Thursday, February 8, 2018

Saint Jimmy Gets My Vote

"I am convinced that Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and others
can embrace each other in a common effort to alleviate human suffering and espouse peace."
-- President Jimmy Carter, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, 2002

"Except during my childhood, when I was probably influenced by Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel depiction of God with a flowing white beard, I have never tried to project the Creator in any kind of human likeness...I think of God as an omnipotent and omniscient presence, a spirit that permeates the universe, the essence of truth, nature, being, and life."
-- President Jimmy Carter


I'm as much a Buddhist (and a Jew and a Hindu and a Taoist, etc. etc.)  as I am a Christian  these days.  Yet I'd really like suit up someday and slip past the Swiss Guards to  mingle with the crew that gets to canonize Catholic Saints.  A robe is a robe is a robe, right?

If I got in, I'd be pushing hard to add another Saint James to the canonized fold -- once this man finally lays down his hammer, punches out, and arrives at the Pearly Gates.

If I could pull it off, I'd immediately nominate President James Earl "Jimmy" Carter for Sainthood.

Although my candidate is still alive and still banging nails and hypocrites at age 93, in the world of bureaucratic politics ya need to start campaigning early, right?

Of course, I realize there are some hurdles here.  The Catholic Church may have to do some real soul searching to canonize a non-Catholic, even if Jimmy Carter, like Jesus, spent some time being a carpenter.  Yet, I think it's a good time to make a run at it.  It seems to me that Pope Francis might just be the guy to get the ball rolling.  He seems to be serious about trying to be a real Christian, not just the Godfather of an incredibly powerful and wealthy institutional bureaucracy. 

The Christian Right, Isn't.

If Jesus hadn't opted for Resurrection a couple of thousand years ago, I think He would be rolling over in His grave in these times.  It's seems to me that The Prince of Peace and Love would have a hard time listening to the prattle of the contemporary Viper's Brood that claims they are Christians while simultaneously espousing Intolerance, Warfare, and the Ruthless Mammon of Free Market Capitalism.  As these folks continue to rant and rave about immigrants and same sex marriage, propose cutting public assistance to those in need, as they claim to be pro-Life and support gun rights capital punishment, an increasingly militarized police force, and endless warfare,  I wonder if they ever really read that Bible they're thumping.

I think a good place to start might be Matthew 25:31 - 46.

Here the Divine Jewish Liberal from Nazareth tells it like it is, clearly proclaiming the sacred nature of compassionate action in the world.   As He'd already stated earlier during the Sermon on the Mount,  worshiping Him doesn't cut it. (Many will call me Lord, Lord).

What, then, is the Key to the Kingdom?  It's simple.  It's how you treat your fellow human beings!

In the imagery of a final Judgment Day, Jesus proclaims the moral imperative of unconditional generosity toward the stranger, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked and the prisoner -- and outlines the karmic consequences of failing.  Be loving and generous and you're on the A Team.  Treat the unfortunate and downtrodden shabbily? There'll be hell to pay.

Why?

Even in the arcane language of the King James version of the New Testament, the Teaching is crystal clear: "Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me."  

The Bottom Line?

As many mystics, prophets, sages, seers and hippies throughout the ages have affirmed, Jesus wasn't just being metaphorical when He claimed identity with the "least of" humanity.  The great Hindu sage Mahatma Gandhi made the same point when he said, "If you don't find God in the next person you meet, it is a waste of time looking for him further. "   On the level of the Absolute: there ain't anybody (or anything or any energy) that ain't God!  

Over the years many of us have seen the Light.  It became clear that We are, each of us, interconnected rays of the One Love that pervades the Universe. We are called to love our neighbor as ourself because he or she is ourself.  So is the sky and the earth and the birds and bees and everything else that is, has ever been --  or can possibly be.  The separation between the One and the Many, this moment and eternity, is only relative and conditional.  It's not absolute.  The Absolute is what some folks call God.  (Others may call this the Tao, Shunyata, The Great Spirit, etc.)  If we commit to opening our hearts, clearing our minds, rolling up our sleeves, and putting our bodies on the line to relieve the suffering on this planet, we are doing what Jesus was talking about. 

Jimmy Carter appears to have clearly gotten the Word.  I'd imagine he might boil it down to God is Love.  His life has been an expression of loving God and his fellow human beings.  Whether he was banging nails building a house for Habitat for Humanity in Georgia, or flying around the world to take part in an international mediation decades after most guys would have retired to the golf course, Jimmy has continued to serve.  Unlike the folks on the so-called Christian Right, he has dedicated his life to actually picking up his own cross and following what Jesus was teaching.  Pat Robertson, the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition and their kind?  IMHO, not so much.

So, how about it?

Time to go Ecumenical.   Let's do it!

