Abortion: Its Theological Problem (and Goddess solution)

Thank God for the recent SCOTUS decision to effectively repeal Roe.

I say that not because I think the decision was correct. It wasn’t. I say it because Dobbs vs. Jackson has pinpointed the fundamental source of national polarization not only on the issue of abortion, but on climate change and war as well.

And that source was not correctly identified by Bill Clinton’s phrase (borrowed from James Carville) “it’s the economy, stupid.” Rather, the source of national polarization is not economics, politics, or constitutional law. It’s theology. Yes, theology! And until what passes for the “left” in this country takes that bull by the horns, it is doomed to impotence in the face of the religiously driven right-wing juggernaut that triumphed with Dobbs.

What that decision made clear is that the victorious “pro-life” position is based fundamentally on theological grounds that can only be described as patriarchal. Its foundations are abstract, divorced from life, and ignorant of the experience of those centrally involved in the question, viz., women.

Meanwhile, left-wing “pro-choicers” seem too “sophisticated” to respond in kind within an American context where people are basically religious and have been tricked into accepting mansplained theological reasoning about abortion. I mean, the left has proven strangely reluctant to engage its opponents on that powerful contested spiritual terrain.

What I’m arguing here is that the means for doing so is readily available in a highly developed feminist theology that is much more persuasive, older, comprehensive, and venerable than its more recently developed patriarchal counterpart. It’s the theology of the earth consistently embraced by our ancient ancestors and by indigenous people across the planet. (The latter btw, are not reluctant to address issues in theological terms.)

The theology in question has perhaps been best described by Monica Sjöö’s and Barbara Mors splendid 500-page volume, The Great Cosmic Mother. It’s the religion of the earth explained there that can save the day for humanity and our planet.  

To show what I mean, let me begin by sharing The Great Cosmic Mother’s contrast between matricentric and patriarchal religions in general. Secondly, I’ll compare matricentric insights about abortion with their patriarchal counterparts. Thirdly, I’ll show how those insights are essentially theological. My conclusion will suggest profound changes in the ways we speak about or ignore the spiritual dimensions of our lives.    

The Religion of the Earth

By “The Religion of the Earth” Sjöö, Mor, and other feminist historians refer to the first religions of the human species which for 30,000 years centered on Goddess worship.

That’s right. Widespread archeological discoveries of detailed goddess statues indicate conclusively that the supreme gods who reigned for most of human history’s concern with religion have been female. Under such dispensation, wise women functioned as community leaders, priestesses, counsellors, midwives, and healers. For millennia, they were humankind’s principal decision-makers.

Accordingly, worship for those 30,000 years celebrated “Mother Earth” with her abundant life-giving powers, as well as natural processes influenced by the moon, ocean tides, and seasonal changes.

Such emphasis also centralized life mysteries unique to women and completely foreign to male experience – the menstrual cycle, conception, gestation, birthing, nursing, contraception, and abortion. Obviously, men have only second-hand knowledge of such processes that largely shape female experience so central to propagation of the species.

So, Goddess religions emphasized female autonomy, male discipleship, the unity of all creation and the knowledge and insight available through the uniquely feminine avenues just listed. Wisdom came to women as well through peer interaction, prayer, contemplation, meditation, ecstatic dance, music, chants, spells, rituals, and female intuition.

Patriarchal Religion

Then about 12,000 years ago (coincident with the development of agriculture) worship of the Great Cosmic Mother was gradually replaced by patriarchal religion. Particularly in the west, the reigning Father God came to replace Mother Earth and women’s “religion of the earth.” Patriarchal religion centered on law, animal and human sacrifice, logic, competition, war, and commercial exchange.

In its Judeo-Christian incarnation, the single Deity (Yahweh) was emphatically male. He replaced Mother Earth with her loving maternal instincts and mysterious natural cycles characterized by predictability, lavish abundance, prodigality, plenty, generosity, sharing, mercy, and forgiveness. Her place was taken by a patriarchal lawgiver and judge who condemned, punished, blamed, and tortured.  

Even beyond that, women and their cosmic faith came to be vilified by the new religion as irrational, and as superstitious. Women spiritual leaders — those wise community leaders, priestesses, counsellors, midwives, and healers – fell from grace and were viciously persecuted by vindictive priests as witches and agents of evil spirits.

The religion of the earth with those wise priestesses was forced to go underground. But the patriarchal Inquisition and its Puritan counterparts hunted them down relentlessly – eventually killing as many as 9 million accused witches over a period of 300 years (1450-1750). Obviously, this “women’s holocaust” represented the most extreme attempts to control women and their bodies and to deny their traditional roles as expressions of the divine.

Under this new dispensation, celibate male priests within the Catholic Church (presumably without any experience of women’s sexuality) assumed the role of dictating a predominantly sex-based morality. In this context, the celibate clergy saw women as temptresses. Female bodies and wiles sinfully incited otherwise holy men reluctantly suppressing their own sexual urges and those of others both male and female.

In line with such blatant sexism, priests outlawed extra marital sexual pleasure. They declared that the only valid reason for sexual intercourse was the begetting of children. Consequently, women’s attempts to control their bodies, destinies, and family sizes through their traditional practices of contraception and abortion were classified as evil and warranting eternal punishment with everlasting torture. In particular, the traditional abortion practices of women’s earth religion came to be seen as criminal and even homicidal.

Goddess Religion & Abortion

And what were those practices? How were they justified? Though by no means the focus of their book, here is what Sjöö and Mor have to say about abortion:

  • Matricentric cultures considered life as a continuous divinely spiraled (vs. straight line) process with both repetitions and ascendent progress. It is a mystery from which human beings emerge.
  • For women-led societies, human life did not begin when sperm fertilized egg. In fact, in no way was life considered to emerge from humans. Instead, humans were thought to emerge from Life’s incredibly abundant, prodigal, and even wasteful profusion. [For instance, each month of their existence women who do not become pregnant send down the drain an egg with incredible life potential. Similarly, each male ejaculation “wastes” about 2 million sperm. Moreover, 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage – not to mention unknown pregnancies. Put otherwise, prodigality, abundance, and spontaneous abortion somehow constitute nature’s way (387).]  
  • Amid such prodigality, the first law of matricentric cultures was that women must control their own bodies (200).
  • Consequently, questions of abortion were traditionally considered outside the realm of masculine competence. They were none of men’s business. This was because questions of pregnancy or nonpregnancy found no analogy within the experience of men who could never become pregnant, gestate fetuses, give birth, or have abortions (385).
  • Clearly, women in ancient times didn’t (as they still don’t) always want children.
  • So, under matricentric arrangements, female intuition decided the time to be pregnant or not as well as whether to bring pregnancies to term (385).
  • With women in charge of their bodies, they developed herbal contraceptives and abortifacients (200). [The earliest discovered recipes for abortion date from around 2700 BCE (203).]
  • During the time of Spanish colonization of the Americas, indigenous women even practiced abortion to rob the imperialists of “Indian” slave labor (206).
  • Tribes that practiced abortion and even infanticide (far from considering such practices homicidal) were instead convinced that the spirit of the dead child returned to the earth womb to await a new birth – when the time was right for its mother (201). As expressed by Sjöö and Mor, “What has come once – when the time is wrong – can come once again when the time is right” (388).

