Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Love Is Not Arrogant, Part 2

i continue to think about arrogance and the great harm we do to others by our arrogance.  as i watch, read, and listen to the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in paris, the arrogance of the attackers and that of those who rail against them disturbs me.  religious fanaticism and bigotry are perhaps the worst expressions of arrogance.  many are so quick to brand all who follow the path of islam as evil.  they fail to see that all religious extremism is woven from the same arrogant cloth which seeks to impose the will of the extremists on others.

we see christian extremism rearing its ugly head in the united states and elsewhere.  many of those elected to high office here are determined to impose their brand of christianity on the rest of the nation, denying women control over their own bodies in the name of religion, calling for the persecution of gays in the name of religion, branding the poor as "takers" in the name of religion, rewriting history to conform to their religious ideals.

we see buddhist extremists persecuting muslims in burma, othodox christian extremists persecuting gays in russia, islamic extremists persecuting religious minorities in the middle east, jewish extremists persecuting arabs in israel, gaza, and the occupied territories.  all of this grows, like the christian extermism in the united states, from the arrogance of believing that some have the right, even the duty, to impose their own convictions on those who disagree with those convictions.  it is not islam that is the problem; it is the arrogance of fanaticism.

in the west we still persist in our arrogant belief that our way of life and the christian religion which is dominant are more advanced, superior to cultures that are far more ancient.  when christianity was in its infancy, hinduism, buddhism, and other eastern religions had been practiced for many hundreds of years.  even the judaism from which christianity sprang was a relatively young religion when the religions of india and asia were already ancient.  in our arrogance, we have stormed around the globe making colonies, imposing our economic and political systems and religion on them.  we have taken natural and human resources that were not ours to take and used them to enrich ourselves.  yet we have the audacity to continue to proclaim our superiority over those we have left in desperate circumstances, creating nation states from former colonies that have little chance of becoming unified, cobbling together disparate groups of people who have no historic ties, as if the world were ours to divide up as we think best.  what horrible results our arrogance has produced, and we refuse to take responsibility for our actions.

may we turn from our arrogance.  may we recognize all religious extremism for the evil that it is.  may we accept blame for the problems arising from our own cultural and religious arrogance.  may we see that the terrorists in paris have much more in common with us than we want to admit.  may we forgive and be forgiven.  shalom.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Love Is Not Arrogant

though this quality of love is the third of the "love is not" characteristics in st. paul's list, a movie preview i saw recently prompted me to skip the preceding two in the list to write about arrogance.  we see too much arrogance in our society these days, the arrogance which says, "since i know i'm right, you must be wrong."  politicians insist that their solutions to the problems facing our county are the right ones, that their positions must prevail since those who have other ideas are dead wrong.  there can be no give and take, no compromise.  religious leaders insist that their view of the christian faith is the only true view, that those who interpret the teachings of the faith differently are in error, and that those who are adherents of others religions or no religion are dead wrong.

arrogance is dangerous because the arrogant believe that they have a monopoly on truth.  the arrogant see no other possibilities, no common ground with those who disagree with them.  the trailer that got me to thinking about arrogance was for a movie called "do you believe," a "faith-based" movie that appears to suggest that a lack of faith in the atoning sacrifice of jesus on the cross is the cause of suffering in the lives of its characters, that this strain of christian theology is the answer to the problems these characters and, by extension, all of us confront.  the movie is from the same studio that produced "god is not dead," a movie that has an atheist professor who is in a position of power over his students abuse that power by insisting that the students accept his belief that there is no God.   of course, in the end, the professor is converted from atheism to fundamentalist christianity because one student refuses to knuckle under.

since i haven't seen the newer movie, i shouldn't condemn it out-of-hand, but from the scenes in the trailer, it appears to have the same heavy-handed, simplistic arrogance of its predecessor.  it is not the content of the "believe" movie about which i'm so concerned, but the pervasive view in american society that one political party or one narrow view of christianity is the only valid one.  no party or religion can claim to be the only source of truth.  arrogance and the intolerance which grows from it are the banes of a democratic society, and we cannot allow ourselves to be taken in by an arrogance which refuses to love and respect those with whom we disagree.