Jimmy Carter for Sainthood!

Do I hear an "Amen"?
Yours in the Spirit of Truth and Love,
Brother Lefty

P.S. A Caveat:  Like Pope Francis, Bless his Heart, has said, "Who am I to judge? 

Monday, January 15, 2018

I Speak as Someone Who Loves America

"When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, 
are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, 
extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."
-- Dr. Martin King Jr., Speech at Riverside Church, April 4, 1967

"It is my firm belief that Europe of today represents not the spirit of God or Christianity but the spirit of Satan.  And Satan's successes are the greatest when he appears with the name of God on his lips.  Europe today is only nominally Christian.  In reality, it is worshiping Mammon."
-- Mahatma Gandhi, Young India, August 9, 1920.

d
With the nightmare of a blatant racist tweeting hate from the White House, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech seems even more relevant this year.

Dr. King's vision from the Mountaintop was that of taking down walls constructed of fear and hatred, not building them.

Yet, the walls that he dreamed of removing didn't just consist of segregation.  His message was broader and deeper.  For decades now, the corporate media has increasingly whitewashed Dr. King's views on economic justice, materialism and militarism.  Like Gandhi, King's message was essentially Spiritual.  They both saw clearly that Mammon worship, the soul sucking evil of materialism/consumerism, lurks in the belly of capitalism.

Throughout our history, racism and economic exploitation have always walked hand in hand.  The prosperity of the capitalist English Empire and it's rebellious offspring, the USA, were built on the horrors of genocide and slavery.  Sadly, although its forms may appear more subtle and hidden (cultural genocide, jailhouse slavery), this continues today.

Like my identical twin brother, Lance, I usually tend to be more Buddhist in my lingo  Yet, I just gotta say it out loud: I agree with Gandhi. This is the work of the Devil!

Dr. King, like Gandhi, were Bodhisattvas.   They sought to alleviate the suffering created by a political and economic system that feeds on greed, hatred and delusion.  Like many other Prophets throughout history they threatened the ruling order of bankers and preachers -- and were martyred. 

Although Dr. King focused on the evil of racism, his "I Have a Dream" speech that late summer day in Washington DC was delivered to the throng that had assembled for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  That march challenged the economic exploitation millions of Americans because of the color of their skin.  The FBI claimed the event was inspired by Communists and lobbied to prevent it from happening.

Like Gandhi, King then continued to march, to champion a non-violent response to a system that has always used violence.  Like Jesus of Nazareth, and a myriad other martyrs, Dr. King knew full well that he may be killed for challenging the ruling order.

Dr. King's assassination five years later occurred when he traveled to Memphis to support striking Afro-American municipal sanitation workers as the leader of the National Poor People's campaign.  That campaign demanded an Economic Bill of Rights which included five planks:

1. "A meaningful job at a living wage"
2. "A secure and adequate income" for all those unable to find or do a job
3. "Access to land" for economic uses
4. "Access to capital" for poor people and minorities to promote their own businesses
5. Ability for ordinary people to "play a truly significant role" in the government

When's the last time you saw that highlighted in the mass media coverage on Martin Luther King Day? 

A Time to Break Silence

As Trump's legion of misanthrops, materialists and military men loot and scuttle our beleaguered ship of state, it's a time to break silence.  Dr. King's did so dramatically on April 4, 1967.  On that day, Dr. King proclaimed, "these too are our brothers," and came out against the US involvement in the Vietnam War with a passion and an eloquence that many believe caused his assassination exactly one year later.

The corporate media today chooses to ignore this speech and remain silent.  I hope you don't.  Please listen and pass this along.  Then join some folks and speak out -- with love in your heart!

It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it!

Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence



My Humble Take on the Real Deal

I believe that the movement for peace, economic democracy and social justice is a Spiritual Quest. No mean feat, what is called for is a True Revolution of the Heart and Mind--and it starts with each of us.

This revolution has to be Peaceful. The Hippies (and Jesus and Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. King, et al) had it right. It really is all about Peace and Love. Besides being a total drag, violence just doesn't work. It keeps our wheels spinning in fear, anger and pain. Who needs that?

Besides some hard work, I think the Revolution also calls for dancing, plenty of laughter, and some sitting around just doing nothing. (Some folks call it meditation.)


As Stephen Gaskin, proclaimed years ago:

"We're out to raise Hell--in the Bodhisattvic* sense."

Doesn't that sound like some serious fun?

(*The Bodhisattva Vow is a set of commitments made in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. It basically says I vow to get my act together and figure it out well enough to really help out--and I ain't gonna stop until everybody is covered.

I've found that doesn't necessarily have to happen in that order. It's best to try to help out even before you have it all together! Like right now.)

-----Brother Lefty Smith, Founding S.O.B*