Birth of a guest blog published first at Guest Blog
Earlier this week one of my Twitter Friends, Ron Tenin, @rpt62960, posted a blog, on his website with this intriguing title: Atheists Take Note – You Might Be Wrong. My twitter response led to an invitation from Ron to write this guest blog.
Episcopal Bishop Wright was not the first one to get things totally wrong. We should cut him some slack though.
We should also overlook his paternalistic bent to organize the minds of the faithful on that 1896 Sunday morning in Dayton Ohio, as he delivered truth from on high. After all, is that not what we need society’s leaders, like bishops, to do? Should we not leave it to the few who know what’s up to direct and control the lives of the many who don’t, and for their own best interest at that?
“If man was meant to fly,” Bishop Milton Wright declared, “God would have given him wings!”
Like the rest of us who at times claim divine or perhaps self-appointed infallible endorsement for that which we know little or nothing about and, even more, to plead for change in that which seriously frightens us, Bishop Wright, too, on said subject was more beset with personal haunting fears than divinely chosen to represent Deity.
It wasn’t really his 26 year old son, Orville, that troubled the bishop so much as it was Orville’s three years older genius brother, Wilbur, who had a mind to catapult himself through the air on little more than a motorized kite with good prospects of killing himself and maybe his too easily led and spell-bound brother as well in the process, thus depriving the bishop of his progeny. Perhaps thundering about his version of what God “wants” from the pulpit might offset the bishop’s feared outcomes regarding his aeronautically inclined sons.
The appeal to infallibility on matters betraying our profound ignorance, disguised personal agenda and fears has become a hallmark signature of modern discourse. I do not intend to rail against this, however, but suggest – and sincerely so – that we should kindly and gently overlook it. I assure you, this strange meme is a social deficiency in transition out the door, its demise hastened as we continue to require more and more transparency, authenticity and accountability in our dealings with each other.
In addition to declaring divine endorsement for our opinions we further resort to the curious practice of confirming ‘certainty’ and authority by labeling our enemies and all non – or wrong – believers. Label it and it is so. The truth is defended and the enemy – always those labeled ones with the black cowboy hats – is vanquished.
As a seminary student, a lifetime ago, I was urged to establish (read label) and defend a personal theology to stream me and carry me through life. This, I was told, should provide a decent living and afterward take me hopefully to heaven if I got it right – albeit, possibly a different heaven to those with different theologies. Labeling offered the religious community a welcome hammer-lock on the “truth” and a comfortable alternative to the struggle of faith and the soul-wringing quest to accept and embrace the miraculous and divine providence in the joys and sorrows of daily living.
It was apparently important for me to determine whether God was supra or infra-lapsarian, whether I decided that “baptized” babies who were sprinkled with water had the same chance of making heaven as adults who were solidly drenched in a water tank, river or lake. I needed to declare whether eternity was to descend on human history in a pre, post or a-millennial time frame and whether that should indeed come with a side label of mid, pre or post tribulation. Finally, I needed to avoid the ‘moral failure’ label as determined by the righteous ones (read right-to-us), a designation that came with an automatic life suspension from church leadership and likely loss of a passport for heaven. God and all of heaven’s angels apparently held their breath awaiting my verdict (labels), my luck in getting it right and my pluck in staying the right-to-us course.
Later in life I settled for being a pan-millennial (it will all pan out in the end) and Little Bo Peep theology (leave all of God’s people alone and they will come home wagging their tails behind them.) In fact I have come to understand that we are all already home. Not aware of this beautiful truth just yet we still desperately dream and scheme of how to create hell on earth to ensure that our version of a sad, lonely, dangerous, and of course right-to-us, reality is widely adopted. It is clear that this is the strategy. What is not as clear is any possible gains that may be realized from this design for self defeat and misery.
As an unenthusiastic champion of religious labels and absent a passionate interest in theology there turned out to be minimal prospect for me to experience and understand life primarily within the benefits and embrace of an ecclesiastical context.
Now, I sincerely said we should cut people some slack who are casting about trying to be “right” when clearly in over their heads. You would not be angry at someone, who asleep, dreams that they are a pink elephant, would you?
