Unity

Posted: July 10, 2020 in unity
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With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Ephesians 1:8-10

Sometimes it seems as if we could define world history as one person or one group hating another. The pogroms, colonization, slavery, wars — we have bashed and dominated each other from the beginning. The ancient Dorian invasion, Anglo-Saxon warfare, the brutal Assyrians. The Vikings. It’s endless. The empire building Romans. The life-crushing colonial, mercantile dominance of Spain and then England. Japan and China. India and Pakistan. The horror — every era has its brutalities. Our bloody kin-on-kin, American versus American civil war. The 20th century was the worst with two world wars.

These days it is no different in the United Un-United States. The enemy is defined as a group, the other political party, the right, the left, the immigrants, the Russians, the Chinese, the Muslims.

But hatred, unjust wars — wars of protection differ from those of domination — patriarchy, racism, oppression of the weak and the poor do not in anyway fit with the purpose of Christ. Remember he came for all of us, for the other religious groups — remember Jesus and the Samaritans — for the sinners, the poor, for the disenfranchised, for those who are Jewish, for those who are Gentile. John says, “he did not come into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved.” Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors which he defined and modeled as including everyone.

Perhaps even we Christians are missing it. But he has “made known his will.” It may be a mystery as to who and perhaps even how but there is no mystery as to what. His will is unity. And His will is to be our will. Unity.

The fulfillment? When? Note Paul wrote about “times” of fulfillment, plural. Fulfillment began when Jesus came, and continued through all of history since then and continues now. God is on it. He is saving and unifying now. Are we? Love, the kingdom, this was never meant to be only future tense. There will be a completion to the process, a final fulfillment of unity, but the process began in Christ’s sacrifice for us that forgives and undoes disunity.

We need to get back to the purpose of Christ, especially we Christians. We need to work to unify the earth as much as we can. “On earth as it is in heaven,” remember. The Christ-taught prayer is that heaven’s look is to begin here.

We are to love and bring unifying love now. But we are not loving our neighbor when we condemn and vilify our neighbor. We are not loving our neighbor when we divide the world into racial groups and stigmatize and leave out people because of the color of their skin. We are not loving our neighbor when we entrenched in a political group and refused to work out a compromise with those who think differently, especially when we both want to do good but have different approaches to implement that good. We are not loving our neighbor nations when we don’t care about their welfare. We are not loving our neighbor when we do not care about their health, and we do not want everyone to have healthcare. We are not unifying all things in Christ when we abuse people or abuse the planet, when we trash the beautiful earth that God gave to all of us. We are not loving future generation that will live in the pollution we have created. We are certainly not loving when we do violence to each other. The Christian crusades? They were not the way of the turn-the-other-cheek, love-your-neighbor, go-into-all-the world-with-the-gospel Christ.

We might object and say Christ is a sword, even dividing families. Yes, divisions will occur over him, he said so, he knew so, in families, even in churches and among Christians, but that isn’t something we are called to initiate or facilitate. Blessed are the peacemakers.

And when divisions do happen we still are called to pray for and forgive others. We were told to love everyone, even our enemies; that’s what Jesus commanded us to do. When we don’t we miss the main purpose of Christ. His purpose, his goal, what he will do, is to unify. That’s what Paul taught in Ephesians 1. We don’t know how he will do that, we don’t know what or who will be left out or included in that — we know evil will not be included in that — but it is our job to join Christ in that, to work in Christ and his leading to “bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth.”

We might respond with “but they.” We can change that to “but Christ.” The scriptures show us that Christ is more inclusive than most of us. That’s certainly is the way he acted when he was here with us. We can think of so many reasons why some people are not one with us, and never will be, but no matter what anyone else is doing we are to make Christ’s goals of love and salvation and redemption and unity our goals too, the best we can.

This will be messy. Look around, live and take note, we live a kind of glorious mess. Most of us will blow it at some point or more and bring some disunity in our family, in our world. Even with those we love. Be honest. You too. Me too. Them too. Us too. Whole groups of people. There will be separations and divisions and harm that we can’t always or won’t always control or stop — and this can be heartbreaking — but we now know what the end will look like in Christ — oneness.

Richard Rohr writes, “I believe that as a spiritual practice we can imagine and create ‘a political system responsive to the people and respectful of global neighbors, a health system that is comprehensive in scope and not profit driven, an educational system shaped by innovation, improvisation, technology, and practicality.’”

“Can we be honest now about what is not working? Can we re-envision new options? I believe that we can, if we want to.” We can. We can work toward more unity and more love.

