The Beginning Is Now

I don’t post all my sermons here, but the occasional few that I think are worth sharing widely as they connect with other issues of importance that I do share here. This one was preached March 17th. Go here for audio and for texts I reference.

During Lent I am taking the lectionary texts and placing them next to selections from Thomas Merton’s 1966 book, Raids on the Unspeakable. I don’t know why I am doing that exactly. It is just that Thomas Merton is on my mind. The unspeakable is on my mind. Jesus is on my mind. Hussain is on my mind. Martyrdom is on my mind. And of this weekend Islamophobia and the mass murder of Muslims while praying in their mosque in New Zealand is on my mind.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you murder the prophets and stone those sent to you. How often I wanted to gather your children as a hen gathers her own chicks under wings but you wouldn’t let me. Can’t you see your house is being abandoned?”

I would like to say all of this is on my heart as well as my mind, but as Thomas Merton points out there is no room in our hearts, not because our hearts are full but because they are void.

The Pharisees warn Jesus that he had better run. Herod is about to kill him. That isn’t news. Herod already killed John the Baptist. Some people talk too much. John the Baptist was one of those. So is Jesus. Not that anyone listens to either of them. That is not completely true. There are a very few who found both of them intriguing enough to hear.

Jesus responds,

“Go and tell that fox, ‘Look here, today and tomorrow I’ll be driving out demons and healing people, and the third day I’ll be finished. Still, today, and tomorrow and the day after, I have to move on, because it’s impossible for a prophet to die outside of Jerusalem.’ Luke 13:31-35

Herod can do whatever he wants, but I will do my work until I am finished, says Jesus. The third day could be as mundane as the day after the day after tomorrow. It also brings to mind the resurrection. A hint, perhaps, nothing more. Jesus is going to Jerusalem. That is where prophets go to die. You tell the truth. You cast out demons. You heal. Then the powers of this world, the devil who tempted Jesus in the Wilderness, who claimed that it all belonged to him, kill you.

Why? Because you are a threat to their power. In the wilderness, the devil offered the kingdoms of the world to Jesus if he would pay him homage. Jesus is not going to be making any deals with the devil, with the powers that be, with the economics of destruction, that house of cards.

Jesus is going to battle the devil. A battle he will lose as all prophets lose. The devil has the machinery: the media, the intelligence, the money, the military, the religion. The only way to defeat that kind of power is to die to it. It is to say this power means nothing.

Jesus had a pure heart. Just like Thomas Merton. Just like Hussain. They don’t care about anything except telling what is true. They give voice to the unspeakable. They tell of the unspeakable evil in high places.

They tell us, these prophets, that we don’t have to live this way. In fact, we cannot live this way much longer. There is a way out of this but it requires letting go of some massive illusions, particularly, the myth of our own innocence.

Let’s talk about Islamophobia.

Islamophobia did not just happen. This unhinged fear and demonization of Muslims. It was engineered. Muslims are the most vilified group in Hollywood. These negative stereotypes have embedded themselves in the consciousness of Hollywood’s target audience, American non-Muslims, mostly white Christians and white atheists. The result? So the American people will not object to endless war against a manufactured enemy. Because endless war is an end in itself. This is the end to which we are headed. Endless war against each other and against life on Earth itself for control of resources.

Islamophobia is the price that Muslims pay for a crime they did not commit. If you would like to know why I care about the truth behind 9/11, and why I am a member of religious leaders for 9/11 truth, it is because we have allowed false witness against Muslims to be spread. The ninth commandment reads: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

There are two ways to bear false witness. Actively bear false witness and passively bear false witness. Both have the same end result. We can actively lie about others or we can passively do nothing while lies are spread. We can actively promote the lie about 9/11 that supposedly Muslim terrorists attacked New York and Washington or we can passively promote the lie by refusing for whatever reasons to learn the truth for ourselves.

Meanwhile, Muslim nation after Muslim nation is destroyed in the Middle East to satiate the war machine that spends a trillion dollars a year. For what?

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem. You murder the prophets and stone those sent you.”

“Washington, Washington. How often I wanted to gather your children as a hen gathers her own chicks under wings but you wouldn’t let me. Can’t you see your house is being abandoned?”

Here is the deal. This is what the gospel is about.

They killed Jesus. But that is not the end of his story. He is risen. On the third day he completed his work. The work is a new creation. A new beginning. It is dying to an old way of living and being born again to a new way of living.

It is dying to the destructive way of living and being born to a new constructive way of living.

Merton wrote:

“To leave the city of death and imprisonment is sure not bad news except to those who so identified themselves with their captivity that they can conceive no other reality and no other condition.”

Merton goes on to say that what is needed is grace and courage to see that “The Great Tribulation” is also “The Great Joy” when it is seen as the Victory of Life over Death.

