Wickedness

Wickedness (Routledge Classics)Wickedness by Mary Midgley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have not read Midgley before, but will definitely read more of her work. I appreciate the way she writes, including her wit, but mostly for the clear way it reveals a good, analytical mind at work.

This particular book has many keen and useful insights on human motivations and the way we get ourselves into trouble.

I did think the final chapters failed to drawn to any sort of grand conclusion, but her basic thesis--that we can explain (and therefore address) human wickedness by studying natural human motives--is one I agree with.

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Eluding Responsibility

I was drawn to some of philosopher Mary Midgley's comments on how we neglect our responsibilities in her book Wickedness.

The general recipe for inexcusable acts is neither madness nor a bizarre morality, but a steady refusal to attend both to the consequences of one's actions and to the principles involved.

And this

It seems clear that a great many of the worst acts actually done in the world are committed in the same sort of way in which the battlefields of the First World War were produced--by people who have simply failed to criticize the paths of action lying immediately before them.  Exploiters and oppressors, war-makers, executioners and destroyers of forests do not usually wear distinctive black hats, nor horns and hooves.  The positive motives which move them may not be bad at all; they are often quite decent ones like prudence, loyalty, self-fulfillment and professional conscientiousness.  The appalling element lies in the lack of the other motives which ought to balance these--in particular, of a proper regard for other people and of a proper priority system which would enforce it.  That kind of lack cannot be treated as a mere matter of chance.

Reading that chapter of the book left me musing on Trump as an example of what she was writing about.  Then that was clearer in a later chapter on "Selves and Shadows."

Influential psychopaths and related types, in fact, get their power not from originality, but from a perception of just what unacknowledged motives lie waiting to be exploited, and just what aspects of the world currently provide a suitable patch of darkness on to which they can be projected.

And this

To gain great political power, you must either be a genuinely creative genius, able to communicate new ideas very widely, or you must manage to give a great multitude permission for things which it already wants, but for which nobody else is currently prepared to give that permission.

 


Aggression in Children

An interesting discussion of the role of aggression in children in Mary Midgley's Wickedness.  

We have to consider realistically the part which mild, controlled aggression actually plays in human social life.  As with fear, it is probably best to start here by looking at the beahaviour of small children.  At this simple, primitive end of the spectrum, stimulated attack is a marked and essential part of play.  This is not because children are full of hatred and destruction.  It is because the sense of otherness, the contact with genuinely distinct personalities around them, fascinates them, and it is best conveyed by mild collision.  Laughter and other distancing devices safeguard the proceedings--but the wish to collide, to invade another's world, is a real one.  Without that contact, each child would be isolated.  Each needs the direct physical clash, the practical conviction that others as well as himself are capable both of feeling pain and of returning it.  Surprising though it may be, that interaction lies at the root of sympathy.  The young of other social animals play in the same mildly aggressive way, and derive the same sort of bond-forming effects from it.

Besides play, however, children also need at times more serious clashes.  Real disputes, properly expressed and resolved, seem essential for their emotional unfolding.  In this way they being to get a fuller sense of the independent reality of others.  They find that there is somebody at the other end.  They learn to control their own anger, to understand it and to reason themselves out of it.  A quarrel which is worked through and made up can be profoundly bond-forming.  But they need to feel anger before they can control it and to learn that it can sometimes be justified.  They learn the difference between justified and unjustified anger, and come to accept that justified anger in others can be the consequence of one's own bad conduct.  What they learn is thus not to eliminate anger and attack from their lives, but to use these things rightly.  And in adults, right up to the level of saints and heroes, this is an essential skill.  Mild, occasional anger is a necessary part of all social relations, and serious anger gives us, as I have suggested, a necessary range of responses to evil.  Our linked capacities for fear and anger--for fight and flight--form a positive organ to be used, not a malfunction.  This no more commits us to misusing it than our having feet commits us to kicking people.


Reading Midgley

 "To deny one's shadow is to lose solidity, to become something of a phantom. Self-deception about it may increase our confidence, but it surely threatens our wholeness."

