we have seen a great light

we have seen a great light cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

It is very difficult not to impute into the very unassuming original story all the grand assumptions of our time. We don’t know what happened. We can’t rely on the texts for historical accuracy. Our minds gather all the accretions built up over the centuries and assign the magnificent edifice of these traditions to whatever happened in the first century. We don’t know what happened.

But something happened. The borrowed mythologies and hopes combined together with an event that is hopelessly buried in our own mythologies and hopes. But something happened that changed the way we perceive reality and That-Which-We-Call-God.

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About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • https://thedmergent.squarespace.com/articles/2012/12/6/the-christmas-joke-war-on-christmas-sign-this-minister-up Doug Sloan

    The birth narratives found in the Gospel according to Matthew and in the Gospel according to Luke are insurgency narratives. They are not stories told as history. To historically analyze, critique, or correct these two nativity stories is to completely miss their purpose, completely misunderstand them, and completely misuse them. They are stories told for strictly non-historical purposes. The Matthew nativity either is a taunting parody of or a sly tongue-in-cheek jab at the magical/miraculous birth narratives told in the Roman Empire to elevate the status of certain rulers and military heroes. The Luke nativity is a marketing/evangelistic ploy told by a person living under military occupation and empire domination for the purpose of currying favor with and acceptance by those who rule the Roman Empire.

  • http://poemsbyraslater.blogspot.com Ciera

    Even the best told stories leave much to the imagination

  • Carol

    People who are rationalistic biblical literalists also tend to be doctrinal/dogmatic literalists. They forget that a myth is not something that never happened; but something that happens all the time.

    The historical Jesus is also the Cosmic Christ. The NT text of Colossians is the beginning of the early Christian Communities’ realization that the Christian Mysteries reveal a larger Truth than that of the historical Jesus. The historical Jesus cannot be separated from the Cosmic Christ, as so many modern contemporary demythologizing theologians in both the Conservative/Traditionalist and the Liberal/Progressive Latin/Western Churches have attempted to do, without compromising the meaning of the Christ Event.

    “The mysteries of faith are degraded if they are made into an object of affirmation and negation, when in reality they should be an object of contemplation.” –Simone Weil

    “The Mysteries of faith are like the sun, we cannot gaze directly into them; but they illuminate all else.” -Orthodox Churches of the East, Apophatic Tradition

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    Yes, we get to contemplate and to marvel, but everyone beware of saying something definite about it.

    Yea! Rejoice! At what? Tell me, at what?

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    “The True Light came into the world…but people loved the darkness”

    Still do.

  • Carol

    Brigitte and Steve,

    “In the end, we return to the question, just how much do you love truth? Do you really love truth or are you just curious? Do you love it enough to rebuild your understanding to conform to a reality that doesn’t fit your current beliefs, and doesn’t feel 120% happy? Do you love truth enough to continue seeking even when it hurts, when it reveals aspects of yourself (or human society, or the universe) that are shocking, complex and disturbing, or humbling, glorious and amazing – or even, when truth is far beyond human mind itself? Just how much do we love truth? It’s a good question to ask ourselves, I think.” – Scott Mandelker

    “Why is it that our popular established religions are so shaken in the face of the visible problems of our civilization: drugs, war, crime, social injustice, the breakdown of the family, the sexual revolution? Is it not because somewhere along the line belief took the place of faith for the majority of Jews and Christians? Faith cannot be shaken; it is the result of being shaken. And we can see in the writings of the early Fathers that the primary function of the monastic discipline was to shake man’s belief in his own powers and understanding. This was not done simply by visiting upon men situations they could not handle or which caused them pain. Such experiences by themselves are useless, and even dementing, unless they are met by an intention to profit from them in the coin of self-knowledge. Mere belief that one has already found the way and the truth is the exact opposite of such an intention and was recognized by the early Fathers as a weapon of the devil.” ~Jacob Needleman, The New Religions

