37 - Justice in Contemplation - Part 2: Violence
I’ve been working in my father-in-law’s shop, building new kitchen cabinets for our home. It’s a big project, within the bigger project of renovating our house. I’ve been on the cabinet project for almost three weeks. So far, I’ve built all the base cabinet boxes and the drawers. Two days ago, I put in an extra-long day in order to get all the painting done. It was a hot, humid day, and I had to cover up to paint. So, I worked a long, taxing day, sweating through the painting process. I came home tired, ready to take a shower and take it easy. I had just one thing to do before that could happen; bring the corner cabinet into the house. I’d already painted the cabinet boxes a few days earlier, and was bringing them home a few at a time while I worked on painting the drawers. But on this day bringing one cabinet into the house proved a bit more complicated than I’d anticipated. Because it was a corner cabinet, I had to turn it on its side to get it in the door. Before I even started, I suspected that the cabinet might just barely squeeze in. So, I measured the door opening, and sure enough, it was too narrow. So, I took the front door off and tried to bring it in. Still too narrow. So, I took the screen door off and tried to bring it in. Still too narrow. By now I was even more tired, and getting unusually frustrated. Every little obstacle or irritation was setting me off. My wife was helping me carry the cabinet in. So, we set it down by the front door in defeat, and I paced around the house trying to think of an alternative. Looking out the living room window, I finally saw a solution; the window itself. I took the bottom panel off, but couldn’t get the screen off. I finally pried it off, breaking it in the process. When I took the top window panel off, I discovered a horizontal bar right in the center, cutting the window space in half. There was no way I could get the cabinet in without removing that bar. I had to smash it out with a hammer, breaking it as well. By the time my wife and I got that darn base cabinet into the house, it was an hour later and I was fuming. I was so angry. I didn’t even know why. I felt ready to punch something. Every little thing made me want to scream. I was approaching rage, and I didn’t even know why. I absolutely hate getting angry. As a kid, my dad would get angry, and then abusive, and I swore to never hurt others in anger like my dad had hurt me, physically and emotionally. And though I was normally a calm, peaceful guy, I was still not able to keep myself from these kinds of anger episodes from time to time. I hated it, and I was hating it that day too. Yet, here I was, on the edge of rage and unable to come back down. Why was I so angry? I’ve been sitting with that question these last few days, and I think I’m beginning to come to some healthy conclusions. I’m beginning to understand, not only my anger, but the place anger can have as a healthy part of human emotion and experience. Let me explain.
I’m a keen observer of culture and human behavior. One thing I’ve noticed about American culture is that we don’t know what to do with anger. What we’ve mostly done is deem it a useless, negative, and bad emotion and treated it like the plague. What that also means is that we treat angry people like the plague. Angry people are bad. But something I’ve realized; when we label sometime bad, we cut it off, and when we cut something off, we’re no longer able to work through and resolve it. This is true of anger. As a result, I don’t see many good examples in our culture of how to deal with anger in healthy, positive ways. By simply deeming it a “bad” emotion, we’ve pretty much guaranteed our failure in being able to deal with and resolve it in healthy ways. The first thing we need to do is realize that it’s not a useless or bad emotion. We get angry for a reason. No emotion is good or bad. It’s just data. What we do with it can be good or bad, but the emotion itself is really just messaging. And the first “bad” thing we can do with anger is not face it. As hard and painful as it can be, the first step to a healthier approach to anger is to approach our anger. To give it space. To let it be in the room, in order to see it, look at it, and learn what it is trying to tell us. And what is it trying to tell us? That something is wrong. Anger is almost always a response to injustice. Whether real or perceived, we get angry when something is wrong, with us or with others. Anger is just our emotions way of telling us to pay attention, because something wrong is happening to us, inside us, or around us. If we won’t first learn to simply sit with our anger, we won’t complete the first step of the process in resolving that wrong, by taking the time to see what our anger is pointing to. When our knee jerk response is to simply black-list our anger and throw it out, we’ll never begin to deal with what it’s pointing to. We have a lot of work to do in our culture in learning to deal with our anger in more healthy ways. The first step is to stop calling it a “bad” emotion, and stop shaming ourselves and others for feeling it. As long as we are stuck in the first step, we’ll never get to the work of resolving our anger. Which means we’ll be stuck in a very angry culture, because we can’t sit with it in order to resolve it. And that’s exactly what we see. When we don’t make space for anger, in order to deal with it, we just sit and stew in it, like a pig in mud. If we’re going to become a less angry culture, we’re going to have to first allow ourselves to get more angry as the first step. We’re going to have to make room for anger.
