Monthly Archives: February 2015

We All Win the Final Battle of the Civil War

Beneath the surface, the U.S. Civil War fought by opposing armies in the middle of the 19th century continues to rage within many hearts and minds throughout the United States as we struggle with opposing values, ideals and priorities.  Issues that preceded the outbreak of armed hostilities between slave-holding states and slave-releasing states still breed unrest throughout our troubled nation.  Our issues are embodied in and expressed through economic competition fueled by heady pride untempered by heartfelt justice and compassion.  Episodes of armed violence that erupt sporadically are symptoms of our unresolved unrest and our unconscious struggle to find lasting peace of mind, hope of heart and joy of spirit.  We will win the battle for peace, hope and joy once we bring our unconscious struggle into the light of our conscious awareness and stop submerging it beneath pretenses of complacency and satisfaction with the status quo.

What is the status quo most of us throughout the U.S. seek to maintain that is actually perpetuating the violence that dismays us?  What are we complaining about that we could address effectively if only we were to see it clearly rather than hide from it in the smoke of emotionally heated power struggles?  The paradox is that we cannot see clearly what is not yet visible to us until we allow the smoke of anger-fueled battles to clear from our fields of vision and give higher priority to seeing clearly than to battling endlessly for the power to have things our way.  Burning anger as a fuel for power struggles pollutes the air of reasoned discussions.  Its fumes mask the real issues and raise barriers of defensiveness on all sides. So long as we angrily assert as necessary to our pride the right to have our own way in disregard of others’ dignity, we will remain embattled in anger-fueled power struggles and blind to the alternative within which all can have our dignified way in peace because power is shared equitably.

As an alternative fuel for well-reasoned discussions, a passion for peace burns cleanly.  Angry battles are unnecessary.  Anger is an early stage of grief.  It is not a sign of strength but instead a sign of not-yet-healed woundedness.  Peace is a sign of strength even while enduring woundedness.  Peace does not ignore painful issues and their associated wounds.  It addresses them with reason, seeking to find the root cause of wound-inflicting conflicts and resolving each to every reasoning person’s satisfaction.  Anger’s presence is a sign of unresolved emotions bullying their way through the waves of confusion and chaos to ram against ideas angered minds do not find agreeable – or silently swarming beneath the waves seeking to torpedo ideas presented by competitors in a battle for control of the storm-tossed seas upon which humanity sails.  Battle-won control does not assure that lasting peace will follow.  Battle-weariness is not the same as peace.  It is more likely that another round of conflict will arise out of painful memories associated with earlier battles than that sustainable peace will prevail unless our memories are healed of our pain.

No matter how grand a floated ideal may be anger can blow it out of the water.  Angry battles to preserve pride as the measure of individual or group success are counter-productive.  They insure that all successes are temporary and decline in their capacity to satisfy.  Anger acts like an addictive drug because adrenalin that accompanies anger is an addictive chemical.  Angry people become addicted to our own body chemistry. We become our own drug pushers, provoking angry conflicts in order to get high. The more one uses anger to justify adrenalin-pumped up action the more one has to escalate its use to produce the next high.  Coming down from an angry high does not feel good.  Withdrawal from habits of anger can feel miserable.  Yet, angry battles to produce pride’s highs only perpetuate the endless rounds of unsatisfying outcomes we’ve endured. It’s time to consider the alternative fully and cease to sacrifice our lives on altars of anger’s futility.  It’s time to be wiser and promote peace in place of pride as our priority – and as our privilege.

I am heir to a rare but not entirely unique privilege.  I have the privilege of having been cast out of pride’s status quo and required to remain on the sidelines relatively free of battlefields.  As a result, my battle-remote field of vision is less smoke-filled and more prone to see with peace and hope-filled joy what embattled peoples have not yet realized is right before our eyes and readily within our reach. What I see in my field of vision are masses of people who have endured much pain in their struggles to survive amid centuries of economic competition that is now proving totally incapable of satisfying many while it relentlessly channels economic prosperity and pseudo-privileges of pride to relatively few. This distorted distribution of economic benefits is another symptom of the underlying, not-yet-unresolved issues about which I write.

Anger in reaction to harmful economic inequities is understandable.  Anger is not bad. It’s simply not the condition under which we can adequately address lasting resolution of issues that preserve economic inequities.  We who weary of feeling powerless and inadequate to the task of resolving these issues need to exercise wisdom to develop long-term solutions to these long-standing inequities.  Anger interferes with our capacity to listen to and heed wisdom’s guidance.  Let us not judge and condemn ourselves for feeling angry or afraid.  Anger and fear are understandable reactions to painful belief in our powerlessness.  Yet we can learn to set aside our angry reactions and our fears of perpetual powerlessness to confer together in communal peace that arises from personal self-disciplines of inner peace.  Every person has the capacity to contribute personal inner peace to an outpouring of communal peace – no matter how extremely justified anger and fear seem.

As has long been trumpeted, “To the victors go the spoils!”  Every war has required that there be winners and losers, victors and victims, heroes and scapegoats.  The outcome of wars has always been to allocate the spoils of war so as to perpetuate pride’s status quo within which battles of one kind or another remain inevitable in recurring cycles of warfare.  Lessons of pride learned in earlier wars cause warring parties to modify their methods and submerge their battles and their allegiances beneath the surface out of sight – hidden behind charming smiles and soothing words that mask their wounded pride.  Pride’s lessons preserve the distrust and secrecy that undergird all warfare rather than promote the alternative of trust and transparency upon which lasting peace may be established.

As yet the pride-free lesson has not been learned that all forms of battle for one person’s, group’s, nation’s or culture’s supposedly superior way of life at the expense of another’s supposedly inferior way of life represent the same mistake repeated over and over again with insane results only the hardest-hearted prideful person could admire.  One proof of such insanity is found in the fact that the victors to whom the spoils of each successive battle go progressively decrease in proportion to the battle’s victims.  Smaller grows the pool of spoils-receiving winners as larger grow the widening pools of losers from whom the spoils are drained.  Fewer and fatter are pride’s vampires as larger grow the pools of blood from which they drink.  If blood is a symbol for life, then no one wins when blood is distributed throughout the body of humanity with pride-rewarding inequity.  Distribution of the spoils of war to preserve pride’s dominion within the status quo – no matter how artfully disguised as change – spoils everything for everyone in the long run as the health of humanity’s limbs, organs and associated functions decline.  Pride is healthy for no one, not even for the privileged few who cling to their pride at all cost to themselves and everyone.

