Sunday, December 16, 2007

Our Last Christmas Pageant

My wife and I have participated in a fairly large scale Christmas Pageant for the last 11 years. It involves building sets, rehearsals, writing scripts, writing music, sound effects, stage effects, lighting, audio engineering, costumes, and putting it all together. This year we will retire from this particular creative process. My wife Karey has written a new script every year and this year she wanted to connect the influence of the philosophy of Jesus to its influence on various world figures including Jesse Owens, Amelia Earhart, and Martin Luther King, Jr. as part of why one might celebrate the birth of Jesus.

In the Pageant there are various moments that bring about all kinds of different emotions including tears, joy, sadness, and laughter. Most times something unexpected happens in almost every performance. In this particular excerpt from 2 years ago you can see how my youngest son Keith dealt with a falling pillar...

Even though this could have been a potential disaster, Keith was able to take the moment and make it enhance the performance. He was questioned a number of times if the falling pillar was actually part of the act. I think there is something to be learned when one contemplates how this might apply to life in general. Things that may look like disasters might actually have some opportunities for enhancement.

A number of years ago I realized that I was not doing what I wanted to do. I was not only working out of obligation, but was in conflict with what I believed to be the right thing to do. With this awakening I decided to leave what I was doing and begin doing what I found joy in doing.

What I realized was when I did what I found joy in, the quality of my work went up and instead of attracting clients and business to something I found little joy in, I attracted clients and business to what I liked doing. This seems so simple when I state it this way, but I think we as humans have a tendency to get trapped in single minded ways of seeing the world.

There is a great web site called TED: Ideas Worth Spreading that has a number of videos on different ways of seeing things. This particular video presents some ideas that show how our current educational system often robs us of our ability to think creatively.

This video really hit home for me as I have learned to remodel how I experience life. No longer is a mistake the horrible thing to be avoided at all costs and no longer is a falling pillar the end of the play.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Special Projects, Story Telling, and Myofascial Release

I talked about a project I was working on in my last post and it is finally finished! As I talked about my work in my last post I mentioned John Barnes, a physical therapist who has profoundly influenced my life. I have taken seminars that presented his version of myofascial release for almost 15 years. In that time I have learned many things about the mind/body connection and how we can provide a way for both of these to go through profound changes within a unique healing environment. Going through school we talked a lot about how the mind and the body were connected and true healing had to include both the mind and the body. Unfortunately we didn't learn any methods to treat both.

What John Barnes has done, through his own experience, intuition and experimentation, is to create the unique treatment method called Myofascial Release. There are older forms of myofascial release, that some of you may have heard about, that often force the body system. Myofascial release, as John teaches it, is not always pain free, but the force used is always gentle and never forces its way through. It also addresses the mind as it dwells in the body through unique methods called unwinding and rebounding. While these are difficult to explain in words, the experience can be quite profound. It also allows the treatment to go deeper and provides more permanent results.

A therapist, using myofascial release, can treat many problems that often require surgery or other more invasive treatments that are often less than ideal solutions. I have helped clients avoid rotator cuff repairs, back surgery, neck surgery, carpal tunnel surgery, and surgical releases to tight areas such as the plantar fascia, lateral patellar tightness, and frozen shoulders. You can read more about this treatment by reading the articles at the myofascial release web site.

Through the years I have asked John about how he came up with many of the ideas contained in his treatment methods. In his story I gained not only answers, but I got to observe the process that John went through. Its not a linear path. It has many branches and some dead ends. The essential ideas that interested me were how he integrated these experiences into useful treatment methods.

John uses a teaching style that allows a person to develop an awareness that allows a great deal of creativity and intuition to play a larger role in treating these complex problems that people present. So much of this understanding, for me, came through hearing John tell his own story. I wanted this to be available to not only other therapists, but to clients as well.

On March 2, 2007 my brother Stew and a crew we assembled were allowed to come to John's house and interview him. As he sat in front of his fireplace, his story unfolded in his own voice, in his unique way. My plan was to make this interview available to everyone. This interview is now available as a DVD for anyone to hear and experience.

Even if you don't fully know what myofascial release is, this is a fascinating story. There are many things to resonate with. In the professional world myofascial release is becoming more and more known because the results are powerful and even more so with a skilled therapist. John has been asked to give 8 hour presentations to the American Back society a number of times and there is standing room only. This is attended by physicians, therapists, and chiropractors from all over the world. But, I believe that it is important to now educate a wider audience to this treatment method. This was one of my goals for this project. I wanted to make myofascial release more accessible to the general population. I believe story telling is an effective way to do this.

In terms of satisfaction, this work has been something that I have gained great enjoyment from. It continues to challenge, inspire, and change me. When I decided to go into physical therapy in high school, the work I do now is what I envisioned myself doing then. It has provided me some of the deepest spiritual connections that I have experienced in my life. It still surprises me and provides a lot of joy.

I encourage you to read the articles and if you are a visual learner or want to hear it from John himself, get the DVD.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Is there such a thing as a healer?

I have been very busy this last month so time to blog has been limited. It has been a very productive month. I have been able to nearly complete a project I have been working on for a number of years. I am very happy about the way it has come out. I will be able to talk more about it as soon as its released.

Much of my internal dialog and what I share on this blog comes from my work. Some of you may know that I work as a Physical Therapist among other work that I do. I have been doing this work for over 25 years. I have worked in many different settings. I have worked with most ages and socio/ethnic backgrounds. This includes those that suffer from spinal injuries, strokes, back problems, surgery, sports injuries, and so many other problems that present themselves within the human condition. It is very rewarding work because I often go with people from their lowest point to the highest point in their lives. It also has times when I become aware of the futility of life and its tragedies.

Some of the most amazing experiences I have had is seeing how people work though some of these most difficult challenges. There is no possible way to convey this learning process in words. It truly requires someone to "be there." I didn't really know why I chose this profession. When I look back it seems more like this profession chose me. When I look more deeply in my awareness I believe that healing has come to me through this work. There really is no healer or therapist at that level.

John F. Barnes, PT has developed a treatment method called Myofascial Release. I have trained in this method of treatment and it has become the primary method of treatment I use today. He talks about the term healer in this way. He feels that no one is really a healer and when we begin to think in those terms our ego tends to get in the way of the healing process. This view of someone bringing the healing power to another brings with it a whole set of performance anxieties. How will it look if I don't heal this person or how will I think of myself if this doesn't work. In John's view, beliefs like this absolutely shut down the wonderful natural healing abilities each person has built in to their being. I'm not talking about the therapist's abilities, but the innate self healing ability we each have to not only heal, but to transform and grow in ways that are unknown until they happen.

