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Posts Tagged ‘god’

I’ve been walking to and from work downtown recently, depending on when I go relative to kids going to school or my wife going to work.

Today I rolled out of bed while everybody else was sleeping in, taking off to work in one of those beautiful mid-winter mornings in Fairbanks. New snow had blanketed the town during the late morning, and was still drifting down.

Snow in Fairbanks is unique to any place I’ve lived. It falls silently, rarely accompanied by any wind, and stacks quietly on any limbs, wires, or even twigs; forming an intricately woven organic lace of white on every tree, willow, or blade of grass long enough to still emerge from earlier snows.

It was a beautiful day for a walk, even if just to work.

After work, I headed home via the post office. It gave me an opportunity to cross the Cushman Street Bridge and pass by the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, as opposed to the pedestrian bridge where I usually cross the river.

I grew up Catholic, and although my views on religion stray far from the church these days, I still long for the spirituality and mysticism that can envelop a traditional mass. So much so, as I passed their front door, that I eyed the times for mass and even considered recruiting, or drafting, my family for a Christmas service.

I continued down the path, freshly cleaned of snow (the only disturbance during my early morning walk was the snow blower running over the church’s walks); to the little altar of stone for the Virgin Mary built in the Church’s front yard. The snow had been carefully brushed away from the altar. Within the apse, a statue of the virgin mother stands, surrounded by pots of brightly colored plastic flowers.

The irony of this little scene didn’t escape me.

So I stood there, in the low winter light of the Alaska midday sun, rays filtering through the branches of the snow covered birch trees, snow still softly falling upon me, surrounded by divinity as it was meant to be, in front of a poorly crafted altar to the mother of a god made in mankind’s own image.

I walked on, struck by the folly of man.

Of religion.

Of the obscenity of plastic flowers replacing real ones made by god.

Man does do it better, after all.

Meanwhile the pope is in Rome, railing against the evils of homosexuality, proclaiming how it will be the downfall of humanity.

Not overpopulation.

Not the disease, starvation, war, torture, abuse, injury, rape, environmental ruin or death brought on by overpopulation.

Just homosexuality.

Homosexuality?

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and exactly where was God?

I came across this article today as I was reading the news.

13 Year Old Girl Confirmed Dead

Now, tell me, exactly where was God?

Perhaps he was in the shower when she was raped.

Her crime was being raped by 3 men.

Or using the bathroom when they found her guilty of adultery.

When she reported the rape to the militia who control Kismayo, Somalia, she was charged with fornication (adultery)

Maybe in the middle of catching a Pat Robertson newscast while she was convicted.

and sentenced to death by stoning.

At 13.

At 13.

Maybe he was cheering on his football team while she was prepared for her sentence.  Everyone knows god picks favorites.

Kicking and screaming in terror, the girl was carried into the stadium.

Reading the last, suspenseful chapters of the DaVinci Code.

1,000 onlookers watched as her hands and legs were forcefully bound

Just possibly he turned away, unconcerned because she wasn’t an American.

13 year old  Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was buried up to her neck and a cape was placed over her head, leaving only her face exposed.

Or a Christian.

50 men hurled stones at her face from the truckload unloaded earlier that day.

I wonder if he flinched, just a little, as the first stone struck.

According to onlookers, 3 times nurses were instructed to check whether she was still alive.

Or went back to talking United States foreign policy with George W. Bush.

They pulled the teen from the ground,

Not once.

declared she was still alive

Not twice.

and put her back in the hole for the stoning to continue.

But three times.

Now, pray tell me, where was God?

Yeah. That’s what I thought.

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This is the second part of what I expect to be a series of articles where I propose aligning the constitution with god, mine. This post builds off of the first installment, which you might want to read first.

A few minutes watching TV, especially male focused TV like sports, and one gets assaulted by the advertising for ED prescriptions and male enhancements pills. The ads are more than a little suggestive, and hard to explain to my 4 and 9 year old daughters when and if they watch hockey games with me.

Nurses (Ali’s coined term for breasts, as in that is where a mommy ‘nurses’ her baby) slipping out of a top during the Super Bowl, easy to explain. A male erection, not so easy.

Thank you Ali, for adding a new term for breast to the American language. I can hear it already. (Insert surfer accent here, think Spicolly from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.) “Whoa, dude, check out those nurses!” And he isn’t talking about hospital employees either.

I digress. Lets get back to the sin at hand.

The advertisements are offensive to me, and therefore god.

