UCC Welcomes SpongeBob

The United Church of Christ has extended an official welcome to SpongeBob Squarepants. See the UCC home page » for a great picture. Thanks to Bob Griffith for posting this on his blog, Hypersync ».

James Dobson claims he wasn’t objecting to the squishy chipper guy *per se,* but to a supposed “gay agenda” being promoted by the cartoon character remix of “We Are Family” via the website of the We Are Family Foundation ».

Tinky-Winky… SpongeBob… They’re EVERYWHERE!
But I just can’t tolerate Barney. Barney must die.

Waves of Sorrow

picture of boy looking for missing familyI’m back from my trip and blogging again. I’ve actually wanted to blog about the tsunami disaster in Asia and Africa for a while now, but haven’t quite been able to. I felt numb just thinking about it.

Last night, though, I cried, and it was very freeing.

To some slight extent I feel the waves of sorrow that my brothers and sisters on the other side of the world feel. It’s like I too, have lost my family, my home, my livelihood, although at a much, much lower level. I think the waves of sorrow are like radio waves–if we’re willing to be receptive, we can tune in to each other, and share the sorrow and the emotional pain.

I’m heartened by the fact that there is so much awareness and compassion regarding this disaster. It makes me feel the world is changing for the better when I consider that when the Tangshan quake hit China in 1976, anywhere from 250,000-650,000 people were killed, and there was virtually no awareness of nor concern about it outside of that country.

It will take years to rebuild, and we will need to continue offering support not just now, but for years to come.

Last week, I had a strange experience at the airport. As I was waiting at a gate for my departing flight, a man whom I took to be a fellow passenger on my flight sat down a few seats away from me. I felt almost an instantaneous dislike for him. He proceeded to whip out a cell phone, and have a loud conversation in which he laughed about the disaster and called it “just good population control” and said “guess God wasn’t with them this time.”

I felt such a shock in my spirit — this wasn’t mere ignorance, this was *evil*. I felt that I wanted both to get the hell away from him, and at the same moment, to go up to him and punch his lights out. In a few seconds I calmed down, and realized that I would must make my objection known — strongly, though silently.

When he ended his call, I caught his gaze and held eye contact with him for a few seconds. This happened again a moment later. and he then got up and left. I didn’t look to see where he went, but he didn’t come back, and he didn’t board my flight.

There’s an excellent blog by Amit Varma about the devastation in India at:
indiauncut.blogspot.com ?

The Kingdom and the Empire redux

A few years ago, I posted a page on this site contrasting the Kingdom that Jesus preached with the Empire(s) that man builds. The Empire is about power, control, influence and thought. The Kingdom is about love. Even in most religious environments, the Empire is more more prominent than the Kingdom. Emperor Theodosius even went so far as to name Jesus the head of the Byzantine Empire, forgetting that Yeshua said,

"The kingdom of God does not come visibly, nor will people say, ‘Here it is, ‘ or There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you." —Luke 17:20-21

Yep, the words are inspiring, but if I’m really honest with myself, I’ve got to admit, I would like it to be outside of me. I’d like my leaders and teachers to bring it about. But only I can reveal it where I am. It’s not a matter of getting the right guy into office, but getting my "self " out of office. This is the real point of Christianity, to get self out of the way, so the Light of God, which is already here, can shine.

Sometimes it seems that absolutely no one understands, and when I feel that way, I have to realize that I’ve lost sight of the truth, and have become stuck on appearance. The kingdom is here right now. Despite terrorism and war, gluttony and famine, corporate greed and personal license, God is here, in every soul, waiting for the mask of the cravings, angers, and fears to break, like a butterfly shedding its chrysalis.

This is the work of the kingdom, to know that we are nothing, and in that No-thing, is everything. The only thing. One thing only. Heaven is here. How creatively we hide it! That’s Jedi life in the real world.

