No More Namby Pamby

On this Christmas day of 2012, I am reminded of the moment that saw Jesus ben Joseph entered the waters of baptism, open himself to the Holy Spirit, and become to completely, wonderfully reflect the Glory of God. In every instance of His life, thereafter, He demonstrated that power through His unremitting stance for the spiritual requirements of all the people living in His moment, towards that day that ” shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Isaiah 2:2-2:4)

I am reminded that Jesus, forsaking every comfort so that He could establish the law of love with humanity and exact the promise of the Covenant of God with humanity, saying ” I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (Gospel of John 16:12 – 16:14)

And, even in that, He made it clear as he felled the tables of money veiling the sacred place, the place of worship, that there is necessity in the spiritual stance to go to the priests of rituals of the ego and yell loudly, “NO! NO! NO!, GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!

For Jesus, that stance was completed in His recognition that they would, then, find an excuse to kill Him. For the money makers asked Him,” “What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then they said, “Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?” But He spake of the temple of his body.” (King James Bible, John 2:18-2:21). His death would be the opening of the hearts of His disciples to the Holy Spirit and the establishment of Temple of Christ in the hearts of people throughout the world.

And, so, here, at Christmas 2012, my ego railing within, reminding me of the words that Christ gave us to use to put voice to that ego and its soothing, “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”(King James Bible, Matthew), I take this stand. I commit to the promise of love and peace. I commit to saying to the priests of rituals to the ego, war, and hoarding. “NO! NO MORE, NO EXCUSES!” I commit to turning guns into plough shares. I commit to turning violence into calm and peace. I commit to raising the children of the world with physical and spiritual nourishment. I commit to empowering the youth as peacemakers and community builders. I commit to turning prisons into playgrounds. I commit to caring for the planet for every living thing. I commit to the dance of extending love and justice across the planet. No more Namby Pamby. I take this stand.

Sacred Activism

Driving home from Cairns this afternoon, I heard this interview on the radio. I hadn’t heard of sacred activism (as a specific term) before (although I guess that is what I would say I aspire) and it sounds vital.Promotional image Michael Knopf

I was pleasantly pleased to see that the producer of the program had used the music of my mate, Michael Knopf, in the program: CD title: Guitar Chant
Track title: Ancient Beauty.


Sacred themes in conversation: a flowing river or a dam?

I was recently in a group conversation in which some emotionally sensitive issues were being raised. At a couple of moments during the conversation, a speaker made a polite comment citing or paraphrasing sacred writings without reference to the issue under discussion. The outcome was that the conversation stalled, then moved slowly to another place without resolution. I realized this left me with significant unease. What was being said here? Did the speaker have a particular understanding of the cited material that they expected everyone else would have? Did it mean support or criticism of what had been said by others? In any case, it had the effect of closing down further exploration of the topic, as listeners could only nod in acquiescence, perhaps disinclined to challenge the speakers meaning. Afterall, might not a challenge imply a challenge to the validity of the sacred words. In any case, a challenge might draw the conversation further from its purpose.

Indeed, it may be the purpose of a speaker, on feeling uncomfortable with the subject matter, to raise the Word of God as a shield, stalling the advance of a potentially conflictional exploration. The danger is that the shield doesn’t eliminate the subject. Although halted, the shield becomes a dam, behind which the topic’s waters accumulate, building pressure and creating distracting discomfort among the conversationalists.

Yet, surely the Word of God, the sacred scriptures, are invaluable in serious discussion of any kind. In fact, Baha’u’llah recommends, for utterance to be highly effective, it must be endowed with penetrating power and moderation. Interestingly, Baha’u’llah goes on to describe ‘penetrating power’, not as something particularly charismatic, but related to a pure spirit and a stainless heart. Yet His definition of moderation goes to the heart of this theme, as “blending utterance with tokens of divine wisdom (from) sacred Books and tablets”. This idea of blending would mean that the speaker, perhaps, introduces their contribution to the conversation by a composition that fundamentally asks the participants to look at one or more of the concepts under discussion, then suggesting a way of looking at that issue derived from Baha’u’llah’s teachings and including some relevant ‘tokens’ of His advice.

In this way, the application of citation from Baha’u’llah becomes part of the specific conversation. By considered construction of the utterance, one can avoid telling another they are wrong. Such construction becomes more natural if we enter any conversation with an attitude of wanting to build a relationship with the others and learn from them. Abdu’l-Baha’s advice is to, “look upon others with respect … speak as investigating the truth, saying, “Here these things are before us. Let us investigate to determine where and in what form the truth can be found… speak with th eutmost kindliness, lowliness and humility for such speech exerteth influence and educateth the souls.”

It seems that Baha’u’llah is also advising to learn how to do this in a way to enhance the interest and engagement of the hearer. The hearer could be anyone, seeker or lifelong believer. The method we are trying to learn, then, applies in all our interactions.

There are a few criteria we could evaluate our conversations against:

  1. Did the participants engage comfortably in the conversation?;
  2. Did the conversation attempt to work through barriers or conflictual elements?;
  3. Did the conversational path resolve, divert, or cease?;
  4. Did it allow pickup at a later date?

Of course sometimes it is not our participation but the utterance of another that become a conversation stopper. And it is certainly better that the conversation stops, than it should enter a disputation. Or, as Baha’u’llah advises, “If ye be aware of a certain truth, if ye possess a jewel, of which others are deprived, share it with them in a language of utmost kindliness and goodwill. If it be accepted, if it fulfill its purpose, your object is attained. If anyone should refuse it, leave him unto himself, and beseech God to guide him. Beware lest ye deal unkindly with him. A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men. It is the bread of the spirit, it clotheth the words with meaning, it is the fountain of the light of wisdom and understanding.