I Can’t Breathe!

I Can’t Breathe!

            I can only imagine how a drowning person may feel.  My Uncle, Bill McCulley, taught me to swim on his farm in Illinois, in a pond on the Wilt Place.  He was a Navy veteran, and an excellent swimmer, and I trusted him to save me if anything happened to me.  The fish and snakes brushing up against my legs did not seem to matter.  One of Bill’s attributes, besides being very strong, was his ability to go under water, without breathing, of course, for a long, long time.  I know he loved me enough to save me if I went under water.  Jesus died because he could not breathe under water.  I can only imagine the suffering he felt.  I know Jesus loves me, and will save me, just like my Uncle, Bill would have.  We will get back to Jesus, and breathing under water later.

I am writing this reflection about Breathing under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, by Richard Rohr, a well know Franciscan teacher and priest.  We are discussing addiction and will also draw upon Addiction and Grace, by Dr. Gerald May as appropriate.  I am specifically selecting one concept, extant in both books, concerning our addiction to war.  Refusal to submit to Satan’s political ploy, to fall down and worship Satan, cost Jesus His life, as we will see as we go along.  Because of our addictions to “oil, war, and empire; the church’s addiction to its own absolute exceptionalism;” (Breathing Underwater, p. xxii), among other addictions, Jesus had to die.  Because He died trying to breathe under water, Jesus is able to save us from our own addictions, all of them.

When we cannot breathe, and are under water for a long time, we must eventually surrender, or give up our life.  As Ignatian students we are aware we should give up everything to live only in God’s love and grace. Step three of the twelve steps in Breathing Underwater is about our decision to give up to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understand God (p.17).  We have not been taught this surrender by our nationalistic political systems, nor have our institutional religious systems as a whole taught us this surrender, but Jesus teaches us (Matt. 5: 39) (p. 19).  Bye, bye ego.  Addiction to the ego and to power must go (p. 21).  The devil wants to make us a great “deal”.  The art of Satan’s deal is to give us instantly the power without pain and without self-surrender (p. 21).  This was Satan’s third temptation which most institutional religions have accepted even to this day.  It is a myth, a myth of redemptive violence that we can personally save ourselves by violent means.  For thousands of years this myth has never worked.  Rohr calls it the “myth of heroic sacrifice” (p. 21).  It is the American “way”, and the way of most every nation.  We have learned well and are addicted to this myth of self and violence and our society, our nation, (p. 22) and in too many ways our churches are co-dependents to help us believe in this myth and be self-glorified as martyrs of the church (p.23).  True believers, we are giving up our body to supposed chastity, poverty, and obedience to look good, to fool many people, and to puff up the self (p.24).

To give up this puffed up, narcissistic self, as individuals, politicians, nations, and institutions including business and religious institutions is to realize we are sinners, yet loved sinners surrendered to the lover (God the Higher Power) who loves us (p. 24, 27).  As the Holy Spirit helps us, we are infected by the Spirit of Jesus (p.25).  Rohr says the Holy Spirit “sneaks in through the ducts and the air vents (p. 25).  In some ways we would rather just have someone tell us what to do, to manage our sins for us in the confessional booth or church sermons than surrender our will and accept God’s radical grace freely.  This grace is given to us by a higher power we understand to be God, as much as we understand Him, who loves us without expecting to be paid back.  He loves us because He is love (p. 27).  Only grace given in love can cure addictions.

Both Rohr and May speak of nonviolence and trust in a higher power for our salvation.  Jesus spoke Truth to Power when He refused Satan’s third temptation to fall down and worship Satan and did not accept the “deal” to be given earthly kingdoms before it was time.  As a result, Jesus had to suffer and die to save us, who are addicted, and complicit with this warmongering society.

Referencing May’s book, Dr. May echoes rule 98 of Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises when he states “detachment does just the opposite.  It seems liberation of desire, an enhancement of passion, the freedom to love with all one’s being, and the willingness to bear the pain such love can bring.” (Addiction and Grace, p.15).  This can be freedom from political slavery too, and freedom to love even our enemy, one of Jesus’ primary commandments (Matt. 5: 43, 44).  The Spiritual Exercises, rule 98, promotes the willingness to bear all wrongs.  It is this suffering love that brings detachment and personal freedom as it is greased by the wheels of grace.

