Choose Life, North Carolina

workersThis day, I call upon the heaven and the earth as witnesses: I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life, so that you and your offspring will live. —Duet. 30:19

Once again, my state, North Carolina, has chosen to refuse life. This time in a hastily called emergency session of the General Assembly, racing to beat the clock, the day when an ordinance to protect LGBT people from discrimination and to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify was scheduled to go into effect. Thus, the General Assembly passed House Bill 2, a bill that bans transgender people from using the bathroom of the gender they identify with and nullifies local ordinances around the state that would have protected gay and transgender people from being fired because of their sexual identity or preference.

Once again, my state, North Carolina, has chosen to refuse life, while locally elected officials in cities and counties chose to protect life in all its complex, strong and tender and beautiful diversity.

Unlike the political leaders of my state, I choose life. Here are two places where, in the last couple of days, I have found myself opening to include more life in my awareness. [Read more…]

Changing Positions: A Meditation for Campaign Season

Mount Ranier photo(With help from Donovan, D. T. Suzuki, Qingyuan Weixin, Wallace Stevens, democracy, REM, Bonnie Raitt, David Bowie, Stanley Kunitz, neuroscience, Torah, Ben Bag Bag, The Rabbis, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, you.)

First there is a mountain then there is no mountain then there is. Donovan, are you flip-flopping? Or is it you, mountain?

It was snowing / And it was going to snow. Which is it, Mr. Stevens, the actual weather or the forecast? You want it both ways?

§

It’s primary season in America. I don’t know who to fear more, Trump or his supporters.

All the chest-pounding, bullying, demonizing, dissembling, threats: they’re going to pay for it; I’d like to punch that protester in the face.

Do you disavow?

And the crowds cheer, how they cheer.

§

That’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion. Choosing my confession.

§

A long time in the spotlight.

Someone stands on a stage in a field, a hall, an arena and feeds a crowd what they hunger for.

Someone’s been too long at the fair. Eating data. [Read more…]

Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry

Detroit Industry. South Wall Detail.

Detroit Industry. South Wall Detail.

The Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) is obviously not a religious institution. But damn if its Rivera Court doesn’t feel like sacred space.

The Rivera Court consists of wall murals, floor to ceiling, around an indoor courtyard. The murals were painted by Diego Rivera (1886-1957), the famous Mexican muralist. Rivera himself was not an especially religious man, to put it mildly. He was pretty clear about this fact. “I am an atheist,” he once said, “and I consider religions to be a form of collective neurosis.”

The content of the murals is as secular as the man. Rivera began painting them in 1932 (finishing in 1933), an era when the auto industry in Detroit was pumping out product full throttle. The murals portray, for the most part, working people hard at work. That’s probably why they are known as the Detroit Industry murals.

Why was a Mexican muralist—known at the time mostly for works portraying the history and everyday lives of people in his home country—commissioned to make art about Detroit’s manufacturing economy? A couple of sentences on the DIA website do a succinct job of explaining the project.

In Mexico, Rivera’s murals tied modern Mexican culture to its indigenous roots, revealing the ancient Indian cultures as Mexico’s true heritage. Similarly, Rivera’s Detroit Industry murals depict industry and technology as the indigenous culture of Detroit.

You can understand, then, why the industrialists of Detroit would pay good money for a mural by Rivera. They, too, saw “industry and technology as the indigenous culture of Detroit.” But this does not explain why the murals create—perhaps despite themselves—a sacred feeling. [Read more…]

Love Your Enemies for Lent

American FlagAnother campaign season is upon us with a vengeance. Actually it’s campaign seasons—since the U.S. presidential campaign goes on for over two years. That’s summer, fall, winter, spring, summer, fall, winter, spring, summer ,and the final (gasp) fall.

As for vengeance, this seems to increase with every four-year cycle. Could there possibly be more vengefulness articulated than we’ve been hearing these past months?

Which brings me to Lent. For years, during every Lent that coincides with a presidential campaign, my Lenten project has been to try to “love my enemies.” Enemies in this case are the politicians whose views and words disgust me. Terrify me. Yet I know that these people are all children of God.

In years past, I’ve failed in this Lenten practice. My self-righteousness and judgmental nature have gotten the better of me. But I’m trying yet again, because I’m convinced that this practice can be good for my soul. Lent is always a fresh opportunity to come closer to God, to become more like the person God wants me to be.

So, can I look at each of the presidential candidates—yes, even Donald Trump—and see a child of God? That’s my current Lenten challenge. [Read more…]

The Greater Evil: Proscription or Compulsion?

Chinese MuslimsThere’s a new law in China, and it’s aimed at weakening a faith. As the Chinese government is not one to bother with currying world opinion, those who speak for the authorities are quite aboveboard regarding exactly what they’re about and why:
If a people are made to do something, they will soon enough not begrudge having to do it. Forbid a man and he will resent you; compel a man and he will grow accustomed to you.
It’s not uncommon for the jailed to fall in love with their jailers—Stockholm Syndrome, it’s called. But I venture that in most cases, it’s those who use the strongest tactics against their prisoners who win the most hearts. Lock them up and they stay strong; wear them down and win them over.
But back to the law: the new Chinese mandate requires all restaurants to serve alcohol, including those operated by Muslims. [Read more…]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X