Activism, with Prayer and Silence

(This is my review of Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for  a New Generation, by Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox. 2013, North Atlantic Books.)

I was very pleased with this book.  It is a conversation between a young activist and an old oneAdam Bucko (late 30’s, raised a Catholic in Poland, helps run a ministry to homeless youth in New York City) and Matthew Fox (late 70’s, a thinker, educator, author, and former Dominican, was evicted from “The Church” by the Vatican – in effect for talking too much, sorta like Socrates.  He then became an Episcopal priest).

It is full of wisdom and good examples deriving from the integrity of the authors’ own spiritual searching and service.  There’s a strong Christian flavor, but don’t go here to learn conservative American Evangelical theology.  They show some preference for Christ and his teaching but are open to a wide variety of spiritual theories and practices.

“The Bhagavad Gita, for example, talks about the importance of service, but it’s more about fulfilling your role or duty … In Western traditions, there is more of a concept of individuation.  You’re literally called by name to a specific kind of task.  In this way, sensing your calling becomes a very deep connecting point with life and God.” (Bucko, p29)

They think and study carefully, they actually practice what they preach, and they do so with careful truthfulness and courtesy.  If Jesus is right to tell us to “judge them by their fruits” – well, there’s some pretty good fruit here.

Several themes recur that are important to me and, I think, to our threatened and questioning culture.  (Underlines added.)

Young / Old. 

“Nothing is going to happen in reinventing new forms … if the young don’t get on board and begin to lead.  This is the elder’s job: to assist the young in their vocations to lead.  Besides, I learn from them.”  (Fox, p74)

“Elders are only useful if they first listen.  Then truly dialogue as equals … As Thomas Aquinas put it in the thirteenth century, “the experience of God must not be restricted to the few or to the old.”  Amen!” (Fox, p75)

“Friends tell me that I’ve been very lucky to meet some really great mentors.  I agree … But I also worked very hard at it … We are not meant to do things on our own.  We become who we are through other people.” (Bucko, p162)

Spirituality.

“What is the method that you use to help them find their calling?”

“It is more of a ‘spiritual direction’ in the Christian sense, with the Spirit doing the work and me trying to ‘get out of the way.’… It is really a contemplative process that directs itself.  It feels like a gentle wind blowing across our faces … in the last few years … my work has become about prayer.”  (Fox and Bucko, pp93-4)

“We need, on the one hand, the serenity of the Buddha, but also the moral outrage of Jesus … Jesus often retreated into the wilderness for contemplation and refreshment.  The prophet is the mystic in action.” (Fox, p120)

Study leads you to contemplation; it leads you to quiet and stillness.  But it also leads you to want to teach or to speak that fire that Jeremiah talks about.” (Fox, p127)

The Occupy Movement ethos.

“No spiritual teacher, north, south, east or west, has ever countenanced greed and rapaciousness as values worthy of our species.” (Fox, p74)

Young people are carrying a huge burden, with the ecosystem collapsing … with the job market not delivering … with education costs out of control … with religion being silly a great deal of the time.” (Fox, p75)

The difference I have

with these men is that I am committed to Jesus as THE Master Teacher (as Dallas Willard insists is necessary if we claim to “believe in” him).  (Jesus is not in practice seen thus by much of American Christianity; they have other uses for him.)  I see him as the true integrating Personality, his teaching as indispensable to life, and his ancient and ongoing work as the truly integrating work for the history of the human race – all of which I think makes Jesus himself a more unavoidable or demanding presence in my life than he seems to be to these authors.

But there is a lot of healthy motivation and wisdom in this book.   If you are looking for honest, informed, activist thinking deeply influenced by strong spiritual sensitivity, you can find it here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Good Comment on Christians as Republicans

Here’s a very helpful reaction to the article “Why Many Christians Do Not Vote Republican.” Thanks CT for putting things so well. I have added underlines and bolding.

This is a great article. Although I am not American, if I had to vote I would also struggle with voting Republican.

While I don’t agree with all of the policies of the Democrats, I believe they are by far the better option.

We cannot tar all Republicans with the same brush but from what I can see their policies are not consistent with the teachings of Christ nor will they bring people to Christ which is what we as disciples are called to do.

Regarding the obsession with abortion and homosexuality:

While I agree abortion is wrong, I don’t see how criminalising it will stop women from aborting babies. People need to have a personal conviction that abortion is wrong and that will not come from aggressive anti-abortion tactics or rhetoric. Instead, would it not be better to provide better sexual education so that less young women fall pregnant and provide better facilities for young mothers who may feel that they are unable to support a child alone? Would it not also be better to educate men from a young age about respecting women so that there are less cases of rape which would lead to abortion?

Would it not also be a good idea for schools to teach students about responsibility and the need to use protection. While as Christians we shouldn’t practice sex outside of marriage we can’t expect non-Christians who have neither the conviction nor the help of the Holy Spirit to do the same.