Climate Change and International Security

This leaked Pentagon report made the news in the UK, at least. God knows what our own press was talking about at the time, but I don’t remember anyone broadcasting the fact that the Pentagon was warning that climate change is a far greater threat than terrorists, as it may cause nuclear buildups and nuclear war as more nations try to protect their resources. They also warn that Britain’s climate might become "Siberian" by 2020.

When I posted my entry on The Day after Tomorrow, I was shocked to find that prominent scientists were predicting scenarios not that far from the film. Now the Department of Defense is believes the same thing, with an administration that insists global warming is no more real than Santa Claus. God, help us.

Thanks to Derek K. Miller for posting it on his blog.

Destroy the World, Save the Earth

I’ve got to apologize for going so long between posts. Sometimes what I want to share here in this space feels so personal, or so difficult to put into words, that I end up not doing it at all.

Something that’s been on my mind the last couple of weeks is “the world” vs. “the earth.” There’s a big, big difference between the two, and probably the easiest way to distinguish them, is simply by realizing that the world is not real. What do I mean by not “real?” Well, take a look at the earth, for contrast. Look at your friends, spouse, kids, your cat, dog or parakeet—those are real. Look at yourself. Feel your skin, your clothes, your headache or your peace. That is real. They are there. Go outside, see the cars, the grass, the sky, birds, clouds, bushes and asphalt. Real again. Better yet, give yourself a nice, total immmersion experience of reality—go canoeing in a park, or mountain biking, or swimming in the ocean, with a minimum of thinking or conversation. You’ll start to get to know the difference.

What’s not real? Everything that exists only in the mind. Chances are, as soon as you start talking with someone, conversations will turn to things that have no basis in reality. Whether someone or something is “good” or “bad.” Whether something “means” something else or not. The past. That’s right, the past happened, but it is not real. Past sounds like passed for a reason. The future is obviously not real, but we devote inordinate amounts of our thoughts to it.
When you feel stress about the future, you’re feelings are real enough, but their cause is unreal. There’s some profound truth in the trite workplace sign “FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real.”

But there’s a lot more non-reality to become aware of. Our very identities are pieces of the past we esteem and carry on with us into the present. If you ask my name, I’ll say, “Jon.” That’s a real sound, but how does it become a shorthand for me? I could have been named Douglas, Vladimir, or Akhbar. And if I so chose to, I could change it. Ask my nationality, and I’ll say “American.” What I really mean is that I was born in a part of the earth where people had agreed to recognize an organization of people as having some authority over them, and by agreement, this organization was known as the government of the United States of America.

But look at a view of the earth from space, and there are no lines drawn, no square patches colored blue, pink, or yellow, and no names written upon the land. There’s no “United States of America” there, no “Switzerland,” and no “Iraq.” What’s real are the nameless landmasses with their nameless forests, plains and deserts and the nameless oceans, lakes and rivers.

I am not my past, my name, my family, my upbringing, my country, my religion, my ideas, nor my thoughts. Neither are you. Kind of makes you wonder why all the fights about names, families, lifestyles, countries, religions, and ideologies, doesn’t it?

Meditation is an opportunity to begin stripping away the conditioning, the associations, and shared hallucinations that comprise “the world.” What are you, there in the dark, with eyes closed, with no name, no past, no future? What is that? It’s worth getting to know, because that is real. That is you.

A Breath of Hastily Denied Honesty

In an unexpected moment of candor less than two weeks ago, the President of the United States said regarding “the war on terror:” “I don’t think we can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror are less acceptable in parts of the world.”

Knowing that such honesty doesn’t play well at the polls, the President and his handlers rapidly spun it to mean nearly the exact opposite, that the United States can and will definitely bring an end to terrorism. Of course, his opponent, John Kerry, must also pretend that such a war is winnable.

Of course the war is unwinnable, at least by the methods presently used by nations. Great Britain’s war against the Irish Republican Army has been going on for eighty years now, Israel’s against the PLO for nearly sixty, Russia’s against Chechnya for a full decade, and the list goes on. A war is winnable only if its fuel can be exhausted. The fuel of violence is resentment. How is resentment brought to an end? By either the complete and total exhaustion of one of the two warring entities, or by ending the underlying resentment that fuels the violence.