Our culture is replete with overt messages which teach and tell us that anger is bad. Things like, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” and “just be kind.” As a result, there is often a pleasant emotional veneer over a lot of unpleasant emotions, because we’ve all been trained that we should just keep those negative emotions to ourselves. But what that is really saying is, “I don’t want to deal with your ‘bad’ emotions, so for the sake of my comfort, can you please just suffer in silence.” I think it’s interesting that we’re much more quick to rush to the side of someone struggling with depression than someone struggling with anger, but both stem from the same source. When people are hurting, it usually comes out in one of these two ways, as anger or sadness. And yet, we seem to have much more sympathy for depressive energy, because it is self-inflicting, verses aggressive energy, because it is other-inflicting. Depression is passive self-abuse, while anger is aggressive other-abuse. So, it makes sense why we have a harder time giving it space. While we might try to save someone else from their depression, we usually try to save ourselves from others anger. We run to depression. We run away from anger, because we know instinctively that we might become collateral damage in the process of trying to help. That makes sense. Anger is a powerful emotion. Often irrational. Very destructive, explosive, harmful, even fatal in it’s extreme. It’s no wonder we run from it, in ourselves and others. I’ve always been afraid of my anger. It feels so powerful and uncontrolled. It puts me in a place where I can’t trust myself to do what’s right, or good, in regards to how I treat others. I understand how hard it is to deal with anger, in ourselves and others. But the very nature of its power is why we must. To not deal with it only makes it more powerful, and more destructive. I’ve spent my whole life running from my anger, especially because I experienced just how destructive it can be at a very young age. Before I can remember, when I was three, my dad took a book and smashed it into my brothers’ mouth. My brother was only five. My dad had flown into a rage, and was screaming at my mom. When he came towards her in a threatening manner, my five-year-old brother came between them. He stood between my mom and dad, faced my dad down, and told him, “You don’t touch my mom.” It shocked my dad, at first, and caused him to step back, but it quickly focused his already ramped up rage towards my brother instead of my mom. My dad took the first thing he could get his hands on, a book, and shoved it so hard into my brothers’ mouth that it knocked out his four front teeth. Luckily, they were just baby teeth. From then on, my middle brother got the worst of it from my dad, mostly because he would never back down. Me, I just learned how to be as invisible as possible. I saw the grief it brought my brother, and I decided at young age to run from my dad’s anger as fast and hard as I could. Unfortunately, I also decided to run from my own anger, and that was a very unhealthy choice. The truth is, at times, I’ve gotten just as angry as my dad. I’ve never acted out as harmfully as he did, but I’ve still had to deal with some intense anger. Running from it did not make it go away. I am my father’s child. The one thing that saved me, I think – the one thing I did different than my dad – was that when I did lash out in anger, I always came back, acknowledged it, and apologized. I knew how crushing it had been for me as a kid, to experience my dads’ abusive anger. I never wanted to hurt others that way. But when I did, I recognized the wrong, and made restitution. What I was saying, over and over, was that this was not the right way to act. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to also understand that I wasn’t allowing my anger a place in my life, and as a result, I was perpetuating my anger instead of resolving it. For me, anger was just an anomaly that burst into my life from time to time for no apparent reason, caused some havoc, and then disappeared again. Until more recently, I never took a conscious approach in dealing with my anger. I never gave it space to be seen, to come into the light, in order to understand why I get angry, and how to deal with it in healthier ways. The most unhealthy thing we can do with anger is keep it in the dark. That action puts it out of sight, but actually makes it more dangerous. Out of sight is not out of mind. Anger in the dark is even more powerful, because it can burst out onto the scene unexpected and uncontrolled. When we are more aware of our anger - how to allow for it, listen to it, and deal with it - we can bring it forward in the right way at the right time, and learn to resolve it.
