Moral Capitalism

November 27th, 2019 by Dave No comments »


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

I’m afraid that some readers have given up on this week’s meditations by now, convinced that I hate capitalism and money and that I don’t even believe people should get paid for a hard day’s work. That’s just not true! I’m not going to say capitalism is wrong in all aspects; it does some very real and significant good. But we must be able to offer an honest critique of a system if we want to find a better way forward. In this excerpt, Arthur Simon, a Lutheran minister, deals fairly with capitalism, praising what it does well and encouraging us—especially those of us with power and privilege—to do better.  

For all the good it can do, . . . free enterprise capitalism has grave defects. . . . Capitalism stimulates and thrives on our human desire to possess more, a desire that instinctively gravitates toward greed, which tends to create disparities that make some rich, while leaving many impoverished. It is good at generating wealth, not so good at spreading it around. . . . There is nothing wrong with profit if it is obtained honestly and justly and used in a godly way. But the profit motive appeals to our acquisitive nature. It nourishes greed and can make us callous to the suffering of others. In short, the genius of free enterprise is also its central problem.

Left to its own devices, free enterprise capitalism would ruin the environment and let people starve. As a result, no nation leaves free enterprise entirely on its own. Every country will devise policies that, at least to some extent, guide free enterprise toward serving the wider public good, in this way acknowledging that while free enterprise may be a remarkable engine for driving economic growth, an engine is not the same as a steering wheel.

Every one of the fifty United States offers free public education and requires school attendance at least through the age of sixteen. Despite shortcomings, that policy helps to equalize opportunity and prepare young people to participate productively in the U.S. economy. By itself, free enterprise would not do this. But the public has decided to spread some of its wealth to all citizens through education, to the benefit of everyone, including private enterprise, which is rewarded with better trained and more innovative workers and leaders. . . .

Ironically, the success of free enterprise capitalism depends upon moral values, such as honesty and compassion, that are borrowed from elsewhere. Without such supporting values, free enterprise (or any other economic system) would eventually self-destruct through its own excesses.

To work its magic for the economy, free enterprise needs plenty of room and not too many restraints. But to achieve public justice, free enterprise, like the urge to consume, needs to be tamed and guided. That requires a delicate balance, one that is endlessly debated, but which touches the central nerve of justice—not justice as an abstract idea, but as basic opportunity for children and others whose lives frequently hang in the balance.

That kind of justice is an affair for the soul for each of us. But people of means have a special obligation before God to ensure justice for those who are poor and vulnerable. With greater affluence comes corresponding responsibility to make sure that a system that has been generous to oneself is also generous to others.

Reflecting on Simon’s message, consider: How do Gospel values like justice, compassion, and generosity make their way into your economic decisions? Do they carry the same weight as your desire for material things? 

Departing the Consumer Culture

November 26th, 2019 by JDVaughn No comments »

Economy: Old and New

Departing the Consumer Culture
Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Authors and scholars Peter Block, John McKnight, and Walter Brueggemann partnered to write An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture, which describes the shifts in thinking that could create a post-consumer economy. It sounds a lot like the Gospel to me.

Economic systems based on competition, scarcity, and acquisitiveness have become more than a question of economics; they have become the kingdom within which we dwell. That way of thinking invades our social order, our ways of being together, and what we value. It replicates the kingdom of ancient Egypt, Pharaoh’s kingdom. It produces a consumer culture that centralizes wealth and power and leaves the rest wanting what the beneficiaries of the system have.

We invite you to a journey of departure from this consumer culture. We ask you to imagine an alternative set of economic beliefs that have the capacity to evoke a culture where poverty, violence, and shrinking well-being are not inevitable—a culture in which the social order produces enough for all. . . . This departure into another kingdom might be closer to the reality of our nature and what works best for our humanity. . . .

Luckily, the exodus from a consumer, globalized culture into a neighborly, localized communal and cooperative culture has begun. We join the chorus of other agents of the alternative economy: food hubs, cooperative and social enterprises, the climate change activists, health activists, [etc.]. . . .

Neighborliness means that our well-being and what really matters is close at hand and can be locally constructed or produced. In this modern time, neighborliness is considered quaint and nostalgic. To make neighborliness the center of our social order requires an act of imagination. It is counter-cultural. It is also a form of social interaction that is built on a covenant that serves the common good. . . .

The consumer and market authority we live within violates neighborly relations by stratifying social power according to money and its attendants—privilege, competition, self-interest, entitlement, surplus. The dominant modes of current social relationships fend off neighborliness at all cost, and at great cost.

The [current] market ideology says that neighborly relationships are no longer required. That we are best ordered by commercializing all we can. That what we needed from neighbors can be obtained anywhere. . . . The major early step toward the modern cultural reality was “enclosure,” the privatizing of the common land. . . . Every human endeavor is monetized. . . . When a person’s effort was converted to wage earner, a person became an object. . . .

