Category: Unity

Eternal life

My early life was influenced by what Marcus Borg called an “earlier paradigm” of Christianity. I was not as focused on life after death as some folks, but Billy Graham (in the 1950s) and the dominant Protestant culture of my youth gave me a consciousness that included afterlife.

In my mid-20s, coincident with my time in seminary, I began to view life after death as “sheer bonus” (a Theodore Runyon phrase). I saw it not as an extension of earth-ways, but a cosmic, universal reality that is without beginning and without end. Eternity is now, and always.

A dear friend, shortly before his death at a relatively young age, told me that he had heard a definite though not audible Voice say, “You take care of things on your side of the river and I’ll take care of things on this side of the river.” The “river” became a comforting metaphor.

About a decade ago I studied with Richard Rohr for three days in Albuquerque with a peer group. I was helped by Rohr’s focus on a non-dual, unitive view of the Universe and on the generosity of a radical, grace-based, inclusive hospitality.

Add some Borg, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and others I’ve mentioned, and you get a Jesus-flavored universality that includes all creation, rests entirely on unmerited favor, or grace, and sees reconciliation, relational justice and healing as inherent to cosmic union and eternal life–a great celebration.

From Manna and Mercy: A Brief History of God’s Unfolding Promise to Mend the Entire Universe, by Daniel Erlander

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

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

Coherence

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was ordained a priest in 1911 at age 30. During World War I, he was cited for bravery as a stretcher-bearer in a combat infantry unit. He spent much of his life as a paleontologist on archaeological digs. With the heart of a poet, he wrote about the coherence of faith and science. He submitted to the authority of his Jesuit superiors and to the Vatican. He was “edgy” enough to be eventually told he could neither teach nor publish his writings.

Sarah Appleton-Weber’s “Editor-Translator’s Introduction” to The Human Phenomenon says: “The very nature of Teilhard’s book is to develop a homogeneous and coherent perspective….” Quoting Teilhard, “Truth is the total coherence of the universe in relation to each point of itself…. The truth of the human being is the truth of the universe for the human being….”

Teilhard describes the human/universe coherence: “If we are to see ourselves completely and to survive, it must be as part of humanity, with humanity as part of life, and life as part of the universe.” Teilhard helps me deal with the conflicts I experience within myself, with the stresses of family and community life, and with incoherent voices in politics, religion and international relations.

From Journey of the Universe

Faith–the beloved community

Faith builds community, especially when the world seems to be falling apart. Faith is rooted in a deep unity that transcends race, ethnicity, nationality, time, geography, age and gender. Faith welcomes diversity. Faith moves us beyond personal preference and prejudice to embrace timeless, universal truths and realities. The beloved community, a term used by Josiah Royce and made popular by Martin Luther King, Jr., connects the vital reality of community with its most essential ingredient: love.

My friend Kathy said a couple of days ago: “Trust there is goodness in the other and look for it until you find it.” Even as we face every gone-wrongness in the world (sometimes called “original sin”), there is a prior reality woven into the fabric of the universe: “original blessing.” This abiding goodness is “known” by poets, singers, theologians, philosophers, astronomers, microbiologists, gardeners, physicists, grandparents and children–as well as plant and animal life of all kinds. Faith draws us together.

Jerusalem’s Western Wall (of the old Temple), from “The Beloved Community,” The Power of We, Interfaith Mission Service, Huntsville, Alabama

Synergize

Each day, I’m helped by three “first read” emails. Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation offers spiritual grounding via Daily Meditations. Yesterday’s “A Living Web” quoted Joanna Macy: “You know your lives are as intricately interwoven as nerve cells in the mind of a great being…. Out of that vast net you cannot fall…. No stupidity or failure or cowardice can ever sever you from that living web. For that is what you are … rest in that knowing. Rest in the Great Peace…. Out of it we can act, we can dare anything … and let every encounter be a homecoming to our true nature….

Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American offer historical context. Yesterday’s letter from the Boston College professor described those who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Joe Biden: “The difference between Biden’s first 17 award recipients and those former president Trump honored reflects their different visions of the country.”

California Attorney Robert B. Hubbell’s Daily Edition Newsletter offers “a reflection on today’s news through the lens of hope.” Yesterday’s newsletter, “An Opening for Democrats,” cites several resources including Michael Klarman’s Harvard Law lecture on Dobbs v. Jackson, and “The Threat of Exhaustion,” from Lawyers Defending American Democracy.

Another helpful resource is my friend John Draper, an educator who teaches a Sunday School class. Tomorrow’s lesson is about Habit #6 from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

From “Synergy Saturdays: Practicing Habit 6 with the Family,” by Tara West, Leader in Me, August 31, 2019

Three words

The introduction to the Declaration of Independence is somewhat familiar: “When in the course of human events….” The preamble is the most familiar of the five sections: “We hold these truths to be self-evident….” The third section cites grievances against King George III. The fourth addresses the British people. Two statements are freshly relevant for this era:

We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity…”

They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.

Magnanimity here means a spirit of generosity toward a less powerful group. Consanguinity means sharing a common ancestry.

