Saturday, July 9, 2016

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN AMERICA? What Will It Take To Transcend The Hate, Violence And Chaos?

I'm compelled to try to say something, to speculate, about what is happening in America. I fear we could be nearly at a collective nervous/psychological breakdown unprecedented. It seems urgent we find a way to 'believe' there is a mindful reality beyond us that has some good intentions for the nation/world but that may not be strongly like what we have imaged God to be tradtionally. We urgently need to find such a 'trust' that is not in conflict with our reasoning intellect and scientific knowledge, but that we can accept as being more than these.
Flowers placed on the  car of murdered Dallas policeman

The conflicting irrational nature of the violence and lack of sufficient collective ethics in America has moved us toward what can be evolution's way of forcing us to a higher level of consciousness. No sooner have we attempted to absorb two more black men being questionably  killed on video by police than innocent policemen are murdered by a sniper in Dallas, this while helping protect a non violent demonstration against police brutality. Such continuing blasts of hate and violence push anyone trying to deal with the inner conflict it produces toward an unprecedented conflict of rationally irreconcilable opposites.

This kind of psychological conflict of reality is at the center of C.G. Jung's work last century as the great task and necessary threatening  passage of  post modern humans. We might best   imagine ourselves enfolded within a larger imperfect 'mind'(Not, as we tend to think of God traditionally,  predetermining as to how human maturity will be reached, so  best imagined as the impartial  ' mind of evolution.'). This mind  would be the ever evolving reality, present in but also much more than  our personal and collective conscious  ego, immemorially called the Sacred or God.

One dangerous , but seemingly necessary in evolution, reality this may be pushing us toward is that a higher collective ethic than 'law and order' is required to bring humanity through this period of  horrific chaos. There will have to be some critical mass of humans world wide that face the fact that no longer can 'law and order' be efficient alone to transcend the over reach of evil and chaos we are confronted with. Americans still hold on to national 'law and order' as the ultimate tool that will keep the society from completely self destructing with hate and violence. This worshipful dependence on law and order accounts for why the public has to keep excusing the most outrageous over reaches of police as they repeatedly kill with impunity black American citizens and openly considering  government monitoring of all Muslim Americans. The military is placed in a similar elevated role both at home and especially abroad.

But the raging images of killing and death that have been such a dark side of the collective unconscious for millennia are again treacherously pouring forth into the streets of outer realty in ways that potentially tear the human psyche and society apart. Outer reality images that have now emerged in such close proximity show how futile law and order is when enough fire power and long repressed hate is turned against  the final keepers of the law.(A parallel phenomenon is happening with the strength of global terrorism.) Police and military as such are not the enemy but our reliance on them as sufficient to keep a humane  public ethic intact in America(and the world) surely is. This ineffective sentimental   'religious like'  trust  that many  persons of every political persuasion and religion still have  for preserving a civil culture is being demonstrated as misplaced, not sufficient.  Something more connecting, more rightfully 'trusted' is needed to come into our conscious grasp. We must look to something deeper and inner that is able to contain the whole in ways that enforced 'law and order' cannot.

The situation calls for some kind of natural collective transformation that we cannot fathom ,by reason and intellect alone,  to take place within the  psyche of humanity. (Similar psychological phenomena have happened before, such as at the beginning of the Christian era and  beginnings of other major religions. We have lost sight of such origins in our Western  assumption that it was all  just literal historical events understood  and believed intellectually)This implies that 'other'... God, the Sacred... the 'imperfect mind of evolution' must be understood as a real and necessarily trusted part of the our collective consciousness.

We are pushed to become 'believers' in that which is truly impartial and  more than our personal and collective ego. There is little likelihood this 'present and beyond us' reality can be imagined as just like any traditional religion's icons or dogmas but it would likely be continuous with all major previous 'religious revelations.' It could be expected to come as some new symbolic system and story of love and justice appropriate for the times and that provides a transcendence of 'law and order' ethics alone. We could expect no 'religion' will be able to claim that its symbol system or mythical heroes are the savior from the present threatening self destruction. Such ethnocentrism will necessarily have to be appreciatively realized as no more sufficient at the religious level than law and order alone is at the secular level. It will need to be understood by some critical mass of humans there is a newly released power of the Sacred, which is not any copy of such revelations that have been before. Biblically such times of evolutionary psychological change in ethics and world view is called a 'new creation' , 'new Jerusalem', 'metanoia' , 'just the right time', 'the greatest of all is love',  'kingdom of God'  and ' omega' Other world religions have similar expressions.