I believe that one day health and well being will not be the exclusive domain of the "experts," but will become something that each person will develop as a life skill and be able to facilitate in others. When I look at what I do as a therapist and how many of my clients take what happens to them in a session and share it with their family with great success, it helped me realize that being able to skillfully touch people is something everyone really needs.

It communicates so powerfully what words often fail to do. When we touch another person it opens up a two way channel in a very vulnerable way. In many cultures touching has become so taboo that this connection is often absent for the most part, depriving people of this natural awareness of love and compassion. It is one of the ways that we can feel like we are all one. To demonstrate this you might feel in your body right now how uncomfortable even reading this dialog might be for you.

It is true that the powerful nature of touch can be used abusively and harmfully, but I believe that our bodies will tell us readily what is harmful. There seems to be an emphasis on the sexual nature of touch which gives the view that touch is all or none when in reality there are so many ways to touch each other that can provide a sense of belonging that is absent in so many lives.

I have found that with myself and my clients that early experiences of life taught many of us that most things are unsafe and our instinct, when threatened, is to isolate. Much of the healing process is bringing back our sense of safety and wonder and this does not happen with words alone.

My hope is that we can begin to see the world become one, one person at a time, one touch at a time. For healing doesn't happen unless that sense of safety is restored. And beyond that the awakening of love for one to another until a large enough community of people can effect the whole world. Maybe we can transcend so many of the things that we use to destroy ourselves.

This may not happen in my lifetime or in another lifetime, but unless we can bridge this isolation I believe we will continue to see the scale of suffering on this planet escalate until the earth itself purges us much like a virus is eliminated from the body. It has certainly happened in the past and the earth started over with a new order of life.

So, maybe healing happens only when we come together in ways that help us feel safe, at peace, and awaken in us, what I believe, is our deepest desire to love and be loved.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Mystery of Evil...

Scott Peck in his book "People of the Lie" suggests that the cause of evil is laziness or a form of laziness called cowardice. It exhibits itself in the lives of people who are unwilling to face the truth and are willing to believe or create a lie instead. When reading the book I asked myself, "What would motivate a person to choose such a painful and foolish path?"

Some religious views on evil have suggested that people are by default evil and unless there is intervention, their lives will exhibit evil. Or evil originated with Lucifer and began a war between good and evil that has spilled over to this planet. One Gnostic view suggests that the god of the Old Testament is an aberration that created a world that is evil.

If one were to ask "What would motivate any being to create evil?" I doubt any answer would make sense. I think the mystery of evil, if evil actually exists, is even more difficult than proving that God exists. It has become apparent that the results of evil actions not only destroy the victim, but also destroy the creator. In the Christian tradition Lucifer was the most advanced being in the universe and yet great power and intelligence seemed rather powerless to bring insight into the futility of evil.

One of the ideas that has been moving into my awareness is that people do evil things out of ignorance and/or the instinct for survival that often emerges in times of fear. If this is true, how do people come to these states of being? And how would one come out of these states? Is there a point where any attempt is hopeless?

In the doctors trials as a part of the Nuremberg trials, after World War II, some of the German scientists were so oblivious to the effect their experiments had on their subjects that they were wondering if they could complete their work. Many justified their actions as war time actions needed to help their soldiers survive. Or they saw nothing wrong with the painful experiments since their subjects were going to be executed anyway. These men didn't look evil, nor did they set out to be evil. Even at the moment of execution some of them still held to ideologies which convinced them of their innocence.

The one thing that really stands out for me in these rationalizations, is the lack of empathy for another person. Its evident that they didn't see their victims as human persons. It was evident, that for some, their ideology bent their ability to feel for another person. I can observe this same power of ideology to create suffering in radical Islamic suicide bombers or Christian crusaders or Stalin's revolutionaries. Or even closer to home, Abu Ghraib.

One of the dangers of rationalism is that once one makes a conclusion about the lack of value and humanity of an enemy or "other," most moral and empathetic restraints go away. Whether that rationalism is based on a holy book, spurious science, or a charismatic leader, it can still lead to terrible actions. The witch hunters of the middle ages saw their methods as the best that science and reason had to offer as contained in the Malleus Maleficarum.

I have come to believe that it is important to personally learn and to teach people how to feel skillfully. I believe that there is far more information and awareness in feeling than there is in thinking. Certain forms of rational debate can point out the absurdity of different beliefs, but this fails if the person lacks the intelligence to understand the argument. And yet even the most simple can recognize when they have been insulted. And it seems the most simple often understand when they are being loved and how to return love more skillfully than their "intelligent" counterparts. What I believe that is common to all definitions of evil is its evil because of its ability to cause suffering and destruction.

At the deepest level pain makes us aware that something harmful is happening. An awareness of the world around us makes us aware of pain in others. When we ignore this and rely only on that which appears to be logical or authoritative we have the potential of creating great harm. At the very least one should wait to discover why something is painful before proceeding to inflict it on someone. But if one isn't even aware of the feeling of pain, one wouldn't even pause to consider this information. As I have mentioned before in the philosophy of Jesus he refers to the awareness of pain in oneself as one basis of ethical behavior. The idea that we should do unto others as we would have them do to us. To me this is clearly a reference to the personal experiential feeling of being in the world. And yet so little is taught or encouraged in this realm of human awareness. The awareness of what it feels like to live in the world.

I think one of the dangers of our culture is our lack of appreciation for feelings. I can't think of an instance where having feelings ever harmed anyone. Actions certainly can harm people, but I don't believe that feelings can. Maybe a belief that feelings can harm may create a feeling of harm, but that is rooted in a cognitive process not a feeling one.

A couple examples of how we can teach that ideology is more important than our own sense of what is harmful can be found in the following videos. The first is a children's cartoon made by supporters of Hamas. This video shows a Hamas style lion King vanquishing rats characterized as Fatah. Or in this video they use a child's natural sense of injustice to implant an ideology. It is a video of the martyrdom of a Mickey Mouse like character.

Another example from a strict Calvinistic theology can be seen in this video. A little way into the video you can see a child singing a song about how God hates the world to the tune of Michael Jackson's We are the World.

