Entries from July 2008 ↓

Two Dead In Knoxville

Nothing about the deaths in Knoxville makes sense.  It will be discussed, analyzed, boiled and strained.  A crew of grief counselors and trauma specialists are on their way there from Unitarian home office in Boston. Many will light candles and grieve Monday night at Second Presbyterian Church, which has been kind enough to offer to host a community service.

Community is a powerful word, especially in Unitarian circles.  Community, especially as it might mean safe haven, a place where we can be ourselves, evokes both the bravery of the usher who took one of the shot gun blasts to shield others and the actor who rushed off the stage to tackle the gunman.  The usher died. The actor has been called a hero.

Grief comes of news that a bomber killed so many in India yesterday.  Shock and trauma are old hat in Iraq and central Africa, Lebanon, and a dozen other shocked and traumatized places where the sound of gunfire is both commonplace and always a cue to rush for some safe haven.

Unitarian churches will remain safe havens for gays, lesbians, liberals, working people, free thinkers, radicals, worshippers of every faith tradition and atheists.  No shotgun blast can change that.  But for two dead, and five in critical condition something precious has changed.  No bravery or solidarity or lighted candles can erase the pain and fear and damage caused by that.  The gunman was said to have been screaming “hateful words” at the time of the attack.  His hate may have the desired affect among some. Some may never attend that church again.

But others will come.  More candles will be lighted, more songs sung, more worship offered to the thousands of spiritual paths affirmed and held by the different people who make up that church and U.U. churches all over the world.  The sound of a shot gun blast will not be the last sound heard in that church house.  There will again be songs of love and peace and joy and freedom.  The spoken words will be full of light, too.  Darkness now, light tomorrow.  All will be well, and all manner of things will be well.


Arrest Me. Deport Me.

            Arrest me. Deport me. Tear me away from my children who love me, whom I love.  Put my children in a detention center.  Ruin my ex-wife’s finances by cutting off her access to child support.

         I have broken your laws.  I plead guilty.  What part of illegal don’t you understand?

         Handcuff me.  Knock on my door at three in the morning.  Take me away in your van so that I can no longer fix breakfast for my 85-year-old father. Leave no word of where I am being held.  Let my family search for days to find out where I am.

         Detain me.  Question me.  Check my papers.  Keep me away from the work that feeds my family.  Put me in your jail.  Detain me for weeks before the hearing that will send me to a foreign country where I cannot see my children, where I may never see my children again.

         If it’s good enough for anybody, it must be good enough for everybody.

         Just as it is a good idea to keep the sinners out of the church, certainly out of the clergy, and certainly we don’t want them marrying each other, it must also be a good idea to empty the country of all illegals, every speeder, everyone driving without a license, everyone who fudges on their taxes.  What part of illegal don’t you understand?

         Arrest me.  Deport me.  Give me the pain you apply to my brother.

Gary Phillips, Meet Mystical Activism and Andrew Harvey

         Gary Phillips and I have been friends for longer than most people on this planet have been alive.  Still I drive him nuts.  That may be a definition of friendship.  He’s certainly not the only one among my friends who occasionally wants to strangle me.

         One such maddening conversation included these lines, “Nothing exists.  That makes sense,” I said.

         “No, no, Jobe, everything exists,” he insisted, laughed, and raised his hands in the air like a mystical cheerleader.

         Having just written a book called, “Falling In Love With Everything,” I knew he was right and we need to raise our hands in the air like mystical cheerleaders to affirm it.  But I had also been blown away by the notion of nothingness while reading, “A Thousand Names For Joy,” Byron Katie’s and Steven Mitchell’s commentary on the Tao Te Ching.  My book is a reaction to the remarkable series of events that led me to read their book and go completely nuts over it.

         One of my church buddies told me the book did nothing for her.

         So this morning I read in The Sun Magazine, a magazine I read because Gary Phillips bought me a gift subscription.  My reading includes this quote from Andrew Harvey who is describing mystical activism.

Harvey says, “This world is not an illusion, and the philosophies that say it is are half-baked half-truths. In an authentic mystical experience, the world does disappear and reveal itself as the dance of the divine consciousness. But then it reappears, and you see that everything you are looking at is God, and everything you’re touching is God. This vision completely shatters you.

“We are so addicted, either to materialism or to transcending material reality, that we don’t see God right in front of us, in the beggar, the starving child, the brokenhearted woman; in our friend; in the cat; in the flea. We miss it, and in missing it, we allow the world to be destroyed.”

Gary Phillips is a mystical activist who understands what Harvey is talking about.  Like his beloved Ilana Dubester, he has seen a world in a grain of sand, as William Blake put it, and fallen in love with that world to the point that he and she work for social justice.

In their environmentalism, their work for immigrants, poor people, gays and lesbians, they paint with a broad political brush to create a world that loves itself as much as they love it.

This is my favorite kind of human being, someone who knows how to light a candle, but also how to light a fire under voters, power brokers, whoever needs the fire lighted, so that we don’t imprison children because their parents are undocumented and so that we don’t burn the air around us until we drown in the melting ice caps.