A few years ago the conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was arrested when re-entering the country because he had a prescription bottle of Viagra, written for someone else. Eventually the charges were dropped, apparently the doctor had requested a different name be placed on the bottle to protect Mr. Limbaugh’s privacy. Fine, I can live with that. And god tells me she can too.

What God and I can’t live with is, regarding a little discussed fact of the case, is that RUSH LIMBAUGH WAS/IS AN UNMARRIED MAN!!!!!

An unmarried man, traveling with a prescription for Viagra, a drug meant to raise a man’s flag when they can’t do it themselves. Why would a single man go to the Dominican Republic with a prescription for ED?

Google “Dominican Republic sex industry“.

Oh, that’s why. Well that clears that up. At least the reason for the trip, if not the sordid details.

Imagine it, a conservative pundit not living up the standard he so callously pushes on everybody else. The shock. The horror.

Actually, it seems like this happens at least once a week to one of them.

I can accept a man who chooses medicine over god’s will to lower his flag. Though I find it hypocritical to trust in god then medically treat the ailments she gives you. It’s not right, but I can accept some people are less virulent (god’s will) than others and need a little man-made help.

But not if you aren’t married.

To a woman.

If you are a man.

Not a dog.

Or a cat.

Or a woman.

Dogs and cats, go read something else.

OK, I’ve confused the issue. Let me begin again, marriage between a man and woman, Viagra OK. Not good, but OK. All those other marriages, I’ll discuss in another post. Single men, NO Viagra. (Sorry Rush, god has determined you need to keep your flag in your pants.)

And so, as my first proposed amendment to the constitution, to align it with god, we shall limit the distribution of ED prescriptions to any male or female with a VALID marriage license. I, I mean god, will determine what is valid. Through me, of course. And we’ll throw in a blurb limiting all advertisements for ED drugs, and for that matter anything remotely sexual or doing with female hygiene, to C-Span. They need the viewers.

Who said god isn’t merciful?

For those of you wondering why I said females can get the prescription, let me just add that a properly subservient wife will notice when her man gets a little down, and will slip these pills to him without him knowing it. Good for his ego.

Please note, I don’t advocate this for the woman’s benefit.

Though god might, she’s big on women’s issues.

(Go figure).

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One of the interesting things I find about attending a Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship is that it is a wonderfully undefined entity. By self-definition, it is a group that avoids adherence to any creed. As a result, we have a wide variety of faiths, traditions, and beliefs melding under one roof. In short, unorganized religion.

In contrast, organized religions exist under a very strict structure, a result of adherence to tradition and scripture. It is a system that relies onunquestioned belief and faith. By default, dogma rules the day and diversity of beliefs do not exist.

Unlike organized religion, unorganized religion (as I like to call UU) operates under a big umbrella. There are no creeds or dogma to guide the process, or to answer our questions. Our closest attempt at creating structure are the seven principles.

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

One can question how these differ from the dogma, or creeds, of organized religion. The difference, which I feel is significant, is that the principles are rules of conscience, and require the person to use thought and reason to arrive at the proper action in concurrence with the principles. People followtheir own course of action, given it concurs with the principles.

Organized religious dogma, on the other hand, gives you no such liberty to use internal reason. “Thou shalt keep the Sabbath Day holy” is pretty straightforward. It externalizes personal responsibility and eliminates conscience . You simply do as told. If a person runs upon a problem where the proper course of action is not delineated like the 10 Commandments, they are suddenly placed in a position where they must think for themselves, or allow a minister to do it for them.

While unorganized religion has its benefits, it also has its challenges. I suspect the only thing we might agree upon is that we should have service on Sunday. Anything other issue is likely subject to more opinions than congregation members. God settles that dispute for the faithful, and if he doesn’t, his mouthpiece theminister does. We have no such authority in unorganized religion, and it leaves us with a challenge, getting organized.

Which isn’t to say we are ineffective. Our fellowship, the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Fairbanks (UUFF), has succeeded in building a new sanctuary, growing membership, and provided a rich variety of lay led sermons. But it isn’t easy.

Another challenge with unorganized religion is how to invite people into the membership. People who have stepped off of the path of traditional religion are notoriously independent. And private. And a little bit defensive, having been beaten about the head with those same traditional religions for a lifetime. Likewise, those of us who are members don’t want to impose ourselves or our beliefs on anyone, anymore than any one of us would want to be imposed upon.

Which leaves us in a difficult position in engaging new people without overstepping the boundaries of telling them what they should believe. That is the tactic of organized religion, and they employ it effectively. It is important that we remain true to our principles, and don’t adopt those practices that run counter to our principles.