Patriarchy & Abortion

Now, contrast this matricentric approach to life and abortion with that of the rather newly arrived patriarchy. As described by the authors of The Great Cosmic Mother, celibate priests, and theologians, along with the male-dominated fields of philosophy and logic made the following highly theoretical and unproveable assumptions:

  • Morality is determined not by human experience or nature, but by sacred scripture, abstract logic, law and by mostly pre-scientific theology interpreted by those (often celibate and gynophobic) men particularly obsessed with questions related to sex (165).
  • Ultimately, decisions about pregnancy lie in the hands of an off-planet divine patriarch rather than in those of a female co-creator. A divine Chess Master above the earth decides when to “ensoul” or not a human zygote. (According to Thomas Aquinas, males received souls 40 days after conception; females, 40 days later than that.) The Great Patriarch’s decision is final in all cases.
  • On this understanding, women are seen as quasi machines or nests– receptive objects rather than actively contributing to the process as autonomous decision-making subjects (365).
  • History moves in a straight line. Far from being spiral in nature with repetitions along with ascendent progress, it has a beginning and an end.
  • Individual lives are similarly linear and unrepeatable.
  • Consequently, each fertilized egg represents from the moment of conception a unique individual, which if aborted is forever lost to the world, humanity, and history. Her or his God-determined destiny remains eternally frustrated.
  • Therefore, human interference in processes of pregnancy is immoral and (depending on the time of intervention) can even be considered murderous.

Theological Differences

As evident from the above side-by-side comparisons of matricentric and patriarchal approaches to abortion, resolution of the question at hand comes down to theologies describing the nature of God, the direction of history, and autonomous human individuality. None of these considerations is subject to definitive demonstration or proof. They are matters of faith.

Or as Sjöö and Mor put it: “The fundamentalist Protestant and Catholic anti-abortionists are following the ways and dictates of their God. The rudimentary question remains: Is their God the God?”

And where in a pluralistic society do atheists fit in – or citizens whose religious faith locates the beginning of personal life at the stage of viability outside the life support system provided by its mother’s body, or at a baby’s exit from the womb, or (as in some tribal cultures) after the child is painted to distinguish it from the animals?

Again, in a pluralistic culture, why privilege one unproveable faith- based interpretation over all those other ways of understanding the beginnings of personal life?

Sjöö and Mor argue that such questions of faith disappear if matters of pregnancy and abortion are understood within the context of the Great Cosmic Mother’s “religion of the earth.”

There, women whose very monthly processes mirror those of the seasons, moon phases, and tides, are granted overriding insights, intuitions, and understandings about their unique processes inaccessible to the men whose patriarchal pronouncements would explain, invalidate and govern them.     

In specifically theological perspective, proponents of the reemergent goddess religion add: “If God is seen as female, the problem of abortion does not exist. The entire question of sex, pregnancy, birth control – and even abortion – undergoes an ontological somersault, a revolution of basic terms”

Conclusion

This article has been about abortion. It has argued that solving its dilemmas begins with recognizing their roots in patriarchy and patriarchy’s God.

The same argument could be made about climate change and the threat of nuclear war. In all three cases, the problem is the relatively recent arrival of a world governed by men (patriarchy).

Theologically speaking, man’s world has been grounded in the worship of a God divorced from life’s most basic processes. Fundamentally, patriarchy’s God is a war deity. He legislates, judges, condemns, and punishes. He is a God of fear. He has been used as a tool to persuade the politically, economically, and historically illiterate to endorse patriarchy’s omnicidal agenda.

[Think about it. It is men who run a world economy that is irreversibly destroying the planet. It is male politicians, generals, and CEOs (aided by the relatively few women admitted to their clubs) who have developed and currently threaten the world with nuclear destruction. It is men, not women who are the planet’s principal rapists, child abusers, mass shooters – and clergy. And the latter’s misogynist theology is unconsciously rooted in a 12,000-year-long battle against The Great Cosmic Mother.]

By contrast The Great Cosmic Mother herself embodies life’s rich abundance, generosity, extravagance, and prodigality. She welcomes humans as co-creators with Life’s Source. She is the Ground of life’s cycles and rhythms. Those rhythms assure that what has come once – when the time is wrong – can come once again when the time is right. The Great Cosmic Mother could never endorse her own matricide whether by climate change or war of any kind, nuclear or not.

And it is women spiritual leaders who are most in touch with her. These are the guides who must replace the male priests, pastors, imams, rabbis – and presidents. And (in American culture) they have names such as Louise Hay, Liz Theoharis, Caroline Myss, Monica Sjöö, Barbara Mor – and Marianne Williamson. Their theology is earthy, experiential, eminently practical, and expresses the insights of those whose lives are deeply connected with earth’s rhythms in ways the patriarchal order has proven incapable of understanding.

What I’m suggesting is that it is high time to overcome “sophisticated” reluctance to recognize such truths and leaders. It is far past time for churches to debunk the modern patriarchal God in favor of the ancient Great Cosmic Mother who frees from patriarchal laws, empowers humans as co-creators, forgives, appreciates, and rewards.

Fundamentally, our problems are not economic, political, or ideological. The left needs the courage to recognize and profess that faith. Only The Great Cosmic Mother can save us now.

Sorry, Mr. Clinton, it’s not the economy. It’s the theology.

The Taiwan “Crisis”: Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden Belong in Jail

Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden belong in jail. In fact, any world leader who creates situations that make nuclear war possible, belongs in prison. Who gave them or anyone the right to threaten the future of our planet for any reason at all –but especially for no reason whatsoever?

Let me put that another way: Our elected officials have invented out of whole cloth an entirely avoidable crisis with China, a nuclear power. Out of the blue and for no compelling reason at all, they’ve decided to turn Tuesday August 2nd into what Australia’s Sky News described as possibly “the most dangerous day of this century.”

And why? Simply because they can – or they think they can!

They want to demonstrate their conviction that no one can tell U.S. officials what to do.

[What? Are these high school adolescents? No, they’re octogenarians! (Maybe that explains it.) In any case, their “reasoning” is worse than juvenile.]

Get this: they’re convinced that it’s worth risking your life, mine, and those of our grandchildren to make some inane schoolyard point: “No one’s gonna tell me what to do! I’ll show you, even if it kills us all!”

Let me repeat: because they’ve demonstrated such unmistakable immaturity – for nothing more than a public relations stunt – the instigators of this event (the Biden administration and Pelosi) have clearly displayed their stupidity, incompetence and unfitness to hold public office. As a Great Man once said, “Lock them up!”

Why Villainize China?

In fact, this whole villainization of China is puzzling beyond measure.