A great quote from Mary Midgley,'s Wickedness.  I've never read Midgley before, but I am enjoying this book.  She has a very acute way of analyzing a topic and a sly but affectionate sense of humor in how she criticizes ideas.

Here is another passage I appreciated:

The keener we are to prevent evil, the more we need to be realistic about the difficulties.  Many cultures have expressed their sense of these difficulties by myths, painting our world as having something radically wrong with it.  In our own culture, this work has been done by the myth of the Fall.  Indignant rejection of this myth in recent times has been due to real misuses of it.  But the consequences of trying to do without any such notion may not have been fully understood.  There really is a deep, pervasive discrepancy between human ideals and human conduct.  In order to deal with this, we need to recognize it, not to deny it.


Muhammed Iqbal Day

Today, November 9, is Iqbal Day in Pakistan.  On a Facebook philosophy group I encountered this post about Iqbal and his philosophy, which delighted and interested me.

A few choice excerpts:

Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) would be the first to remind us that in the 21st century we have a very high calling: to exercise our inescapable freedom, in constructive ways, for the well-being of all, in a spirit of world loyalty.  By freedom Iqbal means decision-making: choosing among diverse possibilities in the immediacy of the moment, in the context of the wider web of life.  As creatures among creatures on a small but beautiful planet, decision-making is part of our very essence. From the day we are born, we carry within our bodies potentials for empathy and hatred, creativity and blind reproduction, cooperation and cruelty, respect and callousness, good and evil. We feel these potentials within our very being as promptings and urges, as affective lures. But it is we ourselves, not the urges, who actualize the urges – some of them so destructive and others so life-enhancing. Indeed, we actualize these potentials, again and again, individually and collectively.  

For Iqbal, the future does not come to us already settled, as a pre-existing order. We help create the future, moment by moment, by the decisions we make within our own context. Sometimes we make terrible decisions at great cost to others, ourselves, and the earth. And sometimes we make wonderful decisions, adding a beauty that did not exist beforehand. We can be agents of terror or wonder. Either way we are free.  Our noble calling is, for Iqbal, not simply to be free. It is to create futures that are good for people, other creatures, and the earth: to become, as the Qur’an puts it, vicegerents on a small but beautiful planet. This is what it means to be a human being and to be a Muslim. It is to accept and live from the calling to add goodness and beauty to the world.  

***

so must we, in the name of an all-embracing principle of creational dignity persuade our fellows to transcend narrow and parochial interests in the quest for spiritual democracies in which people live with care and respect for each other and other creatures. 

I think our most important current project at Americans is restoring community by building relationships through institutions of civic engagement.  So, for example, this week I attended a meeting of mostly LGBTQ people getting an update on an assessment of the needs of our local LGBTQ community that we might better targeting our funding.  Later I attended a meeting organized by mostly moderate clergy, new to activism and advocacy, looking to unite Christian clergy in response to racial and religious hostility.  I also taught, in our local Catholic university, about how we respond to a world of uncertainty--through fear or with a sense of adventure.  And I attended a variety of events related to my service on the Salvation Army Advisory Board, where a number of the folk, including the Salvationists, are significantly more conservative than I am.  But I'm enjoying my time on that board.  Reading this blog post about Iqbal helped me more fully understand the fun I had this week.


Novum Organon

The Novum Organon, Or A True Guide To The Interpretation Of NatureThe Novum Organon, Or A True Guide To The Interpretation Of Nature by Francis Bacon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book I on Bacon's Novum Organon is an enjoyable and insightful discussion of induction and the new science that he proposed to replace Aristotle and Medieval approaches to knowledge. I particularly liked his discussion of the "idols of the mind."

Book II was an application of the new method to the scientific ideas of his time, thus not very engaging and something to skim through.

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Give Thanks for Those We Remember

Give Thanks for Those We Remember

Psalm 107

by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones

First Central Congregational Church

4 November 2018

            Walter Brueggemann writes that “Psalm 107 is the fullest, clearest example of a song of thanksgiving.”  The psalm opens with a “summons to thanks that imagines” God’s people gathering home.  Next are four case studies: people find themselves in trouble, they cry out to God, who delivers them, and they respond with thanksgiving.  And finally the psalm ends with a statement of God’s sovereignty.  The overarching theme of this psalm is that the people are grateful for God’s steadfast love.

