Thursday, April 10, 2008

our One Body of Humanity

Because I have had this “kettle of fish” simmering on the proverbial “back burner” of my mind for so long that it now occupies several of the “burners” of my “mental stove,” I am going to serve it up lest it spill all over my personal attitudinal kitchen. As much as I try to avoid network news and discussions, the proliferation of rhetoric addressing the “situations” that boil in conflict today has made avoidance impossible. My major difficulty in acknowledging these problems is with the arrogance, disrespect, and sheer ignorance (coupled with a determined refusal to be informed) paraded by political leaders and religious pundits. These proliferators of pompous prejudice regurgitate their self-righteous nonsense at the expense of peoples whose lives are affected by the stupidity of these self-serving manipulators of perception. These hapless victims of arrogant political, religious, and social dominators suffer hourly (even as you and I consider this page) due to prevailing political choices being made by the insensitive and callous who hold the reins of global control. (I warned you that it has been simmering for a while.)

When these religious/political performers present their well rehearsed (but not so well reasoned out) views, there is a disattachment from reality that demands some clarification. To that end, I present some requisite definitions of terms that you and I have heard bandied about ad nauseum.

“Sect:” A group… forming a distinct unit within a larger group… by virtue of certain distinctions of belief or practice.
“Sectarian:” One characterized by bigoted adherence to a factional viewpoint.

“Fundamental:” Of or relating to the foundation or base; elementary.
“Fundamentalist:” One adhering to the practices of a usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.

Inasmuch as a sect is, by definition, something that is a part of something larger, it seems (to me) that the obvious extrapolation of reason is to discover the identity and nature of that ultimate “Whole” that is the larger group. And, after years of consideration of the matter … triggered into active life (some years ago [Aug. 22, 1980, to be precise]) when the president of the Southern, Protestant, Christian sect (aka: “Denomination” ) (that had ordained me as a Deacon) declared in a much-publicized speech “God doesn’t hear the prayers of the Jews.” Upon hearing of this absurd proclamation, my “inner voice” immediately spoke up and said “Sorry about your situation, ol’ buddy, but I do not worship a Deity that is limited by some theological hearing impairment.” And I began looking, asking, and listening.

I have since reached my own personal conclusion that the larger Whole (of which the aforementioned “sect” is a part) is Humankind. All other subdivisions are but sectors of the Human Whole … or, if you will … The Body Human. And the intolerance practiced by, and bigotry perpetuated between, various members of this universal Body Human, is (by definition) an exercise in self-abasement. To cause harm, injury, or discomfort to any part of One’s whole body is, most certainly, infliction of self-harm. And we can take note that these attitudes producing this prevailing dynamic, across our present world, are, most certainly, not something of a recent, regional, nor “modern” construction. (History will demonstrate that the USA was brought into being as a direct result of groups seeking refuge from just such pressures.) This ain't no new phenomenon, My Friend!

In the year 58 (as nearly as can be determined) the apostle Paul, while in Corinth (completing a fund-raising drive for the benefit of the poor in Palestine) wrote a letter to a church in Rome. A portion of that letter deals with (in very elementary language) the attitudes that he wants the members of that church to understand as basic to their core values. Now, this was a goodly number of years ago … yet I can not help but hear the apostle addressing the very same attitudinal conflicts and challenges that we are living in the midst of today. So, I offer this portion of that letter to your consideration as we reflect, together, on the sectarian conflicts that affect every part of today’s globe (inclusive [unfortunately] of our own local neighborhoods.)

For I say to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

For as we have many members in one physical body, and all members have not the same function:

So we, being many, are one body in belief, and individually one with each other.

(I will interrupt here to acknowledge that the apostle was addressing his intended audience which was the “Body” of Christian believers in Rome. He was applying a TRUTH that his Spirit directed to the specific need that was evident in that particular group that defined juncture in the life of that assemblage of worshipers.

But it is my considered conviction that that TRUTH, applied by the apostle, and translated by him into that group’s interests in their struggles, is a TRUTH ... in independent, eternal and unconfined fact. (Just as Gravity is Gravity ... whether on earth, or in the most distant reaches of the Heavens.) And TRUTH ... any TRUTH ... is always of universal applicability. For, I submit, no TRUTH is only true in the confines of a limited sample … it is validated, and re-validated ... again and again ... without limit ... when proven in unbounded applications.

