God – Pro Gun?

PRO GOD, PRO LIFE, PRO GUN.

Bernie and I saw the above on a bumper sticker driving home this morning from the mechanic’s shop.

I said, “What!!!???” I get the pro-life part. God, after all, is the source of life, all life. God loves all life, God’s own creation…all of it. But Pro Gun? Really? A person should be guaranteed his or her right to own a gun because God is standing behind them? Really? This same God who is in love with all life would approve of something that has the sole purpose of taking life away?

Now I have seen everything.

What I Want in a President

Another Democratic presidential debate tonight! Thankfully, there are only six contestants. I remember the Republican debates in 2016. Yikes! So much nastiness! These debates are deteriorating to nastiness as well. People say that is good. It prepares them for the final debates with their Republican contender – implying that we should expect that to be nastiness extraordinaire. Also it helps to distinguish the candidates one from the other when the Democratic positions are pretty close between candidates. It makes me weary. I will watch tonight because I am a good citizen but I still have no clue where my vote will land.

Most Democrats hold positions similar to mine. For example, I am in favor of universal health care, making higher education accessible to all and immigration reform that has some semblance of compassion. Everyone qualifies, pretty much, except for the nitty-gritty details. I am not smart enough to know whose ideas will actually work. So all of this is not going go help me narrow down my choice.

As I was pondering this morning, I realized what I want most of all in a leader. I want a president that is a person of character: honesty, humility, compassion, and respect for others. I want to be able to trust him or her. I think back at the many presidents that have come and gone over my years as a voting citizen and the fact is, some of my favorites weren’t all that good as presidents. They made mistakes, sometimes with dire consequences. Some were Republicans, some Democrats. But I had a great deal of respect for them because they were good human beings.

I am not naive. I know the importance of experience, smart solutions and the ability to work with the other branches of government. But I sure hope for someone I can proud to represent the country.

JOHN WESLEY – “LIBERAL” OF THE 18TH CENTURY

Posted today on Facebook is a JohnWesley’s Manifesto. Wesley was an 18th century religious leader, founder of the Methodist movement which grew into the Methodist Church. Take a look:

1. Reduce the gap between rich people and poor people.

2. Help everyone to have a job.

3. Help the poorest, including introducing a minimum wage.

4. Offer the best possible education.

5. Help everyone to feel they can make a difference.

6. Promote tolerance.

7. Promote equal treatment for women.

8. Create a society based on values and not on profit and consumerism.

9. End all forms of slavery.

10. Avoid getting into wars.

11. Share the love of God with others.

12. Care for the environment.

These words today would be considered a “liberal” point of view and rejected by those who consider the conservative view of a higher spiritual value. But Wesley was living in the 18th century under monarchical rule. If “conservative” tends to be back-looking, Wesley is pretty far back. From my perspective the above is not liberal or conservative but universal as a practical way of being a respecter of all as equal in the sight of God. Everyone….everyone…is my brother or sister. All the advantages I have I will work for them to have as well. Being a Christian, I see the above as a practical way of Jesus’ teachings being lived out in the world today.

So why are these ideas so adamantly rejected today by so many, even people of faith? I struggle.

COMING HOME TO WORDS OF WAR

I was on a retreat this weekend and left with an amazing sense of peace. Home again, I unpacked and took a much needed nap before I checked the news on my computer. I saw words about threats and bombings and even WWIII.

Here is what I want to say about this news:

War never leads to peace.

War and killing are never God’s will.

God never takes sides in a conflict.

Any leader who claims that he is speaking for God is a manipulator and liar.

I am not allowing these events to mess with my peace. The peace I feel is a gift. Jesus said, “I give you peace,” but he added lest his followers should misunderstand, “The peace I give is not what the world gives.”

Return to Pacifism

Watching the news in recent weeks and months, I find myself searching for that small space inside me that once held a faith in pacifism. Today, I felt a hope of renewal as I read a reflection by Richard Rohr. Lately he has been writing about mystics, perhaps for the same reason that I have had this yearning. Today he highlighted Catholic priest and peace activist, John Dear. He quotes Dear in his explanation of what it means to be a pacifist:

“What does it mean to be nonviolent? Coming from the Hindu/Sanskrit word ahimsa, nonviolence was defined long ago as ‘causing no harm, no injury,no violence to any living creature.’ But Mohandas Gandhi insisted that it means much more than that. He said nonviolence was the active, unconditional love toward others, the persistent pursuit of truth, the radical  forgiveness toward those who hurt us, the steadfast resistance to every form of evil, and even the loving willingness to accept suffering in the struggle for justice without the desire for retaliation….”

Rohr suggests another way understand nonviolence by claiming our fundamental identity  as the beloved (children) of the God of peace….This is what Jesus taught: “Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called the sons and daughters of God…Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors, then you shall be sons and daughters of the God who makes the sun rise  on the good and the bad, and causes rain to fall on the just and unjust.

If we believe that we are all children of God, then every human being is our sibling, he says, “then we can never hurt anyone on the earth ever again, much less be silent in the face of war, starvation, racism, sexism, nuclear weapons, systemic injustice and environmental destruction…”

When I meditate on the words that Jesus spoke and the life he lived, it baffles me that any acts of violence, ANY harmful acts against other human beings can be justified in his name. I feel the light again, a tiny flame now, but I hope that in finding others who believe in peace as a way of life, it will burn brightly once again.

Loving Kindness Meditation Part 1.