It is a new way of living that we all want. There was no one I met from Iran in my trip this past fall who wants war. None of us wants it. So why do we have it? We don’t want to destroy Earth to dig up petroleum as fast as we can, burn it and trash the place. None of us wants that. So why do we allow those in control to do it?

O dear friends, I don’t know what to tell you. You are nice people. You would do well with a nice minister. Here I am telling you about 9/11 truth and endless war and Islamophobia.

I don’t know why God put me here, if that is even the case.

I have a lot to figure out. Maybe I can’t even do that. It has nothing to do with you.

You know this past year has been life-changing for me.

The Christian atheist minister found God in Iraq. I don’t think God has been more real for me than now. Oddly enough I have more hope than previously about what humanity can become.

I don’t know how this all plays out with you.

There is a lot going on with me.

Right now, this morning, it is a lot of lament.

But tears must always lead ultimately to joy.

In that I put my trust.

Amen.

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Did the CIA Murder Thomas Merton? A Conversation with Hugh Turley

Hugh Turley Returns to Discuss the Death of One of the 20th Century’s Most Prolific and Respected Spiritual Writers 

(This episode would have aired Friday March 8th, 2019 but it was International Women’s Day and all programming that day was hosted by women. The alternative air date for the March 8th show is Monday, March 18th, at 11:00 am Pacific. The Beloved Community will return to its regular time, every second Friday at 9 am on Friday April 12th at 9 a.m.)

During the first few minutes I offer an update on the cancellation of my interview with Kevin Barrett by management and my appeal to that decision, still in progress after a year.

Hugh Turley returns to the Beloved Community to discuss his work uncovering the mystery of Thomas Merton’s death, December 10th, 1968 in Bangkok, Thailand. Thomas Merton was an intellectual, a prolific writer, and spiritual leader in the anti-war movement of the 60s. While biographers have all accepted the official story in some incarnation or another, that he was accidentally killed by a fan, Turley and co-author David Martin, in their book, The Martrydom of Thomas Merton, show that this official story cannot possibly be true. 

Now that this book has been released and official organizations connected with Merton are aware of this work, what is surprising is how so many of those who admire Merton care so little about honestly exploring the truth surrounding his death.  

On a special time, Monday, March 18th at 11 am Pacific, John Shuck speaks live with Hugh Turley about the facts around the death of Thomas Merton and the struggles Turley and Martin have had in communicating their findings to the public. 

From the cover:

Seldom can one predict that a book will have an effect on history, but this is such a work. Merton’s many biographers and the American press now say unanimously that he died from accidental electrocution. From a careful examination of the official record, including crime scene photographs that the authors have found that the investigating police in Thailand never saw, and from reading the letters of witnesses, they have discovered that the accidental electrocution conclusion is totally false. The widely repeated story that Merton had taken a shower and was therefore wet when he touched a lethal faulty fan was made up several years after the event and is completely contradicted by the evidence. 
 
Hugh Turley and David Martin identify four individuals as the primary promoters of the false accidental electrocution narrative. Another person, they show, should have been treated as a murder suspect. The most likely suspect in plotting Merton’s murder, a man who was a much stronger force for peace than most people realize, they identify as the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States government. 
 
Thomas Merton was the most important Roman Catholic spiritual and anti-warfare-state writer of the 20th century. To date, he has been the subject of 28 biographies and numerous other books. Remarkably, up to now no one has looked critically at the mysterious circumstances surrounding his sudden death in Thailand. From its publication date in the 50th anniversary of his death, into the foreseeable future, this carefully researched work will be the definitive, authoritative book on how Thomas Merton died.

KBOO Live Monday, March 18th 11 am PACIFIC

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Loving the Hell out of Us

Here is the text of the sermon I preached on Sunday, February 10th for Evolution Sunday.

“…we can…think of the end of our present life not as the end of our journey with God but simply as the beginning of its next phase. If so, we can conceive that divine grace, working entirely through the attractive power of love, might sanctify us all. There would be no need for the divine violence of casting sinners into hell. God would, instead, love the hell out of us.”
–David Ray Griffin, Two Great Truths: A New Synthesis of Scientific Naturalism and Christian Faith

Loving the Hell out of Us

I am the product of my parents. My father has a mind for science. My mother had a heart for faith. That isn’t to say that my father doesn’t have a heart nor my mother a mind. It is merely my perception of them to make a story about my life. My parents are far more complicated and interesting than the categories I create for them.

Nevertheless, it is with love and respect that I draw from the two of them an ongoing love for science and for faith, a lovers’ dance, two very different ways of knowing and of loving the world into which we are thrust.

Each day as I break a new personal record of consecutive days alive and breathing, I find myself negotiating my parents’ legacy in my own life. Science and faith. A love for facts and discovery. A desire to follow the will of God.