These may seem extreme to some of you, but until recently, within a historical perspective, these would not seem unreasonable to large groups of people. Islamic extremists certainly are communicating to a large audience that agrees with them. You can see this revealed in some of the comments on these videos. On a smaller scale sayings within our culture reveal our condemnation of feelings. "Only babies cry." "You need to get over it." "I need to handle it." "I need to be strong." "He or she fell apart." Or someone had an emotional breakdown which simply means they cried. All these imply that having feelings is either a sign of weakness, mental instability, or irresponsibility. Often these feelings are the very vehicles of "getting over it." And they become blocked by judgements and cognitive "interventions" which have nothing to do with how the other person feels, but with our own discomfort with feeling.

So if there is evil present in the world, I believe it is simply another label for fear. When humanity is not valued maybe evil is based on the fear of being human.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Healing as a spiritual walk... literally!

Erica Davis is a patient that my wife has treated that suffered a spinal cord injury due to a vascular defect that bled and put pressure on her spinal cord, taking away her ability to walk. She had been a healthy competitive tri-athlete and suddenly became unable to walk. She soon found out that health insurance doesn't pay to help you walk. It only pays to teach you how to go from your chair to the bed and back.

Awakenings Health Institute and Project Walk are programs that believe most spinal cord injured patients can regain their ability to walk with the proper stimulation. It is an aggressive training program that uses exercise to stimulate the regrowth of spinal nerve function. There are a number of research studies that show that exercise is a major factor in maintaining the health and growth of the central nervous system. Many spinal cord injured persons have intact spinal cords that have been traumatized, but have a potential, under the right stimulation, to recover much of their function.

In my opinion, the lack of willingness by insurance companies to cover this rehabilitation is a major moral fault. In addition to not covering the rehab there is a lack of availability of information. Unless a person is aggressive, the medical system tends to guide you into less than ideal solutions that essentially give up on the possibility of recovery. Because many medical insurance companies are publicly traded the advantages of pooling funds to help people are lost because these funds are taken away to pay shareholders, CEOs, and a whole groups of employees hired to dole out as little care as possible. The care that is given tend to be therapies that the insurance company can invest in such as pharmaceuticals. This way money is sent into investments that emphasize the desire of the insurance company to retain profits rather than help people get well.

The care that does require an actual person to treat has been made more and more difficult by such methods as capitation, which requires a caregiver to take care of all the patients in their area for one flat fee. This rewards caregivers for not giving care because the more care they give the less money they make. This is why many doctors are overloaded with patients and to survive have to choose those medical solutions that move people through the system by treating symptoms rather than taking the time to look at the whole person. There is also less incentive to be innovative because innovation makes more people want to come in to get treated with even less returns and more work.

While we are waiting for this terrible system to get fixed there is a great need for the type of care that Awakenings Health Institute and Project Walk offer. There are many spinal cord patients that are willing to put in the work required to get back their ability to walk, but don't have the funds to get treated. Often their injury takes away their ability to make a living placing them even further behind.

Right now Erica has a Donation Site where you can purchase many different items that you normally buy and help her and others get the treatment they need. I would invite you to give as you are able to support programs like these that offer hope and practical solutions to spinal injured persons to gain their optimal potential.

Erica is now on staff at Awakenings Health Institute. One of the founders and many of the staff are not only health professionals but recovered spinal cord injured patients. Erica has been competing in handcycle races and has met many people including Robin Williams, champion triathletes, and others who have encouraged her in her work to make life flow. She is showing many encouraging signs and continues to make progress toward her goal of walking.

P.S. After being asked to take a picture with her, sitting on her lap, Robin told her, "This is the most fun I have had all day!" He and others were there to support all the members of the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Devil made me do it

Flip Wilson while playing the character Geraldine and money laundering Reverend Leroy often used the phrase, "The Devil made me do it." as justification of various choices that were made by his characters. His catch phrase "What you see is what you get" was used to describe the new word processors that displayed text formatting exactly as it would appear on paper as opposed to early word processors that used formatting commands. This latter phrase is about a certain truth based on what one sees and the former is about a certain lie based on a fear of being held responsible.

When one reads the various debates about God's existence there is a decided lack of dialog about whether or not the Devil exists. On the one side God is the origin of all that is good and God's motivation is Love. On the other, the Devil is the origin of all that is evil and the Devil's motivation is rather unclear. Some say its jealousy and others say that hate motivates the Devil or others say it is power and control. The story goes that Satan was called Lucifer or light bearer and was the brightest and most powerful of all the angels God created. One wonders how brilliant this angel could be if death and destruction was all that he could come up with.

There’s an ancient myth that says, “If you have the name of the demon you have power over the demon and, if asked, the demon has to give you its name.”

I don’t believe in the idea of evil, but I do believe there are lies and fear. And, in religious terms, the counter points of lies and fear are truth and faith.

I read in the book The Zen Teachings of Jesus by Kenneth S. Leong that in the ancient language of Aramaic there is no word for evil. The word translated as evil is really the word for immature. Tradition has said that Jesus spoke Aramaic and I have done an interesting experiment by reading sayings where Jesus uses the word evil and substituting the word immature.

It creates a whole different feel to many of Jesus’ statements. The ideas presented take on a directive to see the world as one who is becoming mature rather than a directive to be “good.” Rather than condemnation, by labeling someone or something as evil, it becomes an observation that immaturity is the cause of a lot of suffering.

Evil is this mysterious irrational force that has only wants to destroy for no reason. I believe that to be a lie. I don’t believe that evil exists, only ignorance, lies, and fear. Evil is a lie that allows demons to hide and remain nameless, but fear and deception are names we can understand. They are things we can overcome once we name them.

And too often, when someone labels something as evil, we fail to ask the demon its name.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

May the MOST humble win!!!

The picture to the right is the posture for a humble heart in Hula. The topic of humility as virtue can be an oxymoron in itself. This might be illustrated by the following story.

A priest goes before the altar and prostrates himself before it and says, "I am nothing before you God." A rich man comes in after him, prostrates himself before the altar and says, "I am nothing before you God." A beggar comes off the street and prostrates himself before the altar and says, "I am nothing before you God."

The rich man then whispers to the priest, "Look who thinks HE'S nothing."

There is another saying that might be helpful in understanding humility. Humility is not thinking low of oneself, its not thinking of oneself at all.

Sometimes there is a sense that we build hierarchies of humility. To help in this endeavor the Christian Righteousness Advanced Performance Company has developed the following Humility Seminar program.

May the Most Humble Win.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

We understand the need to develop a humble nature within the Christian church and we have provided a seminar to help you do that very thing. We want to help you humbly inherit the earth and all the wonderful prosperity that comes with that.

