Discerning God’s Will

A friend asked me “How might we discern God’s Will for us?” I thought I would share my response:
 
Discerning God’s Will: God’s greatest gift to humanity is Free Will. “Free Will” is the source of the Scriptural phrase that we are “made in God’s Image.” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the prolific writer and former Chief Rabbi of London, England, invites us to ponder this concept: Instead of imaging God standing on the horizon, beckoning us to make one particular choice over and against another, imagine God standing behind us ready to support and strengthen us with GRACE whatever choices we make. When our choices enhance the greatest capacity for us to LOVE GOD, LOVE SELF, LOVE NEIGHBOR., grace abounds. And, should we choose another route, GOD has “got our back,” so to speak–ever-ready to catch us falling backwards and give us the strength we need to choose differently.
 
It’s a fact of life that by making choices that fulfill the “Great Commandment” we risk receiving the judgments and condemnations of others. However, most people will “come around,” when they experience the joy and love emanating from us toward them and others.
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Stop Anti-Semitism & Scapegoating NOW!

Are you as saddened and outraged about what has happened at Oberlin College in Ohio  as I am?
An adjunct professor spews anti-Semitic, racial hatred in class and on Facebook. The College President allows it because of “freedom of speech” but  in his speech addressing the issue, he does not specify all that is illogical in the anti-Semite professor’s diatribes. Here’s my response and warning to myself and to all of us tempted to scapegoat, blame or ostracize any group AND our responsibility to counter lies and the dark myths of prejudice:
1. We must never speak about any ethnic, national or religious group as responsible for any one thing in particular. Every group is made up of individuals, sub-groups and marginal groups who evidence tremendous diversity .  When anyone speaks of “The Catholics,” “The Protestants,” “the Jews,” The Nigerians,”  “the Americans”  ” the Italians,” we must immediately STOP RIGHT THERE and ask, “Who?”  “Which ones?”  “What segment?” As soon as any one generalizes about any peoples, nation or religion the statement is a LIE!
2.  Even when a sub-group, or smaller group of individuals or individuals themselves are identified as guilty of an immoral incident or event, questions must be addressed and allegations must be verified and substantiated.  Again, “Who?”  “What Contexts?”  “What evidence?”  “What verifications?”  If No ONE can be substantiated as  responsible, then certainly NO ENTIRE GROUP can be responsible. Furthermore, even when ONE individual or Sub-Group is verifiably responsible, it is extremely unlikely that the entire sub-group is responsible and certainly not the entire, larger group.  THIS I S LOGIC.  This is Justice.  This is TRUTH.
3.  Freedom of Speech does allow for anyone to say anything including spewing of  lies, illogic, hatred, prejudice, etc. but a free society has an OBLIGATION to counter that speech with TRUTH.  Furthermore, we have a moral imperative to substantiate the truth with proofs and verifiable historic and scientific evidence.  Therefore, I repeat: Allowing one person’s freedom of speech to include lies, hate, scapegoating requires others to RESPONSIBILITY and to TRUTH.   In the case cited, the President must conduct a public forum revealing the lies of the given professor’s statements. To allow proliferation of a lie is to renege on responsibility and common human decency and allow the lies to prosper, mislead and corrupt people’s thinking.
4.  Even Free Speech has its limits. The public square no longer tolerates racial slurs in the public forums.  Certain expletives are band in the media.  So, too, must negative generalizations  about any group.  Any allegation must in justice identify individuals and sub-groups so we promote truth and balance in the media.  In truth, even positive statements and praise need to have specific clarifications.  For example, even in this hostile political climate in the USA, we must not speak of “The Italian American Vote,”  “the Black or African American vote,”  “The Evangelical Vote,” “The Jewish American Vote,”  those very statements are dishonest. We may speak of “a large portion of African Americans in Alabama in the Republican party are voting this way,”  or  “More Italian Americans in New Jersey are tending to vote in the Democratic primary this year.”  WE must stop generalizations in all spheres or we are planting the seeds of ethnic scapegoating and ethnic hatreds.  Anti-Semitism is often the symptom of a terrible illogic that festers in human minds and in human societies.  All peoples who seek truth and justice must counter this illogic on all levels including temptations that exist in our own hearts.
If you don’t know about this incident, you can read about it here:
PLEASE COMMENT!  Please don’t let Anti-Semitism or any prejudice, any lies, hate or scapegoating go unaddressed.  ALSO:  in the coming weeks I am going to begin to offer commentary in a series of blogs on a most excellent book: Rabbi Jonathan Sack’s book NOT IN GOD’S NAME.  Watch for it!

