Saturday, December 27, 2008

Food for Thought at Mudgie's

This morning over coffee, I floated an idea that I read on Pushing Fifty Gently that Barak Obama chose Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation in order to force a national discussion on gay rights. My parents believe this concept is entirely plausible and that Rick Warren would go along with it. Barak often mentioned Enlightened Self Interest during his campaign. The Rick Warren choice may very well be an example particularly since they both support AIDS work in Africa, albeit for different reasons.

During the same conversation over coffee, my mother passed me a section of the Houston paper folding it so that an article by Rev. Matt Tittle, a Unitarian minister in Houston, regarding the Sermon on the Mount. He corrects the often misunderstood idea that Jesus told us to be pussies. Not so. It's all about justice and non-violent resistance. Rev. Matt writes:
Today we see and hear these passages through a particular lens, but they are also acts of radical non-violent resistance . . . Jesus was advocating justice, not violence. Today we seemed to have blurred the distinction between the two.
By turning the other cheek when we have been assaulted, we offer the offender the opportunity to offend again, thus increasing the risk that they will be judged and brought to justice . . . By going the second mile, one was putting Roman soldiers at risk. They were allowed to enlist citizens to carry their packs a certain distance, but no further. If you go the second mile, then they are at risk for requiring what they cannot.
And even if all of these acts are simply acts of goodwill and humility, they achieve the same purpose. They take away power from those who would wield it over you and remind them that all people have worth and dignity. All are welcome.
(Keep the Faith, Houston Chronicle, Dec 27)
So we see that Turning the Other Cheek or Walking the Extra Mile does not make one a pantie waist pussy. It's a big, fat Fuck You to the Romans. Anyone who listened to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's Four Way Street heard Steven Stills saying that American needs to remember that Jesus was the first non-violent revolutionary. No matter what your religion - and I include Atheist as a Religion since no god is still a theology - few people think Jesus himself was full of shit. Most everyone agrees the Christians are the problem. Poor old Jesus gets hauled in to all sorts of ridiculous shit.

Just the other day, I was talking about the vein of insanity that runs up the Texas/Louisiana border with my sister-in-law. We can't determine just how wide this vein of insanity is. Could stretch as far west as Dallas. And there are certainly other veins of insanity in the world. We just know about this one along the Texas/Louisiana border because our families originated there. She told a story about some Crazy-assed Christian family who was on the way to the Rapture. Twelve or so were crammed into a sedan the size of a Ford Taurus - all butt naked driving through the Texas countryside when they were stopped by local law enforcement for having too damn many people in the car. Imagine the constable's surprise to find twelve naked Christians on the way to the second coming. Apparently they had to divest themselves of all their worldly goods but figured out a way to keep the car until the exact moment of the rapture. They blamed the whole thing on Jesus.

Which brings me to Paul Tillich and Grace. I finally read Tillich's sermon, "You are Accepted," and was surprised to discover I've been living in a state of grace for some weeks. Dissed, a reader from Georgia, pointed it out to me when I was feeling very sad and isolated (Internal Characters and Hurricanes, Stonerdate Dec 6, 2008). I wouldn't believe it, though. That's how it is with Isolation and Acceptance, which is pretty much how Tillich defines sin and grace.

I first experienced Grace back in the looney bin. Victor, an 18 year old street thug from the Bronx, was telling the group about how he never really felt like his mother loved him. He didn't know how to get her affection. Listening to Victor, I was hit by the realization that he and I were exactly the same despite the differences in our demographics.
Nice lady from Central Park West + Street Thug from the Bronx = profound human connection.
That connection, as I understand Tillich, is the beginning of Grace. Knowing you are accepted by something greater than you - even if it's just the You that lives inside you - that's grace. Spreading the connection is also Grace. That's what Dissed was trying to tell me. Grace again.
So here we all are, fooling around on the internet, establishing human connections. Some people think blogs are a pathetic attempt to declare our puny existence. Maybe that's true.