We have every incentive in the world to deal with our anger. Look at the state of the world. Look at how many people groups are in angry conflict with each other. Every day a different story with the same narrative. Someone has done someone else wrong, and someone is angry, hurt, frustrated, and oppressed. But anger is not just “other” oppression. It is just as oppressive to the person experiencing it. Anger is a response, but how we respond out of it is still in our control. When we get angry, we can choose how to express it, in good or bad ways. No matter how it makes us feel, we always have a choice in how we respond. The genius of Martin Luther King Jr’s approach to systemic racism was his understanding that how we react towards injustice can make a big difference. It can make the difference between compassion and conflict. King understood that passive energy draws people in, while aggressive energy pushes people away. He knew that a depressive stance would draw much more sympathy than an angry stance. This is what he called non-violence. And yet, through this non-violence he was able to call for the right kind of violence as well. The difference is important. King wanted to do violence to an oppressive system of racism, but he also wanted to ignite the cooperation of a large number of people previously on the sidelines in this issue. King knew he had to walk a very fine line, to speak with great passion against an oppressive system, while eliciting great compassion from those helping reinforce that system through their silence. He also had great intuition about the human heart. He banked on the truth that most people truly are good, want to do what is right, and are simply caught in systemic apathy without realizing it. King aimed to ignite the compassion of a sleeping nation the only way possible, by opening their hearts to love. Love is a passive energy. Hate is an aggressive energy. King knew that the only thing that could overcome hate is love, because love draws the contrast. More hate only justifies current hate. To love our enemies is to make them our friends, to show them that we were never enemies to begin with. Hate is a human dysfunction, often rationalized through unjust systems, but the true heart of every person, even in a broken system, is still a heart of love. To get through the corrupt programing of the current system of his day, King knew he had to touch the human heart with the passive energy of love, in order to aggressively combat a system rank with hate. It was the system that was unjust, and not most of the people complicit with it. It was the system that deserved a violent end, and the people who needed to be rescued from it, even those most complicit in it. King’s aim was to transform both by understanding which one required violence and which one deserved compassion. Energy always produces more of the same, negative to negative, and positive to positive. The aggressive energy of hate only elicits more hate, but the passive energy of love is stronger than the most violent hatred. Love is the only remedy to hate.
If we want to see an end to hate, we must learn to love even those who hate us. How else will we break the cycle of hate, but to show a better way. But we must also understand that often, the hate of others is a response to injustice, and if we are to love well, we must make room for such anger in order to lead the angry out of it. Anger, like depression, is simply a response to injustice and wrong. And it is often the right and natural response. It is no more “wrong” to be sad about being hurt than angry. Violent oppression elicits a violent response. We may not at first understand the cause, but we never will if we are unwilling to listen to those in the violent throws of an angry reaction to their pain. Somehow, even though it was MLK’s own people who had the right to be angry about their oppression, he had the strength and wisdom to make the first step towards love, in order to draw individuals out of systemic hate and on the path towards greater love. He understood that they were just as oppressed by that same hate as were his people. He had compassion first, even towards his oppressors, because he was big-hearted enough to bring love into a hurting, hateful environment. I don’t know how he had the strength to do that, to love those who were his enemies, to treat his enemies as friends. But I do know that he was following the example of Jesus, who taught that the ultimate energy of love flows from God. Contemplation seeks to put us in connection with a power bigger than ourselves, and our own petty self-interest, in order to empower us to greater love. Contemplation also seeks to point us to the injustice in our own hearts, the wrong in our own thinking, in order to help us set the example of what it looks like to walk away from hate, and towards love. King turned an entire people, oppressed as they were, away from their right