Hospital Chaplaincy: “Hi-Touch”

hi-touch(This post was originally published in the National VA Chaplain Center’s Newsletter, Spirit of the Chaplaincy, Vol. 7, No. 2, November, 2016)

I want to honor a person who has touched the lives of thousands of people through the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. In honoring the Rev. Eugene “Gene” Reddel, who was my CPE supervisor from 2012-13, I don’t just want to sing his praises, but also share a critical lesson he taught that helped me transform from a proclamational pastor to an incarnational chaplain.

Gene had a profound impact on my life as a chaplain and as a person, as well as hundreds of other CPE students throughout his over 40-year career in the VA. I am now serving as a Clinical Chaplain and ACPE Supervisory Candidate at VA Pittsburgh, in part, because of Gene. Gene retired in 2015, and now several of us are capturing some of the “sayings” of this wise sage. Many of Gene’s sayings, of course, are not his own. They are the accumulated wisdom of his 50+ years in ministry.

As a learner, I have a tendency to adapt what I learn to my own understanding. One of Gene’s sayings was, “Hospital chaplaincy is hi-touch whereas medicine is hi-tech.” I understood immediately the contrast that Gene was pointing out. What Gene was trying to convey to us is that hi-touch does not necessarily mean physical touch, but a more sublime spiritual touch.

But I had a problem.

I was a talker. I originally understood my pastoral ministry as hi-talk, and not just the pastoral care recipient’s talk, but my own as well. I was very apt to tell a story, or, really, to sermonize my patients. One of my consulting supervisors assessed me as wanting to be a W.O.R.M.—a Wise Old Religious Man. However, I began to realize that my hi-talk ministry was not helping me connect spiritually with the Veterans. Chaplains use of words are still necessary and important, for prayer and spiritual assessments, but it was a real spiritual presence (hi-touch), not necessarily words, that I needed to be proficient in a clinical setting. So, I began to practice silence in my visits with Veterans.

To become a hi-touch chaplain, I had to grow my own sense of spiritual touch. I had to learn that silence does “speak” a clear word; and for me to hear I had to be totally present to the other. To do so meant that I had to be deeply “in touch” with myself if I was going to spiritually “touch” the lives of others.

Spiritual touch is what happens when little is said but much is experienced. People in deep friendships often say that with their close friends there is little need to talk. We just enjoy being in each other’s presence. This is how God touches us as well. God enjoys being in our presence. We can sit at the feet of God and touch Divine Mystery. Similarly, we can sit at each other’s feet and experience the God in each of us. Being hi-touch chaplains means developing the spiritual skill of touching soul-to-soul and heart-to-heart, of really hearing the inner-life or the spirit of those we care for.

Today, in my orientations to CPE students I’ll share, “The spirit of chaplaincy isn’t hi-tech or hi-talk, but hi-touch.” Some students smile when they hear it, or respond by saying ooh or ah. Though I am aware that using this saying might be playing into my wanting to be a W.O.R.M., it will always remind me of my supervisor, Gene Reddel, who helped me become an incarnational listener— a hi-touch chaplain.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

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Change Your World

change-your-worldOur individual responsibility is not to change the world, but to change our own world, to open ourselves to God to transform our inner selves into Christ. Then we will act more authentically in the world.Then we can become transformative agents in the world.  Then we can participate in God’s ongoing evolutionary work in bringing heaven to earth.

(c) Paul Dordal, 2016

A Theology of the Stoop (Reflection)

martha-and-kids-on-a-stoop-on-ward-ave-in-s-bronxWhen I was five years old, I remember my twin brother, Pete, and I hanging out on our stoop at 1132 Ward Avenue in the Soundview section of the Bronx. It was one of those hot, humid New York City summer days.  One of the neighborhood boys visited our stoop and showed us that he had a firecracker left over from the Fourth of July.  We told him to set it off on the sidewalk, but he decided to stick the firecracker in some freshly laid dog shit near a tree in front of our stoop.