Menopausal Stoner Existentialism II: Miserable, inept humans that we are, we struggle to connect with others to combat the isolation and despair confronting us all. Sometimes we accidentally succeed.

Tillich wrote that sermon back during World War II. Back then, people were getting smacked in the face daily with Man's Inhumanity to Man and Nature. We still see that inhumanity today - maybe in Christians like Rick Warren.

It's a lot to ponder - this idea of being separated from your Self (which can be G*d if you want. Personally, my religion is one of those pagan based Spark of Divinity in everyone and everything religions kind of like Disney Princess Pocahontas') So Self being separated from Life vs Acceptance and Connection.

There is a resounding, "DUH," echoing in my head. When you're feeling it, it seems very simple - but when you're sad, isolated and profoundly lacking in human connection, it sounds like pop song claptrap. Just like Pocahontas herself singing, "Colors of the Wind."

In any case, I'm still down here in Texas up to my ass in fucked up Christians who think that finding a good parking place at the mall proves Jesus loves them more than everyone else. To them, I'll quote a bumper sticker my mother has hanging in the game room bar.

It is a little known fact that you can sing Amazing Grace in its entirety to the tune of Gilligan's Island. Try it right now - you'll never hear either song the same way again. I first experienced that Grace before dinner at the Hippie Dippie Quaker Camp in Vermont that Velvet attended for years. If that's not Grace, I don't know what is.


Anonymous said...

Aw come on, not all Christians are bad. I'm one and i think im pretty darned cool :( LOL

Utah Savage said...

Well, I call myself an atheist, but that's to scare the Mormons. Makes them think I'm really the devil. They at least respect the devil. I'm rather more an agnostic. Anything's possible.

I know what you mean about the looney bin kind of grace. I too really connected with many people there, mostly fairly young people, but they had the strange experience of connecting with an old aristocratic looking white woman. Odd for us all.

But in my real, as opposed to virtual world, most people would say I'm very isolated. I feel just isolated enough to be a writer. And I never imagined a bit over a year ago that I would ever actually have a rich and interesting, large group of virtual friends. Jan, 6th is my first blogaversary. I'm looking forward to throwing myself a party. Might even wear a hat. And my family was West Texas small town cracker. Racist to it's core. Kinda too bad Aunt Gwen isn't here to see the swearing in of our first "n*gger" President. She used to carry on so about "n*gger doctor who moved into their fancy suburb of Dennison. Just knew he was going to come rape her one day. In you dreams, Aunt Gwen. Only in you fevered dreams. My mother's family, all racist crackers. I come by my taste for White Trash Cooking honestly. And I know just what you mean about the crazy zone, but I think it's wider than you imagine.

PENolan said...

I'm not sure how wide the vein of insanity along the Texas/Louisiana is. I'm thinking there are similar veins all over the place that may or may not show geographic variations in craziness.

Crowscious - there are TONS of cool Christians, but not that many in Texas. Down here they'll drive right over you in their gas hog SUV's with bumper stickers that say Christ is my CoPilot. Texas hasn't cornered the market on dumb ass Christians, though. Just look at Sarah Palin in Alaska. YIKES!

Gail said...

Hey Trish-

Wow, this is SO great. I loved, loved this post. I think Jesus is a cool guy - I love his way of thinking. I also think the love between him and Mary Magdelan is the greatest love story of all.
Your written images and profound words pack a punch! An eye opening - good 'ole' you got that right punch!


Comrade Kevin said...

Anyone who is a pacifist in a time of war (raises hand) knows that it's not easy and is an act of active resistance to the status quo.

dissed said...

LOL. Stoner's on a tear. Grace is where you find it, you know? Sometimes we get to whip up our own.

