Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Love Shall Tread Out the Baleful Fire of Anger

where to begin?  with the tragic events in bamako, beirut, and paris?  with the venomous rantings of the xenophobes?  tragedies often bring out the best and the worst in us.  as we watched in horror as misguided terrorists wreaked havoc in three cities, our first impulse was often revenge for the killings of innocents.  an eye for an eye, or even many eyes for an eye, seemed a reasonable response at first.  as we watched a blindfolded muslim man embraced by many on the streets of paris, that first vengeful impulse faded for many of us.

for others, the acts of few extremists brought out extreme views in the name of protecting ourselves from such acts of random violence.  in the usa we had proposals from serious presidential candidates for registering all muslims so that they could be tracked by the government, calls for abandoning plans to bring a small number of the syrians who are in need of sanctuary to our country, a plan to admit only christian refugees,    suggestions for the forced closure of mosques, and comparisons of those in need of sanctuary to rabid dogs or a bunch of grapes of which a few are poisoned.  governors across the country vowed to keep syrian refugees out of their states.

at the same time laws to prevent those on the terror watch list from legally buying guns were condemned by conservative lawmakers and the gun lobby.  the house of representatives rushed to pass legislation to prevent syrian asylum seekers from entering the country.  a large number of democrats joined all but two of the republicans in the house to create a veto-proof majority, though the new law probably won't make it through the senate.

our fear has overshadowed our empathy for the families of those who were killed or injured by the terrorists in mali, lebanon, and france.  many have become blinded to the terrible suffering of the victims of islamic state and the civil war in syria.  we have resorted to the hateful rhetoric which greeted other waves of immigrants--the irish, the italians, and lately those from south of our border.  we are afraid of those who are different, those whom some say don't share our culture or our values.

but these "foreigners" are our sisters, our brothers, our parents, our children.  they are us with different languages and sometimes different religions.  they want peace and safety.  they want to have the necessities of life for themselves and their families.  they want their children to have an opportunity to prosper, to live without fear, to have enough to eat.  how can we turn our backs on them, thereby creating more hate and radicalism in the world?

may reason prevail.  may we find our better selves.  may compassion conquer fear.  may our country and all the world see that hatred and suspicion feed the forces of hate and ignorance.  shalom.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Lord of All Being, Throned Afar

a few days ago i read a post by adam lee on his blog, daylight atheism, which was linked to an article of his that appeared in theguardian about those who profess belief in God.  his point was that, while the latest research by the pew research center which found 89% of people in the u.s. believe in a divine power, that figure is misleading because of the wide diversity of belief regarding the nature of that divine power.  simply to say an overwhelming majority of us believe in God suggests that we believers have much in common with regard to our belief, while the reality is our theism leads us in many different directions.  our "gods" are quite diverse, just as we are.

perhaps it is more accurate to say that our perceptions of God are diverse.  because there is a wide variance from theist to theist regarding the nature of God, doesn't mean that we don't believe in the same God.  just as each person may see something different in an abstract painting or find a different meaning in a poem, those differences in perception don't mean we are looking at different paintings or reading different poems; the painting is the painting and the poem is the poem.  it is our interpretations, our perceptions, that are different.

this doesn't diminish the validity of adam's point, because our perception of God influences the way we perceive life and our relationships with those around us and the environment of which we are a part.  the "clockmaker" God of the deist, the "interventionist" God of the evangelical, the "ground of all being" God of the philosopher, or the "pantheist" God of those who believe God is the personification of nature lead those of us who perceive God in any of those or myriad other ways to live our lives very differently, while those who believe there is no God see life through still different eyes.  to lump all theists together in the 89% majority is misleading.

i find myself somewhere between the "clockmaker" and the "ground of all being" theists, denying the idea that God is constantly monitoring every move i make to see if i am conforming to a "divine" plan that was laid out for me before my birth.  yet my faith is such that i believe in a God that cares for me as an individual and as a part of the vast universe, a God who rejoices and suffers with me without making marks in a giant book, marks that will be tallied at some judgment day in the future.  the God in which i believe understands our human foibles and loves us in spite of them, leading us to love one another and to recognize that we are all more alike than we are different.

