Category: People

Friday’s list

Joe, Ernie, Don and I meet on Friday mornings for an hour. It’s not unusual for a group of old guys to gather around a table at a restaurant for coffee, biscuits, and tale-telling. We bring our own coffee since we’re in four different counties in three different states. We meet via Zoom.

I asked the group for some people and/or books that have been helpful resources for their journeys. I’ll share quotes from Friday’s list and a wee bit of commentary. First up is Sallie McFague (1933-2019), who taught at Vanderbilt Divinity School for 30 years, including several years as Dean.

The subtitle of her 2013 book, Blessed Are the Consumers is “Climate Change and the Practice of Restraint.” Ecology was one of her strong interests. She wrote that the challenge for the world’s religions was to transform our consumerism by restraint: Restraint at all levels, summed up in the Golden Rule (a variation of which most religions take as their central practice), is the one thing needed now….”

We are seeing the results of our slow response to warnings of science that were echoed by McFague.

Tripp Fuller’s Homebrewed Christianity featured a 6-minute audio presentation of McFague reading the conclusion of Blessed Are the Consumers. You can listen by clicking the link below the graphic.

From Homebrewed Christianity, via YouTube

Ranked choice

This week, Mary Peltola won Alaska’s first “ranked choice” Congressional election to fill the brief remainder of late Congressman Don Young’s term. She’s the first Native American to represent Alaska in Congress. Peltola, who is Yup’ik, will be on the ballot again in November, running against Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich for a full two-year term.

Peltola’s election is noteworthy because Native Americans comprise 19.6% of Alaska’s population, the largest of any US state. The ethnic and human interest story is significant, as the provided links indicate, but my point here is that this election may reveal a resource for the nation to find a healthy way out of the rancor of our polarization.

I’m just beginning to learn about ranked choice voting, where voters list their first choice, second choice, etc. If no one gets 50% plus one first preference votes, a “runoff” of sorts is held without requiring voters to return to the polls. The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, etc., until a winner is determined. The Atlantic and National Review provide a pro and con analysis of ranked choice voting.

What appeals to me is that this method of election has the potential to elect more moderate and less extreme candidates. In my opinion, that’s a resource worthy of consideration.

From “Peltola wins Alaska special election to fill Young’s House seat,” by Jackie Wang and Kate Ackley, Roll Call, August 31, 2022

Remaining hopeful

My third read of the day is Today’s Edition Newsletter, written by California attorney Robert B. Hubbell. It’s a free email distributed by Substack. This resource was recommended by some guys in my weekly Fullness of Love group shortly after I learned of it through Morning Rounds by blogger Rita Clagett.

Hubbell’s theme is “A reflection on today’s news through the lens of hope.” He’s a tenacious attorney, passionate and partisan, though primarily focused on the US Constitution. He’s a tour de force, providing essential legal background for the day’s news. I think of him as Jamie Raskin on steroids.

Hubbell saves me an enormous amount of time by condensing important news stories with a hopeful tone. A daily dose of Richard Rohr, Heather Cox Richardson and Robert Hubbell puts my day within the context of faith, freedom and hope. Together, they help me stay oriented to life’s greatest theme: love.

Hubbell’s August 30 installment of Today’s Edition Newsletter, “A coward’s bluff” unpacks the legal issues surrounding the current investigations into Donald Trump. Hubbell referenced a new free Substack blog by Joyce Vance, Civil Discourse with Joyce Vance. Hubbell ended this edition with:

As always, we have plenty of reason to be hopeful, but no reason to be complacent.

From “A Conversation with Robert at the Los Angeles Arboretum,” with Jill Hubbell, November 8, 2020, via YouTube, about his blog that began on the day Donald Trump was elected president. The Hubbells’ daughters were devastated by the election. He writes Today’s Edition Newsletter to keep them informed and to give them hope. I’m one of many thousands of readers who eavesdrop on this resource.

They probably never even knew it

I saw my four college years at a state school as a gift–from parents, taxpayers and donors. Three years of seminary were made possible by donors, including a scholarship. Congregations I served during those years provided income. At my church-affiliated graduate school, tuition for the new quarter was posted at the student center for the Schools of Dentistry, Law, Medicine and Theology. The theology tuition was considerably less, which someone noted by writing on the announcement, “Jesus saves.”