Our young friend lit the firecracker and we all ran away as fast as we could.  But it didn’t go off. So we all went towards the pile to investigate.  When we had put our faces close the firecracker, it suddenly went off and dog shit was all over our faces.  Pete and I ran up to our third story apartment, screaming for our mother, who when she saw us started yelling and cursing at us in Spanish.  We were already pretty embarrassed, but now we were really scared, because we were sure to get the belt for this. But then something different happened.  My mother started to laugh hysterically, and so did we!

I have so many precious memories of sitting and playing on the stoop – especially during the hot summers, because no one had air conditioning.

You know, air conditioning isn’t really all that it’s cracked up to be. I think they should rename air conditioners Relationship Minimizing Cooling Mechanisms.  Far too many people today who live in air conditioned homes, including myself, live out their mode of hot weather existence by going from the perceived comfort of their faux cooled homes into their Freon chilled automobiles in order to get to some other climate controlled indoor man-made place of economic mass consumption.

Yet, for the multitudes of New Yorkers in the not so distant past, air conditioning was a luxury which only the very wealthy could afford.  The rest of us sat on stoops.  And not just when it was hot.  We sat there as long as it wasn’t absolutely freezing.  The stoop was the inner city playground of both adults and children in my place in the Bronx.  It was from there you picked your teams for stick ball on car lined streets or to dry off after splashing in the spewing water of an open fire hydrant. It was where you would take your seat in the community.  The stoop is where you get to sit down and enjoy Sabbath rest.  The stoop was where real life and relationships happened.

Mario Maffi said, “In the ghetto neighborhoods [of New York City] especially, stoops served many different functions…. These elevated platforms were ideal for observation, courting, a chat, or gossip….” (2004:8). Stoops were the center of life, of relational life, of what Jesus called zoe, or spiritual life.  The stoops were the relational circuits where we visited each other in our neighborhoods.

Two years ago I took my family from Pittsburgh, where we live now, back to the South Bronx.  I wanted to take a picture of us all sitting on my old stoop.  I told my children many stories of my childhood, including how when I went trick or treating I had to catch candy in my bag that was thrown from apartment windows five, sometimes ten, stories up.  I told them the old Puerto Rican wives’ tale that when it rained and it was sunny out, witches were having a barbeque.  Don’t ask.  I have no idea.  I told them how excited I was about the ghost the whole community came out to fight one summer’s evening; how I cried when a little baby died in a fire in the corner apartment building; how happy I was to find a quarter in front of the stoop, and I how I used it to buy a Matchbox™ car at the corner Bodega. I remember the fun Pete and I had racing up and down the block as my Dad timed us from the stoop.  I recalled with great fondness the loudness of it all, of having to scream for my mother to give me permission to cross the street.  She would then yell from the window, overlooking the stoop, when it was safe.

And then I told my family about the myriad uncles, aunts, and cousins on the block, each with their own stoops, stoops to visit, stoops to be with others.  I remember Uncle Dario who couldn’t hear too well, Uncle George with his huge Afro, Titi Nilda, Titi Lucy, Titi Martha, and Blanca and Carmen. They either lived on the block or they were somehow always there, and, of course, every other adult on the block was my “uncle” or “aunt.” Who really was your uncle or aunt or cousin back then was a complete mystery. Anyone allowed to spank you was somehow related to you; and there was a lot of spanking going on. I wasn’t told until I was in my twenties that my Titi Livia and my Uncle Dario were unrelated to me.  But we were related — much in the same way I am related to Jesus.

Because the stoop is where Jesus is.  Always, Jesus is waiting there to be with us, to visit with us, to commune with us, to abide in us, to be with us.  “Then God came out from heaven, became a human being in Jesus, and Jesus moved into El Barrio to hang out on the stoop with us” (see Jn 1:14). The stoop is a sacred space; it is holy ground; it is an altar in the ‘hood.  It is where heaven and earth intersect, where “Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss” (Ps 85:11, NABRE).

