SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS: THE FIRST VETERAN FOR PEACE

El_Greco_-_San_Martín_y_el_mendigoFROM “SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS: THE FIRST VETERAN FOR PEACE” BY PAUL DORDAL AND JOHN DAVID KUDRICK IN THE NEW PEOPLE (NOV. 2019)

The Veterans For Peace organization was founded in 1985 to draw on veterans’ “personal experience and perspectives gained as veterans to raise public awareness of the true costs of militarism and war—and to seek peaceful, effective alternatives.” As we pause to reflect this coming Armistice Day, November 11, it is important to remember this unique call for peace from those who have experienced war’s utter senselessness firsthand. Dwight Eisenhower, a WWII general and U.S. president, profoundly declared, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” Many so-called war heroes have become the greatest proponents of peace after (and sometimes during) their enlistment.

Yet the question remains why so many millions, even billions, cannot see war’s futility and stupidity, and thus resist the evil powers and principalities who constantly call for the use of violence and war to solve conflicts. Currently, the United States is fighting its own global war, with tens of thousands of troops stationed in over 170 countries. Any reasonable person, though, can see that this continuous warfare has not resulted in true, lasting peace anyplace it is being fought. In a recent speech at the United Nations, President Trump noted that the U.S. “is a compassionate nation” who “will forever be a great friend to the world.” These words could not have rung more hollow to those who actually listened.

For many veterans and others, a time comes when the soul, mind, and body become one and there is a change in attitudes, beliefs, and actions toward war and violence. For some veterans, the experience of participating in or preparing for war becomes the “Aha!” moment that helps them realize just how wrong and futile war can be—even the most supposedly “just war.”

As I (Paul) was reflecting on my own “Aha!” moment and the decision I made after returning from the Iraq War that I could not as a Christian be involved with war anymore, I read about another veteran who could not participate in the military or engage in violence after his own epiphany. St. Martin of Tours converted to Christ in the fourth century. Soon afterward, while on patrol, Martin saw a shivering beggar alongside the road. Dressed in his military regalia, Martin tore his cape in two, gave half to the beggar, and declared, “I am the soldier of Christ: it is not lawful for me to fight.” Upon hearing of Martin’s conscientious objection, his military superiors charged him with cowardice and imprisoned him. Yet he remained convinced, as so many others have since, that to be a Christian precludes one from serving in any military—that Christians are peacemakers, not violence seekers. St. Martin of Tours could well be known as the first veteran for peace; if not the first, then at least one of the most remarkable.

Pondering the story of St. Martin, I (John David) am struck at how he took compassionate action as a great friend toward the beggar by choosing not to fall into the typical “us and them” thinking that dehumanizes people—denying and/or ignoring the inherent mystery, beauty, and wonder of every person in the global tribe of humanity. For it is such “us and them” thinking that allows intentional, accepted, and applauded violence and war against humanity in the name of “keeping the peace,” although it never leads to real peace among us.

As recognized by almost every Christian group in the world, the Feast of St. Martin of Tours is held, ironically, on November 11. For Christians and all peace seekers, then, Armistice Day should be a clarion call not necessarily to celebrate the sacrifices of veterans, but to recognize the sacrifice of true peacemakers like Christ to end all wars and violence—and especially to celebrate them by becoming peacemakers ourselves.

Veterans For Peace has a catchy motto that some members regularly use: “If you are not a veteran for peace, then what are you a veteran for?” Upon reflecting on the words and deeds of St. Martin of Tours (and, of course, the eternal words of Jesus), should not Christians and, really, all people also say and believe: “If you are not a person for peace, then what are you for?”

Paul Dordal and John David Kudrick are the co-founders of the newly formed group, Christian Alliance For Peace (facebook.com/ChristianAllianceForPeace).

You can read the New People version here: St Martin of Tours: First Veteran For Peace

Losing Faith, Finding God (A Reflection)

finding-god-coverIn a course entitled DSM-IV Religious & Spiritual Problems, the psychology course book states, “Loss of faith is specifically mentioned [in the DSM-IV] as a religious problem.” For the person who has seemingly lost faith significant emotional distress is common.

The psychological problem then isn’t the loss of faith, but the distress that is associated with the loss. Yet, the distress surrounding the loss of faith is necessary for healing, for finding the true God. So, before we can help ourselves or someone else who has “lost” their faith, we must first discover what is actually lost. Is it faith or religion; or maybe faith in religion?