Kyle Whitmire’s AL.com opinion piece (cited below) was for me further evidence that love is the energy of the universe, often expressed through our collective generosity (or willingness to pay taxes). From a faith perspective, it’s all grace. Our son, who sent me Whitmire’s article, has struggled with a disability for over a decade. He calls beneficence unmerited favor. By whatever name, it’s a gift to be graciously received and “paid forward” so others can enjoy the fruits of generosity.

Whitmire cited comments by some in Alabama’s Congressional delegation who criticized President Biden’s student loan action. Whitmire said in 1980, Alabama student tuition covered 27% of the cost of higher education. Today’s students pay over two-thirds of the cost. Tuition has risen 485%. State appropriations have risen 8%. Whitmire wrote: “Back then, you didn’t have to hope for a bailout on the backend. These guys got their subsidized schooling upfront, and they probably never even knew it.

From “The hidden subsidy behind those old ‘bootstrap’ students,” by Kyle Whitmire, AL.com, August 26, 2022

“These are my people”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin offers insights into our relationship with all people. This is important in our present era, marked by division, polarization and tribalism. A deeper grasp of our relatedness is both counter-cultural and essential for a healthier planet, perhaps for our very survival.

This week, a young man from our local community was charged with illegal acts during the 1/6/21 insurrection at the US Capitol. So far, a “dozen or so” Alabamians have been charged. He reportedly served in the US Marine Corps for five years after graduating from Briarwood Christian High School.

His arrest reminded me of a comment I made as I watched the violence at the Capitol unfold. As the insurrectionists broke into the Capitol and video footage showed them ransacking Senators’ desks and chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” I was horrified and angered. But I was struck by their familiarity.

When I saw a man carrying a large Confederate flag in the Rotunda, I said, “These are my people.” They were (in my opinion) clearly misguided, but they looked like folks in the communities I served during my adult life. I’m still trying to absorb the reality that these insurrectionists came from among us. Literally.

From “Alabama man charged with throwing Capitol police officer to the ground in Jan. 6 riots,” by Carol Robinson, AL.com, August 23, 2022

Our collective memory

From Teilhard’s The Human Phenomenon (p. 142): Through commerce and the transmission of ideas conductivity from one to another has been increased. Traditions have been organized. A collective memory has developed. However thin and granular this first membrane must have been, from now on the noosphere has begun to close in on itself, encircling the Earth.

The words “a collective memory” reminded me of Carl Jung’s concept of the “collective unconscious,” which was Jung believed is “inherited from the past collective experience of humanity.” He believed, for example, that archetypal images can be passed from one generation to the next just like eye color, hair color, etc. I wondered if Teilhard (1881-1955) and Jung (1875-1961) collaborated.

They never met, but I found this: Carl Jung was reading Teilhard de Chardin during the last days of his life. According to Miguiel Serrano, when he visited Jung on May 10, 1961, “On the small table beside the chair where Jung was sitting, was a book called The Human Phenomenon by Teilhard de Chardin. Serrano said Jung remarked, “It is a great book.” Jung died on June 6, 1961.

From The Fisher King Review of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Carl Gustav Jung Side by Side, edited by Fred R. Gustafson, March 21, 2015

Consistent, coherent connections

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was impacted by two world wars. He was cited for bravery as a World War I stretcher-bearer in a colorful, spirited, highly-decorated North African unit of the French Army. He spent much of the World War II era working as a paleontologist in China. He was a Roman Catholic Jesuit priest, and he spent years dealing with church leaders who opposed much of his writing and teaching. Through it all, Teilhard developed an amazing coherence in his faith, science and philosophy.

Teilhard inspires me to ask whether my worldview and my actions reflect an inner coherence. Is there a seamless connection with all things? Is my faith consistent with my politics? Is there a “gyroscope” of common sense, or particular principles, that inform my faith and my political opinions? Has religious or political fervor created blind spots in my vision? Who helps me spot inconsistencies? Do I become defensive or am I able to change my position, or find a workable compromise?