See:

(098)

Eternal Lord of All Things

Eternal Lord of all things, in the presence of Thy infinite goodness, and of Thy glorious mother, and of all the saints of Thy heavenly court, this is the offering of myself which I make with Thy favor and help. I protest that it is my earnest desire and my deliberate choice, provided only it is for Thy greater service and praise, to imitate Thee in bearing all wrongs and all abuse and all poverty, both actual and spiritual, should Thy most holy majesty deign to choose and admit me to such a state and way of life (http://spex.ignatianspirituality.com/SpiritualExercises/Puhl#marker-p101)

True freedom is the freedom to love one another, including our enemy.  If we maintain our addictions to war and killing this is what May describes as a security addiction (p.31).  May states, “we can and should trust in God for our ultimate security” and he speaks of relaxing our grip about lessor sources of security.

It is Jesus, who is our ultimate source of security.  Rohr states “only people who have suffered in some way can save another” (p. 123).  Jesus died and suffered on the Cross.  He did not die of blood loss.  In excruciating pain, His feet nailed to the cross, and His hands too, Jesus couldn’t breathe unless He pushed up on His pierced feet, and said, “I thirst.”  He was given the fourth cup via the hyssop branch which should have been given at the Passover meal, and He surrendered just for you, and just for me, to save us from our addictions to sin.  His lungs had filed up with water and blood.  He could not breathe.  He had to die; He could not breathe, but now He saves us, we who think we can breathe, but are underwater with all our addictions.

John Cooper

 

 

Kingdom Come

KINGDOM COME

In the process of forming my thoughts, in mid-July, 2014, regarding the Gaza – Israel conflict, I believe we should be concerned, very concerned, about the state of ethics in today’s world. Is it possible for mankind to look beyond its own little kingdoms to a greater kingdom than one that serves our own particular selfish ambitious and conceitful needs as individuals, as families, as tribes, and nations?

Some believe the mantra for peace in the world is to overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. The much more predominate view has historically been to overcome evil with force, or more evil, not with good. This view is known in some circles as the “Myth of Redemptive violence”. It is known by thinking people as a “myth” because it has never worked and has never been proven in thousands of years.

Likewise, the myth of the “Just War” theory, developed over thousands of years of Roman Catholic thinking processes has never been proved, has never worked, and even more amazingly, even though proclaimed and sacrificed for, and died for, has never been followed. Just one of the tenants of the “Just War” theory is the ethic of proportionality, meaning if your enemy pulls out your fingernail on one thumb for instance, you do not have a right to cut off your enemies’ hand. Another tenant of the “Just War” theory is that non-combatant civilians are to be protected and not attacked and killed for militaristic purposes.

As we think back through history, including and especially including the history of the Americas, and Medieval Christianity, including the carpet bombing of Europe, and the vaporization of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the decimation of the American Indians, etc. We can readily see that proportionality and protection of non-combatants do not apply at all to so called “Christian” militiamen who may subscribe to the “just war” theory. I do not subscribe to this theory at all, nor did the early martyrs of the real Christian Church.

There are other rules mankind has adopted of a similar nature s in the “Rules of War”. The “Rules of War” are also not followed. I do not subscribe to the “Rules of War” either. But both the “Just War” theory and the “Rules of War” theories offer some less than totally barbaric principles that are better than having no principles at all. However, these principles are not followed either. Israel is definitely not following them in the current crisis and should be Internationally sanctioned, in my view for the disproportional, unjust devastation of innocent lives of men, women, and children.

Concerning the Gaza-Israel conflict today, is it okay for Israel to bomb civilian targets if they give prior warning for Palestinians to leave? Where are the Palestinians going to go, anyway, since they are fenced in? Is it okay for Hamas to launch rockets into Israel not knowing where they will land and who they will kill? Hamas is guilty too, and so is the United States for supplying Israel with weapons of mass destruction, and so is Iran for supplying Hamas with lesser weapons of mass destruction. It is also unconscionable for Israel to possess nuclear weapons, as well as the United States, Russia, and all others who possess them.

I am thinking of all these kingdoms and how all these kingdoms fight and war against one another, all of them whose citizens consist of precious human flesh and blood, including the precious flesh and blood of the Americans, British, German, Russian, Japanese, etc. Flesh and blood beautiful people have died with their women and children. Likewise, American Indians, Black slaves, Chinese, Syrians, Iraqis, and Somali’s, Sudanese, Nigerians, Colombians, etc. have died, due to brutal and inhumane force.

Kingdoms of the world fight against each other, which is just the way it is, the way it has always been. However, is that the way it will always be? I can think of one human being, at least one, who said NO! That is not the way it will always be. There is a Kingdom to come that will not be like the other kingdoms. This Kingdom was mentioned in Hebrew scripture (and rejected by Jews). This Kingdom was mentioned in Christian scripture (and rejected by Christians). This Kingdom was mentioned in Islamic scriptures (and rejected by Muslims).