Why consider it an enemy at all? Think of what the Chinese have accomplished for humankind in an extraordinarily short time. Their system:

  • Has for the last 40 years experienced the fastest economic growth rate of any country in the world.
  • Is on track to displace the United States as the world’s premiere economy by the year 2030 if not before.
  • Has raised more than 800,000,000 people out extreme poverty – and in record time.
  • Has enabled Chinese families (almost 20%of the world’s population) to work decent jobs, feed their families, secure a good education, and enjoy health care, with ever rising expectations.
  • By prioritizing health care during a pandemic, has been far more successful in saving the lives of its citizens than the pitiful response of the United States, which prioritized profits over human life.     
  • Over a period of merely 70 years, has reversed a situation where perhaps a million people each year were dying of starvation to one where life expectancy in China is now longer than that of U.S. citizens.
  • Through their Belt and Road Initiative has constructively engaged the developing world in coordinated efforts to eliminate international problems like hunger, climate change, and decrepit or non-existent infrastructure after centuries of debilitating colonialism and looting at the hands of Europe and the United States.

And yet, the United States treats China as though such accomplishments were somehow bad – as though joblessness, hunger, ignorance, sickness, short life expectancy, and narrow nationalism were preferable to decent jobs, ability to feed one’s family, access to higher education and health care, along with longevity, and foreign aid.

Democracy in China

Obviously, the Chinese people prefer life and prosperity over their opposites. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 85 percent of Chinese people in 2013 were satisfied with their government, while only 35 percent of Americans felt the same about their government.

But what about democracy? Am I somehow claiming that China is more democratic than the United States?

Yes, I am.

In fact, according to the report of longtime China resident Cyrus Janssen, that’s the way citizens in China (and Vietnam by the way) perceive their country. Janssen based his report on Denmark’s 2022 “Democracy Perception Index” (see video above). It’s the world’s largest annual study on how people in general perceive democracy.

According to that study, fewer than 50% of Americans feel that the U.S. is truly democratic. By contrast 81% of Chinese feel their country is democratic – and this even though China is a one-party state.

How can that be?

It’s simple. The Chinese people are evidently convinced that a government that meets the needs of its people is more democratic than one who holds periodic elections but ignores the popular will.

Moreover, according the “Democracy Perception Index,” only 5% of Chinese believe their country does not have free and open elections for offices below the country’s presidency.

China’s Problems

None of this is to say that China is somehow without its problems. Like any country – especially one with such a huge and culturally diverse population – China has problems. But lack of democracy, it seems, is not one of them.

Instead, China’s problems include:

  • Threats by the United States, a country with merely 4.6% of the world’s population whose policies indicate that it should be able to control the entire world including China which lies 7000 miles away from the U.S. mainland.
  • A Muslim problem which (unlike the United States) it addresses not by wars and bombing, but by efforts at development and re-education. (Say what you will about the latter, but it’s arguably more enlightened than the U.S. way of dealing with Muslims at home and abroad by waging its forever wars for the last two decades and more.)
  • Taiwan. There is no denying that Taipei and the secessionist tendencies of the ideological descendants of Chiang Kai-shek remain a problem. But in all of this, there are three simple facts to keep in mind: (1) according to three bilateral agreements solemnly signed by the United States and China (1972, 1979, and another in the 1980s) TAIWAN IS PART OF CHINA; (2) apart from the one created by Pelosi, THERE IS NO CRISIS IN TAIWAN, and (3) Without external interference CHINA AND TAIWAN SHOULD BE LEFT TO WORK OUT THEIR DIFFERENCES deliberately and diplomatically at their own pace.

Conclusion

So, how should (even self-serving) diplomats truly concerned with avoiding World War III have dealt with China’s objections to Pelosi’s visit – even if they wanted to portray China as somehow run by a dictatorial madman (which Xi Jinping is not)?

They should have said:

  • Pelosi’s intention in visiting Taiwan was completely innocuous meant only to strengthen economic and political ties with the island that the U.S. has always recognized not only as part of China, but as an important trading partner.
  • Moreover, the United States is committed not to opposing China, but to cooperating with its marvelous and unprecedented economic and social achievements.
  • Yet, China’s president irrationally has decided to turn this peaceful visit into an international incident that (again, irrationally) threatens the entire planet.
  • To prevent the prevalence of such unfounded irrationality and in the interests of world peace, the House Speaker has decided to postpone her visit until such time as cooler heads prevail.

With such explanation, maturity would have been demonstrated on the U.S. side. China’s president would experience no humiliation. And no face would be lost either side.

And finally, at least by any credible moral standard, Biden and Pelosi would have avoided condemnation as the schoolyard bullies and international criminals they are instead proving themselves to be.

As anyone can see, international diplomacy (at least for those concerned about your future, mine and that of our children and grandchildren) is not that hard.

Pelosi and Biden don’t get it. Lock them up!

My Granddaughter’s First Sonnett

Eva with her proud grandparents

My 13-year-old granddaughter, Eva, has spent the first three weeks of her summer vacation at the famous arts camp in Interlochen, Michigan. She’s really enjoying her high-level introduction to writing poetry, autobiographical reflections, and fiction.

On this blog, I’ve written about Eva and our relationship several times — most revealingly, I think, in a poem I wrote to her on her 13th birthday.

I’m so proud of this young woman and cherish the conversations we share as we frequently take our exercise in morning walks. We always end up sitting by the Saugatuck River consuming treats from Starbucks.

In any case, Eva is a writer with ambitions to eventually pursue a degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing at Princeton (her father’s university) or Wellesley (her mother’s alma mater).

However, at this point, she’s just getting started though the instruction she’s received at Pierrepont School here in Westport, CT has been excellent. It has prepared her well for Interlochen.

During my nearly 14-year conversation with my granddaughter, Eva has evidenced more interest in creative prose rather than poetry. “Poetry’s just not my thing,” she’s told me more than once.

So, you can imagine my surprise when during the first week at Interlochen she waxed enthusiastic about her poetry classes. She shared with me her first sonnet. Its topic was to be some personal experience. Eva chose to write about witnessing the birth of her 4th brother, Sebastian 3 years ago.

Here’s what she wrote:

Sonnet:
I saw a new life come into the world

It was a magical experience;

A small red baby with his fingers curled,

His vision blurred and brain delirious.

It made my eyes shine with watery tears

And my body feel a sense of wonder;

His skin is as soft as small rabbit ears,

I whisper to my mom how I love her,

And how proud I am of her good effort.

She smiles at me and says it’s not the first

Also babies always make her head hurt;

But after the baby had bathed and nursed,

And to our fam’ly friends we said farewell

My mom let me name him, Sebastian Nels.

Over the next few days, I’ll share two other pieces Eva has written at Interlochen — one a personal reflection, the other a work of fiction.

The Truth behind “Great Replacement Theory”:Capitalism, Imperialism, & Regime Change Are at Fault

Readings for 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Isaiah 66: 10-14C; Psalm 66: 1-7, 16, 20; Galatians 6: 14-18; Luke 10: 1-2, 17-20

You’ve all heard of the “Great Replacement Theory,” right?

It’s the analysis holding that white mostly Christian males have recently come to constitute an oppressed class. They are being “replaced” in the U.S. economy and culture by interlopers – immigrants, women, non-whites, and non-Christians. As a result, white Christian males suddenly find themselves unemployed or working in dead-end jobs for much lower wages than before.