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.”

Isaiah 11:6

I want that world! We need that world.

I want the world that ends harm. I want an end to suffering. I want to end racism. I want to end the pandemic of 2019- 2020. I want to end all disease. I want to end all poverty. I want enough food, enough good shelter, enough clean water for every creature. I ache for an over-spilling love for every creature. My desiderata, the desire of so many others too, particularly the oppressed, is the universe of Isaiah the prophet.

Is this peaceable kingdom possible? If so, what volition can make this harm-free world possible?

Our volition must play a role. We must act to bring changes. Justice, fairness, care, sharing provision, choosing good leaders, choosing love can be our choice to make a better world, but we need God to be our agent. He has the power to change hearts, confront evil powers, inspire and lead this change. He is the prime player in all reform, in all justice, in all redemption. Earlier in the Isaiah passage “a shoot … from the stump of Jesse,” a clear reference to Jesus, brings the peaceable kingdom about.

Isaiah writes, “He [the shoot] will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.”

I love that world! I love the poor and needy taken care of. I love wickedness trounced. I love righteousness won. I love pain defeated. I choose to believe that world is yet possible. Why? Because it is God’s vision, his intention, his choice. He wants to end oppression, injustice, violence and suffering and he will defy resistance and do just that.

And he can — for he exists as and in his own freedom — and he will do what he says he will do. He is the source of all agency and the creator of all redemption. He is the one who will undo the underpinnings of current harms and make a safe world for his own.

By agentic power — the power that flung the universe into place — God will water his garden and nothing will stop him.

The volcanoes of the earth teach us lessons in reality. They ravage the earth, but they also bring it life. The same forces that destroy, build. After devastating a region, the rich volcanic soils that remain become fertile ground for new things.

Volcanism is perhaps a good metaphor for some of our own life experiences. Great human losses may be followed by great gains. In 2000 I suffered some volcanic-like health issues. This was followed by 20 years of great productivity.

Simon Winchester, in his book Krakatoa, ruminating on the destructive aspect of earth’s tectonic plates in causing earthquakes and volcanoes, notes the creative force of volcanism.

Winchester writes, “The water, carbon dioxide, carbon, and sulfur that are so central to the making and maintenance of organic life are all being constantly recycled by the world’s volcanoes—which were also the probable origins of the earth’s atmosphere in the very first place. It is not merely that volcanoes bring fertile volcanic soils or useful minerals to the surface; what is more crucial is their role in the process of bringing from the secret storehouses of the inner earth the elements that allow the outer earth, the biosphere and the lithosphere, to be so vibrantly alive.”

An example of this would be Rakata, an Indonesian island that was burned lifeless by the eruption of the nearby Krakatoa volcano of 1883. Forty years later Rakata was overgrown with grasses and ferns and plants. In short order it was full of birds. It eventually proved to be home to 621 species of animals. It’s a jungle; it isn’t a civilized paradise, but it’s alive.

Life from death. God made the earth to work like this. He fashioned us this way too.

It is no stretch to say that we are ourselves volcanic. Our bodies, while beautiful, strong and capable of great growth, over time eventually unravel. Underlying forces — conflicts, diseases, senescence — eventually come into dramatic, tectonic-like, magma-like play and we are undone. We all experience this.

But all is not lost. Out of us, out of the rich soil of our undoings, may yet spring to life new life, life more abundant.

“Enrosadira is the term given to the phenomenon by which most of the peaks in the Dolomites at dawn and dusk, take on a pink/reddish color, which gradually turns into violet.”

“The reason behind the changing colors is due to the calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate of the dolomite, the mineral found in large quantities in the walls … At sunrise and sunset, the rocky cliffs take on hues that vary from light yellow to bright red, to different shades of pink and violet, until the mountains disappear in the dark of night.”

Italy Magazine

“Alpenglow” is a similar term, the “optical phenomenon that appears as a horizontal reddish glow near the horizon opposite to the Sun when the solar disk is just below the horizon. This effect is easily visible when mountains are illuminated, but can also be seen when clouds are lit through backscatter.”

Wikipedia

Some of the best colors of the sky occur in the transition zone between light and dark.

The same phenomenon can be observed in our interior lives. In transition between one stage of life and another, between one age of life and another, between one experience and another we can often detect new shades and hues of emotional and mental color.

At such times our focus and our values may change. Sometimes we experience this is loss. We may have lost some of the precious colors of life. But there’s also a gain as light changes. With such change, perhaps we find the ability to see what is most of value. New colors appear, shades of rosy remembrances, of softening judgments, of future hopes.