My take on the loss of faith, especially as I have experienced it, is that a loss of “faith” is not real. Loss of faith is a painful shedding of something that was illusory to begin with. Maybe the most profound words that have come from Bob Dylan, and he has had so many profound words, are from his song Positively 4th Street:

You say you’ve lost your faith, but that’s not where it’s at/
You have no faith to lose, and ya know it.

The faith most people cling to and hopefully eventually lose is a false faith that provides temporary security, belonging, safety—the answers. It is constructed and though it may fit for a time, it is always uncomfortable. If you grow in authenticity or conversely grow in bitterness, this constructed faith starts to break apart like moth-eaten clothing. Until you lose your false faith, lose the need for security, belonging, safety—lose your need for the answers—then you will never find God.

Thus, what is really lost is faith in institutions, faith in religion, faith in work and money, faith in power, faith in family/identity, faith in ideologies, faith in science and progress, faith in politics and politicians, etc. And losing these faiths is good news because these are all idols—false Gods. These must be shed to find the true God, who is already imminently present to all creation. Jesus said, “… the one who loses their life because of me will find it” (Mt 10:39b). This verse could as easily be written: “the one who loses their faith because of me will find it.”

Loss of this false faith is the process of finding yourself, God, and then, of course, finding real faith: saving faith in the Alpha and Omega.

© Paul Dordal, 2019

When Did Christianity Depart From Christ? (Reflection)

Jesus-clears-the-templeWe are human beings. Beautiful, but limited. We interpret the world through myriad filters—biological, social, racial/ethnic, gender, religious, etcetera. Thus, we are imperfect and partial in our understanding of many things, especially history (since we weren’t there; and even if we were, we would still be biased). The quest for spiritual enlightenment or simply spiritual growth—to contribute to the advancement of humanity towards the “Kindom of God”—requires that we unlearn (or at least critique) what we think we know and challenge our understanding of our own and our collective history.

How do we unlearn what we learned about Jesus, the Christ, Christianity, and the Church that is either bad religion or bad history, without losing our faith? First, we have to admit that there was a departure, but even if there was a departure, that the body of evidence is sufficient for saving faith. Thus, the evidence of the Scriptures is reliable, but not all Scripture is prescriptive; some of the Scriptures are merely descriptive. Certainly, due to the limitedness of humanity the departure the “Church” took from Jesus occurred almost immediately after his death. This was due, in part, by the dogmatizing of that which was simply descriptive in the oral tradition.

“The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch” (Ac 11:26) is a well-known Scripture, which seems to suggest that the dogmatic constructs of the first believers were starting to come together very soon after the death of Jesus. (Nevertheless, the original use of the term Christian was likely an epithet and not a term of endearment or classification). These new “Christian” groups believed differently from the Jewish religion from which they sprang.  Hence, the Christian religion began to move away from its Jewish roots quite quickly after Jesus died. This is the first departure since Jesus was, in fact, Jewish. Of course, that is not an inherently negative statement; it’s just a reality.

There was another sharper break, of course, at the Council of Nicaea, which codified the divinity of Jesus, but, for all intents and purposes, left out Jesus’s life and his humanity in its formulations. To their credit the Church quickly wrestled, albeit only intellectually, with Jesus’s humanity at the Council of Chalcedon just seventy years after Nicaea/Constantinople. Unfortunately, to this day the Nicene Creed guides the Church’s core beliefs, whether one believes in creeds or not. (I am tempted to put the texter’s letters LOL at the end of this last sentence.)

Of course, the Reformation (16-17c) and the subsequent era of Enlightenment (17-18c) further intellectualized the Christian religion, not that theologians before then had not already begin to scholasticize the faith (13-14c). The so-called progress of the understanding of the faith to my thinking really moved the followers of Jesus the Christ away from Jesus the man towards an idealized and supernatural version that would be hard to grasp as real. Though I am not anti-intellectual, I am cynical of linear understandings of progress. (Civilization may be the problem, not the solution to the advance of humanity). A quick study of history shows that progress is quite relative and subjective. Yet history, through its limited and dependent communicative voice, generally attempts to classify progress as foundational and objective. History personified believes itself neutral, but it is as compromised and biased as you and I are.