The world is awash with symptoms of the futility of perpetuating pride’s competition-driven status quo.  It is time for reasoning human beings to set aside pride and shame out of concern for the welfare of the whole.  To stop perpetuating the status quo of declining human functioning (sometimes called “systemic” or “institutionalized” dehumanization or exploitation) we must look squarely at what pride’s status quo is and let it go as an alternative no longer appealing to us.  We must grow wise enough to spot it in all its forms and respond each time it is offered to us by admitting “Been there, done that” and engage in it no more.  Until we repent of our participation in pride’s status quo and commit ourselves to living according to the only true alternative of peace-generating humility, we are doomed to repeat the errors of our past and unwittingly participate in perpetuating violence while the alternative of peace remains unseen yet right at hand.  I write now to invite those who want to see what I see to join me in seeing it as our collective vision.  We can choose to embrace peace together and establish it as a viable alternative to futility so that others can consider it when it becomes their turn to do so.  Love’s humility is the alternative to pride’s futility.  The more love’s alternative exists in tangible expression because its practitioners reveal it through our lifestyles, the more clearly others will behold it and find it appealing to them as well.  By our commitment to love’s alternative even in its birth struggles, we will invite others to win together with us the one final universal battle in the Civil War.  No war is civil.  Peace is.  We must first reclaim peace within our hearts before we can share it with others in sustainable Civil Peace.

The alternative about which I write is a blend of the most promising of all individuals’ and cultures’ ways of life and visions for a better future.  Love’s most promising multicultural ways and visions have humbly endured the tests of time.  Just as the Earth’s current non-aristocratic masses are enduring much pain and suffering in the modern age, enduring pain and suffering has been the norm for the masses throughout human history. All viable cultures’ most highly evolved ways of endurance and visions for relief from pain and suffering blend together into the Alternative I’ve seen is not only possible for us all to share but actually the only viable alternative to warfare and its pain and suffering.  As the humble sages and elders of every reasoning culture teach, we either choose to perpetuate our suffering or to relieve it, heal from it and live beyond it.  Habits of pride passed along through many generations conspire to perpetuate our suffering. Yet in one generation we can learn to set aside pride’s habits if we want them set aside in order to embrace the Alternative to suffering about which so many dream.  Those of us who set our hearts resolutely upon the purpose of embracing life fully as wise and humble people of all ages can embrace life for all of humanity.  We can be the hearts, minds, hands and arms that reach out to embrace the whole solution for us all. Voluntary humility achieved through surrender of both our pride and shame, not forcefully imposed humiliation, will save humanity for all of us.

The U.S. Civil War was called the “war between the states.” The universal civil war is also a war between states.  But it is a war between two states, just as the U.S. Civil War was a war between two orientations towards freedom.  The universal civil war is also a battle about freedom.  It is a war between on the one hand A) those who believe in slavery for some (or many or most) and freedom for many (or some or few) and on the other hand B) those who believe in slavery for none and freedom for all.   The choice of sides in this universal war is that stark.  It is a radical choice because it reaches to the root of freedom’s origin and insists that no compromise with principles of universal freedom can be practiced without sacrificing freedom for us all.  Pride’s status quo stands for perpetual compromise and its resulting loss of universal freedom and substitution of universal slavery.  The Misery Compromise has been tried and failed.  Attempts to compromise have proven that misery cannot be distributed to some without inflicting it on all.  It is time to take a radically uncompromising stand for liberty and justice for all or suffer slavery for our children and their children.

The war between the states about which I write is a war between two states of mind – one free and one enslaved.  Those who have endured much pain and suffering may find it hard to believe that the alternative to suffering actually exists – already available to be accepted, adopted and appreciated every moment of the day and night.  Yet, because it is true that those who endure all things have endured as love endures, this alternative that love offers is already the alternative for which those who have suffered most are well-prepared. If love endures all things and you’ve endured all things, then you are love.  Your essence is love that endures for eternity.  The endurance of suffering is simply a period of preparation for rising beyond suffering as you accept release from misinterpreted lessons of suffering. The key false lesson suffering seeks to teach you is that you are enslaved forever to suffering, destined to perpetuate it always either as a sufferer or as one who inflicts suffering.  This key lesson is not true.  It is a misunderstanding adopted by a mind confused by pain and the fear of greater pain.  To avoid greater pain, our minds interpreted past pain as proof of our unworthiness to be freely loved and loving as if our destiny is to always suffer love’s betrayal and loss.  Instead of abiding by this false lesson, we can choose to neither endure suffering nor inflict it.  That’s what the Golden Rule teaches.  This rule is honored in some version by every benevolent spiritual path of faith. (See http://www.religioustolerance.org/reciproc.htm)  No one is excluded from the power of the Golden Rule.

The Alternative within which you naturally belong but may not yet behold is the Alternative of Love. It is the Alternative towards which every version of the Golden Rule points. It is a state not only of mind but of heart as well.  It is the natural state into which we emerge as we practice reconciling our minds with our hearts and allow the best of reconciled blends to merge as the truth of who we are.  The war between the two possible states of mind can be won by any individual who decides to win it within himself or herself and learn to rise beyond his or her own inner conflicts to discover and practice inner peace. It is a war won by daring to open one’s heart to love again and allowing love’s power to reconcile all conflicting points of view in the light of eternal love’s humility.  As individuals welcome heartfelt inner peace as their new norm and join with other welcomers, their peace-enriched community emerges beyond battles abandoned in favor of reconciliation and cooperation in rebuilding relationships within the sustainable social ecosystem of humble love.

To rise beyond the battlefields into the Alternative Way that does not recycle its adherents into another round of conflict and renewed pain and suffering requires that we each let go of ego and its sightless habits.  We must learn to be increasingly more insightful in order to overcome the ego’s sightlessness and see the vision that emerges from the ego’s smoke and mirror battle tactics.  We must realize that pride and shame are flipsides of the ego’s coin and not truly alternatives to each other. They are inseparable, complimentary twins.  We are not better off by becoming proud instead of ashamed.  Our life is not improved by adopting stigmata of shame as badges of pride to flaunt before those who once shamed us.  In fact to do so adopts the very values, priorities and pride-shame duality of thinking that our prior oppressors believe in.  It is a mistake to adopt their orientation towards relationships and still expect not to join them in their loveless lifestyles devoted to competitive individuality and devoid of heart-satisfying intimacy.   Peace awaits those who shed our armor of pride and allow our wounds of shame to heal in love’s light instead of remaining hidden to fester in fear’s darkness.

In modern times, those once stigmatized and taught to feel ashamed for being a person of darker color skin, of non-heterosexual orientation, of non-mainstream gender orientation, of feminine qualities or of other labels low in social power and approval have tried to convert their badges of shame into badges of pride by rallying together and no longer allowing themselves to remain isolated from each other in hiding.  They have “come out” of hiding, claimed their social standing as legitimate and empowered themselves through the ballot box in a republic in which the right to vote offers illusions of power even when election outcomes are heavily swayed by the money of the dominant few.  Unfortunately, they have also claimed their legitimacy on the ego’s terms of pride as if ego sets beneficial terms.  Ego can never set the terms of love.  It sets the terms of fear, terror and atrocities inflicted by one upon another, individually or in groups. The ego offers no alternative to itself because it knows of none it can tolerate.  It is close-minded – a closed thought system from which there is no escape or relief unless one exits the system entirely.  We must shed our egos to be free of both pride and shame – and free to experience love instead.  Ego-dominated minds repudiate love.  Our hearts prefer to welcome it. Let our minds now agree with our hearts’ desire to know love by experience.  That is wisdom’s way.