The Vein of Insanity has no respect for geography and tends to pool into backwater sloughs in the suburbs. Hence McMansions on lots that can barely accomodate a Hummer, surely the Work of the Devil. I know local Christians who task Jesus with curing alcohol addiction and meth addiction in the same family. He's supposed to do this from beyond the grave without anyone living having to lift a finger. No matter that the kids are developmentally disabled from drugs in the womb or that the old folks may lose their home because they're bled dry from giving until it hurts: you just gotta beLEEEEIVE. If it doesn't happen, then you didn't believe hard enough and it must be YOUR fault. I've always preferred that "helps those who help themselves" thing, but mostly I just keep my distance and think what I want.

Jaliya said...

Yikes ... I've forgotten the tune to "Gilligan's Island."

Speaking of "Amazing Grace" ... have you heard the version by Daniel Lanois, on his album *Acadie*? ... Aaron Neville sings the vocal (Now *that's* rapture) ...

Jesus was a right royal pain in the ass to the bigwigs of his day ... and his spirit still is, to the bigwigs of ours. "Radical non-violent resistance" --> beautiful way to describe his way in the world.

What you write about "turning the other cheek" reminds me of a piece I read ages ago (and never saved, dammit!) by the theologian Walter Wink. It was the first time I'd ever seen "turning the other cheek" referred to as an act of resistance and an in-your-face display of dignity. It knocked my socks off, and still does.

Now, I don't know about those twelve bare-assed Rapturists in the Taurus. If I ever stop laughing at the image, I will ponder the ontological implications of stuffing a sedan with silly wankers and hightailing it through Texas for a rendezvous with the Lord. Could these folks be starting a new permutation of Moonie-ism?

Ah...Tillich. I and Thou. Yum.

dissed -- I clicked with your note about how we tend to (paraphrasing here...) lie back and think that Jesus or the Lord will do all the work. Heh. Some people seem to think that forgiveness means you wail and sob on your knees once a week about what a bad boy / girl you've been ... and if you do that, you can go right out and do some more bad-assing, as long as you get down on your knees again next Sunday for another cosmic spanking.

Forgiveness is bloody hard work and most of us would rather avoid doing it ... Perhaps that's where grace comes in. Whatever its source, grace lures us to some measure of clarity and mercy ... I see grace as a form of sanity, and as another one of life's inevitabilities, i.e., "Shit happens ... but so does grace."

As for Rick Warren, I still haven't a clue what Obama's up to. A friend of mine recently said of Obama's choice: "He's either the savviest politician who ever lived, or he's just made the most stupid mistake of his life."

Thanks for the linkie, dear fellow MP ... ;-)

PENolan said...

My dad has a sign hanging by the kitchen door of three men in a row boat in a storm. The caption: Pray to God but Row Towards Shore. That concept rounds out our family theology.

Jaliya said...

How true. Just keep rowing, eh!

I'm also reminded of the guy who was clinging to the roof of his house during a flood. A helicopter swooped down to rescue him. He waved it away, yelling, "God's going to save me!"

Then a rescue boat motored up to the side of his house. He sent it away, too. "God's going to save me!"

One lone man in a rowboat managed to bump up to the house, yelling, "Come on! I'll get you out of here!" Again, the guy on the roof said "Thanks but no thanks! God's going to save me!"

No one else came to his aid. He got tired of clinging to the roof; eventually he slipped into the water and drowned.

When his soul arrived at the Pearly Gates, God Himself was there, scratching His head.

"What are you doing here?", God said to the soul. "It's not your time yet!"

"You promised that You'd save me, God!" the man's soul howled. "It's all your fault that I'm dead! You deserted me!"

"You silly twit," God replied, with a sweet, sad smile and a shrug. "I sent a helicopter, a search-and-rescue boat, and a guy in a rowboat!" said...

can we follow tooooooooo..
been anon. long enough..
mona & the girls
hope u see some sunshine tomorrow

Rev. Matt Tittle said...

Hey penolan... Rev. Matt here. Just ran across this mention from awhile back. Coincidentally, I'll be moving from Houston to Paramus , NJ this summer, where I'll be serving Central Unitarian Church.

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