Proliferation of the theory has led to widespread animus against the apparent replacers – non-males, immigrants, non-whites, and non-Christians.

Just another right-wing conspiracy theory, no?

Not really.

The Truth of Replacement

In fact, according to my favorite economist, Richard Wolff (see above video), there is more than a grain of truth in that way of thinking.

According to Wolff, the replacement theorists are correct: white Christian males have indeed experienced substitution by others in the neo-liberal order organized by capitalists over the last 40 years or so.

But the ones responsible for the tragedy are not immigrants, women, and non-Christian people of color. Instead, the fault is systemic. It lies with capitalism itself. That system’s pursuit of profit has capitalists freely choosing to substitute previously high-wage earners with robots, policies of offshoring, and (far less often) by employment of desperate immigrants.

And there’s more (something Professor Wolff doesn’t note). U.S. policies of imperialism and regime change themselves end up being all about replacement of people’s governments with pro-elite puppets. It has removed socialist leaning governments throughout the world (closest to home in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala) and put in their place regimes that favor rich landowners, multinational corporations, drug cartels and gangs. Such replacement has spawned generations of desperate impoverished peasants anxious for a better life even if it means leaving the homeland they love.

Actual imperialism then and regime change (along with the normal dynamics of capitalism) are not just about theory. They are long-standing practices of the United States.

Identifying others as the culprits purposely distracts from the real problem – deregulated capitalism as administered by our own government.  

Today’s Readings

I bring that up in this Sunday’s homily because its readings (translated below) once again focus on the ways the biblical God favors the victims of empire and regime change – the very ones vilified by white Christian males who feel that their previously advantageous position in society is currently being usurped by those displaced workers who are overwhelmingly Christians too. The readings call people like us to re-identify our oppressors.

As suggested by Isaiah, the biblical psalmist, Paul, and Yeshua, the immigrants and refugees that our politicians want us to hate are exiles very like the ancient Hebrews in Babylon. They are the victims of the rich and powerful as were the Jews in Jesus’ day, when Rome occupied his homeland aided and abetted by the Temple clergy.

Put otherwise, today’s biblical selections say that the poorest and most vulnerable among us are God’s own people. The readings call us who live in the belly of the beast to acknowledge that hidden fact. Implicitly, they summon us to replace the true oppressor of white Christian males – the capitalist system itself – with a new order favoring the truly oppressed. Yeshua called that order the Kingdom of God.

Additionally, we’re asked to recognize that the homelands of Christian exiles and immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua are the very countries whose economies our government purposely and permanently crashed in the 1980s and subsequently.

Then, the Reagan and Bush I administrations used drug money to finance illegal wars that ended up killing hundreds of thousands while replacing governments and social movements whose primary beneficiaries would have been the parents of those at our borders today. The latter have been substituted by the drug lords we established and supported during the ‘80s and who today are doing the same things they did 40 years ago – marketing drugs while terrorizing and murdering the innocent. I’m talking about the generals and other military officers who are now the drug kingpins.

To repeat, it’s been that way from biblical times and before – rich foreigners oppressing poor locals for the benefit of the “Mother Country.” Listen to today’s readings. Or, rather, read them for yourself here. My “translations” follow:

IS 66:10-14c
 
These are the words
Of Isaiah’s prophecy
To exiles re-placed
By Powers
Foreign and domestic:
“Your time of desperation
Is nearly over.
You will soon
Rediscover a home
Like starving infants
Returned to
Their mother.
With hunger satisfied
And incredible
"Prosperity
Along with joy
And comfort, comfort, comfort
At last!”

PS 66: 1-7, 16, 20
  
Our liberator
From exile
So kind and powerful
Is the answer
To the prayers
Of replaced people
And a source of joy
For the whole
Human race
And all of creation.

No obstacle
Can impede
Our Great Parents' destiny
Of liberation
Joy and freedom
From oppression.
  
 GAL 6: 14-18
 
Yes, our true inheritance
Is an entirely
New World!
Where distinctions
Between rich and poor
Oppressor and oppressed
Are meaningless.

Anticipating
This New Order
Now
Will bring
Everyone
Compassion and peace.
However empires
Might crucify us
For this belief.

Nonetheless,
We are called to
Bear their torture
And scars
Gladly
As did Yeshua himself.

LK 10: 1-12, 17-20
 
Paul’s words
Agree with the Master
Who sent
Thirty-six pairs
Of “advance men”
And women
To announce
(Like Isaiah)
Liberation
From oppression
By powers imperial.
Like lambs among wolves
Like monks
With begging bowls,
They healed and proclaimed
God’s Great Cleanup
Of a world
Infested by demonic
Imperial oppressors.

And it worked!
Every one of those 72
Cast out evil spirits
Just like Yeshua.
(Despite powerful opposition
And crucifixion.)

Conclusion

Today’s readings should awaken those attracted by right-wing replacement theories. The selections call for a shift of blame for job loss and low wages from capitalism’s victims (both here and abroad) – from non-males, people of color, women, and immigrants. Instead, we’re reminded, blame for replacement belongs to the dysfunctional system that impoverishes all but the imperialists and regime change artists themselves.

In other words, the Great Replacer is the deregulated capitalist system of globalization that victimizes all concerned. The vilification of immigrants, people of color, and women is meant to distract us from that fact.

Today’s readings remind us that it has always been thus. Ancient Israel under the Babylonians and Yeshua’s Palestine under the Romans both had their governments replaced by imperialists. The result was predictable: impoverishment of empire’s victims, rebellion, and revolution.

In sum, the liturgy of the word for this 14th Sunday in ordinary time represents a prophetic reminder that imperialism and regime change despite their banal normalcy are not part of our Great Parents’ plan. The readings call us to join a band like Yeshua’s 72 emissaries who accepted, proclaimed, and lived according to the New Order the Master envisioned – a borderless world with no despised outgroups, but with room and abundance for everyone.

12 Potentially Good Outcomes of the Ukraine War

Like most Americans I’m sure, I find myself profoundly upset these days by what’s unfolding in Ukraine and its portrayal by the mainstream media.

In particular, I’m having a hard time understanding how Americans in general and especially U.S. politicians can so sanctimoniously rend their garments over Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine while completely forgetting even the latest U.S. invasions of sovereign states.

I’m not saying that Putin’s crime shouldn’t be acknowledged as such. It absolutely must be. But to my mind, it seems strange, not to say highly embarrassing, that those repeatedly guilty of the same and even much greater offenses can with straight faces denounce the Kremlin’s leader.

Can’t they see – can’t we see – that their own similar and more heinous crimes (many still ongoing) have simply deprived them of any moral authority to condemn Russia?

In sackcloth and ashes, they should simply shut up, beg forgiveness, and sit down with their criminal counterparts to resolve the Ukraine problem diplomatically. As it stands, their moral authority is otherwise absolutely zero.

Still however, our “leaders’” denouncing Russia has the potential to awaken even the most somnolent among us who haven’t lost our ears for irony, hypocrisy, propaganda, virtue signaling and outright lies.

