Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Welcome Diwali

Today marks the arrival of Diwali. Diwali is widely celebrated by the Hindu, Jain and Sikh religions.  Diwali, known as the Festival of Light, is commemorated over five-day period around the mid point of the autumn season.

Diwali speaks to the timeless human desire for victory to triumph over evil.  Diwali celebrants light lamps in the hope that goodness continues to illuminate our hearts and homes to assure that the light of goodness remains ascendant over the darkness of evil.  Diwali asks everyone to be stewards of goodwill by mindfully tending lamps to eradicate the darkness of evil and light the way for the spirit of truth revealed and made manifest in the good light of divine love.

We welcome the season of Diwali and wish all celebrants a most meaningful and spiritually fulfilling experience.

Selah

You Tube Video: Origin of Diwali

Risk: darkness, light, good, evil

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November 5, 2010 Posted by | holiday, religion, seasons | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ghetto of Fear

Banksy BangAmidst our poverty of riches we tremble with fear and loathing. We resent the blessings The Almighty has so richly conferred upon us. A maddening clamor of a million incessant voices ceaselessly whisper “be afraid, be very afraid” dispatching us on an endless war with the infinite armies of darkness that we perceive to encircle us. This provokes an intense inner struggle with a seditious soul, a self saboteur, that endlessly works to undermine our emancipation from the ghetto of fear.

Our state of the nation mirrors our psychic state. Barraged with a fusillade of negativity from a multichannel digital discourse of real time bad news our physical state of being and virtual emotional resources are more depleted then the Treasury Department’s account balance after a TARP payment. War, terrorism, recession, home foreclosures, wealth dissipation, culture wars, job losses, the calamities go on ad infinitum. This is our daily bread. During the height of the Civil War in Northern Ireland I recall the picture of a child passing a graffiti strewn wall scripted with the question, “what will the monster bring today?” Indeed, what will our monsters bring today? Most likely more of the same. And it is the ongoing sameness of ever increasing distress that makes the crisis du jour just another routine day. Crisis has become the new normal.

We think ourselves to be unique in our victimization. Victimhood is a bad damn hood to be from if there ever was a bad hood to be from. Our national posture during the past 8 years under Bush has exclusively been about our victimization at the hands of the terrorists. We believed our victimization to be peculiarly ours because the evil doers hate us for who we are. Bush nursed it into a xenophobic obsession that led us to surrender our civil liberties, invade a sovereign nation to depose its head of state and use interrogation methods and tools refined by Spanish Iquisitioners 4 centuries ago. We rationalize it by promoting the fear that the consequences of another strike will be to terrible to suffer. It as if the entire history of civilization had never known the slaughter of innocents, the sacking of cities, the devastation of blight, plague and famine and the excessive collateral damage from the clash of civilizations. Indeed if history teaches us anything it is that egregious conflict is just another day at the office.

Fear has taken up full residency within many houses of worship. Too many sermons emanating from the pulpit preach of a vengeful God, heard by the trembling souls of congregants filling the pews responding with an affirmative amen. Fundamentalist preachers, imams and priests of all religious stripes and secular ideologies carefully construct a theology of fear to avoid eternal or temporal damnation. They warn against having your soul cast into eternal lakes of fire. Said Thomas Paine, “Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.” The admission price to the eternal paradise promised demands a vengeful soul fired by the vulcanism of fear.

Guarding your eternal well being or next life manifestation is available only by strict adherence to the fundamental precepts of a narrow belief. Non-believers are damned. Backsliders are shunned. Heretics are tortured and beheaded. Given the choice between a beheading and fearful submission to a jealous deity most will eat the bread of fear a jealous deity abundantly offers. Thomas Paine wrote that “Of all the tyrannies that afflict mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst. Every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in, but this attempts a stride beyond the grave and seeks to pursue us into eternity.”

These victims of conviction don’t get better they just continue to be victimized. The Pharisees warned Jesus that it was unlawful to heal on the Sabbath. Right wing conservatives need to consult this passage to understand why they should support universal health care. True conservatives are fearful this program is the sure road to socialism. Jesus asks what is more important, to cure the sick or worry if it meets the criteria of some stale dogma? I agree with Jesus and ask conservatives not to be fearful to heal on the Sabbath.

There is a comfort with the certitude the ideology of fear offers. One need no longer wrestle with the great cosmological questions of a universe that is older then 6,000 years or Darwin’s theories of natural selection and the theory of evolution to understand how species evolve. The tenants of secularism, liberalism and humanism as flowering ideals of the Age of Reason can be dispensed with as well. As we disallow the satanic verses concealed within the learned tomes of humanist literature; America, the grandest political expression of the Age of Enlightenment democratic foundations will crumble due to a poverty stricken citizenry ignorant of the cradle that suckled our legacy of liberty.

Fearful that these ideas threaten a fundamental understanding of God as the source and creator of all things they demand that their deity hide away from the prism of science, anthropology and history. Such a God is a small God indeed. It demonstrates how fear robs the human experience of a rich spiritualism and deeper relationship with a God of their understanding; condemning the true believer to a bankrupt religion of stale dogmas and inert ritualism. The Infinite One’s knowableness surpasses all understanding. All of humanity’s trite scientific inventions and worldly philosophies occupy but a minuscule portion of a single cell within God’s cranium. The All Knowing One would not have allowed the sciences, arts, philosophy and other branches of knowledge to flourish if it was not useful to serving the development of humanity and enriched our understanding of the Beneficent Ones love for all creation.