World War II was won by the utter exhaustion of the Axis powers, after the destruction of millions of people on both sides. A single entity, like a government, can indeed be brought to such exhaustion. The Taliban fell, Saddam Hussein fell. But Iraqi and American forces are now wracked by almost daily terror attacks. Al-Qaeda still commits terror attacks around the world. Afghanistan is now back in the control of local warlords financed by the opium trade, and Iraq has largely disintegrated into chaos. Brutal dictatorships like Pakistan are propped up with weapons and money to become even more dictatorial to their citizens.

This is the simple truth, which no one wants to say, and no one wants to hear: War doesn’t stop terrorism. It fuels the resentment, and for every terrorist killed, more rise up, as long as the resentment grows.

This is the bitter truth that world leaders must face, regardless of their country or party: do what is needed to end the resentment, and you will cut off terrorism at its source. It’s essential that we try to understand why our enemies hate us, and how we can change that hatred into something else.

Not a thousand American troops, nor ten thousand Iraqi civilians killed, nor any number of insurgents, militants, or terrorists killed will bring peace, as long as people are angry enough to die.

I told you you didn’t want to hear it, but that’s Jedi life in the real world.

A Christian Fatwa? “He Should Be Killed”—Robertson

Q: What religion has leaders who use all available media to call for a religious government, and urge those they find most unworthy to be killed?

A: The Christian Religious Right. On the 700 Club on Thursday, August 19, Ayatollah Pat Robertson called for a fatwa on Ayatollah Muktada al-Sadr. His entire quote follows:

Al-Sadr is a rebel whose breaking the law. He’s a murderer, there’s a warrant out for his arrest. He should be killed, it’s just that simple. They should execute him and they should take care of those people. He’s holding up the most powerful army on Earth and he’s thumbing his nose at the authority of the new government, and it’s time the forces took action against him and stop the play. I hope this news says they’re going after him.The news yesterday said, well. he’d agreed to some kind of a deal, but he’s a liar, he’s not going to do a deal and it’s time we move in and do it swiftly and get this sore out of the way.

You can hear it yourself at The 700 Club website. [UPDATE: this broadcast has rolled off the page, as of Sept. 11, 2004l]

A few thoughts on Robertson’s fatwa:

  1. Making al-Sadr into a martyr would be unbelievably stupid. It would almost certainly condemn Iraq (and the U.S.) to years of war.
  2. Ayad Allawi, the Prime Minister of Iraq, doesn’t want al-Sadr to be killed. He actually wants him to run for office so al-Sadr can see that the majority of non-extremist Iraqis reject him.
  3. With this pronouncement, Robertson seems to have lost all contact with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
  4. Robertson can be quite comfy with killers when he can profit from them. Consider his business relationship with Charles Taylor in creating Freedom Gold through the tax shelter of the Cayman Islands. Taylor escaped from a Massachusetts prison, fled to Libya, instigated an insurrection in Sierra Leone, killed the president of Liberia, and initiated a war taking over 200,000 lives, and has been linked by the FBI to funding al-Qaeda:

Let’s pray for light—for ourselves, for Iraq, and for Pat Robertson.

We know what we want for ourselves . . .

I received this email from someone called “The Writer.” (I guess he or she meant to leave a comment but emailed me by mistake.) Anyway, The Writer had a brilliant insight, that basic spiritual truths are self-evident on the personal level, but not on the social level. No wonder Christ said to love our neighbor as ourselves!

It’s amazing how basic spiritual truths take many thousands of years to be learnt via hard experience by humanity. That the ends do not justify the means, and that peace is better than war and life better than death, and freedom better than imprisonment, are on the personal level self-evident. But on the larger social level things do not seem quite so clear, for some reason. . . . the writer.