Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Learn,Pain, Suffering,

We  learn forever  Or we can. And whoever learns, suffers.  Because if we learn, we have to change. If we learn we change, if we change we suffer.   It is only through pain and suffering, it seems, that we can understand and get to know God as an incarnate being.  It is by working to avoid pain and suffering that we negate the incarnation’s power in our lives and in our world, and feed evil. At least that’s how I see it. That is not to say that we need to go looking for pain and suffering! Those two elements of human existence make their appearance on their own and without appointment.
If the Word of God did indeed become flesh to dwell among us, then it is in our flesh that God’s presence is found. “Look for God among the living”, the women who arrived first at the tomb on Easter Sunday were told. In other words, don’t look for a Supreme Being outside of the human condition.  The Supreme Being is the human condition, made perfect. So look there.  God is with us.
And what do we see when we look there? Good, and also evil. Good is the result of people living out the Supreme Being within. Evil is not just the denial of Gods presence within us.  It is also the denial that God—Love, the being or force or energy that creates, is begotten and proceeds– is present and alive and involved in every act of creation.
If I ignore the divine presence within anyone, I will disregard, humiliate, look down on, ignore, be unforgiving toward, hold a grudge against them and/or rush to judgment, use, and/or abuse them. In negating the divine presence, I give evil power and dominion. I limit God’s presence and action in the world, because I am not manifesting that presence. Nor am I acknowledging that presence in  others.
So, what to do? Live God, love God– it’s the same thing! That’s what faith is—living the God-life within us, trusting that God is present in all sets of creation’s circumstances. Quite a paradox: we suffer because there is evil; we destroy evil by suffering, even to the point of death, death on a cross We refuse to dehumanize our enemies.
If we repress, avoid, go outside of or around our suffering looking for relief, we fail. If we go through it, we find and participate in God’s own life, which is eternal.
The only way out is through. At least, that’s been my experience.  Yours too?

Church and Authority

A bishop and a religious nun were scheduled to have a discussion recently, billed as “Two Catholic views of Gay Marriage.” The bishop began by stating that there is only one Catholic view on gay marriage. Any other position, he said, is dissenting. He blamed the “gay lobby” for putting the Church in a defensive position on this topic, and said that dissenters should become Protestant.
Then he talked about how terrible it was that the murder of his former secretary by a gay man got little coverage in the press, compared to the murder of Matthew Shepard, the gay student murdered by homophobes in 1998. Was he saying that the entire gay population is as responsible for his former secretary’s death as homophobia was for Mr. Shepard’s?
This topic is an important one to both Church and State. It is impressive that it was scheduled. But that is not my topic. My topic is the importance of how people in authority practice that authority.  This bishop lost the audience before he said anything at all relevant to the topic. According to may people present, his approach was legalistic, and not at all pastoral or compassionate. He could have been talking about the importance of caring for the poor, and he still would have lost the audience’s sympathy.

There are numerous Church teachings that are not universally accepted, even by believing, practicing Catholics. Telling such people to go join another religion does not do much in the cause of truth seeking. Honest, open dialogue is the only way to truth. No one is convinced just because someone of rank makes definitive statements in an authoritarian manner. Truth speaks for itself.
This is not to say that there is no room for claiming teaching authority in such discussions. There well may be. But appeals to authority alone never impressed Jesus. He constantly criticized religious authorities for hiding behind their authority and avoiding compassionate interaction. Jesus’ style was to compassionately relate with everyone, even those whose actions He consider to be immoral. There is so much we can learn from Him about the relationship between compassion and authority.

Jesus stopped those who wanted, legally, to stone the woman caught in adultery. He spent time with the woman at the well who had five husbands. He forgave those who crucified him. When any of us exercise authority and responsibility, we need to do so in a manner consistent with who we are and what we believe as the body of Christ.


I very much enjoyed my years of involvement with the Boy Scouts of America. Learning leadership, camping, evening meetings on school nights...I have very fond memories of it all.  From the age of 8 through 8th grade graduation, Scouting was a major part of my identity and I did well in it, achieving its highest rank and holding all of the offices open to someone my age.
That is why I have had a passing interest in following the issues of membership eligibility that have been so much in the press of late, culminating with the recent decision that boys who are gay can be members, but adults who are gay cannot serve as adult leaders.
I have no idea who might have been gay in my years with the organization.  In fact, the word had a very different meaning in those days, to the extent that  The Flintstones could sing “And we’ll have a gay old time…” and no one thought anything about it.  Ah, the innocence!
Now America’s largest Protestant denomination is voting this week on whether or not to leave the movement, en masse, because Scouting will no longer ban gay kids. The vote is expected to support the exodus.  As one Baptist leader commented, the belief is that the Bible is quite clear that one chooses to be gay, and choosing  to be gay is a sin.  This is not the Catholic position (nor is it the Bible’s).  For us, being homosexual is neither choice nor sin.  Acting on the orientation is a different matter, perhaps for a later one of my postings.  
In the confusing time of adolescence, when many youths are very unsure of their identity, including their sexual identity, excluding any child from any organization from an organization can only be hurtful.  The organization is hurt by its bigotry and the potential members by their exclusion and rejection.  How can a Church, established to make God’s reign operative on earth for all, exclude anyone?  It baffles me, but such behavior is not limited to Christians.  It is the story that makes up world history.

If the Baptists do not change their minds, wouldn’t it be great is some other church or religious group offered to sponsor rejected troops?  Without qualification?  Prudence is needed regarding adult leaders, but there are mechanisms for that.