I am reading a book by Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman, How God Changes Your Brain. Because it has been the case for myself, I agree with the authors who maintain the importance of meditation in achieving changes in one’s brain. These scientists share the technicalities of actual changes that occur in the brain when one meditates. Fear and anger can be transformed into serenity and love for those who regularly practice meditation. I have been practicing meditation for years and I can assure you that the person who interacts with the world is far different than she was before she began.

The meditation I read about this morning is especially powerful and I would like to share it as background before I share how to do the practice which I first knew as the Loving Kindness Meditation. These authors entitle the section “Sending Kindness and Forgiveness to Others”. They suggest a person use this meditation when one is feeling dislike or hate toward another person. The people in my life that fall into this category are few these days, but when I get outside my own circle there are individuals that fit. Today, politicians are for sure on my list. I will start by saying that hatred for particular political leaders or people who disagree with us politically is an epidemic today and a real danger to the future of the human race. Let me be clear. It isn’t the differences between people that are dangerous, but their hatred. Hatred goes beyond discomfort and dislike in that one wishes harm to come to the one hated. When hate occurs in masses, it can lead to war and genocides. This is why the authors suggest that Loving Kindness meditation may be the most important, yet the most difficult, form of meditation. When we practice Loving Kindness meditation we are changing the world.

The meditation is the most difficult, not because it is so complex, but because of what it demands. It is the cornerstone of every religious tradition – the golden rule, loving your neighbor as yourself. But Jesus and the Buddha went one step further. They taught that we should love our enemies as well. This is where the difficulty lies.

Ghandi once counseled a Hindu whose child was killed during a religious war suggesting that the man adopt an orphan, but he was to raise the child as Muslim. He knew that this would eventually alleviate the man’s religious hatred.

What the meditation helps with is forgiveness. Forgiveness improves family relationships, decreases depressive symptoms while enhancing empathy and life satisfaction. Even the act of choosing to replace an unforgiving attitude with a forgiving one affects the peripheral and central nervous systems in ways that promote physical and psychological health. 

The authors suggest that we take a moment to think about a person we hate and imagine sending him or her love. I once set out to pray for each person serving in the U.S. Congress in this way. I completed the Senate but was unable to get through all of the members of the House. I found some politicians easy to think of kindly, but others, I struggled with. I was able to give my words, but my heart was resistant.

If you are one who hates a particular person or political party, or ethnic or racial group, imagine the difference your achieving a change of heart does for world peace. This was the teaching of Peace Pilgrim who inspired this blog.

In my next blog, I will share with you the meditation.

Why I argue on Facebook

I am reading Love Your Enemies by Arthur C. Brooks. It is the first book I have read by a person on the conservative right that I can get excited about. Read it, especially if you are a liberal.

The subtitle is “How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt”. I wish Brooks were sitting with me on my back porch as I read so I could throw out my ideas. I throw them out anyway even though he is not here. Sometimes I bring them onto Facebook or into my blog where at least someone is listening. I hope to do some writing about his ideas. Actually I have, though not in reference to Brooks’ book.

The title of this blog is “My Thoughts on Peace”. It was inspired by Peace Pilgrim, a woman who walked across the United States on foot carrying only a tooth brush, a comb, a pencil and pad of paper, stamps and envelopes, and two documents: a message to the United Nations and another to the United States Congress. As she traveled, she stopped and spoke wherever she was invited and she collected signatures for her documents. This is what she did for peace. I use my blog to share a message of peace.

My belief in peace is grounded in my Christian faith. Jesus’ words are my foundation, just as they were for Peace. I am not alone in my convictions. Quakers are pacifists, for example. Among their ranks have been conscientious objectors and people who served as medics in the military because they believed in the cause of their country but cannot support killing.

Quakers also believe in equality. They have been beheaded for refusing to bow down to the king because, in their belief, the king is just another equal human being with a job to do. Their basic belief is that we are all equally children of a loving God which forms the bases of their non-violence as well. They believe that there is “that of God” in everyone.

Simplicity is another of their values. I aspire to simplicity to the point of annoyance to friends and family. It is okay. I annoy myself, as well.

I try to promote peace here on my blog but also in other media such as Facebook. If I read an attack by a person with my own political views upon someone with an opposing view, I attack the attack. Everyone has a right, even a responsibility, to express their opinion about issues. We all see things from a different perspective and as we talk and listen, we become more aware of the limitations of our own perspective. At the same time, we are influencing another. But this exchange can only happen in a spirit of mutuality. When we attack another or attack their group, we put up walls instead of tearing them down. We accomplish nothing except contempt and broken relationships.

Mothers Day began when a woman in America took a stand for peace, Julia Ward Howe, who served as a nurse during the Civil War. She wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” calling all mothers to work toward world peace. Ann Jarvice, another Civil War activist, organized “Mother’s Friendship Day” to foster reconciliation between Union and Confederate soldiers. The work of these and other women led to the official declaration by Congress establishing Mother’s Day as a national holiday.

Over the years, Mother’s Day has been redirected to honor mothers, but I have not forgotten its origins. I have chosen to unite myself with its original intent: to promote peace in the world.

I think Arthur Brooks’ book Love Your Enemies will go far in promoting peace, especially in our own nation. His principles can help families and sectors of our society find peace, as well. I am delighted to share the book with you. I am delighted to be hearing his words from a conservative. It really pokes a hole in the demonizing that comes from the political left. Good! A step toward peace!