At times the lovers get snippy with each other, insisting that each’s own way is superior. True enough, one way is better at another in some things. Each way is also blind to its own shadow. Each way can also be blind to outside forces that manipulate each toward more sinister agenda.

Science is almost always used for the material of war.
Faith is almost always used for the emotion of war.

Each glimpses how the other is manipulated but that clarity often vanishes in the mirror.

The challenge to me and to us is how science and faith can contribute to the good. If science and faith are both ways of seeking what is true, is it too much to ask of both disciplines to seek also what is good? One of the historic principles of Presbyterian Church Order emphasizes both truth and goodness. You find this paragraph from the 18th century in our Book of Order:

F-3.0104 Truth and Goodness
That truth is in order to goodness; and the great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holiness, according to our Savior’s rule, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” And that no opinion can either be more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level, and represents it as of no consequence what a [person’s] opinions are. On the contrary, we are persuaded that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it.

These old Presbyterians were talking about truth that comes from faith, but that did not exclude truth that comes from reason. Both ways of knowing truth are in order to goodness. Of course, determining what is good as is determining what is true requires work, conversation, public debate, research, failure, humility, perseverance, and the ability and willingness to respond to change with corresponding change of mind and heart.

When I arrived at Southminster four years ago, a frequent question was asked of me: “What is your vision? What do you think Southminster should do?” My response then was that I didn’t know. I am new. We will have to see what Spirit presents to us.

Many times these types of questions are asked in terms of strategy and marketing. How do we brand ourselves and so forth? I am not against strategy, marketing, and branding, I suppose. But it must take a distant second to content. Who are you? What is real? What is God calling us to be and do? Truth and Goodness first. Strategy, Marketing and Branding, second.

I like this quote  [mis] attributed to Charles Darwin, whose birthday, we celebrate on the Sunday closest to his birthday as Evolution Sunday.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

No one likes change, of course. Especially, churches. We all know the old jokes, such as the seven last words of the church:

“We’ve never done it that way before.”

I am going to mention this morning two types of changes that would behoove us to be responsive.

First, some religion. Jesus preaches a sermon. The boys are washing their fishing nets. Jesus tells the boys to drop the nets in the deep water. Simon, who later Jesus calls Peter, the rock upon whom I will build my church, is resistant to this new idea. It sounds like something that has been tried and has failed in the past. Those are the other seven last words of the church:

“We tried it that way once already.”

Simon goes with that one and says to Jesus:

“Master, we’ve been hard at it all night and haven’t caught a thing. But if you insist, I’ll lower the nets.”

Of course, the story concludes with a huge catch of fish and a moral from Jesus:

“Remember this lesson friends, when we go to catch the big fish.”

Here is the question:

“Does Peter, the Rock, represent the church in his resistance to change or in his responsiveness to Jesus?”

I will let that question hang there. You answer it yourself.

One more piece of religion. That is the quote from David Ray Griffin from his book, Two Great Truths: A New Synthesis of Scientific Naturalism and Christian Faith. The question is how does the world end? Not just the world, the galaxy, the universe, the cosmos? Does it end with divine violence, sending sheep and goats to their separate areas? Or does it end through the lure of love? Griffin says, and I agree with him, that the end is the process. God’s work is not complete by sending sinners to hell. God’s work is complete by loving the hell out of us.

In the end, no matter how many lifetimes it takes,

“All will be well.”

With all of that hope, let’s tackle some change.

The first change is that many churches in America are closing.

A friend sent me this article this morning in Baptist News. The article by Pastor Elizabeth Mangham Lott is entitled, “My seminary has closed. But churches are closing too, and it’s time to face some hard questions.”

This is true for Presbyterians as well as Baptists. Our denomination, or its antecedents in 1965 numbered four million. Today about 1.5 million. I am sure that Craig Butler, Southminster member, and treasurer of our presbytery, would be happy to educate us on trends within our own presbytery.

Rather than blame each other, we can ask some hard questions. How do we respond to this change? The article concludes with excellent advice:

“How will we know which path is ours to take? Well, that’s something I did learn in seminary. We sit in holy quiet together, embracing ancient practices of contemplation and discernment. We follow the threads across ancient texts and look for the ways God has always been finding new and wildly imaginative avenues to know and be known by a people. We foster honest, brave, healthy, truth-telling communities that step even more fully and boldly into their calling as followers on the Way of Jesus. We ask really good questions and listen to each other in hopes of getting to even better ones.”

The second change is a far bigger change. It dwarfs the first change in magnitude almost making the first seem irrelevant. But actually, how we respond to the first change will enable us to be better equipped at responding to this second change.

I have spoken of this second change often and from different angles for over twenty years. I haven’t talked about it every Sunday, but I think you know it. And you mostly don’t like it.