    “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.” – Thomas Merton

    “Reason is in fact the path to faith, and faith takes over when reason can say no more” ~Thomas Merton

    Faith…
    “When you come to the edge of all the light you have, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.” ~ Patrick Overton

    “There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.”–Arnold Bennett (1867-1931)

    “There’s a lovely Hasidic story of a rabbi who always told his people that if they studied the Torah, it would put Scripture on their hearts. One of them asked, “Why on our hearts, and not in them?” The rabbi answered, “Only God can put Scripture inside. But reading sacred text can put it on your heart, and then when your hearts break, the holy words will fall inside.”
    — Anne Lamott (Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith)

  • Carol

    This is an off-topic post, but it is a topic that is probably on almost everyone’s mind this Christmas. Perhaps it is not completely off-topic since it has been my experience that people with clinical mental illness and/or addictive personalities (and those who love them)are more likely to trust in God’s Grace than *healthy* people because they have lost all confidence in their own psychological resources.

    I am fortunate. My daughter is coping with clinical mental illness; but she is a beta-dominant female, not an alpha-dominant male. Females tend to internalize the psychological pain of their social dysfunction making suicide the primary concern. Males tend to externalize the pain of their social dysfunction making violence toward others the primary concern.

    External stimuli can trigger a psychotic event; but the underlying cause–neurological brain wiring or chemistry–cannot be cured, it can only be managed more or less successfully depending on the severity of the illness and the availability of socioeconomic resources.

    Carol

    A lot of people don’t realize that depression is an illness. I don’t wish it on anyone, but if they would know how it feels, I swear they would think twice before they just shrug it. ~Jonathan Davis

    A man’s illness is his private territory and, no matter how much he loves you and how close you are, you stay an outsider. You are healthy. ~Lauren Bacall

    What is the natural reaction when told you have a hopeless mental illness? That diagnosis does you in; that, and the humiliation of being there. I mean, the indignity you’re subjected to. My God. ~Kate Millett

    I’m fine, but I’m bipolar. I’m on seven medications, and I take medication three times a day. This constantly puts me in touch with the illness I have. I’m never quite allowed to be free of that for a day. It’s like being a diabetic. ~Carrie Fisher

    For too long we have swept the problems of mental illness under the carpet… and hoped that they would go away. ~Richard J. Codey

    You cannot drive a system that’s going to be aiming at preventing illness if everyone is not in it. The whole gaming of health insurance and health care in America is based on that fundamental principle: insure people who aren’t sick and you don’t have to pay more money on them. ~Mehmet Oz

    Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/illness.html#8XEZYFEjAYCVzrd6.99

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/19/adam-lanza-motive_n_2332641.html
    Adam Lanza Motive: Medical Examiner Wants To Probe Sandy Hook Shooter’s Genetics
    Posted: 12/19/2012 4:26 pm EST | Updated: 12/19/2012 4:26 pm EST

    Richard Rekos and Krista Rekos, with faces shown, parents of Jessica Rekos, are hugged by mourners outside of St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church after funeral services, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. Jessica Rekos, 6, was killed when Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
    Connecticut’s chief medical examiner said he hopes Adam Lanza’s biology will help explain why the Sandy Hook shooter went on a deadly rampage.

    The Hartford Courant reports that Dr. H. Wayne Carver has asked a geneticist at the University of Connecticut to join in his investigation of the killings.

    “I’m exploring with the department of genetics what might be possible, if anything is possible,” Carver told the paper on Tuesday. “Is there any identifiable disease associated with this behavior?”

    Carver is also awaiting toxicology testing results for the gunman.

    The story comes on the same day that Fox News reported Nancy Lanza, Adam’s mother, was in the process of having her son committed to a psychiatric facility when he went on the mass shooting spree, according to a lifelong family acquaintance.

    Connecticut police have said a motive for the shooting remains unclear, Newtown Patch reports.

    http://anarchistsoccermom.blogspot.ca/2012/12/thinking-unthinkable.html?m=1

    Friday, December 14, 2012
    Thinking the Unthinkable

    In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

    Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.

