#MeToo Reformation II? 500 Years since…..

 

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New York —
Disputes over sex and gender have ripped apart the Protestant world and threaten to create schism among Catholics, but perhaps there’s hope for a new Reformation about such issues, theologians and writers said in an Oct. 17 panel discussion at Fordham University.
Catholics have so far weathered the storm around gender issues, while debates over same-sex marriage and other concerns have splintered other denominations, said David Cloutier [1], professor of moral theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington. “I sometimes think it’s coming for us,” he said in his concluding remarks to the discussion, sponsored by the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture. Fordham is New York’s Jesuit university.
The discussion was built around the theme of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and explored how issues around sex and gender can be confronted across the Christian spectrum.
“I hope the Catholic Church finds a way to negotiate these without breaking up,” Cloutier said. Churches have other concerns as well, he said, suggesting that Christians in the United States focus on how President Donald Trump, running on a platform of hatred towards the poor and immigrants, captured the majority of white Christian voters last fall.
Megan DeFranza [2], an evangelical theologian based at Boston University, countered that the concerns around gender matter deeply, and that the churches are faced not only with divisions within their ranks but also widespread defections, particularly among youth.
The Catholic Church and other Christian bodies are “hemorrhaging its children,” who no longer are involved in religious groups that say that God created men and women, with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people marginalized, she said.
Cloutier began the discussion with what he described as “table setting,” three points about the current discussion around sexuality issues:
• Such debates usually revolve around analogies, such as tying same-sex marriage to the African-American civil rights struggles. Such analogies, said Cloutier, may or may not be relevant. The creation story of Genesis, he noted, describes God as making male and female, creating a view among Christians that gender differences are part of creation.
• The invoking of privacy regarding sexual orientation has broken down. When Christians would support traditional notions of marriage in the past, there was an understanding that a pluralistic society would allow for others to do what they wanted as long as it did not become a public concern. That is no longer the case, said Cloutier.
• The Christian view of a common eschatology — where we are all headed — has broken down, so that the prime concern is about the here-and-now.
Other panelists rejected the traditional framework around gender issues. Eboni Marshall Turman [3], a professor of theology at Yale University and a pastor, said that her experience in the African-American church and as a woman caused her to reflect upon the body as a theological problem, in which Christian leaders have normalized white male heterosexuals at the expense of people of color, women, and LGBT people.
Too often, she said, teaching in the churches has sanctified oppression, from the slave trade to the widespread incarceration of black men. “The church is not God,” she said.
Eve Tushnet, author of Gay and Catholic [4], said that as a lesbian who has embraced church teaching on marriage, she is in a minority. Via social media, she has connected with similar Christians who have found that churches across the spectrum reject LGBT people and that the LGBT community often has little appreciation for those who uphold traditional teachings on sexuality.
“If you can live with rejection, you can find ways to survive and find your community,” she said.
She urged the churches to explore the Scriptural tradition of same-sex friendship, from David and Jonathan in the Hebrew Bible to Jesus and his disciples. She noted the Gospels’ praise for those who give up their lives for their friends. Such an exalted view of friendship, said Tushnet, runs counter to social norms that see happiness as derived via marriage and children.
The church once formally recognized declarations of friendship, a tradition that needs to be reinvigorated, said Tushnet.
DeFranza emphasized the emerging role of transgender people and how they fit uneasily into the current Christian landscape. As an evangelical Christian, she has embraced the study of church history, because “it shows a record of all the times we got it wrong.”
That includes the treatment of transgender people. She noted that Jesus, in Matthew’s Gospel, describes those who are “eunuchs for the kingdom.” That has been relegated largely to a discussion of celibacy, but she said that Jesus was making a reference to those who don’t fit into traditional male/female roles, a reality that was recognized in the ancient world.
In Acts 8, the unnamed Ethiopian eunuch is noted as a model for Christians. The Christian tradition, she said, later abandoned the Jesus ideal of respect for transgender people as too radical.
“What we are learning about science and gender is changing,” she said, noting that church reformers need to relook at how Christianity has viewed transgender people. Christian scholars, such as Thomas Aquinas, translated the knowledge of the day into a Christian framework. DeFranza said that is the current challenge.
“We need to do what they did even if it means not saying what they said,” noted DeFranza.
In a question-and-answer session, other issues emerged.
The social media campaign of #MeToo [5] emerged after new widespread publicity over alleged sexual harassment in Hollywood and given statements and accusations of the current president; victims of workplace exploitation and of sexual harassment, abuse and attacks have come forward.
The panelists were asked what the Christian response to such campaigns should be.
Turman called for churches to convene “spaces of radical listening” that can provide a safe place for victims of harassment and other forms of exploitation.
“People sin and need to repent,” said DeFranza, invoking an evangelical theme. She also noted that women scholars are getting discouraged, often leaving Christian traditions and teaching positions because of the belief that “patriarchy is baked into the tradition” and will never change.
Cloutier argued that a factor in widespread sexual harassment is that there is no social consensus on sexual ethics.
“We talk both ways,” he said, noting that the confusion is particularly evident on campuses. “Is sex trivial? Or is it really, really serious?”
[Peter Feuerherd is a correspondent for NCR’s Field Hospital series [6] on parish life and is a professor of journalism at St. John’s University, New York.]
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Source URL (retrieved on 10/21/2017 – 13:55): https://www.ncronline.org/news/people/sex-gender-religion-scholars-discuss-possible-reformation
Links:
[1] http://trs.cua.edu/faculty/Cloutier/index.cfm
[2] https://www.megandefranza.com/purpose
[3] http://divinity.yale.edu/faculty-and-research/yds-faculty/eboni-marshall-turman
[4] https://www.avemariapress.com/product/1-59471-542-4/Gay-and-Catholic/
[5] https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/10/the-movement-of-metoo/542979/
[6] https://www.ncronline.org/feature-series/the-field-hospital/stories
[7] https://www.ncronline.org/donate?clickSource=article-end

