Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Gift Of Israel, The Gift of Palestine

Islam, Judaism, and Christianity-- all three great Abrahamic faiths--nurture gratitude for God's gifts. It is amazing how much God loves each of us! What gifts God has given us!

Jewish Israelis claim that God gave them a beautiful gift by giving them the land that is called Israel. Palestinians claim that God gave the same land to them and they call the land Palestine. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians are right. The land is a gift from God. Neither side earned it. It is a gift and gifts are given freely, without thought of who deserves it. But here is the crucial question: What does God want us to do with a gift he gives us? He wants us to share it. Therefore, God wants the Israelis and Palestinians to share the land. Not to kill each other over it, but to share it.

If we think of the land as a gift to be shared, the war will end. If we think of the land as something somebody earned, the war will continue. There is an absolute link between being open to God's gifts and knowing how to live in peace.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ex-Marine Awarded Medal of Honor

An extraordinary story about a courageous soldier who correctly mentions that there are many other American soldiers who deserve the award but who go unrecognized. The New York Times reports.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Knowing Reality As It Really Is

One of the goals of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius is to know reality as it really is. Our understanding of what is real is affected by the condition of our subjectivity. Our subjectivity includes our feelings, memories, thoughts, mental habits, emotional habits, spiritual experiences, our trust or lack of trust in the Holy Mystery, our sense of hope or despair, our understanding of love, how we interpret our feelings, thoughts, mental habits, emotional habits, the method we use to discipline our subjectivity, consolation, desolation, and how we act in response to consolation and desolation. It is possible to grow in knowledge of what is real and what is valuable through the conversion of our own personal subjectivity.

According to section 21 of the Spiritual Exercises, the goal of the Exercises is to enable a person to make decisions free of disordered attachments. In order to see an attachment as disordered, we need to know reality as it really is. Our attachment functions as a psychic blinder to what is and as a psychic tumor draining us of the energy needed to want to know what is real. Whatever the attachment, it siphons psychic energy away from life-giving pursuits. For example, I may feel attached to resentment because of a past injury. I may feel the urge to nurse the resentment and rehearse the anger. In doing so, I am feeding what Buddhist monk Thich Naht Hahn calls the habit energy of anger. In other cases, I may nurse the resentment out of fear of being hurt again. I avoid the person who hurt me and I avoid situations and people who remind me of the pain. Finally, the injury may remind me of an earlier, more traumatic injury, perhaps something from my childhood. In all three cases, it is understandable that I react with resentment, but if I don't eventually let go of the resentment, it will become a spiritual and psychic tumor, coloring much of my life.

The Exercises are designed to help me with the attachment in a variety of ways. First, in contemplating the forgiving Christ, I may be moved to imitate him, letting go of the resentment that is poisoning my mind and heart. Second, in the meditation on the Two Standards, I may be drawn to how Jesus attracts us to spiritual freedom and repelled by the manner in which the enemy of human nature seeks to enslave me in my resentment by way of a sense of wounded honor and pride. Third, in the meditation on three kinds of humility, I may ask for the grace to follow Jesus even in the face of poverty and contempt, not wallowing in the contempt of others, but just peacefully accepting it.

As I let go of the resentment, I actually grow to a fuller understanding of the world. Dr. Joseph Komonchak writes about this experience in an essay about the theological method of Bernard Lonergan, SJ (“Conversion and Objectivity”, Method: Journal of Lonergan Studies, Volume 14, Number 1, Spring 1996, p 99). To better understand Lonergan's Method, he uses the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). In the parable, the father and older son have different understandings of reality. The father’s reality is charged with forgiving love. The older son’s reality is held together by the desire to please the father by observing religious rules for the sake of the rules themselves. In order for the older son to live in the reality of the father, he must undergo metanoia-a change of heart and mind. He must let go of the social reality constructed by the social and mental habit (ethic) of keeping religious score of one's personal holiness. He must accept the social reality of the awesome, excessively prodigal, unconditional love of the father.

Komonchak uses this parable to explain the Ignatian insight that objectivity (reality) is the fruit of authentic subjectivity. That is, how you understand reality is affected by the condition of your subjectivity. For Lonergan and Komonchak, there is an error in assuming that knowing is just like looking. Lonergan gives the example of an x-ray. When I look at a faint line on the x-ray of a rib cage, I see nothing more than a line, but a doctor whose subjectivity has been tutored through years of medical school, will see a fracture. She will see a particular kind of fracture and she will know how long it will take to heal. Knowing what kind of fracture it is requires more than just looking. It requires looking with a tutored and authentic subjectivity.