to respond to hate with hate, and towards the path of love, because he understood that only love could set everyone on both sides free. To hate others is the heart of oppression. Which means no one can oppress us as much as ourselves. It is not the hate of others, but our hateful response to others which is the cause of our negative experience. That is hard truth to see, and what contemplation seeks to point us to. When we start from a place of love, and learn how to stay there, we will never experience even the most negative things in a negative way. When we can even love those who present as enemies, to us they never will be. This is what it means to love. It means we have no enemies, even when others make us theirs. It means that we have the great capacity to respond to violence with love, which is the only true counter measure. It means we have the space to allow for others anger in a way that draws it out, gives it space to be seen and heard, in order to help resolve it. It also means we can take the wounding of wounded people without hurting them more. If we all live in the cycle of reciprocity, it will only take one angry person to incite the whole world to hate. Hate is a chain reaction only contained when one person breaks the chain. Being a person of love in a hate-filled world will do that. MLK was a perfect example of that. His genius was his ability to show love and compassion to those who needed to learn how to show it to him, because he knew if he did not show the way, no one else was going to. That is a hard path to follow, to be a person of love in a hurting world. It means getting hurt by hurting people, and still loving them towards healing. It means even suffering the violence of violent people in order to help them out of the violent cycle of hate. The genius of Contemplation is how it points us to our dysfunction as the problem, and not to the dysfunction of others.
Contemplation says that the problem in the world at large is always in us. In a hate-filled world, if I am simply repeating the cycle, then I am a part of the problem. If I want to break that cycle, I must change myself. We must be the change we want to see in the world. We must become what we want the world to become. If we will not, then what we are really asking is the world to change for us, instead of us. We are asking others to do what we ourselves will not. How can I ask another to love me in the midst of hating them? Doesn’t that sound absurd? Any yet, it is exactly what we practice. When Jesus said to pluck out our own eye, and cut off our own hand, rather than do something wrong, he was using an extreme example to show that we must be willing to suffer in order to stem the suffering of others. This is also the ultimate message of the cross; that is, to say that we would rather die at the hands of violent people than do them violence. It is a radical, sacrificial kind of love, because it is the only thing love can do. Anything else is not love. Love does no wrong. Love is not self-seeking. Love is being wounded in order to not be the one doing the wounding. It takes the beating in order to stop the cycle of hate. It sets the example of where we need to get to as a global human community, in that we would rather be hurt than continue the cycle of hurt, even when we have the right to react in kind. If all we know how to do is protect our “rights,” we will never make the world right. If we can learn how to suffer the loss of all things, as Jesus did, then we can set the example of a love that will not waver. This is how we combat violence with the only thing that can displace it, by being strong enough to absorb the aggressive energy of hate with the passive energy of love. Love allows hate to flow through us, without bouncing it back. Aggressive energy is like a wall. It protects and deflects, simply returning to others what they are giving to us. Anger for anger, and hate for hate. Love is a passive energy, because it allows for aggressive energy to flow through us. It hurts because we have to feel it, in order to stop it from bouncing back. Our instinct is to always protect by pushing against that negative energy. This is the essence of reciprocity. But, when we protect ourselves, we simply keep the cycle going. As ironic as it sounds, this is why the passive energy of love is stronger than the aggressive energy of hate, and how non-violence towards people produces the proper violence towards oppressive systems. Non-violence is not weakness. It takes a great deal of strength to resist hate with love. It is actually the weaker person who can only respond in kind, who does not have the strength to love those who hurt them. To truly hate what is hateful is to love those who hate. To bring a violent end to violent systems we must end the cycle of violence between ourselves and others. It sounds backwards, but only because hate has turned us around so much in our view of the world.
