Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Roots Hold Me Close, Wings Set Me Free

At my church during the Sunday services we have a time of silence.  During these few minutes congregants are encouraged to pray, meditate, reflect, or simply blank the mind.  It begins with the ritual ringing of the bell, and ends with singing "Spirit Of Life".

There are a few key words in that song that are deeply meaningful to me: "Roots hold me close, wings set me free!"  Think about that for a minute.  On the surface, this seems to be a dissonance.  How can one be held close and set free at the same time?

I have roots in the midwest: "family values", morality, work ethic.  And my wings have set my heart, my mind, and my soul free.  The incongruity of these two is resolved only by awakenings.  The theme for last Sunday's service was "Gradual Awakening".  The week before it was "Sudden Awakening".

I've had flashes of insight, epiphanies, numinous experiences.  For example, in 2002 I suddenly realized that anger is caused by fear.  This came after an incident of road rage on the freeway commuting to work.  It was several minutes before my kidneys could remove all the adrenaline that had flooded into my bloodstream.  But fortunately there was no physical damage that resulted to either of us angry drivers, and I had time to reflect on the incident later at my desk at work. 

The truth that dawned on me and has stuck tight for more than a decade now, was that my sudden, hot anger had actually arisen from fear.  But what the heck was I afraid of?  That I might be late to work?  That somebody would make better time on the freeway than I.  That I might not be the best, most skillful, most efficient driver who ever took to the freeways of Northern California?  I realized that to address and treat my anger, I had to address and treat my fear.

That was a sudden awakening.  But a lot of the time sudden awakenings, conversion experiences, "getting religion" don't last.  Hence another of my favorite sayings, "Nothing good happens fast."  That's where gradual awakenings come in.

My roots, that is being grounded in the beliefs and values of my upbringing, hold me close.  And sudden realizations stick only when they conform to the basic structure of my being.  Yet wings: thinking outside the box, learning new things about the world, science, technology, or finding new experiences with people from other backgrounds, other cultures, other religions -- set me free to explore the Universe, both within and outside my own mind.

This is why I can claim that I am still adhering to the guiding principles I was taught growing up in a conservative Baptist church, while I embrace the wide, intellectually stimulating world of Unitarian Universalism.  I am, indeed, a follower of Christ.  And I'm no longer a fundamentalist.  I still believe that Jehovah is real, but that "Jehovah" is only a name I've given "him".  He could be The Almighty, She could be The Goddess, It could be the Universe.  It doesn't matter.  What matters is there is a Spirit that loves, that is benevolent, that is forgiving…. that is unafraid and therefore, never angry.  He, She, It is not vindictive, not jealous, never impatient.  In other words, something I want to be.

This, of course, requires me to reject the inerrancy of the Bible.  Narrower, more timid minds, those without the assurance that God loves them unconditionally and will never abandon them regardless of their "heresies", find this concept akin to "building a house upon the sand".  But in fact, it is the opposite.  The sands of Biblical interpretation, exegesis, and historical research shift with time and culture.  But "building a house upon a rock" requires something deeper than a superficial trust in a human-produced document with internal contradictions and clear fabrications, viz, inconsistencies among the Gospels, and the Old Testament reference to unicorns.

The faith that was planted, has grown, and is maturing in me sustains me through every delay, detour, and dead-end I encounter on my path.  I fear neither disappointment, disaster, nor death when I'm at my best.  I'm not always at my best, but even then I don't despair. 

"Like it says in the Bible, 'It came to pass…'  See, it didn't come to stay; it came to pass."

My roots will always and forever hold me close, while my wings set me free!!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Talking vs. Yelling

What a treasure of letters to the editor in the Thursday, March 22 issue of the Press Democrat!  Discussions of foreign policy, abortion, housing and climate change, plus assessments of the competence of the PD staff and of the president.  I know what side I'm on in each case, and I feel the urge to yell about the abysmal stupidity of those who disagree with me.

But the bottom line is, no one agrees completely with anyone else.  We are, deny it or not, a very diverse population, and current trends in violence, climate, a growing housing shortage, and religious crusades will destroy us if we don't cooperate.

Talk about what you believe. Allow others to believe otherwise and talk about their beliefs. Defend your beliefs without attacking others’ beliefs. Listen when others defend their beliefs. This works best when both parties adhere to these guidelines. When it doesn't work at all, don't argue; merely say, "Well, you believe that."

But then hopefully find some common or nearly common ground, shake hands and work together, each in their own fervently altruistic way, to help all of us build a better world… and maybe even thrive.

The above letter was published in the March 29 issue of the Press Democrat.  See below.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Kids and Schools and Climate Change

"Climate change is a children's issue!"  This has become a rallying cry throughout the country.Children who are 3 years old now, as my granddaughter is, will only be 85 in 2100.

According to a recent article in National Geographic (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/sea-level-rise/), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we can expect the oceans to rise between 11 and 38 inches by 2100.  More dire estimates place sea level rise at 23 feet!  Children who are 3 years old now, as my granddaughter is, will only be 85 in 2100.

The fact that climate change primarily affects young people gained national awareness when a group of youthful plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in US District Court of Oregon in 2015.  On November 10, 2016, a motion to dismiss filed by the fossil fuel industry was denied.  In June and July of 2017, the case moved forward and a trial date of February 5, 2018, was set by US Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin.  Oral arguments were held before a 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on December 11.  The Trump administration argued that the case be dismissed and employed such drastic tactics to silence the voices of youth and keep science out of the courtroom that the trial will not begin on February 5th! 
But it is going to be very hard to silence the voices of our youth and keep science out of the courtroom.  Check out: https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/.

In early January, 2018, a group of evangelical Christian youths calling themselves Young Evangelicals for Climate Action posted the following on their website (http://www.yecaction.org/):  "EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt recently announced a plan to roll back the Clean Power Plan – our nation’s most comprehensive plan to date for tackling carbon emissions from power plants – with few concrete details for a plan that will replace it. Meanwhile, climate change continues to fuel more severe and destructive extreme weather events that threaten God’s creation, our loved ones, and our neighbors down the street and across the globe. This is absolutely unacceptable." (Emphasis is theirs not mine!)

Closer to home, on December 4, 2017, the Sebastopol Unified School District unanimously passed a resolution that states unequivocally that "climate change is a children's issue".  This started a chain reaction among school boards, city councils and county boards of supervisors.

On January 21, 2018, at the CCL NorCal Conference, Schools for Climate Action presented a slide show that spelled out steps to be taken by school stakeholders, elected leaders, and institutions.  They gave as examples the Climate Change Resolution by the Sebastopol Unified School District, the Carbon Fee and Dividend Endorsement by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, and the interest taken by the West Sonoma County School Board.  (See: https://schoolsforclimateaction.weebly.com/.)

On January 25, the Ross Valley School District in Marin Co also passed a climate action resolution unanimously.  Then on Monday, January 29 it was announced that a climate change resolution is on the agenda of the Santa Rosa City Council.

The wave of awareness and the need to take action to address these issues continues.