In fact, I can identify at least a dozen alarms going off right now that should (but probably won’t) wake up all but the completely deaf. Let me list them briefly and then conclude with a painfully true but illustrative personal story.

Here are the 12 alarm bell developments that everyone should hear:  

  1. National leaders like Putin resorting to war and invasion to solve international problems are at last revealed as insane and pathological. That means that if Putin is crazy, so must be his American counterparts who authored (and continue to do so) similar and even more catastrophic invasions, viz., the Bushes, Clinton, Obama, Trump, and Biden – not to mention ALL their predecessors at least since WWII.
  2. Moreover, those politicians and their spokespersons have all been unmistakably unmasked as liars and hypocrites. Their public statements about President Putin’s guilt for violating international norms and law represent stark admission of their own crimes. Here I’m also thinking of Condoleezza Rice who played a key role in the 2003 war in Iraq. She recently unwittingly indicted herself as a war criminal by stating that “When you invade a sovereign nation, that is a war crime. It is certainly against every principle of international law, international order. . ..”  QED to say the least!
  3. International law long ignored by the United States is finally being affirmed and invoked by U.S. politicians. Accordingly, their routine violations of such statutes should prove more difficult for them in the future.
  4. Similarly affirmed has been the International Criminal Court at the Hague, whose authority the United States has repeatedly undermined and refused to recognize. There is actual talk of bringing Vladimir Putin before the court to answer for his illegal invasion of Ukraine. If Putin is (justly) prosecuted, the door will have been opened for similar trials of the U.S. presidents named above. That’s good news.
  5. Non-stop coverage of refugees and war victims in Ukraine has revealed the inevitable results that such pathological incursions produce whether the victims are mostly white and European and reside in Ukraine, or are mostly black and brown in the myriad U.S, theaters of operation.
  6. As a result of such media coverage, thoughtful Americans are forced to face not only the similar fates of the mostly non-white (and therefore invisible) refugees their own wars have produced, but also the fatalities and maiming of those victims.
  7. U.S. sanctions have identified Russia’s billionaires as somehow responsible for their nation’s militaristic policies precisely in virtue of their billionaire status. As Rob Kall has pointed out, such identification not only punishes war profiteers; it also represents an initial step towards general recognition of billionaires (inevitably connected with the military-industrial complex) as criminal shapers of aggressive national policies wherever they reside.
  8. As the editor in chief of OpEdNews argues, this very identification could (and should) lead to the prohibition of billionaires as such.
  9. Armed insurgencies against illegal foreign invasion have been justified and heroized instead of being vilified as “terrorists” as has happened to insurgent patriots e.g., in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
  10. More powerfully still, civilian non-violent resistance has been shown to be effective even against the mightiest of militaries. We’ve realized that menacing tanks and advancing troops simply can’t run over the thousands of peaceful resisters we’ve all seen blocking their way.
  11. Perhaps most painful of all, U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, like their Russian counterparts in Ukraine have been unmasked as legitimate targets of patriotic insurgencies. (I know that’s hard to hear. But the power of this point lies in its shocking truth). I mean if we and our media implicitly rejoice at the high volume of Russian casualties in their illegal war, similar response seems regretfully due similar results in our country’s own criminal conflicts.
  12. On the positive side, highlighting point #11 provides yet another cogent reason for the peace movement to dissuade young people from joining what Jonathan Katz has called “gangsters of capitalism” – Katz’s description of the U.S. Marine Corps since its inception.

Let me drive those last two points home with that personal illustration I promised about the potential for consciousness-raising that the Ukraine war provides.

Recently, a handyman my wife and I have employed in the past announced that he’s temporarily leaving his own family to go off to Ukraine to join the resistance fighting Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of that country. The man is a veteran of U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Somehow, he has his own “tools” (weapons, I presume) and has requested financial help for his project from people like us. It seems he wants to use his military training and “tools” to kill invading Russian soldiers.

While something within me admires the man’s passion and apparent bravery, I couldn’t help wondering what he would think if e.g., in 2003 conscientious and compassionate (like him) Ukrainians recognized the illegitimacy of the war in Iraq, and decided to leave their families to go off to the middle east to kill invaders like him and his fellow soldiers?

I don’t think he’d like that idea.

But, of course, the parallels between Putin’s crimes and the much greater and more frequent analogous U.S. crimes in which our friend participated would never occur to him – or to most Americans for that matter. And that’s because like good patriots (and especially as a member of the U.S. armed forces) he’s been effectively propagandized by drill sergeants, generals, politicians, media figures, and academicians whose job it is to keep such analogies hidden – to make us forget not only what we’ve done in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, but what our drones, guided missiles and bombers are doing in literally untold locations at this very moment.

To repeat: the 12 developments just listed have the potential to overcome such conditioning. But for that to happen, they must be named by the already awakened.

That’s the task before us. What isn’t named can’t be recognized or changed.

S 1 E 26, Lesson 17: “I See No Neutral Things”

Today’s lesson (17) once again emphasizes the power of propaganda and brainwashing within Plato’s cave. We’re reminded that from the beginning of our lives we’re subjected to the “wisdom” of the world that supports imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy.

We see nothing as it is – not even the walls of our room or our own bodies. Everything is shaped by what our keepers have taught us long before we’ve had a chance to think for ourselves.

So, we grow up believing that empire is good, that whites are genetically superior, that capitalism benefits everyone, and that men are naturally superior to women.

And it goes further than that:

  • We’re taught that laws are just and inviolable, and somehow divinely endorsed. In reality however, laws are fashioned by the rich and powerful to keep them wealthy and powerful. They can never be endorsed by the God Jesus embodied who champions the poor and oppressed, not their captors.
  • We’re taught that enforcement of those non-neutral laws is carried out fairly, when the truth is that the rich and powerful rarely pay the price for their crimes, while the poor and powerless are severely punished for the slightest missteps.
  • Similarly, we’re taught that what’s called “legal,” “rational,” and “logical” trumps other ways of knowing – e.g., through feeling, intuition in general, women’s intuition in particular, divine revelation. . .. Conviction of that sort is the basis of patriarchy.

You get the idea. Virtually everything in our world is not neutral but biased towards the rich and powerful. 

This first part of A Course in Miracles calls us to decontaminate our minds from the sway of such convictions.

Put otherwise still, none of the thoughts just mentioned is neutral, much less true. Instead, each favors the interests of the teachers, priests, politicians, generals, and aristocrats who have created the shadow world in which we all live. As we’ll see in future lessons, those interests end up oppressing people Jesus identified with.

Here’s the way Lesson 17 puts its main thoughts:

  • “The thought comes first. . ..” (That is, before we’ve had the chance to develop discernment).
  • As a result, “You see no neutral things because you have no neutral thoughts.” (Only those that have been imposed on you since birth.
  • “Regardless of what you believe, you do not see anything that is really alive or really joyous.”
  • “You are unaware as yet of any thought that is really true, and therefore really happy.”
  • “I do not see a neutral wall, because my thoughts about walls are not neutral.”
  • “I do not see a neutral body, because my thoughts about bodies are not neutral.”
  • “This is not the way the world thinks, but you must learn that it is the way you think.”