The ego’s way is to set stereotypes and images upon the altars of our hearts and minds and worship them as false idols.  Ego claims that our failure to measure up to the “ideals” of its stereotypes and images defines us as failures – as shame-faced losers in the battle for popularity and prosperity.  Fame and fortune are two of the ego’s false goals by which it seduces us into following its dictates and considering no other power possible.  But there is another power that is not only possible but inevitable.  It is the power that ego fears and seeks to teach us to ignore and to avoid at all costs if we become aware of it.  In the presence of this power, the ego fades to nothing, not to black but to invisibility in its clearly spotted uselessness.  The ego justifies its existence based on our needing to be defended from threats of pain and suffering. Yet paradoxically only when we adopt the ego’s ways are we actually exposed to suffering as accumulated pain.  Without the ego we are invulnerable to suffering, not because we cannot feel pain but because we can always heal from every form of pain and rise free from pain again.  We have no need or desire to accumulate and retain pain as suffering.  Only the ego bids us to retain pain and store it up as suffering to serve as the motivation for lessons the ego teaches.  Pain drags us down into the ego’s realm of fear, including the fear that suffering is endless – as our form of hell in Time and/or Eternity, a punishment we somehow deserve and must preserve.  As fear’s alternative, love lifts us up where we belong – healed of all pain associated with guilt and punishment and free to soar as innocence personified.

The ego’s definitions of all things are false.  It defines freedom as enslavement to perpetual attempts to avoid pain and to escape from suffering by self-indulgence in mind-numbing activities that lead to heartless indifference to others and ourselves as well.  The ego teaches us to be blind to the reality that we cannot be indifferent to the pain and suffering of others without adopting pain and suffering as our personal experience too.  The Golden Rule always operates, whether we treat others well or poorly.  No amount of ego’s escapist ways (no matter to what extravagance indulged in) will free us from our confrontations with the pain and suffering that we carry around inside. Only by achieving inner peace through inner healing will we experience the freedom we desire.  Our hearts desire.  Our minds aspire.  When we set our minds to aspire after what our hearts truly desire, we will encounter wisdom and gradually become wiser in all our ways.  The Alternative Way is Wisdom’s Way taught by all the ancient paths of spiritually rooted benevolence and humble simplicity.

How long do you prefer to remain fooled by the ego into believing in a fruitless quest for the joys of deeper satisfaction where such joys and satisfaction do not await you?  The ego’s path of futility appears to be populated by many diverse choices.  But that diversity is an illusion so long as all choices are based on fear of strangers and fear of forgiving others (and yourself) for the pain and suffering you associate with them (and yourself).  All who have endeavored to live by ego’s teachings have fallen into the same pit of sightless battles by which we blind ourselves and others to the truth we might otherwise see. Our pain blinds us to the true reason for our suffering.  By trying to turn the tables to cause others to suffer instead, we are only perpetuating the suffering we all endure and adopting the ego’s way as if it is the only way.  We are mistaken to take pride in the suffering we endure or in the pain we avoid by transferring it to others instead.  We are mistaken to be ashamed of the pain and suffering we have endured as if we’ve done something so wrong as to never be forgiven for it.  We are mistaken to interpret pain as punishment for guilt we imagine is ours to carry for a lifetime.  Release from secret inner agonies of guilt arrives with shedding of our egos.

We are also mistaken to be afraid to face the stranger who hides within us as if our secret side is a guilt-ridden creature of shame (when this is not so!). We are equally mistaken to fear strangers we see around us as if they are the reason for our inability to feel free of guilt and shame (again not so!).  Our secret feelings of unrelieved guilt and shame compel us to try to outperform others to atone for our secret guilt and shame. This false need to feel guilty is all part of the ego’s game to keep us its prisoners for fear that the skeletons in our secret closets will destroy us if revealed.  To heap more guilt and shame upon ourselves for failing to outperform others overburdens our own hearts and minds with immense distress.  There is no relief or healing in competing ruthlessly to survive or come out on top.  Pride is not an antidote to guilt or shame.  It is a cover-up, not a cure. Only our devoted walk along humility’s centered path will lead us beyond the dilemmas of the internal civil war between two states of mind.  No matter how submerged beyond our conscious awareness it may be, an endless civil war between pride and shame (and guilt and blame) enslaves us all.   We can choose instead to be free by choosing consciously to liberate each other from the ego’s grip on our hearts and minds.  Liberty and justice for all depends upon our cooperation in each other’s liberation from the ego.

Xenophobia and unforgiveness are two symptoms of the ego’s unhealthiness that we can intentionally address regardless of our lack of health insurance coverage.  We need no one’s permission to master the arts of hospitality to strangers and forgiveness of all peoples (including ourselves).  We will eventually see the smokeless, unpolluted vision and surrender our former attitudes and practices once we tire of the insanity of repeating the ego’s varied ways of preserving our fears and avoiding true forgiveness for fear of appearing weak if we forgive.  The strong forgive.  The self-confident and secure offer hospitality to strangers. (Please watch this video if you might appreciate more evidence of forgiveness’ value: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSCx1XS0f8Y.)

We will win the final battle of the Civil War because it is a battle Love has already won for us.  All we need to do now is decide which side of the finished battle we stand on – the side of the winner or the loser.  The battle itself is over.  Love welcomes all to stand up as winners.  No one is a loser because all of us are lovers-in-training, never losers.  The battle was between Love and the Ego that demanded that pride and shame rather than humility and compassion should prevail as standards for humanity.  Love prevails within humility as we walk on Earth doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with Love as our God and the God of everyone.  There is no other God but the Love that endures all things, the tender-hearted Being of Divine Love whose grace, mercy and forgiveness is infinitely unlimited.  This is the One with Whom our hearts yearn to reunite and share life.  It is the One who stands ready, willing and able to reunite with us upon our wholehearted willingness to surrender our ego and all our ego’s habits of a lifetime to allow us to learn and practice for the rest of our lives the habits of Eternity’s Loving Alternative.