Therefore, for us to assume a position that Paul was so limited in his vision as to be confining his belief (in the TRUTH that he was applying) to be only true in that singular and peculiar circumstance, would require (what I consider to be) an enormous degree of underestimation of Paul’s intellect and vision. This man was a very learned and highly schooled person of diverse societal and cultural background. He had an awareness of the World that was certainly far wider in scope than any singular point of focus, for any particular problem’s solution. In today’s terms; it is extremely doubtful that Paul’s understanding of any TRUTH was confined in any “Box” of any brand, persuasion, label, or denomination. I am quite certain that Paul never felt that he (or anyone of his contemporaries) had an “Exclusive Franchise” on the Love, or Favor of The Almighty … the Creator of All.

I am comfortable in my conviction that Paul understood that he, and those who prescribed to his teachings, had something that “worked” for them … that met their spiritual need. And there can be no doubt that he fervently believed that all who would subscribe to those convictions and precepts that he espoused, would benefit to the fullest possible extent that he could conceive of. Hence his zeal in promoting an acceptance of and adherence to his understandings of the order of spiritual matters as he saw them.
Paul continues…

Having then gifts differing (according to the circumstance that is given to us) let us exercise them accordingly: whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

Or service, let us wait on our serving: or he who teaches, in his teaching;

Or he who exhorts, in his exhortation: he that gives, let him do it with liberality; he that rules, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil; cling to that which is good.

Be devoted to one another with brotherly love; giving preference to one another in honor;

Not lagging behind in diligence; fervent in spirit; serving your God;

Rejoicing in Hope; patient in Tribulation; devoted in Prayer;

Contributing to the needs of the Saints; practicing hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you: bless, and curse not.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Be of the same mind One toward Another. Do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the Lowly. Be not wise in your own estimation.”

Now, am I missing something … or is there not an absence of ANY of this instruction coming from the pulpits, rostrums, or podiums of our political, social, national, religious, or global centers of influence? And are not those who fly the flag of Judeo/ Christian belief carrying, tucked firmly under their arm on their way to and from their worship exercises, the book that contains this letter. Therefore ignorance is not a viable excuse. What then gives us license to wag our collective finger toward the Balkans, the Middle East, the Far East, Europe (“old” or “new”), or any other point of geo-political/religious conflict while we carry an “instruction manual” that prescribes that all of us are of “one body”?

Is our sectarian bigotry of some sort of acceptable variety as opposed to the unacceptable form that we condemn in others. For crying out loud people! … let’s get off of our “high horse” of what the apostle referred to as “haughty in mind”, “wise in our own estimation”, and embrace the completeness of our one body … whatever headdress it wears (be it of feathers, whalebone, scull cap, or turban) … or name it assigns its place of worship ( mosque, temple, kingdom hall, synagogue, cathedral, or sanctuary ) … or name by which it recognizes, respects, and worships our common Creator.

Within a smiling deference to Norah Ephram as she defined blogging as one’s expression of what they perceive as truth on the day of their blog’s posting and subject to the winds of change with each new day … I submit this … my Truth as seen today … for your consideration.

As I bid us all a “Welcome to our One Body of Humanity.” Which is made real easy, for me, in light of the fact that ... I do Love YOU. (I made my choice to do that long ago [smile].)

Definitions from: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright© 2004, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.


Suldog said...

What a wonderful coincidence, John-Michael. I have been enjoying an in-depth exploration of 1 Corinthians (via a recorded bible study) since Monday evening. So nice to hear your fleshing out of the apostle's thoughts (if that isn't too much of a pun, considering the "many parts of the body" stuff.)

Also, today was the first time I had my speakers on when I visited here. I usually keep them off whenever surfing. So, I hear Mr. Armstrong singing. That is one of my favorite songs of all time. Thank you!

John-Michael said...

I do love my Satchmo!! When in high school and playing the cornet (Mister Armstrong's instrument of choice in his early days), I had a poster of him fastened to the wall above the headboard of my bed ... perspiration flowing, handkerchief on side of face, horn in hand ... Love that Man!

And now, my Dear Friend, we enjoy yet new shared kinships of Spirit. You are in a book that I have immersed much of my life in. Good stuff!

I sure do have ever-new bonds forming and solidifying my respect for, and genuine Love of You, Jim 'SulDog' Sullivan. And I am most grateful for that Gift.

debi said...

