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On immigrants, outsiders, and people who are “different”

Holding Hands

Holding Hands

Since the day that religion and spirituality began, the idea of “outsiders” has long been an issue of controversy. In the worst case scenarios, what started out as disagreements often disastrously turned into “heresies,” witch hunts, hangings, and being burned at the stake.

Thankfully, we’re no longer at that barbaric stage any more. Or are we?

In the U.S., because of the nation’s current political unrest, religion is often being bundled into the brouhahas over everything from freedom of speech to protests of racism, from healthcare to immigration, and on and on. And in the generally rancorous spirit of the times, unfortunately, it always seems to devolve from “he said/she said” type arguments into sometimes angry, sometimes violent eruptions in which no one listens, no one believes the other side has anything good to contribute, no one… cares!

In a recently renewed relationship between two sensitive, mature, thinking people, it’s discovered that their viewpoints, values, and belief systems have naturally changed over the course of years. One has found a new spiritual home as a lay member of one of the old religious orders, while the other has gravitated towards one of the most liberal theologies around. What to do? How does one even come together in conversation, without feeling that opinions have to be held back, or heartfelt beliefs denied?

From one faith tradition’s point of view… what would Jesus do? Or, from another, what would Buddha say? Or Mohammad? Or Confucius?

At an ecumenical, interdenominational retreat quite a few years ago, in which mission-minded faithful from both the U.S. and abroad gathered to discuss how best to minister to the many hurting people in the world, it was pointed out that “you know, you people in the States think you know it all, that you have all the answers. Let me tell you, with all due respect, you don’t. And some of the folks in the developing countries of Africa have more to teach you about doing ministry than you will ever learn in your lifetimes!”

That was certainly a moment to shake you by your foundations, and make you stop and think.

Perhaps the one true answer to this recent spate of conflict, controversy, name-calling, and hate is actually a simple one… as that song goes, “we begin again in love.”

In other words, we resolve to sit down with each other and really, really listen. Don’t stop at the initially intimidating or alarming sentiments, but allow yourself to dive further into the mystery. Ask questions. Probe gently. Express appreciation. Find areas of common ground. You’ll no doubt find that as you start “reading (or hearing) between the lines,” you’ll begin to better understand where the other person is coming from.

And you may even discover that underneath it all, there is something that actually ties you together, rather than driving you apart.

Peace. Spread it around.

 

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Beatles wisdom

FussingFightingMEME

No big, long, convoluted sermons.  Just some simple truth.

Re: #Hillary book, #Korea#DACA#Healthcare#Russia#Immigration#Race#Transban#nationaldebt, and on and on. Let’s stop fighting and actually solve things. Every day we delay, we put ourselves, the Earth, and our children at greater risk.

#WeCanWorkItOut #Lennon #McCartney #Beatles

New Who brouhaha belongs in the loo

Jodie Whittaker

Jodie Whittaker, the newest regeneration of Doctor Who

Forgive us, Brits, for descending into impolite language. But the current controversy over the latest regeneration of the long-running Doctor Who character is too crass to believe. Most fans seem to have taken the news in stride, but a vocal few have joined the ranks of ugly internet trolls, voicing their protest in not very nice terms.

(For those who don’t follow this historic BBC sci-fi series, a few words of background: this series has been on the air since the 1960s, right around the time that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Part of its charm is that every so often, the lead character, the “Doctor,” changes appearance, and becomes a new person, thanks to the new actor in the role. The latest reincarnation is a woman — actress Jodie Whittaker — the first time the Doctor has ever undergone a gender change!)

In light of what’s been going on in the world these days, particularly the mess that is being caused by a number of traditionally male politicians, having a female Doctor should be the least of our concerns. Actually, in truth, it’s a welcome relief. Perhaps at last she can bring some long-needed compassion, feeling, and sensibility to the role.

For the same reason that droves of women are marching on Washington, running for political office, and making their voices known, this revolution in the BBC’s kingdom is something to be celebrated, rather than criticised or cursed. If Doctor Who can be thought of as a “religion,” (which it is, for many fans), it’s the equivalent of throwing out the carved-in-stone words of the Bible and starting all over again.

