11/9 and The Terrorist Who Loved Bonsai Trees

A novel about a false flag terrorist plot to lead the US to war.

Sound familiar?

John Shuck shares information about the report from the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks on World Trade Center 7 that collapsed on September 11th, 2001. The result of the four-year study is that fire did not cause the collapse. In addition, John speaks with Philip Kraske about his fifth novel, 11/9 and the Terrorist Who Loved Bonsai Trees

“Trudy Schelling arrives at her company in Jersey City, New Jersey, to start her first day of work at Hallerbee Net Research. The date is November 9. Barely through the door, she is grabbed by a man in military garb – one of several in the brownstone townhouse – but fends him off and manages to escape. Twenty minutes later, six terrorists, fleeing their botched job of planting a miniature atomic bomb in the Empire State Building, screech to a halt in front of the same townhouse, three police cars on their tail. The terrorists run inside, and a hostage standoff ensues, the dozen hostages ostensibly being Hallerbee employees.

Pursued through the streets of Manhattan, Trudy knows that the attack is a false-flag operation. In a matter of hours, she is portrayed in the media as the seventh terrorist of the group, and the entire country is baying for her blood. Her only hope is Paul Klippen, a State Department official whose lonely task is to expose the lies about her and stop war between the United States and Iran.”

David Ray Griffin says of the novel:

“Most of us who continue to do research on 9/11 focus primarily on the question of what really happened that day. There will eventually be a definitive answer to that question that can be summarized in a few pages. But what is the meaning of 9/11, what are its implications? Philip Kraske’s superb thriller, 11/9 and the Terrorist Who Loved Bonsai Trees, as the title implies, holds up a mirror to 9/11, providing a way of understanding this horrendous event. The hilarious book-ending riff of Trudy’s comedian boyfriend sums up both the stupidity and the irony of it all. 

— David Ray Griffin, Author of 9/11 Unmasked”

Bio:

Philip Kraske was born in Detroit, lived his formative years in Ohio and Minnesota, and stayed in America long enough to get in the basic rituals of high school and college. He graduated from the U of Minnesota/Twin Cities with a B.A. in International Relations. He settled permanently in Madrid in the 80s.  

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Why We Can’t Let Go of Our Legions

A sermon preached on June 23rd at Southminster Presbyterian in Beaverton, Oregon. Based on the lectionary text, Luke 8:26-39.

Walter Wink, The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium 
As the soul of systems, the Powers in their spiritual aspect are everywhere around us. Their presence is inescapable. The issue is not whether we “believe” in them but whether we can learn to identify them in our actual, everyday encounters. The apostle Paul called this the gift of discerning spirits. When a particular Power becomes idolatrous—that is, when it pursues a vocation other than the one for which God created it and makes its own interests the highest good—then that Power becomes demonic. The spiritual task is to unmask this idolatry and recall the Powers to their created purposes in the world. But this can scarcely be accomplished by individuals. A group is needed—what the New Testament calls an ekklesia (assembly)—one that exists specifically for the task of recalling these Powers to their divine vocation. That was to be the task of the church, “so that through the church (ekklesia) the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities [“principalities and powers”] in the heavenly places“ (Eph. 3:10). And the church must perform this task despite its being as fallen and idolatrous as any other institution in society.

Luke 8:26-39
Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) J

Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear.

So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

For Citizenship John O’Donohue
In these times when anger
Is turned into anxiety
And someone has stolen
The horizons and the mountains,

Our small emperors on parade
Never expect our indifference
To disturb their nakedness.

They keep their heads down
And their eyes gleam with reflection
From Aluminum economic ground,

The media wraps everything
In a cellophane of sound,
And the ghost surface of the virtual
Overlays the breathing earth.

The industry of distraction
Makes us forget
That we live in a universe.

We have become converts
To the religion of stress
And its deity of progress;

That we may have courage
To turn aside from it all
And come to kneel down before the poor,
To discover what we must do,
How to turn anxiety
Back into anger,
How to find our way home.

Sermon

Casting out demons or unclean spirits is one of the things Jesus does. He does it several times and the stories are repeated in the gospels. As uncomfortable as modern people are with demons or unclean spirits, even the Jesus Seminar said that exorcism was one of the things that the historical Jesus did or was believed to have done.

Demons and unclean spirits are not particularly easy to discuss. Many people, more than you might think, believe in the reality of demons and unclean spirits. Many religious groups take quite literally demon possession and the need for exorcists. On the other hand, most progressive Christians think of demon possession as mental illness or some other type of affliction. Jesus was able to provide some kind of psycho-somatic cure.