The dictionary definition of stoop is primarily a verb. It means to “come down from a height; to abase; to humble; to submit.” To be on the stoop is to stoop.  God comes to my stoop as the One who is grounded in my reality, as the One who wants to display the truest way of life in humility.  God submits God-self to me, God’s creature, in order that I might be One with God and all creation.  To be on the stoop is to be real, to manifest my truest self to God and my fellow creature.  When I visit others on the stoop, I am called to remove my masks, to reveal my vulnerable, interdependent, and authentic self to the other.

On the stoop Jesus, the real God, comes to visit with His real people. In the Canticle of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist praises God for the soon coming of Jesus the Messiah saying, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people. Because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Lk 1:68, 78-79, NABRE). What great news!  Emmanuel!  God with us on the stoop!

Yet after visiting my old stoop, waves of sadness came over me.  I realized that I, like so many others, can’t seem to really find my way back to the stoop.  I cannot find my way back to deep community. I have chosen separation and loneliness apart from God and neighbor.  It’s not that I want to be lonely; I desperately want deep communion with God and others.  But I have bought into the lie of the consumer society, and that the pain of my loneliness and separation is more bearable than the effort it would take to be restored to blessed community. Thus, I really haven’t felt it necessary or even prudent to go back to try and restore myself to the stoop of Christ.

Why? I am hurting; I am afraid!  I have an idolatrous desire to be air conditioned, away from God and others, superficially dabbling in religiosity, playing roles instead of living out of my brokenness.

So I no longer need to visit the stoop of my nostalgic past, but I have discovered I need to be restored to the stoop of my eternal now.

Today, I define my being lost as not knowing where my true stoop is – to be out of deep, growing relationships with God and others.  To be lost and alone is what it might mean to sit in darkness and death’s shadow.  The Israelites said, when you were lost and alone, you were outside the camp. Bronxites would say you were missing from the stoop.  Jesus might lament saying, “you did not recognize the time of your visitation” (Lk 19:44b, NABRE).

My heart’s desire is that I would be restored and gathered to my stoop, enjoying shalom and Shabbat with God, my family, my neighbor, being found and in community where there is neither black nor white, male nor female, religious nor atheist, but all are one with and in Christ, visiting, sitting, and abiding on the stoop together with Christ on earth as it is heaven.

(c) Paul Dordal, 2016

People do not change. …except….

grace-changes-everything

People do not change. They almost never can.
Though some people have their eyes opened.
Then others say, “Oh, how you have changed!”
Yet nothing has really changed, except a blind person can see.

People do not change. They almost never can.
Though some people who were lost, get found.
Then others say, “Oh, how you have changed!”
Yet nothing has really changed, except a lost person is found.

People do not change. They almost never can.
Though some people are raised from the dead.
Then others say, “Oh, how you have changed!”
Yet nothing has really changed, except a dead person is alive again.

Amazing grace!

© Paul Dordal, 2016

The Apology That Leads to True Freedom (Reflection)

freedom-allSaint Justin, in his First Apology, warned of the demonic forces which attempt to enslave the world. The follower of Jesus, however, Justin Martyr says, is empowered to be free from the demons of sexism, capitalism, racism, nationalism, and imperialism (First Apology, 14). Justin’s list of systems of oppression put a social justice frame around the apostolic, but often obscure, teachings of Saint Paul who said, “We fight these demons, these powers and principalities, not with the military weapons of the world, but with the nonviolent, but powerful and living Word of God” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

The liberating teachings of Christ and his prophets and their repudiation of the demonic systems of domination and oppression today need to be preached again, primarily to the Church and then to the world. Unfortunately, the tremendous good which the Church does is often overshadowed by its succumbing to evil and being complicit with the injustices of abuse of power, seeking prestige, and the acquiring of vast amounts of wealth and property. These injustices require a constant critique of the Church. Thankfully, the Church is Holy and cannot be fully overtaken by Satan and the demons (Matthew 16:18). Nevertheless, it can surely benefit from a critique from within and hopefully grow in holiness.