On a deeper level — which is what this Noofaith blog is all about — it marks a radical sea-change in the ways of the world. Traditional Western Christian spirituality, for far too long, has been unfairly dominated and monopolised by men. Without going into great detail, one of the earliest church theologians, St. Augustine, did the faith irreparable harm a long, long time ago with his rather prejudiced, sexist interpretations of the original tenets of Christ’s teachings. Unfortunately, all the others who followed in his footsteps not only compounded his original sin, but made it even worse in the centuries afterwards, cementing his perspective in practically every aspect of religious practice, not the least of which was the “males only” requirement for the priesthood.

There was even a time in the Middle Ages when an infamous tract called Hammer Against The Witches became an unofficial misogynistic rulebook for male church leaders, equating women with witches and reinforcing their subjugation and domination by poorly-educated, ill-informed clergymen who feared their power being usurped by wiser, more loving, more visionary female representatives of the faith.

So, welcome, Jodie Whittaker! It’s about time that this happened. It’s been a long time in coming, and we’re excited that the BBC has finally seen the light. May you have a long, fruitful, inspiring, and entertaining tenure in the role!

Relationships are not Doritos chips

MultiRacialThumbsUpComplexity of character and culture

There’s no question that we live in an extremely diverse world. We ignore that fact at our own peril. And the diversity extends not only to an assortment of climates, environments, chemical elements, species, races and cultures, but also to the subject of character itself.

At a recent relationship workshop, the presenter was making a point about what attracts people to each other. He likened personality characteristics to a #Doritos chip, saying that the cunning food companies have developed a theory of four basic “tastes” — sweet, salty, bitter, and savory. And the #Doritos recipe, of course, includes all four of these, so in theory it satisfies everyone, and you can’t stop eating their chips for that very reason.

If the chip had only one of these flavors — sweet, for example — you’d soon tire of it and begin wanting something else. That’s called flavor “satiation.”

Personalities, he continued, have similar emotional “flavors.” And a “nice guy,” for example, might fit the stereotype of “sweet” or “comfortable” (or platonic) — but if too much “niceness” exists, then satiation sets in, and the natural inclination is to seek another flavor. Like naughty. Or mysterious. Or funny and playful. Mischievous. Warm and understanding. Even dangerous! (Of course, focusing instead on any one of these alternative “flavors” has problems of its own, but we don’t need to go into that.)

The takeaway from all this is, more than likely, that complexity of character is valued more highly than a more boring, one-dimensional outlook on life.

All this marketing wisdom, mind you, was offered from a purely practical viewpoint. There’s a germ of truth there, but there’s also the higher perspective that has to be considered. If you extend this thinking to the world at large, with its many diverse cultures, that means we should all be seeking and appreciating a more complex experience that encompasses many different countries, peoples, spiritual and religious ideas, political persuasions, etc., …correct?

So current global movements away from diversity or inclusivity (out of fear of immigrants, refugees, “foreign” ideas, etc.) is actually counterproductive according to this “taste” theory. That’s the practical side. On the spiritual side, being opposed to diversity means we’re cutting off our nose to spite our face. We live in such a diverse, interconnected web of existence that it would be foolish and not very compassionate or neighborly (brotherly, sisterly) of us to automatically exclude or shut the door on others who don’t look, act, dress, eat, work, play, or believe like us. A steady diet of “white bread” alone would quickly lead to satiation and worse — racial warfare, religious discrimination, political chaos, new Holocausts, you name it.

So, to do anything less than welcome the outsiders, those who are different from us, is a very bad — even evil — notion!

And when it comes to complexity of character (whether it’s nice guys or naughty guys), it’s never really as simple as that. Everyone has a certain degree of complexity of character. To dwell on strictly superficial aspects, like the #Doritos marketers believe, is also asking for trouble. How we come across to others is important, but if we subscribe to the idea that you can’t be “nice” or “warm” because it’s too boring or one-dimensional, then we’re also giving in to a very cold, cruel, calculating, manipulative view of human relationships.