Today, we are so far from Jesus that the average person clearly knows that what we call Christianity, as a whole, is a severe aberration of its origins (or originator). The Scriptures are used like a giant power tool by witting or unwitting Church leaders to maintain a perspective that requires obedience and discourages critique. But, if we are to truly follow the example of Jesus, then it seems, from [hi]story, that one of our main functions as believers is to critique religion—yes, even, critique all history as the instrument of the powerful to control the weak.

So, now the inductive story: I was “doing my devotions” the other day, when I read about Apollos in a conservative Christian daily “inspirational” reading guide. Here is the [hi]story of Apollos from a self-described literal English translation of the Bible: “Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (Ac 18:24-28).

The perspective of the reading guide on this particular day was that somehow Apollos was deficient in his understanding of the Lord. He only knew “the baptism of John,” and needed to be corrected to know that Jesus was indeed the spiritual savior of the world—not a leader that would transform the existing world, but a “Christ” who can save some individuals for a future, blissful existence in a far off heaven. Unfortunately, the Jesus who was to transform the existing world failed. Thus, the young Church of Christianity had to transform Jesus into a divine spiritual savior.

John’s baptism, which Jesus also undertook by the way, was a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk 3:3). Hmm, sounds a lot like the baptism of Jesus (though “baptism” post Pentecost, or Jesus’s baptism, is interpreted by most Christian groups to involve the reception of the Holy Spirit to become a “saved” Christian). For many Christians today, Jesus’s baptism is an individual’s ritual sacrament (insurance policy) for entrance into a mythically fulfilled Narnia like heaven after death. I believe we desperately need to recapture John’s baptism if we are going to save the Church!

Poor Apollos! He was preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins instead of preaching a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Another spot for the LOL).

The operative phrase that clearly shows the departure of Christianity from Jesus in relation to Apollos was that St. Luke acknowledges that Apollos “was instructed in the way of the Lord,” but not did not understand that Jesus was divine until he began to “powerfully refute the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (my underlines). Apollos repented (changed) from his oppressive, hierarchical worldly ways and followed Jesus the man, the inspiration/model for divine humanity. After his indoctrination by Priscilla and Aquila, early church leaders, Apollos “changed” his Gospel to one focused on the divinity of Christ and personal salvation—and abandoned his Judaism to become a true Christian.

Now, please don’t get me wrong, I believe Jesus was and is the Christ. But that is not different than, better than, or a departure from the Jesus who was and is a human. In fact, being able to believe in Christ is a gift from God, but following the way of Jesus is my calling, my duty, my joy and love. I can’t follow the Christ, I can only follow Jesus, the prototype of what it truly means to be human.

Christianity, then, is really just, as the Internet Monk may have coined it many years ago, Churchianity. The Internet Monk seems to have believed that this departure was a post-Reformation event, but clearly, the departure happened immediately after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Thus, Christianity never really departed from Christ, since Christianity is responsible for the creation of Christ.

The reality, or the unlearning that has to take place, is that Christianity is itself the departure from Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God.

© Paul Dordal, 2019

Getting Up In The Morning (A Stream of Reflection)

why get upWhen I get up in the morning, I don’t hit the snooze button. I rarely hesitate about getting up. It’s not that there are times I don’t want to get up right then and there. It’s just that I know that it is time to get up. So, I do. [glad].

With the advent of smartphones, I am sure I am not the only one who looks at their neo-idiot-box first thing after waking, much like when I was a smoker and lit up as my first ritualistic morning activity. What do I look at? First my emails, then Facebook, and then CNN. Then I get out of bed. I guess some marketer will be happy to hear that. I am hooked like so many others. Someday, maybe, I’ll throw that fucking “stupid” phone in the garbage where it belongs. [anger]. But for now, at least, I am human, and average, and weak, like so many others living in a self-imposed, but externally built, prison of “needing” to “know” something first thing in the morning. Did I miss something in the last eight hours? No. Nothing’s happened. Thus far some “thing” has only happened a smattering of times in my almost fifty-five years of existence. [fear].

Mostly I get up when the alarm clock goes off because I need to pee. But why not go back to bed, even for a few minutes more, or call in sick? I have tons of sick time saved up. [sad].