Darkness comes but the dawn is always attendant. We wait, anticipating new light.

I love art. One of my earliest memories in school is of making copies of the great masters. As an adult, I like to read a favorite artist’s biography and watch an art history documentary.

Whenever we travel we visit art museums. My favorite is the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The building itself is art. My favorite artists are chronicled below, polished into pithy observations. Check them out. Look them up. Who is your favorite artist?

Rembrandt and Vermeer invented light; Monet and Seurat reinvented it.

Chagall painted magic animals; then he taught love how to levitate.

Artemisia Gentileschi gave women back their bodies.

Michelangelo turned a ceiling into the Bible.

We love Frida Kahlo; she painted our pain.

Renoir made paint party.

Charles Burchfield painted a cathedral using a forest.

Rembrandt van Rijn out-detailed reality.

Emily Carr turned trees into saints.

Matisse, Picasso, Duchamp, Kandinsky, Warhol and Pollock threw a geometricized, essentialized and energized reality in our faces; that somewhat frightened us.

Mary Cassatt sat down in a crowd of men and turned mothers and children into paint.

Giotto brought the icons to tears.

Kandinsky payed the piano with paint.

Monet gave the haystacks dignity.

Van Gogh — if only he could have known how much we would love him.

Jacob Lawrence painted a migration so he could teach us to see a people.

Modern art is life — with the arms knocked off.

Brother David Steindl-Rast, Benedictine monk and well-known speaker on gratefulness as spiritual practice, teaches that there is a direct link between joy and gratefulness.

He has written that “the root of joy is gratefulness … It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

And David goes on to add, “We are never more than one grateful thought away from peace of heart.”

To practice gratitude or appreciative discernment, call to mind your appreciation for someone you know, a family member or a friend. Or think of a trip you took, a time when you had the privilege of being generous, a place in nature.

Today I’m grateful for you, my friends, my connected ones who follow my blog and take heart from my posts. It is my delight that we are connected in this way. My goal is to serve you tasty word meals. I enjoy knowing that you, like me feast on truth.

Today’s post is your amuse bouche, your bite-sized hors d’œuvre served gratis and according to me, your truth chef.

Eat up, chomp down on your appreciation for the good in your life.

Then breathe in and out your gratefulness to God.

I’m reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming. I’ve always respected her.

Reading through her story I am reminded the election of Barack in 2008.

I remember being so proud of our country when Barack Obama was elected President of United States. A huge opportunity was presented for uniting us. Whatever your politics, we had elected a black president. And he faced an economic crisis — significant, like the one we are now in — and he had to be there for all of us.

And Michelle, I liked her. She was from the Southside of Chicago and she was a down-to-earth person, a mother, a lawyer, an advocate for women, children and military families. She conducted herself with class.

Reading her book I like her even more. She has character. She has values. She grew and transitioned when she needed to.

In Becoming she writes, “For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”

2020 needs this perspective. What are we becoming, as a nation? And as we go through the pandemic, who are we becoming as a people?

Unfortunately Obama’s presidency didn’t unite us. Many remained opposed to him, and the 2016 election reminded us of that. We divided, right down the middle.

And now as a nation we are entrenched, stuck, holding onto differences and outdated political camps. We need unity more than ever.

What does it look like to evolve into the kind of nation, the kind of people who can accept others who are different? How do we get going on a mission to unite, not divide?

To become united we need to face certain realities. The first is our dependence on each other.

In these times, we are all dependent on each other to wear facemasks. We are dependent on those who have the virus to isolate. We are dependent on doctors and researchers to cure us and protect us. We are dependent upon the government to provide economic stimulus. In short, we are dependent.

We are dependent on each other for survival and we better get used to that because that’s the way it is.. We need each other for safety, for prosperity, for the good life. We need all of us, not half of us.

Secondly, we have been humbled and we need to embrace that. We have been reminded how very vulnerable and weak we humans are. We have taken losses. More than 120,000 of us in the U.S. have died from the virus. Some data shows U.S. employers shed nearly 30 million positions from payrolls this spring as a result of pandemic. Other data suggest layoffs might have topped 40 million. Life is not as stable as we have sometimes imagined. We do well to recognize that.

And finally we must note that we have been reminded at this time that the racial differences in America still divide. Our racial minorities are sick of a different standard being applied to them. They’re sick of abuse. They are done with racial privilege. We need to hear that and change things. To move forward we need to learn to listen to each other, especially when we disagree.