We moved away from the neighbor as a source of culture, memory, sense of place, and livelihood. . . . The casualty was a loss of a sense of the commons. What is at stake in the renewal of neighborliness is the restoration of the commons. [1] The free market consumer ideology has produced a social disorder; people are no longer embedded in a culture that serves the common wealth, the common good.

Economy: Old and New

November 25th, 2019 by Dave No comments »


The Gospel Economy
Sunday, November 24, 2019

Jesus said to the host who had invited him, “When you hold a lunch or dinner . . . invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; and blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.” —Luke 14:12-14

I’d like to begin this week’s meditations by contrasting two economies or worldviews. The first economy is capitalism, which is based on quid pro quo, reward and punishment thinking, and a retributive notion of justice. This much service or this much product requires this much payment or this much reward. It soon becomes the entire (and I do mean entire!) frame for all of life, our fundamental relationships (even marriage and children), basic self-image (“I deserve; you owe me; or I will be good and generous if it helps me, too”), and a faulty foundation for our relationship with God.

We’ve got to admit, this system of exchange seems reasonable to almost everybody today. And if we’re honest, it makes sense to us, too. It just seems fair. The only trouble is, Jesus doesn’t believe it at all, and he’s supposed to be our spiritual teacher. This might just be at the heart of what we mean by real conversion to the Gospel worldview, although few seem to have recognized this.

Let’s contrast this “meritocracy,” punishment/reward economy—basic capitalism which we in the United States all drink in with our mother’s milk—with what Jesus presents, which I’m going to call a gift economy. [1] In a gift economy, there is no equivalence between what we give and how much we get. Now I know we’re all squirming. We don’t like it, because we feel we’ve worked hard to get to our wonderful middle-class positions or wherever we are. We feel we have rights.

I admit that this position satisfies the logical mind. At the same time, if we call ourselves Christians, we have to deal with the actual Gospel. Now the only way we can do the great turnaround and understand this is if we’ve lived through at least one experience of being given to without earning. It’s called forgiveness, unconditional love, and mercy. If we’ve never experienced unearned, undeserved love, we will stay in the capitalist worldview where 2 + 2 = 4. I put in my 2, I get my 2 back. But we still remain very unsure, if not angry, about any free health care (physical, mental, or spiritual) or even free education, even though these benefits can be seen as natural human rights that support and sustain peoples’ humanity. All too often, we only want people like us to get free health care and education and bail outs.

Brothers and sisters, you and I don’t “deserve” anything, anything. It’s all a gift. But until we begin to live in the kingdom of God instead of the kingdoms of this world, we think, as most Christians do, exactly like the world. We like the world of seemingly logical equations. Basically, to understand the Gospel in its purity and in its transformative power, we have to stop counting, measuring, and weighing. We have to stop saying “I deserve and deciding who does not deserve. None of us “deserve”! Can we do that? It’s pretty hard . . . unless we’ve experienced infinite mercy and realize that it’s all a gift.

Making Do with More
Monday, November 25, 2019

Charles Eisenstein is a fascinating public speaker, author, and advocate for gift economies. At a rather young age, he walked away from a thriving business career, recognizing that our cultural models of success simply weren’t working for him. Drawing on his background in business, mathematics, philosophy, and spirituality, he turned his attention to the some of the largest problems facing the world today, including climate change. Here he writes of a future in which material limitation actually delivers a greater sense of wealth:  

A world without weapons, without McMansions in sprawling suburbs, without mountains of unnecessary packaging, without giant mechanized monofarms, without energy-hogging big-box stores, without electronic billboards, without endless piles of throw-away junk, without the overconsumption of consumer goods no one really needs is not an impoverished world. I disagree with those environmentalists who say we are going to have to make do with less. In fact, we are going to make do with more: more beauty, more community, more fulfillment, more art, more music, and material objects that are fewer in number but superior in utility and aesthetics. . . .

Part of the healing that a sacred economy represents is the healing of the divide we have created between spirit and matter. In keeping with the sacredness of all things, I advocate an embrace, not an eschewing, of materialism. I think we will love our things more and not less. We will treasure our material possessions, honor where they came from and where they will go. . . . The cheapness of our things is part of their devaluation, casting us into a cheap world where everything is generic and expendable. . . . 

Put succinctly, the essential need that goes unmet today, the fundamental need that takes a thousand forms, is the need for the sacred—the experience of uniqueness and connectedness. . . .

We are starving for spiritual nourishment. We are starving for a life that is personal, connected, and meaningful. By choice, that is where we will direct our energy. When we do so, community will arise anew because this spiritual nourishment can only come to us as a gift, as part of a web of gifts in which we participate as giver and receiver. . . .

