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Showing posts with label Palestine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Palestine. Show all posts

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving, the Via Negativa


Today is Thanksgiving. It is a secular holiday; nevertheless Thanksgiving is sacred to most Americans.

Many of us write reflections on this day, posting memes that express to the world the things we are thankful for.

That is nice, conscientious, appropriate. We have much to be thankful for as Americans, and we should never forget it.

A heartfelt expression of gratitude is always welcome, even the gratitude that is expressed in general for the many things we receive from those we love, by whom we are loved, for the things we are given that make our lives more comfortable, more challenging and more meaningful.

It is never inappropriate to thankful.

To express gratitude is to make one’s self humble; it is to acknowledge our reliance on others for making us into the people we have become.

Be humble.

Therefore, be gracious.

Be thankful…insofar as you are able, you will be following the way of the wise.

In theology there is something known as the apophatic tradition. In this tradition it is understood that God, by whatever name you call the creator the universe (of all that is and all we are), that God dwells in a mode beyond human understanding.

This tradition tell us that God is shrouded in mystery, described as the cloud of un-knowing.

According to the apophatic tradition, we are not able speak in the affirmative about what or who God is, because God, the eternal and infinite, God will not be circumscribed by finite constructs of human thought and language.

We are not able to offer positive assertions about the nature of the Divine, there is only the via negative, the way of understanding who God is by stating what God is not.

In keeping with the via negativa, I am in the custom of forgoing the traditional giving-of-thanks, even though I am truly grateful for my friends and compatriots, I am grateful for everyone in my life, grateful for all of those who inspire me, who love me, and are patient with me everyday.

I am grateful for you.

For this annual reflection I follow the via negative, the negative way, and express what I am not thankful for.

I am not thankful that there is no peace in the world,

In Yemen where the Saudia Arabia and Iran are fighting a proxy war, and hundreds of thousands of Children are on the brink of starvation. I am not thankful for this.

In Palestine, where the occupied territories continue to suffer under apartheid, where millions of people live in cities and towns that are in reality, nothing more than prisons, and the walls of their homes are the walls of a jail.

I am not thankful for the Turkish invasion of Northern Syria, I am not thankful that the President of the United States opted to abandon our allies the Syrian Kurds.

I am not thankful that in America we are divided by class, culture, color, by a pretender to the office of President.

I am not thankful for the dismal failures of our elected representatives who cannot discern their obligation to oppose Donald Trump or hold him accountable for the crimes he committed to become president, and the crimes he is committing to keep alive his hope of retaining it.

I am not thankful for their collective failure of Congress to protect the constitution, or for the individual members who have forgotten their oath of office.

I am not thankful that we have sold out our national interests to the likes of Vladimir Putin, or that our president dances on a string like a puppet for him.

I am not thankful for the failures of civilization to address our deepest problems such as the existential crises of climate change, destroying communities around the world, including the recent fires in California that have destroyed thousands of homes, killing dozens of people.

I am not thankful for our failures of leadership.

I am not thankful for white supremacy, and domestic terrorism.

I am not thankful for terrorism anywhere. I am not thankful for the religious fundamentalism that drives it. I am thankful neither for the fear that spawns it, nor for the fear it generates

I am not thankful that there is hunger in our bountiful world. I am not thankful for the greed and the sloth and the bad public policy that fosters it.

I am not thankful that my friends have to beg on the internet to be financially supported when in the natural course of their oives they come down with cancer, and other debilitating illnesses. I am not thankful for the gaping holes in the social safety net.

I am not thankful for willful ignorance, for anti-rational, anti-intellectual, demagoguery. I am not thankful for the cultural relativism that has promoted it, for anti-objectivism, for liars.

I am not thankful for Donald Trump. I am not thankful for my fellow Americans who voted for him, his allies in congress or anywhere who continue to support.

I am not thankful for the media outlets, the reporters, the editorialists who failed to take him seriously. I am not thankful that they abdicated their responsibilities as the gatekeepers of our society, as the so called 4th Estate, and allowed his criminal regime to hold the seat of power.

I am not thankful that they have not collectively figured out a way to redress their failures.