Understand, people are asleep. They are dreaming of being trapped in sin, shortages of every kind and separation from each other and from the All-That-Is. They dream that they are defined and limited by time and space. In this dream they are a body that finds itself possibly among some good but certainly mostly among other bad, dangerous (and un-right-to-us) bodies. Their body can hurt, or be hurt by, other bodies. The ‘gladiator’ rules are that the last body standing wins. In case of a tie, the more beautiful and thinner body gets the trophy although it has not exactly been determined what the trophy is about. It can’t be about fame because that needs admirers and in this aspired scenario everyone else’s body is dead. It can’t be heaven because that’s about community and sharing… joy, gratitude, kindness and that stuff.
Add labeling to this contrived context of our self as marginalized, challenged and isolated this spawns social behaviour and rationale as bizarre as this invented and impoverished construct of life. For example, if you follow and trust U.S. politics you could be forgiven for believing global warming is a derivative of the political will of the people and that it has no reality outside of this scope. If Americans vote into power the Democrat label, global warming is acknowledged and remedial legislation and political initiative is activated to ‘save the world’. If a majority of people vote the Republican label the problem is instantly solved on election night because there is no global warming.
In the case of a divided vote, tune in your favourite, self-echoing entertainment on Fox News or ESPN and join the label war. The enemy is always the one you paste with negative labels. Pro Choice/Pro-Life for example are home team shirts while Pro-Abortion/Anti-Abortion are labels pasted by the nasty enemy side for away games. God or self-as-god is always on your side as you fight against “treachery” or for a cause célèbre, be it liberalism or conservatism, abortion, homosexuality, atheism, pantheism, God-fearing Christians, immigrants, terrorists, anarchists, criminals, military supported economics, new agers, libertarians, neo-cons, science, scientism, secularism, humanism, humanitarianism, transhumanism, fundamentalists, libertarians, heathens, the 1%, the unwashed masses, carnivores, vegetarians, more guns or less guns and a host of other issues that divide.
If you are a government, strategic labels like “foreign fighters” or, even more sinister, “insurgents”, are handy to introduce and ingrain for it will allow you to invent whole new illogical and separate systems of legislation and incarceration once those unable and unqualified to lead themselves have bought into the “truth” you have created with these auspicious new labels. If you are a government official it is imperative that you look straight into the camera when you ‘deliver’ these newly minted labels. You must look deadly serious without a hint of a smirk or smile. Using phrases like “read my lips” and “make no mistake” should seal the matter. Studies show wearing a simple and plain red or blue tie will help maximize the authenticity of this construct. Suits will further the cause if, like political truth, they are some shade of darker gray. Black of course would be too final and might hint that the walls of total depravity have already been breached.
The religious version of this is leveraged by pronouncing God to rhyme with mud, flashing anger in your eyes and imagining those who disagree with your fears in agony of the hell fires they deserve. Words like smite, punishment, duty, purity and laws are effective, as are also a sprinkling of scripture verses clarifying what God hates… King James version venerated and preferred by some.
I suggest we set aside all this uproar and dramatic finger pointing. Being asleep to reality and believing we are the arbiter of how things really are, we routinely deny the wonder of life and the glory of every single person we have met or ever will meet.
I offer a more enlightened approach that can enliven society and help us escape this madness. It will also considerably lighten our journey as we can dispose of all labels and their debilitating emotional baggage.
An introduction to this wholeness is found in two defining questions that Albert Einstein posed. First, “Do you believe you are in an always friendly or an always hostile universe?” and, secondly, “Do you believe all of life or none of life is miraculous?” These are bifurcated issues that cannot be straddled with any more ease or comfort than a tall picket fence nor mashed together with any conceivable survival of credibility, coherence or logic. A helping of each, though too often opted for, is a recipe for impotence, disaster and confusion.
– It should be observed that not everyone seeks to eliminate confusion. Confusion is sought by some as a valued strategy to achieve their ends. Having lost their moral compass and a purposed way in life, the goal becomes simply to stay ascendant in the game and win at all costs by deliberately introducing the mayhem of non-logic and grabbing control in the midst of intentionally seeded confusion. –
The real insight into the accelerating change toward social enlightenment and progress that is upon us lies in these two poignant questions of this sage who left us almost six decades ago; it also lies in a new understanding of the real quarterback of our bodies and a smart society, the human heart. That is for another blog and until then I leave you to contemplate the wisdom of Albert’s two questions and look forward to hearing from you.
Of course we can also label Albert as a “wayward soul” then we can dismiss our responsibilities for his message of love and quench any light that could brighten our path as a society and reset our errant moral compass. 😉