When I use the word spiritual, I am not contradistinguishing it from the material. I have little patience with any philosophy or religion that seeks to transcend the material realm. Indeed, the separation of the spiritual from the material is instrumental in our heinous treatment of the material world. So when I speak of meeting our spiritual needs, it is not to keep cranking out the cheap, generic, planet-killing stuff while we meditate, pray, and prattle on about angels, spirit, and God. It is to treat relationship, circulation, and material life itself as sacred. Because they are.

As I often say, when it is true, it is true everywhere, even in economics. In my opinion, Eisenstein seems to be describing the reality of the Universal Christ, though I do not even know if he is a Christian. There are so many insights worth sharing when we recognize that we live in a Christ-soaked world. 

Summary: Week Forty-seven

November 17 – November 22, 2019

There is no such thing as being non-political. (Sunday)

We are called to be “in Christ,” which means we share—always imperfectly, and always in community with others—the call to be the embodiment of God’s love in the world. —Wes Granberg-Michaelson (Monday)

Twice a year we pause the Daily Meditations to ask for your support to continue this work. If you’ve been impacted by the Daily Meditations, please consider donating. A contribution of any amount is appreciated, as we are committed to keeping these messages free and accessible to all. (Tuesday)

In the end, politics is nothing more than an instrument of social good and human development. It is meant to be the right arm of those whose souls have melted into God. —Joan Chittister (Wednesday)

My meditation practice has led me to see that God is alive in all. No one can be left out of my care. Therefore [our] political work is anchored in caring for those whom we lobby as well as those whose cause we champion. —Simone Campbell (Thursday)

The work of getting to know others different than ourselves, made so difficult by our society’s divisions, is nevertheless the work of following Jesus. —Peter Armstrong (Friday)

Practice: I Will Trust in the Lord

The form of Christianity that has grown in the United States and spread worldwide is what we have to fairly call “slaveholder Christianity.” It is far, far removed from the Gospel as it has failed to respect the divine image in all beings. This kind of Christianity is good news only for white slaveholders—the (primarily) white men with religious and political power and those who support systems of inequity through their participation and silence. That most white Christians in our country can’t see this shows how much we live in homogeneous communities, with folks who are like us. We must publicly acknowledge and repent the harm that Christianity in this country has caused. And we must take steps—both political and spiritual—to bring healing. 

I borrow the term slaveholder Christianity from Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, a Christian activist in North Carolina working with youth, prisoners, and The Poor People’s Campaign. He’s the author of Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion. Jonathan offers the following singing practice to help us move forward together. [1]

While sound teaching can enlighten the mind and powerful preaching can move the heart, song has a unique power to move our bodies, pulling us into the river that flowed before us and will continue long after we are gone. The gospel practices that free us from our racial habits are not a set of exercises that will transform in thirty minutes. They are, rather, a way of life wrapped up in song. The central creed of this tradition that keeps me singing as I go is called “I Will Trust in the Lord.”

I will trust in the Lord,
I will trust in the Lord,
I will trust in the Lord till I die.

I’m gonna stay on the battlefield,
I’m gonna stay on the battlefield,
I’m gonna stay on the battlefield till I die.

I’m gonna treat everybody right,
I’m gonna treat everybody right,
I’m gonna treat everybody right till I die. [2]

Passed down through an oral tradition [by people kept in slavery], it is easy to memorize. . . . Like all the spirituals, [it] is both a melody you can hum while you walk alone and a song that leads us to harmonize when we are together. . . . This is a song to guide people who want to walk by the power of the Spirit in an unpredictable world.

Every verse we sing ends with “till I die.” We trust in the Lord, stay on the battlefield, and treat everybody right until we die because, frankly, nonviolent love can get you killed. We know the stories of martyrs like Dr. King. God only knows the stories of the millions buried in the woods and at the bottom of the sea. This is not a song to make you famous, but a faith to sustain you when you go to jail, when the money runs out, when you are powerless and cold and alone. You sing this song, and you know you’re not alone. You’ve been invited into something big enough to hold all your sorrows. You’ve become a living member of the body of Christ. [3]

Willing to be Changed

November 22nd, 2019 by JDVaughn No comments »

Politics: Old and New

Willing to Be Changed
Friday, November 22, 2019

For a long time, it seemed that politics in the United States was “old hat.” I sometimes thought that supporting one party or another was almost like choosing Coke or Pepsi; you might have a preference, but it didn’t really make a difference. But recently our politics have grown more and more divided with many religious people exclusively focusing on narrow issues of abortion or sexual identity while disregarding the lives of so many—refugees, the poor, the incarcerated, the abused or addicted, people at risk from climate change or pollution. What will it take to come together and work for the common good—not only our personal interests? The old way of doing things just isn’t cutting it for anyone anymore, not on the left or the right.

