Chronicles in Ordinary Time 116: America no longer aspires to be a selfless nation

garden gethsemane rev2Malchus’ Legion/Garden of Gethsemane

One of the ironies of the above image is the confused look on Peter’s face [yeah, the dark-skinned guy on the right; the fisherman who is out in his boat each day]. Jesus told him to bring a sword with him as they went to the Garden, where Jesus was about to be arrested. Apparently, Jesus was preparing an ‘object lesson’ because after Peter lops off the ear of a servant, Jesus warned Peter—Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Perhaps an object lesson for us…

I wrote my last blog in anger. I don’t think I would retract any of the ideas that I wrote, but I was angry when I wrote it. I don’t want to live my life in anger; and yet, because of all the turmoil going on in our country, I find myself angry all the time.

I grew up an atheist [my beloved Grandmother called us Heathens; and yet made Cinnamon Toast for me nearly every day as I stopped at her house on my way back from school]. I wasn’t sure what Heathen meant, but it didn’t sound like a good thing. But my Grandmother fed this Heathen cinnamon toast. I’ve never been able to duplicate her version of the treat.

My parents’ ‘church’ was the American Legion. I grew up going to American Legion meetings regularly; I think it was mostly because my parents didn’t have money for babysitters; maybe it’s what parents did 60 years ago… When we had the Memorial Service for my Mom, who basically had three stages in her life—PTA when I was young; the Legion and her work as a volunteer at the VA Hospital; and her life at the Condominium after my Dad’s death—I was reintroduced to Legion people I knew as a child, when I was in my early fifties: “You’re the kid who slept on the steel folding chairs…”

My understanding of life in America is that we aspire to be ‘selfless people’—we dedicate our lives to the assistance of others. That’s what World War II was about—if one overlooks the Internment Camps [Concentration Camps] like Manzanar. Over 120,000 American citizens, born in the United States were sent to Concentration Camps simply because their ancestors were Japanese. Nearly all of their possessions—their houses, their furnishings, their land—were confiscated. “Japanese truck farmers, he said, produced crops valued at 40 million dollars annually and interned Japanese “stand to lose approximately 100 million dollars in investments” because of confiscation or forced sale by the U.S. Government”  http://www.sfmuseum.org/hist9/harvest.html

“The Government found itself in possession of seized properties whose value may run to $5,000,000,000 or more. The total has never been tabulated.” http://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2016-12-05/from-the-archives-government-seizes-firms-puts-axis-citizens-in-concentration-camps

…And the entire histories of the First Peoples and the African-Americans in the US. Portland was a mostly-white town when I was growing up; I never had a real conversation with an African-American until my 4th year of college.

Our national legend is that we aspire to be a selfless people. We have this big statue in New York Harbor that is a monument to the legend. As a person of Faith, I can say that the majority of the people of Faith [I’m not talking about religion] aspire to be selfless people. We fail. This is one of the many reasons we need Grace.

Because the new Administration is demonstrating so vividly that America no longer aspires to be a selfless nation, I am very angry. What angers me even more is when people of Faith share the mistaken belief that we are in danger from refugees and immigrants, and therefore want to bar them from entrance into this country of immigrants. The only non-immigrants in the news these days are at Standing Rock, and other Reservations; being threatened by a government that has done nothing but lie to them from the beginning.

The number of terrorist attacks in America by refugees and immigrants: 0%

The number of terrorist attacks in America by home-grown American citizens: nearly 100%

The events of 9/11 were perpetrated by foreign nationals from countries that are not included in President45’s Travel Ban.

I’ve never been overly ‘impressed’ with many religious aspects of the Christian faith. I grew up believing in science. Today I study theology more than I study the Bible [probably the explanation of my Progressive Liberal ‘problem’—in some eyes]. I study theology, not because it is more ‘true’ than Scripture, but because theologians often try to frame the truth of Scripture within human experience.

My experiences/encounters with God have never been as dramatic as a burning bush [Moses]; being knocked off my horse and blinded [Paul]; or being swallowed by a big fish [Jonah]. My experiences with the Creator have been dramatic enough for me to say, ‘Marty, pay attention—there is something going on here that is outside your experience.’ I have encountered the Creator—haven’t heard voices, haven’t seen images, and rarely experience these encounters in the presence of others. A guy who represented the other end of the Spiritual continuum once came to my dorm room. When these odd and infrequent events occur, I become aware that a ‘door’ has been opened into another ‘world,’ for lack of a better term; a world that I do not understand.

When we humans try to connect the Creator with human experience, we are mistaken; it is the Creator who does the connection—the Creator connected human experience in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is the human face of the Creator; however, the Creator is as far beyond our understanding as we are from whales; perhaps as far as we are from the squiggly things crawling under rocks in our gardens. It is our human need to ‘exalt’ ourselves that causes us to equate ourselves with the Creator of the Universe. Scripture describes us as ‘a little lower than the angels’—we assume this is high praise. The point of the Book of Job [one of the oldest books in Scripture] is how small we are. The Creator speaks to Job at the climax of the Book, and points out how little of the Universe Job understands. The fact that physics can now demonstrate that a Creator is not needed for the Universe to function does not mean that a Creator does not exist. It simply means that the Universe is so well-functioning [barring human interference] that it doesn’t need constant maintenance in order for it to function. There are oddities in Creation that make such an assertion seem doubtful.

The real question is whether or not we want to open ourselves to the idea that we are not self-sufficient. When I’m honest with myself, I realize that I am not adequate to keep my car running well; thankfully, cars are so well-made that their need for my attention is relatively small. From my perspective. My mechanic may have a different opinion.

Because MY experience is exactly that—MY experience—I cannot download my experience into someone else’s brain. Another reason why I like the ‘magical thinking’ of Star Trek. I want my doctor to be ‘Doctor McCoy’; and I want ‘Vulcan mind-melding’ to be possible. Sadly, I am ‘marooned’ here in the 21st Century.

FDR said it best—the only thing we need to fear is fear, itself.

We, as a country, are feeding ourselves on a diet of Fear. We are what we eat.

angel.grief_mj

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