Enjoy your #Doritos!

Another positive spiritual spin on being an anti-perfectionist

WaterBearerPLAY

One of our colleagues recently shared this little inspirational video about the water-bearer and his two pots.

Without giving too much of the story away (spoiler alert!!!), let’s just say that there’s always more than one way to look at misfortune, failure, awful circumstances, and loss.

Of course, there’s always the danger that someone will accuse you of being heartless, unsympathetic, unfeeling, or trying to make light of suffering, serious illness, dire poverty, or some other tragic situation.  So this tale may not necessarily apply to every case, especially when faced with the extremes of human existence.

But for all it’s worth, it can be a helpful little story to give us another perspective on life’s challenges, which we all face at one time or another.

To see the water bearer’s story, click here: https://www.facebook.com/inspiremoreofficial/videos/1334621436629938/

Finding inspiration in boxes

HandsInBoxHeard the old expression “putting people in boxes”? Unfortunately, another thing that gets put into boxes a lot is faith.

Through the centuries, bloody wars have been fought over religious beliefs and differences. To their credit, there have been groups, organizations, and even some political entities (like states or countries) that came together to demonstrate it doesn’t have to be that way. One can gain much more by recognizing and appreciating our differences rather than fearing them or making them the cause of conflicts and bloodshed.

We won’t name names of people who have been doing it wrong — or right — you all know who you are.  Actually, come to think of it, perhaps even drawing lines in the sand like that is all part of the problem. If we’d only try to be more comfortable with living in the “gray area,” that place where there are no black & white wrongs or rights, we might all be much better off.

Recently, the people of Denmark were privileged to view a TV commercial that expressed that very same thought. It dramatically illustrated the problem with putting people in boxes.

DanishTV-Play

More than that, it suggested the beautiful, encouraging, inspiring alternative.

Wouldn’t you rather live in a world like this?

Perfectionism ain’t holy

MosesOrangeFor those raised in religious traditions that obsessed over following the letter of the law, crossing every “T” and dotting every “i” when it comes to obeying all those carved-in-stone commandments, here’s some good news. The reason for our suffering is not some vengeful, drill sergeant God who wants us to “get it right,” every single time. Sure, there are good reasons for all those laws and commandments. But it’s not because God wanted to make our lives miserable.

No, actually, the problem is due to a very understandable situation that had nothing to do with God — it’s called “human error.” Somebody MISTRANSLATED a key passage in the Bible!

And once that mistranslation starting making the rounds, and others in the church hierarchy began adopting the idea as their own… even expanding on it, and making it ten times more awful than the original mistake… that’s when all the trouble started.

The passage in question comes from the New Testament, from the gospel of Matthew: “Be ye therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (5:48, if you want to look it up).

The famous Episcopal scholar, author, and creation spirituality guru Matthew Fox points out that the Greek word (in the original Biblical text) that had been misleadingly translated as “be perfect” is teleioi. Fox explains that a more accurate meaning is “be full grown, be adult, be complete and whole” — not “BE PERFECT!”

A parallel passage in Luke’s gospel (the equivalent of another eyewitness giving his own take on what he heard in the same sermon from Jesus) comes much closer to the original intent, in Fox’s opinion: “Be you compassionate as your Creator in heaven is compassionate.”

So there you have it. God didn’t intend holiness to be equated with perfectionism. Rather, in Fox’s thinking, our goal in this life is to “expand” or to “ripen,” to grow towards and into the pursuit of greater compassion for our fellow human beings and other creatures on this earth.

“Imperfection is not a sign of the absence of God,” says Fox.”It is a sign that the ongoing creation is no easy thing. We all bear scars from this rugged process. We can — and must — celebrate the scars.” The alternative, he adds, would be to opt out of the ongoing work of creation, in which we are all serving as partners along with God.

Simply put, questing for perfection is destructive, in so many different ways — while seeking to grow in faith by becoming more compassionate is much more CONSTRUCTIVE and ultimately more kind, more caring for all concerned.