You give me so much to think about and to digest I must thank you.You are not a quick read for me. I must go slow to take it all in.I am no writer and feel out of my depth or lack there of here. But still, I will keep coming back.

John-Michael said...

My Darling and gracious Debi, how lovely of you to endure and persevere the digestion of my long-winded thoughts and ideas. I am honored and Complimented. (If you had the slightest idea of how very laboriously plodding and sluggish my progress is in my assembling and putting pen to these pieces, you would feel your reading to be a quick scan, by comparison. I do, indeed dwell on some of these considerations for many years as they "ferment" and form into some measure of coherence to my, somewhat unorthodox, mind.

I humbly thank you for your determination and patience with me. This is a Gift that I receive in humility and with grateful appreciation.

NAMASTE, my Dear.

Angel... said...

Hey John,

I stopped by first time on your blog.. through San's blog.

Seems like you are really nice person.. I enjoyed reading your posts..

Keep it up!

Cowgirl said...

Oh J-M, what a lot to think about here! You put so eloquently so many of my feelings onto paper (well, cyber paper!) How I would love to sit and chat in person one day - what a lot I would learn.

If only, IF ONLY all people could learn to use those simple rules of respect - what a world it would be.

I find myself withdrawing more and more from people in the main and loving animals instead...

John-Michael said...

Well, my Precious Cowgirl, you have touched on the core of my emotions. For, my Dear One, I too have an appetite for withdrawal. It is a ready reflex for me to succumb to my natural temperament's inclination to seclusion. It is an absolute fact that I am an extreme introvert by innate personality style. That, compounded by my Spirit's disharmony with the prevailing voices of the world, would make "crawling under a rock" of solitud the most natural thing in this world for me to do.

'Unfortunately' ... I love! And Loving motivates me to reach out from under the security and comfort of that "rock" and offer my Self to those who my intuitive Muse guides me too ... every day ... in many ways. And it is simultaneously enriching, satisfying, rewarding, exhausting, draining, and debilitating (at times.) So, you see, I can 'hear' the whispered cry of your struggling Spirit. We have a certain kinship in that. And my realization of the truth of our kinship ... makes my way bright, my step light, and my Heart filled with delight (WOW ... those rhyme!!) [smile]

I do, genuinely, Love You, Dear Lady. And there is absolutely NOTHING in all of this life that I would cherish more that our sharing moments in Spiritual exchange of agreements, insights, and encouragements. That would be a such a miraculous Gift!

NAMASTE, My Darling!

Donnetta Lee said...

Hello, John-Michael: Many thoughts to ponder. So much that I have often mulled over myself. Like debi, I must read it again in order to take it all in. I, too, often grow weary of people and retreat into the safe places of myself. Now and then, I peak out. And, once again, hide. Dual natured, I supposed. One foot in that world; the other--well, someplace else.

John-Michael said...

Donnetta Lee, I am so very happy that you feel comfortable "peeking out," and allowing "one foot" to rest beneath my little 'cafe table' of considerations. I know that this stuff that I bring 'to the table' today is not the usual conversational material.

Yet, it is my hope, in setting it forth, that some casual exchange and respectful chatting can make these ideas more 'main-stream.' For I do, genuinely, desire a more accepting and hospitable atmosphere for us all to enjoy the living of our lives in. your kindness certainly creates that for me. And thank you for that.

Loving and appreciating you!

CrazyCath said...

Well hello my dear JDM!
As you know I popped in earlier and read, but had some jobs to do and have thought on your post as I always do on posts. This one really got me thinking. And praying. And these are my thoughts...

There is much I agree with in what you say. I agree that the politicians and leaders of this world twist words to suit their own ends, as do those who speak from the pulpit, be it a false 'truth' or silence of the scriptures. I agree that humanity is one and that if we are to embrace our faiths (whatever they may be and in my case I refer to Christianity as that is my faith) then I *must* (not choose, must) embrace the words of Jesus and love my enemy, love my neighbour as I love myself. In other words, I must exercise the same tolerance and love for my fellow man no matter who he is. Jesus did all things through compassion. I must seek to imitate him.

