Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Little Universalist Library

I had a large backpack slung over my shoulder, wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt, reading "Property of Vulcraft Texas" (my employer 5 years back.)  It was likely that reference to a Bible Belt state that roused her suspicion.   



I'd stopped in front of a "little free library" . . . one of those tastefully done over-sized birdhouses stuffed with second-hand books for anyone who's interested to take from and deposit to.  This one happened to be stationed in front of a Unitarian Universalist Church. The lady who popped out of a side door and hurried up the sloping sidewalk toward me, quickly introduced herself as the minister and welcomed me to the library.  
After exchanging pleasantries, she seemed satisfied that I was not the notorious neighborhood evangelist, and proceeded to explain that she has been keeping an eye on the library from inside the building because someone has been trying to "Christianize" the book supply.  She made sure I understood that, as Universalists, they draw from "the wisdom of all religions."
"Christianity would have a place, then . . . right?"  I asked.  
"well. . . yes," she stammered, "but nobody is leaving any Buddhist books." 
"I see.  You're lookin' for more diversity."  
She quickly changed the subject, telling me about how a member of her church, who happens to be a Boeing engineer, designed that particularly snazzy unit.  It is pretty impressive.  We parted ways.  

After reading up on the minister here, I get the sense that she wouldn't mind Rob Bell so much, but that John Piper might get her frothing at the mouth.  Damn evangelicals, dogmatizing the book supply!

 

It would be fascinating to hear a Universalist leader explain their method of picking and choosing from a plethora of religions, most of which are collectives sourcing intrinsic value from a strong sense of exclusivity.  I suppose that believing in a cocktail mixer of principles and commonly held benign moral themes gleaned from multiple faiths, while maintaining that strict adherents of those faiths aren't bright enough to realize the overarching truth, would provide a very similar individualistic sense of relevance, or at least one of moral and intellectual supremacy.

If I ever feel like picking her brain further, I guess I could get my hands on an old-school Strong's Concordance, a few marked down titles by Mark Driscoll, and some Vaseline, and see if I can't get it all into the little "free" library censored by a universalist minister.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson: The Open Wound

I have seen a lot of inflammatory interbuzz on both sides of the Ferguson story today.  There are Americans using the violent reaction to the grand jury’s decision to further bolster their racism.  There are Americans who do not want to lose the sense of self-righteousness that comes with blindly siding with minorities despite inconvenient details, and refuse to view Wilson, or any police officer, as a human being.  There are Americans who are using the verdict to justify violence, and there are Americans capitalizing on the violence—from media outlets, to looters, to manufacturers of tear gas and rubber bullets, not to mention the lead kind. 

Some believe that Wilson made some stupid decisions and got ‘too involved.’  Some believe that it is even more stupid to assault public servants, especially the ones issued pistols and authorized to use them in self-defense.  The grand jury believes Wilson did not commit a crime.  Based on the testimonies of key witnesses, physical evidence, and the laws and policies currently in place, they made the right call.  Judging by the tension filled run-up to the press release, America was expecting no less.

If Brown had been a homeless white man, this would have hardly ruffled feathers.  If Wilson were a black police officer or gang member, it would have been no less tragic, but would have gotten relatively little attention.  Skin color alone has been the catalyst to the drama.  Tragedy gave birth to disaster, as it reopened the wound caused by our country’s dark history of oppression. 

As a nation, the process of healing from something as inhumane and oppressive as slavery is a long, slow, painful process.  The oppressed admittedly bearing most of that pain, the oppressors (or their great-grandchildren) only the inconvenience of status-quo evolution.  It might not be fair to label pundits with the most power to enact change today as oppressors, but by the nature of their wealth and status they typically have the least incentive to change things.  You might call it 'passive-oppressiveness.'  That is why justice and equality are an uphill battle.  But the systems, policies, and practices that stand in our way are what we should be fighting.  They make up the machine that we can't escape, but in which we can choose to be indifferent cogs or conscientious ghosts, poking a (peaceful) stick into questionable spokes.