            Hear now this ancient song of thanksgiving.

Psalm 107

O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good; for God’s steadfast love endures forever.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those God redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town;

hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and God delivered them from their distress;

God led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town.

Let them thank the Lord for steadfast love, for God’s wonderful works to humankind.

For God satisfies the thirsty, and fills the hungry with good things.

Some sat in darkness and in gloom, prisoners in misery and in irons,

for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High.

Their hearts were bowed down with hard labor; they fell down, with no one to help.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and God saved them from their distress;

God brought them out of darkness and gloom, and broke their bonds asunder.

Let them thank the Lord for steadfast love, for God’s wonderful works to humankind.

For God shatters the doors of bronze, and cuts in two the bars of iron.

Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction;

they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and God saved them from their distress;

God sent out God’s word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction.

Let them thank the Lord for steadfast love, for God’s wonderful works to humankind.

And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of God’s deeds with songs of joy.

Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters;

they saw the deeds of the Lord, God’s wondrous works in the deep.

For God commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.

They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity;

they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits’ end.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and God brought them out from their distress;

God made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.

Then they were glad because they had quiet, and God brought them to their desired haven.

Let them thank the Lord for steadfast love, for God’s wonderful works to humankind.

Let them extol God in the congregation of the people, and praise God in the assembly of the elders.

The Lord turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground,

a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.

The Lord turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.

And there God lets the hungry live, and they establish a town to live in;

they sow fields, and plant vineyards, and get a fruitful yield.

By God’s blessing they multiply greatly, and God does not let their cattle decrease.

When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, trouble, and sorrow,

the Lord pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes;

but raises up the needy out of distress, and makes their families like flocks.

The upright see it and are glad; and all wickedness stops its mouth.

Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

For the Word of God in scripture,
For the Word of God among us,
For the Word of God within us,
Thanks be to God.

            Positive psychologist Derrick Carpenter writes, “The benefits of practicing gratitude are nearly endless. People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they're thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.”

            For the month of November we are Giving Thanks in our worship.  This year, let’s not save thanksgiving for one holiday, let’s spend the month practicing gratitude.  I invite you to take on some special practice this month.  Maybe every day you will write a thank you note or start a gratitude journal or post on social media something you are grateful for or simply say daily prayers of thanksgiving to God.  I invite you to explore our worship theme in your daily spiritual practice.

            The science of positive psychology has demonstrated conclusively the importance of practicing gratitude for a healthy human life.  But we people of faith already knew that.  Walter Brueggemann proclaims that gratitude is “the ultimate practice of faith.”  He describes thanksgiving as the very “impetus for life with” God in the Hebrew tradition.  He writes, “Israel endlessly recited the inventory of acts of divine fidelity and probed for the right responses in gratitude.”

            He explains that our gratitude to God “calls us away from the modern illusion of self-sufficiency” and reminds us that our lives depend upon God.  This “is an odd way to live” he admits.  Yet we see it in the stories of all those people who’ve found themselves in times of trouble and called to God in their distress and been delivered, like the people in this here Psalm.  “No wonder the folks in the psalm have tales to tell and offerings to bring!” he writes.  “By them we are drawn into the generosity of God, which evokes gratitude.”

            In the summer of 2004, not long after their wedding, I came out to my Mom and my new step-dad Revis Stanford.  I didn't know how the moment would go,  Iespecially didn't know what my new step-dad might say.  But Revis reached out and held my hand and said, “Scotty, why should that matter? I love you like my own son. This doesn’t change anything.”

And so Revis Stanford became a hero in my story.

Revis died at the end of August.  This All Saints Sunday, I remember him and celebrate his life.  I give thanks to God for Revis Stanford and how I was blessed by him. 

Who are the people you are remembering and celebrating this year?  For whom are you giving thanks?

What I remember most about Edna Kruse was that she was always smiling.  Her smile and her laughter were infectious.  She was a lifelong Congregationalist, proud of that.  Here at First Central she was a devoted Sunday school teacher, having blessed the children of this congregation.  Jim Harmon shared with me that every time he visited Edna over the last decade when she was mostly homebound, she always wanted to be sure she was caught up on her pledge, as giving financially to the church was important to her.