Here is a sampling of seminar topics...

How to deflect compliments.

The latest humble fashions.

Humble is as humble does.

How to help others to not feel "less than" in your presence. (This is a particularly helpful course for those of you who are advanced in humility. We know it's a hard burden to bear.)

These and many others will be offered in our 4 day seminar.

To guarantee that one inherits the earth, one needs to know how to rate high on the humble scale. So, we have developed a humble assessment test that you will take before and after our seminar. We have a ratio that we call the decihum or dh.

One decihum (dh) is equal to your height (ht) divided by the time it takes you to drop to your knees.(dt or drop time) This will be calculated on the first day of the seminar. (You will get extra credit if you don't use knee pads.) Or

1 dh = ht/dt

Each question in our Humble Assessment Measure or HAM has an equivalent decihum value, making this the most accurate humble assessment tool available. We have documented an average increase of 66 decihums on our HAM scale after taking our seminar.

We have a small sample exam that you can take to see how humble you are. Please answer the following questions

1. If someone compliments your clothing you would say

a. "Thank you I picked them out myself."
b. "The Lord has blessed me with good taste."
c. "I guess I got lucky."
d. "I would not have known how to dress this way unless I read my Bible every day. I must give all the credit to God."

2. If someone asks you, "What is your best trait?" you answer

a. "It's a toss up between my brilliant mind, my good looks, and my great athletic ability."
b. "I don't have a best trait."
c. "My Bible is my best trait."
d. by pointing to the sky with one finger.

3. If someone asks you, "Are you a proud person?" you answer

a. "No, I have never had a proud moment in my life."
b. "Sometimes."
c. "Only when I win. So I try to be a loser"
d. by silently pointing to the sky with one finger while closing your eyes.

4. If someone sees you walking around with your Bible and says, "Wow you must be a dedicated Christian" you

a. get a smaller brightly colored Bible.
b. answer, "Yes, this Bible is my sword and I plan to use it."
c. answer, "Yes this was the most expensive Bible I could find."
d. point to the sky with one finger while closing your eyes and bowing your head.

5. If someone sees you give a big offering and says "Wow, you are a very generous person!" you answer

a. "I want a gold plate on the church with my name on it."
b. "I'm just returning almost all I own to the Lord."
c. "Oh, this little ol' check."
d. by pointing to the sky with one finger, dropping to one knee, bowing your head, closing your eyes and saying quickly, "Thank you very much."

To score the test, just give yourself how many decihums you think you deserve for each question. If you scored

0 - 50 You really need to work on your humility. This seminar would be the perfect thing for you. Did we mention you get a certificate?

50 - 100 This is a little better. This seminar would still be perfect for you.

100 - 200 This is an average score, but if you wanted to become a truly exceptional humble person this seminar would be just the thing to do it for you.

200 - 300 This is an above average score. Subtract 100 points if you told someone your score. You know you have told, or are going to tell, someone. So, this seminar is exactly what you need.

300 - 400 Now your just bragging and overestimating your humility. You really need this seminar.

Some other features of our seminar that you will find most humble are

We are very careful to publish only the lowest scores allowing those of advanced humility to maintain their anonymous humble status.

We allow you to retake our seminar at double the price so that those of true humility can maintain their humble means.

We have a very unique certificate system based on our Humble Assessment Measure (HAM) that many church leaders have found useful. If you go through our seminar you receive a certificate that verifies you are a truly humble person. We certainly don't want non-certified HAMs leading out up front.

Our certificates are printed in black and white, not color, so you will not draw too much attention to yourself. We have saved an old Corona portable typewriter to type these out with. We then copy them with an old mimeograph machine. It has a truly vintage humble look to it. (Make sure you don't leave it laying around. Some one might throw it away.) And we don't even capitalize the first letter of your name. (This comes in handy since the shift key on the Corona is broken.)

If you would like to take your Christian humble experience to the next level, then this seminar is exactly what you are looking for.

So, maybe humility isn't a virtue. Maybe it's seeing ourselves and the world around us in a way that gives us a clear perspective, so we can avoid living a life of comparisons and live in grace.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Ruling a nation God's way?

I like to dialog in many different settings. I have been participating in a couple of dialogs lately. In one particular dialog I have been talking about the basis of morality and ethics. For the most part it has been interesting. Sometimes, when a religious dialog gets to a point where there doesn't seem to be any common ground I will get a response like the one I received recently. I've included a link to the dialog at the request of Wes, who I was dialoging with. Wes is probably a really nice person. He has a nice looking family with three boys. There are some very nice pictures of his family on his blog and they look like fun people. Now I would like to contrast that with his response to my idea that ethics doesn't need God to order us to be good but can be based on doing no harm or that which causes pain. I even referred to Jesus who said to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, pointing out that even Jesus used a self-referenced ethical saying. Here is his response...

"BOTTOM LINE. You want to love your sin and the things you want to do then bend the knee to God. But unfortunately for you Richard if you don't bend the knee before you die you will be bending your knee in hell and praising Jesus Christ anyways."

For those of you who are not familiar with hell, it is a place created by God for sinners to be burned alive for all eternity. Now the picture that Wes presents here is one where not only am I burning alive, but I am forced down on my knees to sing praises to Jesus. I'm not perfect, but I have a hard time coming up with anything I could possibly do that would deserve this type of punishment for all eternity and still be considered just and loving. Its also hard to conceive of any possible motivation for a God who claims to value justice and love to maintain this sort of place for all eternity. What is disturbing is that this type of solution is considered to be moral and ethical behavior by God.

I do have some concerns about the possibility of people, who believe this way, taking over the justice system in the United States. As I have read about various Christian organizations and their goals to reform the justice system in this country I have wondered how far they really wanted to go.

There has been a resurgence of Calvinism in recent years among young Christians according to the blog Church Matters. While I doubt any of these young people would endorse many of the things that Calvin did, I think it might be important to observe how Calvin applied his beliefs.

From this article "John Calvin: His Life in Geneva" we find the following summary...

"(The following information can be found in the book CALVIN: A BIOGRAPHY, by Bernard Cottret, published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids, Michigan, copyright 2000. Page numbers are included for each entry.)

1. (page 128) 1536 - CALVIN PROPOSES "a confession of faith" for the Genevans

2. (page 128) November 10, 1536 - Confession of faith presented, entitled "Confession of Faith, which all bourgeois and inhabitants of Geneva and subjects in its territories should swear to keep to and hold." - This document granted the right of the government to excommunicate offenders and protect the innocent by chastising the guilty.