Once believers in Love acknowledge and accept Love’s Grand Design and allow Love to define whom Love includes within the scope of Its Design, Love will reign universal and supreme for all.  Only by our mistaken exercise of our free will in favor our own enslavement to the ego can Love’s Alternative Way be temporarily thwarted.  Once believers in Love embrace and implement Love’s Grand Design, none will be left out of Divine Love as shared here on Earth because those who live under Love’s authority will welcome all who may think of themselves as strangers to Love and help them to discover that they were wrong about being strangers to Love.  Every stranger who believes himself or herself to be estranged from Love lives that way only because of his or her mistaken belief in the permanence of that estrangement.  In Love’s eyes, there never has been any estrangement, only a misunderstanding on the part of each person who mistakenly believes that separation from Love is possible and must be endured forever as punishment for having somehow lost love’s favor by being wrong.  Being wrong does not offend love any more than being right guarantees love’s favor.  Favoring equally both the ones who are right (or believe they are right or fight to prove they are right) and the ones who are wrong (or accept the possibility of being wrong or cease to fight to prove they are not wrong), love invites us all to meet, share love together and reconcile our differences in peace.

Oneness with (non-separation from) Divine Love has always been the condition that exists between Love and every member of the human race.  Believers and non-believers in Love who do not yet “know by experience” of the eternal existence of this oneness or unity between Love and humans have allowed their minds to be clouded by battle-smoked beliefs and fears that temporarily disrupt their capacity to experience our eternal oneness.  The path towards such experiential knowing begins with a change of belief in the possibility of Love and Oneness with It.  Only when a person believes can he or she experience that in which he or she believes.  Believing precedes experiential knowing.

In an earlier era when most people believed the Earth was flat, explorers who believed that the Earth was instead spherical and then acted upon their non-mainstream belief encountered opportunities to experience the Earth’s spherical reality and eventually revealed its spherical nature to all who believed their reports. In the current era when many people believe that peace and love are flatly impossible, every person who chooses to no longer conform to a belief in the impossibility of peace and love will be free to explore Love’s well-rounded nature and encounter experiences of its all-encompassing reality.  Once the spherically holistic nature of Love’s All-inclusive Oneness is experienced, our quest for Peace and Love transforms from being an impossible mystery to becoming an ever more unfolding and enriching mastery.  It becomes mainly the challenge to change one’s mind about Love’s dynamic nature and choose to stand with Love in our shared Victory Celebration beyond fear.

Those who set aside their egos even for a moment glimpse a vision of a different possibility.  To dare to be that different and no longer honor the ego takes courage, the courage that every one of us can find within our own hearts as we dare to believe that there is a better way than our ego’s dreary day. The ego cannot offer us The Better Way.  Love can and does – even here and now as heaven’s presence on the Earth.  By exercising our courage and compassion as cooperative, curious, creative and committed members of the human race, we all win the final battle of the “us” civil war.

Share with me not the gift of a piece of your mind but the gift of the peace of your heart!

© Art Nicol 2015

Higher Technology Cannot Insure the Integrity that Higher Wisdom Offers

In the modern view, the best way to address every problem is through a new or upgraded product.  This is the default reaction of a materialistic society governed by profits instead of by prophets.  By referring to prophets I do not advocate for a religiously oriented, legalistic society.  I’m in favor of an open, faith-based society that also tolerates those whose faith in a higher power has been so shaken as to cast the possibility of such a faith out of their lives entirely.  We who continue to cling to our faith in a higher power have our reasons for living that way. Those who reject faith in a higher power have their reasons for living that way too.  Let us celebrate our capacity to reason and even share our reasons openly.  And let us embrace the integrity that may yet arise from such open-minded sharing instead of embracing the idea that every problem requires the introduction of a new or higher level of product or technology.  If our society’s violence is rooted in dishonesty (lack of integrity, hypocrisy, whatever label), as I believe it is, then no amount of new technology will restore us to the integrity we need to resolve all problems without violence and instill peace and healing throughout our land.  Video-graphing violence will not prevent it.  Blaming others for it will not diminish it.  We must admit our responsibility for promoting it as a symptom of our collective lack of integrity.

I am inspired to address this topic by recent proposals that more cameras be trained on police officers as they perform their duties so that we can hold them accountable for their actions in case their actions fall short of integrity when they face violence. Surely those who make profits from the sale, installation and maintenance of video equipment will be glad to have their businesses prosper under such proposals.  Police officers who already operate with integrity will adjust to having their actions video-recorded.  Police officers who already operate without integrity will also adjust – by developing ways to manipulate the records made by audio and visual recordings and to avoid their completeness by turning them off when it’s convenient for them to fail to make a record. If wardrobe malfunctions can occur, so can equipment malfunctions of other kinds by accident, neglect or intention. Nixon is not the only public servant who showed all of us how to manipulate the record. Technology is not infallible.  Humans can brazenly manipulate it to create whatever outcome they prefer. If they have something to hide, it will remain hidden at all costs.

Accountability for being men and women of integrity applies to all of us.  Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was not of a nation that prospered because of how our profits rose but of a nation that prospered because of how our integrity rose.  He dreamed of the day when we would judge ourselves not “by the color of [our] skins but by the content of [our] characters.” When our characters are filled with the content of integrity we will all be free at last.  Integrity matters.  Authenticity and Integrity Matter – AIM must become our highest purpose and ideal. No recordings audio and visual will insure our achievement of that goal.  If we want to achieve it, we must allow not profits but prophets like MLK Jr. to guide us.

We live in an age awash with profit-making enterprises and especially devoid of prophet-honoring ones. We teach our young people to pursue careers that are profitable without teaching them to do so with enduring, unshakeable commitment to integrity.  We teach our young people a compromised, lukewarm approach to life because that’s how we live.  We’ve settled for mediocrity as the lowest common denominator by which to add up the fractions of our disintegrating society.  We find common ground all too often in reassuring ourselves that everyone lacks integrity and no one stands up for being a whole person instead of a fraction.  We will continue to fall into the void where fractured souls lacking in integrity huddle together in the dark until we decide to honor our shared need to be here as musketeers, standing one for all and all for one – each as a life worth living and as a person worth standing alongside of with gratitude.

Who will insure that our police officers are armed with integrity and not merely armed with the latest weapons and video-recording equipment?  Who will stand alongside officers who dare to live as men and women of integrity amid the physically dangerous and emotionally harsh environments where we expect them to pursue their careers without sacrificing their health and well-being?  Who will make it possible for us to entrust our communities’ welfare to men and women who bring to the challenges of law enforcement and protection of all citizens the integrity we need them to embody?  We need officers to be protected by bullet proof vests but not by case-hardened hearts and coldly manipulative minds.  If we entrust deadly weapons into the hands of those whose hearts and minds are not empowered by integrity to guide them in their use of their weapons, we will suffer the consequences we now witness – and more severe ones yet to follow.  Violence will continue to escalate until we cultivate the courageous integrity needed to de-escalate it.