And again this points to the need for unity. Safety lies in all of us keeping all of us safe. It will take a concerted effort by the government and many people to unite.

For those of you who are like myself, Christians, Christian values need to come in to play here. Scripture counsel us not to treat the rich better than the poor, to care for the alien, to live at peace with everyone we can, to love our neighbor as ourselves, to be humble, to count others better than ourselves, and to remember that we are like grass, here today, gone tomorrow.

Are we evolving into better selves?

Are we evolving into a better nation?

We are, only if each one of us is becoming, changing, transitioning to a better, humbler, more willingly dependent — when that is needed — hard-listening self.

Thanks Michelle, for the reminder. We are becoming. What will that be?

We’ve been watching a bit of TV during social isolation, and more than a bit.

We’ve seen some fun stuff, but in our shows we have also happened on a lot of rough, dark stuff. Many shows are based on or include abuse, violence and suffering. Murder fuels a lot of TV.

Last night the last show we watched was a murder mystery. As the show unfolded we found a coach sexually abusing his players. The plot included an extended boxing match where two young men pounded each other’s heads. We fast forwarded through the fight. I personally don’t like watching people hitting other people in the face until one of them is knocked out.

Is this soft? I think it’s sane. Watch what you want, but keep real life in mind. What makes good TV ruins real people’s lives. Concussions cause brain damage.

In 2020, the world suffers — and at this same time as I suffer my own chronic pain — perhaps I and we have an opportunity to change. Perhaps we might find our capacity for tolerating suffering diminished.

My growing awareness of how much some people or groups of people are harmed challenges me to want to stop such damage in our world. I want to protect and secure people’s safety.

What can I do in that direction? What can all of us do?

We can grieve. Once in a board meeting, as we dealt with a issue involving hurt and loss, one of the board members began to cry. Then she said, “I’m sorry to cry.”

I turned to her and said, “Yours is the most appropriate response.”

What but tears? Tears are the highest form of empathy and the highest form of judgment. As we mature we have the potential to grieve the world’s losses.

What else? We can get angry. Anger toward wrong doing is the appropriate reaction. Anger is motivating. Anger under control, that takes action, is the fuel of reform. I just read a biography of Frederick Douglass. When he got angry he got eloquent and he went to work to abolish slavery. We can use our anger to motivate us to fund and volunteer for organizations working for social change and justice.

We can take political action. We can elect those who are peacemakers and protectors and those who unite people rather than dividing them. We can not elect those who create an “us” and “them” culture. That sets the stage for violence.

And we can elect the oppressed. That’s hugely necessary. They are the ones who have authentic voices that need to be heard for systems that traffic in sanctioned violence to be reformed. Violence and oppression is often systemic. It is built into the very machine of society and of government. To end it will take a willingness to give the very people who are harmed and oppressed power, women, racial minorities, the disabled, people of different religious orientations or sexual orientations.

The majority, the privileged, must empower the minority for the safety and well being of all. In John Steinbeck’s novel The Moon Is Down, he asserts that an oppressed people will resist. And rightly so. How do we deal with that? Oppress them more? No, we wisely deal with that by ceasing to oppress them, by empowering them. That safeties all of us.

Lastly, we ourselves must not engage in violence. In our homes we must refuse to dominate and oppress our families. It would be easy to think that we don’t do that. But criticalness and judgment is often at the very core of family relationships. I know my own criticalness has caused harm in my own family, and I myself need to turn away from any behaviors or verbal expressions that don’t honor the other members.

TV has had our attention. What do we do now as society opens back up? Perhaps we go to work creating a world that inspires some better TV.

“Am I a good person?”

My daughter Rosalind asked my daughter Laurel this today.

Laurel gave her the Hasper answer. But first she asked a question.

“Why do you ask?“

“Well,” said Rosalind, “the house manager got mad at us today because we were getting into it with each other, and so she told us all that we need to shape up.“

Rosalind lives in a community of persons with disabilities. It’s a beautiful campus, with professional leadership, a model for the whole world.

“So you feel badly because she got mad at you?” Asked Laurel.

“Yeah,” said Rosalind. “ I don’t like it when people get mad at me.“

“Yeah I don’t either. Nobody likes that. But you have gotten mad at her haven’t you?“

“Yeah, I have.“

“Well, we all get mad at each other sometimes. The house manager sounded kind of like mom didn’t she?Getting mad doesn’t mean we don’t like each other.“

That’s the Hasper answer. When things get messy, we normalize messy. When we get a little crazy, we normalize crazy. That’s what human beings need. They need to know that the things they feel and the things they do are things other people have felt and done, because they have, but we lose track of that and we need other people to remind us of that from time to time.