It seems to me that our highest personal responsibility presently is to try to realize the irrational 'split' in consciousness  sensitive persons  are   painfully experiencing(at numerous personal and collective levels) and that time honored 'law and order' is not sufficient to address , or better to transcend, them. This is obviously not primarily  a race problem, political  or even an economic one at bottom. This is a collective 'religious' , in the psychological sense, problem. It is a human trust problem. This explains why post modern humanity is stuck in  a chaos of  anger, hate and violence in a way that twentieth century America never believed itself to be approaching. It always saw itself able to   'make progress'; but this hope is much more missing  now- until we 'see' something that humans have never quite seen before, a larger picture, a less 'me and mine' picture, a grand 'we and all that is'  picture.

It is a problem of imaginatively identifying that which enfolds us and all of nature,  and  ordinary citizens being able to then  'trust' consciously at a deeper level than humans ever have before. We can each resolve to stand within this split without being pulled to any of the tempting  one-sided extremes. And too realize the powerful negative energies we are collectively   up against,  yet  to also trust  that how we inwardly conceptualize them(what I am attempting to do in this essay) is a great determining factor in how this  peak in   evolutionary history goes...... very good or very bad for our species.   And to 'trust' that at deep and now surface levels something beyond human intellectual comprehension, which also has 'mind', is participating in all this. And to imagine that mind , God or the 'all in all' , as praying for  and needing  a higher level of human consciousness to  work in cooperation with this  'Universal mind's'   promptings so that together a door into a more caring, loving, appreciative and truly impartial  future is found.

This new anticipated perception and understanding of  where we are in the universe and what is being asked of us  can be thought of as creatively evolving out of our apparently necessary  suffering chaos. So indeed we are  not alone unless we, to our own psychological detriment,   choose that.

Sermon: HOW ABOUT YOUR GOOD NEIGHBORS ?... The Good Samaritan... Luke 10:25-37

When the average person is asked what  story best describes the way Jesus wants his followers to behave, this story from the rich creative mind of the Gospel of Luke's author is most likely cited. This story is potentially the most powerful presentation ever of the highest practical meaning of the Christian religion. What makes many scholars rightly wonder if Jesus actually told this story is that it is missing in the two gospels written before Luke. The thinking is that if it had been around in the older oral traditions Mark and Matthew would have included it as well. This does not lower the authority of the story as an expression of the kind of teaching Jesus did and the emphasis he surely made.  

Most  likely as the writer reflected on what he wanted people to understand most about Jesus this story was inspired. A tragedìy is the more often a story is repeated the more likely people begin to hear it with the attitude, “ O that again. I've heard it a thousand times. 'Been there done that.' Yet few are so bold to say they have even come near being the kind of neighbor this story holds up as a spiritual hero. The story has made many people say how different the world would be if the majority had the attitude toward other people that the Good Samaritan is described as having.
Amie Morot   1880

We can be confident that this story was not told to seduce people to despise either priests or Levites. But to note that humans tend to be so focused on their own plans that we often walk through the world as if with blinders, that keep us from noticing what is happening to people who are suffering more than us and in need of a good neighbor's helping hand. Yet it likely does  intentionally warn that it is  those who claim to be religious that are most at risk of this this blatant hypocrisy, putting one's religious exercises and meetings above the call of a suffering world.

After Jesus states that the 'greatest command' is  to, 'love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself', a listener asks, “ And who is my neighbor?” Usually we have then focused on who should I consider the person(s) to go out of my way to assist and support? We likely don't let this story challenge us well when we primarily think of our own kindnesses to others. Even the sourest of persons can give a long list of truly nice things they have done for others.

 Honestly, I no longer think of myself at all as like this good Samaritan or aspire to it. This example is just too over the top. I am often stopped and asked directions as I take my walks in our village. I feel good when I can help the person reorient themselves and be on their way. It is a good thing I've done. I find my chaplain work very rewarding. It involves 'helping' people who are sick to feel better and not worse about their ordeal.  I also get paid for the work.  I share the vegetables in my garden with others. Making such lists most of us can whisper to ourselves, “ Hey this is what that story is about. I'm a good Samaritan” And maybe to an extent  it is. If it at least gets us to want to be welcoming and  helpful to others it has done some good through us. 

But have I ever put a bleeding unknown person, of very different ethnicity and religion and at the point of death, in my car and taken them to the ER , and told the desk clerk , “ If this person does not have insurance, I will pay for their bill. Here is my contact number.”? Now unquestionably there are repeated times of unique need when persons have literally been the Good Samaritan to a stranger, maybe in times of war and other survival human situations. Maybe the Dallas policemen who shielded the citizens who were protesting, and died as a result. So does this mean we may be a good Samaritan only at some one heroic moment? Why Just one of these 'taking the homeless person to the hospital and paying the bill' would bankrupt most any of us. I think our practical question is how can ordinary persons best be motivated to be a good neighbor as a ongoing life style? How can we today in a realistic and consistent way carry the spirit of the Good Samaritan in a natural non heroic way?