I get into my bed at around 10:15 or 10:30 most nights, with the thought that I will get eight hours of sleep, which I won’t because I usually need a half an hour to fall asleep, and I pee at least twice or three times a night. Damn prostate. Damn aging process. [anger]. But I like to think that my sleep routine is very healthy, getting up regularly at 6:15 or 6:30 in the morning.

One of the things I have noticed recently is that the moment I turn off the lights to go to sleep, after checking the weather app on the stupid phone, putting my earplugs in, and pulling the comforter up to my neck, I experience a significant mystical grace. I sigh long and gratefully at the very moment my body is cocooned under the covers. It just feels so good, so peaceful. Are there better words to describe it? Sure, but you have probably felt it too. What does it feel like to you?

Often, when I begin to close my eyes, I reflect on other moments of mystical grace, sometimes in the shower with the steaming hot water beating lovingly on my back, sometimes on the crapper when it actually feels good to shit, [anger at some of you for not liking my using “bad” words], sometimes eating full-flavored food that I haven’t eaten in a while, sometimes looking at pictures of my children when they were really little (or seeing their child-like God-beauty now in their teens), sometimes holding my wife’s hand or feeling her lightly rub my back, or oftentimes when I am listening to music, really listening to it, and imagining I am playing it on a piano in a bar with a lot of sad people drinking dry red wine which explodes like gentle Pop-rocks® on the palette. (I used to drink wine). [love]. I think you get it. There are times when these grace moments are just really real. They are spiritual moments, in which the material world is intentionally interrupted by angelic fairy dust.

But even so, those moments are not the reason I get up in the morning. I’d like to think that I get up in the morning because it is not fair that I get to have angelic fairy dust moments regularly in my life and millions, maybe billions do not. In my self-righteous, morally superior inauthenticity, I believe I wake up in the morning to struggle on behalf of the poor and downtrodden, the marginalized and the oppressed. Maybe so. Maybe even altruistically so. But it is just not so, not completely, at least. [sad].

The reason I get up in the morning may have to do more with shame and guilt or pride or something not so bright, but not so shadowy either. Maybe it’s filial piety. I have responsibilities to my wife and children. I covenantally married her and brought our kids (half-way, I suppose) into the world. That’s noble and true, but it’s not on my mind, or, at least, not on my conscious mind when I get up. I know and am certain, that I am not like others who get up simply because there is an animal instinct to get up—to simply survive. But, because I don’t like the sound of that, it must be at least partially true. There are members of my meandering family who just get up every day. And like the existentialists of the mid-twentieth century, I sometimes ask why don’t they just kill themselves. For millions and billions of people, there is just no reason to wake up. [very sad; depressed?].

Ah, but love. Love gets us up, doesn’t it? [disgust]. No, I do believe love is real. It is also angelic fairy dust. It is also God. But what is it? Why can’t I reproduce it more consistently? The mystics write about it all the time, but much of those writings feel like a novel to me. So, I call bullshit on a lot of it. [anger]. Not because I haven’t experienced love or I can’t experience it now or develop more of it, but because I probably have a mental illness, but maybe not. Maybe I just want to avoid the experience of pain like every other fucking bourgeois American. [sad].

Do you like or love your job? Good for you. [disgust]. That’s probably why you get up in the morning (maybe you’re a drone). I don’t mind my job. I don’t love it, that’s for sure. I need it, for goodness sake, even if the boss supposedly needs me more than I need him. I know I am, as Karl Marx noted, primarily, a homo-faber, a working-man, but in this post-apocalyptic technological age, it just isn’t easy to see how going to work eight hours a day, forty hours a week, fifty weeks a year, and 2,500 weeks a lifetime is a motivating reason to get up every day. Talk about a fucking prison. [anger]. But, since I know I “have to” go to work, I do get up. Yet, I don’t live to work.

So, what about on my days off. Why don’t I just stay in bed for two days a week?

I like doing the crossword. [Read this sentence embarrassed with an inflection going up towards the end of the sentence].

I like the online USA Today crossword because it’s timed. When I am focused and centered—mindful—I can do it in five to seven minutes. When I am stressed, distracted, or worried it’ll take me ten or twelve. It usually takes me eight to nine minutes. I actually consciously think about doing the crossword when I get up on my two days off. [glad]. Senseless and pure! Coffee works the same way for me on my days off. I get to drink it in a ceramic mug, instead of my metallic (tasting) travel carafe, I use on work days. [glad].