Here it is: Americans make up 5% of the world’s population and consume 25% of the world’s resources. Another way to put it is this: If the rest of the world consumed as much as Americans consumed we would need four planets of resources. We have one planet. This is the case when I first started talking about it 20 years ago. It is an inequity that is unsustainable and can only be sustained temporarily through violence.

This change will likely be good for the rest of the world when America stops consuming a quarter of the world’s resources and instead consumes what is proportional to its population. This change will be uncomfortable for Americans when this standard of living changes.

Whether one thinks that inequity is justifiable or not, inequities always result in change. There is always a re-ordering eventually. Evolution happens when species outstrip their environments or when environments change. Whether we come about this question by studying Peak OilClimate Change, or militarization and its accompanying propaganda, there are hundreds of ways to show that these inequities exist and are not going to last. Those inequities are the inequity of human population vs. planetary limits and the inequity of the elites of the world vs. the rest.

This change can come abruptly or gradually or in a combination. As humans in general and Americans in particular, collectively reach the end of our credit limit, and nothing has been done in the past twenty years that I have been talking about it in regards to changing our course, major changes likely will come sooner than later.

Now remember. It is all good.

Simon Peter, the rock of the church, was in the end, responsive to change and Jesus will love the hell out of us.

If my parents taught me anything it is that life ends. My mother lived to be 91. My father is 100 currently. Even long lives end. Given that something will kill us someday, how do we live now?

Do we live to make ourselves as comfortable as possible for as long as possible? That is one way. But there is another way: the way of Jesus. The way of Mohammad. The way of Moses. The way of Buddha. These spiritual leaders knew that life was bigger than themselves and they were all responsive to change.

How might we be responsive to change? I think the fire drill is a great start about being responsive and prepared.

What about snowstorms? Are we as a church responsive enough to that in regards to care for the building but also care for members?

Let’s go bigger.

You have heard that we are due for an earthquake (New YorkerAtlantic). I have not talked about that at all with the congregation in any organized way. Dick Burnham and I were talking about it the other day. A very small percentage has done any awareness or preparation for this.

For me the physical preparation is important, but more than that, the internal preparation is equally as important as is the social preparation.

Change is coming. It comes in many ways. Practicing responsiveness through education, internal spiritual preparedness, and social connection can put Southminster in a place where it can be a helper rather than irrelevant, or worse, a burden. This goes for the congregation as a whole as well as individuals within it.

This is what I do. I am not some slick marketer who can come in and tell you how to get young people in the church, or sing and dance to soft hits of the 80s. I find most of that stuff to be a bunch of bull. I can however tell you what I think is going on and help open discussions on how we might respond, theologically, ethically, and practically to changes that are coming.

Truth and Goodness.

March 10th after church we start with some conversations about what it means to be the church on Denney and Hall in Beaverton.

You can talk to me over pie for breakfast on Wednesdays at Sharis on Allen and Murray or coffee Tuesday mornings. Or whenever. I will leave you today with Charles Darwin (although likely a misquotation):

It is not the strongest of the species that survives,
Nor the most intelligent,
But the one most responsive to change.

Amen.

Insha’Allah

This is the text of the sermon I preached on November 11th about my trip for Arbaeen. The readings are attached.

Today’s gospel reading is from the lectionary. It appears once every three years right around stewardship time. I have heard a few sermons on this passage as encouragement to give like the widow. Give all you have. You cannot look at the total amount. It is about the gift as percentage of one’s wealth. The wealthy give a large amount, but for them it is not nearly as much as the two quarters given by the widow. For them, it is surplus. The widow, on the other hand, gave all she had. She is in 100%.

Sermons on this passage in relation to stewardship invite us to be mindful of our giving, disciplined in our giving, joyful in our giving, generous in our giving, and mostly aware, that as much as we think we might give, few of us, none of us, give like the widow. As generous as we may hope we are, the widow sets the bar.

Those are good sermons. It is probably the wrong text, however.

Jesus wasn’t praising the widow for her giving as he called the disciples to witness the activities at the temple. Jesus was making a comment on temples, and scholars, and money, and poverty. Why is this widow giving money to the temple in the first place? Does the temple need her money? Who convinced her that it did? Is the temple doing the work of God?

Jesus has just finished offering a scathing critique of the scribes and their pretentions. They prey on widows and their families. A sharp critique from Jesus. The scribes and the temple go together, all part of the same matrix. At other points in Mark’s gospel, Jesus overturned tables in the temple, criticizing those who used the temple as a cover for their profit-making, a den of robbers, a pious place to hide one’s sins. When the disciples ogle the temple and are impressed with its grandeur, Jesus doesn’t seem to care. He predicts its demise. It will come tumbling down, not one stone upon another. We can’t quite tell whether or not Jesus will be happy with that or not.

Jesus, at best, has an ambiguous relationship with the temple, on one hand a holy place to connect oneself with God, on the other hand, a building, a structure, a system, that has forgotten its purpose, that has become self-serving rather than people-serving, or God-serving.