A truth I heard spoken in the rooms is that as children we are afraid of the dark. As we grow into adulthood we become terrified of the light. This profound truth speaks plainly about our mental, emotional and spiritual condition.  Children fear darkness because they think that they are alone. They tremble under their covers unaware of the protection and security of their home and a guardians presence in an adjoining room who sits ever mindful of a duty to protect the child. Darkness confronts children with a wall of uncertainty conjured from an untamed imagination. The capability to comprehend and understand the condition of darkness is merely an absence of light and is not a lair of monsters and bogymen. In workplaces all over the world workers tremble with fear in the cubicles and workshops fearing the delivery of the dreaded pink slip that condemns the worker to an awful redundancy and a certain downsizing in their standard of living. It may come or it may not. Fear and conjecture will not make it go away.

Fear is abolished when the child becomes safe in the knowledge that their guardian is near and remain fully secure in a comfortable bed. Darkness then becomes a place that doesn’t threaten but is an ideal condition where rest and the restorative power of sleep can be realized. We should engage the darkness that surrounds our nation not hide under the blankets or blindly flail away at it in an exhausting exercise of shadow boxing. It presents numerous opportunities for our nation to engage our demons and gain a better understanding of our country’s enemies and how we can disarm conflict by discovering the common ground of our shared humanity.

Paradoxically as adults we become fearful of the light. We ignore Socrates advise about the undesirability of an unexamined life. We prefer pathways of avoidance to stay secure in our ignorance. Agonizingly fearful about confronting the personal demons that continually haunt us we prefer to sit in darkness content to engage our guilt and shame in an ongoing conversation with ourselves; chaining us to the paralysis of a broken past.

We are only as sick as our secrets. Think about the sick soul of Bernard Madoff. Had he only brought to light many years ago that some of his investments did not perform well. His clients would have understood and forgiven him. He would have been off the hook and not beholden to the damnable demands of a larcenous ego and the financial ruin it brought to the people who trusted him. Or think about the obsessive mania of Dick Cheney to withhold information about events and discussions he held with parties that determined the fate and well being of all Americans. Transparency shines the light of disclosure and assessment on things vitally in need of clarity. Mature adults shine a light on themselves to conduct sober assessments and initiate corrective actions to grow and become more perfect.

The Apostle Paul reminds us not to be anxious in anything. It is an unfortunate circumstance that we don’t embrace this teaching. We have allowed fear to move into our neighborhoods and it has fully expropriated the fine residents of our communities. Fear has commandeered our country and bent it to its ugly will. Fear forces us to react to challenges with anger to engage in an endless vendetta that imprisons and tortures our spirit. It has separated us from one another with suspicion and denigrates our sacred relationship with the natural world.

We have allowed fear to become the omnipresent existential condition of our soul. It has fully eradicated the holy spirit from its rightful place as the unifying force that brings us all together in the human family. Fear is a pernicious millstone that grinds away our earthly home. Fear can be eradicated with courage reason, tolerance and faith. Certainly worthy vehicles to consider for an exodus from the ghetto of fear.

You Tube Video: War, The World Is A Ghetto

You Tube Video: Elvis Presley, In The Ghetto

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Bible, culture, democracy, faith, jazz, life, religion, terrorism, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bishop Robinson’s Celebratory Benediction

I was the Warden at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church when the then Rev. Gene Robinson was being considered to become the 9th Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. At a vestry meeting the then Rector of St. Alban’s asked vestry members to sign a letter in support of the candidacy of the Rev. Robinson. I in good conscience stated that I could not sign the letter as it was written. Though I knew of Rev. Robinson I did not know him. Though I supported his right as a Gay man to be considered for the position of Bishop, I did not believe that his sexual orientation automatically qualified him for the office. Nor did it allow me to sign a letter advising the electors of the Diocese of New Hampshire that they should vote for Rev. Robinson because I new little of his experience and background and how he would benefit their Dioceses.

I suggested that we incorporate language that we believe that Rev. Robinson’s sexual orientation should not be a consideration of his candidacy. We also stated that if the Diocesan electors understand Rev. Robinson to be qualified and suitably gifted to meet the requirements of the position then we wholeheartedly support their decision to call him as the 9th Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. Thankfully God moved the electors to call Rev. Robinson. His consecration as Bishop has removed another barrier for the denial of civil rights for Gays.

I believe that my opposition to the letter as it was originally presented was in full conformance with Dr. Martin Luther King’s admonition that we should judge a person by the content of his character, not the color of his skin, or in the case of Rev. Robinson his sexual orientation. This teaching is central to my understanding of the ministry of Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus practiced a ministry of inclusiveness that calls everyone to his table. By doing so Jesus asks us to see the divinity in one another, unencumbered by earthly prejudices and predispositions. Jesus asks us to see each other as God sees us by looking at what is written in the heart of a person. By recognizing that we are all children of God, equally endowed with the gift of grace and apportioned an equal amount of divine love.