Nevertheless, when I see you in the morning (any you, but especially if you are a you I know), I am genuinely happy to see you. I will greet you with a hearty good morning, and I mean it. You make me feel, maybe not like dancing, but at least legitimately alive. [love]

There is also a weird “feeling” piece to getting up, maybe a huge piece of the puzzle, I just can’t finger it, that provides me an ontologically motivating understanding that human existence is itself a struggle worth living. [What?].

Curiosity may kill the proverbial cat, but I know curiosity gives birth and zoe life to the human soul. The struggle is for the harder questions that remain, the fleeting question of love, the utopian question of justice—just the fucking questions are good enough, damn it—being filled with anger, passion, shame, guilt, sadness, love—all the moral emotions that drive the bus to the next stop on a journey that must be going somewhere. It must be. I just know it. God. [anger]. [love]. [peace]. [joy].

And I am going to get up and get on that bus every morning. Even if I don’t know where it is going. [peace].

© Paul Dordal, 2019

Reformation, Revolution, and Resurrection (An Advent Reflection)

ArtistI had a couple of interesting and intersecting conversations yesterday with different folk. One group of folks were Christians who I meet with regularly to discuss the contemplative or mystical way of faith and the other group was a newly formed anarchist group working to return joy and laughter to organizing for a new society.

In the first conversation with the mystics, we were talking about the need for a whole new way of being the Church. One of our members recounted that he had been approached by someone who said that the Church was in need of another great reformation. His response was, “What the Church needs is a great resurrection.” In the second conversation, the group wrestled with the need of immediate reforms to assist the severely oppressed and marginalized while never losing sight of the revolutionary theory, tactics, and outcomes that are required for a whole new society to be realized.

All of this talk of revolution and resurrection frightens many people, both the weak and the strong, both the oppressed and the oppressors. What most people think they want is stability and certainty: homeostasis. Yet, normal life is filled with instability and uncertainty. In politics, hierarchal rulers enact powerful laws (violence) to maintain homeostasis, mostly for the benefit of the elite and the rich. In religion, hierarchies, theologies, and liturgies are rigidly structured and enforced, again primarily to the benefit of the elite (who write the theologies and liturgies).

When a societal or economic crisis occurs, which must happen because of the dynamic, chaotic reality of life, the common (“working class”) folk are usually most afflicted. The rich and powerful rarely suffer, because, frankly, it doesn’t hurt to lose millions when you still have millions. Thus, when the poor or disenfranchised demand redress, depending on the severity of the crisis and the response, those in power will sometimes offer a reform which doesn’t alter the fundamentally unequal or oppressive system. These reforms almost always placate the people until the next crisis.

The recent situation in France is a good example. The people power expressed in the streets caused the ruling elite to offer reforms and, unfortunately, then the protests died down. The collective memory of common folk is extremely short. They forget that unless they go all the way to revolution they will continue to be oppressed and suffer. Reforms rarely do anything but return the unjust system to an ostensible form of homeostasis.

Rosa Luxemburg wrote in 1899, “He who pronounces himself in favor of legal reforms in place of and as opposed to the conquest of political power and social revolution does not really choose a more tranquil, surer and slower road to the same goal. He chooses a different goal. Instead of taking a stand for the establishment of a new social order, he takes a stand for surface modifications of the old order.”

The miraculous entrance of Jesus into the world scene was a revolutionary act by God, not to reform the broken world piecemeal, but to fundamentally change the trajectory of evolution in order to recreate individuals and society into God’s image (re-evolution). Radical love and joy entered our world in a new way. When Jesus began his ministry, it was to announce to the world the need to repent—to make a revolutionary 180-degree change from the direction it was going. This was not a reform; not a tweak; not some new legislation. God came to us and said you are going in the wrong direction: the direction of law, of othering, of war, of disintegration. We must turn around to the direction of love, of empathy, of peace, and of intersubjectivity.

Jesus was incarnated into the world to die, yes, but not only to atone for the violence of sin but primarily to prefiguratively embody that life is essentially a series of deaths and resurrections. Chaos and order, death and resurrection, suffering and joy are the alternating contexts of life.  We must enter the darkness to see the greater light.  A revolution requires us to die to self, both individually and collectively as a society.  Revolution is the ongoing dialectic of death and resurrection.

