Touching the Water: A Poem

Rev. Kate Stevens led a prayer circle in solidarity with Standing Rock Water Protectors. A bottle filled with water from the Missouri River at Standing Rock and local sacred waters sat in the middle. Kate put her hands on the bottle and everyone touched someone who was touching someone who was touching the water.

Touching the Water

For our ancestors, wise and unwise

..

Their blood flows like water through time

and settles for a while in our veins,

warm and nourishing and

with a long blood memory.

..

There is no “my blood” to sacrifice or

“my water” to drink,

no “this blood”

“this water,”

only blood

only water.

..

The Jew said,

Hath not a Jew eyes,

organs, dimensions, senses,

affections, passions,

healed by the same means,

harmed by the same weapons,

warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer

as a Christian?

If you prick us do we not bleed?

..

Only one blood to spill

One water to sail upon

One blood remembering all as it flows through us,

as we struggle to forget.

One water aware of all as it flows around us,

as we flounder in forgetfulness.

..

One sacred duty for our very brief time here:

Remember.

 

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Leggo My Jesus!

I was meeting a friend at a coffee shop in a very large bookstore which shall remain unnamed. From afar I saw a bright, shining cloud. I was drawn to it as if I were ascended, only horizontally. There, on the shelf of bibles, was one I had never seen before. Glowing, as if barcoded from heaven: the Lego Bible in a box. The penultimate of American Christian art! A reflection of how devout bad taste can be! And the combo set of Old and New Testaments with moveable figures for only $29.95!

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the many bibles available to Christians now {The New Color-Coded Bibles]: the Green Bible, with lines highlighted in green to show us how often dirt is mentioned; the Justice Bible, highlighted to show that God cares about the poor and oppressed “a lot,” and my then-favorite, the American Patriot’s Bible with George Washington on the cover (let the French write their own damned bible).* But this…..
On the cover, I kid you not, DaVinci’s “The Last Supper” with little Lego people. Awestruck, I knelt before it to look closer. I have looked closely at DaVinci’s version, the faces, the expressions, bodies. I’m sorry, but it does not compare to this version: cube heads, blank expressions, little plastic bodies with somewhat moveable arms, primary colors only. So easy on the eye.

Revelations of biblical scenes appeared before me: Jesus knocking all those money-changers off the table onto the floor where the dog can chew them up, a barbie-sized Goliath smiting a teeny tiny David. Are pebbles supplied for stonings? Or do we have to supply our own? I wondered how they would depict Peter cutting off the Roman soldier’s ear since Lego people have no ears.

Turns out, I am years behind the times. The original version came out in 2001. “The Brick Bible,” as it is called, was pulled off the shelves at Toys-R-Us and Sam’s Club because someone noticed the sex scenes. The Brick Bible includes, you guessed it, graphic Lego sex scenes. (This whole blog was worth writing just to be able to use that phrase.)
The creator, Brendan Powell Smith, was astonished at the censorship. The depictions in his bible were nothing compared to the Bible bible’s sex scenes. Why didn’t they ban the original? I’m not sure how his version ended up on the shelves again. Perhaps the graphic Lego sex scenes were removed.

At the unnamed store, my fingers coveted that Brick Holy Book, that igniter of imagination, that simplifier of all things miraculous, the pure Americanism of it, the graphic Lego sex scenes in it, but I resisted. However, Christmas is only eleven months away… (a hint for those who have ears to…. oh, never mind).

>https://religion-sightunseen.com/2011/09/17/the-new-color-coded-bibles-just-for-you/

Delicious Christmas Controversies

Ahhhh, January. Time to kick back and review all the juicy controversies surrounding Christmas. The controversies are often dry as toast, but, like toast, can be delicious.

1) At the all-time, top-of-the-list controversies must be poor Megyn Kelly’s (Fox news reporter) insistence that Santa Clause and Jesus were/are white. She later claimed it was a joke, but I saw it and her comedic talents are somewhere below her news reporting. The reactions of black newscasters and the comic parodies will keep Christmas joyous for decades. Which leads me to believe that Megyn Kelly is really a black comedian with a ton of make-up who works for “The Onion.”
I did come across one disturbing article about “The Legend of the Candy Cane,” a book used in Florida for first graders. (Since removed.) “White is for Jesus because he’s white and red is for Jesus’ blood and if you flip the candy cane upside down it makes a J for Jesus.” Some psychologist should write about the creepy aspects of this statement. Too many to begin here.
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2) The dueling billboards outside Lincoln Tunnel in New York took up some media time. The “atheists-hate-Christmas billboards” vs the “Christians-hate-atheists’ billboards” billboard war is getting old now.Both sides display an appalling lack of imaginative advertising.
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3) “Merry Christmas” vs “Happy Christmas” controversy is new to me. I thought it simply had to do with which side of the pond a person lived, Brits: “Happy”, Yanks: ” Merry.” Silly me. Somewhere back in the convoluted history of the English language, “merry” meant “intoxicated.” I enjoy watching young children singing, “We wish you a merry Christmas” so much more now.
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4) “Happy Holidays!” As you know from many sources, this phrase is a weapon in the War Against Christmas. I thought it was a slightly more inclusive greeting than “Merry Christmas.” More than one Jewish writer has pointed out that Jews do not have any holidays after Hanukkah, so why say it? I’ve had only a taste of being a minority in Thailand and Vietnam and when living in Dorchester, so I don’t take greetings lightly. Joyful greetings are a necessity in this dark time of year, however “Happy Winter!” is disingenuous when the slush is two inches deep. I thought I was so clever: at Eurphoria Bakery I said to the woman behind the counter, “Enjoy your time off!” She looked at me oddly and said, “Have a Happy Holiday.” I may just have to go with “See ya next year!”
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5) On NPR a woman called in to say that the Star of Bethlehem was sent by the devil so the Wise Men could lead Herod to Jesus. Good point. I’ll have to think about that.
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6) Miscellaneous: -A conservative Alabama town mistakenly invited a black drag-queen dance troupe, “Prancing Elites,” to dance in its Christmas parade. – K-Mart’s ad for boxer shorts: a line of men in tux tops and boxer shorts shaking their booty to “Jingle Bells.” -And lastly, the most crowded Capital steps in the country? Florida! A beer can Festus pole, a Nativity scene, a chair holding fake spaghetti with eyeballs. Officials drew the line at the Satanic Temple’s depiction of an angel falling head first into an open fire. Satan has the same letters as Santa, so I don’t know what their problem is.