Often what seems new, and sometimes rather shocking, is actually a return to our roots, to traditional wisdom that precedes the founding of the United States and the violence of settler colonialism. Peter Armstrong, an alumnus of our Living School and seminarian at Yale Divinity School, looks to the Gospels for practical guidance to help something new emerge. Peter writes:

Just as Jesus was moved to ministry by entering into relationship with other people along his path, we too are moved by stories and relationships. For me, it took actually showing up at different events in order to learn about white (and male, and straight, and other forms of) privilege—and meeting people who were experiencing the negative side of this phenomenon—for me to have my heart transformed with compassion and a desire for action. In short, I could read all about redlining, mass incarceration, and the case for reparations, but it wasn’t until I actually started showing up at actions with the intention of being transformed through relationship with other people that I began to want to become a better ally.

As a straight white man whose faith has been formed in contemplative Christian circles, places dominated by white, male speakers (even if the majority of audiences consist of women), I need to seek out voices that are different from my own. In a multicultural, multiethnic, pluralistic society, choosing to live comfortably in a bubble of people who share almost everything in common with me—as I have done for most of my life thus far—is a rejection of God’s work of Creation, for God didn’t create us all the same. We are not meant to live isolationist lives, because God created diversity and it was good (see Genesis 1). . . .

The work of getting to know others different than ourselves, made so difficult by our society’s divisions, is nevertheless the work of following Jesus. . . . Many say that their faith is personal and not to be mixed with their politics. But, in my journey . . . I’ve come to understand that religion has everything to do with politics. Jesus wasn’t executed because he went around healing people; he was crucified as the worst kind of criminal because his Gospel message was viewed as dangerous by the ruling class. In fact, the entire Gospel of Luke is one long lesson in speaking truth to power—to the corrupt elite in Jerusalem. If we Christians claim to have anything to do with Jesus, then we must inherently be engaged with the political issues of our time.

Politics: Old and New

November 21st, 2019 by Dave No comments »

Faith, Practice, Prayer
Thursday, November 21, 2019

Sister of Social Service Simone Campbell is an author, lawyer, poet, and Executive Director of NETWORK, an organization that lobbies on issues of economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare. Sister Simone spoke at our CONSPIRE 2015 conference on the theme “For those who see deeply there is only One Reality,” which is reflected in her words below: 

My faith impels me into the public square. It is abundantly clear that Pope Francis is correct when he says that faith has real consequences in the world . . . and these consequences involve politics. . . . Religion/politics is at the heart of my contemplative practice. I am nourished daily by the people I meet and whose stories I hear. My heart is broken open by the truth of their hunger and hope. It is not a theoretical reality for me. Rather it is the proclamation of the Gospel: Go and preach the good news! . . . So my meditation has become breath, that we might see, that we might walk, and, in the process, heal our society that is famished for community and knowing that we belong to each other. . . .

My meditation practice has led me to see that God is alive in all. No one can be left out of my care. Therefore [our] political work is anchored in caring for those whom we lobby as well as those whose cause we champion. This was illustrated for me recently when I was . . . lobbying a . . . Senator. . . . I commented on the story of a constituent and asked her how her colleagues could turn their eyes away from the suffering and fear of their people. The conversation went on a bit, and then the senator came back to my question. She said that . . . they did not get close to the candid stories of their people. In fact, some did not see these constituents as “their people.” Tears sprang to my eyes at her candor and the pain that keeps us sealed off from each other because of political partisanship. . . .

In many ways, we are a bit like the senators who close themselves off from the needs of their constituents. We could get caught in the pain of rejection and blame, fighting against an unjust judgment. But for me, the contemplative perspective leads to letting go of my desires and control while opening to the gift of the moment. My consistent learning is that behind the loss is always a surprise, opening into something new. There are prices to be paid, but they are small when compared to the hunger of our people. . . .

My prayer has led me . . . to know that reflection on the Gospel leads to compassion. Compassion often leads to much more nuanced analysis. . . . This more nuanced approach comes out of my prayer and call to care for the 100%, but it does come at a price. . . . The Spirit has pushed us out of our comfort zone of acceptability in order to meet the needs of people we had not known were ours. . . .

Let us pray together: Come, Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love!

In the Apostle Paul’s brilliant metaphor of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31), each one of us is given some specific role to make the body whole. While I have often claimed that God appears to have made me a mouth (with my too many words), Sister Simone jokes that she is the stomach acid, breaking large things down into their useful pieces with her heat and energy. When evil hides itself within institutions that are “too big to fail,” Simone’s insights and energy are a gift to us all. 