This is why Nicodemus can’t even see the Kin-dom of Heaven unless he is resurrected (born-again) into revolutionary mysticism (Jn 3:1-3). Nicodemus must repent, leave his group of elite Pharisees, even leave his family and its oppressive belief structures, leave his old-life of hierarchical relationships, and embark on a frightening, suffering, but life-giving journey of revolutionary praxis. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate their own parents, their spouse and children, their brothers and sisters, and even their own life, they cannot be my follower” (Lk 14:26).

This is the way of Jesus. This Advent Season walk in the way of Jesus, born on Christmas Day and reborn every day in the revolutionary Christian.

© Paul Dordal, 2018

True Leadership Is Followership (Reflection)

#4 - Incarnation of LeaderDo Not Be Called Leaders
Did you know there is actually very little written in the Bible supporting hierarchical human leadership? In fact, Jesus was extremely cautious about, if not totally opposed to, humans having power over other humans: “Do not be called leaders…” (Mt 23:10).

In spite of this, a cottage industry of leadership resources has been produced by U.S. “Christian” publishers to develop, train, and multiply hierarchical leaders (not to mention the myriad leadership books published by “secular” booksellers.)  Ironically, I too wrote a leadership book called The Great Commandment Leader (2011). However, my book focuses much more on being a servant than being a leader, and my second book, In Search of Jesus the Anarchist (2017), further calls for the dismantling of the systems that create the sinful divide between leader and follower.

Over the last fifteen years or so I have tried to emphasize a new way of organizing life and society that promotes a leadership structure that is similar to the upside-down triangle popularized by various “servant leadership” models. Unfortunately, most of the servant models I have seen focus on individual leadership style changes, and not on transforming societies. Simply put, Western education and Christianity does not really teach a servant leadership or followership model of societal or economic life. So, what might it look like if we taught followership instead of leadership? Could we have a course (or, better yet, a course of study) called “Followership Studies?” Maybe there is one, but I have not seen it (and even the many new books on followership don’t address the misguided systemic hierarchical construction of almost all of our social and cultural institutions).

Thus, if I were to develop a course on followership, the outline might be something like: (1) Follow Down: An Incarnational/Non-Hierarchical Model (self-emptying); (2) Follow Up: Multi-Level Communication (self-sacrificing); and, (3) Follow Through: Finishing Well (self-denying). Though these three topics could engender a lot of sub-topics, my reflections today are on just a few overarching ideas.

Follow-Down
In my book on leadership, I challenged the prevailing definition of leadership as influence. Though, I do not necessarily say that “leadership as influence” was wrong, but how that influence was applied. For most leadership authors, influence is defined as the process of how a leader uses his power, privilege, and resources to get others to do what the leader or the organization thinks is best. My definition flipped the script and said that leadership is incarnational—it is the giving away of the leader’s power, privilege, and resources to enable followers to become leaders themselves. Jesus said, in reference to his followers, “Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.” (Lk 6:40, HCSB).

Follow-Up
So, Follow-Down is the humble (down-to-earth) movement towards recreating a society of equal and dignified human beings through self-emptying. Follow-Up, then, is the process by which people continually divest themselves of their privilege and resources through self-sacrificing for the sake of others. Unfortunately, the top-down, hierarchical, and neo-liberal capitalist system will always reassert itself, because that is how it is designed. Thus, the new flat/non-hierarchical society must be fought for continually; it must be perpetually communicated (followed-up) in different ways, primarily through loving, self-sacrificing actions matched with repeated words (e.g. Repent, the Kin-dom of God is near”). Jesus was the exemplary teacher/healer in this regard.  Like Jesus, we must follow-up with a ceaseless demonstration of the Good News of God’s Kin-Dom for all people.

Follow-Through
Lastly, as we incarnate by following down, and follow-up through a demonstrable program of the Gospel, then we follow-through by being consistent with our program of societal change. Accordingly, we recognize, as fundamental, that the oppressed and the poor will not follow if we do not follow-through. And by following-through, I am talking about knowing that we as “servant-leaders” are called to die to self (self-denying), not once in some mystical way, but through continually dying to self so that others may live. This can only be done through the Spirit of Christ coursing through our very being.