3. (page 128) January 16, 1537 - Geneva authorities approve the Confession of Faith and the separate articles PRESENTED BY CALVIN.

4. (page 129) 1537 - One provision of the Confession of Faith and its articles included that pious images kept in people's private homes must be destroyed.

5. (page 129) March 1537 - Anabaptists were banished. (Anabaptists were primarily defined by their rejection of infant baptism.)

6. (page129) April 1537 - At CALVIN'S INSTIGATION city officials including captains and district wardens were commanded to go from house to house to ensure that the inhabitants subscribe to the Confession of faith.

7. (page 129) October 30,1537 - There was a final attempt to obtain a confession of faith from all who had been hesitating.

8. (page 129) November 12, 1537 - District by district, all those who had not made the confession of faith were ordered to leave the city.

9. (page 180) February 1545 - "Freckles" Dunant dies under torture without admitting to the crime of spreading the plague. His body was then dragged to the middle of town and burned.

10. (page 180) 1545 - Following the incident with Dunant, several more men and women were apprehended including a barber and a hospital supervisor who had "made a pact with the devil."

11. (page 180) March 7, 1545 - Two women executed by burning at the stake (presumably for the crime of sorcery, i.e. spreading the plague). CALVIN INTERCEDED apparently to have them executed sooner rather than later after additional time in prison. The Council followed his directive happily and urged the executioner to "be more diligent in cutting off the hands of malefactors."

12. (page 180) 1545 - more executions, tortures carefully watched to prevent death. Most of the tortured refused to confess. Means of death varied a little to include decapitation. All under the crime of spreading the plague. Some committed suicide in their cells to avoid torture, afterward the rest were handcuffed. One woman then through herself through a window.

13. (page 208) 1545 - CALVIN HAD the magistrates seize Belot, an Anabaptist (against infant baptism) for stating that the Old Testament was abolished by the New. Belot was chained and tortured.

14. (page 180) May 16, 1545 - The last execution concerning the plague outbreak, bringing the total dead to 7 men and 24 women. A letter from CALVIN attests to 15 of these women being burned at the stake. CALVIN'S only concern was that the plague had not come to his house.

15. (page 189) April 1546 - Ami Perrin put on trial for refusing to testify against several friends who were guilty of having danced. She was incarcerated for refusal to testify.

16. (page 190) July 1546 - Jacques Gruet was accused of writing a poster against Calvin. He was arrested and tortured until he admitted to the crime. He was then executed.

17. (page 177) November 22, 1546 - CALVIN DRAWS up a list of names inappropriate for baptism (i.e. inappropriate for naming children). CALVIN'S position insisted that a name appear in the Bible, or it was inappropriate.

18. (page 217) February 13, 1547 - CALVIN WRITES to the man who would preside over the burning of Michael Servetus. In the letter CALVIN WRITES, "For if he [Michael Servetus] came, as far as my authority goes, I would not let him leave alive."

19. (page 189) Thursday, June 23, 1547 - Several women tried for having danced, this time including Ami Perrin.

20. (page 192) September 23, 1547 - Francois Favre was prosecuted for having said that Calvin had proclaimed himself bishop of Geneva. Favre, Perrin, and his wife were again imprisoned.

21. (page 184) September 27, 1548 - CALVIN REPORTS his brother's wife to the consistory on suspicion of adultery.

22. (page 184) October 16-18, 1548 - Anne, CALVIN'S SISTER-IN-LAW is freed and had to kneel and ask forgiveness from both her husband and CALVIN (for apparently damaging his reputation.)

23. (page 210) October, 1551 - Hierome Bolsec imprisoned for his opposition to predestination. There he was immediately interrogated.

24. (page 211) December 23, 1551 - Bolsec sentenced to banishment on penalty of public whipping if he returned.

25. (page 223) Spring, 1553 - Proofs against the heretic Michael Servetus were gathered in Geneva in CALVIN'S ENTOURAGE.

26. (page 223) April, 1553 - Catholics were provided the evidence. Servetus is interrogated but escapes.

27. (page 223) August 13, 1553 - Servetus arrives in Geneva and is arrested and imprisoned.

28. (page 223) September 15, 1553 - From prison, Servetus writes a letter to the Council complaining that Calvin was deliberately prolonging his stay in the worst prison conditions. He complains of being eaten alive by insects and having no suitable clean or mended clothes to wear. The official charges, 1) denial of the Trinity 2) rejection of infant baptism.

29. (page 223) October 27, 1553 - After refusing to confess, Servetus is burned alive at the stake. Calvin apparently tried to change the manner of death to something other than burning at the stake, but he was unsuccessful.

30. (page 198) February, 1555 - Elections favorable to Calvin.

31. (page 198) May 16, 1555 - A riot ensues after the elections. Perrin (a leader of the opposing faction) seized the baton, which symbolized the office of Syndic giving the appearance of a coup d'etat. Perrin flees along with his associate Philibert Berthelier.

32. (page 198) After May 16, 1555 - CALVIN CALLS for repression.

33. (page 198) Monday, June 3, 1555 - The guilty are judged in absentia. Perrin is condemned to have the hand of his right arm cut off (the hand with which he grabbed the baton.) He and his accomplices were condemned to decapitation, then the heads and Perrin's hand were to be nailed up in public and their bodies cut into four quarters. The brothers Comparet received the sentence of decapitation and their bodies are to be quartered. All who didn't flee were executed. Two other men, Claude Galloys and Girard Thomas were put in a sort of pillory in two different parts of town. Galloys also received the sentence of having to carry a torch and ask for mercy. Berthelier's brother Francois-Daniel is among the victims of the repression. CALVIN JUSTIFIES the severity of their sentences.

34. (page 253) March, 1556 - Those who broke measures barring the mixing of men and women were subjected to public humiliation in the collar (a sort of pillary).

35. (page 253) December 31, 1556 - Jacques Lampereur was imprisoned for having made strong statements against the edicts last proposed on fornications, saying that we are under the law of grace and that is would be judaizing to condemn adulterers to death.

36. (page 184) January, 1557 - CALVIN'S SISTER-IN-LAW was imprisoned again for having committed adultery.

37. (page 180-181) October, 1568 - A pair of men were executed for sorcery after CALVIN EXHORTED his contemporaries to pursue sorcerers in order to remove all of them from the earth.

38. (page 181) 1568 - Another sorcerer admits his guilt under the torture of having his feet burned. He later recants his admission and is banished forever from Geneva.