I am not thankful and I am ashamed everyday because of his antics as the President of the United States, for his capitulation to murderous regimes, and strong-men anywhere who Donald Trump thinks he can profit from at some future point beyond his presidency, I am not thankful he has sold out our interests to them.

I am not thankful for his corruption of the rule of law.

I am not thankful for the on-going and continuous assault on the working class, the threats that are levied against the average citizen in the spheres of public policy like health care, and taxes.

I am not thankful for our government’s continuous assault on our population of immigrants and refugees, for the way we have abdicated our responsibility to care for the asylum seeker.

I am not thankful for these things.

I am not thankful that there is so much more to add to this list.

I am not thankful for the shortsightedness of liberals and progressives who cannot stand united in the face of the social forces that threaten us all.

Did I say that I am not thankful for white supremacists? I did, but let me say it again…I am not thankful for them or their apologists, both their soft supporters and their ardent advocates. I am not thankful that they have a seat at the table in the administration of Donald J. Trump.

I am not thankful for them.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving, the Via Negativa

Today is Thanksgiving. It is a secular holiday, but nevertheless, Thanksgiving is sacred to most Americans.

Many of us are writing, posting memes, outwardly expressing the things that we are thankful for.

That is nice. It is conscientious, appropriate. We have much to be thankful for.

A heartfelt expression of gratitude is always welcome, even gratitude expressed in general for the many things we receive from those we love, by whom we are loved, that make our lives more comfortable, more challenging, and more meaningful.

It is never inappropriate to thankful.

To express gratitude is to make one’s self humble; it is to acknowledge our reliance on others for making us into the people we have become.

Be humble.

Be gracious.

Be thankful.

In theology there is something known as the apophatic tradition. In this tradition it is understood that God (the creator the universe, of all that is and all we are), that God dwells in a place beyond human understanding.

God is shrouded in mystery, in the cloud of un-knowing.

According to the apophatic tradition, no one can speak affirmatively about what or who God is, because God, the eternal and infinite, God will not be circumscribed by language.

There can be no positive assertions about the nature of the Divine, there is only the via negative, the way of understanding who God is by stating what God is not.

Following this tradition, I will forgo the giving of thanks, even though I am truly grateful for my friends and compatriots, for everyone in my life, for all of those who inspire me, and are endlessly patient with me.

I will be selfish and tell you all what I am not thankful for.

I am not thankful that there is no peace in the world,

In Burma/Myanmar where the Rohingya people are facing genocide.

In Palestine, where there is apartheid, where millions of people live in cities and towns that are prisons, and the walls of their homes are the walls of a jail.

In America, where we are divided by class, culture, color.

I am not thankful for the dismal failures of our government in the recovery of Puerto Rico.

I am not thankful for white supremacy, and domestic terrorism.

I am not thankful for terrorism anywhere. I am not thankful for the religious fundamentalism that drives it. I am thankful neither for the fear that spawns it, nor for the fear it generates

I am not thankful that there is hunger in our bountiful world. I am not thankful for the greed, for the sloth, and the bad public policies that foster it.

I am not thankful for willful ignorance, for anti-rational, anti-intellectual, demagoguery. I am not thankful for the cultural relativism that has promoted it, for anti-objectivism, for liars.

I am not thankful for Donald Trump. I am not thankful for my fellow Americans who voted for him.

I am not thankful for the media outlets, the reporters, the editorialists who failed to take him seriously. I am not thankful that they abdicated their responsibilities as the gatekeepers of our society, as the so called 4th Estate, and allowed his criminal regime to hold the seat of power.

I am not thankful and ashamed everyday of his antics as the President of the United States.

I am not thankful for on-going continuous assault on the working class, the threats that are levied against the average citizen in the spheres of public policy like health care, and taxes, access to our National Parks, and the reasonable expectation that we live in a clean environment.

I am not thankful for our government’s continuous assault on our population of immigrants and refugees.

I am not thankful that these things.

I am not thankful that there is so much more to add to this list.

I am not thankful for the shortsightedness of liberals and progressives who cannot stand united in the face of social forces that threaten us all.