Final Thoughts
I have to admit that I don’t do this well. I am a work-in-progress. This is partly due to my own psychology and familial/cultural influences. Nevertheless, I refuse to beat myself up and see myself as the primary problem when the entire system of hierarchy, competition, and power that we all have been raised and currently live in (neo-liberal capitalism and hierarchical church systems) is opposed to what Jesus called for in his inauguration of the Kin-dom of God.

Thus, my emphasis now on followership focuses more on the societal possibilities of Jesus’s incarnational model. And though it may seem that this idea is not possible, that, overwhelmingly, people are always going to be followers and not desirous of leadership, even if this is true in our current reality, it is not true of human potential. Jesus’s Kin-dom of God, or what I have called the Commonweal of Love, is not unrealistic, it is simply focused on the potential of humanity, not on its current oppressed state.

A life full of meaning will be marked by our struggle for fulfilling our own potential as individual human beings and our struggle for a society where all people can fulfill their potential in intersubjective and interdependent mutuality.

© Paul Dordal, 2018

Intersubjectivity (Reflection)

intersubjectiveI used to enjoy reading William Safire’s weekly On Language articles in the Sunday NY Times Magazine. Safire would look at how various words were being used in the press, in politics, or somewhere in the life of people. He then would look at the word’s etymology, wondering if the word’s meaning was still graspable or was it being changed by the new usage.

When I first started reading philosophy books almost forty years ago, I often had trouble understanding the words the philosophers used. Some philosophers spent their whole lives defining a single word or term. Sadly, at the end of the day, the word’s meaning was often still understood only by that philosopher. For instance, Karl Rahner’s use of the words “grace” or “transcendence” cannot be read with a dictionary understanding of those words, or even other philosopher’s understanding of those words. Rahner’s definition of some words was peculiar to him.

Sometimes I feel an odd sense of guilt or shame at not understanding some words. Two of the words I went a long time having trouble wrapping my head and heart around were subject and subjective. I still can’t say I understand them fully today. Now, you might ask, “What’s the problem? These are easy words to define.” Well, below are just a couple of very different ways to define the words—and there are others.

Subject: A vassal; someone who is under someone’s control.

Subject: A unique person; the mind; the consciousness; compare to an object, or a thing.

Subjective: one who lacks freedom; obsolete.

Subjective: a perception of reality peculiar to an individual; compare to an objective reality that is accepted by all observers.

I believe the words subject and subjective and their corresponding antonyms (object and objective) may be some of the most important words to wrap your mind and soul around. The reason that these words are so important is that if we are to live peacefully and cooperatively on this planet—with this planet, with the universe—then we are going to have to move towards greater intersubjectivity.

Intersubjective: the sharing of subjective realities by two or more individuals; compare to solipsism, where only my own mind exists.

Intersubjectivity respects the uniqueness and dignity of every person and recognizes that objectivity will always be a noble but, nevertheless, elusive goal. Starting from intersubjectivity, we ask the question, “What does this mean for my relationships with God, people, the universe?” Intersubjectivity, understood, rejects the objectification and commodification of life. Intersubjectivity is non-dual but still values seeing the differences. Intersubjectivity honors direct democracy but also emphasizes collectivism and the need to share without fear.

Anyway, these are some very imprecise, rambling ideas today. They are subjective, but I hope they spur some fruitful and hopeful intersubjective reflection.

© Paul Dordal, 2018

Soul Kitchen – A Parable

Soul-KitchenJuly 6, 1971 – Los Angeles, CA

Two teenagers were sitting in a grungy coffee shop called the Soul Kitchen in south LA. One of them was weeping; the other was downcast. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, a man in his thirties, a hippie, walked in and sat in the booth behind the teenagers. They did not recognize the man because of their bleary eyes.

The man overheard the teenagers conversation and asked, “What are you discussing together?”

They were shocked at the question. One of the teenagers asked, “Did you not see the news or read the papers? Are you from another planet, dude? Didn’t you hear about the thing that happened the other day?”

“What thing,” the man asked?

“About the Prophet. He died in Paris on Friday. The world couldn’t handle him. He was killed by the evil of this world. We thought he was the One. And the crazy thing is now they can’t find his body. Some people say he is not dead, but we saw the pictures. We heard the witnesses. But now some are saying he is alive. They even went to the morgue and the Prophet wasn’t there.”