Due to our unorganized nature there is a strong chance we will hit a limit in growth, a capacity of disorder, where ability to function as a group becomes impossible without finding some unifying element to organize around. A minister is a possibility, their leadership may bridge the gap between organized and unorganized, allowing for continued growth among the interested.

As it is, unorganized religion has much to offer. Freedom to explore the spiritual, without judgement, and encouragement to ask, and to seek out answers to, the hard questions. Unlike organized religion, we won’t pretend to have all the answers, just a community within which to ask the questions, where we can share the struggle in seeking answers.

Many of those questions, despite our quest, will remain unanswered in this lifetime. It is their nature, as it is human nature to attempt to organize the unorganizable, to plant trees in rows when they are meant to be scattered randomly, to build square houses on round hills.

It is important to remember the beauty and organic nature of an unorganized, or human, fellowship.

In closing, I remind myself; What is more divine, and which is more human? The heights of a gothic cathedral, a metal warehouse turned mega-church, the rigid construct of organized religion? Or the sublime beauty and randomness of a summer thunderstorm, of Nature, of unorganized religion?

Will we find god in chaos, or in order?

In organized religion, you’ll find an answer.

In unorganized religion, you’ll find the question.

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Finally!!! A candidate for president finally said it. Let’s update the constitution to be in line with god’s laws. I couldn’t agree more. Kudos to Mike Huckabee for saying what so many have been thinking for so long. It is time to throw out the constitution, time to start over with an even older document, the Bible.

It is time for state sponsored religion.

I know, I know. Quite a few people are going to read this and think somebody hacked into my blog. They didn’t. Nor have I been struck by lighting, possessed by the Holy Spirit, or had my livelihood threatened by the establishment.

I just happen to agree with Mr. Huckabee that the constitution should be updated to agree with the bible. Mine.

Did I happen to mention that detail earlier? Well, I am now. Let me clarify, the constitution of the United States should be brought into alignment with god and the bible. Mine, in both cases.

Once more, my God, and my Bible.

Now, for those who know me, or think they do, you may recognize I belong to a UU (Unitarian-Universalist) Fellowship here in Fairbanks, Alaska. I recognize that UU’s exist on the fringe of Christianity, so we don’t necessarily endorse our own version of the Bible.

Whoa, whoa , whoa, before anybody gets upset, let me explain.

My roots are Catholic.

You bet, you read that correctly. Catholic. We should bring the Constitution into alignment with the Catholic bible. Now, before all you protestants get upset out there, remember, we are all Christians here. And what’s a protestantism but an unruly child of Catholicism. Some are more unruly than others but that’s what confession is for.

Come on, it is the oldest christian church, it brought humanity through the dark ages, and would have kept us there if you protestants hadn’t come along. Catholicism existed when churches had power, when non-believers (like Unitarian-Universalists) could be burned at the stake. What more could you ask for than absolute power to the church?

It was only after the reformation that the world went to hell, and you protestants are to blame. I mean, we had things under control. Along comes a few splinter groups, BANG!!, there goes the Renaissance. Certainly, Catholics did get some great art and buildings out of that. But somewhere along the line people started thinking; for themselves no less. Unacceptable.

And here we are today. We have a chance to set us back at least 500 years. We only need the chicks to gather under the hen, the flock to come home to roost, so on and so forth.

For the Pope’s benefit, I want to make it clear that while I said the Catholic Bible, I meant the MY Catholic Bible.

And while I’m at it, my Catholic God. (Who, despite all my attempts to exorcise him, has remained a deep and integral part of my being.)

So, all interpretations of the Bible and God will have to be made by me. Sorry Mr. Pope, you’ll have to leave the comforts and wealth of the Vatican to visit me here in Alaska if you need any interpretations. And I only meet in January. Hey, don’t blame me, I’m only God’s servant.

Oh yea, can somebody tell Mike to convert? Otherwise, he’ll be in violation of the constitution (mine).

Better yet, let’s skip the elections. God can appoint the president. For life. And we can call him King. (Don’t forget, my God speaks through me. Donations freely accepted for those who like to be considered.)

I’ll begin making modifications to the constitution right away.

As soon as I find my bible. Oh, and for that matter my god. I seem to have lost her.