We must prepare officers to respond with integrity even in the midst of emotionally stressful conditions that threaten to escape their control and make them feel inadequate, foolish and at risk of harm.  We must invest in their adequately empowering training and back them with adequately encouraging emotional support or they will not believe they matter to us enough to serve and protect us as we expect them to.  We cannot lay upon them our most challenging emotional burdens while providing them with only limited emotional resources.  And we must take care not to assume that a man or woman experienced in the use of weaponry under conditions of war is necessarily well-prepared to wield weapons in times of relative peace.  The heart-rending hardship of war-torn battlefields does not necessarily translate well into the leadership needed on our embattled streets.  Battlefield reflexes do not necessarily translate into responsible actions when confrontations take place between officers and citizens.  We must be careful not to reap at home the violence we’ve exported abroad.  Men and women who have served abroad may well be the best prepared to serve at home once we have honored them enough to help them heal and be restored beyond the emotional wounds of overseas service.  To help them to heal reflects our commitment to peace at home and abroad. To fail to help them heal reflects our callous disregard of heroes we put up on pedestals while we pretend they have no sensitive human emotions worthy of our notice and compassion.

If we are to expect integrity and self-control from our men and women who are armed with weapons of warfare and charged with protecting those of us who are not so armed, we must stand with them with the same integrity we expect of them.  We cannot expect of them what we do not expect of ourselves in less stressful situations. Loss of control under the duress of intense fear is a common threat we all face. If we cannot live as men and women of integrity while we enjoy the protection that police officers afford us, how can we expect our protectors to live up to higher standards while they are directly exposed to harm?  Our protective heroes need our wholehearted support every day of their lives. Token praise at award ceremonies and eulogies at funerals are not all our protectors deserve.

If we are to invest resources in the lives and welfare of our police officers, let us invest wisely in their integrity and help them to feel our support for their health and welfare throughout every fiber of their being.  Let us reassure them that we don’t take them for granted while sending them out onto our violent streets by day and night as we go about our routines as if we’re entitled to be safe but not responsible for their safety too. Let’s help our officers face the dangers of our out-of-control society by taking risks ourselves.  Let’s risk stepping into the flow of violence and pluck from its flow those young people whom we see to be at risk of being confronted by police officers.

Let’s reduce the stress on officers who police our streets by tackling the cause of violence at its root. Let’s be men and women of courage and integrity who show young people who doubt that anyone cares about them how wrong they are.  Or we risk confirming that the abandoned, rejected and neglected youth of modern times are right about the rest of us. As we witness solitary young men being confronted by police officers, might we ask ourselves why those young men are so alone and lack the high quality companionship that might well make all the difference in their lives?  Do we have the integrity to do the right thing and care enough to be in their corner with them to help them know that they are not alone uncared for?

Why are we first meeting young men at risk of confrontations with police officers when they star in YouTube videos?  Why did we not meet them earlier and let them know that they could star in our lives in more productive ways?  How might it make a difference for us who are protected to let our protectors and the young men from whom we feel the need to be protected know that we care about every one of them and leave none out of our protected circles of protective care? Might our own intentionally cultivated greater integrity overflow to lift us all to higher ground together?  A rising tide of integrity might float the boat we share and free us from the storm-tossed reefs of violence upon which our Ship of State is floundering.  Before we abandon ship let us consider how we might voluntarily contribute integrity to seal the hull and add ballast to keep us upright.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

A Diablog about the Movie “Fifty Shades of Grey”

Might anyone be interested in a dialogue about the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey?”  Frankly, I don’t intend to see it but I’m interested in opening up a dialogue about it with anyone who has seen it.  I recently read an article about the sex toy industry that is blossoming in response to the book and expected to blossom even more on account of the movie.  It reminds me of the marketing of so many spin-off products related to other movies.  Apparently we are removing the social taboos about the openness with which the marketing of sex toys and instruction in their use is occurring.  What promises, pitfalls and perils await us in this development?

What I’m wondering about and would like to diablog with others about are these points, at least for starters:

1) Is “Fifty Shades of Grey” a dramatization of a man who has become trapped in intertwined addictions to sexual pleasure and power over others?    Does power corrupt and absolute power corrupt absolutely, as Lord Acton long ago suggested?  Does this story reveal how all addictions are progressive diseases that spiral increasingly out of control as they descend into the depths of depravity in pursuit of greater “highs” when past practices no longer produce the same appetite-satisfying results?   Does this movie warn us of the patterns predators use to groom and seduce their prey?  Does it warn us of the naivete involved in not being prepared to recognize and steer clear of predators instead of being fascinated by their charm and claims of pleasure and power beyond our wildest dreams?  Does it enlighten us at all about the numbing of emotions and acceptance of self-devaluing required to engage fully in any addictive practice?  Does it reveal how ruinously dehumanizing addictions are for all participants once they become entrenched?

2) Does the exploitation of life for fun and profit always lead to a declining quality of life?  Is “Fifty Shades of Grey” merely a string of product placements, a multiphase infomercial for sex toys others hope to market to naïve consumers who do not understand the risks of becoming sexual addicts themselves?   How completely unethical are the movie producers and sex toy marketers in their willingness to throw their market members to the wolves of predatory addictions and promote the decline of modern society so long as their profits pour in?  If the movie were about the cocaine drug trade, would there be no serious questions if retailers began to openly sell and promote the use of cocaine?  Are we aware enough to note that the chemistry of sexual pleasure and the social dynamics of dealing in and consuming sexually stimulating products parallels the chemistry of drug-induced pleasure and the social dynamics of dealing in and consuming chemically stimulating products?  Are we wise enough to discern how to respond to these potential parallels and steer clear of the hazards of addiction latent in them?

Because I’m not going to watch this movie, please pardon my ignorance about it and my unwillingness to critique it or take a stand in favor or against it.  I’m interested in allowing this movie to benefit society in any way it may raise interesting questions and promote a dialogue about the wisdom it may or may not suggest is not yet operative in modern society about addictions and the path to entering into one and becoming unwittingly bogged down in it.  What does this movie tell us about the distinction between healthy intimacy and the alternative of exploitative relationships that can only lead to harm — physical, emotional, mental and otherwise?  Does this movie help us have a clearer vision of this distinction by pealing back the cover from one man’s secret lifestyle to allow us to learn from his dilemma of being out of control and never satisfied with life?  Does it educate us in any way about the danger of pretending to be satisfied with gaining increasing power over others while we feel more and more utterly powerless in our own private lives?  Does it educate us about how it feels to have lost all control to compulsive activities we may have once thought of as innocent fun?

I’m interested in learning about this movie secondhand, not so much to focus on the movie itself but instead to focus on the lessons it may offer us, intentionally or otherwise.

Social Justice Impact of Idealizing the Nuclear Family

Many conservatives among Christians, including those grouped as fundamentalists but also many members of mainline churches, idealize the family structure of a married man and woman together with their one or more biological children as the optimum goal for families. This idealized configuration is called the “nuclear family.”  Some flexibility is allowed for adding non-biological children and perhaps even an occasional step-parent into the mix.  Typically little or no flexibility is allowed for parenting by same-sex couples or for recognition of single-parent families as potentially healthy models for raising children. As is typical of moralistically oriented believers in God, the top-down thought-structure of this ideal renders anything less than its attainment a failure to comply with God’s only ordained family lifestyle.  Those who fail to engage in child-rearing as continuously married, opposite-sex parents are second class citizens who deserve to be burdened by guilt and shame for their failure to “do family” God’s way.  Conformity to the “model” nuclear family many conservatives claim as their narrow definition of family is frequently at the heart of what conservative advocates mean by “family values.”