Ron Butler and Ken Coats were only members here for a short while, as they ultimately moved on to Palm Springs, California to enjoy their retirement.  Ron and Ken were a couple for more than fifty years, an amazing accomplishment for two gay men who met in the 1960’s in Nebraska.  At Ron’s funeral his nieces and nephews mourned his loss, as their entire lives he had so good and generous with them.  More than an uncle, he was another father figure to them.  And I remember Ron's kindness when our son Sebastian was born—he sent a gift with a note celebrating that Michael and I were able to adopt, confessing that having their own children was something he and Ken would have enjoyed but never were able to even consider it.

            One thing about Ellie Caron that stood out was the way she contributed money to multiple causes and organizations.  But what I remember most about her was her devotion to her late husband Joe and to honoring his memory.  One of the trees in our courtyard was given by Ellie in memory of Joe, and she was always so concerned about that tree and whether it was being watered and otherwise properly taken care of.

            Janet Bouma was a devoted wife and loving mother and grandmother.  She was gracious and hospitable, sharing with everyone, including many in this church.  One of our former members described Janet as “God’s hands and feet in the world” and added, “I’ll never forget her laugh.”  Janet made people’s lives more rich and full and enjoyable. 

            Of all Pipi Peterson’s many gifts, this congregation will remember her the longest because she loved our kids.  She demonstrated during almost thirty years of being an on-again, off-again staff member here.  Pipi touched so very many lives.  Her influence continues to bless others, because the kids she helped to teach have their own kids and they’ve become teachers and influencers.  Her life soared beyond its physical limitations, reaching out across space and time. 

            This year we gather for All Saints, to remember and honor our dead, a week after eleven worshippers were killed at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.  We remember and honor them as well today, giving thanks to God for their lives.

            Joyce Fienberg had retired from a career as a research specialist at the University of Pittsburgh where she specialized in researching the best classroom educational techniques.  According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, her students most remembered her for being “a warm host who welcomed them into her family’s home and kept sending holiday cards for years afterward.”

            Dr. Richard Gottfried was a dentist who donated his time to dental free clinics, in particular one that served refugees and immigrants.

            Rose Mallinger was the oldest victim, at 97 years of age.  A devoted member of the Synagogue, her family described her as a woman of “sharp wit, humor and intelligence until the very last day.”

            Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz was a beloved family physician.  One of his colleagues said that Dr. Rabinowitz was “one of the finest people I've ever met in my life. He had a moral compass stronger than anyone I have ever known.”

            Cecil and David Rosenthal were brothers with developmental disabilities who loved attending synagogue and went every week without fail, according to news reports.  Cecil was one of the greeters at the synagogue.  They were described as “larger than life. . . . two of the most kind, generous people. . . . entwined into the fabric of their community.”

            According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Daniel Stein helped out everywhere and made the tough stuff look effortless.”  One of his friends said, “You call on him for a tough task, and he’ll do it without looking for any kind of pat on the back or plaque or anything.”

            Melvin Wax, a retired accountant, was leading services last week.  His rabbi described him as “perpetually happy.”  His cousin said, ““If you look in the dictionary under the word unselfish, you’ll see the name Melvin Wax because he was one of the most unselfish people I’ve known in my entire life.  If anyone on this earth walked humbly with their God, it was Mel Wax. He did not have a conceited bone in his body.”  The 87-year-old Wax had recently organized a voter registration drive.

            According to the Tribune-Review, “Bernice Simon baked delicious cranberry orange bread.”  Bernice and Sylvan Simon, both victims, had been married in that synagogue in 1956.  Their children descried them as “deeply in love with each other.”  He was a retired accountant, she a retired nurse.  That day they were going to host a family birthday party in their home.

            The Post-Gazette wrote of Irving Young, He “did the tasks no one else wanted to — and he did them with a smile.  When people came in to Tree of Life for services, he would greet them. He would guide them to a seat, and he would hand them a book if they needed one.”  He was the congregant who always arrived early and always stayed late.