There are three, but not just three, primary ways in which the Church has regularly become complicit with the demons and principalities.  It has often desired power, prestige, and property. Through its hierarchy, its pomp, and its acquired wealth, the Church has been infiltrated and  controlled by demonic powers. The first step in exorcising the Church of these worldly influences is to recognize this possession and to name the demons (Mark 5:9).  Thus, naming the world in love, as Paulo Freire espoused, we are able to expose the oppressor and to transform ourselves and them as well.

Upon naming these demons of abuse of power, of prestige, and of property, the Church is now able to be dispossessed of these possessions.  Go and sell all, Jesus says to the Church, and give to the poor, and then come follow me (Luke 12:33; 18:22). The Church by supporting and participating in hierarchical and patriarchal systems, by seeking societal standing and reputation, and by the purchasing and ownership of lavish properties has been knowingly and unknowingly used throughout history by Satan to contribute to the oppression of God’s good earth and her very good people.

What now shall the Church do? Apologize? St. Paul says there is a false sorrow that leads to spiritual death, but only a godly sorrow marked by repentance which leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).

No, it is time for the Church to repent, to change, to be set free by dispossessing itself of its institutional power, prestige, and property.  And then to present to the world, as Saint Lawrence did, the only true treasure of the Church: its agape people.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

A New Flat Earth Society? (Reflection)

flat earthFor millennia top-down hierarchy has been thought to be the natural or innate way in which humans organize society. Animal societies seem to indicate that social hierarchies are part of the innate structure of the animal world. To this day most human societies are organized around hierarchies (i.e., Government, Businesses, Religions, etc.).  Yet, is the spiritual and intellectual evolution of the human animal beginning to call into question the innateness of hierarchical social organization? Why is that more and more people are calling for a flatter way to organize human society, a more equal way to facilitate community life? I am meeting many people who have had “aha” moments because they have come to realize how unjust hierarchies inherently can be.

Hierarchies, by their design, simply can’t work to build an equal and peaceful society. Hierarchies, no matter how well intentioned, quickly devolve into relationships of division, mistrust, and injustice. Hierarchies, to be just, will work only when those at to the top, who have most of the power and resources, voluntarily distribute an equalizing amount of power and resources down to those who have less.  But this rarely happens, as can easily be seen from the great disparity of wealth and power throughout history and especially in our current times. Furthermore, inherent to hierarchy is the stratification of relationships, so that those who are on the bottom are often oppressed by those above; those on the bottom often feel left out, left behind, and left alone.

Yet, Jesus says to us today, as he did two thousand years ago, “It mustn’t be this way among you. Those who want to be at the top or who wish to organize life around hierarchies must forsake these ideas and become servants to all” (Mt 20:26).  Jesus is saying that the cycle of oppression and injustice will not end by bringing those on the lower tiers of the hierarchies up a few rungs or even by empowering the strongest of those on the bottom to reach the top.  The cycle only can end when those with power forsake their power and deconstruct the hierarchies so that equality and freedom can be achieved for all (Lk 12:33). Jesus’ prophetic call is the repudiation of oppressive hierarchical power (Mt 23:9-11).

There are some who believe that those on the top of hierarchies cannot be negotiated with, that only violence can be used to bring down corrupt hierarchical powers. Admittedly, many people with exorbitant amounts of money, power, and resources do not seem very eager to voluntarily divest themselves that the poor and the oppressed will be lifted up. But history shows us that when a violent revolution overthrows an unjust hierarchy, they are quickly replaced with a new unjust hierarchy. So, what can those who believe in a Gospel of nonviolence do?  Thankfully, history also shows that nonviolent resistance and action can be used to topple unjust structures of hierarchy, often to more long lasting and positive effect.  Though we could cite myriad examples from local nonviolent resistors, the more well-known examples of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Aung San Suu Kyi are proof that nonviolence is not only the right method but nonviolence also works.