Hate is a human dysfunction that we have somehow accepted as the norm, which means that love has become the exception. That fact that we can go through our lives, every day, without even recognizing the layers of hate we live in does not disprove this broken reality. It affirms it. We simply don’t see it, because it’s become so much the air we breathe. But the reality is clearly proven every time we encounter the “other,” the different, and the hurting. Every time we response towards hurting people with pushback, we are affirming a world of hate. We are continuing the cycle of hate, which is simply another way of saying, “not me, you won’t get by with doing that to me.” When we say “not me,” what we are really rejecting is the stance love towards hate. I know that sounds harsh, and hard; but it is the truth. Only love knows how to respond to hate with compassion. A response of hate towards hate only affirms our stance as grounded in hate. Call it self-preservation, boundaries, values, preferences, and personal rights, but it is all still the normalized dysfunction of hate. The reason people like MLK stand out is because they have learned to how to break the cycle of hate which has become so normal to our human experience. Whether we accept it or not, violence is rooted in our attempt to protect ourselves at all costs. Physical violence is simply the extreme end result. How little we see that this kind of violence began with a simple “not me.” When we decide to push against hate with hate, to resist aggressive energy through aggression, we have decided to go down the path of feeding this energy instead of dispelling it. The only way to dispel aggressive energy aggressively is to let it pass. To say that love is stronger than hate is to say that I am strong enough to love you when you are hating me. It’s that simple. But not that easy. How do we begin to grow in the strength of this stance of love towards hate? How can we learn how to have compassion towards our oppressors? Even if we agree that this is the remedy, how can we begin to do that? I believe contemplation is the answer.
What is contemplation, and how does it break the cycle of hate with love? Contemplation is simply the attempt to reconnect to the pure source of Love in God, in order to live out of that pure source in the world. Contemplation points us to the reality of the problem, that hate exists as a state of disconnection from the only true source of pure love. Only pure love would be able to suffer all the way to being murdered by the very one’s it’s trying to love, and that is exactly what Jesus did. “Father, forgive them,” were the words he uttered on the cross, about the very people who had put him there. Jesus was saying, “don’t hold this against them, because I don’t either.” To love to this extreme is crazy. It seems absurd to us, even impossible, but only because we have become so normalized by hate. Contemplation seeks to put us in a space where we can begin to see such a reality, in order to see it change. It points out the dysfunction of hate in each of us, individually, as the source of the greater dysfunction we see in the world. It turns the “not me” of our protective stance into the “not me” of our passive stance; which turns the whole paradigm around from “you won’t hurt me” to “I won’t hurt you.” When we take the responsibility of the world’s dysfunction of hate on ourselves, only then are we able to do anything about it. Then, instead of working to end hate in the world by pointing to others hate towards us, we can truly end hate in the world by point to our hate of others. It’s as brilliant as it is simple, and profound as it is repulsive. It’s what the Christian concept of “sin” was meant to convey, though we’ve lost its true intent and power through abuse. The dysfunction of religion always points to “sin” in the other, while a true connection to God always points us to our own dysfunction, and the work we need to do there. “Sin” as it were, simply speaks to the normalizing of hate in the world, but how hateful even religious people can be in pointing out others dysfunction while doing little to combat their own. It’s what Jesus was talking about when he said, deal with the huge wooden steak in your own eye before pointing out the tiny splinter in another’s (my own paraphrase). Contemplation, and true God-connection always points us to the work we need to do in ourselves. It begins by surrendering even our ability to see our own dysfunctions, and inviting someone with a higher perspective to come in and help. In a strange turn of events, contemplation helps us give up trying to make ourselves “better” by letting God show us that our truest self was never wrong. At the core, every person has a heart of love. The dysfunction is how we’ve been trained to live in opposition to ourselves. Its why MLK could trust that, given the chance, people would respond with compassion, because he knew it was already there waiting to come out. Evil is simply a system which has taught us a way of living in contradiction to ourselves, when we are truly made for love. Contemplation seeks to shed that evil, external system which has given us permission to hate by revealing it to be what it is. When we come face to face with evil, we will always reject it. MLK believed that, and I do too. The fact that we can be complicit in evil is only because we do not see it. To see it at large we must first see it in ourselves. I am the evil in the world, but I am not truly evil. This is a great grace and relief, but also a hard truth to accept. If bad