Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Something Each of Us Can Do

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy in Connecticut on Friday, I have struggled because I simply have no words. Instead I am going to share a post of a friend of mine here in Western Massachusetts who writes powerfully from personal experience:

Like many of you who I know are reading this, as people who have intimate experience with the intersection of violence, guns and mental illness and what that can precipitate, my deepest heart grieves, and much has arisen to think about.

This image is very similar to a poster my father had on the wall of his office at the MD S.P. crime lab: for the many of you who know how his life, career, and death were inherently intermingled with this issue.

Many folk are reposting many great and eloquent things. Many public figures are saying asinine things and, I say this out of a place of fierce compassion (in the Buddhist sense) need an intervention and/or an opportunity for empathy and perspective.

The only thing I feel I can add to the mix which hasn't been said before is a story that was shared to me by a friend who lives in a very, very rural, and very, very poor part of North Carolina:

There was a member of her community who was off, no doubt. And it was public knowledge that he had an arsenal. And he was making threats. And the community, knowing what could happen: they approached him, and talked to him, and helped him. He did end up in a prolonged shootout with police in the end, but he didn't carry out his alleged plans to take out his rage and despair on his community members.

I don't think this is anything remotely resembling the general state of our communities in this country. There are books and books and books documenting this (Bowling Alone, etc...). While it's incontrovertible that with gun control, we would not be having these massacres (the facts back me up, but you know, facts are inconvenient, so I don't expect those who disagree with me to check them out), I think the larger, deeper, problem is that we (all of us as individuals, I truly mean it) perpetuate a culture where the mentally ill, or even folks who are struggling with hard issues, are marginalized from our communities and alienated from personal relationships that would also otherwise prevent this sort of thing from happening. The social pressure release has dissolved. What happened in Connecticut was evil-- in that it's an extension of our own failure to address these problems and our own failure to care for each other, which is perhaps the hardest part to admit, and why there's blame and distancing being thrown around like confetti. It's not "them" (being the NRA, the murder, gun dealers, etc... although the blood is on their hands and money), but this is a symptom of "us."

So how are we going to fix us? How are we going to take the guns away from a culture that isn't mature enough to have them? How do we care for people who struggle whom we feel uncomfortable around? How are we, collectively, and personally, keep returning to the uncomfortable issue and being engaged as it slowly fades from our collective memory? How do we manifest and respond to our own personal share of responsibility in this? For my Christian friends: How do we be more like Christ in our actions in the world beyond just words? (it's actually written out for us)? For my fellow Buddhists: How do we manifest metta beyond a meditation techniue? For all of us: what needs to happen in our heads and hearts to grow the cojones to take care of our neighbors-- to really do it in action and not just in symbolic words and gestures?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

"God of the Wild, you are different from what I expected. I cannot predict you. You are too free to be captured for the sake of my understanding. I can't find you in the sentimentalism of religion. You are everywhere I least expect to find you. You are not the force that saves me from the pain of living; you are the force that brings me life even in the midst of pain."
- Adolfo Quezada

Sunday, May 20, 2012

This Is Where I Used to Go to Church.

The incidental music doesn't quite seem to match (esp. if you have ever heard the Caldwell or Seigle Ave Gospel choirs) but otherwise it's a very inspiring story:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Wrote a Term Paper on This in College

But this infographic says it much better:

A primer on "Biblical" marriage, from Carl King of Emerald Isle, NC

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Paler Shade of Blue

I will just say this to the righteous evangelical Christians of North Carolina who voted for Amendment One:

There is NOTHING and I mean NOTHING, you could have done to discredit your faith more effectively and drive away moderates and progressive seekers. Anybody who thinks or questions? Anyone who feels those for who are oppressed and marginalized in society? If they weren't already there, they are not going to be walking through your doors anytime soon.

In fact, you discredit the entire state. A lot of people up here in Massachusetts thought that North Carolina was basically a progressive Blue State that through some strange mystery of Ice Age glaciation or plate tectonics, got plunked down south of the Mason-Dixon line. The truth is a little more complicated.

At least in Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, and other urban centers, you have your pick of churches that affirm and welcome same-sex couples. If you live in the South, and you belong to an open and affirming faith community (or would like to) now is not the time to be silent.  Now is not the time to admit defeat. Now is the time to recruit.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I wanted to explain little further what I meant in the previous blog post. Thought that a story might be the best way to express it. It is not meant to offend or poke fun at anyone, and if you think you've heard it before, keep reading...