Did I say that I am not thankful for white supremacists? I did, but let me say it again…I am not thankful for them, or their apologists, their soft supports or their ardent advocates. I am not thankful that they have a seat at the table in the administration of a Donald Trump.

I am not thankful for that vile imposter, who stole the presidency with the aid of a foreign power, the Russians no-less.

I am not thankful for them.

They suck.



Monday, June 27, 2016

A Homily – The Gospel of Luke 9:51-62 ©

 The Gospel of the Day – 2016.06.26

The Church of God

As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me’, replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’

Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say goodbye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

(NJB)

Who is Worthy?

Reflect on this passage from Luke.

Have some empathy for Jesus. The road that the prophet walks is a lonely road. Even those closest to him are rebuked, because they do not understand his mission.

Jesus has been out in the countryside, preaching outside Judea; in the wider region of Palestine, and when he turns his eye toward Jerusalem, toward the completion of his mission the Samaritans reject him.

Jesus, who had opened his ministry to everyone, encounters the sectarianism he is working to dissolve. It is a sorrowful moment.

James and John, the “Sons of Thunder,” offer to rain destruction on the Samaritan village as a penalty. Jesus rebukes them, they are his companions, they have been travelling with him for nearly three years, and they still do not understand the works of mercy he is engaged in.

Jesus then encounters a sequence of people who are all seemingly willing to follow him, but they are busy, they have obligations. For them the time is not now.

Jesus laments.

Little has changed for human beings since his time. The divine work that Christians have been commissioned to undertake; that work requires a full commitment, and the understanding that at its heart there must be mercy.

Mercy, the easiest thing of all to forget when you are angry, lonely, tired, hungry and feeling slighted.

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Homily – The Gospel of Luke 13:1-9 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2016.02.28 (Sunday)

The Parable of the Fig Tree

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’
  
He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’ (NJB)

The Church and Power

The gospel of the day is a plain spoken text. It acknowledges the overwhelming reality of suffering in the world. Suffering caused by human beings, suffering caused by the random nature of events in the world; the Roman prelate, Pilate, caused suffering among the people of Palestine, either directly, at his hands for political and religious purposes (which to the Romans were one and the same), or indirectly, because they were forced into servitude.

The message the Jesus has for his people is that they be careful, mindful, watchful of those powers, and of one another unless they two are caught up in the aegis of Pilates authority and subjected to the whims of cruelty. The people who suffered and died under Pilate did not suffer and die because they deserved it more than any others, they were not more guilty of crimes than he, or his followers, but they were careless, and due to their carelessness they were caught up in the grip of Roman power.
Jesus stresses in the parable the power of intention. The farmer is the Roman State, he has the power of life and death over the people, if the people do not fulfill his expectations, he will destroy them.

The man looking after the vineyard is the Church. The Church pleads for mercy on behalf of the people, and through mindfulness, and care; the people are brought along safely into the next year, preserving themselves and their families in the face of the violent Roman State.

It is a tenuous arrangement, but a necessary political arrangement if the people who make up the church are going to survive in a time of persecution.  


2nd Sunday of Lent

Friday, December 25, 2015

On Jesus and Mithra, Part 1 (Pages 1 - 3)

Everything we know about Jesus is tangled in myth. It is certain that the narratives of his birth, and childhood are works of complete fiction. Even the narrative of his adult ministry, beginning around the year 30 C.E. is imbued with metaphor and allegory. The narrative that we have received from the tradition is so thoroughly syncretized to the broader cultural context of the Near East that we do not even refer to him by his given name; Joshua, but instead we call him by a Greek variant. Therefore, if we desire to understand this story, (as we should) how it came to be as it is, we must engage that broader narrative, the complete societal and theological context from which the Christian story emerged. We must journey beyond the Palestinian crossroads that was ancient Judea, and beyond the Greco-Roman world, we must go to Persia; because the story really begins there, with Mithra.