Jesus asks , ' Who is the neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?” That answer is best answered not by us but by the man who had been assaulted. He may have never have learned who Samaritan the was. But we can well imagine he knew he had been royally treated as a neighbor in the highest meaning of that word. So we may do well if we would forget for awhile any neighbor we might have helped and ask ourselves , “ What about my neighbors, those who have been good neighbors to me?” What or who has helped and nurtured  my life for as far back as I can recall? Who has helped me when I could not help myself? What or who has opened doors for me that I could not have opened myself. Who or what has seemed like a part of a plan to help my life survive and unfold right up this present moment. ? It is so easy for us to forget who has neighbored us. And when we do forget we are at high risk of becoming unhappy, cynical , grudge holding, blaming, spiteful human beings. And the older I get the more I know I do not want to go out like that... complaining and angry about my one opportunity to live this life.

To use the story to ask this question can go a long way to keep me from being a reasonably cared for angry white man which there seem to be too many of these days. What a long list of good neighbors I must confess gratefully I've had. Neighbors who had enough going for themselves that they could also choose to assist me. (Don't forget the Samaritan had some financial  resources and clout.)  I had parents that loved and took care of me for a good many years. They gave me some religious teachings that I would finally at midlife have to explore and redo but that did not keep them from being excellent neighbors to me. My mother died when I was ten and that gave me something to work on most of my life . I had six older brothers who treated me so well, good neighbors. Then time and again I had needs I could not meet by myself alone. School teachers, Doctors, lawyers, public servants were there for me. Good neighbors. Local and national governments were wonderful neighbors to me. I could not had much of a life without them.

Everywhere I've lived there has been clean water, roads and sidewalks, sewers, first responders, farmers, manufacturers.. on and on...Good neighbors. The national Science Foundation granted me a fully paid opportunity to study at AZ State to receive a Masters degree which helped me be a better teacher and receive more income. My wife and my children have molded the meaning of my life.. being excellent neighbors. I've had a few most timely best friends who helped me find my way. Medicare and a Teachers' Pension make my life  economically comfortable now. I, like so many others, also found the church to be a good neighbor in supporting my spiritual life and in being a place of mutual friendships. On and on it goes , only by the presence and action of good neighbors have I been able to have a life at all.

 You can likely do this very same thing I've done. When we do it makes us old timers say again and again... neighbors have been good to me and I so want the younger ones coming up to have good neighbors also. It naturally leads one to want to give something back.. or to be in ones own natural personal way an unglamorized Good Samaritan. To be a good neighbor because you see so clearly and strongly you have been upheld and sustained yourself by good neighbors.
Civil Rights Legislation    1968

That is my sermon. But I feel I should make something very clear or we could stumble terribly in our desire to carry the spirit of the Good Samaritan. Life simply does not always bring good neighbors to people; or if any not enough with enough power to hold at bay horrendous unmerciful human suffering. So never should we count our good neighbors as I have done and forget that some truly can't do that for themselves or their loved ones. I realize some persons who could better remember the good neighbors they've had but just don't and so become tragically cynical and complaining . But some have lived their whole life in war , people trying to kill them and their families, and dealing with the wounds and results of war. Some have been in situations where they have been continuously abused , diminished and discounted.

Sometimes those without good neighbors are individuals and sometimes they are groups. Some ethnic groups have been victims of hate and abuse with no Good Samaritans coming to the rescue. This includes at times and places Jewish people, Islamic people, Black Americans. It included the Samaritans in Jesus day. Jesus own people considered them as unworthy dogs, less than human. It has been women without strong neighbors for most of the last three thousand years. It has been Gay and Lesbian people who , even in our land, have been singled out often for physical and social punishments. It has been poor or neglected children, single mothers, people who have become addicted to chemicals.

This list of human suffering and woundedness, not attended by a good neighbor, is real and present and goes on just as our list of good neighbors did. So to carry the spirit of  the Good Samaritan we need to be consciously aware of the physical and psychological suffering of fellow human travelers , much of it by the hands and systems of humans abusing their power, failing to be good neighbors.

There is only so much that any individual can do.  And it seems essential for us to see that we must act as communities and governments to defy this undue suffering. We must organize and work together to relieve hunger, poverty and discrimination. To vote in our land to have better health care for all our citizens, to vote for policies that are purposely planned to help all citizens have access to legal protections, and to receive a fair share of the earth's fruits of food, clothing and safe shelter. These are nature's gift to all persons. The good Samaritan can't be only a 'me' activity but in our day it must be a “we” if the effects of this story are to be realized in our world

So Jesus says 'go and do likewise' . He is saying to us , “ Always be recalling those persons and institutions that have been good neighbors to you  and  cultivate in yourself that desire, that longing, that all humans , even all creatures of the earth,  also have also good neighbors  so they can  thrive and fulfill the image of God that slumbers in each one.” From remembering our own neighbors and yearning for others to a have good neighbors it becomes possible that the story of the Good Samaritan can become the story of the nation and world.