It is a Kingdom NOT of this world. It is a Kingdom that comes after the laws and the prophets, including what some view as the final prophet. Yet, it is a Kingdom here now, which we can join. It is a Kingdom of God, which we, all human beings, need to become citizens of, a Kingdom of grace and peace. A Kingdom of religion without compulsion, without forcing laws because we willingly love and care for one another, and care for our beautiful earth. Anybody can join this Kingdom now, from any religion, or final religion. It is a Kingdom to be ruled by self- governance, which is ruling over ourselves internally, firstly. and loving others externally, including our enemies.

Here is a link of the Christian Theologian, N.T. Wright being interviewed by Gary Deddo, an official of Grace Communion International, the old Worldwide Church of God, which I was a member of: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MblLTC75KOc. I believe this video will give all of us a broader perspective of the Kingdom of God. In the interview, please notice how references to nonviolence are spoken of as being signatory of the Kingdom of God. I hope you will watch and listen…..

The Christian Church, Militant and Triumphant, the Jewish religion, Militant and Triumphant, and Islamic religion, Militant and Triumphant, are not exemplary of the Kingdom of God as God, NOT of this world, God intends his Kingdom to be. To me, the Kingdom of God consists of

One Human Family

One God

One Kingdom

We are members of each, all of us, and all of us members of each other, brothers and sisters, in One human family, created by One God, and members of One Kingdom of God. To be in submission to this threefold principle of being one with each other, one with God, and each, regardless of our religion at this time, participants in one Divine Kingdom, to me, is a key of Peace.

Our enemy is our neighbor. Believe it – love him. This is the Kingdom in you and in Him, and in me.

Grace & Peace,

John Cooper

Submission

SUBMISSION

As I reflect upon the world situation today, having had an extended conversation with one of my Catholic friends just yesterday, about the world situation, its wars, the danger presented to ancient Iraqi Christians presented by Islamic infighting in ancient lands around the city of Mosel, (near the foundational city of Nineveh) and Pope Francis and his efforts to make a difference in the world, I am reminded of the scripture below:

 

James 4:1-10
4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
NIV

It is not my intention to give an in depth exegesis of the text above, but what I am thinking about is the topic of submission.

 
The text above specifically addresses the cause of fighting and wars among a specific group of people, Christians, and I do not put the word Christian in quotes this time. these are real foundational Christians that were at war with one another. The text mentions also an inner battle, a battle that is within us, within Christians, that is, and I personally believe a battle that is within all human beings. The text mentions the proper way to resist the forces of Evil which seem to plague the world and estrange Christians, and I believe all mankind from the closeness and nearness to God which God desires for us. Although the text is specifically written to Christians at war with one another, I can only imagine that submission to God, and a recognition of the fallen nature within us, and the nascent seed or spark of God within us that enables mankind to interface with God, is a solution to this world’s war and overcoming Evil, whether or not we are Christians at this time.

 
Before going any farther, I need to state that I am a committed Christian, and attempt to express my views from within this Christian culture, not to the exclusion of other cultures and belief systems which may also have important and valuable contributions to the Kingdom of God, such as the Islamic sect of Sufism, whose leader was Rumi, or Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad, or others. If I am wrong in any way, please feel free to offer your comments from whatever belief system you frequent.

 
Submit yourselves…. (plural) indicates we live in community with each other. Specifically we are speaking in context of Christian community, but I believe the principle may be applied to all mankind as a method of overcoming Evil. Also, firstly, I believe we should submit our self, singular in this quest of overcoming Evil.

 
Most of us in any belief system want to overcome Evil. In overcoming Evil, from my viewpoint, Nonviolence “works” but it does not always “win” or work if we use it to overcome others externally. Our focus in nonviolence should be to overcome firstly the selfish self within us and to submit to the image of God or seed of God within us.

 
The softening and nurturing of the inner seed within us and the realization that we are delivered from evil within ourselves firstly is crucial before we can nonviolently resist external evils in society or internal evils in others. We cannot deliver ourselves. It takes, a village, as in the Lord’s prayer, “Deliver us from evil” a trust and submission to God to deliver “us” from our internal selfishness.

 
Some call this a conversion experience. Some call this inner blooming of the seed of the Kingdom of God within us being “Born Again. Others call it being infected by the spirit of Jesus.

 
As we submit ourselves to one another, in love for one another, this blossoming of our spirits can result in radical transformation, not just of ourselves, or, our self, but the internal softening of other selves, and self, as the nonviolent, peaceful inner submission and infection interfaces and joins other like minds or selves created in God’s image.