One day a young man was walking along the beach with the Lord. They walked for many miles, through surf, rocks, and populated swimming areas. Eventually the young man stopped and turned around.

He said, "Lord, back there? There. Right before the bend. I only see one set of footprints. I was having a really tough time. Where were you? Why did you leave me all alone?"

And the Lord said, "I really wanted a hot dog."

The Lord seemed unusually contrite. "Sorry, I'll pay better attention next time."

The pair kept walking. They saw many marvelous things. Leaping dolphins, fantastical shells, vast panoramic vistas.

Then the Lord abruptly veered away.

"Lord, where are you going?" the young man asked. "I thought you were going to stick around this time."

"Don't you see that beach volleyball game over there?"

"Yeah. The one with all the girls in bikinis." The young man was not amused.

"I've got to join in! Just for a little while. I'll catch up with you later, okay?" The Lord was off and running.

"Okay, have fun." By this point, the young man's feet were covered in blisters. He had a sunburn, mosquito bites, and a jellyfish sting. He didn't remember why he had let the Lord convince him to come out on this beach walk in the first place. They were hours from the car. Stuff like this always happened around the Lord! At least this time, they hadn't gotten arrested.

The young man sat down. He didn't see how he could go on any further. He let the tide wash up against his feet. He let the wet sand ooze between his fingers. He breathed in deeply. As the waves washed back and forth, he started to cry.

Soon enough, the tears stopped. The young man found a spot a few feet away from the tide line and got to work. With a broken piece of shell and his fingers, he dug a moat. Next he built up towers of sand, began decorating with mud spatters, small pebbles, and and seaweed. He was having fun now and soon lost all track of time.

Eventually, the Lord came back. "What are you doing?" he asked the young man.

"I'm building a castle in the sand," he replied.

"But you know it's going to wash away within hours -- completely impermanent. No one but you and a few stray passers by will ever know it was here," the Lord cautioned.

"Yes, I know that. But it's okay. I'm enjoying myself. It feels good to create. In the long run, nothing we do is very permanent. It's all ephemeral. Ebb and flow, wind, water, and tide," said the young man.

"Don't go getting all Buddhist on me!" The Lord seemed alarmed.

"You were gone for a long time."

"I know. What can I say? It's in my nature." The Lord was quiet and thoughtful for some time. 

Then, a thought occurred to him. "How can I help? There's a store at the top of the boardwalk. Do you want me to get you a shovel and a pail? Maybe a cooler of beer?"

The young man smiled to himself and kept building. The spires were four and five feet high now, and the moat was filling up of its own accord.

"No thanks. Just stay close, if you possibly can."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Passing Thought

Even on those days when I can't find faith, I can still be faithful.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Birthday | Happy Easter

Happy Birthday to my mother, who celebrated her birthday today on Easter Sunday.

You have been an inspiration and a role model. I have learned from your love of nature and your tireless efforts to reconcile Christianity with evolution and the scientific method.

P.S. The hike today was great fun!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This Space Intentionally Left Blank.

I headed out this evening to pick up a chicken parmigiana sandwich:

Across the street, I saw the lights on and the door open at the church where I used to go. They were having an Ash Wednesday service, I have no doubt.

I didn't go inside.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

One More Christmas Story

One of this blog's readers shared this story by email. I asked if I could re-post. I think it is important for liberal Christians, agnostics, and atheists to know that the conservative church is not a monolithic block -- and it is equally important for conservative Christians to know that they can "let their hearts lead" while staying true to their faith.

Here is her story:

"...my sister is married to a Baptist minister. The church they are currently serving is allied with both the Southern Baptists and The Cooperative Baptists. Recently their son, my nephew came out as gay. He is currently living in the Toronto area with his partner. I have been impressed with the way my sister and her husband have made the difficult transition to accepting this aspect of their son. My sister is coming along faster than my brother-in-law. She lets her heart lead. They just celebrated a wonderful Christmas with their son and his partner and have affirmed their unconditional love for them. Their church is supportive - the leadership knows and they are not making a deal out of it. Just thought I would pass this along. They have come a long way."