We Were Meant for These Times–Clarissa Pinkola Estes

We Were Made For These Times by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

BY ALUMNI RELATIONS  ON NOVEMBER 14, 2016 ELECTION

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

 

By Clarissa Pinkola Estes

American poet, post-trauma specialist and Jungian psychoanalyst, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves.

New Ground–no longer–Common Ground

A Quote from Rumi:
Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing
  There is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
 
When the soul lies down in that grass,
  The world is too full to talk about.
 
Ideas, language, even the phrase Each Other
  Doesn’t make any sense.
 
Rumi
(Text 158, Open Secret, Versions of Rumi
Coleman Barks, Translator)

The Human Heart is the first home of Democracy–Terry Tempest Williams

“The Human heart is the first home of democracy.  It is where we embrace our questions.  Can we be equitable?  Can we be generous?  Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions?  An do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up–ever–trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy.” 
–Terry Tempest Williams, “Engagement”

THE HOPE AND PROMISE OF NONVIOLENT EDUCATION IN AMERICA

THE HOPE AND PROMISE OF NONVIOLENT EDUCATION IN AMERICA

WE MUST BELIEVE WHAT WE TEACH THE CHILDREN

This is a paper I wrote for my Doctorate in Ministry in Spring 2016.  If you would like further information, please contact me at ChildWisdom1@gmail.com

Introduction

“We live in an age disturbed, confused, bewildered, and afraid of its own forces in search not merely of its road but even of its direction.  There are many voices of counsel, but few voices of vision; there is much excitement and feverish activity, but little concert of thoughtful purpose. We are distressed by our own ungoverned, undirected energies and do many things, but nothing long.  It is our duty to find ourselves.”[1]

This paper concerns itself with the duty of finding ourselves once again for the sake of the next generation.  We must believe what we teach the children. The collection of writings in the text, Peace is the Way, will be considered as the wisdom of past generations.  This paper will attempt to reframe non-violent education for contemporary times.  This reframing will hopefully create a compassionate heart bridge between the generations involved in the nonviolent struggle of the past with those of the present.  An admitted bias will be toward the needs of the next generation living in the United States of America.  However, international and multicultural resources will be used, because the landscape of America has always been, and will continue to be, multi-national and multi-cultural.  As an activist, the writer of this paper takes some of her inspiration from the words of Walter Wink in the introduction to the text:

“Activists sometimes exhibit impatience with theory—often for good reason.  They have seen nonviolence caught in an ideological net in which the purity of ideology eclipsed activity and the nonviolent effort was undermine by a deflection of energy.[2]

There is, in this author’s opinion, no more time left for any deflection of energy.  At least two generations of children already have been lost to the unrestricted violence in our society according to many recent studies of American public schools.[3]  Several adult generations have also been anesthetized by the emotional requirements this violence day and day out.  Narcissism, individualism,  and militarism imbedded in the American experience of democratic and economic systems also play a significant role.[4]

Another premise of this paper will be to support a change of consciousness on the part of current activists and teachers of nonviolence toward a more hopeful teaching of the next generations of Americans.  This kind of hopefulness may be one of the major parts missing from the ideological struggles in the nonviolent movement itself that Walter Wink eludes to in his introduction to the text.