Faith, Practice, Prayer

November 21st, 2019 by JDVaughn No comments »

Politics: Old and New

Faith, Practice, Prayer
Thursday, November 21, 2019

Sister of Social Service Simone Campbell is an author, lawyer, poet, and Executive Director of NETWORK, an organization that lobbies on issues of economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare. Sister Simone spoke at our CONSPIRE 2015 conference on the theme “For those who see deeply there is only One Reality,” which is reflected in her words below:

My faith impels me into the public square. It is abundantly clear that Pope Francis is correct when he says that faith has real consequences in the world . . . and these consequences involve politics. . . . Religion/politics is at the heart of my contemplative practice. I am nourished daily by the people I meet and whose stories I hear. My heart is broken open by the truth of their hunger and hope. It is not a theoretical reality for me. Rather it is the proclamation of the Gospel: Go and preach the good news! . . . So my meditation has become breath, that we might see, that we might walk, and, in the process, heal our society that is famished for community and knowing that we belong to each other. . . .

My meditation practice has led me to see that God is alive in all. No one can be left out of my care. Therefore [our] political work is anchored in caring for those whom we lobby as well as those whose cause we champion. This was illustrated for me recently when I was . . . lobbying a . . . Senator. . . . I commented on the story of a constituent and asked her how her colleagues could turn their eyes away from the suffering and fear of their people. The conversation went on a bit, and then the senator came back to my question. She said that . . . they did not get close to the candid stories of their people. In fact, some did not see these constituents as “their people.” Tears sprang to my eyes at her candor and the pain that keeps us sealed off from each other because of political partisanship. . . .

In many ways, we are a bit like the senators who close themselves off from the needs of their constituents. We could get caught in the pain of rejection and blame, fighting against an unjust judgment. But for me, the contemplative perspective leads to letting go of my desires and control while opening to the gift of the moment. My consistent learning is that behind the loss is always a surprise, opening into something new. There are prices to be paid, but they are small when compared to the hunger of our people. . . .

My prayer has led me . . . to know that reflection on the Gospel leads to compassion. Compassion often leads to much more nuanced analysis. . . . This more nuanced approach comes out of my prayer and call to care for the 100%, but it does come at a price. . . . The Spirit has pushed us out of our comfort zone of acceptability in order to meet the needs of people we had not known were ours. . . .

Let us pray together: Come, Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love!

In the Apostle Paul’s brilliant metaphor of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31), each one of us is given some specific role to make the body whole. While I have often claimed that God appears to have made me a mouth (with my too many words), Sister Simone jokes that she is the stomach acid, breaking large things down into their useful pieces with her heat and energy. When evil hides itself within institutions that are “too big to fail,” Simone’s insights and energy are a gift to us all.

The Strength of the Link

November 20th, 2019 by JDVaughn No comments »

Politics: Old and New

The Strength of the Link
Wednesday, November 20, 2019

I have long admired the work of Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister and was delighted to see her again at Oprah Winfrey’s house earlier this year when we were both filming episodes for SuperSoul Sunday. Who could have ever predicted it? Two vowed religious, neither of us youngsters, sitting on Oprah’s lawn and speaking about our newly published books. [1] I am sure neither of us saw that coming, which is perhaps what gives Sister Joan the freedom to speak so courageously and prophetically about our Christian obligation in politics.

In every life there is a crossover moment, after which a person will never be the same again. Somewhere, somehow the challenge comes that sets us on a different path: the path of purpose, the path of integrity, the path of transcendence that lifts us—heart, mind, and soul—above the pitiable level of the comfortable and the mundane.

It is the moment at which transcending the mediocre, the conventional, the pedestrian, becomes more impacting, more holy-making than any amount of beige-colored political success.

As a culture, we may have come to that point. As a people, we are at a crossover moment. It is a call to all of us to be our best, our least superficial, our most serious about what it means to be a Christian as well as a citizen.

So, where can we look for oneing in the political arena? Only within the confines of our own hearts. Politics—government—does not exist for itself and, if it does, that is precisely when it becomes at least death-dealing if not entirely evil. Nation-states and empires have all “died the death” in the wake of such power run amuck, of such distortion of human community.

In the end, politics is nothing more than an instrument of social good and human development. It is meant to be the right arm of those whose souls have melted into God. It is to be the living breath of those who say they are religious people and patriotic citizens—a link to personal faith.

The democratic system, as originally conceived, upholds a vision that links “care for widows and children” with a commitment to provide food stamps and a living wage for families under stress.

It embodies the soul of a nation that considers the right to breathe clean air and drink clean water, to save wetlands and reduce fossil fuels, to be a responsibility of America’s own Environmental Protection Agency.

It includes the love for all of God’s creation that links Jesus’ cure of Jairus’ daughter (see Matthew 9:18-25) and the man born blind (see John 9) with the moral obligation to provide healthcare and social services to all of us, not simply to some.

It embraces the courage of the Samaritan to reach out to the foreigner (Luke 10:25-37) that made this country open arms toward an immigrant world.

In fact, it is the strength of the link between religion and politics that will determine both the quality of our politics and the authenticity of our religion.