In this reading of the text, Jesus is not praising the giving of the widow to the temple, he is criticizing the temple itself that would take the last widow’s quarters and leave her completely impoverished. There were other uses for those quarters one might think than keeping scholars in fancy robes.

The questions that Jesus raised among his disciples were those that would get them to think about systems such as temple systems and their function. Who is served by them? Who gets richer? Who gets poorer? Jesus is raising questions for us as well. What are the temples in our time? Who are they serving? Who is getting wealthy and at whose expense?

How can our temples, our holy places, our sacred sanctuaries, be places of justice? That question should always be in the forefront, because every institution needs to examine itself as to its message and function. That to me is the stewardship message of this text. Sure, a text about giving, but ultimately, about to what are we giving? We who are stewards of the sacred space, perhaps in our case, we might think about this church as that. How is our church a place of empowerment for the disempowered, a place of hope for hopeless, and a place of truth-telling in a time of false witness?

As we give to the work of our various temples, including Southminster, it is also our stewardship responsibility to reflect and engage in conversation with one another about our commitments as keepers of a temple, and what our temple is to be and do in the world.

I want to take a turn now and talk about the giving that I witnessed in Iraq. Talk about poor widows giving all they had. Karbala is a city of about a million residents. During the holy period of the 9th of Safar to the 20th of Safar, Arbaeen, the fortieth day of mourning for Imam Husayn, over 15 million people entered the holy city. They say the city itself expands.

This happens without any centralized organization. There is no concern about what the people will eat or where they will sleep. It just happens. It happens because the people of Iraq give of what they have, preparing all year to serve those who visit their imam. They do it for the love of Husayn. They are hosts to the Holy. Let me say that again: The people of Iraq are hosts to the Holy.

I have been changed by this experience. Exactly how or what that will mean, I don’t know, but I do know that something is working within me. I have been asked why I went on this trip. It wasn’t a planned thing. It fell into place. I don’t know how these things happen, how it is you meet people who end up pointing you to something else that makes you see something you hadn’t seen or feel something you hadn’t felt. And then you say, “OK, I will do that.” And then, you realize, you might not do that, because in the end, Insha-Allah.

How do you live by Insha-Allah? Insha-Allah is a word that means if Allah wills it. If God wills it. It is in the words of the poem by Danusha Lameris, about holding hope lightly, it is knowing that our plans may not be what happens, it is trusting (and oh is that hard) that Allah is the sea upon which we float.

A few protesters gathered a few years ago when I first arrived at Southminster. They were yelling about a number of things. One of those was the minister who didn’t believe in God. I wonder what would be worse for them, a minister who doesn’t believe in God, or that the god the minister now discovered is called Allah?

No, I am not going to become a Muslim. Insha-Allah. Switching religions, trading one set of rituals for another set of rituals, exchanging one creed for another, is not of interest to me. But sometimes it takes another to find the depth of one’s own. To find, in another’s tongue, divine words.

You don’t make the ziyarat without an invitation. It is important that the Imam invites you and the Imam grants permission. So all of the visitors, all 15 million plus, are believed to have been invited. No visitor is unwelcome. No visitor is anything less than a blessed beloved of Allah. Of course, you feed them. Of course, you shelter them. Of course, you care for their needs. You love them, because they are on a divine mission, a sacred journey, in which they will be blessed, be a blessing to the world, and you will have a part in that, not because there is anything extra special about you, but because, Insha-Allah. You do it for the love of Husayn (alayhi s-salaam). The people of Iraq know this.

Whether you are making the ziyarat or serving those who do, it is a divine interplay, a unchoreographed dance of love.

But lest we get caught up in the romance of it, let us remember who is this Imam who invites visitors from all over the entire world. Imam Husayn (alayhi s-salaam) refused to submit to the authority of Yazid, who he believed to be unjust. Husayn refused to allow Islam to be directed by tyrants with small minds and large greed.

His brutal slaughter and the slaughter of his 72 companions on the plains of Karbala 1400 years ago was a tragedy—a tragedy of cosmic significance. But it was something else. It is a victory. It is a tragedy that repeats itself all over the world and it is a victory in the hearts of those who will not allow that tragedy to be the final word on the matter.

The invitation to visit Husayn (alayhi s-salaam), is the invitation from his own lips. As the battle ended, and Husayn faced his own end, he called out to the world, to future generations, “Is there anyone who will help me?” The response is from any in the world, regardless of religion, or culture or language, “Labbayk ya Husayn.” “Here I am, Husayn.”

And what is that response?

Well, that is your journey and mine.

“Here I am, Husayn,” can mean so many things in a world that is soaked in the blood of injustice. It can mean that I will bear witness to what I think is true, what I think is just, what I think is good, even if it means I will have to give up my own life. I will fight the Yazids of the world on behalf of the poor even if the odds are 30,000 to 72. Insha-Allah.