what we believe about God is important.  that belief colors our thinking about every aspect of life.  the absence of belief also leads one along a different path from the disparate paths of belief.  may we love and respect each other despite our differences in belief or lack of belief.  may we take time to consider the nature of our belief/non-belief and where that leads each of us.  may we abandon beliefs that cause suffering for ourselves and for others.  shalom.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

When Upon Life's Billows You Are Tempest Tossed

during the past week i've been in a sort of funk while dealing with several issues that have arisen since returning from our trip overseas.  several needed repairs to our home had to be sorted out, there are divisions in our church, some performance commitments took up a great deal of my time, and plans needed to be made for some future home improvements.  i've allowed all of this to overwhelm me, and i haven't been very pleasant to be around.

on friday, my wife and i took a break from the demands of daily life to take in a movie.  getting away from the house and my responsibilities helped me to see how wrapped up i had become in the problems we've been facing and to put things in perspective.  i realized that everything will work out over time.  while there are many molehills to get over, there are no mountains--it's my worrying mind that has made mountains out of these molehills.

all-in-all, life is good, and i have much to be thankful for, not the least of which are a loving wife, wonderful children, a comfortable home, enough food to sustain me, and many friends.  i don't have to find a roof for my head, as many people do every night.  i don't have to go to a soup kitchen for food, as many do every meal.  i am not alone in the world, as many are.  all these gifts are undeserved, and i am fortunate to have this life.  instead of being weighed down by problems that are insignificant in comparison to the worries of many who lack the basic necessities, i can see that my problems can be dealt with if i address them with patience and thought while relishing the wonderful joys of life and doing my part to help others with real difficulties.

may we stop to count our blessings.  may we accept that chance plays a major role in our situation in life.  may we acknowledge the help others have given, and continue to, give us, realizing that none of us are "self-made."  shalom.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

It Is Not The Healthy Who Need A Doctor

late one afternoon while we were is scotland recently,  i took a nasty fall that scraped and cut my nose and forehead.  my wife and i debated about whether i should seek medical attention, since the cut on my forehead night heal better with stitches.  we decided to leave it alone after the bleeding stopped and check with our landlord, who works at the tourist office, the next morning.  he encouraged us to see a doctor, since there would be no cost to us, but at the very least, he thought we should consult a pharmacist.

i decided to wait until the end of the day and go to a nearby pharmacy.  i didn't want to give up a day of sightseeing, and, though we had purchased medical insurance for our trip, i didn't want to have to deal with the complexities of seeking treatment in another country.  as we went through the day, several people inquired about my injury and each was puzzled that i didn't avail myself of medical treatment, since each person we spoke with assured us there would be no cost.  i put off seeing even a pharmacist until the next day and was relieved when he assured me that the cuts were healing well and recommended some antiseptic cream to ward off the chance of infection.

a few days later as we visited with another couple who were about our age, they told us about the husband's experience with a frightening virus that had infected his brain.  he thought that he had suffered a stroke because he first had a tingling sensation in one arm, then had difficulty with one leg, and finally lost the ability to speak.  this happened over the course of a few days, and when the speech loss occurred his family took him to the hospital.  the doctors ruled out stroke as the cause, since the progress of his ailments had been gradual rather than sudden.  while in the hospital, he lost movement in the tingling arm and the leg that had first bothered him.  the cause of his ailment was found and, once treated, his symptoms dissipated within a matter of days.  with a brief period of therapy, he recovered completely.  we asked about the cost of his treatment and the quality of his care, and he told us that there was no cost whatsoever and that he had received excellent care.  he and his wife were full of praise for the national health service and expressed amazement that our health care seemed to be so expensive and complex.  they said they couldn't imagine having the cloud of possible impoverishment hanging over our heads should we suffer a major health problem, as many young people in the usa do because they can't afford comprehensive health insurance.

we came home with the same puzzlement about health care in our country.  i'm sure there are some in the united kingdom that could tell horror stories about their health care system, but every person we encountered who expressed an opinion had high regard for british health care, and, because of my injury, we heard this from many.  perhaps the british system wouldn't work here, but there must be a better way than what we have now.  if health care could cease being a political football and be viewed as a basic right that every person should enjoy, we could make progress in finding a solution.

may we turn from causing suffering for so many while playing politics with health care.  may we find solutions that bring down its cost while making good care available to everyone.  may we have compassion for those who cannot access the health care system because they can't afford it and devise a means to providing adequate care for all our people.  shalom.