            We give thanks for these lives, their love, and their influence.  And we remember them.  In the words of a Jewish prayer of remembrance,

At the rising sun and at its going down; We remember them.

At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter; We remember them.

At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring; We remember them.

At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer; We remember them.

At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn; We remember them.

At the beginning of the year and when it ends; We remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as We remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength; We remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart; We remember them.

When we have decisions that are difficult to make; We remember them.

When we have joy we crave to share; We remember them.

When we have achievements that are based on theirs; We remember them.

For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as, We remember them.


Transformation

Transformation

Romans 12:1-2

by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones

First Central Congregational Church

28 October 2018

Note: Part of our Inspire series in collaboration with the Joslyn Art Museum.
This sermon inspired by Transformation by Roxanne Swentzell.

Roxanne Swentzell describes her art as being for people, particularly women, who have been hurt.  She said, “People need to be reassured that things are OK.”  And in particular that we “can feel a sense that there’s a mother taking care of us.”

            Roxanne Swentzell, is a ceramicist from the Taos pueblo.  She calls herself a “sculptor of human emotions.”  She says, “I have tried to make sculpture that would help people get basic values, would help them get in touch with themselves.”  She describes her art as “crossing cultural and all kinds of boundaries.” 

            The Joslyn Art Museum says of her, “With her sculptures Swentzell shares her culture and declares a common humanity — she invites us to ‘Come, sit down, we aren’t that different, let me tell you something about us.’”

            And so today we sit beside this photographic image of Roxanne Swentzell’s sculpture entitled Transformation.  What can we learn about us?  How can we get in touch with ourselves through these ceramics?  Will we be reassured that we are being taken care of?  Will we be inspired to goodness?

            I’m delighted to conclude this worship series, inspired by art from our local museum, with this piece Transformation.  We began the series with the idea that the enjoyment of art is a spiritual practice like prayer, drawing us outside of ourselves, teaching us humility, and cultivating virtue.  Along the way we have explored various points at which art connects with theology and spirituality—how we view images, particularly ourselves as images of God; the role of desire, both its dangers and its ability to transform us; and how we must cultivate the ability to see the world the way that God loves it. 

            Last week you had the opportunity to create art as a part of the worship experience, and I’ve heard some good things and seen such fun pictures.  Thank you Katie Miller for designing that worship for us.

            Two weeks ago I preached on American landscape art and its theological mistakes which contributed to the genocide of Native Americans.  Today, then it is fitting, to be inspired by a Native American artist as we draw the series to a close with this focus on how art participates in our transformation.

            Roxanne Swentzell grew up in Taos in a family filled with social, political, and artistic leaders.  She began to make clay figures early in her life, sitting beside her mother, a noted potter.  Roxanne had a speech impediment as a young girl and used her clay figures to communicate.  Over her career she has become one of America’s leading ceramicists.  Using the traditional coil method of the Santa Clara Pueblo, she builds large clay figures expressing deep emotion and whimsy.  One is amazed looking at her art to realize that this is clay pottery, as they are intricate sculptures.

            The piece before us was commissioned by the Joslyn in the year 2000.  They provided us with a copy of the letter Roxanne Swentzell mailed to the museum accepting the commission and describing what she intended to create.

The topic of this piece has its origins in our pueblo [sic] cultural beliefs. The title, “Transformation,” helps to explain the piece. As Pueblo people we believe that we can and do, at times, transform or take on qualities of other entities such as animals, places, or spirit-beings. One such time of transformation is during our dances or ceremonies in which drums and singers sing songs of prayers to the entities of the cosmos, asking for life, but also acting as transmitters to give life. One of these such dances is our most common and well-known dance, our corn or harvest dance. This is done in celebration of the year’s harvest, but at a deeper level, it is about life...the coming together of all the forces around us that create and make life possible.

            This sculpture shows four young women preparing for the Corn Dance.  They are in the process of getting dressed.  The final one is fully dressed and is described as “having become the Corn Maiden.”

            Let me read one detailed description of this work.  This was in materials sent by the Joslyn, though I do not know the author.