The “Cult of Mithras” is understudied, but to the extent that it is, it is commonly regarded, merely as a competitor of the early Christian Church, but it was much more than that. Mithraic worship, as it was practiced by the Romans, principally by members of the Roman army in the first four centuries of the common era, has its roots in ancient Persia; as an offshoot of Zoroastrianism (c. 700 BCE), (1) evolving through the centuries until it reached its final form as a “mystery cult” movement with the Roman army. Through its evolution, propelled by the extensive influence of the Persian Empire, Mithraism had a significant impact on every society it encountered, and every form of worship in the Mediterranean region, the Near East, and Southwest Asia.
This essay is an attempt to communicate the multiple ways by which Mithraism has influenced the development of other faith traditions, most importantly the Judea-Christian tradition, and our images of Jesus. 

Scholarship on Mithraism is scant. Most scholars research tends to downplay the connection between the form of Mithraism that was practiced by the Roman army, and the ancient form of Mithraism that was practiced in the heart of Persia. To justify this, these scholars will site some obvious iconographic and liturgical differences between the two forms of worship, as if to say that the presence of a few subtle differences is enough to mark a complete separation and distinction between the traditions; despite the much greater body of similarities. The following paragraph from David Ulansey’s book The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries illustrates this point clearly. He says:

"The Western mystery cult of Mithraism as it appeared in the Roman Empire derived its very identity from a number of characteristics which were completely absent from the Iranian worship of Mithra: a series of initiations into ever higher levels of the cult accompanied by strict secrecy about the cult’s doctrines; the distinctive cave like temples in which the cult’s devotees met; and, most important, the iconography of the cult, in particular the tauroctony. None of these essential characteristics of Western Mithraism were to be found in the Iranian worship of Mithra."(2) 

Some of his Ulansey’s predecessors have suggested that the differences between the Persian-Iranian form of Mithraism and that of the Roman army are the product of natural transformations that occur in all belief systems as they move from one cultural to another, across great expanses of geography, and time. His particular criticisms have to do with extrinsic matters of form, and ritual activity, which are the structures that we would expect to change over time and distance. The seven stages of initiation, the tauroctony (slaying of the bull), the codes of secrecy, and the type of temple worship have little to do with the central tenets of Mithraism; closely held beliefs that had existed from the earliest times in Persia, through its final incarnation as a Roman mystery cult. The central theme remains the same; a belief in the immortality of the soul, and the notion of personal salvation.

(1) By 700 BCE the Royal court of Persia had fully converted to the religion of Zoroastrianism and its demi-god Mithra. However, Zoroastrianism likely emerged sometime between 2500 – 1200 BCE. 

(2)  The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, by David Ulansey, pg. 8, par. 4 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving, according to the Via Negativa

Today is Thanksgiving, a secular holiday to be sure, but a sacred one for Americans.

Many of us are writing about the things that we are thankful for, and that is nice.

The expression of gratitude is always welcome, even gratitude expressed in general for the many things we receive from those we love, by whom we are loved, that make our lives more comfortable, more challenging, more meaningful.

To express gratitude in this way is to, is to make one’s self humble, to acknowledge our reliance on others for making us who we are.

In theology there is something known as the apophatic tradition. In this tradition it is understood that God, the creator of all that is, that God dwells in a place beyond all human understanding, shrouded in mystery, in the great cloud of un-knowing.

According to the apophatic tradition, no one can speak affirmatively as to what or who God is, because God, the infinite will not be circumscribed by language. There are no positive assertions about the nature of the Divine, there is only the via negativa; the way of saying what God is not.

This year I will forgo the giving of thanks, even though I am truly grateful for everyone in our lives. I will be selfish and tell you all what I am not thankful for.

I am not thankful that there is no peace in the world,
In Syria, from where millions of people are fleeing their homes
In Palestine, where there is apartheid
In America, where we are divided by class, culture, color

I am not thankful for white supremacy, and domestic terrorism

I am not thankful for terrorism anywhere
I am not thankful for the religious fundamentalism that drives it
            I am thankful neither for the fear that spawns it, nor for the fear it creates

I am not thankful that there is hunger in our bountiful world
            I am not thankful for the greed, for the sloth, and for the bad public policy that foster it

I am not thankful for willful ignorance, for anti-rational, anti-intellectual, demagoguery
            I am not thankful for the cultural relativism that has promoted it, for anti-objectivism
                        I am not thankful for liars

I am not thankful for Donald Trump, for Ted Cruz, for Ben Carson

I am not thankful for Fox News