religion has done anything, it has taught us that we are evil, instead of helping us see that we’ve always been good. Evil is only what we’ve been trained to do, because it’s what we thought was actually good. The work of contemplation is the hard tasking of see that our “good” is truly evil. When we can see that, we will naturally and happily give it up. The only evil, then, is any belief that allows us the space to hate another for being “evil.” It’s ironic, and surprising. Calling things “evil” which are actually good is the only evil in the world. We become what we believe. We become evil by believing we ever could be, by thinking anyone else could be too. When we cannot see another’s good, we fail to see how we could love another, and we justify our hate of the other. Calling another “bad,” is how we attempt to make ourselves “good”, and how we miss the dysfunction in ourselves by only calling it out in others. If I allow myself to hate those I call hateful, I am complicit in the same dysfunction. Contemplation seeks to turn our attention back towards ourselves, to see that the problem of evil begins and ends in ourselves. In reconnecting to God as this pure source of love, which desires to rescue us from the power of hate, our own separation from such love will become evident. When hate is exposed by the contrast of love, it is seen for what it is, and readily cast aside. We need to only see the hate in ourselves to dispel it, but we need the contrast of pure love to do that. What we may see as good in ourselves is actually a mixture of love and hate. In practice, no one is all evil, and no one is all good. The reality is that we are all a mix of both. The problem for most of us is in playing to our love-strengths while downplaying our hate-weaknesses. If all I do is point to how loving I am in certain moments, while never acknowledging how hateful I am in others, what I will be is a mixture, and the mixture of love and hate is mediocre at best. To love others well at times, and then be hateful towards them at others is even more harmful than pure hate. At least with pure hate we know to run away. In the mixture we are constantly getting pulled in only to be rejected. The truest dysfunction of hate in the world, then, can be said to be its mixture with love, and not pure hate without love. Contemplation doesn’t seek to shame us for that which is “bad” in us, but to purify that which is good by removing that which taints and holds it back. The goal, then, isn’t to be “good” people instead of “bad,” but to be people growing into love. Contemplation is not a place of perfection, but the pathway of learning and leaning more towards the direction of pure love.
To say that God is love is just to say that God is the only source of pure love unmixed with hate. If we have no such source, then we have no ability to move towards a love less mingled with hate. Whatever you may believe about God, good or bad, if there is no pure source of love, then we are doomed to suffer always in between the place of love and hate. However hate has entered the world, it matters less than how it may exit, and it matters most that we recognize its presence. To accept the reality that love must always be mingled with hate is to accept the world as it is. That is true hell. To surrender to a life of broken love, of love that comes and goes, that heals then wounds, embraces and rejects is to decide to live in pain. What we crave is unbroken love. Love as a steady, unending, inexhaustible flow. If God is not that flow, then even God is not good. If God can hate anyone, then even God is not God. Any religion that reinforces our ability to hate any one, is a part of an evil system which teaches us that it’s okay to love some and hate others. Hate mingled with love is the most evil. It’s what the Bible calls a divided heart, and also why Jesus taught us to guard our hearts, because they are the well from which our life flows. If that well is mingled with love and hate, that mixture – no matter how much love it contains – will still produce bitter water. It’s also why Jesus said that to only love those who love me is true evil, and why any God who does the same is also truly evil. If our idea of God is a being who only loves those who love him/her, and only to the degree that they love him/her, then that God is evil. There is no other way to define it. And then, even our idea of God merely affirms our evil, and confirms its validity through a system. Any system which justifies hate is truly evil, and must come to a violent end. But we must also recognize that those within that system need to be freed from it, and not dealt the same violent blow. Contemplation seeks to reveal the violence of hate complicit in our own truth systems in contrast to a God who is never complicit with any system of hate. Religion, I’m afraid, has presented the greatest evil in the history of humanity whenever it has been a system complicit with hate, because it uses the ultimate authority to affirm that hate. Any system which uses any amount of authority to affirm hate is evil, no matter to what degree. The work of contemplation is to reveal that we all, without except, are complicit in systems of hate, because no system is without hate except the pure source of God. When we realize this, we are ready for change. As long we think the “evil” is somewhere else, out there, in some other person or system, and not in us and our “truth,” we will never change anything. All change at the macro level stems from change at the micro level. All change begins with me.