From this survey of the life of John Calvin, we find that 38 people were executed during his time in Geneva. Some were burned alive. Others were decapitated and quartered afterward. Most were tortured first. Many more were imprisoned and tortured. The great majority of these people were accused of sorcery for spreading the Plague. For at least two men, the crime was little more than a public denunciation of Calvin himself. And in cases such a Michael Servetus, Calvin's premeditated determination to kill was made readily apparent by a letter written six years before Servetus had ever been brought to trial."

I think it is important to remember the history of religious intolerance. Calvin would be considered mild compared to other Christian theocracies of the time. What is bordering on insanity is the application of these types of measures to insure a "good" society. This might bring some insight into why Christian culture finds sexual sins far more disturbing than violence. The other insanity is the ability of Christianity to condemn radical Islam without condemning its own radical history of violence.

A picture of a god who tortures people for all eternity in a most horrific way is obviously a myth made up by men to manipulate and control other people. What is puzzling, as in many understandings about the nature of humans, is the ability of such an insane belief to propagate itself over so many generations.

I can understand why a tyrant would want to use fear, absolute obedience, restriction of information, and the threat of violence to maintain control of a nation. What is baffling is why, in a country defined by freedom, we would want to worship one.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

We like happy endings...

Paul Potts, the manager from Carphone Warehouse sings Opera?

Before you read futher, if you haven't seen the video above before, watch it.

When I grew up one of the explanations offered for the existence of evil was that the natural tendency of humans was toward evil and one had to be saved from this inevitable depravity.

I can't stop watching this video because it brings such emotion and a feeling of wishing this man well. Its obvious that his confidence is pretty low and its pretty painful for him to stand there in front of everyone. And then he sings and something almost magical takes over. You see the wonder wash over the audience and then you feel the reaching out toward him and the incredible happiness the audience and the judges have for him. Even mean ol' Simon.

I have a hard time believing that people are naturally depraved after seeing this. If this were true, everyone would be jealous of him. But, at least for this moment, I would guess that almost every person in that room was rooting for Paul Potts. Here is someone who looks like everyman that sings like Pavoratti. It's very moving to see someone realize their dream.

Life has these moments that remind me that there is real beauty in this world. This is one of the most beautiful moments that I have seen in a long time. We do like happy endings...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Fear of the Unknown

Fundamentalism seems, to me, to be an expression of fear. The fear of mystery. The idea that I have to know for sure. One expression of this idea was presented to me in the statement that, "One who believes they have the truth will stop searching for it." With the passing of Jerry Farwell, I am hoping that the fundamentalist movement might be able to shift away from the belief that they "know" the truth.

I have been reading the blog of naked pastor after being directed to it from the Think Christian blog. Being naked, one of the more powerful symbols of exposure and the risk of shame, is very appropriate for the thought experiment taking place on his blog. It is with great interest that I have read his willingness to be, sometimes brutally, honest about what he is thinking and feeling. It is encouraging to see something that appears to be an authentic and honest exploration for truth.

From comments on his blog there is a restrained discomfort with some of his "reveal" ations. To me this is evidence that he may be hitting pretty close to home. In my own personal experience I have found that the areas I most resist are often where I need to go. The point of pain is at the resistance. In that context the pain, from a certain view, is self inflicted. Freedom from that pain comes in the form of letting go of the resistance. In other words going into a new place of mystery.

There are some things in what I call the spiritual world that appear paradoxical in what most people call the "real" world. There is the idea that to gain control one needs to let go of control. Or as a paraphrase of a famous person, "Who ever tries to save their life will lose it and who ever loses their life will save it." Or trying to be authentic will prevent you from "being" authentic. In other words, activities that are too self-conscious block that which is already there.

What I have observed myself and others do, in our attempts to be "better," is what I call high pressure theatre. What others have referred to by saying that in trying to be more than human we become less than human. To me this is the great tragedy of fundamentalism. In its attempt to control truth it loses the truth and substitutes an image to the truth. An image that, to me, is more like an idol than any sculpted representation of a god. The difference is that the idol formed is a walking breathing human being that has learned to act out an illusion. It looks "nice" and appears "good" but at the cost of a real life. In trying to gain the perfect life one loses a real life.

To me, the great evidence this is something that is not real is that, at its core, its based on fear. What I have observed is that when one comes to the place where they believe they have the truth, all other opposition is suppressed with various forms of violence. It creates bigotry, prejudice, and other forms of fear reflecting its heart. If we are to truely know something by its fruits, then when I look at the fruits of fundamentalism, in history, I see a lot of violence.

To me, living in mystery is to be humbled. To deny mystery and claim absolute truth is to choose something far less complex than the what is observed. In fact one has to blind themselves to the complexity around them. In this context I see humbleness, not a virtue, but as a prevention of self deception.

In the story of the emperor who went without clothes, it took a child to point out the truth. What is interesting is that, in the story, people were more uncomfortable with the child who told the truth, than the fact the emperor was without clothes. In the story it took the might and authority of the emperor to force the illusion. Maybe we ought to pay attention to when "truth " needs force to maintain it.

So I hope the naked pastor stays naked because, to use the story of the garden, maybe we can, once again, walk naked without being ashamed.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Buddha, the Tao, and Grace

I have read recently about a Chinese version of Christianity brought to China in the 7th century by a Persian priest called Alopen. There were some writings composed by this group of Christians unearthed in 1900 in the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang, in Gansu province China that contained what we call the Jesus Sutras. These writings were composed from 625 CE to 1005 CE when they were sealed up in the cave. After being found in 1900 they were stored in a Buddhist temple until they were rediscovered and then translated in 1998.

What they reveal is a blend of Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and the Tao. In one section Jesus is portrayed as talking about karma. Thomas Moore asks, "I wonder if the Christian teaching might have a deeper understanding if we did associate it with the idea of karma for a moment."

Thomas Moore goes on to say, " A lot of people think of Christianity as a moral religion: what is right and wrong, what not to do, people in authority telling you how to live. The trouble with that is if you follow all these things, you may not really live a moral life. You may be following the rules, but not be deepening your ethical sense as you grow up and live a more complicated life. If you're thinking of karma, you don't have quite that same emphasis on morality. Instead, you realize that everything you do, every minute, has its impact and consequences. That leads to a moral way of living, but with a different quality than the one I described before."