Reversing your thought processes even about walls and bodies is difficult. But to repeat, that is the fundamental task of this first part of A Course in Miracles. Remind yourself of this task periodically throughout the day. Keep the thought before your mind: “I see no neutral things.”

“I see no neutral things.”

Amazon Workers to Vote on Unionization: Bezos Says He Can’t Afford It

Readings for 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Job 7: 1-7; Psalm 147: 1-6; 1 Cor. 9: 16-19, 22-23; Mark 1: 29-39.

Tomorrow, 6,000 Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama will vote on unionization. Of course, their decision will affect workers throughout Amazon’s mammoth enterprise – most of them non-white. The company employs 798,000 full-and part-time employees. In 2019, its net revenues were around $280.5 billion. Its CEO, Jeff Bezos, is himself worth about $184 billion. He’s the second richest man on the planet.

Work at Amazon

Despite company profits and the wealth of its chief, there’s good reason for the unionization drive including alienated labor resulting from:

  • Low pay: Recently, Amazon raised its wages to $15 per hour. It also extended to its workers a $2 per hour bonus for “heroic” service during the pandemic. However, the company has since removed that extra pay in the light of its claims that the pandemic’s severity has diminished. Amazon workers dispute that assertion, while maintaining that $15 per hour remains inadequate remuneration for their heavy workloads. And besides, Amazon workers’ unprecedentedly profitable production increases during the pandemic need due reward.
  • Intense surveillance of workers: Sophisticated AI technology tracks every move of each Amazon worker – to such an extent that those not meeting production goals can be threatened with imminent job termination by a robot without intervention from a human supervisor.
  • Union-busting: That same sort of technology makes sure that workers on break do not congregate for purposes of conversation related to union organizing. Those caught engaging in such exchanges have been summarily fired.
  • Wage theft: Last Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission fined Amazon $61.7 million for actually stealing tips from Amazon’s Flex drivers over a two and a half-year period. Flex drivers are hourly workers who receive no benefits and use their own cars to make deliveries.
  • Dangerous working conditions: Work at Amazon is three times as dangerous as employment across the private sector and twice as dangerous as warehouse work in general. 911 records show that on the job mental episodes and even suicides are common in the Amazon workplace.  
  • PR to the contrary: The Amazon website proclaims that it supports the Black Lives Matter movement. However, according to Amazon’s largely non-white workforce, the items just listed tell another story.

Today’s Readings

I bring all of this up, because this Sunday’s readings suggest themes of work, overwork, and low pay.  They implicitly compare the alienated work of “hirelings” and “slaves” to that of the self-chosen pro bono work done by Yeshua and Paul in service of the poor. Both types of work are exhausting. But one is human, the other not.

What I’m driving at is reflected in my translations of these thoughtful readings about work. Please check out the originals here:

 
 Job 7: 1-7:
 Joining Job
 On his stinking POS
 Wage workers know
 That life is hard
 When a plague requires
 Months of misery
 Sleepless nights
 Overtime work
 And hopeless days
 That drain their lives
 And have them wondering
 If they’ll ever
 Smile again.
  
 Psalm 147: 1-6:
 Brokenhearted,
 Some look to “God”
 And still find words
 Of prayer,
 Praise and thanks
 That transform 
 Even bricklayers’ 
 Tattered blueprints
 Into transcendent plans
 Of infinite intelligence,
 Power, and wisdom
 That one day will find
 Bosses humiliated
 And poor workers 
 Finally earning 
 Their just wage.
  
 1 Cor. 9: 16-19, 22-23:
 Paul’s proud labor
 Was teaching
 Which he too found 
 Underpaid and driven
 As he gave hope to
 Those too poor to pay
 Just as his Master had
 In order to help them
 Regain that grin.
  
 Mark 1: 29-39:
 Yes, Jesus too 
 Worked hard
 As a day-laborer
 Become faith healer
 First of his friend’s 
 Feverish in-law
 And then 
 Of the insane
 And those afflicted
 With unnamed infection
 Of every type.
 Sustained by prayer
 At early dawn,
 He too soon returned 
 To his tireless grind
 As a selfless
 Pro bono physician
 Without borders.

Alienated Labor or Not

Do you see what’s happening in those readings?

The first one from the Book of Job indirectly reveals reluctant wage labor (a la Amazon) to be like sitting on top of Job’s famous pile of excrement (Job 2: 8-13). It’s pure drudgery. It’s slavery. Its misery leads to sleepless nights, and a shortened life entirely deprived of happiness.

By way of contrast, the second and third readings describe unalienated labor. In both the case of Paul and Yeshua, the work is completely exhausting and without monetary remuneration – but by their own choice. (The gospel reading’s description of a typical “day in the life” of Yeshua the Christ is actually quite detailed. It’s up in the early morning for prayer and then dealing with a constant stream of impoverished peasants seeking relief from diseases both mental and physical. Then it’s on to the next town for a round of the same – all without charge.)

Of course, the difference between the work Job’s text references and that of Yeshua and Paul is that the latter determined their own workload and pace of activity. They exhausted themselves because they freely chose to do so – not in the service of a distant wealthy slavedriver like Bezos, but in service to Life Itself.

Though union organizers don’t put it this way, that’s the ideal of the labor union movement – a humanized workplace, where workers have voice and some control over conditions in the place where they spend fully half of their waking hours.

As economists like Richard Wolff point out, an even more humanized workplace would be run entirely by workers. They’d determine for themselves every aspect of their workday – what to produce, where to produce it, the pace of work, and what to do with the profits. In such a cooperative there’d be no alienation, no intense surveillance, no dangerous working conditions, no underpayment or wage theft.

Conclusion

Naturally, all of us have to work. But exhausting labor too (like that of Yeshua and Paul) can bring a sense of joy and participation in creation of the universe like that described in today’s responsorial, Psalm 147.

Even work for Amazon could be dignified – absent the intense surveillance, constant race against the clock, low pay, and wage theft at the hands of one of the wealthiest companies in the world run by the globe’s second richest man. That sort of work can and does drive people over the edge even to the point of suicide.

The efforts by Alabama’s Amazon employees to unionize represent an attempt by wage earners to humanize all of that harshness. Within the capitalist system as we know it, unionization is the closest workers can get to escape slave-like conditions and completely alienated labor. The real humanization however would come from transforming the workplace into a cooperative where employees would be self-empowered.

As always, the call of today’s readings is to do what our faith tells us the Great Father-Mother God did: become human. In today’s instance that means humanizing the workplace. That means opposition to Amazon’s exploitation of workers. It implies support of unions everywhere. It suggests support of the co-op movement.

80th Birthday Reflections, Part One: Order

(This is the first in a series of reflections on the occasion of my 80th birthday.)

Last Sunday (Sept. 6th) I celebrated my 80th birthday. I feel as if I’ve crossed a line into a new psychological and spiritual territory. I’m now officially old.

On Sunday, my daughter, Maggie, and her family graciously celebrated the event. My younger son, Patrick, was there as well. He works in DC and came to Westport for the occasion.