The Constitution of the United States is a political document that parallels that idea. We are all equal citizens under the law. No law will abrogate or abridge the civil rights, privileges and protection of our laws for any citizen based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

Bishop Robinson’s Benediction will speak to this issue on many levels. His benediction will ask that we be mindful of the call for inclusiveness and to engage in the work to bridge the cultural, political and racial divide that is always a clear and present danger to a democratic republic. The shameful thrust of Proposition 8 that seeks to codify the denial of equal civil rights to Gay people denies them a place at the table of democracy. I don’t believe Jesus would approve. But we must take heart and be content in the understanding that children of God like Bishop Robinson walk and teach among us. Asking us to be ever mindful of those who suffer the injustice of exclusion and to set a place at the table so that all may eat the bread of life and drink from the cup of liberty.

You Tube Video: San Francisco Gay Men Chorus, “Oh, Happy Day”

Risk: civil rights, democracy

January 18, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Civil Rights, gay rights, LGBT, Obama, politics, religion | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Perfect Christian Gentleman”

The BBC News Hour ran a piece on US citizens reflections on the Bush Presidency. One woman from Ohio referred to Bush as “the perfect Christian gentleman.” Her point that Bush restored the morality and integrity of the Office of the President after the tidal wave of sin Clinton unleashed in the White House with his sexual dalliances and uncontrollable peccadilloes. According to this fundamentalist Christian woman, Bush achieved this do to his steadfast faith and commitment to Jesus Christ. She even cited Bush’s refusal to covert to Islam after he received an urgent appeal to do so by the Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

As a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ I take great exception to the characterization of George Bush as a “perfect Christian gentleman”. First I must say that my understanding of Christianity is that as human beings we are imperfect and need to be ever mindful of the mistakes and shortcomings we as human beings exhibit and practice every day of our lives. During the past couple of weeks Bush’ has been on a farewell media tour. He has been asked by many correspondents about any mistakes he might have made. To date Bush has not come up with anything of significance. I guess Bush believes himself to be the perfect Christian gentleman. But I believe that any cursory examination of the Bible revels that Mr. Bush has severely fallen short of the glory of God as advocated, taught and lived by Jesus Christ.

We not going to get into a theological debate concerning what a Christian is or what makes one perfect or imperfect. What I wish to convey is my understanding of what the ministry of Jesus Christ is all about and why I believe that George Bush and the rest of the religious right that thinks Jesus Christ is the Chairman of the GOP are dead wrong and misguided at best and damnable propagandists at worst for cooping a great faith tradition to serve their narrow political interests.

The first damnable indictment of Bush is his pernicious use of fear. Anyone with any knowledge of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ are aware of his consistent message of not to be afraid. Mr. Bush and his Republican party propagandists have fed the citizens of this country a steady diet of fear laden manna since 9/11 to justify their radical reactionary political agenda. Fundamentalists codify and justify their view of the world, actions and narrow beliefs with biblical certitude by citing chapter and verse. They turn the Bible or Quran into ideological dogma that protects the powerful and justifies their actions to protect their privilege. Jesus Christ took this world to task. He would not approve.

Another damnable indictment of Mr. Bush and the claim of his perfect Christian gentlemeness is his insistence on war as a means to project power and engage the world. Their are numerous examples of the Prince of Peace teaching that violence is not the chosen way Children of God engage the world. One can start with the Beatitudes and conclude with the night Jesus Christ was taken into custody in Gethsemane and one will have a pretty good insight about his position on violence and war. I often think of St. Peter greeting Mr. Bush at the gates of Heaven. I believe he’ll be asked about the lives of over 4,000 service women and men and significant collateral damage he initiated by his invasion of Iraq. He may also be asked about the 2 mn Iraqis that have been displaced by the war and the hardship it has wrought. Bush is convinced that history will absolve him for his actions. I wonder if St. Peter will do the same?

Mr. Bush’s justification of torture, his obstinate refusal to free the prisoners of Gitmo, his policies to exclude Gay people as equal citizens of our “One Nation Under God” in my opinion are additional examples of how our current president falls short in the perfect Christian gentleman category. Jesus Christ was about respecting life. “Whatever you have done for the least of these you have done to me,” he said. The idea that Bush tortured, imprisoned or excluded Jesus Christ is most unsettling.

As a Christian I am aware of the log that is in my eye. After 52 years on this earth its as big as a Sequoia and in desperate need of removal. But I am comforted in the faith and knowledge that redemption is available to everyone. All it takes is some self knowledge that we are not perfect, that we have turned from our sinful ways and we put ourselves in service to God by helping others. Mr. Bush still has a shot. I’ll be praying that he becomes painfully aware of his imperfections and takes up the task of rectifying his shortcomings. Perfect Christian gentlemen? Don’t think so, not yet anyway.

You Tube Video: Cool Hand Luke, Just a Closer Walk With Thee

Risk: myopia, fundamentalism, dogma

January 15, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Bush, Christianity, faith, gay rights, LGBT, politics, Quran, religion | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment