by Paul Nugent (member of the Board of ICUJP and Aetherius Society)
On March 15th, throughout The Aetherius Society, we have held a service commemorating what we regard as the true birthdate of the Master Jesus (i.e. March 15th) heralding the beginning of the Piscean Age, hence the symbol used by early Christians of the fish. As many will also know, we believe this Master to have come to Earth from the planet Venus, “the bright and morning star” of Revelations, 22:16. It was, of course, a time when conventional wisdom held that the world was flat; but at this time of greater scientific discovery, and with a number of astronauts openly testifying to the reality of UFOs, perhaps it is time to reconsider what was meant in the first chapter of “The Acts of The Apostles” when it was written: “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
At a time when our world is facing almost insurmountable problems, is it not time to take a more open and critical view of this profoundly important subject which could have unlimited possibilities for the future potential of humanity, way beyond the flat-Earth mentality we have imposed upon ourselves?
For more about the Aethetius Society, see http://www.aetherius.org
By Anthony Manousos
As you can see from reading these posts, the ICUJP meetings every Friday morning draws some fascinating speakers. The only drawback: getting to Immanuel Presbyterian church at 7 AM to hear them!
For those who have jobs or other responsibilities that made Friday mornings impossible, ICUJP is planning to organize events on a Sunday evening. Stay tuned for details.
Meanwhile, I will continue to provide blog entries that give a taste of what our Friday morning meetings are like. Enjoy!
Our March 16 gathering was especially tasty since it included a Costa Rican breakfast, pinto gallo (beans eaten while the rooster crows), made in honor of Grace Dyrness, who was celebrating her 65th birthday. One of the beloved leaders of our group, Grace gave a thoughtful reflection on the environment, which she promised to share on this blog.
Kwazi Nkrumah, organizer of Occupy the Hood, showed up at our gathering with a man named Cardenas whose wife Bianca was deported after their home was foreclosed by the bank. Cardenas is a US citizen and his wife was going through the process of becoming a citizen when this punitive deportation occurred.
Cardenas explained what happened: “Last Feb 22 my wife was at home. The banks had sold our home while we were trying to modify our loan and had gone through a bankruptcy process. The investor who bought our home called the police department, and they arrested my wife Bianca, even though they had no right to do so. We filmed the arrest and the police got mad. They kept my wife in jail for 7 hours and they found that 10 years ago she tried to cross the border and so they took her to immigration. Within two hours she was deported. They told her she had no rights. She had no attorney. This deportation broke our family apart. We have a one-year-old daughter.”
His lawyer provided legal background: “When the property went to sale, the family was in bankruptcy so there was supposed to be an automatic stay. This was then a civil matter and therefore the LAPD was not supposed to be involved. The bank was not supposed to sell their home while the legal process was still going on. Therefore, this foreclosure and arrest were illegal.”
Occupy the Hood has been working on the issue of foreclosure for the past year. Said Kwazi: “We have a massive criminal dispossession of the populace taking place around the foreclosure crisis. The banks have become criminal syndicates falsifying documents and seizing properties by any means possible. This case has escalated from a simple struggle to keep their home to a deportation. We are calling on groups to join us in this effort, including the Catholic arch diocese…”
There was also a talk by Diane Goldstein, a 21-year-old law enforcement veteran retiring as the first female Redondo Beach Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), as well as the executive committee for the 2012 initiative “Regulate Marijuana Like Wine.” She was invited by Rita Lowenthal.
You can hear her talk at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=No1A2J6Z4C0
and learn more about LEAP at http://www.leap.cc/
Explained Diane: “This a critical time in our society. We’re seeing interesting coalitions develop among organizations unlikely to come together. I became involved with LEAP in 2010 because of Proposition 10. I was brought into by Judge Jim Brath, an OC judge who’s written good books on how prohibition has failed.
”Because of LEAP, I became involved with Mom’s United Against the War on Drugs. I have a real belief that the drug war in its totality has been an abject failure. I have seen the full spectrum. I have seen how drug addiction works in my family. My brother was an addict and how was treated changed my attitude.
”My brother started self-medicating at an early age but was clean for ten years. But then became a user again and he ended up dying at age 41.
”I have looked at drugs as public health issue. I can’t understand why we use incarceration and enforcement as a way of dealing with drug use.
“Drug use is bad for our society, but what is our obligation to those we love? Is it better to marginalize and lock up drug users? This method targets people of color and is racist in nature.
“ LEAP was started in 2002 by retired police officers on the East Coast who had become disillusioned by the drug policy. Drug war is the largest “whack-a-mole” in our society. When we knock out one drug dealer, another pops up. This is unlike apprehending rapists, murderers, etc.
“Drugs are not moral or immoral. They are things which can be used for good or bad purposes. We have turned drugs into a moral issue.
“ One of the goals of LEAP is to restore respect for law enforcement.
“We have an obligation to prevent violence but we must do it without racism or excessive force.”
She went on to explain that LEAP wants to remove drug policy from a police matter to a health issue. She told us over 55 billion dollars is spent on drug enforcement policies. etc. The drug enforcement lobby spends a lot of money to influence our legislators.
“Law enforcement is as self-serving as Wall Street,” she said.
She also cited some disturbing stats:
Drug arrests occur every 13 seconds.
1.6 million have been arrested, most for simple possession.
40% of high school students have used drugs.
3 out of 4 voters think that the drug war has failed.
50 die each day of overdose because they are afraid to call because of drug laws. Instead of saving them, we let people die.
25 million are engaged in substance abuse.
In 1997 Rand study showed that drug rehabilation was 23 times more effective than source control.
Portugese decriminalized drugs and did a 10-year-old study. HIV went down. Drug overdose rate went down because more people were willing to go to public health treatment. Usage went up to start and then went back to its previous level. Use by kids went down 25%.
Our group was very impressed with this presentation and are looking for ways we can expose the so-called “war on drugs” for what it is: a war against drug users, mostly people of color, that is causing untold misery and violence.
Upcoming Events sponsored or endorsed by ICUJP
LA Laborfest presents Bread and Roses “The Singing Strike” on Sunday, March 24, at 4 PM.
A special conversation with George Hunsinger, Found of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Sunday, April 22, 2012, at the home of Betsy Hailey. A fundraiser for NRCAT and ICUJP.
Reckoning with Torture. Sunday, April 29. 3-5 PM at Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church, 31 N Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena CA 91103.
Upcoming speakers at our Friday morning gatherings:
2/23 Ali Saleh (the new clean Muslim mayor of Bell) and Cristian Garcia will speak on encouraging coalition building and civic engagement among Bell’s Muslim community.
3/30 Jeff Paterson of The Courage to Resist will speak on the campaign to free Bradley Manning.
4/6 Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.
by Stepehn Rohde, Chair of ICUJP
At a time when women are being raped and exploited around the world and defiled at home as “sluts” and “prostitutes” for defending contraception, conservative columnist Dennis Prager recently chose to devote his valuable print space in the Jewish Journal to defiling “the Muslim practice of covering women’s faces with a veil, [as] one of the most dehumanizing behaviors to women practiced in the world today.” Really?
Not according to Sara Bokker, former actress/model/fitness instructor and activist, Director of Communications at “The March For Justice,” and co-founder of “The Global Sisters Network,” who describes herself as a “Muslim feminist.” An American convert to Islam, after learning that while the head scarf, Hijab, was mandatory, the face veil, Niqab, was not, Bokker voluntarily adopted the Niqab only to see that “women in Hijab or Niqab are being increasingly barred from work and education not only under totalitarian regimes such as in Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt, but also in Western democracies such as France, Holland, and Britain.”
When living in South Beach, Florida, a hotspot for those seeking the “glamorous life,” she became a regular “exhibiting” beach-goer, “a slave to fashion” and “a hostage” to her looks. But to raise her children as “upright Muslims so they may be beacons of light for all humanity once again,” and to “enjoin good–any good–and to forbid evil–any evil,” Bokker is fighting “for our right to wear Niqab or Hijab and to please our Creator whichever way we chose.” She’s trying to spread “our experience with Niqab or Hijab to fellow women who may never have had the chance to understand what wearing Niqab or Hijab means to us and why do we, so dearly, embrace it,” because “it is the personal choice of each and every one of us, which none of us is willing to surrender.”
Bokker says she “couldn’t be happier to shed my bikini in South Beach and the ‘glamorous’ Western lifestyle to live in peace with my Creator and enjoy living among fellow humans as a worthy person. It is why I choose to wear Niqab, and why I will die defending my inalienable right to wear it. Today, Niqab is the new symbol of woman’s liberation.”
Take that, Dennis.
Darrel Meyers is a Pastor at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Van Nuys, Southern California, and is a member of ICUJP. He was a co-founder of the Middle East Fellowship of Southern California and has served as one of its chairpersons since 1969. Darrel is also a board member of the Friends of Sabeel-North America and makes frequent visits to the Middle East. He holds a Masters degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. Darrel has three grown children and three granddaughters. Along with spending time with his family, he enjoys reading, sports, cinema, music and the companionship of friends.
by Rita Lowenthal
I’m not quite sure how this happened—why I decided to use my reflection time to celebrate my 85th birthday with you. It feels a little egocentric—my women friends are giving me a luncheon–the family is having two parties, so how much did I need?
I think it’s because I want to share with those that have been most important to me during my 80”s.
When I thought about what was unique and different about my 80’s—two things came to mind: Five years ago the diagnosis of dementia of my wonderful now 97-year-old husband Jerry—and the gift of my late middle and old age.
And my joining ICUJP. I forget what year that was, between the two of you, in these five years, I’ve read enough about healthy aging and dementia and spirituality to fill a book—but don’t despair I’m limiting my self to 10 minutes. I’m allowing myself this gift of a an extended reflection just because I think I am the oldest person in the room (not that that makes any sense)—but since when did everything have to make sense?—especially in a room with so many believers.
First, Jerry’s Alzheimer’s type dementia. We lucked out—he has what is known as euphoric dementia. He is, if not euphoric, absolutely content. I remember when we first got the diagnosis—five years ago when he was 92—he looked at me and said: ‘Don’t worry—I lived and loved the good times, nd what’s the big deal about forgetting the hard years.” Shortly after, when he lost his drivers license, his response was: “ I can’t drive—great—I hate driving in LA—now you’re stuck.”
When I got over the initial fears, sadness and outrage about the wastefulness of it all. What was going to happen now to this man who spent his life on intellectual and cultural pursuits—having an UNcurious brain? And how would I respond? I needed to do this right.
When you raise and love a drug child and go through a divorce you are never sure when you are doing exactly right. He has allowed me the opportunity to like myself more—than possible any other period. I think I’m doing this right,.
I suppose I quite quickly made a peace with the diagnosis because I was assured that the onset would be very gradual. And it was—his Dementia moved slowly and it has really only in the last six months that it has become difficult: inconvenient, annoying and boring. But not devastating, It’s like living with a good four-year old: all he really wants is ice-cream, Animal Planet National Geo on TV, and me.
I have learned to pretty much replace our outside life so I’m not too lonely for intellectual and collegely fun situations—and I bless him every time I go out and count on is saying says—have a good time—he never says, “Don’t leave me.” What a mench!
But hanging out with him in the same room too long sent me to a hypnotist to block out my impatience at his repeating–even though the repeating is five things that in some other time might be a gift: “Do you love me as much s I love you? Don’t you love our lives? Aren’t we lucky and do have enough money? And we need vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.”
Some times in what seems like machine gun rapidity it goes on and on and he must be answered.
Well, as everyone is this room knows–having a world view–knowing what others are experiencing makes it easier but not easy. Incidentally the hypnotist did help and remembering that he won’t remember no matter how often I say, ”I’ll see you later, I’m going to going to take a nap” gets me out of whatever room he is in, but I rarely pass where he is sitting that we don’t touch.
Another of the gifts of my aging are the acceptance of “life happening.” I don’t feel our predicament is a tragedy. It is just “Life Happening” He is 97.
Plus understanding the boundaries of how much or little we can really do to save those we love is an enormous gift of psychological freedom and then, as most people who have lived through what they sense as real tragedy (for me the death our beloved boy)and survived, I’m just not afraid of the future. I got past that period of devastating mourning, and life is good. Some clichés are clichés for reasons. Time does heal.
Nothing negative seems very anxiety-provoking and I rarely sweat about the negative future. Being sad or angry is a pleasure compared with anxiety. Although thinking about the world—it feels like we are dancing in an earthquake– but I have you to share it with, plus a relatively new mantra for me, “one day at a time,” is not that difficult to remember,
A few years ago I wrote these two poems:
Why label him a disease?
Can’t he just be forgetful, fatulmult
Like old people used to be.
Where is it written he needs to know
The vice president’s name?
even this nice one.
Who says he should eat breakfast,
lunch and dinner at prescribed times.
He can eat whenever he damn well pleases.
Maybe short burst of anger are a functional release
like mini orgasms,
Must even passion be pathologized?
Maybe it’s not tragic to live long
And be forced to live in the present.
Surely the past was as difficult
as it was wonderful
Having lived it once should be enough.
Words. Words. Words.
Dementia—that’s what the say.
Sounds like demented.
Maybe a rose is a rose
But why not daft
Or a gentle madness
If he is daft or pixilated
There is room for laughter
But Alzheimer’s Type Dementia
No, that’s worth forgetting,
Rita Lowenthal 2009
I made a peace with aging
Accepting the inevitabilities
Aches, forgetting, and diminished fantasies
Exchanged for the gratefulness
Of every pain free day,
I wrote a pretty good poem
About all that
And now I want to renege.
I am exchanging an old
For a newer acceptance
Of this long life.
Now I know that the eighties
And nineties are new possibilities.
This may not be the last stage
Only the next one.
I can erase where I wrote
That I will grow old and infirm
And choose old and informed.
Boldness over acceptance.
Hmm, What’s next?
That’s were ICUJP came in, Just when I was ready to just hang it up on all religious institutions—they just make too much trouble (I’m not talking about my my Jewish and Zionist identity–they’re just too engrained—they are who I am, like my womanhood—but enough of organized religion)—so I joined the Jewish Humanist and Some Shalom Communities.
Then came ICUJP. I had never been active in interfaith work. You became my graduate course in another America—and I came to realize how ghettoized my life has been although it never felt that way—I have always had non-Jewish friends. neighbors and leftie local politics buddies, but Pasadena church-going religious leaders, Muslims and Aetheriens!?
As all limited people must come to know it is not enough to say—some of best friends are—I really fell in love you with you guys –and that makes the difference.
I believe we are a truly a unique group—it’s not just the values of peace and justice that we share—other groups claim the same. I think it’s the unique ways we have built, in an often cold room and a history of no coffee at 7 AM ,with people who often don’t see each other more than once a week for two hours and from different parts of LA—a closeness—that’s unusual.. And of course, there is our amazing leadership.
The members of this group have helped me get over my cynicism about organized religions (when it is organized on my side) and to once again not to be so over simplistic.
Another is that because I have so much respect for who and what goes on in this room—I have made a peace with my struggle with God. I m still attached to my former colleagues at Hebrew Union College and the Reform movement. But for the for the first time in my life, I have no particular congregational relationship I call my own. I am very committed to interfaith work and Jewish organizations with progressive political views. You are my spiritual homes,
We had on our book shelf a small maybe 3×5 framed quote of Gertrude Stein. It said: “There ain’t no answer. There never was an answer. There will never be an answer. And that’s the answer.”
A few months ago I realized that it was totally faded—it came with Jerry so it was probably 60 years old—and I replaced it with the ee cummings’ poem that my dear friend John Forney introduced me to:
“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.”
It fits right in with quote Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote that, for the Jews, the greatest of sins is despair.
That’s it. For my birthday I want you all to promise to stay well and grown older with me
by Anthony Manousos
Last fall 14 members of ICUJP were arrested for “illegal assembly” (i.e. exercising our First Amendment Rights) in front of the LA Federal Building. We were protesting the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan and calling for an end to our occupation of this and other countries. We were given a suspended sentence, with no probation or fine.
This week Rose Gudiel and 8 other protesters were not so fortunate when they faced charges for “occupying” OneWest Bank in order to protest the bank’s attempt to foreclose on her home without just cause. The City Attorney of Pasadena wanted to “make an example of them’” so they were given probation and a fine.
Because my wife Jill Shook and I care passionately about the rights of homeowners who have been facing foreclosure due to unfair banking practices, I wrote a letter to the Pasadena Star News which was published on Thursday. By the time the letter appeared, the case had been settled. As of yet, Rose Gudiel has not received a commendation from the city. I still think they and others like her deserve recognition for standing up to the banks.
The Pasadena Star News ran an article today revealing that the city of Pasadena plans to prosecute Rose Gudiel and others who protested the attempt by OneBank to foreclose on her home without just cause. Thanks to Gudiel’s protest, OneWest relented and Gudiel was able to keep her home. Now the city wants to prosecute Gudiel and those who helped her. City Attorney Michelle Bagneris claims that she is just “following the law.” This is similar to the argument made by Southerners during the Jim Crow era when they arrested protesters for sitting in at segregated lunch counters.
Clearly there is something wrong with laws that allow banks to foreclose on people’s homes, but don’t allow people to protest to save their homes from unfair eviction. We need to change the laws to protect the homeowners, not the banks.
I urge the City not only to drop these charges, but to commend Gudiel and the protesters for living up to America’s finest tradition: the spirit of civil disobedience that led the citizens of Boston to dump tea into Boston harbor, and the protesters in the Deep South to violate the discriminatory Jim Crow laws. We need to honor men and women of conscience like Rose Gudiel who are calling for banks to behave morally and responsibily.
by Bonnie Blustein
In our Unitarian Universalist community, teenagers participating in a “Rites of Passage” ceremony each present a personal “Credo.” They talk of god and the universe, the meanings of life and death, of how to know what to believe. One recently spoke about his spiritual experience in helping families inTijuanabuild their own houses. Another imagined a river of souls, into which a bucket is dipped when a person is born so that the new soul is at once unique and partaking of all those that came before—and destined to return to the river. She, and others, said in voices reflecting both pride and pain: “I’ve been struggling with these questions, I have answers to some but not others, and as I continue to struggle I’ll probably change my mind.”
When I was their age, I concluded that I was an atheist rather than an agnostic – and about that, I haven’t changed my mind. Some humanists shun the word “atheist” as a negative, a denial. But, as Spinoza said, “Every determination [or affirmation] is a denial,” and the opposite is equally true: every denial is an affirmation. Let me restate my affirmation:
We are made of stardust. The stuff of the Big Bang sparks our neurons and flows in our veins. The glow of suns condensing from cosmic clouds is neither more nor less wondrous than a Bach fugue or a child’s crayon drawing. Our spirit, our substance, and the substance of the universe are one.
We often speak of “connecting the dots,” but the “dots” are already connected. Our task is to understand those connections.
We feel what we don’t fully understand: that which we share with a universe far larger and more majestic and more important than our individual selves, even as we sense the difference that sets each of us uniquely apart. Failing to grasp the yin and yang of sameness and difference, we experience the difference as separation and seek reconnection. Experiencing separation as sin, we seek redemption.
But: Must the humble realization that we are not the be-all and the end-all obscure the lofty truth that we are precious pieces of the all-being and never-ending? Must we seek that connection in a realm of the spirit qualitatively different from the world we see, smell, and touch? I deny it, and I affirm: That “river of souls” is only a metaphor, one of many, for the real, materially existing and ever-flowing cosmos from which we may feel alienated but from which we can never truly be sundered.
One youth said that she sometimes wanted to believe in God. Amid the instability in her world, it would be comforting to know that something never changed. In meditation we often seek to find the “stillness at the core.” We praise the permanence of mountains (even as mountains rise and fall) and of the stars (even as they supernova and collapse into black holes).
Could it be that many of our deepest beliefs reflect the prejudices of a society in which we are truly alienated, one from the other and even from our own work? That these are the prejudices of that class of society which has the most to gain from permanence, and the most to fear from change?