South Carolina Republican state legislator Neil Collins told the House Judiciary Committee that he no longer supports in its present form the bill he earlier voted for after he learned that the law endangered the health of a 19-year-old. Sometimes there are unintended consequences when we act based on enthusiasm, political ideology or religious dogma. Common sense encourages coherence, connection, and consistency in our attitudes, our relationships and our actions.

From “Lawmaker Tearily Explains Teen Almost Lost Uterus Because of Abortion Law He Voted For,” by Dan Ladden-Hall, The Daily Beast, August 17. 2022

Who knew?

Yesterday, I received an ethnicity update from Ancestry.com, showing estimated ethnicity fairly balanced between England, Northwestern Europe, Sweden & Denmark, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The Irish 15% may account for my enjoyment of Celtic music.

Elie Wiesel was once asked why he didn’t hate the SS troops that inflicted suffering on his concentration camp during World War II. He said that in synagogue he learned that we are all descendants of Adam and Eve–therefore we are all brothers and sisters.

From Teilhard’s The Human Phenonenon (pp. 151-152): It was not until well into the nineteenth century…that the light finally began to dawn, revealing the irreversible coherence of everything that exists. Showing the interlinking of life–and soon after, of matter. … That time and space are organically joined together so as to weave together the stuff of the universe.

She was a senior when I was a sophomore at Gadsden High School in 1967. It was a large school. I didn’t know her. I only learned of her accomplishments last week. Jennie Patrick (bottom row, second from left) was one of eleven African-American students to integrate the school in 1964. It was tough. She was tougher. She became the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemical engineering–at M.I.T. We are all connected. What we know about our connectedness is a tiny percentage of all there is to know, to experience, to enjoy, to love.

Connections

Teilhard’s gift to us is his grasp of the universe’s coherence and humanity’s connection with the universe: Studied narrowly and apart from everything else by anthropologists and legalistic minds, the human being is a trivial, even insignificant, thing. Human individuality, too pronounced, masks the totality from our sight, so that as we consider the human our minds tend to fragment nature and to forget the depth of its connections and the boundless horizon it has…. (The Human Phenomenon, p. 6).

My friend Ernie, whose love and respect for the universe was a catalyst for these posts about transcendence, immanence, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, said this:

Once one can lift eyes away from the daily news as crafted by our news media and consider our very existence, it is such an exhilarating and glorious gift to be gifted this brief existence of sentient life, a single entity among trillions on the path of steady evolution. It’s just amazing if you stop to ponder it, really.

Here’s tomorrow’s question: Is there coherence, connection and consistency with your worldview, philosophy of life, faith, values and/or politics?

From “Immanent Law, Transcendent Love, and Political Theology,” by Matthew David Segall, Footnotes2Plato, August 18, 2012 (ten years ago)

Moving beyond tribalism

When I encounter tribalism, my instinct is to take a hot shower and have a cup of coffee with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), a French Roman Catholic priest in the Jesuit order. He died in relative obscurity before my fifth birthday, so my sessions with him are through his writing, much of which was published after his death. The Divine Milieu has been a favorite since seminary days.

Many consider Le Phénomène Humain (written in the 1930s) his masterpiece. It was translated into English in 1959 as The Phenomenon of Man. A later translation by Sarah Appleton-Weber was published in 2003 as The Human Phenomenon. It took me 19 years to buy it, so there’s no telling when I’ll finish reading it, but I’ll start on Saturday, when it should arrive.

Teilhard was a paleontologist with a rich understanding of the Universe. An occasional dose of his writing reminds me to move beyond tribal, parochial thinking to focus on the Big Picture.

From The Divine Milieu (p. 59):

… We shall be astonished at the extent and the intimacy of our relationship with the universe.

… the roots of our being …. plunge back and down into the unfathomable past. How great is the mystery…. How possible to decipher the welding of successive influences in which we are forever incorporated! In each one of us, through matter, the whole history of the world is in part reflected.

“From “Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: prophet of cosmic hope,” by Susan Rakoczy, openDemocracy, February 18, 2020