In the days when wealth was deemed proof of one’s worthiness in the eyes of God, poverty was a sign of sinfulness and disfavor with God – or at least a sign of second class citizenship and loss of voice and influence in the Church.  In modern times, participation in a man-woman nuclear family is similarly argued to be necessary to prove one’s worthiness in the eyes of God and to qualify to be empowered within the Church while participation in any other style of family is deemed a sign of disfavor with God, mostly likely associated with sin.  In Jesus’ days on earth, legalistic religious folks asked him if a man were blind on account of his sins or the sins of his parents on the assumption that sin had to be somewhere in the family tree to cause his blindness.  Today, legalistic believers now seem to ask if a child’s participation in a family structure other than a man-woman nuclear family is due to the child’s sins or the sins of the child’s parents.  The assumptions inherent in this question overshadow the child with dark implications of unworthiness and disfavor before God – either directly or by parental association.  Although the child has no choice in structuring the family in which he or she is raised, legalistic folks place false burdens of guilt and shame on the child on account of the family’s structure.  Where poverty once condemned children regardless of the fact that they did not determine their economic status today both poverty and family structure often cause a child to suffer from self-doubt and loss of social status regardless of the child’s lack of power to control either social factor.

Children raised in poverty and/or within non-nuclear family structures have an empowering opportunity just as the blind man had.  They can turn to Jesus to gain freedom from any blinding pain and distress caused by their society’s misrepresentations of God’s standards.  They can regain clarity of sight by learning to allow God’s grace to be proven to be sufficient just as the blind man proved it in Jesus’ day by accepting sight at Jesus’ hand.  So long as believers in Jesus continue to adhere to their myopic prejudice that gives higher social approval and value to families structured as a married pair of opposite-sex adults plus child(ren) they will remain at odds with God’s position on this matter and continue to mislead many others to believe as they do.  God’s position is based on grace, not upon any moralistic rules or rigid definitions about family structure.  If believers want to reflect God’s position on this issue and “do justice” towards children raised in non-nuclear families, we must “love mercy” beyond the law and “walk humbly with God” as if God knows better what our position on this issue – and our response towards members of these families – should be.   We distort and impair social justice so long as we allow any position other than God’s gracious one to prevail within the body of believers upon whom Jesus calls to comfort, heal and bless the children who come unto him.  We are precisely the ones Jesus expects to set the children free rather than burden their innocence with false guilt and shame on account of matters beyond their control.

James 1:27 reports that the “[r]eligion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  At the outset of the industrial age, as family units moved from rural settings, where extended families were normal, to take up residence in urban settings, many family units rapidly trimmed down to parents and children as older adults failed to survive the transition.  To make ends meet the parents in many families worked long and exhausting hours, sometimes even dying in their attempts to provide for their children. Children were also put to work.  This two-tiered, struggling family unit became the new ideal due to economic realities as interpreted by adults who proudly strove for independent self-reliance in cities where they often did not know who else to trust.  Success was defined as having struggled to achieve financial stability sufficient to support a nuclear family while not allowing anyone to play you for a fool.  The stresses of the identity crisis of the industrial age coupled with the assumption that independence was the touchstone of maturity as an adult drove a wedge between adult generations.  A similar wedge-mentality now justifies a belief among many youth and young adults that older adults are too “out of touch” with modern advancements to have much of practical value to offer to the young.  What some conservative Christians lament as the “breakdown of the nuclear family” began as a breakdown of the extended family and advanced into a breakdown throughout all strata of society.  Over the course of several generations, the cohesive village so needed by children vanished into a pile of disintegrated lives.

At the dawn of the industrial age it was deemed necessary to set aside the traditions of extended-family, village-like societies and adopt the nuclear family as a new-era practicality.  The tyranny of the old had to be thrown off just as the tyranny of King George had been thrown off.  Pioneers moving into the industrial age to settle it with a new population capable of surviving there had to leave old ways behind and fend for themselves in self-reliance as they fashioned a new set of values and priorities suited to the industrial age.  By institutionalizing the nuclear family as ideal, subsequent generations of settlers in the industrial age have kept pace with the demands of change that became even more accelerated under the influence of increasingly expanding technology.* Today the accelerating pace of this technological revolution is driving wedges between thinner and more fragile layers of society and splintering the whole into wafer-thin shards.

Along with the wafering of society came a decline in parental energy, focus and attention directed towards child-rearing.  When parents allowed conformist pressures of the marketplace economy to shape them into income-earners and product-consumers, the quality of life for all family members declined as media-driven standards of comfort and convenience became new social norms. The absence of extended family structures and “villages” to offer children alternative havens of physical safety, emotional comfort and exposure to elders’ wisdom has been an unrecognized source of harm one might call “passive neglect” of the best interests of the children.  Yet this neglect is hard to spot when it is the normal condition under which children grow up.  What is missing and forgotten for generations becomes invisible.  This invisibility is a form of blindness that Jesus would help us to overcome if we ask him to.  He will restore the sight of those who want to see what’s best for children.

On account of social wafering, emotional as well as social orphans and widows abound in modern society in various disguises.  Yet many who call themselves Christians fail to look after them in their distress and instead look down upon them to add to their distress.  Such so-called followers of Jesus fail to follow his example when to follow would conflict with their desire to ascend into and conform to the conveniences and cordiality of modern society’s more privileged ranks. Even the modestly privileged focus on advancing up the social ranks rather than follow Jesus into fields that are white with the harvest.  Of course, those who conform to the world rather than be transformed are reluctant to classify their conformity to convenient social norms as “being polluted by the world,” but that’s precisely what it is.  To focus on building, maintaining and providing for a nuclear family to be proud of on society’s terms too often leaves the orphans and widows unlooked after in their distress, feeling ashamed as second class citizens in both the world and within the body of believers.  Prideful glorification of the nuclear family and of so-called family values that idealize a narrowly defined family structure shortchanges Jesus’ ministry to all whom society (including many Christians) presumes to be unworthy of God’s grace and favor.

Social justice is the core of God’s outreach on Earth.  God would use believers in Jesus as restorers of justice – as ones who give sight to those who are blinded by the guilt and shame that society shifts to them to excuse its neglect.  There is no excuse for conforming to the values of the modern industrial-technological era in place of the values, priorities and perspective Jesus modeled while on Earth and calls us to honor even now.  Perhaps for a person who never heard of Jesus or, having heard, chose to ignore what he or she heard, there may be the excuse of ignorance.  But for those who claim to know and honor Jesus there is no excuse.  It is not enough to rely upon the grace of God and assume that Jesus will once again pray “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  It is time to stop relying upon God’s future forgiveness.  It is time instead to repent of our mistaken preference for worshipping socially approved pride in place of spiritually disciplined humility, accept forgiveness now and rise up to serve as the Father would have us serve.  As Jonah demonstrated, the forgiven make powerful messengers of God’s grace and forgiveness.