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I’m about a third of the way through the book 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. As I mentioned in my previous post “not so ordinary wolves” I took this book on as a bit of a challenge, an opportunity to turn my thinking on its head for a while. To this point in the book there has been lots of intellectual conjecture about what the future holds, how various unexplained phenomena might be signaling a shift in our consciousness, a step in human evolution.

 

This is all very interesting.

 

However, I am disappointed in the leaps of logic on display throughout the book, not always by the author, for whom the gaps are often filled in by psychedelic episodes, but also by the people the author references. Not having the advantage of a psychedelic drug to fill in the blanks, I’m left looking at the metaphysical and spiritual musings in the book as nothing more than matters of faith. More appropriately, leaps of faith.

 

Maybe the chapter dividers should be tabs of acid.

 

In essence, the focus of the book is that humanity is nearing, or in the process of, becoming a more consciousness based creature. The scientific research used to substantiate this line of thinking is in line with creationist science, only on acid, so it is much more colorful.

 

The problem I’m struggling with is this approach is the metaphysical equivalent of the Apocalypse. In the Christian version, God reclaims the earth and saves the righteous, damning the wrongeous (I know, that’s not a word. But it should be.). In this metaphysical version, evolved humans (not all humans, just those who have evolved enough- i.e. taken psychedelics), under the stress of global crises will evolve into a higher level of consciousness, possibly communal in nature.

 

In both cases, the supernatural comes to the rescue to save us poor humans and bail us out of our own mess.

 

And that is where my viewpoint diverges from both the Christian and metaphysical models. I think we (god’s children, humanity, spawn of space aliens, whatever else we may be) are on our own until we solve our own crises.

 

Success in that endeavor may give us the metaphysical believer’s their evolution and the religious zealots their second coming.

 

Until then, we need to stop looking for the easy way out, roll up our sleeves, and clean up our mess.

 

(I’ll do a final review of the book once I complete it, though you may have to wait for next summer’s mushroom crop to understand it.)

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Jolie, our eight year old, has been pondering death as of late.

As a result, she has had trouble going to sleep. And if she does go asleep, she has trouble staying that way for the duration of the night.

This isn’t Jolie’s first time dealing with the concept of death. It is, in fact, a cycle, one that she has been through a several times before. I’ve not seen a pattern until this time, when it seems obvious that the arrival and departure of grandparents sets off the concern.

Each time the grandparents leave, I think there is a bit of fear in each of us that we don’t know when or under what conditions we’ll see each other again. (See the blog grandparent detox for a full reprise of our latest Alaskan grandparent visit experience.)

I empathize with Jolie on the topic of death, and the related subjects of infinite space and time, and an infinite God (or not). I’ll go one step further, it strikes terror in my soul, down to the depth of my existence, and still can keep me awake nights, when I let it. There was a time, however, when I had no power over those thoughts.

Those thoughts would roll over my mind like a thunderstorm does the prairie, dark, foreboding, and ominous; turning every thought, breath, and heartbeat inward, away from any avenue of escape. The terror would sink through my being, turning my stomach in a great, roiling knot, chewing itself like a demon does a soul. I would lie awake hours after my brothers had nodded off, worrying, trying to know the unknowable, wishing desperately for the peaceful bliss of sleep.

Needless to say, I sympathize with Jolie a great deal. To that extent I let her roll out a sleeping bag next to our bed so that she can be near us during these nights when her mind becomes so expansive, when she senses our mortality, and knows what it means to be human.

Last year when her Mimmy and Poppy left from their visit, and she dealt with such a cycle of mental expansion and the associated fear, I struggled with ideas of what to do to comfort her. Or more accurately, what to teach her in order that she could comfort herself. I turned towards my own experiences, and how I got through them.

One of my earliest memories is of one of those nights. At the time, we lived in the town of Thermopolis, Wyoming. I know we still lived in town (versus the farm outside of town), which makes me 4 or 5 at the time. My brothers and I shared a bedroom, my older brother Gary on the top bunk above me and my younger brother Robin on a bed across the room. Late one night, a couple hours past our bed time, I recall getting up, terror gripping my mind, and tiptoeing out of our room, down the hardwood floors to the living room where my parents sat up reading. I don’t’ remember exactly what I asked, something like, “After God, what is there? How can God go on forever?”

After being gently reprimanded for getting out of bed, Mom and Dad sent me back down the hall with the suggestion to pray. And I did. As any good little Catholic boy would do I said the Lord’s Prayer. Once, twice, three times. And again. Ok, how about a few Hail Mary’s. Back to the Lords Prayer, always my favorite prayer, and it still is.

Our Father who art in heaven.