For the majority of American children, it is still a wonderful life, full of great promise, wonder; with grand experiences of creativity and beauty.  Adults who love them and teach them know this and also understand that social, educational and religious structures must drastically change (not simply reform) if Americans are to create a kinder, smarter and nonviolent world.  By knowing and experiencing the world differently, children bring a great wisdom to the adult conversations concerning what is next for nonviolent education practiced in contemporary times.  There is also the reality of access to human communication, knowledge, imagination and discovery that is greater than ever before in human history.

The writings in our text refer to the founding of FOR (Fellowship of Reconciliation) and it’s eighty- five years of existence at the time.  Much has changed in twenty-so years.  In June 2016, FOR will be celebrating 100 years.  They are recruiting a younger generation to begin the next generation of  FOR.  New principles and laws have been forming for several decades, but particularly after the turn of the century.  Violence is increasing everywhere, creating numbness and a sense of the new normal, except for the children.  This knowledge should lead the leaders of the old non-violent movement into a new vision that brings hope and courage back.  (As well as some good protest music).

M.K. Gandhi’s, Seven Deadly Social Sins will be used as a framework to explore the contemporary social and educational  research that support a new way of thinking about non-violent education. Although not listed in the text itself, the collection of writings generally suggest knowledge of them.      It is anticipated that by using this framework, the older peace activists will come to understand the new wisdom being brought to the table of nonviolence while at the same time educating the younger generation of the wisdom that has come before.  Perhaps more importantly it is hoped that both find within this discussion the core responsibilities of being American citizens in the 21st Century.

An American Response to Gandhi’s Seven Deadly Social Sins

Mahatma Gandhi once wrote that seven practices would destroy human beings:

Politics without principle                  Wealth without work                      Commerce without morality           Pleasure without conscience      Education without character                                           Science without humanity               Worship without sacrifice.[5]

The contemporary reader will notice that all of these social sins relate to social and political conditions that are still with us.  However, it is also interesting to note, that the antidote of each of these “deadly sins” is an explicit external standard or something that is based on accepted natural principles and laws, of the times, not on universal social values.  This creates a need for skills in multicultural processes that most people do not receive growing up in most of their cultures.  There is a crisis at hand because the next generations of children are learning about these ongoing destructive behaviors and outcomes at an alarming pace thanks to social media and other technologies.  Most have already learned, for good reason, not to trust any social institutions or structures that support these “natural principles or laws” that are not working for the benefit of all people.  That is why a contemporary discussion of these practices is imperative.  A newer more compassionate new normal is forming very quickly and the younger generation wants to be part of it, but in their own way.

Politics without Principle

There is a new hope presented to the world by social observers and system analysists. The Berkana Institute, mainly using the work of Margaret J. Wheatley and other social theorists like her, has had a maxim on it’s website for many years;   Whatever the Problem, Community is the Answer.[6]

The history of nonviolence and civil rights action that is included in our text, informs us that engagement and empathy are one process.  To be successful, a nonviolent community needs to honor and continually build on the diversity of minds, wisdoms, and the right to have an opinion other than one’s own.  Engagement and empathy skill building have had many successes in the  modern nonviolent movements. To act out of hope and create hope, Americans need to remember the successes of the past in order  to move children and Americans in general forward with positive and hope-filled momentum:   Let’s be reminded that in 1989-90 alone:

Thirteen nations had nonviolent revolutions that affected 1.7 billion people  which is one-third of the world’s population.  If social analyst added all the world struggles of the 20th century, the figure changes to 3.3 billion people affected by the non-violent choice of action.[7] 

This is very good news. The American non-violent movement of today needs to start focusing on these accomplishments, if they are to acquire a new generation of young people to join in nonviolent activism. Since the turn of this last century, other movements have begun and or have progressed successfully:  The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Liberation movement; The Occupy Movement; The Black Lives Matter Movement:  and Move On- A progressive information-action center; and a new progressive form of Feminism that has yet to be named, but remains a combination of Womanist and Feminist theory and action and practice.  Americans also need to be reminded that America remains one of the first political movements to address diversity on the magnitude facing the rest of the world at this time.  Our experience, knowledge and outcomes toward this hope for inclusiveness must be seen as something accomplished even though more work obviously needs to be done.  Opportunities for conversations must be offered if this goal is to be recognized.

But, safe conversation places must be created according to Margaret J. Wheatley in her book, “turning to one another-simple conversations to restore hope to the future.  She observes, as many of us have that, “There are No Safe Places to Go.[8]  No one knows this lack of safety better than the next generations growing up in America.

