Sunday, August 30, 2015

Jesus on the Gridiron

Last week at Beaverton’s Washington Square Mall, I spotted a young man wearing a football jersey that prominently displayed the name of…not of Marcus Mariota, Russell Wilson or, heaven forbid, Tom Brady… but of Jesus Christ.

To be exact, the black jersey read in bold, white letters...


No team affiliation was indicated put I presume it was broadly Christian.

I’m not a Christian although I am a Quaker, and like all Quakers, I take the historical Jesus seriously.

I should quickly add that most of my fellow Quakers consider themselves Christians and accept the Jesus of Christianity and of the Bible. Therein, Jesus is number one, or 1 ... and the Son of God.

I also believe that the words of theology, including those of Christianity, should not separate us. We are of the same spirit. It resides beyond words. It resides in silence.

So here I am in the Washington Square Mall, a vast cathedral of consumption, and my attention lingers on the young man sporting his “Jesus 1” football jersey.

Long after he passed by,  I couldn’t let go of the image of him, his jersey and the vision of Jesus playing football.

On the gridiron, Jesus had to be a quarterback. (Team doctors, servants of the injured, don’t have numbered jerseys.)

I assumed that if Jesus wasn’t calling the signals himself, they were being signaled in from the sidelines from his coach. Presumably that would be God, The Father.

Bear with me but I should add here another theological aside. I’m a “non-theistic” Quaker…I’ve dropped traditional notions of “God” (including "God the Father") from my spiritual life. Because of my experience with “God” (and, yes, my own Father, and myself as Father) these notions distance me from what we share.

I have come to call this shared oneness “spirit” though no word does it justice. It is beyond words and borders and…goal posts.

Back on the field, Jesus, our first-string, starting quarterback, is huddling with his team and about to call the play.

Set on victory, the fist-waving crowd yells and screams. The stadium rocks. It resounds. A few — many mothers of the players — pray.

All wonder… “What will Jesus call? What will Jesus do? What is God’s command?”

The young Jewish rabbi in the huddle pauses, looks each of his mates square in the eye and says: “This game is dangerous. It is hurtful. It breeds false values. It is devoid of love beyond the love of fame and temporal victory.” He pauses and adds, “Blessed are the meek.Their names shall not be emblazoned on football jerseys.”

Then he calls the play: “Cast off your protective gear! Head for the exits! Leave the stadium. Do good work!”

And so they race off the field leaving jerseys, helmets, shoulder pads and athletic “scholarships” behind them.

Among the jerseys on the field is one that reads “Jesus 1.” Someone sees it, picks it up and sells it to a young man in Beaverton.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

New York Time bias bungles story of Bernie and Hillary in Portland

First, a disclosure. I’m an active supporter of Bernie Sanders for President and I am seeing media coverage through that lens.

What I see is coverage of his campaign by The New York Times that has been stunningly biased.

Item: Sanders draws the biggest crowd of any candidate yet. It happened right here in Portland on Sunday. Somewhere in excess of 25,000 converged on the MODA Center. The Times noted that the crowd was large but doesn’t point out that it is far and away the largest yet for any candidate. Instead the Times focuses on characterizing Sanders’ base as narrow — predominantly white and liberal. The paper ignores that Sanders support is also overwhelmingly young, enthusiastic and committed. We are talking about ENERGETIC. The Times also fails to see that Sanders is staking out positions well to the Left of Hillary Clinton on “youth” issues like college debt.

Item: A study in contrast goes unreported. The Times ignores that four days prior to Sander’s big rally in Portland, Hillary Clinton quietly comes to town and heads straight to Dunthorpe, an exclusive sanctuary for the wealthy where homes are mansions often gated off and hidden from the public. There Clinton gathers a reported 140 supporters capable of ponying up the required $2700 to hob-nob with Hillary. Clinton stashes the cash, says not one word to the citizenry beyond Dunthorpe, and leaves. It’s on to the next deep-pocketed, secluded enclave. In short, Clinton is practicing political business as usual. While she was pandering to the rich in Dunthorpe, Sanders’ scruffy local team works out of a warehouse scrambling to rent the cavernous MODA Center. The young organizers fill the place. There is no entry fee. The overflow spills out into the surrounding plazas in the thousands.

Item: Hillary’s poll numbers, which still run around 50 percent, are in steady decline.  Her “negatives” poll high and reveal a lack of basic trust. Sanders’ numbers continue to climb. He’s above 20 percent and rising. If Clinton is the “front runner,” as the Times likes to remind us, she’s starting to fade (as The Times fails to report). Moreover, this campaign is just “out of the starting gate.” Will Hillary even make it to the “finish line?” Ignoring the question, The Times focuses on an prospective Biden-Clinton contest. Sanders isn’t mentioned.