Many in the United States claim we are a Christian nation, but if we are to call ourselves such, we must sustain a sincere connection between our Gospel values and the political choices we make. We cannot declare we are one body and then neglect to give that body the care it needs, including food, water, and shelter.

Twice a year….

November 19th, 2019 by Dave No comments »

Dear David,

Next year will mark 50 years since I was first ordained in my home parish in Topeka, Kansas. Over the years, God has allowed me to speak, write, and learn from so many people and cultures around the world. Because I rarely travel or teach on the road now, the Daily Meditations are one of the primary ways I can keep sharing what I’m learning each day.

I have always had excellent partners in my life and ministry. But something in the last few years has started to emerge that encourages me deeply. I am now surrounded by teachers and staff who are building a humble, inclusive, non-imperial Christianity in service to the healing of our world.

We now have a core faculty of five in the Living School, dozens of brilliant writers and role models in the Daily Meditations, a strong and capable team in New Mexico, and hundreds of thousands of people like you who are bringing forward the gifts of the contemplative tradition—peaceful change and healing. Gosh, does that feel like an important task at the moment! With all that is going on in the world today, it takes every one of us playing our part.

Twice a year we pause the Daily Meditations to ask for your support to continue this work. If you’ve been impacted by the Daily Meditations, please consider donating. A contribution of any amount is appreciated, as we are committed to keeping these messages free and accessible to all. 

It seems that God is blessing this ministry—and it is my honor to serve alongside it. As Jesus said:

When we have done all that we are obliged to do, we should each say, “We are all merely servants, and we have only done what is our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10) 

I hope that the Center for Action & Contemplation helps you find what is yours to do in the face of a complex and chaotic reality. Please take a moment to read our Executive Director Michael’s note below about how you can help and the really important gift we’d like to share

Tomorrow the Daily Meditations will continue exploring why it’s crucial for us to engage contemplatively in politics. 

Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

Dear friends,

We are honored that you are one of the nearly 400,000 people who read and share our Daily Meditations.  

When the Center for Action & Contemplation started sending these messages twelve years ago, we never could have imagined the reach and impact they would have in people’s lives. But we now believe we’re only just beginning. With the reality of global climate change, systemic injustice, and fear driving so much of the politics around the world, can wisdom of the ancient perennial tradition speak directly to our current situation? This has been the goal of this year’s Daily Meditations—to show the truth that emerges in every age, vocabulary, and culture in a direct, powerful, and meaningful way to today’s context. Thank you for sticking with us through some challenging subjects.

Richard recently summed up the current Christian situation like this:

Christianity is a lifestyle—a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared, and loving. However, we made it into an established “religion” (and all that goes with that) and avoided actually changing lives. One could be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain in most of Christian history and still believe that Jesus is “personal Lord and Savior.” The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great.

Our faith must show real fruit. The Center for Action & Contemplation is committed to supporting the continued evolution of Christianity and the transformation of consciousness. Your contribution will help us build and grow this work by making these teachings accessible to new people in new ways. 

Please consider making a one-time donation or a recurring gift. If 5% of our readers donated as little as $15, it would fully fund the Daily Meditations’ production, allow us to offer more scholarships, and share transformative teaching with more people. Will you contribute and invest in the future of this work? If you’re able, please consider making your donation a monthly one. Ongoing support helps create the stability we need to spread this vital message to more and more people around the world.

In gratitude for an online donation of any size we will send you a free digital version of our newest and arguably most important edition of Oneing, “The Future of Christianity.”

This issue of our bi-annual journal directly takes on the question of how this tradition can meet the needs of the present moment and prepare us for what is to come. 

We are deeply grateful to be on this journey together. 

Peace and Every Good,

Michael Poffenberger, Executive Director

Michael Poffenberger
Executive Director, Center for Action & Contemplation

November 18th, 2019 by JDVaughn No comments »

The Embodiment of God’s Love

Politics: Old and New

The Embodiment of God’s Love
Monday, November 18, 2019

Wes Granberg-Michaelson, author and former head of the Reformed Church in America, has invested much time and energy in ecumenical initiatives, as well as studying the relationship between faith and politics. We share a long-standing relationship with Jim Wallis and the Sojourners ministry, as well as our home state of New Mexico. In this excerpt from his essay published in the CAC’s journal, Oneing, he makes it clear that Christians are called to be involved in politics, but not exclusively for our own personal gain.

Transformative change in politics depends so much on having a clear view of the desired end. Where does that vision come from? Possibilities may be offered by various ideologies, or party platforms, or political candidates. But, for the person of faith, that vision finds its roots in God’s intended and preferred future for the world. It comes not as a dogmatic blueprint but as an experiential encounter with God’s love, flowing like a river from God’s throne, nourishing trees with leaves for the healing of the nations (see Revelation 22:1-2). This biblically infused vision, resonant from Genesis to Revelation, pictures a world made whole, with people living in a beloved community, where no one is despised or forgotten, peace reigns, and the goodness of God’s creation is treasured and protected as a gift.