 

I quote from http://www.holylandmoments.org/devotionals/we-are-all-connected

 
“Albert Einstein once observed, “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.”

 
All people, even from a scientific perspective, are really one entity. And so, yes, it makes perfect sense that the actions of one affect us all. Just as a problem with our foot affects our entire body, toxic fumes in China can disrupt the atmosphere around the globe. Judaism says this principle holds true spiritually as well. The sins of one person impact us all.”

 
Albert Einstein, a fellow member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, by the way, seems to have thought, that if we, as human beings are thinking that our self is not connected and accountable to others and perhaps should be in submission to others, we are suffering from delusionary thoughts that are outside of the universe of reality. Let us then, submit ourselves to one another.

 
The Book of Romans is about submission. Submission to authority is just one point. The major point before submission to external forces (have you ever met authority as a person? I have not.) is to submit to God and offer ourselves in submission to God first, as in the text from James 4 above, and above all, and if needed, and nonviolently submit to authority and in some cases resist that authority because we have submitted to God firstly. If the authority is motivated by Evil intents, perhaps it will actually be afraid, and flee from us. But, we must keep in mind, perhaps Evil will not immediately flee, and our desire is to continue submission to God, regardless of the consequences.

 
Before we can be effective in this submission, it is necessary we are in relationship with “others” even the “others” we may believe we “resist” such as policemen with dogs, military people with tanks, political people not telling the complete truth, people who make nuclear weapons, people who seem to be in opposition to us, or otherwise we might term as “enemies.”

 
An often overlooked tool of nonviolence and submission, and never used as an exhaustion of the “all means” tenant of the “just” war theory is that we “love our enemies.” Sometimes the enemy can be us, and inside our own selves if we are not in submission to the seed of inner love in ourselves, planted by a Divine source, waiting upon fruition. By developing some kind of dialog, some kind of relationship, and some kind of love for the “enemy” we embark upon a journey of overcoming evil with good.

 
I like the idea Pope Francis had just this week as I begin to write this, to invite opposing parties such as Israel and Palestinian leaders to pray together with him and the leader of the Orthodox Church. This has been termed “ineffective” by some, but to me, it has had an internal effect upon those involved and an internal effect upon all who hear of the matter. Concerning the Pope, as I edit this article, today, June 22, 2014, just yesterday the Pope issued excommunication orders for the Italian Mafia whom he termed glorifies violence and Evil. Let us all pray for Pope Francis and his protection, as he wrestles with Evil forces who would like to see him dead.

 
It is not just our own selves, but our own Nations, and the entire world that is seems, according to Christian tradition God desires to be in submission:

 

Rev 7:9-10

9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
Rev 7:11-12

11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”
NIV

The above Scripture, seems to me, to be the nexus of the Kingdom of God and the original intent of the creation of the good earth. The Kingdom of God is not just intended for American culture, but for all of mankind. I think it is a narrow view if we include only our own nation, our own denomination, or the Roman Catholic Church only, or the Eastern Orthodox Church only, of even the Christian religion only, and attempt to exclude Jewish folk, Islamic folk, Atheist folk, or any folk, for that matter, who can imagine this kinder and gentler vision of the internal seed of God planted within us, and submit to it.

In the end we must conclude that our inner submission is about finding and joining the Kingdom of God that is within us, which is a Kingdom proclaimed by a Gospel of Peace, Good News that is told about in Hebrew scriptures as a Kingdom of Grace and Peace beginning with God walking with us in our gardens, internal gardens, that is, and envisioned as the beating of our swords into plowshares, and envisioned as the child playing at the hole of the asp, with a lion and a lamb and no more hurt or pain. Also this peaceable Kingdom of God was promoted by Jesus whose inner being reveals to us the image of God who asks us to begin loving our enemies, NOW, TODAY, including defeating any enemies we have within us, such as hatred, jealousy, and selfishness and overcoming the Evil within us with the divine Love He has placed in us via the image of God, the foretaste of the fulfilled Kingdom of God within every man regardless of race, religion, or nationality.

We are all asked by God to be members of this Kingdom and all be our brother’s keepers, and by Jesus to love one another, as he loved us. However, there are requirements of membership like believing in the Kingdom within us, and submitting to it. We have eternity to submit, and I believe we can submit to it out of the depths of hell, whatever, hell may be to us, but I also believe for us, and for you, that today is the day to do it. It is better to do it now. The invitation from Christian sources for your inner submission to a Kingdom that is within you, and is coming soon, an invitation that is continual, from God who comes to us internally, to whom we ought to submit internally, is recited below:

Rev 22:17-21

17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
NIV

Grace and Peace forever,
John Cooper