My elder son, Brendan, was unable to come. He works for the State Department in Paris, France. COVID-19 kept him from crossing the pond with our lovely daughter-in-law, Erin, and our recently arrived granddaughter, Genevieve Simone. (We’re still feeling bad about not yet having seen little Gigi except on ZOOM.)

Maggie invited us for lunch. She made my favorite dish for the occasion – spaghetti alle vongole (with in-the-shell clams freshly delivered from the ocean a few miles away from here). Maggie’s white clam sauce was perfect. Then, of course, there was a birthday cake (chocolate mousse – again my favorite).

After lunch we all drove to nearby Greenwich to begin an hour-and-a-half yacht ride to the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The weather was glorious. There were drinks, cigars, laughter and just enjoying the boat’s swift dash to Manhattan.

In the presence of Lady Liberty, we took photos (see above), marveled at the historic objet d’art, and then turned back towards Greenwich, stopping on the way for crab sandwiches and French fries as the sun rapidly descended and the cool breezes forced us to put on our wraps.

The next evening (Monday), we reprised the celebration with friends from our new church in nearby Darien. Again, there was cake, candles, and singing “Happy Birthday.” And then everyone took turns saying nice things about me.

Imagine that: not one, but two birthday celebrations!

Still, regret was expressed that COVID kept us from a bigger party with more relatives and friends, including some former students. However, I pointed out that I already had such a celebration when I formally retired from Berea College ten years ago. I remember thinking at the time as people spoke kindly about me, “This is like hearing speeches at my own funeral. I’m glad I’m here to experience it all. What joy to be with so many relatives, friends, and so many of those I’ve taught!” For me, that was enough.

When my own turn came to speak on Monday, I quoted Richard Rohr who speaks of the “three boxes” that contain life’s memories for all of us. One is labeled “Order,” the second is “Disorder,” and the third, “Reorder.” The categories represent apt summaries of my life, I said; its elements clearly fit into such containers.

An Ordered Life

Like Rohr, I was blessed with a great deal of order in my early life – till about the age of 21. As a Roman Catholic boy attending St. Viator’s School on Chicago’s Northwest Side, I had clear ideas of who I was. I knew exactly what life was for, who God is, and what he expected of me. I wanted nothing more than to save my soul; nothing else mattered.

So, having just turned 14, I chose to leave home and begin preparation for becoming a priest. I figured that was the best way to get into heaven.

Accordingly, I shipped off to St. Columban’s Minor (i.e. high school) Seminary in Silver Creek, New York (40 miles west of Buffalo). There, every day was highly ordered with 6:30 rising and 10:00 “lights out,” intense study especially of Latin, mandatory study hall, compulsory sports activities, and strict supervision by a host of father figures, disciplinarians, and demanding teachers. At “The Creek,” I doubled down on my determination to become a priest, even as most of those I entered with either decided otherwise or were “bounced” (as we said) for disciplinary or academic reasons. 

In 1958, I entered the college seminary in Milton, Massachusetts. There, my inner student was awakened as never before by Fr. James Griffin, my English teacher nonpareil at Milton for two years. Under his watchful eye, I discovered poetry, music appreciation, and creative writing. I learned how to read with a critical eye. I feared and loved the man at the same time. He was the best.

In 1960, my classmates (now reduced from 32 to 12 in number) and I embarked on our “Spiritual Year” in Bristol Rhode Island. It was the Columban version of a religious novitiate. Its centerpiece was a 30-day Ignatian silent retreat that began on October 6th of that year. It was unforgettable. So was the entire year. It taught us to pray, silence our voices and minds, to meditate and appreciate God’s creation as never before there on the shores of Narragansett Bay.

After Bristol, it was time to return to Milton – this time to the major seminary – to complete college work on our philosophy majors and then to continue with four years of theological and scriptural studies. As far as order was concerned, it was more of the same: rising at 6:30, retiring at 10:00, mandatory classes and study periods, long periods of silence, regular spiritual retreats, daily meditation, and little contact with “the outside world.”

I thrived on it all. I still knew who I was and what was expected of me. God was in his heaven. All was right with the world – despite what was happening outside e.g. with the Civil Rights Movement and the war in Vietnam.

(I’ll soon post a reflection on the collapse of my ordered certainty.)

No Room for Hunger or Homelessness in Our Great Mother’s “House of Spirits”

Readings for the 5th Sunday of Easter: ACTS 6: 1-7; PSALMS 33: 1-2, 4-5, 18-19; 1 PETER 2: 4-9; JOHN 14: 1-12

Although it might not be apparent at first glance, the readings for this Fifth Sunday of Easter address homelessness. During this COVOD-19 pandemic, it’s an exceptionally vexing problem that finds many Americans unable to pay their rent or mortgages. In New York City, for example, many of those rendered homeless end up seeking shelter and the possibility of social distancing within the city’s subway cars

As if in response to such developments, today’s selections centralize the concern of the Great Cosmic Mother for her children in similar situations of powerlessness and abandonment.

These, the readings tell us, were also the concern of Yeshua’s Jewish followers immediately following his death and the mysterious experience they came to call his “resurrection.” For those reformers of Judaism, social problems like hunger and homelessness were not to be solved by force or organized abandonment, but by compassion, sharing, service, and loving kindness.

Homeless in America

But before I get to that, think for a moment about homelessness in America. It’s deeply connected with the U.S. prison system which has actually become the de facto form that low-income housing assumes here.

That point was made last week on “Democracy Now,” when Amy Goodman interviewed Dr. Ruth Wilson Gilmore. She’s the co-founder of California Prison Moratorium Project (CPMP). CPMP represents an abolitionist decarceration movement in the United States which houses approximately one in four prisoners in the entire world. (Perhaps coincidently, the U.S. has also produced the same proportion of COVID-19 deaths.)

To begin with, Wilson Gilmore contrasted the U.S. approach to crime with those of other industrialized countries. Within our borders the emphasis is on deprivation, isolation, punishment, pain and force. By contrast, many other systems emphasize rehabilitation.

Of their “Reformative Justice” dispensations the interviewee said “Where life is precious, life is precious. In places where the state, the government, municipalities, social justice organizations, faith communities, labor unions work together to lift up human life, the incidence of crime and punishment, including incidents of interpersonal harm, are less likely to occur. . . We also see that in places where inequality is the deepest, the use of prison and punishment is the greatest.”

In the same interview, Wilson Gilmore went on to specifically address the problem of homelessness here and what she called our country’s strategy of “organized abandonment.” By that she meant urban organization like New York City’s, where working class neighborhoods are routinely razed to make room for gentrified condos and exotic shopping experiences.

There, displaced lower-class renters are left on their own. Some, of course, are welcome to return to their old neighborhoods as waitpersons, delivery personnel, janitors, nannies and caregivers. That’s bad enough, but others are excluded altogether. They’re left homeless and find themselves with nowhere to seek shelter and social distancing but in those MTA subway cars I just mentioned.

Nevertheless, instead of dealing with the real problem of homelessness, NYC’s mayor and the state’s governor have justified increased deployment of transit police who apply to the systemically abandoned the same sort of force that their counterparts use in American prisons.