As he promised, Jesus has sent us the Spirit who leads us into all truth. The Holy Spirit exists.  Its holy function is to comfort us in our afflictions and lead us beyond them in service to others to whom God assigns us.  The afflictions of pride are multiple.  The afflictions of pride associated with idealizing the nuclear family are not our only afflictions but we need to be set them aside and overcome them for the sake of the orphans and widows who remain in distress until the people who call themselves followers of Jesus come to their aid. In God’s eyes, the race, religion, creed, ethnicity, economic class, educational status, gender or sexual orientation and historical background of the orphan or widow do not matter. How they may have become orphaned or widowed does not matter.  Jesus calls us to care for them in their distress until their distress is fully relieved and their vision of God as their loving Divine Parent is restored.  Jesus calls us not only to pray for them but to be his means for answering those prayers as we welcome them into his Kingdom.

If we have any style of family we take delight in, Jesus does not object so long our delight remains laced with gratitude to God and does not turn into pride and cause us to fail to invite others to participate within those experiences that delight us.  If our families are valuable to us and to God, sharing them with others who lack such family delights will relieve them of their lack-based distress and loneliness as social outcasts who are all too well-acquainted with grief.  To invite orphans and widows to be included in our family delights and to welcome all who co-create delightful families by any structure pleases the Divine Parent of us all. It matters not to God whether our family structure is traditionally rural, industrial or post-industrial or innovatively adaptive to prevailing social conditions.  It’s time to focus on pleasing the Head of the Family instead of making elaborate plans to please ourselves while we forget the orphans and widows routinely left out of our self-indulgent plans.  It’s time to suspend our habits of judging those who live within non-nuclear, non-traditional family structures, especially if they are reaching out to orphans and widows in distress more effectively than we are.  Until we’ve learned to reach out at least as effectively we may need to admit how much we have to learn from those we’d previously looked down upon and failed to welcome with humbly open arms and hearts.

* The potentially toxic bloom of technological algae has been labeled “high technology” but it remains to be seen by what measure it is deemed “high.” Perhaps the high is false.  If “high” refers primarily to the capacity of such technologies to produce higher outputs per units of input by humans at faster and faster rates in order to generate greater financial profits with declining payrolls and other benefits to human resources, it may not, in the long run, be directing humanity towards anything higher.  It may promote the worship of mammon.  As a reflection of the worship of the false idol of maximized profits, “high tech” may be leading humanity towards adopting lower and lower standards of character and conduct as “normal” while humans fail to learn to make wise decisions in nano-seconds.  Wisdom may take longer to process and adopt – perhaps the length of time that councils of elders used to take before deciding the fate of their communities.  Data-crunching computers may not be capable of discerning wisdom at any speed.  Like the Corvair, computers may turn out to be unsafe at any speed unless their friendly users are intentionally setting adequate time aside to commune with God at the speed of Stillness.  Stillness may be the escape velocity humans need to attain in order to escape the downward pull of ego’s brazenly self-congratulatory gravity.  Otherwise we risk remaining trapped in orbit around the ego while spinning evermore chaotically and oblivious to the more expansive and enriching possibilities that await us if we were to travel serenely inward to know ourselves as one with God and not as a separated, self-reliant, lonely egos at all.

© Art Nicol 2015

Social Justice Implications of Jesus’ Prayer for Oneness

Jesus’ prayer for all believers to know oneness with God is recorded in the 17th Chapter of John.  As is always the case with Jesus’ ideas, they interrelate and cannot stand apart from one another.  His thoughts form a complete system of thinking that is rooted in the integrity and holiness of God.  Although we may reasonably challenge the authenticity of some quotes attributed to Jesus, the main point of everything Jesus in fact said and did while present in a body on the Earth was to demonstrate “that you may believe that my Father is in me and I in my Father.” John 10:38.  This core theme of oneness with God, repeated in Chapter 17 of John, echoes throughout Jesus’ ministry as he constantly questions the standards used by others to separate “good” people – who are supposedly worthy of social approval and warm welcome by God and the people of God – from “bad” people who supposedly deserve only disapproval and avoidance or exile if not outright attack – by God and the people of God.  Its implications ripple outward into his call that his followers treat the “least of these” as if they are one with him – so totally identified with him that what a person does to any of them a person does to him.

Jesus’ life, by word and deed, reminds us that we are all one within God and with each other because we are all (each and every one of us!) created in the image and likeness of God, expressing God’s divine nature.  Long ago, a fundamental flaw crept into Christian theology when elitists bent on accumulating power over the masses adopted the concept of “original sin” or “inherent flawedness.”  This transparent lie helped to keep the masses controlled by their constant fear of being condemned by God, for whom the elites conveniently claimed to speak to the terror of the masses who already feared the elites.  The elites equated their neglect and abuse of underlings with the way God saw and treated humanity. How convenient to claim to speak for God to justify one’s own cruelty!  What a complete undoing of Jesus’ ministry to call believers back to the religious self-righteousness of Judaic elitism with which Jesus so fervently contended.

The concept of “original sin” is such an insulting idea in its disparagement of God as Creator that Jesus has to constantly serve as Redeemer to correct it.  We who faithfully struggle with how to relate to God need a Redeemer only because we believe false ideas trumpeted in the marketplace by those who hog the soapboxes and pulpits as socially aggressive personalities who crave social approval so much as to demand that they set the standards for social approval. They are like bullies who take over the clubhouse and declare that they now can ban whomever does not please them.  As their craving for political power as a false substitute for spiritual power corrupts their minds and hearts, these religiously garbed bullies do all they can to lead others astray with them. How else would they have followers if not to lead them to embrace the same errors that bullies embrace to justify their dominance? Those who question such absurdities are colored as heretics and blasphemers and made to serve as martyrs and scapegoats for religio-political heroes/bullies.

Who sets the standards?  Man or God?  Woman or Goddess?  Jesus says that his (and our) heavenly Father* sets the standards. He modeled that truth so radically that he submitted his own lesser will to the greater will of the Father even unto death on the cross so as to demonstrate the power that arises from Oneness lived to its most radical extreme. We are called today to do likewise, but few are willing to endure the merest hint of social disapproval (let alone the public humiliation of a cross-hung criminal) to do so.  We mistakenly keep expecting religio-politicians to approve our “deviations” from their critically acclaimed social norms and flinch when they disapprove instead.  How timid we are compared to Jesus and his original disciples!  As a result we cling to our pathetic powerlessness and declare that the age of miracles has closed when in fact it is our own timidity as disciples that has caused miracles to cease to flow.  We are the cause of the lack of divine healing in the modern world.  We thwart God’s will by failing to surrender our lesser wills entirely to the Father’s will as Jesus modeled.  God’s grace permits us to defy Him but to do so costs our children dearly.  Violence, harm and chronic suffering flood our modern world in place of the outpouring of divine miracles God stands ready, willing and able to set free if only we’d listen and heed His call.  Long ago He said it, “[I]f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14.  God is entitled to set conditions for our receiving His blessings.  He has clearly stated those conditions in many ways.  Jesus’ example is an entirely integrated and sufficient restatement of all God wants us to know about how to relate to Him.