The victory is that the response to the call will not end. Arbaeen is the symbol of the path toward redemption for our world. What I learned is that I don’t lead it. The West will not lead this. The rich will not lead this. Empires will not lead this. It will be led by those who the so-called powers of this world ignore, suppress and distort.

A popular phrase is “Every day is Ashura and every place is Karbala.” Ashura is the day Imam Husayn (alahi s-salaam) and his companions were brutally murdered. Karbala is the place. Every day is Ashura and every place is Karbala means that every day we are called to take notice of our moral compass. To reset it. To recommit to it.

I discovered that my understanding of Jesus is not unlike that of Husayn. They are brothers. In fact, Shias believe that on the last day, the Imam Mahdi will return with Jesus. They are on the same team. They have the same goals. They live in the same love.

Finally, this experience was joy. The story of Karbala is a tragedy, but it is a story of joy. It is as our guide, Maulana Baig, said, a gift wrapped in grief. Mourning leads as it always must, to joy. The ultimate victor is not Yazid and his minions who make the world suffer. The ultimate victor is Husayn who lives in each of us, and who summons the world to love.

For that I am eternally grateful.

The people of Iraq have given me a glimpse of what that love looks like.

Amen.

New York Grand Jury to Hear 9/11 Evidence

David Meiswinkle and Barbara Honegger of The Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, and Richard Gage AIA, of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth speak with John Shuck about this development.

This is from a press release dated November 26th, 2018 from The Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry:
 

The Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, a nonprofit public interest organization, announces its receipt of a letter from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in response to the Lawyers’ Committee’s April 10, 2018 Petition and July 30, 2018 Amended Petition demanding that the U.S. Attorney present to a Special Grand Jury extensive evidence of yet-to-be-prosecuted federal crimes relating to the destruction of three World Trade Center Towers on 9/11 (WTC1, WTC2 and WTC7).  The U.S. Attorney, in his November 7, 2018 letter to the Lawyers’ Committee, stated: “We have received and reviewed The Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, Inc.’s submissions of April 10 and July 30, 2018. We will comply with the provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 3332 as they relate to your submissions.”

What does this mean? Will the crimes of 9/11 finally be prosecuted? 

David Meiswinkle, Barbara Honegger, and Richard Gage join John Shuck live to discuss the latest developments.

Bios:

David R. Meiswinkle, Esq. is a criminal defense attorney, retired police officer of 23 years, and former U.S. Army veteran. David founded the New Brunswick Taxpayers and Tenants Association and the New Brunswick Reporter, a community newspaper. His activism and articles outlining municipal corruption brought federal authorities into New Brunswick New Jersey which led to major criminal investigations,and arrests, indictments and convictions of prominent local politicians. He is the president of The Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry.

Barbara Honegger, M.S. has served as White House Policy Analyst and Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, Director of the Attorney General’s Law Review at the Dept. of Justice, and for more than a decade was the Senior Military Affairs Journalist at the Naval Postgraduate School, the premiere science, technology and national security affairs graduate research university of the Department of Defense. Barbara is an officer and board member of The Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry.

Richard Gage, AIA became interested in researching the destruction of the WTC high-rises after hearing the startling conclusions of a reluctant 9/11 researcher, David Ray Griffin, on the radio in 2006, which launched his own unyielding quest for the truth about 9/11. AE911Truth now numbers more than 3,000 architects and engineers demanding a new investigation into the destruction of all three World Trade Center high-rise buildings on 9/11.

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A Free Mind, Love, and Good Tunes


I thought I would post a sermon. Here is the audio. Sermon starts at 9:12.

I think our descendants will regard David Ray Griffin as the most important theologian of the early 21st century. Any theologian who tells the truth about the stuff that really matters gets my ear regarding religion. Damn if he isn’t good at that, too.

My mind is changing again.

Last week in her interview of me, Pam Gross, asked me about a number of things, and one topic we mentioned but didn’t elaborate upon was my view on God. I don’t like to talk about myself, as if I am the topic, but these questions arise about what the minister believes. I always try to deflect these questions. Who cares what I believe? It is my business. The question for you is what do you believe? Churches have a tendency to make the minister the “designated believer.” If the minister has his or her beliefs right, then everything is OK. If not, then things are not OK.

So when I first came to Southminster, the Friendly Atheist blog published an essay I wrote and titled it, “I’m a Presbyterian Minister Who Doesn’t Believe in God,” many people thought, “That can’t be OK.” Those who read past the title saw within the article itself that I wrote I didn’t believe in a supernatural God. You should spell that word Gawd G-A-W-D.