I find myself mostly in the progressive camp. I have thought that stories in the Bible regarding demon possession reflect an ancient way of speaking about psychological afflictions that we modern folks describe in scientific as opposed to spiritual ways.

Then I read Walter Wink. Walter Wink, who died in 2012, was a biblical scholar and a peace activist. He wrote a series of three books on “the Powers” and demons and unclean spirits, all the weird stuff of the Bible. He showed me that reducing stories and concepts of spiritual powers to modern categories that might be more manageable and believable missed the message of these stories. There is more being said in these stories than what modern psychology can answer.

Wink said that while this is ancient pre-modern language, and we don’t need to believe that there are actual demons and unclean spirits bouncing around the world, hopping in and out of people’s psyches, nonetheless, these spirits represent something very real in both ancient times and in our time. It is more than ancient superstition. It is more than mental illness.

Walter Wink wrote about this in terms of institutions. Institutions have a spirituality. They have a soul. All institutions from schools to churches to corporations to nations have a spirituality. This is a good thing. These institutions are created to do their jobs and the soul or spirit is that driving animating force that guides the institution in its work.

However, these animating spiritual powers are also fallen. They can succumb through greed and envy to change course. Rather than serve the larger good that they have been created to serve, they become demonic. They become unclean and these institutions begin to serve themselves or they serve the interests of those who have “possessed” the institution. These powers need to be named, unmasked, and engaged.

The titles of Walter Wink’s trilogy of books on this topic are respectively, Unmasking the Powers, Naming the Powers, and Engaging the Powers.

The church’s task, its mission, is to do this work of spiritual discernment. That is to unmask, name, and engage these spiritual dimensions of our institutions. This is not easy work. It is not without danger. One of the principles of our Presbyterian denomination is for the church to undertake its mission even at the risk of losing its life. We discussed that at our session retreat.

Jesus did not get in trouble because he cured people of mental illness. He got in trouble because he named, unmasked, and engaged the spiritual powers of institutions that had become demonic, namely, the Roman Imperial State and the Jewish Temple. The goal of this work, of the work of Jesus, and the church that he summoned, is not to destroy the institutions but to set them aright. This is the work of the Holy Spirit or God.

All of the New Testament including the Gospels, can be read as this contest of powers, the powers of institutions, Rome and the Temple, for the most part, and the power of Jesus who was sent by God the Father to save the institutions and the people they are created to serve and to announce the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is what the world looks like when the spiritual powers of institutions are doing their work according to their created purpose.

The story of the Gerasene demoniac, which is the lectionary text for today, is a case study in the type of exorcism that Jesus practiced. This is a parable. It would be hard to imagine this happening in any literal sense. Luke is showing us a parable of the work Jesus did. He is through parable showing us the meaning of the contest of powers between Jesus and the demon.

Jesus and his entourage go to the land of the Gerasenes. They are confronted by this guy who is possessed by a demon. It is intense. He is naked. He is bound by chains that he breaks. He lives in the tombs. The demon recognizes Jesus. It does not want to leave. The demon has a name, Legion. What is legion? According to Miriam-Webster, a legion is “the principal unit of the Roman army comprising 3000 to 6000 foot soldiers with cavalry.”

The country of the Gerasenes much like Galilee and all of the area is occupied territory. The demon Legion represents the occupying force. Legion, the demon, tells Jesus not to cast it into the abyss, into the Pit, nothingness, but to a herd of swine, unclean animals, yes, but also the livelihood of the people of the Gerasenes. Legion, the demon, before disappearing to where ever, drowns all these pigs. That raises the attention of the people, who come to check it out and are afraid. They ask Jesus to leave because of their fear.

This is a parable. You have an occupying force. Roman soldiers occupy the country of the Gerasenes. Who eats pork? Not Jews. The soldiers do. So you have an economy of swineherders who derive their income from servicing the occupying forces. It isn’t good. The unrest of this situation is represented in the guy who is naked in the tombs, good as dead. There is no controlling this Legion. They try to bind him, they try to make peace with this thing, but he breaks the chains.

Jesus comes. Fixes the problem. But destroys their economy. Jesus, it is time for you to go now. This is scary. What will Rome do to us now? What will we do now? Rome is an occupying force but it is all we know. We would rather have Legion than you, Jesus.

At the end, we have the man, clothed and in his right mind, no longer living among the tombs, but now he is a witness. He is telling about Jesus and the work Jesus has done. We don’t know what will happen. Will people hear this witness or will they prefer Legion because they are afraid? That is the question to us.

This parable, as all parables, are open-ended. What do you think? What will you do?

Here are a few questions:

Why are these people afraid of Jesus?
Why is liberation scarier than oppression?
What will it take for them to let go of their fear?
What will it take to let go of Legion?