Such a vision strikes the political pragmatist as idyllic, unrealistic, and irrelevant. But the person of faith, whose inward journey opens his or her life to the explosive love of God, knows that this vision is the most real of all. . . .

So, for the Christian, politics entails an inevitable spiritual journey. But this is not the privatized expression of belief which keeps faith in Jesus contained in an individualized bubble and protects us from the “world.” The experience of true faith in the living God is always personal and never individual. Rather, it is a spiritual journey which connects us intrinsically to the presence of God, whose love yearns to save and transform the world. We are called to be “in Christ,” which means we share—always imperfectly, and always in community with others—the call to be the embodiment of God’s love in the world.

It seems difficult for us to distinguish between our “personal” relationship with God and the rampant individualism we practice in our politics. Do we dare keep voting according to our pocketbooks and private morality? Yes, we are God’s beloved, but so is everyone else! If we believe God wants what is good for us, how do we not understand God wants what is good for each and every living thing? What would it mean to vote as if the very presence of God were in our neighbor and the stranger alike, which is simply what Jesus taught? 

Politics: Old and New

Affirm or Critique
Sunday, November 17, 2019

Politics is one of the most difficult and complex issues on which to engage in polite conversation. For many people, politics and religion are so personal that neither topic is deemed appropriate to discuss publicly. While separation of church and state is an important protection for all religions, it doesn’t mean we as people of faith shouldn’t engage in our civic duties and the political process. The idea of “staying out of politics” doesn’t come from God. My sense is that it arises from our egoic, dualistic thinking that has a hard time hearing a different perspective or learning something new. Well, this week’s meditations will invite us to ponder the forbidden together. (If you’re active on social media, we invite you to share your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.)

In its first two thousand years, Christianity has kept its morality mostly private, personal, interior, fervent, and heaven-bound, with very few direct implications for our collective economic, social, and political life. For most Christians, politics and religion remained in two separate realms, unless religion was uniting with empires. Yes, church leaders looked to Rome and Constantinople for imperial protection, but little did they realize the price we Christians would eventually pay for such a compromise of foundational Gospel values.

This convenient split took the form of either the inner or the outer world. We religious folks were supposed to be the inner people; while the outer world was left to politicians, scientists, and workers. Now this is all catching up with us, as even the inner world has largely been overtaken by psychology, art, literature, and self-help. Fewer and fewer people now expect religion to have anything to say about either the inner or outer worlds!

If we do not go deep and in, we cannot go far and wide. In my opinion, the reason Christianity lost its authority is because we did not talk about the inner world very well. Believing doctrines, practicing rituals, and following requirements are not, in and of themselves, inner or deep. Frankly, Buddhism encouraged the inner life far better than the three monotheistic religions. We Christians did not connect the inner with the outer—which is a consequence of not going in deeply enough. We now have become increasingly irrelevant, often to the very people who want to go both deep and far. We so disconnected from the authentically political—God’s aggregated people, the public forum—that soon we had nothing much to say, except for one or two issues (abortion, homosexuality) where we presumed we had perfect certitude, although Jesus never talked about them.

But you know what? There is no such thing as being non-political. Everything we say or do either affirms or critiques the status quo. To say nothing is to say something: The status quo—even if it is massively unjust and deceitful—is apparently okay. From a contemplative stance we will know what action is ours to do, which words we are called to say, and how our spirituality must be fully embodied in our political choices.

Summary: Sunday, November 10 — Friday, November 15, 2019

Art reveals what people believe and emphasize at any one time. (Sunday)

Images such as the “Sacred Heart of Jesus” and the “Immaculate Heart of Mary” keep recurring only if they are speaking something important and good from the unconscious, maybe even something necessary for the soul’s emergence. (Monday)

Art begins with receptivity. —Mirabai Starr (Tuesday)

The thing is to allow ourselves to become a vessel for a work of art to come through and allow that work to guide our hands.  —Mirabai Starr (Wednesday)

As I again sat listening to gospel music and spirituals, words began to form in my mind and I scrambled to write them down. —Diana L. Hayes (Thursday)

In its various forms, art can provide incarnational and contemplative insight. (Friday)

Practice: Contemplating Art

I often refer to the insightful work of contemporary philosopher Ken Wilber. This week’s contemplative practice is from Wilber’s excellent book The Eye of Spirit: An Integral Vision for a World Gone Slightly Mad. Simply reading his essay is a contemplative experience. He offers one of the most beautiful and joyful perspectives on art that I’ve found.