    “I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.

    “They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.”

    “They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!”

    “You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”

    I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.

    A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.

    That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.

    We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.

    At the start of seventh grade, Michael was accepted to an accelerated program for highly gifted math and science students. His IQ is off the charts. When he’s in a good mood, he will gladly bend your ear on subjects ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who. He’s in a good mood most of the time. But when he’s not, watch out. And it’s impossible to predict what will set him off.

    Several weeks into his new junior high school, Michael began exhibiting increasingly odd and threatening behaviors at school. We decided to transfer him to the district’s most restrictive behavioral program, a contained school environment where children who can’t function in normal classrooms can access their right to free public babysitting from 7:30-1:50 Monday through Friday until they turn 18.

    The morning of the pants incident, Michael continued to argue with me on the drive. He would occasionally apologize and seem remorseful. Right before we turned into his school parking lot, he said, “Look, Mom, I’m really sorry. Can I have video games back today?”

    “No way,” I told him. “You cannot act the way you acted this morning and think you can get your electronic privileges back that quickly.”

    His face turned cold, and his eyes were full of calculated rage. “Then I’m going to kill myself,” he said. “I’m going to jump out of this car right now and kill myself.”

    That was it. After the knife incident, I told him that if he ever said those words again, I would take him straight to the mental hospital, no ifs, ands, or buts. I did not respond, except to pull the car into the opposite lane, turning left instead of right.

    “Where are you taking me?” he said, suddenly worried. “Where are we going?”

    “You know where we are going,” I replied.

    “No! You can’t do that to me! You’re sending me to hell! You’re sending me straight to hell!”

    I pulled up in front of the hospital, frantically waiving for one of the clinicians who happened to be standing outside. “Call the police,” I said. “Hurry.”

    Michael was in a full-blown fit by then, screaming and hitting. I hugged him close so he couldn’t escape from the car. He bit me several times and repeatedly jabbed his elbows into my rib cage. I’m still stronger than he is, but I won’t be for much longer.

    The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork—“Were there any difficulties with….at what age did your child….were there any problems with…has your child ever experienced…does your child have….”

    At least we have health insurance now. I recently accepted a position with a local college, giving up my freelance career because when you have a kid like this, you need benefits. You’ll do anything for benefits. No individual insurance plan will cover this kind of thing.

    For days, my son insisted that I was lying—that I made the whole thing up so that I could get rid of him. The first day, when I called to check up on him, he said, “I hate you. And I’m going to get my revenge as soon as I get out of here.”

    By day three, he was my calm, sweet boy again, all apologies and promises to get better. I’ve heard those promises for years. I don’t believe them anymore.

    On the intake form, under the question, “What are your expectations for treatment?” I wrote, “I need help.”

    And I do. This problem is too big for me to handle on my own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all make sense.

    I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

    According to Mother Jones, since 1982, 61 mass murders involving firearms have occurred throughout the country. (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map). Of these, 43 of the killers were white males, and only one was a woman. Mother Jones focused on whether the killers obtained their guns legally (most did). But this highly visible sign of mental illness should lead us to consider how many people in the U.S. live in fear, like I do.

    When I asked my son’s social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. “If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.”

    I don’t believe my son belongs in jail. The chaotic environment exacerbates Michael’s sensitivity to sensory stimuli and doesn’t deal with the underlying pathology. But it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people. According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise—in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent) than in the non-incarcerated population. (http://www.hrw.org/news/2006/09/05/us-number-mentally-ill-prisons-quadrupled)

    With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill—Rikers Island, the LA County Jail, and Cook County Jail in Illinois housed the nation’s largest treatment centers in 2011 (http://www.npr.org/2011/09/04/140167676/nations-jails-struggle-with-mentally-ill-prisoners)

    No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”

    I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal.

    God help me. God help Michael. God help us all.

    This story was first published online by the Blue Review. Read more on current events at http://www.thebluereview.org


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