Movable Brains

My First UCC Encounter

In 1976 the national UCC sponsored a trip to Northern Ireland to support the Peace People’s March for Peace in Belfast. At the time I had only the vaguest notion of what UCC might stand for: Unitarian Christian Church? Universal Christians of California? United Christians for Christ? I’d been spending time with the Catholic Left and with Quakers acting against the U.S. war in Viet Nam. To me, “Protestants” were an amorphous blob of bible readers who couldn’t agree on anything. I knew William Sloan Coffin fit in somewhere. We did work with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, but I discovered that there was a Baptist FoR, an Episcopalian FoR, an Adventist FoR and about 10 more FoRs. What were the differences? This foggy notion changed somewhat when the CL group I belonged to joined forces with Clergy and Laity Concerned, composed mostly of Protestant activists.

There are about 38,000 Protestant denominations, so I forgive myself my confusion. Christian Platt is a blogger for the progressive evangelical magazine, Sojourner. (“Progressive Evangelical” still stumps me.) He names the five things he believes hold Christianity back. (Back from what, I’m not sure.) Number 2 is “Denominations.” He claims  “their distinction from others like them are so minute that even the members within a given denomination can’t tell you what makes them unique.” One commenter disagreed. He says denominations are…” the church diversified…the beautiful mosaic of God’s kingdom,”

Okay, now I get it. A bridge made with moving interlocking parts is more stable than a rock-solid immobile one.

Now, 37 years later, I get spiritual support, renewal, intellectual challenge, and community primarily from (gasp) a UCC church. Luckily, my brain is made of interlocking parts. The parts shifting and rubbing against each other bring me to a better awareness of the world. OMG! I’ve got a Protestant brain!

Peace People Ireland March 1976:

137018-004-18C4C15E

http://prezi.com/f3-r0gkrtlz0/the-peace-people/

Sojourners article: http://sojo.net/blogs/2013/09/23/five-things-are-holding-christianity-back

Pretending as a Spiritual Practice

During the U.S. War in Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hahn asked people in the peace movement to write a love letter to President Nixon. Gasps from the audience. Were we supposed to pretend that any of us had the slightest respect, never mind love, for Nixon? Apparently we were. I wrote the letter. My reluctance and resistance and half-heartedness clearly showed me how far I, a “peace-nick,” was from peace.

Pretending is a little more involved than imagining. It requires involvement, some level of commitment to acting as if….and watching the results.

For a while, it was fashionable among some Westerners to believe in reincarnation. I read and thought about it, but could not come to a conclusion. Finally I just sat for a while and pretended that I believed in reincarnation. Wow! I felt so much lighter. I did not have to get everything done in one lifetime! I had been unaware of a deep-seeded anxiety about all I needed to get done before I died. I wasn’t aware of it until it suddenly vanished. I still don’t believe in reincarnation, but my psyche is much more relaxed.

A neighbor was a devotee of Gurumayi Chidvilasananda and she invited me to go to the ashram for a day. Previously, when my brother-in-law was dying of AIDS, he urged me to visit the same ashram. He told me that when he was in despair, Gurumayi had appeared at the foot of his bed and comforted him. When he had visited the ashram years before, he had been put off by it, but apparently she came anyway. I decided to go. I had such a good time that I went back.

It is a lavish, beautiful space with gardens, many statues of gods and goddesses, and gourmet vegetarian food. Chanting with a few hundred people in the great hall was mesmerizing and beautiful. The Guru’s talks could be summarized as: love God, love each other. Although there are many Hindu gods and goddesses, Brahman is the ultimate Presence very close to the One God of Jews and Christians. All of God’s attributes cannot be contained in one image or name, hence all the images.

One cold evening I was relieved to see that someone had put a scarf around the neck of a statue of Durga. Not even Catholics put warm clothes on saints’ statues. Why was I happy someone had put a scarf on a statue? A Jewish friend of mine dryly commented, “It sounds like idolatry to me.”

Many faces of God molded into stone surrounded me in the halls and gardens. How concrete the sacred becomes when it is embodied in…well, concrete.

My visits were the opposite of silent, austere Zen retreats, but being there and throwing myself into the practices stretched my perceptions of the sacred.

Some things you can’t just think about; you’ve got to jump in and swim strange waters. Look before you leap is always good advice, as is keeping your head. However, pondering from the shore does not always work in matters of God.