Clean Coal is no Coal. Time to move on.

In honor of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si  (“Praise be to you, my Lord”)  and the care of “our common home,” I would like to offer this thought : The people’s right to clean air is greater than the coal industry’s right to make money.  Just because something is available doesn’t mean we have to use it.

Furthermore the coal industry continues to be dangerous for all the men and women and their families who work in it and live in the industries’ surrounding communities.  How many have died from lung disease?  And don’t forget the coal mine collapse in Peru in 2012 and in Chile 2010!  These miners died in hazardous conditions in order to support their families and they died for us to have the conveniences we have.  Perhaps it was a necessary suffering for “Progress,”  but now there are so many more alternatives–ones which can and rightfully require conservation on the part of the public for everyone’s benefit.

And if, at the present time, coal is essential to the world economy as some will argue, the economy must adapt.  Industries and governments can help the coal companies transition to other forms of energy, particularly technology.  Workers can learn to work in aspects of new technologies in environments that are cleaner, healthier for them and everyone.   Everything has its time.  Nothing lasts forever except God and the human soul, and perhaps the souls of animals. (Contemporary Christian theologians are exploring this last insight.)  The time to move from coal is now.

HOPE–How Christianity Can Play its Part on the World Stage Part 1

Inspired by watching Religion and Ethics on PBS this morning, I would like to begin a series of reflections on what part Christianity can play on the world stage today.  At its core, Christianity offers HOPE, a hope centered in– but not limited to– the promise of Resurrection and eternal life. In truth, what Christians call “the Easter mystery” must echo in daily life, giving evidence of its reality in all human dimensions.  When taken in the full scope of its Judaic foundation, the Resurrection’s import is not only future-directed but extends to the past, present and future equally.  Only when hope is afforded its complete multi-directional realities can its ultimate gift—the celebration of the “eternal now,” (some prefer the phrase “the perfect present”)—be realized.

Living in “the eternal now” imbues the present with transformative power.  The reality of Resurrection offers Christians the capacity to heal the fears, the hurts, regrets and resentments of the past and move forward in humility and truth.   Indeed, Christian hope grounds itself in humility, insisting that Christians cultivate knowledge of history with a spirit of truth, never denying its individual and collective wrongdoing but neither ignoring nor discounting its positive contributions.  This Hope-infused-truth allows present choices to be informed by the past so that with prayerful care, the past does not perpetuate its harm into the future.  Christianity can achieve its greatest human potential when Christians invite people grounded in other religions, philosophies and cultures to identify either the same or parallel expressions of hope with humility and truth, identifying and building upon a cultivated “Common Ground” in the present moving toward a more humane and compassionate future.

In the coming weeks I will explore exactly how the Christian story, its history and daily experience of Christians today supports this HOPE.  I invite Christian readers to share their insights so that together we may embrace Resurrection Hope most fully.  I also invite people of other faiths and backgrounds to share HOPE perspectives in their beliefs, concepts and/or faith experiences.  Together we just might be able to identify and apply common ground principles, evidencing hope through mutual respect and celebration of the best of our humanity.

Read this book and set yourself FREE!

Having listen to the soundtrack from BEGIN AGAIN quite a bit (even in my dreams) I decided to return to the Original Broadway Cast of ONCE. The haunting song “Falling Slowly” now repeats and echoes in my imagination, especially the line “You have suffered enough, at war with yourself, it’s time that you won.” If that resonates with you, read HEALING YOUR ALONE-NESS: Finding Love and Wholeness through Your Inner Child by Margaret Paul. If you want to appropriate The Gospel in healthy ways–and for my friends in the Jewish and other faith communities: to appropriate God’s love for you in a most healthy way, READ THIS BOOK. I return to it frequently. Here’s a link:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/healing-your-aloneness-erika-chopich/1111737208?ean=9780062501493