Where I depart from you slightly is that it is clear (to me) that Paul was addressing the Christian congregation in his analogy of the body being many parts yet needing one another. Whilst I agree that this can be applied on a wider scale, I do not believe Paul meant it in this way. At the time (and in today's times) he was dealing with some schisms that were developing and disagreements as to who was "better". He admonished us for competing, reminding us that we are ALL in the body of Christ. Ergo, if one does not believe this, one is not part of this particular body. This is obviously an important point for me as being part of Christ's "body" is crucial to my salvation and everlasting life.

Now this does not mean that I should be a bigot or get all haughty in my ways. I am not a better person. I gain my strength from my Almighty God whose name is Jehovah through his Son Jesus Christ and the glory belongs to him. Jesus said that no-one would come to the Father except through him. He also told us there was only ONE way.

There cannot be many ways. I came to that realisation recently. It is a hard truth to swallow, but a truth nonetheless.

But the principle of loving one another without judgement, without bigotry, I whole heartedly agree with and applaud.

Hope all that makes sense. It is a controversial issue and difficult to discuss it on a blog!

If people would only actually read what is in the bible instead of believing the stuff that is pedalled, they would be so enlightened. There is so much in there that is useful today and wise. One of my favourite portions has to be 1 Cor 13 and the qualities of love (or "charity" - this was posted on by another blogger recently - I think it may have been Sandy Carlson).

Thanks for the opportunity to think and refresh my faith.

I love you! And I love the people of the world and what God has promised us. :0)

Classic Charm said...

Well...I ran out of time this morning as I tried to quickly read this entry. But I came back to read it slowly, making sure to take in every word. Because deep inside I've feel this way exactly, but only someone as brilliant as you can describe this in this depth...and this post certainly is worthy of so much more than I can fit on this comment box. Thank you, Well said. How I wish everyone could read this, I mean really read this.

John-Michael said...

Thank you, thank you, yet again, My Darling Cath-Daughter. You have beautifully articulated views and beliefs that I am certain (for I have looked at today's stats on who has visited and read this piece [grin]) many others found too daunting to address. I bow in admiration of and respect for your beliefs and convictions. And will defend to my last breath, your sacred right to hold to and follow them.

I am so grateful for our atmosphere of acceptance and genuine respect shared among us here. Thank you, my Darling, for contributing to that Spirit.

How I do love YOU!!

John-Michael said...

My Precious, loving, and oh, so, kind Rose, How I sigh a deep, and satisfying sigh of contentment and peace with your sweet words. I am so glad that I opted for staying here these 51 minutes past my customary sleep time. For my Heart is refreshed, and ... I have my ((hug)) for the day. Splendid!

You have given me a validation and certainty, in what I presented in this post, that my Spirit was hoping for. Thank you!

I do enjoy and appreciate loving YOU!

CrazyCath said...

"Dad" - thank you. :0)

John-Michael said...

You are very welcome, Cath-Baby.

jillie said...

Coming to your blog daily is always like a breath of fresh air. They for 1) make me think a little about our world and whats around us and 2) I APPRECIATE what's IN my world.

Thank you so much for being my peace of mind!

John-Michael said...

Jillie, My Darlin', I have just re-visited your posts that take me back to when I first fell in love with you. That was in September 07, with the first account that I read about your loving relationship with Cay. (How is she, by-the-way?) I think the post then had something to do with not-good chemo news and Robert bringing burgers over to her place. I saw, then, the marvelous character and heart that is You. Loved you ever since!

You give me a wonderful satisfaction of Purpose by allowing me to bring your Mind some Peace. To have the privilege of offering a Gift, to a Mind that loves and cares as yours does, is an honor that I treasure.

AND I love You!!

San said...

I so appreciate this impassioned post, chock-full-of-truth. The minister of the church I sometimes attend here in SF proudly proclaims she is a fundamentalist--in that our church is all-inclusive. We don't feel we've cornered the truth or the salvation or the favor of God.

The thumpin' (sometimes feigned) ignorance of those who thump a book they've scarcely read, let alone reflected on with any depth, so they can jump to conclusions that suit their political agenda--it pisses me off too. And the crowds that flock to jump on the easy bandwagon of ignorance, they embarrass me.

John-Michael said...

Bless your Heart, my Darling San! I do appreciate ... more that I can easily say ... your encouraging and sustaining note.

(so, you are saying that I did not conceal my passions on this subject very well? oops! and I thought that I had maintained a nice, distant, neutrality in it. [smile])

It sounds like you have joined your Self with a very nice congregation there in SF. I am pleased for you!

And, ya know, I love You!

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