G-A-W-D was coined by David Ray Griffin in his book, God Exists But Gawd Does Not: From Evil to New Atheism to Fine Tuning. (review by Kevin Barrett). GAWD is the supernatural being that is the subject of most religious creeds. GAWD created the world from nothing, intervenes in the natural order of things, rewards and punishes, and so forth. This is the GAWD that I wrote is the product of myth-making.

I don’t find the existence of GAWD to be particularly persuasive. I think the new atheists like Dan Dennett and Richard Dawkins are right to poke holes in that Gawd. But does that mean that God G-O-D doesn’t exist at all? And what is at stake here either way?

When I first went to seminary, as part of the requirements for admission, I had to write an essay about my beliefs and questions. I wrote in the essay something along the lines of, “Is the universe meaningful?” Is the universe (and are humans) the products of randomness and natural law alone? The things that humans value, love, wisdom, good tunes, are they only things we care about or does the universe itself care about those things, too?

Martin Luther King said a number of times in his sermons and speeches a phrase that is often attributed to him but goes back earlier. The phrase is, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Unitarian minister, Theodore Parker, should be credited with that thought, though. In 1853 he said this in a sermon, titled “Of Justice and The Conscience:”

Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

This question has been with me throughout my entire ministry, and I have never let it go. Are Parker and King right? Does the arc of the moral universe bend toward justice or is that just something humans like to think?

So, in seminary, I was introduced to the post-modernists. I still don’t know what the word, post-modern, means, but for my purpose here, this is how I used it. It meant that all of these things that humans care about such as love and justice and even God, didn’t arrive until humans arrived. The universe is like a bus. It stops and starts. Picks people up. Drops people off. The bus has no intelligence, no concern for the lives of the people it carries. The love and justice that the humans on the bus exhibit is the result of human interaction. They care about love and justice. The bus doesn’t. I wrote a poem about it, “Riding the Bus with Jesus.” Jesus is the human interaction, not the bus. “Indifference is the law of the universe,” I wrote.

I would call this my post-modern phase. Language about God, about meaning, love, justice, is a human construct. It is an attempt at making meaning of an essentially meaningless universe. All the attempts to insert GAWD into this universe really have not been persuasive to me. The thing is, I talk about that. For many people, that is not OK. I on the other hand, think it is OK. Not only OK, but I think important and necessary for a free mind.

Our minds are not free if they don’t take us where our doubts take us. They are not free if we allow others to set the boundaries of what we can and cannot explore. We should search for what we think is true even if doing so challenges conventional wisdom.

I defend the way I think and the things I believe or do not believe because I come about them honestly and we all should have the freedom and encouragement to do the same. Hearing the views and the thoughts of those that are different from ours, challenging to us, can only make us wiser. That is how we learn. That is how we grow. That is what I do in my ministry. I don’t think being a minister is about rigidly sticking to a set of creedal statements about GAWD. I think being a minister is about challenging those statements and creating new statements that reflect the actual journey we are taking.

All that said, I find myself changing again. Moving not back to the GAWD of creed but answering affirmatively, even if tentatively the question, “Is there a GOD of meaning within the universe itself?” Yes. Is the love Paul writes about in I Corinthians 13 only a human expression, a human invention, or does it reflect something within the fabric of the universe itself? I am leaning toward the latter.

The only thing I really care about is the world my granddaughter, Pippa, will inherit. What are we leaving? What are we doing about it now? I personally find those questions to be very hard, discouraging, even despairing. I don’t back away from the via negativa, to use Matthew Fox’s phrase for the dark path. I don’t shy away from looking at the trajectories we are on in regards to our future. I don’t back away from the truths about ourselves and about our nation that are hard to take. I don’t think church is about hiding from that.

However, it is hard for me to muster up enough hope to be an honorable ancestor by myself. It isn’t enough, I am coming to realize, to have love and justice and God be human constructs in an otherwise meaningless, indifferent universe. I need to know that the universe in some sense cares that we do this well. The universe is somehow cheering us on. Love, morality, truth, goodness are not quirks of human evolution, but built within the fabric of the universe itself. I am starting possibly to embrace that again. I am changing. Perhaps I can embrace what Martin Luther King, Jr. and Theodore Parker said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

These changes that I experience in my reflections on GAWD and GOD do not come from a vacuum, from me sitting on a rock thinking day and night. They come from my life experience and my interactions. They come from a delight in observing the stars to learning about evolution to witnessing disease and death, and grief, and violence, and forgiveness and none of these are abstractions; they are flesh and blood experiences of life. They come from losing my son. They come from having a granddaughter. They come from lies, war and stupidity. They come from courageous peacemakers. They come from learning about species extinction. They come from learning about the vastness and the creativity of life.

These thoughts, beliefs, hopes, dreams, ideas are ours. We all have them. We should never have to be made to feel guilty or wrong or bad for having whatever thoughts we have about life and about God. We have earned them. We need to be able to go to whatever place we need to go even if it is a walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Even if it is a long journey of doubt. Sometimes we need to go there. Sometimes we need to go through it to glimpse a light on the other end.