A couple of months ago, while in morning prayer, I read in One Bread, One Body, a Roman Catholic devotional, that Jesus was a militant (June 13, 2016).  I was surprised to read this coming from such a conventional Catholic publication.  But it was Jesus’ militant nonviolent stance which the writer was alluding to. Jesus was militantly nonviolent; he called the world to peaceful conversion, not destruction.  And we are called to follow Jesus, to love our enemies by being militantly nonviolent, to call all to conversion to become peacemakers— to wage peace, not war.

As peacemakers, we vigorously wage peace, where others wage violence; we grow love, where others sow hatred; we seek to build bridges, where others build walls; and, like Jesus we are called to confront the hierarchical powers and sacrifice all so that others may truly live.

To bring down the hierarchies of this world, to bring about a new flat earth society, means using nonviolent means to ensure that all are free and equal.  This is the Gospel of nonviolence—the proclamation of a new way of living— the process of bringing the Commonweal of Love to earth as it is in heaven.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

Christendumb (Reflection)

The DeserterAfter just a few hundred years, as the Church grew rapidly despite intense persecution and without any political power, Christianity suffered its greatest blow to its credibility and viability as a movement of God’s authentic people.  In 313 the Church went to bed with Emperor Constantine and became part of the Kingdom powers of this world. The late Phyllis Tickle, encouraged by a new movement of authentic Christian faith in the 21st century, remembered this situation all too well.  “[T]here is no question that Constantine’s preempting of Christianity in the fourth century was the great pivot point by means of which Christianity became a dominant institution” (2008: 161). This pivot point is commonly known as the beginning of Christendom (Christian + Kingdom), which I believe should be known as the era of Christendumb.

Why is it dumb for Christianity to be a kingdom? Didn’t Jesus announce and proclaim the Kingdom of God come to earth (Mt 3:2, 6:10)? No, not in the way we commonly understand kingdoms. Jesus was using the vernacular of his day to make his point, but he was not promoting developing a Christian kingdom, like the kingdoms of his, or even our, day.  Jesus when asked if he was a king replied, “My kingdom is not from this world” (Jn 18:36a, NET). What Jesus was actually proclaiming was what I am now calling the Commonweal of Love.

To put it simply, Jesus’s kingdom is not a kingdom at all, because it is not about power.  Kingdom’s, nations, empires, like the United States, are power-based domination systems.  The era of Christendumb was all about power, and even when the Reformation came, other denominations, Lutheran, Anglican, etc. went to bed with or were the state powers of their time.  They were, and still are, (de)domination systems meant to control others.

One of the scariest things about Donald Trump (his rhetoric is fascist, plain and simple) is that he claims that he will give Christianity power again if elected.  Religious leaders like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr. have sidled up to Trump in the hope that they too will have power. The response of all Christians to Trump and all denominational authorities should be resoundingly, “We don’t want your power, nor do we need it.”

To put it more clearly, if Christians were to have power then they could fight and kill just like the immoral nations of this world, especially the United States.  But Jesus said, “If my kingdom belonged to this world, my servants would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders.  But as it is, my kingdom is not from here” (Jn 18:36b, NET).  Jesus does not call us to have power, lest we fall into the temptation of the world towards domination and oppression.  St. Paul also proclaimed the strangeness of our commonweal of love and the pacifist attitude of Christians who live an alternative (anarchist) lifestyle: “For though we live as human beings, we do not wage war according to human standards, for the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God …” (2 Co 10:3-5a, NET). Our weapons are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Ga 5:22-23a, NET).

Christian should have no interest in the powers – the States, Empires, Nations, and Denominations of this world.  They are abstract objects, no-things; they are like deceptive idols (see Habakkuk 2:18 and 1 Corinthians 12:2).  Christians are inaugurating the new commonweal of love because “our citizenship is in heaven…” (Ph 3:20a, NET).