In the U.S., Wilson Gilmore observed, force and violence turn out to be the default strategy employed to address most problems.

Today’s Readings

All of that contrasts sharply with the approach to homelessness depicted in today’s readings. They describe the first Christian community of Jewish Reformers. After all, they were followers of the great Hebrew prophet from Nazareth whose family found itself without shelter at the time of his birth. He later promised the poor that in God’s New Order (what he called God’s “Kingdom”) far from being displaced, they would inherit the earth itself.

What follows immediately are my “translations” of the readings in question. Please look at the originals here to see if I’ve captured their spirit in relation to hunger and homelessness.

ACTS 6: 1-7: Soon after Jesus died, a cultural social justice rift surfaced among members of his Jewish Reform Movement. Some (called “Hellenists”) were not Jewish enough for the rest of Jesus’ followers. Hellenists were too Greek – too like the despised goyim. So, in the daily distribution of food, Hellenized widows were neglected. In response, Jesus’ apostles appointed “deacons” precisely to provide daily bread for those women and their children. As a result, the Jesus Movement grew spectacularly among the Hellenists. Even many Jewish priests joined up.

PSALMS 33: 1-2, 4-5, 18-19: It is this sort of concern with fairness and justice that mirrors the love, trustworthiness, kindness, and generosity of our Great Mother Goddess. Even in times of severe famine, it is her will that no one starve or go homeless. She is merciful, and we place our trust in her.

1 PETER 2: 4-9: Jesus’ nickname for his friend Simon was “Rocky” (perhaps because he was especially good at throwing stones at Roman soldiers during the first recorded Intifada). In any case, Rocky (Peter) called early members of Jesus’ Reform Movement “living stones” in a divine House of Spirits. Jesus himself, Peter said, was its “corner-stone.” (Speaking from experience, Peter knew what stones can do to confuse enemies and bring them down.)

JOHN 14: 1-12: More than three generations after Jesus’ death, John the Evangelist, recalled Jesus as continuing the House of Spirits imagery. He has Jesus say: “In God’s GREAT HOUSE there are no homeless or hungry people. When you shelter the homeless, you are really sheltering me. That is the way of the Great Mother; it is my way too – the one I’ve manifested time and again by my concern for and identification with the unhoused, hungry, sick, blind, widowed, mistreated and despised. Follow my example. Even exceed it,” Jesus urged.

Conclusion

Taking seriously the centralization of housing as expressed in today’s readings should lead believers to dissent from our culture’s treatment of the incarcerated and homeless. Imprisonment and organized abandonment are no way to treat those left without shelter by policies favoring the wealthy instead of God’s favorites – those unhoused, hungry, sick, blind, widowed, mistreated and despised just referenced.  

The readings also suggest the need for new policy initiatives. Such measures will include not merely taking care of food needs of single moms and their children (as depicted in today’s episode from the Acts of the Apostles) but also support for :

  • Outlawing evictions and foreclosures
  • Widespread cancelling of rents and mortgages
  • Building 12 million green housing units over the next 12 years
  • Massive investment in public housing under community control.
  • Rent freezes, rent control, tenant protections, and anti-displacement measures across the nation.

Of course, the chances of those measures taking legislative shape under the current political dispensation are about nil.

But that in itself shows how far Christians have strayed from actually following Yeshua.

Instead, we’re more like those among early Christians who looked down upon the culturally diverse Hellenists and neglected their widows and children.

So, today’s readings issue a special call to us to from Jesus, his main man, Rocky and the entire cadre of Jesus’ surviving apostles to become deacons – service workers at the disposal of the hungry and homeless.

After all, it’s the way of the Great Cosmic Goddess. 

“Murder Most Foul”: My Translation of Bob Dylan’s New Song

I found “Murder Most Foul” intriguing. Its retelling of the assassination of JFK was provocative as it attributed it to Deep State forces. But the lack of melody was disappointing. It was also difficult to understand the connections between Dylan’s narrative and the over-long list of songs he centralized. It seemed mostly random and unconnected. Along with references to his story, my own “translation” tries to subtly connect as many of those song titles as I could to Dylan’s well-told tale. I’ve referenced “Only the Good Die Young,” “I’d Rather Go Blind,” “Scratch My Back,” “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” “Twilight Time,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” “In God We Trust,” “Cry Me A River,” “That Old Devil Moon,” “One Night of Sin,” “Misty,” “Anything Goes,” “Blue Sky,” “Deep in a Dream,” and “The Blood-Stained Banner.”

Near the Ides of last March
The Seer from Duluth
Sang a swan’s song
To all
About murder and truth.
 
He sang to a world
Sick and under arrest
In a globe-wide pandemic
And put to the test
By an earth in decay
In the Antichrist’s age
When faith, hope and love
Disappeared from the page
(Of our nation’s own book).
 
It all began
(He said)
On a Dallas dark day
In the blinding-bright sun
Which brought hell to pay
To an Aquarian Age
Shaped by spinning magicians
With a shot that all heard
But nobody listened.
They exploded the head,
They blew the brains out
Of the King JFK
(But we’re all left in doubt)
 
He was a sacrificed lamb
Put down like a dog
Mocked and shocked
By the killers
While spreading a fog
Yes, everyone watched
But few can recall
What our own eyes revealed
We saw nothing at all.
 
It was carefully planned
During nights filled with sin
And carefully timed  
With LBJ in
Standing prepared
To step forward and take
The place of late Claudius
At 2:38.
 
The message was sharp:
We forbid New Frontier
Segregation will stay
With everyone here
With ghettoes in ruins
Illumined at night
By red lights and crime
It’s all such a fright
Ruled by cops on the beat
To enforce
Elm Street’s nightmare
For the sake of elite
For the sake of what’s right for
Cash on the barrelhead
(After all, business is business).
 
We’ve seen this crime’s movie
Again and again
But frankly, Miss Scarlet,
We don’t give a damn
We’re distracted by Woodstocks
Beatles, acid and flags
We’re forbidden to ask
As if mouths filled with gags
Prevented owl’s questions
Beyond what we’re told
About Oswald and Ruby
We’re left out in the cold
With mouths firmly shut
With those questions so old
All left unanswered
(And subject to scold).
 
It’s all unfair to Jackie
And Marilyn too
It’s unfair to us
To me and to you
We’re blind by our choice
To back-scratchers all
Who refuse to take questions
Whenever we call.
They kill all the young
The brave and the good
They make us all fearful
That we’ll be misunderstood
At this twilight time
As rivers we cry
Watching our heroes
All bite dust and die
As we sing about crosses
And the God who’s a lie.
 
So, we’re all feeling misty
Lonely but brave
Under the old devil’s moon
As in Plato’s dank Cave
We wander in mystery
Where anything goes
We’re deep in a dream
When we’ll wake
No one knows.
We’re surrounded by darkness
Nightfall and death
Under a banner
That’s blood-stained
With nothing that's left
But music and jazz
And that prophet
In howl
Who shakes us to wake us
About murderS most foul.