by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove
What We Long For
Jack’s funeral on Saturday, not particularly religious, rose to heights of emotional and spiritual inspiration with piercing images, over and over, of what we long for in our deeper, higher selves. Generousity, caring, civil behaviour, concern for all: if this isn’t the acting out of the Golden Rule – found at the core of every faith – what is?? And it’s a vision for most of what we aspire to, from which come the behaviours we most admire.
It’s a long time since I’ve felt those ideals stirring – submerged for years in discouragement and world weariness. As Lorraine Segato was singing, I remembered the summer of 1967 ringing with two refrains: Bobby Gimbie’s “Ca-na-da”, and “All You Need Is Love”. Sentimental but positive and encouraging when all kinds of people were humming the same tunes. The Company of Young Canadians were out there all over the country, and Tom Berger was modeling a consultative respectful process of asking and listening to native groups across the north, seeking truth on which to base pipeline recommendation. That era launched many of us into the work of trying to improve things. We inevitably ran into greed and hunger for power, and the old ideologies of encouraging the survival of the fittest. And as these have gained ascendancy, in the inevitable pendulum swing, we got older. And loss began to take a toll.
Not The Past but Into the Future
Put the past disappointments to rest. Our kids need help to take up the storied torch. Our sadness and scepticism has helped to dampen their zest. Have we not contributed to it not being cool to make the leap, to step out, to act out the belief that the ‘bliss’ they seek can be found within working the collective?
This might be a fresh start, or a continuation of something that never ended. That’s what Jack’s letter, and Stephen Lewis and the First Nations Chief, and everybody else lifted up on Saturday. Love, Hope, Optimism. A Manifesto, Steven Lewis called it. Hallelujah, Rise Up and Everybody Get Together – and songs yet unwritten – can be our anthems as we look around and find others to step out with us. (As Joy has done in getting the discussion going about social housing on Opening The Window). That energy will be catching.
Politics and Religion Can Keep Gentle Company
As a Christian, I felt Christ there today. In concert with all the true teachers of God’s truth. Loving spirits of a living God. And for those uncomfortable with naming the divine, the best of humanist values were there, in the panoply. Love, Hope, Optimism.
Some of course feel completely differently. A letter in the Globe today called the funeral “an NDP Rally” and of people being “manipulated”. Useful to remember the width of the human continuum.
Theocracy: Religion and Politcs Fused and Confused
Regarding yesterday as a gathering in the spirit of love and hope was a counterpoint to my current pondering of the present theocratic movement in the U.S.A. and Canada. The conservative arguments against separation of Church and State have been growing, as many Christians seek to legitimize not the inspiration to serve God and follow your religiously-formed conscience (nobody has been attacking that) but the implementing in policy of specific dictums of particular Christian sects.
Bible Driven Belief
On holiday I spent some hours with Tom, a friend I had encouraged years ago in his first steps toward becoming Christian. The charismatic energy and certainty of the Toronto Airport Fellowship attracted him – he could perhaps now be termed a non-church affiliated Bible-centred pentacostal evangelical. He exudes love and cheeriness, not his former depression. He is a can-do guy – or rather, “God-can-do”. Without God’s personal direction, with signs, actions are fruitless. Total faith is Tom’s salvation.
Many people of faith walk closely with God. How is Tom’s mind-set different from theirs and mine?
I think it’s in the belief that the agenda has been set by God and laid out in the Bible. The fundamentals are that Jesus will return. It will be, among other things, when Israel is wholly God’s land. Obama’s efforts to assist inclusion of the Palestinians will continue the chaos and ultimately speed up the end. What’s awaiting is The Rapture, the taking-up to God’s kingdom of all those who have been Born Again in the Spirit. End-Times precede The Rapture and are upon us already. One sign is that God is drawing people out of the Churches, into a closer relationship with Himself. This is all laid out and we’d best get with the program.
The Nature of the Leap or the Gap
The Machine Gun Preacher (his moniker in the area of Africa where he works) has turned up in the press. An American and former military and gang member, he is Born Again and now rescues child soldiers and engages them in an “army for Christ”. They are educated and cared for and prepared to kill if they must to defend their small Christian enclaves. He and my friend Tom, on opposite continents, speak the same language.
Trying to understand their confidence and energy, I think of them as tapping into a connection, a level of brain activity, triggered by ritual and belief, that truly informs them. They believe this high-level energy to be God’s presence and that they are attuned to His will. This may indeed be a connection to divine spirit. Many of us have had such moments. But there is a step further that the fundamentalist goes: God and the Bible speak directly to them and God becomes The Boss of Them. We’re not meant then to work with God, talk with God, let his love infuse us. We are to obey, guided by The Word.
As is the Religious Right. Religion and politics are fused for them in the Bible and fuelled by The Word. Hence the movement, seen as Holy, toward a Theocracy in the U.S. — which may never be fully in power but which is more and more significant in decision-making and direction.
Questions That Follow
I don’t think this is going to go away. And I don’t think we can dismiss Theocrats as misguided loons. Many questions arise. Please help me with your perspectives! Over time we’ll explore them.
- Is there a significant difference in outlook between those who see Love as the core of God’s intention for us and those who emphasize the word of the Bible?
- What is the nature of the Gap between those who keep incorporating our experience in the world into our faith and those who hold to The Word as eternal and not to be adjusted to ‘so-called’ reality?
- Is Obedience to scripture the biggest stumbling block for how we regard God’s will?
- How does human suffering and social justice seem to get short shrift by the religious right?
- Some of us believe we’re meant to be God’s hands, feet, mind in the world. Others say we’re wrong – that God will do what he wishes and we’re to wait on his direction.
What do you think?