Mohammed Bamyeh said, “… the fundamental starting point in a consistent anarchist conception [is a] … duty toward humanity” (2009: 30).  “Fundamental to anarchist thought therefore is apprehending human reality in a non-abstract manner.  This perhaps is why anarchy has historically been oriented to local community, where human bonds are both experienced in everyday life and negotiated there as well.  Anarchists therefore do not belong to nations” (2009: 37).

That our citizenship is in heaven, i.e. the “kingdom” of God as Jesus preached it, is the real lived out, commonweal of love. The commonweal of love is experienced in the local “places” of relationships wrought in the Kairos time of the immediate reality of our lives.  Christians, like anarchists, do not belong to nations; we belong to Christ and the world, where we live and breathe as a no-nation under God.

References
Bamyeh, A. Mohammed (2009). Anarchy as Order.  The History and Future of Civic Humanity. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishing.

Tickle, Phyllis (2008). The Great Emergence.  How Christianity is Changing and Why. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

Intervening in Uncle Sam’s Addiction to War (Essay)

Introduction
Over twenty years ago I took my last drink.  I didn’t do it on my own; I couldn’t do it on my own.  There had to be an intervention. I didn’t even want to acknowledge that I was an addict. Although it has been a blessing to be sober for all these years, it is still hard work.  Every day I have to humble myself and admit that I am an addict to ward off the possibility of taking another drink or drug.  I have to be accountable to several people in my family and my recovery group. Additionally, I regularly engage in specific behaviors (steps) to help me stay free from my addiction.

As a recovering addict I am keenly aware when I see an active addict. I know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of addictions. And as I look at the United States, I have come to the extremely sad conclusion that this country, that my Uncle Sam, is severely addicted to war. Just as I had to first admit my addiction to become free, so too, we as a country have to admit our addiction to war.  And just as I had to cease from my own addictive behaviors, take a personal moral inventory, and make amends to all I had wronged, so too, we as a nation have to take these steps as well.

222 out of 239So, what were the symptoms I recognized with the U.S.’s addiction to war?  First, I saw that the country could not go long without falling back into its addiction.  Of course, the U.S.’s latest war has been going on now for over 15 years, but the real sign of the acute nature of America’s war addiction is that the U.S. has been at war for 222 out of its 239 years of existence.  Amazingly, the U.S. has been at war for 93% of its life.[i]

Another symptom of the U.S.’s addiction to war is the amount of money it spends on its Tax Papers Per Houraddiction.  Every hour of every day, taxpayers are spending $8,360,000 to feed their country’s war habit.  And over the last 15 years, American taxpayers have spent more than $1,700,000,000,000 on Uncle Sam’s addiction to war.[ii]

Imagine having an alcohol or drug habit where more than fifty cents of every dollar you earned was spent on your drug of choice.  Surely, you would be considered an addict in desperate need of an intervention and recovery plan.  Of course, because of the exorbitant amount of money an addict spends on his or her habit, they are often severely malnourished, under-educated, extremely sick and often without adequate healthcare. Addicts are always in danger of losing their homes and their behavior negatively impacts the environment around them. Isn’t this also what is happening because of the U.S.’s 2015 Discretionary Spendingaddiction to war?  The percentage of tax dollars spent on war in 2015 was 54% of the total budget or $598.5 billion dollars.[iii] And because American’s allow their government to spend so much of their hard earned money on war, there is precious little left for the basic needs of food, housing, education, and healthcare for the most at risk citizens.

Our addiction to war has gotten so severe since we “won” World War II, like so many alcoholics and addicts, the U.S. has left ripples of death and destruction in its wake.   Since
1945 more than 160,000 Americans have died in over seventy-five U.S. wars and military interventions in over fifty foreign nations. Maybe more tragic, more than 20 million people from other countries have died in U.S. wars and military interventions.[iv] We need to make amends to all those we have wronged, to the vets who fought iDeaths Since WWIIn these wars and the millions of innocent civilians who were immorally killed by our country. We need to admit that we were wrong, and humbly ask that our defects of national character be removed so that we can become peacemakers not warmongers.