 Sociologist, John Berger supports Wheatley’s observations, but also adds the idea of human’s need to seek and find patterns to their lives:

“There is no continuity between actions; there are no pauses, no paths, no patterns, no past, and no future.  There is only the clamor of the fragmentary present.  Everywhere there are surprises, and sensations, yet nowhere is there any outcome.  Nothing flows through everything interrupts”[9].

Opportunities for positive Inter-generational engagement is the key to practicing politics with principles Bringing back Trust in institutions is also needed to continue the work for justice and peace.

Wealth without Work

Historically, Americans have been proud of their economy and felt that their hard work paid off for them and their families, but not anymore.  Americans from all faiths and creeds called this, The American Protestant Work Ethic and thought that it worked well for all Americans.[10]  But research of recent years and the experience of the Great Recession changed many of the economic myths American’s use to believe in. The next generation understands that this American myth is dead, yet it is still nags as a reality of expectations in their lives.  The Occupy Movement  assisted Americans to see their attachment to the system of capitalism differently.  New social economic statistics are startling even to the staunchest of capitalists:

 

  • The top 20% control 80% of the World’s Wealth
  • The richest two percent control more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population.
  • The richest 300 people on Earth have more wealth than the poorest 3,000,000,000.
  • Two hundred years ago, rich countries were three times as rich as poor countries. Today, they are 80 times richer.
  • Rich countries give $130 billion worth of aid to poor countries every year, but the extract 2 trillion each year thanks to global economic rules.[11]

Then there is this interesting and apparent change of values in America, most noticed in the 2016, Presidential Race:

“There was a time, in these United States, when a candidate for public office could qualify with the electorate only by fixing his birthplace in or near the “log cabin.”  He may have acquired a competence, or even a fortune, since then, but it was in that which he must have been born of poor parents and made his way up the ladder by sheer ability, self-reliance, and perseverance in the face of hardship.  In short, he had to be “self-made.”  The so-called Protestant Ethic then prevalent held that man was a sturdy and responsible individual, responsible to himself, his society, and his God.   Anybody who could not measure up to that standard could not qualify for public office or even popular respect.  One who was born “with a silver spoon in his mouth” might be envied, but he could not aspire to public acclaim; he had to live out his life in the seclusion of his own class.”[12]

Something has gone terribly wrong with the American Dream narrative.  Something is working against the American quest for a decent life.  The next generation of Americans are taking these facts on by asking the question, “What are these Global Economic Rules:  and who set them up?”  According to The Rules—a Global Wealth Equality web site,[13] these Rules are invisible, and they are meant to be kept that way by the so-called 1%.  Revelations and challenge to those invisible rules are currently taking place by the younger generation journalist, filmmakers and researchers and even Union members.

The statistics above is the truth and reality that young people know and experience to be their future throughout the world.  This may explain the discontent, anger, and urgency for change of some of young people living in America today as well as in other developed nations who are suffering greatly from youth unemployment rates.  It may also explain some of their dissatisfaction and distrust with religious practice and religious institutions who appear to support the status quo….Even the nonviolent movement.

Trust in Social Media and practical understanding of its power, also is a contributor into spreading this unequal bad news around the globe.  In a simple tweet of 14 words or less a violent or nonviolent revolution can begin anywhere around the world.  Knowledge of this power must be acknowledged by the older generation of activist.

Outside of their own families, Wealth without Work is literally the economic and social reality of the next generation and they are doing something about it by ignoring all the economic rules.

Commerce without Morality

An American moral commerce system has been around since the beginnings of America as a nation state.  Alexis de Tocqueville, a well-educated Frenchman who traveled to the New World in the Eighteen Century concerned himself with where this morality came from when he stated:

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there.  Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” [14]

Since the Great Recession began in 2008, much has been written about the lack of ethics in our economic and trade system, particularly in American and International financial institutions.  Ordinary Americans tried to remain Good Americans but found themselves living in a corrupted economic and moral system in the United States as well as globally.  Good Americans woke up to the realities of money and how it worked.