(Update, Aug. 12: A Boston Herald poll released yesterday shows Sanders moving ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire.)

I see another dimension to this. The New York Times brings a myopic East Coast bias to events on the West Coast. The Times portrays events here as suspect, slightly bizarre, misguided and removed from East Coast perceived wisdom, in this case political perceived wisdom. If 25,000 people pack the MODA Center to hear Bernie Sanders, it is just another West Coast aberration. The real “truth” resides in New York and Washington, D.C.

We’ll see about that….

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

'Identifying' as Human...and then some...

Rachel Dolezal has done us all a big favor by raising to a new level the notion of personal identity. She famously identifies as black although her skin pigment  and parents indicate otherwise.

In a lot of ways we should all identify as black. Black Africa is the "home" of our ancient ancestors. And they were black.

Time and migration modified human pigmentation into the rich variety we have today.

The question of racial identity has another side. I found out something about mine in Africa as well.

As a young man, I was in a Peace Corps teacher in Kenya for three years. All of my students were black, but they didn't identify as black at all. They identified as being a member of a particular tribe. Each had its own language, and, yes, racial characteristics. Kenya has some 90 tribal. Most of my students were Luos.

As time went by in my Peace Corps tour, I found that at the end of the teaching day something strange happened when I'd look in the mirror. I was surprised that the face peering back at me was white, not black. It seemed  that my identity was being absorbed and my "whiteness" was disappearing, at least in my sense of self.

I frankly found the change liberating.

Dolezal may have had a similar experience and had a similar liberating reaction.

The story of her self-proclaimed identity has put me into T-shirt slogan mode. I want to get a few score shirts that read: "I identify has HUMAN!"

The subtitle might be: "...for better or worse. It's up to me."

But that slogan doesn't really describe me either.  In my eighth decade of life as we know it I'm increasingly identifying with spirit, the ephemeral, the soul, the One.

And "identify" falls short of the mark too although changing the word removes us from Rachel's inspiring, provocative proclamation.

My operative verb is "am." "I am Spirit." Subtitle: "...the same one as you."

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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Lessons from the 2014 election

Random and opposing thoughts regarding the mid-term election:

Our political system will continue to be corrupted by and in the grip of those obsessed with money and power.

We will rely on the leadings of the spirit and the spiritual.

Gross inequality will continue.

We will distill our lives, or our lives will be distilled for us.

The militarism will continue.

We will learn by the riveting experience of suffering…and forgiveness.

Secrecy in government will increase. Our privacy will continue to be invaded and diminished.

We will be clearly shown that we are one, that we depend on each other, not as "The other" but as "The one.” We ARE the enemy and the enemy is us. (Pogo was right, sort of....)

Purveyors of fear (still the great motivator) will continue to shape our culture and attitudes toward our neighbors, be they on our street or in the rest of the world.

The Great Unraveling will teach us compassion and humility.

Global warming will continue. “Natural disasters” (Nature shaking off our toxic species) will grow more and more severe.

The manifestations of environmental disintegration and the power of nature will force themselves upon us. They will require us to change.

Ignorance will spread…thanks to fundamentalism, corporate media, distorted values, amplified media demagoguery and impoverished schools and families.

We will discover truth through experience.

The homeless, many of them veterans, the mentally ill or both, will continue to find homes only in the streets. They will continue to be neglected, even scorned. Children will suffer in growing numbers. Homeless, hungry and abandoned.

We will learn that change begins with us acting as individuals and as communities (including ‘communities of interest’). Change begins in “small places” within the "oneness."

Technology will grow with little or no consideration given to unintended consequences. Escapist sports, games, consumerist values and other fantasies will define our culture. We live in a drop-out, fabricated, media-manipulated world of distorted and corrupted values.

We will withdraw from corporate media, consumerism and their contrived values. There will be a growing suspicion of technological change masquerading as “progress."

Crime will increase, including that committed by our “system of justice.”

We will be forced to examine and re-examine deeply, and then reshape, our values and our actions. Restorative justice, compassionate listening and non-violent communication are manifestations.

The good (love) in religions will be muted; the bad (prejudice, anti-intellectualism, self-righteousness and judging) amplified. Religions will grow as a problem, not a solution.

We will turn to spiritual “leadings” and reject religious dogma and dictates.

Government and politics will grow as a source of our fear and despair.

We will focus on and do what is possible. We will live and act more closely to our communities and homes. We can not afford to be distracted by events (news?) we can do nothing about. We will govern ourselves.

Our infrastructure will continue to crumble. Private profit will reshape and then destroy “The Commons.”

We will be called upon to act together and independently in new, sustainable, cooperative, humane and creative ways.

We may not have “fallen far enough.”

We will evolve to new awareness and, then, a new consciousness.

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