The United States has active duty military troops stationed in nearly 150 countries around the world, which is the most in the history of our nation.[v]  Our addiction to war is so
acute it could be easily thought that we were not only homicidal but suicidal as well.  Furthermore, we are no longer only addicts, but the U.S. is also the leading pusher of the drugs (weapons) of war. Last year we sold almost $30,000,000,000 in weapons to over 75 countries around the world.[vi] How much longer can we sustain this habit before we crash and burn and take everyone around us down with us?

Steps to Recovery from War Addiction
Isn’t it time for an intervention with our addicted Uncle Sam, and also call to responsibility all of his relatives, the citizens of the United States, who are enabling Sam’s addictive behaviors? Before this country overdoses on war and destroys our planet, each of us has to surrender and become part of the U.S. recovery process from war and violence.  So, what is the first step?

First, we will admit we are addicted to war or at least we were connected to someone (the U.S.) who is addicted to war.  Now, some of you reading this are in denial; you don’t want to admit there is a problem.  I know you are afraid; so was I. Taking my first step in actual sobriety was hard, and so was my first step in becoming a peacemaker (especially as a war veteran).

Second, we will acknowledge that we as a nation are responsible for so much of the conflict and injustice in the world, and we will humbly seek repentance and forgiveness. This includes seriously making amends and reparations to all we have harmed.

Third, we will reach out to other peacemakers, because we know we cannot become peacemakers without the help of others.  We can begin our own recovery process from our Steps Picaddiction to war by joining a local peace group. If you need help finding one, I would be more than happy to help you. However, if you simply GOOGLE “Peace Groups in my Zip Code,” I am sure you will be able to find a group meeting near you.

Fourth, we can contact our local congressperson and tell him or her that we will not be supporting war anymore, and that we will be watching them to see if they are going to be part of the problem or part of the solution.

Fifth, we can tell our family and friends that we are now working a peace recovery plan, and we will not be joining in their codependent behavior of supporting war. We will use social media to carry the message of peace to all the war addicts and violence lovers we know and care about.  Hopefully, others will join us in our new freedom from addiction to war.

Conclusion
Finally, we will need to celebrate.  It is hard work to be in recovery.  We need to encourage one another to stay the course, to take the work of peacemaking one day at a time and find joy in the process.  We will need courage to do the things we can to bring peace to our world and wisdom to work smart and not grow weary in doing the good that we are called to do. For me that means reaching up to my higher power and saying, “Thy will be done, thy peace come upon earth as it is in heaven.”

(c) Paul Dordal, July 11, 2016

SOURCES

[i] http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/02/america-war-93-time-222-239-years-since-1776.html)

[ii] https://www.nationalpriorities.org/cost-of/war/

[iii] https://static.nationalpriorities.org/images/charts/2015-charts/discretionary-desk.png

[iv]http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-has-killed-more-than-20-million-people-in-37-victim-nations-since-world-war-ii/5492051. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/many-americans-died-u-s-wars/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_United_States_military_operations

[v] http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2012/04/us/table.military.troops/

[vi] http://www.businessinsider.com/arms-sales-by-the-us-and-russia-2014-8

Jesus Saves? (Reflection)

jesus-savesYears ago there was a woman who called into a Christian music radio station and excitedly told the D.J. that her daughter was listening to the station and “got saved.” The station played the recording of that call-in over and over again. Every time I heard it I asked myself, What did she get saved from? How did she get saved by listening to music? Now that she is saved, does she know why Jesus saved her? With deeper reflection, we must all ask what does it even mean to be saved?

Why did Jesus save you and me? In my experience with the Church’s doctrinal teaching, theologians seem to focus too much on the how of being saved; who’s in out, who’s out; and how it happens. But since we cannot know for sure how one is saved, thus who is and who is not saved, what is really gained from focusing so much on the how? The why question seems eminently answerable; the how question will always be an enigma.

I believe Jesus saved me so I could be in a deep, abiding relationship with God. This relation with our Creator through Christ is the only lasting satiation of the existential angst that we all experience because of our finite separation from an infinite God. By Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection we are all given intimate access to God as we open ourselves up to transcendent mystery.