The I Ching teaches “change: that which is unchangeable.” We need balance, not stability: think of the soaring bird or the surfer riding the wave. At the core –of the universe and of our lives — is not stillness but motion.
Does this matter? Does philosophy matter when children’s starving bellies are swollen with disease, when a grandmother in a wheelchair is blown apart by bullets paid for with our tax dollars, when we have to wonder whether the world will survive nuclear madness long enough to be devastated by global warming?
It matters tremendously whether we fear change or welcome it. Whether we build real connections among people, or satisfy ourselves with the ones in our minds. Whether we work for justice now or wait for it in another life. Whether we try to coast along the bended arc of the universe or grasp that we are the ones who must bend it.
Let us welcome change. It is not ours to fear.
To fear change is to seek justice in an economic system where the fate of immigrants is tossed back and forth between those who hate them and those who wish to exploit them.
To fear change is to seek peace in a political system where Democrats and Republicans collude to continue wars in which decent young people are turned into an army of occupation so hated and isolated that some become the murderers of Haditha and the torturers of Abu Ghraib.
We seek to connect the dots, but their connections run deeper than we know. Let us try to know them better.
Let us connect ourselves and our neighbors of the world, in the world, and in the work of bending and building it.
We are made of stardust. Let us shine!
From an ICUJP Friday morning reflection, June 9, 2006. Bonnie Blustein teaches mathematics at West LA community college, serves on the board of ICUJP, and is a member of Neighborhood Unitarian Church, Pasadena, CA.
A small, 80-year-old gray-haired woman, Carol Urner arrived at our ICUJP meeting with her walker, but it soon became clear that her advanced years haven’t slowed her down or dampened her enthusiasm for peacemaking. She stood up for forty minutes and spoke in a loud, confident voice about a wide range of peace concerns, focusing mainly on demilitarizing the Pacific.
A Quaker activist involved with Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Carol serves on the committee to “dismantle the war economy.” She also serves on the international board of the American Friends Service Committee.
She invited us to go to the front gate of the LA Airforce Space and Missile Center in El Secundo to protest the militarization of the Pacific. There were plans (since scrapped) to send nuclear missile from the Vandenberg Space Cmmand to Kwajalein, one of the world’s largest coral atolls. (See vandenbergprotest-macgregor.blogspot.com.)
The LA Air Force Base in El Secundo helps with the tracking and targeting of the ICBM.
Carol spoke with great feeling about how we are sending this missile to an area where we dropped hydrogen bombs and did untold damage. She talked about “jellyfish babies” born deformed as a result of our nuclear tests after WWII. She also talked about the military occupation of Hawaii and called for an end to the militarization of Guam, Hawaii, Okinawa, Jeju Island (a beautiful island off the coast of Korea), Philippines and Marshall Islands.
Carol also spoke of the spiritual basis of her work. She said God’s love is for everyone. And she shared some of her stories.
“When I came back to the US after my husband was killed, I knew I had to work on demilitarization after all the things we’d seen overseas. We were in Libya, the Philippines, Africa, etc. doing relief work. My husband worked as a development consultant, and I taught classes and got to know the local people. I feel we all have this connection, whether we are Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, whatever, to the base ground of being, that which we call by the time of God, Allah, Jehovah: it is in that power we seek to stand. I learned the way of Jesus in all the countries I worked with. He told us, “Look into yourself before you tried to pull the mote out of your brother’s idea. Look at the beam in your own eye.” Living in a nice big home with guards around us as we tried to help the poor in developing countries. That’s what American is like: fortress America.”
She told us that WILF is particularly interested in the human right council of the UN. These treaties are set up for us to push our governments to follow the treaties we have ratified, and to push our governments to ratify other treaties. The US is being called on the carpet for everything. WILF submitted “shadow reports.” It’s a wonderful tool we have to enable the marginalized to have a voice: women, blacks, etc. working on these treaties and doing shadow reports. Experts are working with them from ACLU, Amnesty International . We need to work on economic and social rights treaties. Rights of the child. We’re the only nation that hasn’t ratified it. Women’s rights. We are one of six nations that hasn’t ratified it. WILF is taking the lead on nuclear disarmament. They facilitate other NGOs from around the world and they’ve won the hearts of the UN staff and most delegates. The NGOs did the model nuclear abolition treaty. International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and others were behind it. Costa Rica introduced it.
