propriety. I see many well-meaning Christians living out of this mindset, unaware that they have abandoned the marrow of the gospel of peace and love and put their hope in “enlightened” self-interest. And we have grown used to it for so long that we think it is the teaching of Jesus!

Let’s take expedience. It is an early stage of moral development, but it finds no support in the words of Jesus. It is reflected in moral Christian parents who are righteously concerned about the evils of premarital sex but, when questioned, reveal that their real concern is for family embarrassment, future marriage prospects, or setbacks caused by an unplanned pregnancy. Understandable concerns, but hardly dealing with real moral evil or Christian spirituality.

This brings us to the second false savior: law. For many people, this is what religion is all about: law and order, control, doing what we’re told, and obeying the commandments. Paul clearly taught the opposite in the whole book of Romans: “a person is justified by faith and not by doing works prescribed by the law” (3:28). But the church got itself into the business of prioritizing good behavior instead of doing what Jesus did: proclaiming and living the new reality of the Reign of God.

Finally, propriety. Being proper like everybody else on the block seems always to have been a substitute for real transformation. Middle-class religion loves to bless “the way everybody thinks.” It makes the Sermon on the Mount into a tidy lesson while the poor remain oppressed, the hungry unfed, and illusions maintained. From this perspective, the human spirit remains without compassion—especially among nice, proper, churchgoing folks. Self-serving behavior takes the place of other-serving love.

What does this have to do with nuclear bombs and nuclear deterrence? I am convinced, with Pope Francis, that even owning nuclear weapons is a spiritual problem. The way forward will depend on spiritual transformation at a corporate level. Yet now Ukraine and the whole world are held hostage because Russia and the United States own nuclear weapons.

Sarah Young

Come to Me for all that you need.

Psalm 95:2
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

1John 1:5
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

Psalm 19:7
The Law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is trustworthy, making wise the simple. The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The instructions of the LORD are perfect, reviving the soul.

Hebrews 4:16 ESV
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

May 4th, 2022 by Dave No comments »

The Wrong Kind of World

Violence encourages the wrong kind of world, a world that creates conditions for violence against bodies instead of one that seeks to suture the cultural pain and create conditions for bodies to exist without the threat of violence. —Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, Body Becoming

Activist theologian Robyn Henderson-Espinoza affirms our collective capacity to build a world in which bodies do not suffer violence. They write about joining Christian leaders in opposition to racial hatred in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017: 

Soon after I returned home [from Charlottesville], I began receiving Twitter messages and emails, and unmarked packages slowly began arriving at my doorstep. Someone had my address and was mailing packages in an effort to scare and harass me. . . .

As I waded through hate mail and packages sent to my home, I began to think about the kind of world we want to build. . . .

What kind of humans do we want to become?

What kind of world are we seeking to inhabit? . . .

Our world and our culture promote and accelerate violence against bodies. Our embodiment is threatened by policies and politics that don’t have regard for the felt sense of the body or for the ways our feelings and emotions are impacted by all that is happening in the world. So the question about reclaiming our bodies and leaning into the work of becoming embodied is also about how we care for ourselves and learn to care for another.

With manifold violence occurring at our borders and with a global pandemic creating the violence of cascading grief, it is important to think through and feel through how to be as present with our selves and with one another as best as we can, asking the following questions: What are our practices of being present? Are we breathing with our collective body, or is our collective body so broken and in pain that we cannot access the collective nature of our body? Presence first begins with us, with me. And after me, it begins with the connected to the we . . . . [1]

Buddhist teachers Pamela Ayo Yetunde and Cheryl Giles write about conscious breathing as a practice of being present, which is an integral part of their resistance to racial violence: 

Recognizing our deepest feelings, we know we cannot live fully with suffering, invisibility, and dehumanization. Our resistance to oppression is our right to breathe freely, without the force of a hand or foot or knee on our throats constantly draining the life out of us. By watching Black and brown bodies die by police violence without resistance, we slowly die too. . . . And perhaps by not resisting, we unwittingly make a choice to allow ourselves to be silenced because we are too afraid to claim and honor the most precious gift we hold: the breath. But as Black Buddhist practitioners, we intimately know the breath through mindfulness of the breath. In honor of George Floyd and countless others, we vow to breathe. We breathe for the well-being of all sentient beings. [2]