Additionally, Jesus shows us, through his incarnational relationship to and with humanity, what it is to be in abiding, loving intersubjectivity with all creation. This includes primarily human relationships of love and compassion, but also the ecological connections we have as individuals with the whole world.

So, simply, we are saved to be one with God and with each other through Christ in an ongoing process of sanctification. Nevertheless, this pietistic understanding of faith is only half the story. Though we are ultimately saved on earth for eternal life with Christ in beatific union in heaven, we are also, and maybe more importantly, since we all live in the here and now, saved by Jesus so that we can abide with him as he brings heaven to earth through our Christian witness.

Thus, we are not saved just so we can go to heaven when we die; we are saved by Jesus so that heaven can come to and through us on earth as we live in Christ.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

Trinitarian “Intensionality” (Reflection)

TrinitySundayYesterday was Trinity Sunday on the liturgical calendar. I enjoy preaching on this Sunday because the Trinity is one of the most misunderstood core doctrines of the Church. Unfortunately, some also believe the Trinity to be an irrelevant doctrine. When I personally reflect on the doctrine of the Trinity I am blessed with mysterious insights and comforting assurances of the reality of God. But I also understand that doctrinal preaching is not the most well-received sermon style. So, I endeavor to make preaching doctrine not merely informational but transformational as well.

I attended a conference on Friday that was addressing race relations in the Church. I had a sense while listening to the conference speakers that the issue of divisions between the races is an area where the doctrine of the Trinity could have direct relevance for Christians. So in my sermon yesterday I used race relationships to help the attenders at chapel to understand the Trinity. I won’t rehearse my sermon here, but I do want to share briefly with you some reflections on how I came to my own understanding of how the Trinity intersects with race relations.

One of the eminent speakers at the conference I attended repeatedly used the term “being intentional” in her remarks about how to address racial divides in the Church. As I heard her speak, I believe the Holy Spirit gave me the word “in-tensional” to reflect on.

As I reflected on the word “in-tensional” I was reminded of an article I read a while back on Ego Development by Dr. Susanne Cook-Grueter, an expert in the area of personal development. She believes that individuals who are psychologically mature have developed an ability to discern and live comfortably in the tension between polar opposites (polarities). She notes that mature individuals are able to discern between seemingly value-laden (good/bad; wrong/right) and value-neutral (tall/short; boy/girl) polarities. Cook-Grueter said, “Since ego development theory is about meaning making, how we deal and work with polarities becomes a significant dimension to focus on in the context of enhancing our self-awareness and facilitating development.”

So what does this have to do with the Trinity? Well, first of all our language is not capable of understanding how three can be one or one can be three. Thus, believing in the Trinity has the potential of becoming polarizing. You see, the Trinity is a mathematical conundrum, but a paradoxical truth nevertheless. If we think of paradoxes as polarities (we value them as right/wrong), then there is no way we can live in the tension of those two poles (One God cannot be Three Persons/One God can be Three Persons). Hence for me the Trinity as a Mystery is not a tension to be solved, but a grace to be lived in. This is what I believe was the basis of my neologism of “intensionality.”

St. Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female–for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Ga 3:28, NET). Here the apostle is addressing the issue of tensions and polarities. This is not to say that a person’s Jewishness/Greekness or Blackness/Whiteness is obliterated because of his or her being in Christ. St. Paul is saying that the tension of the polarities is absorbed in the Trinitarian understanding of Christ, who exists in perfect tension with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The two can become one (or three as in the Trinity)! For all those interested in identity politics this may be a way to move towards integration out of the endless polarizations of divisive identity constructs: race, gender, ethnicities, diseases, etc.

Race relations are tense; they are in tension. The way forward is to sit in the tension of our differences—to be intentional and “intensional.” The way forward is to look to the doctrine of Trinity as our example of mystical and practical integration.

© Paul Dordal, 2016