Religious writers did not keep silent during the Great recession either.  According to Reverend Walter Beueggeman[15], the Judeo Christian religion to one of the major causes of Greed, Ignorance and Violence in our Nation today.  He begins by saying, “Americans claim to worship one God but they actually worship three:

  • The God of Greed which is un-checked capitalism and power seeking:
  • The God of Ignorance which is not honoring education or conversation that is not tied to the workforce;
  • and The God of Violence that is represented by un-checked liberty and freedom[16]

A contemporary Buddhist American author, Robert Langan, also has an opinion about what is ailing the American and global  Commerce system.  The author states:  “We can trace the sources of this suffering to variants of the three poisons:  Greed—Aversion—and–Ignorance:

  • The Greed can be taking more than I need, perhaps unwittingly and to the detriment of others: Greed can make me feel happily bigger—and unhappily in need of even more.
  • The Aversion can be not caring, or actively hating and hurting, perhaps reassuring oneself that the ends justify the means.
  • The Ignorance can be petty self-centeredness or domineering self-aggrandizement built on the illusion of my superiority. Or it can be a simple refusal to abandon certainties and doubts– substituting the simplistic for the complex.”[17]

Being seen internationally as “Good” is an American value in this writer’s opinion, but it is complicated by the different values present in American multicultural society.  Historically in American culture, moral codes were linked to the different religious belief systems and economic systems present in society.

It has been suggested by Dr. Emile Lester that our limited understanding and translations of the First Amendment may be a major cause of the disconnection between our economics and our moral code.[18] Re-thinking of the First Amendment might be considered by some to be political suicide for past gains in intellectual thought (The Scopes Trail), but Dr. Lester makes a very compelling argument for bringing in multi-religious leaders into the landscape of The Constitution of United States to in order to benefit the common good for all Americans. One innovation he is supporting is the Teaching of Religion’s’ in the Public Schools. He uses the Modesto school District in Northern California as a good example of this concept.

Contemporary social research is linking violence, poverty, sexism, and racism to the social ills of America, but instead of calling for change of consciousness, the research is pointing to some sort of nonviolent revolution.  A revolution that Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders appears to be promoting in his unique socialist-democratic way.  Apparently, the next generation of Americans accepts these socialist views as mainstream much more readily than their parents have done in their youth.[19]  Commerce without Morality is a good lead into Worship without Sacrifice as they are interconnected for most Americans like it or not.

Worship without Sacrifice

The Prosperity Theology found in most mega churches in America today, must be a major consideration when discussing Worship without Sacrifice within American culture.  The complexity of faith and its influence on politics, values, morals, and education in America has had some serious study, but because of current views of the importance of the separation of church and state, they usually are not highlights that the American media picks up, especially the nuances found in American religious culture.

Prosperity theology started in the 1950’s and is sometimes referred to as the Prosperity Gospel; The Health and Wealth Gospel; or the Gospel of Success.  It is the religious belief among many of these church-going Christians that “financial blessings are the will of God for them and that faith, positive speech and donations will increase one’s material wealth.”  It appeals mainly to the middle class, new immigrants and the poor.[i]  It has had a major impact on American public schools and on the American social and religious discourse for many years. In terms of governance by school boards and local government, many members continue to fight within the system against progressive programs in schools regarding multicultural education, empathy building, and values education.  The writer of this paper has intimate experience with this tension while working within the Los Angeles School System.

No American can say they have not experienced this theology because it permeates the capitalistic system with false expectations of economic growth and opportunity; while ignoring the realities of racism, classism, and gender discrimination.  Newly arrived Americans can understand this system more than anyone, yet they often take it on as a “religious liberty” issue, when it is not.  It is also not good theology nor good politics because it contains little awareness of what the Americans value and call     the Common Good in their Democracy.

Worship without Sacrifice is seen and experienced quite differently between the sexes in American culture as well as most world cultures.  Women and Girls are the victims of domestic violence within all religious faiths.  Former President Jimmy Carter, in one of his more recent books entitled, “A Call to Action:  Women, Religion, Violence and Power”, put it this way in his Introduction to the book:

“There is a system of discrimination, extending far beyond any small geographical region to the entire globe:  It touches every nation, perpetuating and expanding the trafficking in human slaves, body mutilations, and even legitimized murder on a massive scale.  This system is based on the presumption that men and boys are superior to women and girls, and some male religious leaders who distort the Holy Bible, the Koran, and other sacred tests to perpetuate their claim that females are, in some basic ways, inferior to them, unqualified to serve God on equal terms, support it.

Worship with Sacrifice demands a sharing of responsibility, which the younger generation Americans not only expect but also demand when it is not presented forthrightly.  Women and Girls education and economic opportunities are also major issues throughout the world, as is the re-education of boys and men to this new reality of gender equality.

Pleasure Without  Conscience

A re-thinking of the value of play and leisure in America has been forming for well over a century; ever since the Industrial Revolution.  But Americans continue to be known throughout the world as workaholics. This unique relationship to work and work-leisure consciousness is especially true in this age of technology.  Academic studies of the human brain, technology, and the study of creativity and the formation of creativity and genius centers, are helping this change of consciousness.