Hallowed be thy name.

(Heaven, what’s after heaven?)

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

(Does it have sky? Space? Where does it end? Where does it begin?)

Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,

(But what about heaven, where is it? In this universe?)

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

(I don’t feel so good.)

Amen.

Repeat.

Repeat again.

And again, ad infinitum.

Darn it, there is that infinity concept again.

As an adult, I’ve come to grips with the idea that death, infinity, and the endlessness of time and space are concepts that the human mind cannot comprehend. Those items are reserved for the divine or enlightened, of which I am neither. Not that I don’t try, but I’ve reached a somewhat unsettled truce that there are things I cannot reach my brain around. (Like people eating, and liking, Thanksgiving stuffing.)

So when Jolie began to have these fears, terrors if you will, you would think I might teach her to pray. I know, some will say an 8-year old should already know how to pray. Others might say, “I know Thane, and I can’t imagine him teaching his children to pray” -not in the traditional sense anyways.

First, regarding Jolie not knowing how to pray, I could, and probably will, write many more blog entries on the subject. This entry is about something else, so in brevity I will say the following:

  1. I believe there are many paths to heaven, to salvation, to nirvana, or enlightenment; all of them equally acceptable.
  2. God gave us, humankind, free will. I would dishonor that gift if I didn’t ensure my children received it as well; thus, I do not dictate their faith to them nor will I.

I only ask two things from my children regarding their selection of faith, should they choose to select one at all:

  1. They allow other people to do the same (select their own faith).
  2. They retain their free will, and don’t subjugate it to organized religion. (God is one thing, organized religion quite another.)

All of this, relating back to the subject at hand, leaves me in a delicate position in teaching Jolie how to pray, or find solace in the darkness of night.

Last year, rather than turning to prayer, I directed Jolie towards poetry. We went and purchased several anthologies of poetry written for or appropriate to children. We read several together, and I encouraged her to memorize her favorite poems so that she could recite them in the night when she would wake and feel the infinite weight of the heavens falling down upon her.

I think it worked until this year when the cycle began anew.

However, looking back at last year and my own experiences when I was young, I think I missed an important part of my own experience. In repeating a prayer, in my case the Lord’s Prayer, over and over again, it ceased to be a prayer and became a mantra. I was no longer consciously thinking of God, or the characters in the prayer, it was no longer a conscious activity. Somewhere in all those repetitions it had become a repetitive chant, mantra, prayer; and became an avenue to meditate, relaxing thought and for a young me, much desired sleep.

This epiphany came to me this past week, either while listening to my friend Jeff’s sermon on Liturgy at Sunday’s UUFF service, or shortly thereafter spurred in part by his thoughts and words. (I think Jeff will be proud of me for using both the words sermon and service with regards to a UU program. UU’s, at least our Fairbanks group, are notorious for keeping religious terms/references out of our “liturgy”. Ha, did it again.)

Something I admire in Jeff is how he incorporates mantras, prayer, and song into his everyday life; as detailed both in last week’s sermon and in his blog. One of my favorites was his use of the song from Johnny Appleseed, a favorite from my own childhood, for mealtime grace. While they transmuted the song a bit, from night to night, it provided a framework and ritual for being thankful.

Our other friends, John and Jana, and their daughter, recite what I recall as a Buddhist prayer before every meal.

I’m envious of these personal traditions, their holiness, their communal nature, and their comfort.

But if I walked around the house singing, say the Johnny Appleseed song mentioned above (it has been know to happen), my children follow me around in bewildered silence, safely keeping out of grasp lest I be going quite suddenly and completely insane (also known to happen). It could be my distinct, penetrating singing style. Or perhaps it is the word lord, repeated frequently in the song. Usually when they hear the word lord or god it is associated with me mistaking my thumb for an eight-penny nail, stubbing a toe, or maybe stepped in a gift from our (fill in your own expletive here) terrier Lucy. (I can’t help saying the Lord’s name in vain; I think it is my Eastern European Catholic ancestry emerging.)

So, we haven’t figured out how to do these in my house, yet. We don’t have any rituals, prayers, or mantras for comfort or to show gratitude for the things we have, yet. But we will.

And now, more then ever, I see how much we need them.

To comfort Jolie in the dark hours. And Ali as she grows older, should she have those same anxieties.

To share our thankfulness each day.

For our health, our free will, our friends, and our loved ones.

If you have a prayer, a mantra, a chant, or saying you or yours uses in your daily life and would like to share it with us; please do so. Thanks.

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