Dare we ask these questions in our own time.

We know what President Dwight Eisenhower warned the American people in 1961 about the dangers of the military-industrial complex. He said:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

That was Eisenhower in 1961.

By any measure, what we have today in terms of the military-industrial-finance-intelligence-media complex is Legion multiplied by orders of magnitude. Just this past week, we barely avoided a war with Iran. Iran is not the enemy of the United States. Iran is the enemy of Israel, maybe, and that is only because Iran supports the just cause of the Palestinians. Iran has nothing to do with America. America needs to end the sanctions against Iran and the suffering it has inflicted upon those people through these sanctions.

Iran is not attacking America. There is no fight. Americans would have had to have been tricked into a war with Iran. Just like we have been tricked into every war. To back that statement up, I refer you to theologian David Ray Griffin and his book, The American Trajectory: Divine or Demonic?

So why is it that we have to be tricked? Caitlin Johnstone, an Australian, suggests that Americans have to be tricked because Americans are basically good people. We don’t want wars. So we have to be deceived every time into supporting them. “They”, that is the demon, of the military-industrial-finance-intelligence-media complex only has to convince the American people that the American military-industrial institution is exceptionally good and that the latest war escapade will save other people from bad dictators or whatever. Through the power of propaganda this scheme works again and again. Caitlin Johnstone says that Americans are the most propagandized group of people on the planet. Billions and billions are spent on corporate media all along the left-right spectrum to support the war machine.

To use Walter Wink’s analysis of the powers and the spirituality of institutions, he might say that America has a demon. Our nation has become possessed by Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex that is now more powerful than congress and the presidency. Our trajectory is endless war and the manufacture and sale of the implements of war. It has nothing to do with whether individual soldiers are good or bad or Americans are good or bad, it is about the spirituality, the soul of our nation. The Powers, Wink would say, and he did say it about America, are fallen and no longer serve the purpose for which they were created.

It is the task of the church, even to the extent of losing its own life, to unmask, name, and engage these powers, so that the Holy Spirit might redeem them and redirect them to their divine mission. It is good to have a military. The military exists to protect a nation’s borders from real enemies, not manufactured enemies. The military does not exist to invade other countries under false pretenses.

But we are scared. How can this preacher say this? He is speaking against the red, white and blue! No I am not. I am speaking against the demon that has possessed our nation. We need to cast it out. That is the mission of the church. That is the activism of the church.

That is what Jesus was doing. That is what his followers were doing. That is what got him killed. That is what got his followers killed. But God raised him from the dead and in that ongoing resurrection, God awakens all of us to wipe the film from our eyes and see what is real. We are called to discern the difference between the divine and the demonic and unmask, name, and engage these demonic powers. It is the church’s business.

I will suggest that it was because of the alternative media, people who have been working to unmask, name, and engage the demonic spirituality of the war machine, that the false flag against the Japanese tanker was named as such. Iran didn’t do it despite what the White House said. It was a false flag. It was because people pointed it out and did not just believe the propaganda fed to and through the corporate media that we might have been saved at least for a day from another war.

My point is that unmasking, naming, and engaging the demonic is not an impossible task.
But it is a courageous task.
It is the church’s task.
May we embrace it.

Amen.

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.

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.


9/11 Unmasked, Part 2: A Conversation with Dwain Deets about Able Danger

Former NASA engineer explains evidence that an intelligence operation, Able Danger, knew Mohammad Atta was in the US yet was forbidden to share this information with the FBI 

This is the second of a four-part series on 9/11, specifically, the work of the 9/11 Consensus Panel, an international 23 person panel of 9/11 researchers. The panel was spearheaded by Dr. David Ray Griffin and Elizabeth Woodworth. They have published a book on their work entitled, 9/11 Unmasked: An International Review Panel Investigation. (Read a review). This is from the book’s cover:

9/11 Unmasked is the result of a six-year investigation by an international review panel, which has provided 51 points illustrating the problematic status of all the major claims in the official account of the 9/11 attacks, some of which are obviously false. Most dramatically, the official account of the destruction of the Twin Towers and World Trade Center 7 could not possibly be true, unless the laws of physics were suspended that day. But other claims made by the official account including the claims that the 9/11 planes were taken over by al-Qaeda hijackers, that one of those hijackers flew his plane into the Pentagon, and that passengers on the planes telephoned people on the ground are also demonstrably false.

The book reports only points about which the panel reached consensus by using the best-evidence consensus model employed in medical research. The panel is composed of experts about 9/11 from many disciplines, including physics, chemistry, structural engineering, aeronautical engineering, and jurisprudence.