“We have to speak to whatever is left of what is human in people at the Space Command. And we need to stand in the love of God.”
Carol’s passion for peace was infectious, and she was given several rounds of applause when she completed her talk.
Submitted by Anthony Manousos (laquaker.blogspot.com)
For more info about missile tests, see http://vandenbergprotest-macgregor.blogspot.com/
During a recent Friday Rev. Ignacio Castuera, a retired Methodist pastor deeply involved with process theology, gave a reflection connecting the Gospels to recent psychological research relating to war. Alluding to this week’s Christian lectionary, which lifts up passages in Mark describing Jesus as a healer and exorcist, Ignacio made the following observations about demonic possession and the psychological and moral damage that war inflicts on soldiers:
Demon possession is understood today by most progressive scholars as a natural reaction of occupied and oppressed peoples. The Palestine of Jesus time experienced the brutal presence of Roman forces and demoniacs often refer to the demons in their heads and hearts as “us” and in a very specific case in Mark 5:9 as “Legion.”
What has not been so clearly understood is that demon possession also happens to the occupying forces, be theyUSsoldiers or Israeli forces in Occupied Palestine. Recently we are seeing more interest in the demon possession of the people who have been forced by combinations of personal circumstance and governmental policies to be in living hells, issuing unjust orders and enforcing cruel dictates.
Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini are about to publish a book that gathers years of research on what they now identify as “moral injury.”
An article in the Washginton Post describes this syndrome:
Every day brings us new stories of soldiers affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which the VA posits as affecting one in five soldiers. What is less known is that in December 2009 a group of VA clinical psychologists, led by Dr. Brett Litz, identified moral injury as a wound of war, distinct from PTSD, that is rarely addressed.
The groundbreaking study suggested that PTDS does not fully capture the moral and spiritual distress of moral injury, which is especially connected with a sense of transgression of the moral order. While PTSD may accompany it, moral injury is not a medical or pathological condition, but a spiritual and moral issue.
The Litz study defines moral injury as resulting from “perpetrating, failing to prevent, or bearing witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.” The long-term impact can be devastating at the emotional, psychological, behavioral, spiritual and social level, wounds that can last an entire lifetime. Moral injury can be found in internal conflict and self-condemnation so severe that the burdens become intolerable and lead to suicide. People may lose their core system of beliefs and values and reach a point of not being able to make sense of life and human relationships. What people believed about the world, humanity and themselves no longer rings true. (For more, see http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/11/the_moral_injuries_of_war.html .com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/11/the_moral_injuries_of_war.html
Ignacio Castuera was born in the State of Puebla in Mexico. At 13 he was the first member of his family to “convert” to Methodism. Migrated to California in 1960 and holds a doctorate in Religion from the Claremont School of Theology. He is currently the Director of the Latin American Project of the Center for Process Studies in Claremont.
It seems fitting to begin this ICUJP blog with a reflection by John Forney, an Episcopal priest who is a former president of Progressive Christians Uniting (see http://www.progressivechristiansuniting.org/PCU/Progressive_Christians_Uniting.html). John brought to our table this week a witty and thoughtful reflection on Ash Wednesday that seems well worth sharing. John could be called “Matthew 25″ Christian, i.e. one who believes Christianity is not a set of dogmas, but a way of life grounded in justice and peace.Each Friday morning at 7 AM around 30-50 religious leaders and peace activists gather at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church in LA and try to figure out how to promote peace and justice. One of the joys of this gathering is hearing members of our group share reflections on theological and political concerns. To learn more about ICUJP, please go to our website: icujp.org.
A Brief Explication of Christianity for the Ideologically Confused
It’s the Economy, Stupid. No, it’s actually, it’s the Culture Wars of Pat Robertson revisited.