An innovation in this uniquely American value laden relationship between leisure and work has had some interesting moments.  In the 1970’s the concept of New Games came about.  It seriously looked at how games in any culture reflect that particular culture’s deeply held values.  This observation had some disturbing outcomes for American culture:  Americans work too hard at our play, and their play is overly competitive.  New Games decided to make cooperation a major part of American games, old and new.  It taught and still teaches that by simply changing the rules, teams on both sides can make sporting games and the game of life more fun, more inclusive and more reflective of the skills needed in the world today if we want to live non-violently with one another.  The Rules of New Games is PLAY HARD—PLAY FAIR—AND NO BODY GETS HURT (physically or emotionally).[20] This work came out of the work of Stewart Brand, the founder of the Whole Earth Catalog.  He and George Leonard[21], a co conspirator in education, changed the educational life and play milieu of many American Children for over thirty years.  Cooperative Education came out of this same movement.

More contemporary research is also discovering the importance of play to teach cooperation and non-violence.  German psychologists have found that children who are allowed to play freely have greater social success as adults.  One study states that; “ Free Play allows children to develop the flexibility needed to adapt to changing circumstances and environments—an ability that comes in very handy when life becomes unpredictable as an adult.”[22]

Adults, involved in non-violent education can learn from these more recent studies as well as New Games.  Nonviolent Education must be fun, cooperative, interactive and inclusive for this next generation of practioners, if it is to be relevant and subversive enough to make real changes in consciousness so necessary to live nonviolently.  Play and Pleasure can be a very subversive activity.

The above discourse about Play as being part of Pleasure may be seen as a little off topic and perhaps naïve in today’s world; Perhaps for good reason.  Narcissism has taken over our leisure pursuits as well as our politics and parenting.  For many Americans pleasure in American Society is currently being associated with pornography addiction; adult and teen sexual abuse; drug and alcohol abuse; and other human abuses and addictions.  Many social studies are blaming this on American narcissism, which grows out of our over-indulgent individualism; a very serious undiagnosed problem in America.  A helpful book on this subject is: Living in the Age of Entitlement: The Narcissism Epidemic, by Psychologists Dr. Jean M Twenge, PH.D and W. Keith Campbell, PH.D.  According to these authors, the root causes of this supersized ego-consciousness are religious, spiritual, social, and economic. For instance, they list the following social realities as supporting narcissism:

  • American parenting that uplifts raising Royalty not Americans.
  • Celebrity and media transmission of narcissism
  • Technology of self: My Space and Facebook and
  • I deserve stuff: Easy credit and the repeal of the” reality principle”.[23]

The Millennial generation and their parents and teachers were the focus of this book.  American  nonviolent educators and leaders of peace movements need to keep this information close to their hearts while recruiting new members to the movement because the humility needed in the movement will not be served well if they don’t.

Education without Character

“You are not here merely to make a living.  You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement.  You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.[24]

Without direct, multicultural, and multi-religious Character Education in American schools, Americans simply cannot find the path to be good again.  According to Dr. Emile Lester, public schools should serve two crucial democratic functions when it comes to character development:

 

  • To ensure a more inclusive American democracy, teachers should teach students a robust respect of religious freedom that involves the right of all believers—especially those newest to America’s religious landscape .
  • They also must be allowed to practice their beliefs and to express their religious identities, views and values in public without inhibition.”[25]

The problem for public school administrators, however, has been in the choosing between two different perceived notions and interpretations of the First Amendment:  Between accommodating secularists and non-Christian minorities who want great tolerance and accommodating conservative Christians who want special recognition of their belief.  This has been this writer’s experience also.[26]On the ground levels of education, who could argue with this seemingly neutral stance many schools have taken to resolve the very real conflicts they experience in teachers, parents and community meetings on what to allow in the classroom and on school grounds before and after school.  However, new studies regarding curriculum, reading lists, and media coverage, are revealing on how extremely non-neutral this interpretation is of religious rights are to the First Amendment.  Many of Americans are fed a constant diet of controversies in schools, but Dr. Lester claims,“ that a fully democratic and inclusive public education curriculum  about religion could heal our division over religion…”[27]

A newer resource than the text that could help with this area,  is a book entitled, Spirituality, Religion and Peace Education; Edited by Edward J. Brantmeier, Jin Lin, and John P. Miller.[28] It is a book that honors the great wisdom traditions as well as some of the newer spiritualties, like Twelve Step programs.