Some of the great modern philosophers, Schelling to Schiller to Schopenhauer, have all pinpointed a major reason for great art’s power to transcend. When we look at any beautiful object (natural or artistic), we suspend all other activity, and we are simply aware, we only want to contemplate the object. While we are in this contemplative state, we do not want anything from the object; we just want to contemplate it; we want it to never end. We don’t want to eat it, or own it, or run from it, or alter it: we only want to look, we want to contemplate, we never want it to end.

In that contemplative awareness, our own egoic grasping in time comes momentarily to rest. We relax into our basic awareness. We rest with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. We are face to face with the calm, the eye in the center of the storm. We are not agitating to change things; we contemplate the object as it is. Great art has this power, this power to grab your attention and suspend it: we stare, sometimes awestruck, sometimes silent, but we cease the restless movement that otherwise characterizes our every waking moment. . . .

Think of the most beautiful person you have ever seen. Think of the exact moment you looked into his or her eyes, and for a fleeting second you were paralyzed: you couldn’t take your eyes off that vision. You stared, frozen in time, caught in that beauty. Now imagine that identical beauty radiating from every single thing in the entire universe: every rock, every plant, every animal, every cloud, every person, every object, every mountain, every stream—even the garbage dumps and broken dreams—every single one of them, radiating that beauty. You are quietly frozen by the gentle beauty of everything that arises around you. You are released from grasping, released from time, released from avoidance, released altogether into the eye of Spirit, where you contemplate the unending beauty of the Art that is the entire World.

That all-pervading Beauty is not an exercise in creative imagination. It is the actual structure of the universe. That all-pervading Beauty is in truth the very nature of the Kosmos right now. . . . If you remain in the eye of the Spirit, every object is an object of radiant Beauty. If the doors of perception are cleansed, the entire Kosmos is your lost and found Beloved, the Original Face of primordial Beauty, forever, and forever, and endlessly forever. And in the face of that stunning Beauty, you will completely swoon into your own death, never to be seen or heard from again, except on those tender nights when the wind gently blows through the hills and the mountains, quietly calling your name. [1]

If Ken Wilber’s words have brought to mind an actual person, place, or thing, close your eyes for a few minutes and simply contemplate your own experience of their radiant beauty. When we have the eyes to see, the ears to hear, or an open heart to witness, Great Beauty will reveal itself in all living and created things.

Release and Healing

November 14th, 2019 by JDVaughn No comments »

Art: Old and New

Release and Healing
Thursday, November 14, 2019

My art flows from the patterns and paths of my lived experience which—like yours—are at once deeply personal and entirely universal. —Julie Ann Stevens, Living School Alumna [1]

Today contemporary theologian Dr. Diana L. Hayes shares a very personal part of her life and the healing she found in the creative process. In Hayes’ book No Crystal Stair, she describes herself:

I am a Catholic womanist, standing firmly in the shoes my mothers made for me and walking toward a future in which all of God’s creation will be recognized and affirmed regardless of race, class, gender, or sexual orientation. I am black. I am Catholic. And by the grace of God, I am here. I invite you to share my journey of self-discovery and faith. . . . My spirituality, a womanist spirituality, that is, a spirituality forged in the awareness and experience of the multiplicative forms of oppression that are used to limit and restrain black women, has been honed and sharpened by my journey with God throughout my life. . . . Womanist spirituality is the encounter of black women and Jesus spelled out in song, poetry, novels, and memoirs that speak of the everlasting struggle as they continue to move themselves and their people one step closer to the Promised Land, a land to be found after death, yes, but more important, a land they know has been promised in this life as well. [2]

Hayes writes about her mother’s unexpected death after a brief illness:

The shock of her death sent me on a devastatingly downward spiral, although few knew about it. I look back at the time from April of 1998 through the end of 2000 and have very little memory of anything except her death and my grief.

Some time before that, I had been asked to write a meditation on a series of pictures that depicted the Stations of the Cross on the whitewashed walls of a small church in a village in Tanzania. The artist, Charles Ndege, a young Tanzanian, had brought the passion of Christ to bold and vibrant life. What was most striking was that the passion was presented as taking place in a small African village and all of the people were clearly and beautifully depicted as African. I had had the pictures for some time and would occasionally pull them out and look at them, especially when I was feeling low. One day, as I again sat listening to gospel music and spirituals, words began to form in my mind and I scrambled to write them down. . . . Writing [that] book brought healing to my soul. Some few have challenged the depiction of Christ as black, thus revealing their own ignorance and limited faith, but for many, this book, especially its pictures, has provided spiritual release and healing. [3]

Like Hayes, I too have found healing through the creative process of writing. My beloved lab Venus passed away just as I began to write The Universal Christ. I dedicated the book to her memory. If we trust that nothing is wasted, creativity (art) may be one way we can participate in the evolutionary process of making all things new. We cannot bring back our loved ones, but our love may find new forms of expression for the healing of both our own hearts and the world.