Last week Elizabeth Woodworth and Dr. Graeme MacQueen were my guests to discuss the purpose, goal, and work of the panel as well as address a few of the 51 points including foreknowledge of world trade center 7’s collapse, eyewitness testimony of explosions prior to the collapse of the world trade center towers, military drills that had been moved to September 11th, and evidence for steel recovered from world trade center 7’s collapse.

This week, I speak with consensus panel member Dwain Deets. Our conversation will focus on the alleged hijackers, including an analysis of whether or not phone calls could have been made from any of the planes, the strange story of Mohammad Atta (or were there two Mohammad Attas?), and, in particular, Able Danger, an 80 person intelligence network that identified an al-Qaeda cell in the Bronx, led by “Mohamed Atta” back in January 2000.

You will also hear a portion of an interview I had with David Ray Griffin in which he discusses the work of the panel and evidence showing that Dick Cheney lied about his whereabouts on 9/11.

Dwain Deets is the Former Director for Research Engineering and Aerospace Projects at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, where his work earned him the NASA Exceptional Service Award and inclusion in “Who’s Who in Science and Engineering.”

Deets served as a Director on the Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth Board from 2008 to 2009. He spoke on 9/11-Truth subjects on several occasions. The titles of these presentations include The Puzzling WTC7 Destruction; United 93: A Tale of Two Planes?; 9/11 Consensus Panel; and The Pentagon 757.

Other episodes in this series include:

1) 9/11 Unmasked: A Conversation with Elizabeth Woodworth and Graeme McQueen

2) 9/11 Unmasked, Part 2: A Conversation with Dwain Deets about Able Danger

3) 9/11 Unmasked, Part 3: David Chandler and the Day of Magical Physics

4) 9/11 Unmasked, Part 4: Fran Shure and the Problem of the Media

PS 133 Deets

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PS 133 Deets Transcription

9/11 Unmasked: A Conversation with Elizabeth Woodworth and Graeme MacQueen about the 9/11 Consensus Panel

This is the first of a four-part series on the new book released by the 9/11 Consensus Panel9/11 Unmasked: An International Review Panel Investigation.

From the book’s back cover:

“9/11 Unmasked is the result of a six-year investigation by an international review panel, which has provided 51 points illustrating the problematic status of all the major claims in the official account of the 9/11 attacks, some of which are obviously false. Most dramatically, the official account of the destruction of the Twin Towers and World Trade Center 7 could not possibly be true, unless the laws of physics were suspended that day. But other claims made by the official account including the claims that the 9/11 planes were taken over by al-Qaeda hijackers, that one of those hijackers flew his plane into the Pentagon, and that passengers on the planes telephoned people on the ground are also demonstrably false. 

The book reports only points about which the panel reached consensus by using the best-evidence consensus model employed in medical research. The panel is composed of experts about 9/11 from many disciplines, including physics, chemistry, structural engineering, aeronautical engineering, and jurisprudence.” 

Panelists in the four-part series include Dwain DeetsFrances ShureDavid Chandler, Graeme MacQueen, and Elizabeth Woodworth.

In this first episode, Elizabeth Woodworth and Graeme MacQueen discuss

Elizabeth Woodworth is a researcher and writer on both 9/11 and climate change science and activism. She co-founded the 9/11 Consensus Panel in 2011 with Dr. David Ray Griffin, with whom she has co-authored two books, Unprecedented Climate Mobilization, and 9/11 Unmasked: An International Review Panel Investigation. Elizabeth was head librarian for the British Columbia Ministry of Health from 1978-2002.  She also co-wrote with Peter Carter, Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial and Game-Changers for SurvivalDr. Carter was on Progressive Spirit in June 2018.

Dr. Graeme MacQueen received his Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from Harvard University and became founding Director of the Centre for Peace Studies at McMaster University in Canada. Since his retirement he has carried out research on the War on Terror. In addition to his work on the 9/11 Consensus Panel he has been a co-editor of the Journal of 9/11 Studies and an organizer of the 2011 Toronto Hearings on 9/11. Dr. MacQueen was on Progressive Spirit in 2017.

See Graeme MacQueen’s videos on eyewitness reports regarding explosions and foreknowledge of WTC7’s collapse.

Other episodes in this series include:

1) 9/11 Unmasked: A Conversation with Elizabeth Woodworth and Graeme McQueen

2) 9/11 Unmasked, Part 2: A Conversation with Dwain Deets about Able Danger

3) 9/11 Unmasked, Part 3: David Chandler and the Day of Magical Physics

4) 9/11 Unmasked, Part 4: Fran Shure and the Problem of the Media

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PS 132 Woodworth McQueen Transcript