Science without Humanity

The best hope for our planet is a recovery of a living, mystical cosmology.  That can best happen as we let the modern era recede, by incorporating a celebration of the mystical along with a celebration of the analytical.” [29]

Scientists are discovering that there is no escape from the irony and paradox of seeking out a peaceful world with the bitterness that often comes from self knowledge. World peoples now know that all our wars will not put an end to war. Children of the world, however still must be given hope that things can change. That can only occur if they are given back the basic human tools and

skills of Wonder and Mystery.[30]  Science is moving toward both.  Our failures to end war, poverty and violence in all of its forms through science has finally been acknowledged.  Most American’s are darkly aware that these failures may put an end of life on this planet, as we know love and understand it.  This acceptance of failure is moving both scientists and humanists to recognize the importance of myth, and the importance of forming new ones during times of change.

Science without humanity in America has become a god of narcissism and greed.  Examples are: The growth of animal and human cloning medical labs;   Designer baby sperm banks: and the rise in profits in the Pharmaceutical companies nationwide.  More dangerous then these activities themselves is the seemingly indifference to these personal and corporate decisions by the general public–Dangerous in the sense of a backlash to science and scientific knowledge itself.  Which is certainly something we are seeing in the climate change deniers.

Ethical and moral conversations between generations are necessary for the new myths of Wonder and Mystery to take place.  Teaching for Wisdom can bridge the wisdom of generations.  Teaching Religions in the classroom certainly is one way to address this wonder and mystery.  But so would the teaching of the value of humility.  American adults and children all have to admit we do not know many things, including some truths and myths, before they can engage one another on new common values.

Conclusion: 

The people living in a democracy have the power and the responsibility to use it wisely.  That is the assumed wisdom inherent in a democratic system of governance.  This paper has concerned itself with finding an American sense of self, and particularly it’s non-violence self, once again.  The times are especially challenging.  The sharing of intergenerational and diverse wisdom in community is the answer.  Skill building in compassionate communication and empathy building is necessary for building nonviolent communities.  Good teachers and inclusive and innovative wisdom curriculums for adults and children are also the answer.  Any deflection of energy from this responsibility of citizenship must be seen as a bad choice of the people living in a democracy.  Brian Swimme, a cosmologist and physicist states in one of his earlier works: “We sometimes fall into the delusion that power is elsewhere, that it belongs to a different group, that we are unable to find access to it.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The universe oozes with power, waiting for anyone who wishes to embrace it.  But because the powers of cosmic dynamics are invisible, we need to remind ourselves of their universal presence.  Who reminds us?  The rivers, plains, galaxies, hurricanes, lightning branches, and all our living companions.”[31]

Intergenerational engagement is necessary if Americans are to find their way again.  We must believe what we teach our children.  The time is way over-due but this writer remains very hopeful.

[1] Woodrow Wilson, Baccalaureate address, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, June 9, 1907.  Woodrow Wilson Quotes. org

[2] Peace is the Way:  Writing on Nonviolence from the Fellowship of Reconciliation.  Edited by Walter Wink. Sixth printing 2006.  First printing 2000.  Orbis Books. Pg. 1

[3] Teaching Religion:  A Democratic Approach for Public Schools.  Emile Lester.  University of Michigan Press. Ann Arbor. 2013.  Introduction. Pg. 3

[4] Plato writes about the dangers of Democracy in several places:  Gorgias, Apology and the Republic.  This was taken by a column in a Canadian Newspaper entitled, “What does Trump, Plato and Democracy have in common?”  April 2016

[5] Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s Seven Deadly Social Sins is also known as “The Seven Blunders of the World.  Under Gandhi’s own admission, he was not the originator of the idea.  He attributed the idea and list from a Sermon at Westminster Abbey.  He labeled the person his fair friend which most people today identify as Frederick Lewis Donaldson, In another note, Arun Gandhi, M. Gandhi’s grandson added an Eighth Sin, Rights without Responsibilities, which this author is not using, but will consider later.

[6] Berkana.org–For twenty years, one of  the Berkana  Institute’s  main activities  has been illuminating the stories of ordinary people who are joining together to create healthy and resilient communities around the world. They have published articles, hosted learning journeys and other events in order to share these remarkable stories with a global audience. For many years they distributed an e- newsletter filled with inspiring stories and innovative ideas..

[7] Peace is the Way:  Writing on Nonviolence from the Fellowship of Reconciliation.  Edited by Walter Wink. Sixth printing 2006.  First printing 2000.  Orbis Books.  Introduction.

[8] “turning to one another-simple conversations to restore hope to the future”.  Margaret J. Wheatley.  BK Barrett-Koehler Publishers.  San Francisco 2009.  Pgs. 18-21.  (Lack of capital letters is the author’s choice.)