According to traditional Pueblo belief, as dance clothing is put on in preparation for a ceremonial dance—in this case the Corn Dance—there is a much deeper, unseen process taking place.  Each article of clothing and each object used in the dance is symbolic of the natural and spiritual elements, such as sun, clouds, rain and earth, that come together to create and sustain life.  As a dancer fastens and ties the clothing, she absorbs and gathers the powerful forces they represent.  Her individual identity falls away and she becomes the Corn Maiden.  She becomes part of the greater whole, transformed into the spiritual being that brings harvest to the people.  With every breath the Corn Maiden entity takes into herself the forces of life, and with every exhalation she gently blesses the earth and its creatures.

            Wow, I think that’s rather beautiful.

            It also reminds me of something.  On occasion I’ve participated in ecumenical and interfaith worship services at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral downtown, which means I’ve been in the sacristy in order to put on my robes.  Hanging on the wall of the sacristy is a detailed set of instructions for the Episcopal priest to follow when she or he is vesting for worship.  There are specific prayers to utter for each piece of clothing and each item they wear.  The act of getting dressed for worship is itself an act of worship, transforming the priest. 

            For the Pueblo young women the Corn Dance is about blessing the community with what it needs to nourish itself.  Sharon Naranjo-Garcia, a member of the Santa Clara Pueblo, said, “From the corn we learn to live, we learn the life that is ours. By grinding the corn we learn the footsteps of life.”  Corn has spiritual connections with the longstanding traditions of the people. 

            In her letter to the Joslyn describing the piece, Roxanne Swentzell wrote,

We live in a world of patterns and symbols. Everything has a meaning and is a part of the story of life.  At the point that a dancer has gathered the different forces around and within him or her, which are symbolized by the different dance articles he or she wears, that person is no longer an individual but has transformed into a spiritual being connected to the greater whole. At this point much life force is flowing through this being in every breath and as the breath is released...the breath itself is a blessing

of life going out to the places and beings who are there.

            Can we be transformed into a giver of life and blessing?

            In Romans 12, St. Paul instructs us to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.”  How are we to do this?  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.”

            In our worship, we take bread and grape juice and pray over it, turning it into a symbolic and spiritual food to nourish us.  According to theologian Natalie Carnes, “The Eucharist reveals to us what our bread and wine, our fruit of the land and work of human hands, truly are and are for.”  Our work and what we produce are intended by God for communion—to connect us to God and one another, crossing barriers of time and space.  The Lord’s Supper, as with all our worship, forms our character and shapes how we see and experience the world.

            In another place Carnes writes that we become like Christ by behaving as Christ did, which means “behaving as if others are Christ.”  We draw closer to Jesus by treating everyone as Jesus did, as persons with dignity.

            This is one reason I’m deeply troubled this week.  As I’m sure you are.  A bigoted assault upon our transgender citizens.  Fearful rhetoric directed at poor people fleeing violence and seeking a better life.  Assassination attempts on public figures.  And yesterday’s mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Earlier this week I awoke from a dream in which I saw images of the Honduran peasants fleeing violence and heard the voice of Jesus saying, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

            To be transformed into who God wants us to be means to see and love and act as Jesus did.  As our religious tradition has long taught us.  We must become agents of life and blessing, crossing borders and boundaries. 

            To be transformed by God enables us to see as God sees and love as God loves.  Carnes writes, “To see the world in this way—as an image of God—requires resisting the will to master the world.  It demands, instead, opening the self up to the transformations love can accomplish.”

            Let’s do that!  Let’s open ourselves and make ourselves vulnerable.  Let God work in us and through us so that we become ever more like God.  More glorious, more wonderful.  Let us be transformed.


Ramadan

RamadanRamadan by Hannah Eliot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving in the car with our son when the folks on NPR were discussing Ramadan. Our son said from the backseat, "Ramadan! I have that book." I counted that as parenting success--our son loves his book, is listening to the radio, and is learning interfaith and multicultural appreciation.

We ordered this book after one it its series on Dia de los Muertos was given to our son as a gift. This series is about holidays from around the world. The pictures are pretty and engaging and the text is a helpful introduction for young children.

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