Today, 246 years from our Founding, a spirit of magnanimity and consanguinity can overcome our polarization. A magnanimous person is neighborly. A consanguineous person thinks us, not them.

The Declaration ties these two key words with a third: justice. Something to think about today.

From the Declaration of Independence

Dixie Cups

Some United Methodist congregations are discerning whether to disaffiliate from the denomination. I have many friends in congregations that will choose to remain and many friends in congregations that will choose to disaffiliate. Discernment has been going on for at least four years. COVID-19 interrupted the process, but many congregations have been clear about their decision for a long time. Now, they’re trying to determine the most gracious, and most economical way, to exit.

In a 2019 communion meditation at a Walk to Emmaus team meeting, I said that I will remain friends with those who stay and with those to leave. We are forever part of a larger, ecumenical table. At this late date in the disaffiliation process, and at age 71, I’m much more concerned about the division within our nation. I plan to spend the rest of my days naming and opposing the current radicalization in the Republican Party. We’re closer to civil war than I ever imagined possible. Listen to Texas.

Last week a friend shared with me a document produced by a local church that provides some historical background for one congregation’s discernment process. The document asserted that much of the current “theological divide” within the UMC is the result of the 1968 merger between the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren: “On the surface, the merger seemed like a logical idea. But underneath, the merger triggered a number of differences almost immediately.”

As a pastor from 1970-2010, I never heard that theory about the 1968 merger. Our regional and cultural differences date to at least 1845, when the southern Methodists seceded from their northern siblings. I believe it’s more accurate to say that the 1939 merger that formed the Methodist Church, uniting the (northern) Methodist Episcopal Church, the (mostly northern) Methodist Protestant Church and the (southern) Methodist Episcopal Church, South was a merger that never fully “took.”

At the 1984 General Conference in Baltimore, I saw the old Confederacy in many votes. Delegation seating, by drawing lots, put the Northern Illinois Conference and the Alabama-West Florida Conference on adjacent rows. Numerous times, the Illinois delegates voted unanimously one way and the Alabama-West Florida delegates voted unanimously the other way. At one point, an Illinois delegate said in good humor, with much laughter by the Conference, “We’ve learned to drink from Dixie Cups.”

The 1939 merger healed some wounds of the Civil War, but our cultural differences have remained.

From “Divisions and Unifications in American Methodism,” Pitts Theological Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

Section 27

We’re never far from the Civil War, woven into our conscious and unconscious. Arlington Estate was owned by Mary Custis Lee, descendent of Martha Washington and spouse of Robert E. Lee. The estate was seized by the US Army in 1861. Its grounds included Freedman’s Village, for freed and escaped slaves. In 1864, part of the estate became Arlington National Cemetery. Black soldiers were buried in Section 27. Arlington remained segregated by rank and race until 1948.

Of 3,525 Medals of Honor, 3,000 were pre-World War I, with 473 World War II honorees. Since 1916, the Medal has become more rare, yet more fair. Since the end of World War II, over two dozen Medals have been awarded to men who were denied the Medal during the war due to their race, ethnicity, or religion. In 1997, President Bill Clinton presented the Medal to seven African Americans (who fought in WW2). Three years later, President Clinton presented 22 Japanese American veterans with the Medal of Honor.

Of the seven blacks honored In 1997, Vernon Baker was the only one still alive. The Korean War brought 146 recipients, including the last two African Americans to receive the Medal for service in a segregated unit: Cornelius Charlton and William Henry Thompson. The 250 Vietnam War recipients include 22 African Americans. James Anderson, Jr., was the first black Marine recipient. A month after his 20th birthday, Anderson covered an enemy grenade with his body just before it exploded.

These stories–going back to the Revolutionary War–amplify the absurd fear of “replacement.” The question is whether we who are late to the party (the real “replacements”) will sing in gratitude:

Oh beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife
Who more than self, their country loved
And mercy more than life
.

Section 27, from the Arlington National Cemetery

Civil War to World War I

This is the third of four posts about Memorial Day, with intentional awareness of African American contributions. I don’t know what it has been like to serve during slavery years and through the era of Klan resurgence, but I’ve learned a great deal this Memorial Weekend. These posts formed the basis for a Sunday School lesson yesterday in a class that included three World War II veterans. I salute them.

Post-Civil War, the military was not immune to Jim Crow, but African Americans were well represented in the military. The 1865-1899 era was militarily dominated by Indian Wars Campaigns on the frontier. The 417 recipients of the Medal of Honor for service in the Frontier Indian Wars included 18 African Americans (four of whom were “Negro Seminole Scouts”). That era birthed the Buffalo Soldiers.

About 380,000 African Americans served during World War I, but half of the 200,000 sent Europe were in labor or stevedore battalions. Two of 126 WW1 Medal of Honor recipients were black: Freddie Stowers and Henry Johnson. Recently, the Naming Commission recommended that Fort Polk (which honors Confederate General Leonidas Polk) be renamed Fort Johnson, in honor of Henry Johnson.

From the one-hour documentary, Black Patriots: Buffalo Soldiers,Tuesday, May 31 at 9:30 pm Central Time on the HISTORY Channel