One life taken, another turned upside-down, now hundreds are dealing with property damage at the very least.  Where are Ghandi and MLK when we need them?  Rage-filled riots are doing nothing for progress, but maybe there is some benefit in the conversations that they spur across our nation today.  What if Wilson only had only been armed with a Taser or a can of pepper-spray?  What if there were affirmative-action type programs to promote diversity within the police force?  What if Michael Brown’s next door neighbors had been white?  Is segregation really dead?  Are public school funds fairly distributed?  The root of the unrest is much deeper and more complicated than the incident sparking the riots.  Maybe the most productive thing we can do in the now, is turn off our televisions and pray for Ferguson, their police force, the city officials, for justice, equality, and victory over our own prejudices. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Polishing

When life begins to lose it's sparkle, sometimes what we need most is a deep think, a meditative tuning-in to the chord of joy. It takes intentionality to reclaim the attitude of gratitude and mindfulness required to appreciate what we've been blessed with, where we are, and who we're becoming. It's like polishing a diamond smudged with the fingerprints of routine and familiarity that dull our senses.

can be overdone, though. No diamond sparkles beneath the Sham-Wow of constant introspection, despite the perpetual polishing. We can spend so much time trying to forge a perfect internalized identity that no one we come in contact with gets a chance to connect with who we are in the now . . . because we're too busy trying to figure that our ourselves.

The ability to consciously sharpen the mind as necessary, yet live outwardly and generously as joyful, yet imperfect, all-too-humans is a priceless art that takes a lifetime to master.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mary and The Witch




Medieval Princess Mary-Ann was strolling piously along the beach one humid, fish-scented day when she heard a small, somewhat cracked voice peeping just above the shush of the tides.

“Excuse me, Miss! . . . Madame!”

Mary-Ann gently scanned the beach with her royal retinas.  At long last she spotted a tiny witch with a characteristically crooked nose, orange skin, and a pointy navy-blue hat standing on the drawbridge of a respectable sand-castle just beyond reach of the high tide. She had no broom at hand, only God knows why.  There were several tiny goat-heads bearing long droopy tongues awkwardly perched on stakes rising from the moat, but that doesn’t really matter because it doesn’t pertain to the story, and Mary-Ann was very tolerant, not to mention fictional, like Harry Potter.

The tiny witch standing on the tiny drawbridge above the tiny moat adorned with tiny goat heads on tiny stakes was in a major pickle.  She was covered from fashionable flats to furrowed forehead in a densely sticky purple slime.

“Me Lady!  Verily, verily, I have been brutally, brutally, mauled by a bi-polar jellyfish and cannot move!”

Struck with compassion, Mary-Ann replied, “Art thou not freezing, dear witch-with-the-skin-of-a-tangerine?  Let me escort you to my ample water-basin in the royal outhouse for a proper cleansing of that abominable jellyfish’s violent violet marmalade excretion!”

“Oh thank you, me lady!”  croaked the witch as she burst into joyful forest-green tears of relief.

Medieval Mary-Ann carefully plucked the witch from the drawbridge like a mouse from a glue-trap and trotted elegantly down the shoreline as fast as dignity and Elizabethan whale-bone corsets would allow.  As they neared the royal outhouse--built of hewn boulders and stained glass with ample girth, beautiful lighting, and offensive ventilation--Sir Honeybucket, on guard duty, stood at arms adjacent to said marvel of medieval relief architecture.  He simultaneously hoisted his eyebrows at the site of the witch and acknowledged the presence of royalty with a solemn bow from the hips.

All of a sudden Mary-Ann and her purple-plastered passenger were overtaken by a flurry of thundering hoofs, horsehair, and armor--knocking and crashing like a barrel full of cymbals chasing a cheese wheel down Mount Sinai!  Mary Swooned.  The witch shrieked.  Sir Binjalot, the modest yellow knight! Temporarily blinded by Dutch courage and floating molars, he nearly trampled the princess, so desperate to train Thomas on the terracotta!

Sir Honeybucket would have nothing of this brash disrespect of the nearing nobility and her feeble friend!  Drawing his sword, the protector of the potty placed it smartly between the sanctuary door and the charging Sir Binjalot!  Pointing toward Mary-Ann with his free hand, he shouted at the top of his lungs,  “Pee not!  But her and jell-y sand witch!”

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