When asked to compare Christianity with Buddhism Thomas Moore says, "But I think it goes deeper than that, because I think within Christianity-certainly in the way it's come down historically-people worry about being virtuous: Am I doing the right thing, am I a good person? In Buddhism as I know it, which is much less than I know Christianity, I would say people would be more interested in what sort of wisdom you have. Do you have some degree of enlightenment, are you in tune with the law of nature and of life? That's a different notion from being virtuous."

What often strikes me when I read Jesus is that his words and ideas often seem to act as bridges. This image is used to describe Christianity, which was called the Luminous Religion and The Way by the Chinese. The cross was seen as a bridge between yin and yang. According to the ancient Chinese philosophers, in the beginning was Tao. But then Tao separated into the two prime principles, yin and yang. And from the many combinations of yang and yin everything else that is in the world has emerged. This has its mythical twin in the story of the Fall in which sin comes from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Evil/Darkness being Yin and light/good being yang. And in some sense the knowlege of these forms the world of sin. The first symptoms of this being shame (Adam and Eve recognized their nakedness) and the other being blame. (Adam blamed God for giving him Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent.)

It is an intersting play of words if we state Genesis 1:3 in this way. And the Tao said, "Let there be light," and there was yang. Tao saw that the yang was good, and the Tao was separated, the yang from the yin.

Now if the cross is the bridge between light and dark and/or a bridge between good and evil then it could be seen as a rejoining of these opposites and a forming of the Tao. One way to see in this in a Christian context is in two ideas that Jesus emphasized. One was not judging others. Judging is the process of separating good from bad. The other is the concept of forgiveness, which is giving up the need to punish or pass judgment. These could certainly be seen as a path apart from good and evil. Buddha called his teaching the middle way and early Christianity was simply called The Way.

In a world that considered an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth as the highest form of justice, forgiveness and not passing judgment would seem like radical concepts. These concepts are almost incomprehensible for the Western mind coming from a Roman justice ethic. In many ways these are Eastern understandings of the underpinnings of ethical behavior or of beautiful behavior. Some have said that it is not goodness that defines the highest ethic, but beauty.

When we use the word Grace, it encompasses forgiveness, the giving up of judgment, and Grace itself is often seen as one definition of beauty.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Truth, Grace, and the American Way?

I read Bart D. Ehrman's book "Misquoting Jesus" a few months ago and have been processing the information he presents in that book for a while. What is most interesting to me is his reasons for becoming a Biblical scholar in the first place. In the introduction he tells the story of becoming a "born again" Christian his sophomore year in high school.

He states, "There was a kind of loneliness associated with being a young teenager; but, of course, I didn't realize that it was part of being a teenager--I thought there must be something missing." He then began to attend Campus Life Youth for Christ club which met at member's houses.

"The leader of the group was a twenty-something-year-old named Bruce who did this sort of thing for a living--organized Youth for Christ clubs locally, tried to convert high school kids to be 'born again' and then get them involved in serious Bible studies, prayer meetings, and the like. Bruce was a completely winsome personality--younger than our parents but older and more experienced than we--with a powerful message, that the void we felt inside (We were TEENAGERS! All of us felt a void!) was from not having Christ in our hearts. If we would only ask Christ in, he would enter and fill us with the joy and happiness that only the 'saved' could know."

He tells of how he admired Bruce, who could quote the Bible and answer all kinds of questions. He became friends with Bruce and eventually was convinced that he should become a "serious" Christian and attend Moody Bible Institute. He refers to Moody Bible Institute as a "Christian Boot Camp...where Bible is our middle name." Each student and teacher had to sign an agreement to the effect that the Bible was the inerrant world of God and contains no mistakes.

While at the Moody Bible institute he committed to a life path of learning all he could about how the Bible was put together. He eventually learned how to read the ancient Greek and Hebrew languages as well as a number of modern languages to be able to read what other scholars had to say about how the Bible, particularly the New Testament, was put together.

While at Princeton he came to a realization that it was simply too difficult to maintain an inerrant view of the Bible in light of all the evidence he was confronted with. He states, "The Bible began to appear to me as a very human book. Just as human scribes had copied and changed, the texts of scripture, so too had human authors originally written the texts of scripture. Many of these authors no doubt felt they were inspired by God to say what they did, but they had their own perspectives, their own beliefs, their own views, their own needs, their own desires, their own understandings, their own theologies; and these perspectives, beliefs ,views, needs, desires, understandings, and theologies informed everything they said."

What does this all have to do with the title of this blog? The familiar saying, "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" plays out in many ways in our culture. What if it were "Truth, Grace, and the American Way?" The contrast of Grace and Justice have come to mean a different way of seeing the world to me. In a world view that sees the Bible as inerrant works in a certain way and can be difficult to maintain when confronted with the complexity of the world. It requires what I would call a "Justice" mind set.

This mind set believes that the world is orderly and predictable. It believes that God intervenes and has things under control. It believes that everyone will be rewarded for their choices. In cases where things don't work out, it becomes the fault of the person rather than God. It would be unthinkable to consider that God or the Bible could have errors. (In the early Christian Gnostic myths it was the creator God of the Old Testament that messed up and was at fault and Jesus came to save us from this messed up world and directed us to the true Father.)

In this world view things are ultimately true or untrue. And when things become too complex for us to understand then we need to have faith in God and his word to sort things out. So when we read in the Bible that God orders the Israelites to kill every man, woman, child, and animal of their enemies we must assume that God had a just reason for doing so. And that He also had a just reason for asking the Israelites to carry it out rather than killing them Himself.

One of the definitions of Grace that has caught my attention is that Grace is giving up the need to punish. Or that Grace gives up the need for justice. One saying that illustrates this contrast with Grace and Justice in a more pragmatic way is, "If we hold fast to the justice of an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth, then the whole world will eventually be blind and toothless." This would extend Grace to others as a means to preserve the benefits of seeing and eating. Imagine the threat to our survival and well being this justice system would create if executed without exception. "Le Miserable" is one such brilliant exploration of this world view by Victor Hugo.

In my exploration of the idea of Grace, I have found that it is very difficult for many people to extend Grace to themselves. Enlightened self-interest was a concept that Alexis de Tocqueville discussed in his work "Democracy in America." The idea was that self interest rightly understood would result in ethical behavior in a group setting. I think the same thing could be true on a personal level.

For example if Justice is my primary mode of motivation for being a "good" person then I may apply justice to my every act and motivation. If these are not in line with my ethical expectations then I "punish" myself. Jesus may have been referring to this when he stated that when one judges others they judge themselves. If Justice is my ethical standard for others then it becomes my own ethical mode whether I carry out the "punishment" on a literal basis or not. The other dangers of a Justice model is that I can be resentful when Justice is not done fairly to others and they "get away" with things that I perceive bring harm to me. Or I can be in fear that punishment is always waiting to come down on me as soon as I do something wrong.