What I am trying to say this morning is don’t settle for a sound bite. Don’t settle for an evaluation of someone based on a sentence or phrase or label. We are all far more complicated than that. We don’t stay the same. It is OK to change. We don’t have to make others believe or not believe like we do. Instead, I prefer to give people space to make their own honest discoveries.

This is what I think Paul was talking about in this beautiful passage from I Corinthians about love. This translation is due in large part to Art Dewey, who has the ear of a poet.

love takes its time
makes itself good and useful
love doesn’t envy
it doesn’t boast
it doesn’t bluster

it doesn’t make a scene
it doesn’t look after its own interests
it doesn’t throw fits
it doesn’t dwell on the negative
it takes no pleasure in injustice
but is delighted by the truth

love upholds everything
trusts in everything
hopes for everything
endures everything

love never falls way

That Love, I am coming to trust now, is the very fabric of the universe. Love is pulling, enticing, encouraging all of us to become more alive than we were yesterday, and as Love upholds, trusts, and endures, Love pulls us to be even more alive tomorrow.

Amen.

Apocalypse Now

I suspect that after this post gets sent, the number of people who follow me via email (currently 2174–see sidebar) will decrease substantially. The Progressive Spirit radio show has ended and I am taking a different turn in regards to the things that I view as important and worthy of my time and hopefully yours. Yet I hope you will be curious enough to stay with me and pass this blog on to others.

We are in an apocalyptic time. Apocalypse means revelation. This is a time of revealing, of making manifest that which has been shrouded. Apocalypse in the popular sense means massive destruction. This time could be that as well especially if we decide as a human species to ignore the revelatory aspect of apocalypse.

But I am hopeful because I believe in God (not Gawd) to use David Ray Griffin’s distinction. To believe in God means to believe that morality and purpose are more than human social constructs. Morality and purpose are as real as atoms and supernovas, beetles and Bohemians. The very fabric of the universe is moral and we are a part of it, participating in it, being guided by and, to a degree participating, in its unfolding.

That belief is important, according to Griffin, because without it, without a belief and hope that the universe in some way “cares” we will not be able to face the task before us that is immense beyond measure. That task has come to us in the form of Global Warming or Climate Catastrophe. Monumental in itself, our situation is far worse than a problem to solve. Our destruction (apocalypse in the popular sense of the word) is enabled by the evil in high places that temporarily profits by our impending demise. The work of this evil is to shroud our true situation. Evil works in darkness as our wisdom traditions remind us. None of our institutions is capable of dismantling this evil or even capable of naming it. All of the institutions associated with education, religion, politics, commerce, justice, military, and media are held by the grip of this evil, unable to see in the darkness their own complicity.

The only thing that can save us is apocalypse in the precise meaning of that word, which is revelation. We need an unveiling, a de-shrouding, an unfolding, and an awakening. This is not simply an intellectual activity. It is a deeply spiritual event. I use the word ‘event’ because apocalypse is an event in which we participate. This event is happening now. This time is apocalypse now.

All around us the shroud of evil is tearing. Glimpses of light are piercing it. These glimpses are truth-revealing glimpses into the reality of our imprisonment. What exactly happened on September 11th, 2001 is a question related to this apocalypse. We know that we have been deceived but at the same time we are not allowed to know. I am not supposed to be writing about this. You are not supposed to be reading it. It is taboo. Yet here you are. You are still with me. The apocalypse event unfolds as more and more people see what they are not allowed to see, say what they are not allowed to say, and do what they are not allowed to do. Apocalypse now is rendering the taboo powerless. I need not convince you of anything. You already know it. I don’t need to show you Building 7. You know the official myth is a sham. You only need to trust what you know. Find your heart (courage) and act. When you are ready, you will.

Arbaeen is Apocalypse Now. It is not apocalypse (revelation) in the sense of a religious ritual by a sectarian group of Muslims. Arbaeen as revelation is an unfolding of truth and courage so profound that Christian bishops prostrate before it and American Christian ministers (yours truly) return home and preach sermons about its transformative effects.

At first glance, Global Warming, 9/11, and Arbaeen are not related. But of course they are intimately connected. Global Warming negatively effects the poor first. It results from unbridled fossil fuel extraction that is linked to unsustainable economic growth that results in global resource war which is justified by demonizing the “Muslim enemy” that was created by the false flag of 9/11 who resists via Arbaeen.

Evil trembles before Arbaeen. American media cannot even report on it. But 15 million bear witness. Arbaeen (Apocalypse Now) is when the oppressed of the world lead the march toward justice.

Apocalypse Now (revelation) is a divine, redemptive event that uncovers the evil that is hell-bent on the popular version of apocalypse (destruction). Apocalypse Now is our summons to participate in our collective salvation.