“Man, you guys are dense,” the hippie man said. “Don’t you know that the Prophet wasn’t made for this ‘world’—that the Prophet is immortal and all the prophecies from all the Books have attested to this Truth. The Prophet cannot die.”

The young teenagers asked the man to sit with them at their table.

When the man sat with them, he ordered some French fries and a beer. After the fries arrived he gave thanks for his food and broke some of the larger fries and shared them with the teenagers.

After eating with the teenagers, suddenly their souls were opened and they realized that they were in the presence of the Prophet. They remembered the words from one of the ancient Psalms, “Well, I woke up this morning and got myself a beer” (RB 4:1).

Just then the man got up to leave and the teenagers asked, “Hey what’s your name?”

“John.”

“John, what? What’s your last name?”

“Doe, John Doe.”

The teenagers were amazed. And the man disappeared from their sight.

Immediately, the teenagers got up and ran to find their friends. “It is true! The Prophet has risen, He is alive.” Then the two told what had happened at the coffee shop, and how the Prophet was recognized by them when he broke the French fry and drank the beer.”

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© Paul Dordal, 2018

Faith is the Victory (Reflection)

Cornelia PetreaI don’t “believe” in god! To believe in god is to construct a thing, an object. It is to conceptualize an idea and give it a fixed, rigid shape. To believe in god is imaginary; it is childish magical thinking. The god that most people believe in is the god they created or had created for them by another, therefore not the God that created them. Our creeds and religions force feed us a patriarchal notion of god, which unfortunately cannot deepen a connection to God, but only further abstracts the object/idol of our own making.

So, how can I claim to be a Christian and not believe in god. Surely, I must have some belief. No, I do not nor do I want to “believe” in god in that way.

I am, however, distinguishing faith from belief. Faith is the victory, as the old gospel hymn goes. Faith is the actual experience of God. Faith is the know-ing of God (John 17:3), not the thought or idea of god. Faith is the concretizing of the abstract, the process of real-izing the Spirit of God that is within and without. “The Spirit joins with our spirits to assure us of our participation with God” (Romans 8:16).

So, faith does come by “hearing” the Word, even the Christ (John 6:68). It is not a word or words, but the Word or Logos. Faith comes by “hearing” the unconstructed Spirit of God—the real God which is beyond the grasp of language and thought.

Faith is the participation of Christ and our openness to Christ’s active participation in our lives.

Faith is the penetrating energy of Love.

Faith inspires compassionate action on behalf of God’s creation.

It is the God of faith that ought to be obeyed and followed: The God of the Kin-dom.

 

© Paul Dordal, 2018

Revolutionary Hope (Reflection)

Rev HopeAnyone who is in the world of the living has some hope; a live dog is better off than a dead lion. (Ecclesiastes 9:4)

Hope is in high demand in these dark days. War, poverty, discrimination of myriad types, and environmental destruction seem like they will never come to an end. Many young people can’t see a future where they will have reliable work, good healthcare, and meaningful relationships. I meet many folks who are in dire need of hope.

One of the problems that some have in finding hope is in the confusing tension of the inner/outer dimensions of hope. Inner hope comes from a meaningful personal existence and outer hope comes from being able to see humanity progress towards a peaceful and just society. Inner hope can be fostered primarily through gratitude: being thankful for your life and any blessings you can name. In the hospital setting, many of the patients I encounter express this inner hope as simply “being seen”—that is, simply being alive.  I say to them, “It’s good to see you.” And their reply is “It is good to be seen.”

Nevertheless, as many look out at the world, a darkness overshadows their hope because the future of our species and the planet looks so bleak.

So, how do I maintain hope in the midst of all that militates against it? Recently, I said to a friend, “The evolution of humanity is very slow—almost imperceptible. Sometimes it might even seem like we are going backward. Yet, throughout history revolutions of hope have always come, especially in the worst of times. These revolutions propel our species forward, despite the slow and deliberate evolutionary process.  My hope is in the coming revolution!”

A prophet once wrote, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). I have faith that we are going to overcome the darkness through an imminent spiritual and social revolution.

Are you at least grateful for your very existence—that you are seen—and can you see a glimpse of the next revolution? If so, then you can have hope too.

© Paul Dordal, 2018