With regards to homosexuality, we are called to love our neighbour period. The bible does not tell us only to love those we look and behave like us. It breaks my heart when I hear the hate that some Christians direct towards homosexuals, as if they are a sub-human species. Yes, I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman but in order to reach homosexuals we have to love them. By attacking them and displaying hateful behaviour towards them as some Republicans do, we are destroying an opportunity to love them and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal himself to them through us.

Finally, with regards to the poor. The assumption that poor people are lazy and are poor as a result is not only erroneous but does not display the loving attitude towards the needy Christ calls us to have. We have a responsibility towards those who are less fortunate, regardless of how they got there. How can people honestly debate whether or not helping the poor with universal healthcare is a good idea? Surely as followers of Jesus Christ we already know the answer to that.

God bless you all.

Wear Your Diagnosis Lightly – It’s Not Really You

A lot of us have “been diagnosed” with specific personality or mental conditions. I don’t formally have such a diagnosis (I’ve not yet seen anyone qualified to do it for me); but I’m sure there are several people around who’d be glad to offer suggestions!

The thing I worry about is the effects I have seen such diagnoses have on people – the self-defining, self-shaping label it provides.

It does affect one’s self-perception, expectations of what they can probably do, or not do, and how they are likely to behave. It really does, in my experience. So it narrows a person’s view of themselves and their world – and thus clearly restricts their potential. Continue reading

“With Malice Toward None” – A Necessary Standard!

In pretty much his last words to the American people, Abraham Lincoln began the wrap-up of his Second Inaugural Address with these famous, beautiful ideals:

With malice toward none, with charity for all . . .

And I think he really meant it. In a nation that was an ocean of anger and blaming and malice, he asked us to move forward without malice.

“Malice: Intention to harm or deprive in an illegal or immoral way. Desire to take pleasure in another’s misfortune.” [Wiktionary]

Continue reading

When the Government – or Society – Is Against You: What Should Christians Do?

Some American Christians worry that we are being “persecuted” and that our “freedom of religion” is being infringed. That’s always true to some extent – and the idea is scary.

How did Jesus deal with it?

Jesus practiced non-violent non-cooperation toward evil persons. The results of his courage were both short-term and long-term, mostly good, some brutally bad.

Jesus’ immediate followers – the Christians of the first century, also faced lots of suffering.

  • They suffered government harassment, even arrest and execution.
  • They suffered from neighbors and fellow-citizens – the insulting or aggressive behavior of others around them in society.
  • They suffered all the normal pains and sorrows of human life, of which there are many. Continue reading

Limbaugh Has Judgment Problems? That’s Dangerous to Us – and Not a New Discovery.

I think the (verbal) behavior of Rush Limbaugh is a moral issue, and has a strong negative impact on the quality of citizenship in society. So, that needs to be said. This is my letter to the editor published in May 2006 in a small-town Nebraska newspaper.

Some of my best friends are Limbaugh addicts (“dittoheads”). You don’t always agree with all your friends, right? I personally am sad to hear Rush is coming back to McCook airwaves. I fear he will undermine habits of good citizenship, and will damage families and spiritual lives.

Unfortunately, he behaves like what Isaiah calls a “scoundrel.” Continue reading

The Two Most Obvious Facts of Life

Here’s my ex-temp ramble in response to the line “momentum succumbs to entropy” seen elsewhere . . .

+ and you can say entropy succumbs to momentum.
- but you have to have an energy source for momentum.
+ well, the plants and animals find energy to bloom and bear seeds and run and climb; so can we
- but they all die
+ and more come
- but the energy-supply machine (the sun) is running down
Continue reading

America’s Problem & Blessing: People Who Take the Bible Seriously (with 2 Rules of Interpretation)

Frankie Schaeffer grew up in a modern, politically radical, Americanized “Christianity”. He is not pleased with what it teaches or how it operates. In a recent article he gives a fairly thorough explanation of his concerns and how they relate to current political personalities – e.g. Michelle Bachmann.

I have to agree with much of what Schaeffer says. Here’s an example:

America has a problem: It’s filled with people who take the Bible seriously.
America has a blessing: It’s filled with people who take the Bible seriously.

Continue reading

A Covenant for Civility (Sojourners)

[You can sign this covenant online at the Sojourners site. I have added underlines and bolds to the version below.]

How good and pleasant it is when the people of God live together in unity. -Psalm 133:1

As Christian pastors and leaders with diverse theological and political beliefs, we have come together to make this covenant with each other, and to commend it to the church, faith-based organizations, and individuals, so that together we can contribute to a more civil national discourse. The church in the United States can offer a message of hope and reconciliation to a nation that is deeply divided by political and cultural differences. Too often, however, we have reflected the political divisions of our culture rather than the unity we have in the body of Christ. We come together to urge those who claim the name of Christ to “put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Continue reading

Security – and Moral Bankruptcy

there is no way in which a country can satisfy the craving for absolute security

“No way.” No way. As in not possible in this world.

but it can easily bankrupt itself,
morally and economically,
in attempting to reach that illusory goal through arms alone.
- President (& General) Dwight D. Eisenhower

In other words, you can’t buy enough guns (etc) to make yourself safe. But you can go completely nuts trying.

Eisenhower quoted by Brian McLaren in Everything Must Change, p 167.