Why does Jesus direct us towards serving the “least [familiar or approved] of these?”  Why relate to the “stranger” or the “disapproved social outcast?’  Because the more we embrace the stranger in the other person, the more we’ll have opportunities to get to know the stranger in ourselves and accept ourselves more completely too.  And the more we relate to ones who society has labeled as rejects the more we’ll come to accept in ourselves aspects that society would also reject if we were brave enough to reveal them.  We have maintained social approval at the cost of utter honesty about ourselves and our own hidden issues, whatever each of ours may be.  As a result, we’ve also cut ourselves off from the divine love that the Father would have us experience uninhibitedly, without fear or limitation.  We crimp the flow of God’s love by making false idols of social approval in all of its various forms and formats.

It’s all a developmental thing actually.  The human race’s diversity expresses more than mere diversity of surface appearances and actions summed up as “images,” “lifestyles” and “cultures.”  In addition to expressing our demographically measured diversity of gender, age, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, educational level, economic class, veteran status, etc., humanity also expresses our developmental diversity.  We are all arrayed along steps or stages of development as each of us has achieved some steps or stages ahead of others.  With respect to the multifaceted range of human wholeness God designed us to master, most if not all of us are as yet incompletely developed or evolved.  Since we develop in response to our social environments, we tend to develop different facets of our gemlike wholeness on different timetables depending upon the social environments to which we have been exposed so far.  (Do we not sometimes say, “He is a product of his environment?”)

For this reason, when we encounter a “stranger,” he or she is “strange” to a significant degree precisely because he or she has been exposed to different social environments or conditions (families, cultures, etc.) than we have.  We encounter the effects of those different social environments as embodied in and expressed through the “other” or “stranger.” Yet if we were totally honest with ourselves we would say, “There but by the grace of God go I.”  We’d admit that we would be much like the stranger had we endured the social environments and its conditioning through which he or she has evolved.

Each person we meet offers us another opportunity to learn more about ourselves as we might be had we lived a life different from the one we’ve lived so far.  Those opportunities offer insights into our wholeness because they reveal aspects of ourselves that our current or previous social environments may not have mirrored back to us before so powerfully or at all.  And we tend to mirror for the other person in each relationship similarly helpful feedback about himself or herself.  When we mirror feedback consciously without judgment or fault-finding, we are lovingly nurturing each other.  We are learning to walk in each other’s moccasins with empathy and compassion.  The social environment of lovingly nurturing each other with gracious feedback is the kingdom of God Jesus represents and encourages us to enter into – seeking first God’s righteousness and no longer asserting our own (inadequate!) self-righteousness.  That God’s righteousness is infused with grace and mercy is a lesson we need to learn by heart until we master it.  Meeting and serving strangers so as to be their gracious hosts affords us opportunities for such mastery.  Through practice, our mastery of hosting strangers empowers us to rise beyond xenophobia and learn to welcome each supposed “other” as a sister or brother – no longer a stranger at all.  The same benefit to ourselves arises from our treating any of those least approved of by our society as if he or she were Jesus.

Jesus calls us to be servants of those we know and approve of and those we don’t know or approve of because he knows how developmentally immature we are and always will be if we remain trapped within our social-approval bubbles or cocoons.  Unless we explore beyond our bubbles (comfort zones or familiar territory) to find opportunities to serve as Jesus served, we will remain uninvolved and unevolved as well.  Within heavily defended comfort zones based on conformity, discipleship as well as personal maturity stagnates.  The world calls it “arrested development.” Constant rebirth amidst the challenges of diversity is a part of maturation as Jesus’ disciple.  Jesus’ own journey illustrates that one must never pitch a tent or set up a booth in an attempt to preserve the status quo, even one as magnificent at the Mount of Transfiguration.  For us to develop or mature progressively as spiritual beings, humility requires that we admit that we are often ignorant – not stupid but lacking in information and ill-informed.  The brightest genius can still be uninformed or ill-informed.  In humility we listen and learn – and perhaps even laugh at ourselves more readily rather than fume over every little error or non-erroneous nonconformity we or others may adopt. Jesus asks us to listen within our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit.  That’s why he sent the Holy Spirit to be our constant Teacher as we develop greater maturity as his followers.  Even today there are things that many of Jesus’ disciples cannot yet bear to hear, as he long ago foresaw. (See John 16:12.)  Yet we can all become delightfully competent, ever-growing-wiser students of the Truth that sets us free to develop our wholeness more and more completely.

Freedom to be authentic and whole beings of integrity and love as God created us to be is scary – yet it is also the essence of social justice.  It implies letting go of social structures we once depended upon to guide and protect us on our journeys as if social approval were the only purpose of our lives.  In His quest for our highest good, our Father does not intend that those social structures with which we become so familiar during various phases of our development become our imprisoning status quo of traditions or “laws” (rules, roles and rituals).  Like the gantry of a rocket that once enabled the rocket to stand erect and not fall over while it was assembled, equipped and fueled, social structures must at some point release us to soar beyond them.  When that happens we are dependent on our internal guidance systems.

The more our internal guidance systems are attuned to God’s will, spirit, heart and mind the more at peace with God we’ll be as we journey onward in our quest for more elegant mastery, deeper enrichment and more lasting satisfaction as our Father’s servant-sons and -daughters. Those who serve with grace achieve a high orbit from which to envision and embrace the whole of humanity as God’s family of beloved and much favored children.  From that orbit it is increasingly possible to understand and live within the terms of Micah 6:8: “O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Walking humbly with our Father as Jesus did in full surrender of our otherwise socially distorted will is essential to our acting justly as servants of social justice.  As preserved in the King James version of the Bible, we must live by faith to be just: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”  Romans 1:17  Let us dare to live as it is written and as it is revealed over and over again in our hearts as we listen to the Holy Spirit and “[d]o not conform to the pattern of this world, but [are] transformed by the renewing of [our] mind. Then [we] will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

*Today Jesus would have no problem calling the Supreme Parent “Mother” too.  He could not do so earlier due to the social constraints of his historically first human audience with whom such a concept would have sidetracked communications too much. See, John 16:12-15 for Jesus’ explanation of his plan of sequential communication with successive audiences.

Copyright by Art Nicol 2015