In this description Grace could be seen as something I could apply as self interest rightly understood. It would not be so I could "get away" with something, but a completely different world view. It is interesting that Jesus referred to self interest in his statement that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. It appears that the assumption is that we love ourselves or we should love ourselves. If I were to apply this in a literal sense then if I hated myself, then I should hate others.

Another model of Grace versus Justice that I have explored is with idea of sailing. Lets say I had the 10 commandments of sailing and I was told that as long as I followed these 10 commandments I would never get into trouble and I would have a wonderful sailing experience. Sailing is a fairly complex skill and while most of the time its pretty relaxing, when you do get into trouble it can happen rather quickly and one has to make choices pretty quickly or you will end up on the rocks. There's not a lot of time to be looking things up in the book. And the book can't really give you the experience of sailing and how the timing works and how it feels.

Lets say one of the commandments is, "If you push the tiller to the right the boat will go left." This works most of the time, except when the current is going the other direction and you don't have any wind. The boat will point left, but the current is still going to put you into the rocks. Its generally a good time to start the engine. But if my sailing denomination is purist, then if I started the engine I would be demonstrating that I didn't have enough faith. Or if I do end up going into the rocks then I am at fault for being tempted to sail too close to the shore.

A Grace model still has the object of not going into the rocks, but doesn't waste energy on blame. If I go into the rocks even though I start the engine and do everything in my power and understanding, then punishing myself makes no sense. The rocks and the loss of my boat pretty much cover the lesson. I would rather put the energy into making sure it doesn't happen again. Beating myself up and telling myself that I am a lousy sailor only serve to lessen my ability to make a decision and takes away energy and time from learning how to sail more skillfully.

The other thing that I have noticed is that I can feel almost any emotion, even sadness, and not feel pain as long as shame is not mixed in. If I feel sad and judge that I shouldn't be feeling sad because that means that I am being weak, then sadness becomes painful for me. If I am angry and judge myself that I shouldn't be angry then anger becomes painful. But if I take a Grace approach and simply let myself feel the emotion and see what it has to tell me then most often the emotion goes through its cycle and shifts. Sadness can become a means to connect with others and anger can become a force for positive change and setting healthy boundaries.

Justice and Grace each have a different "story." Each creates different expectations and perceptions.

In an article titled "How Scholarship Affects Scholars Losing Faith 2 Who Did and 2 Who Didn't" in Biblical Archaeological Review there was a transcription of a discussion moderated by editor Hershel Shanks. In this discussion Bart Ehrman says this about his faith in Christianity. "Faith in the Judeo-Christian tradition has a God who intervenes. That's what the Exodus event is, that's what the crucifixion is: it's a God who intervenes, and when I look around this world, I don't see a God who intervenes."

This article is talking about Scholarship and yet the statement that Bart Ehrman makes is a very emotional one. There could be an element of disappointment or of relief and freedom in it, depending on how you feel about a God who intervenes. I would imagine that at some point Bart Ehraman was disappionted, based on what he was taught to believe. I can't determine how he feels now, but I can resonate with both disappointment and relief.

I can say at this point the pursuit of Grace has brought me farther than the pursuit of Justice. I have come to believe that Justice tries to bring a sense of balance, but I often think that equal punishment only differs in the order the pain is inflicted. If we really are all one, then Grace extended to others is really Grace extended to myself and punishment extended to others is punishment extended to myself.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Its my religion, I can cry if I want to.

Zach Johnson said something in his interview after winning the Masters that got the attention of the Christian Blogging commuity. At Think Christian there is some dialog about how Zach Johnson briefly mentioned his Christian faith. They were referring to the blog called Redeeming Prufrock where Ben Humphries suggests that when Zach Johnson said "I was not alone out there. Jesus was with me every step of the way." that CBS cut him off and did not ask any more follow up questions. He also noted that "His voice broke, and he cried."

You can see the actual interview here and a longer interview at his Jacket presentation here. You can judge for yourself if CBS cut him off or discounted his expressions about his faith. And a more humerous look at Zach Johnson reading the top 10 things I can say now that I have won the masters list on the Letterman Show

What I really wanted to look at is the emotions that bring about tears. Tears are often associated with deep spiritual experiences or transformations. There are tears of sorrow, tears of relief and tears of joy. There are probably all kinds of connections with tears.

When I was younger there seemed to always be this question when we had Bible quiz competitions or Bible baseball games at church school. The question was, "What is the shortest verse in the Bible?" The answer generally given is John 11:35 in which the verse says, "Jesus wept." (On a side note Job 3:2 is technically shorter in English and says, "He said,") This verse is associated with the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

In this story Jesus is sent word that Lazarus is sick and asked if He would come quickly to heal him. The message said, "Lord, the one you love is sick." The narrative says that instead of going right away, Jesus stayed where he was for 2 more days before traveling to where his friends were. When He arrived Lazarus had been dead for 4 days and eventually Lazarus' sister Mary came to meet him and she was weeping. When Jesus saw this, He was deeply moved in His spirit. It is at this point that "Jesus wept."

Now, there are all kinds of theological reflections on this point and why Jesus was weeping. In some he was weeping because of their lack of faith and they didn't understand that He had the power to raise the dead. In some this proved that Jesus was a man with bodily functions. In others He is weeping for Lazarus because he has to come back from Paradise.

While there is no way to prove if this story actually happened there are a number of things to draw from this narrative. It certainly addresses the fear and loss that come from death. What hits me on a more personal level is that from the book of John its clear that Jesus knows that he is going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He doesn't seem to be in a hurry to point this out when He arrives. In fact, He takes time to weep with Mary and the others with her. The author of the book of John seems anxious to point out the lack of faith on the part of the Jews who were there.

And yet it seems that it was important for Jesus to weep with Mary, even though He knows that He will bring back her brother to her in a few moments. Maybe there is something to be gained from grief that is important. Maybe weeping is part of what comes before being raised from the dead. Maybe something far more complex and profound happens in that moment that Jesus connects with Mary than all the theological explanations that follow. Its seems clear that Jesus was moved to act, not from a need to explain, but from his connection with Mary and her sorrow.

In this world today, I believe that if we would connect with each others sorrows we would act quite differently. We might be able to raise ourselves and others from the dead.