“You’re not a bad person, Rosalind. You’re a good person.”

“Thanks,” said Rosalind.

I heard this story from Laurel when I talked to her on the phone later the same day, and so I called Rosalind and told her that Laurel had told me about the conversation. We went over it again and I reiterated to Rosalind that mad was normal and that it didn’t mean that she wasn’t good.

I told her, “You’re a good person. You are a kind person.

“Yeah,“ said Rosalind. “I think I would’ve been more lenient on everybody.“

“Yep,“ I said. “That’s who you are.“

“What does lenient mean?“ Rosalind asked me.

“It means exactly how you used it. It means to be easy on someone. It means to be kind and gentle and give them a break. I think that’s the way you are, kind like that.”

“Sometimes I get my words mixed up,“ said Rosalind.

”You get your words right a lot. That’s one of your strengths. You have a good vocabulary.“

So I piled it on, the Hasper way. Relational messiness is the norm. And we process it with words. And we help each other feel good again.

It’s good to see my girls living the way they were raised. Comfortable with mess. Lenient, especially when it comes to emotions.

I like it.

I need it myself.

It’s a model for the whole world.

Today, I wrote a magical story, below, for Rosalie, my new granddaughter. It contains the values I hope she and every other human on this planet will come to hold, the value of all creatures and all persons of all kinds from all places. May we fly together and shout, “Yay!”

Wherever Rosalie went magic happened.

“Yay!” Rosalie yelled.

Rosalie’s mom took her to the ocean. They sat on a bench overlooking the beach. Her mom held Rosalie in her arms.

“Yay!” shouted Rosalie.

And suddenly Rosalie became a blue and pink whale wearing a soft, silver beanie cap. She looked at her mom. She was a bright orange whale. They swam together through a swarm of tasty treats.

“Yay,” she and her mom both cheered as Rosalie took big yummy bites.

The next day, Rosalie’s dad took her to the zoo.

They went to the elephant exhibit.

“Yay!” Rosalie shouted, and the next instant she turned into a bright orange elephant. She looked over at her dad. He was now a bright yellow elephant.

“Yay!” Rosalie tooted through her trunk, and suddenly she wore a blue blanket, bright yellow ear dangles and a red cap.

“Yay!” shouted Rosalie and she rose into the sky — trunk-in-trunk with her dad — and they flew above the animal enclosures.

And all the creatures of the zoo, black leopards, yellow giraffes, brown bears and striped zebras waved and cheered.

The next day Rosalie stayed home. But that evening as the sun set, her Papa grandpa took her by the hand and led her into the backyard.

“Look,” her Papa Grandpa said, and he pointed at a bright point of light beside a crescent moon.

“It’s the planet Venus,” said Papa.

“Yay!” said Rosalie and she and Papa suddenly turned into spaceships and floated up into the sky. They sailed past the silver moon, circled Mars and rocketed on toward the cloud swirlies of Jupiter and the golden rings of Saturn.

“Yay,” yelled Rosalie and Papa as they surged toward Pluto.

The next day her grandma took her to the library.

“Yay,” whispered Grandma and Rosalie in their special library voices.

And they sat together in the library and read books about people paddling in canoes in a far off places.

“Yay,” yelled Rosalie and suddenly she and her grandma were in a canoe. And as grandma paddled it along, its paddles became wings, and it lifted into the air and flew out over the big, blue-green world. And they flew to far off places, and everywhere they went, they stopped and made new friends.

“Yay!” their new friends shouted with them.

The next day, Rosalie’s whole family got together, and while dinner was being made her aunt sat with her on the couch.

“Tell me a story,” said Rosalie.

“Okay,” said her aunt. “Once there was a little girl named Rosalie, and she loved to yell, ‘Yay!’ And whenever Rosalie yelled ‘Yay!’ wonderful and magical things happened.”

“Yay!” yelled Rosalie and her aunt. By now everyone who loved Rosalie knew to yell “Yay!”

And suddenly Rosalie and her aunt and her mom and her dad and her papa and her grandma flew out of the window into the bright blue sky.

And holding hands, they soared out over the bright blue-green earth.

“Yea” her whole family shouted.

And looking back Rosalie saw a zoo full of yelling animals and a canoe full of yelling friends flying up to join them. And they all shouted, “Yay!”

Then around and around the earth they all went, Rosalie leading the way, the planets trailing behind them like the tail of a kite.

“YAY!”