[9] Ibid.  Wheatley quotes different sociologist.  John Berger. pg. 167

10  Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.  Max Weber.  Charles  Schreiber and Sons, 1959 Spark Notes Editors. “SparkNote on The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.”  http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/protestant ethic/ (accessed April 16, 2016).

[11] “Illustrating Global Wealth Inequality”.  Lisa Wade.  Pacific Standard Magazine.  April 23, 2016.  https.//psmag.com/illustrating Global Wealth Inequality.

[12] Ibid pg. 2

[13] Ibid. Pg. 3

[14] Alexis de Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America based on his diary while visiting the United States about 75 years after the American Revolution.  There are two volumes, One written in 1835 and the other in 1840. This particular quote was taken from a book written by Robert Bellah called Habits of the Heart which was a look into American Religious and civil life.  Robert Bellah was considered one of America’s notable Sociologist of Religion.  He taught at University California, Berkeley for most of his career,

[15] A well respected Hebrew Scripture Scholar, and Protestant American Theologian,

[16] Sabbath as Resistance: Saying no to the Culture of Now.  Walter Beueggeman.  Westminster pg. 9-15

[17] “Has America Gone Crazy?—A Buddhist psychoanalyst puts our Divided Country on the Couch.  Author:  Robert Langan.  This article is previewed from the May 2016 issue of Lion’s Roar.  Found on Lyons Roar. com.  I am a member of the magazine’s On-line pre-distribution list.

[18] Teaching about Religions;  A Democratic Approach for Public Schools.  Emile Lester.  University Press, Ann Arbor 2013.  Chapter 2. Particularly: Pgs. 62-64.  The author particularly relates his First Amendment study to the Scopes Trial and how it’s verdict is taught in the schools.

[19] The demographics of American Youth following and voting for Bernie Sanders is staggering.

[20] I was an International Trainer for the New Games Foundation in the early 1970’s.  I traveled throughout the United States, Canada, and England.  The New Games Book is out of print, but I still have a copy.

[21] George Leonard wrote many books.  Two influenced me greatly a teacher and a recreation leader–The Ultimate Athlete and Teaching as a Subversive Activity.

[22] “The Value of Unstructured Play Time for Kids.”  Tom Jacobs.  May 9, 2014.  Pacific Standard.com/books and Culture/Value-unstructured play-time-kids-81177

[23] The Narcissism Epidemic:  Living in the Age of Entitlement.  Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell.  Atria 2009.  Chapters 5-8.

[24]  President Woodrow Wilson:  http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/woodrowwil121798.html

[25] Teaching about Religions;  A Democratic Approach for Public Schools.  Emile Lester.  University Press, Ann Arbor 2013. Pg. 3 The Democratic Crisis of Religion and Public Education.

 

 

 

 

[27] Ibid  Pg. 5    Section:  The Triumph of the Extremists.

[28] Spirituality, Religion and Peace Education.  Edited by Edward J. Brantmeier, Jing Lin, and John P. Miller. Information Age Publishing, Inc. Charlotte, North Carolina.  www.infoagepub.com  2010.  Replaced a 2008 volume entitled, Transforming Education for Peace.

[29] “A Mystical Cosmology:  Toward a Postmodern Spirituality”.  Matthew Fox. Article in Chapter 2: www.sunypress.edu

[30]“ Back to Wonder:  The Search for Mystery in a scientific world.”  John Savant.  America Magazine.  May 2, 2016.  Pgs. 14-16.

[31] “The Universe is a Green Dragon.”  Brian Swimme. Santa Fe, New Mexico.: Bear and Co., 1985, pg. 151

A Prayer for Non-Violence

Prayer for the Decade of Nonviolence for Children

I bow to the sacred in all creation

May my spirit fill the world with beauty and wonder,
May my mind seek truth with humility and openness.

May my heart forgive without limit.
May my love for friend, enemy and outcast be without measure.
May my needs be few and my living simple.

May my actions bear witness to the suffering of others.
May my hands never harm a living being.
May my steps stay on the journey of justice.

May my tongue speak for those who are poor without fear of the powerful.
May my prayers rise with patient discontent until no child is hungry.

May my life’s work be a passion for peace and nonviolence.
May my soul rejoice in the present moment.

May my imagination overcome death and despair with new possibility.
And may I risk reputation, comfort and security to bring this hope to the children.

(Sister May Lou Kownacki, OSB The Nonviolent Moment: Spirituality for the 21st Century
Written for the United Nations Decade for Children 2000)

“What a Society does to its children, its children will do to society.”                       (A Roman Sage)