If God is not a force to end hate, by revealing it in us, then what good is God, and what is God for? Jesus set the example, to show that this was, indeed, the heart of God. The fact that religion has gotten this wrong, and still does, merely affirms what Jesus tried to say and show. That we need, not more broken religion, but a better connection to God as the only pure source of love. The fact that we can be very “religious” and still hate is evidence that at times, even our religion has become disconnected from God. Contemplation seeks to make a mystic of every person, because it understands that only a personal connection to the pure source of love can resolve our inability to see our own hate. It helps us see that hate hidden by a partial love is evil, because it often covers our hate instead of exposing it. We are that mixed source, and all our authority structures and human systems are created out of that same dysfunction, and thus will never lift us out of the same problem they create. Albert Einstein once said, the same system that created the problem cannot fix it (probably not a direct quote, but close enough). I would put it this way, if the problem is in you, the solution must come from outside of you. I think it’s a simple and easy conclusion to make. If we only know how to love mixed with hate, then how can we know to do any better. As dissident as our ideas of God may be, I see no other way out of this mess. And I have not been able to even get myself out without this outside source. I won’t go into the long list of ways I’ve turned away from my own personal involvement in systems of hate and more towards love, but I can tell you I have been, and will still continue to be a mixed source of love. But I know that I am becoming less mixed because I am in the process of getting more and more connected to this pure source of love. I am on the journey. That journey is contemplation. I am seeing in myself the things complicit with hate (as God reveals them), and leaning into the process of letting them go. The details of this process still need to be fleshed out, and we’ll get to that, but we must first at least recognize that we can never move forward in this process on our own. It’s humbling and freeing to recognize, because it takes the weight off of us to do any better. It also grounds us in a process, not to become “better” people, but to simply establish a better connection to a God who reveals who we’ve been all along, good people merely caught up in bad systems. The difference between the two is the genius of contemplation, and something MLK was also able to see and reveal.
I was born on April 4th, six years to the day after Martin Luther King Jr. died for his stance against the systemic evils of his day. I aim to carry the weight of his calling in my own. I also envision a time when all people can live free, and at peace with each other, when the children of every race, nation, tribe, and creed can play with each other with no thought or care for their differences. A time when difference is celebrated and embraced, when we have learned to love each other no matter what. I believe the only thing that stands in our way is our belief. I believe things can change. I know they can, because I’ve experienced that change in me. And I will never stop promoting this change, because I know it’s possible, even when it doesn’t seem that probable in the world at large. If God can change my heart, even in the face of my dysfunctional religion, then God can change anyone. I’ve been there. I’ve been part of the problem. I’ve affirmed the same crooked systems complicit in perpetuating hate. And I’ve also realized that the God I learned about there wasn’t really God (or was a mixture of true and false ideas about God). I’ve also learned how to come out of those systems and back to a real, vibrant, intimate connection to the energy of God in and around me. It is that experi
ence which has proven transformative for me, and which I know can do the same for you. That is why I “preach” contemplation over religion, a connection to the real presence of a loving God over the good ideas of a broken religion. I hope you can see the difference. And I hope you can see that the difference to be made in the world is the change that needs to be made in you. It’s all we have by which to change this world. But it’s also all we need. We all need to stop, and take the time to listen to our own anger. It is pointing us to the things in us which need to change. And it is point us to the systems which have reinforced the dysfunction of hate. It is those systems which do require violence, and which must reach a violent end. But we must never believe that any person deserves the same end. We cannot fight hate with hate. The loving stance is to love people out of those evil systems. When we cannot distinguish between evil systems and the people trapped in them, we only end up doing evil ourselves. I believe we can do better. I believe we can get there. I believe in the cause of MLK. I believe in the work of contemplation. I believe God is there to lead the way. For you to experience that, you’re going to have to believe it to. Amen!