If I approach a social problem like health care without an understanding of God's unconditional valuing of each person, my understanding of the situation will be less accurate than if I had, through experience, knowledge of how God unconditionally values me and others. What occurs during this experience? Metanoia or as we say in English--conversion. What exactly is a conversion? It is the change and expansion of one's horizon of knowing, feeling, valuing, and acting. What is a person's horizon? It is the difference between what one knows and does not know. Consider the comparison with one's visual horizon. What is beyond my visual horizon cannot be seen by me so it cannot be known by me. What is beyond my intellectual horizon cannot be known by me until my horizon shifts. What is beyond my moral horizon cannot be valued by me until my horizon expands. How does such an expansion of horizon occur? In The Desires of the Human Heart: An Introduction to the Theology of Bernard Lonergan, Walter Conn comments: “... Conversion to a new horizon must be a non-logical leap, effected not principally by logic but by symbols which tunnel under the logical defenses to reach our horizon's imaginative and affective center, our hearts” (52).

This is just what happens when Jesus tells a parable: using the symbols and narrative of the parable, Jesus draws us into our hearts. Ignatius builds on the method of Christ by encouraging us to use our imagination when we pray with Scripture. We enter into the scene and imagine the concrete sensory details. In the case of the parable of the prodigal son, we may be able to imagine the joy on the father’s face when he sees his son returning home. This expression of joy evokes an affective response on our own part. We recall moments when we gratefully forgave another and felt joy. We imagine the expression of the older son and can feel the contempt he has in his heart. We can also feel the tension he lives with thinking that he must constantly please his father. We then recall moments in our own lives when we held a grudge and feel the destructive tension in our hearts. In the end, we imagine the father’s invitation to join in the banquet: do we accept the invitation and share in the father’s joy or do we refuse and stew in our own resentment? Conn continues: “While moral conversion is a matter of discovery and decision, then, it is also a matter of desire: of feeling in the demand to respond to the call to responsible freedom a joy over the prospect of growth toward more authentic life” (p 52).
In conclusion, we have found that knowing reality is dynamic because reality-love- is dynamic. Knowing reality requires constant metanoia and constant reaching out. It is the fruit of a subjectivity tutored through effective spiritual exercise.

Friday, September 9, 2011

GOP Confusion Regarding Health Care Reform

In the Chicago Tribune, Eric Zorn points out that the Republicans are avoiding real debate about health care. He also points out that thanks to Governor Perry's policies, Texas is dead last when it comes to insuring people. He goes on to note that Governor Romney's policies (that informed Obamacare) have made Massachusetts the best state when it comes to health coverage. Finally, he notes that the individual health insurance mandate was originally a Republican idea supported by Newt Gingrich.

On a different but related note, it seems to me that in an age of bio-terrorism, universal health coverage is not only morally right, it is also a national security matter. If someone who is uninsured were to show up at an Emergency room with strange symptoms caused by a contagious biological agent, would we turn them away because they do not have insurance? If we do, then we spread the bio-terror contagion. If we do not turn the uninsured away, then the hospital does not get paid by the uninsured.

Some might say that, in the event of some kind of bio-terror, the federal government would be able to quickly infuse capital into hospitals to innoculate people or to stop the spread of the agent, but we know that it would take some time for the money to get to the hospitals. The better national security policy is to have universal health insurance (or near universal health insurance) in place. Ever since 9/11, our hospitals have been on the front lines.

In conclusion, as Romneycare worked in Massachusetts, Obamacare will work for the entire nation. It is good health policy and good national security policy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Gospel Truth By Thomas Friedman

This piece is a must read. Friedman lets us know how real recovery will begin with the truth. It also gives us perspective regarding the situation President Obama has been trying to deal with.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Governnor Perry And Religious Pluralism

I respect my brother Governor Rick Perry. I respect his commitment to Christ and I pray for God's continuous blessing upon him. I also respect his love for our country. I am grateful that he and other conservatives continuously challenge me. I am grateful for the dialogue.

Because I respect Governor Perry, I have some more questions for him. In no way do I seek to demean his Evangelical Christianity. I have tremendous respect for evangelicals. I just think that we need to clarify a few things:

Governor Perry, as an Evangelical Christian, do you think that all non-evangelicals are going to hell? Specifically, do you think that all Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and other non-Christians are going to hell? Some might suggest that I have no business asking a presidential candidate these questions. After all, many think we should not mix religion and politics. The reality is that Governor Perry and other politicians want religion to play a stronger role in the public square. I would also like all of the great religions to play a stronger role. The Lake Erie Olympics I have lobbied for includes the essential component of inter-religious dialogue in The Cleveland Center For Intercultural Healing and Reconciliation which will border the Cleveland Olympic Park. I am opposed to the privatization of religion for I think public discussion of faith is essential to our democracy.

Having established the necessity of discussing religion in the public square, we need to ask what does my specific question have to do with politics? Well, it is simple. If a president thinks that all non-Christians are going to hell, then it seems to me that he probably thinks that their specific traditions are void of all virtue, that these traditions have no wisdom. It seems to me then that this president will probably never appoint a Jew, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist to the Supreme Court where he or she would have to interpret the First Amendment.

After all, if Governor Perry believes that Christianity is the only path to salvation, he is probably going to want appoint justices who will interpret the First Amendment in such a way that others have a better chance of encountering an evangelical church. He may not appoint justices who will establish Christianity, but he will appoint justices who will promote Christianity over against traditions that he thinks are void of salvific significance.

So, Governor Perry, do you think that all non-Christians are going to hell?