To wit: recently, on the campaign trail Rick Santorum wrote off all of mainline Protestant Christianity with a dismissive, “I don’t think there is such a thing,” he said of Obama as a liberal Christian. “To take what is plainly written and say that ‘I don’t agree with that, therefore I don’t have to pay attention to it,’ means you’re not what you say you are. You’re a liberal something, but you’re not a Christian.”
Now I can see how it is that with all this multitude of religious denunciations by the self-promoting gate keepers of religious propriety and certainty – all claiming to have the inside scoop on who counts and who doesn’t in God’s eyes — I can understand the confusion of many of my non-Christian friends on what my faith as a progressive Christian is. In fact all this religious hypocrisy and self-promotion is enough to drive any humble Christian right out of the pew.
So, for my sanity’s sake I’ve written this brief reflection to remind myself (and you can listen in) of the essential the core of my faith that I do affirm.
Last Wednesday is a good starting place. For many Christians it was Ash Wednesday. Ashes are imposed with the words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” I still remember many years ago imposing ashes for the first time on my oldest son Jonathan. He was about four at the time. After repeating the ancient words and making the sign of the cross on his forehead I heard an audible gasp and the protest, “No, not me!”
Yes, you, my son. All of us. Life is fleeting, and then like the morning dew we are no more. This realization imposes two essential imperatives: first, humility. There is a great democracy in the grave. King and pauper, scholar and illiterate, none of us is immortal. This reality compels an empathy and understanding for my fellow travelers in this brief life. We are all in the same boat, none better than another.
And that realization leads to a second imperative: to figure out why we are here and what it is that is asked of us. For me, this is where Jesus comes in. Historically, Jesus never asked us to believe things about him. Those notions crept into the gospels, especially John’s gospel, in the second and third centuries. No, Jesus asked us to follow him, not to believe things about him. He invites us to understand the world in a new way, relationships in a new way.
Thus, I understand the injunction to follow to suggest behaviors like compassion, sacrifice, justice and mercy — the core of what Christianity is about — not any literal reading of the Bible, not any doctrine, not any penitential attitude, as my brother Santorum and his ilk claim, produces divine acceptance. There are absolutely no requirements, no spiritual SAT score needed to merit full incorporation into the very heart of Mystery that many call God. BUT, as one does allow this compassionate and gracious Mystery to take root in the heart, mind and spirit, it will make a difference. Friends will notice. Family will notice. As a Christian, I rely on Jesus as my guide in doing this. There are other ways through which God invites and receives. The Jesus way is the way I have been born into and affirm.
The Parable of the Last Judgment as found in Matthew 25 gets at what is critical. In this metaphor, when all the nations are assembled before the judgment throne before the “Son of Man,” they are separated into those on the left hand (the goats) and those on the right hand (the sheep), to which Christ says, “Come, you that are blessed by the Creator, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (you know, I just never understood why it was that God didn’t like the goats); for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.”
Then those on the right hand (the sheep) began to protest, for they did not remember doing any of these things. And the king answers them saying, “As you did it unto the least of these, you did it unto me.”
Now, look at this most radical proclamation. There is no, absolutely no religious test. It says “all the nations.” Some of these will be Hindus, some Jews, my God…even atheists. Did anyone notice who might have been gay or straight? Even short people are fully accepted – are there no standards at all?
While there is absolutely no test about belief, there is one test. The only test is one of humility. Did you help your neighbors bear their load? Did you wipe a tearful eye? Did you fill an empty stomach? Did you hold an old person’s hand? Did you give a young person a hand up?
And as you have done so, you have entered into the blessedness of the living Spirit of Life. God in you and you in God – and whatever one means by Heaven, it is meant to be a living reality here and now. And life is GOOD.
I close with a poem by a Jesuit priest, “We are Simply Asked.”
We are simply asked to make gentle our bruised world,
To be compassionate of all, including oneself.
Then in the time left over, to repeat the ancient story,
And go the way of God’s foolish ones.
With the fresh remembrance of ashes on my forehead, this is the way of Jesus I affirm and will attempt to live, by God’s grace, as I enter the forty days of my Lenten journey.