may we take to heart st. paul's teaching that "love is not arrogant."  may we be open to the views of others.  may we never believe that we and those who agree with us are the only ones who can be right.  may love open our hearts and minds to other possibilities.  shalom.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Love Is . . .

in first corinthians 13, st. paul lists several qualities of love, and i try to remind myself of those qualities each morning.  in this new year, i've been journaling about those qualities.  this morning i want to share what i've written in my "love journal" about the two positive attributes the st. paul lists: patience and kindness.  there are "off the top of my head" entries in my journal, and my thoughts are not fully formed.  if you have suggestions or comments that will help me or someone else understand what one means when one says, "love is patient, love is kind," i would be happy for you to help me and others to grow in patience and kindness.

love is patient:  love is willing to wait, to live life unhurried.  love doesn't seek instant gratification, but puts aside the lust for things in favor of being in the present and enjoying what is already in and around us.  love doesn't expect others to recognize what we need and supply it.  love doesn't have unrealistic expectations of others, but cherishes them for who and what they are without wishing to make them something that satisfies one's own needs.  because love is patient, love is accepting and therefore bears all things.

love is kind:  may we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  may we think first before we act, asking ourselves, "is this the way i wish to be treated?"  if we lived with such mindfulness, how much suffering we would refrain from visiting upon others, how many evil deeds would cease, how many good deeds would be performed.  how well our country would run if those in power imagined themselves in the shoes of those affected by the laws they enacted before voting on laws that harm others and take away their rights.  if employers put themselves in the place of their employees, would those employers resent providing a living wage or health insurance to their employees?  if teacher imagined themselves in the seats of their students, would they treat those students disrespectfully, and if students placed themselves at the desks of their teachers, would they misbehave and resent the authority of their teachers?

the essence of kindness is putting oneself in another's place, of seeing that all of us are essentially the same.  when we are treated with cruelty, and unkind actions and words are directed against us, may we try to react in the way we wish to be treated rather than responding in like manner.  may unkindness stop with us.  may our words and acts be mindful, without any attempt to repay unkindness with unkindness.

i am working on comments about the characteristics st. paul lists next, all of the next group stated in the form of what love is not.  what i hope to accomplish is to refrain from simply restating what was written so long ago but rather to become mindful of the underlying meaning.  may this effort help me to grow in understanding, to become a more loving and lovable person.  may we all work together to love others and to love ourselves.  shalom.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

All the Pay I Need Comes Shining through His Eyes

we share our home with a little dog with a gigantic heart.  we've always been "cat people" but when our son moved away and could not take Parker with him, we adopted him.  he's about seven years old now, we think.  we can't be certain because our son took him in from an animal shelter which was uncertain of his age.  he is the perfect dog for us.

when we talk to him, he looks at us with his big eyes and tilts his head from one side to the other as if he understands every word we say.  he never demands to be allowed in our laps or on the furniture.  most of the time he is quiet, only barking when he believes there is potential danger, such as when someone approaches the front door or when some wild animal such as an opossum or racoon invades our back yard, or when he has been outside and is ready to come back in the house.  upon coming in the house, he invariably runs to his safe place, a bed with high sides and a comfy pillow that sits in front of the den fireplace.

he has a special language when he talks to one of our six cats, a whimper that indicates that he is not a threat and that he wants to be their friend.  one of them, Lucy who was also inherited from our son, is his special friend.  Lucy seems to regard Parker as her child, grooming him and crying when we take him across the street for a walk in the park.  the other cats simply tolerate him, but he never gives up trying to be their friend and asking them to play with him.

looking at him, i often wonder why he is such a gentle soul.  he makes few demands, only an occasional game of fetch with his much-loved cloth bone or his nightly treat.  there is much that we could learn from him: he gives love with no expectation of reward; he never speaks without a reason; he is happy to be with us but is content to be alone; he is fully present for the person who is speaking to him.  would that we all could exhibit these virtues!

may we all have such gentle souls.  may we love unconditionally.  may we not babble needlessly.  may we be at peace with ourselves and with others.  may we treat one another with respect and consideration.  may we follow Parker's example.  shalom.