Wednesday Warriors – Rob Bell

Rob Bell is one of the most controversial members of the modern Protestant church. He previously founded and pastored one of the fastest-growing churches in America only to leave after internal conflict. He now runs the popular Robcast podcast, continues to write and publish books, as well as speaking at conferences around the world.

So what’d this guy do, and why are we writing about him today?

Rob wrote the book Love Wins, bringing a progressive interpretation of the Gospel (New Testament) that revokes the status quo’s damning image of Hell and who goes there. (For those interested, this is called universal reconciliation.) He consistently brings people onto his show who are of different traditions, cultures, religions, identities, and life experiences, firmly believing that, “…truth anywhere in any religious system, in any worldview. If it’s true, it belongs to God.”

There’s humor, intense conversations, and amazing guests including the likes of comedian Pete Holmes (Crashing) and Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love). No matter what tradition or non-tradition you come from, you will finish listening to his podcast feeling better than when you started. For his writing, even the theological books are succinct and void of religious jargon making them accessible and impactful.

Rob Bell is a disruptor of the modern church. His message is to spread as much love and compassion as possible, which he believes is the true tenant of what Jesus was trying to accomplish. In a world where Christianity has been sorely lacking in those areas, Rob is a much needed voice. Where others have previously only seen divisions between religions, peoples, and nations, Rob has found the common ground. By doing so, bridges are built between otherwise separate and potentially hateful groups. For me, nothing could be more impactful than this.

Advertisements

Crystal Spotlight: Citrine

Could this also be titled Danny Wasn’t Prepared to Write a Blog Post? Yes. Yes it could, but here we are, strap on in and learn about citrine, one of my faves.

 

Citrine_Macro_-_Large_Vug
I mean look at that, how can you not love it?

 

Citrine is a type of quartz, turned yellow/orange by its high iron content. Citrine, true to color, is a solar stone, energizing and healing. It is also a good stone for the Solar Plexus chakra, having to do with self-confidence and will power, which is again energized by solar energy.

Physically, citrine is good for issues of digestion, including stomach troubles, as well as the pancreas, endocrine problems, urinary problems, and immune problems.

Mentally, citrine, with its strong positivity, is good for self-confidence, alleviating depression, preventing self-destructive behavior, combating self-doubt, and avoiding anger.

It is an extremely positive stone and will not absorb negative energies. It is good to have around to promote positive energy in the area, and does not require cleansing. However, if you want to cleanse it, sun-cleansing is best for this solar stone. Use early morning light and do not leave the stone in direct, strong sunlight for any long period of time, as it will lose its color.

Most market citrine is heated amethyst or smokey quartz, but I personally do not believe that harms their quality in healing or spell-making.

Bonus fact: I sell citrine bracelets and earrings on Etsy, and will soon be adding more citrine listings. Sorry for the self-promo! Happy crystal using!

Wednesday Warriors – Maximillian Kolbe

So, I spent this spring break in Poland studying for a class on Religious dialogue after the Holocaust. We visited Auschwitz I and II, and everything about the trip hit powerfully. I wanted to do this week’s Wednesday Warrior on someone we heard a lot about.

Maximillian Kolbe was a Catholic priest and a Franciscan. He was the only one of his brothers to remain in the monastery in Poland after the beginning of the WWII invasion. He was in prison for three months before release, and later arrested, sent to prison again, and then transferred to Auschwitz.

As a priest, he experienced great violence and harassment in the camp. There is a rather well-known quote that new prisoners heard from Newly arrived prisoners were greeted at the camp by SS-Hauptsturmführer Fritzsch: ‘You have arrived not at a sanatorium but at a German concentration camp in which the only way out is through the chimney. If someone doesn’t like this, he may at once go to the wires. If there are any Jews in this transport, they have no right to live longer than two weeks. If there are any priests, they may live for a month, the rest only three months.’

During his second month in Auschwitz, there was an escape attempt. Prisoners, including Kolbe, were forced to stand before Fritzsch as he choice 10 prisoners to punish to deter further attempts. One of the men chosen cried out about his children and his wife, and Kolbe volunteered himself because as a priest, he did not have a family to be there for after the war. The substitution was allowed.

These prisoners were taken to a starvation cell, too small for the number of people. After two weeks in the cell, Kolbe still survived, and was killed with lethal injection. Later, he was sainted as a matyr.

There are two major ways to respond to the types of horror that people experienced in the camp. There is complete selfishness, self-preservation, a thing that none of us can blame anyone for truly. Then there is the attempts to maintain goodness and kindness, to be selfless and help those who are suffering even as you suffer. Those who make this choice exist to remind us that it is possible, in the hardest times, in the worst times, for there to be good.

And yeah, I just wrote about a Catholic guy in the Holocaust. So I want to say: the Holocaust is a Jewish tragedy and to say otherwise is utterly ridiculous regardless of the other people who died and were targeted. Of the few people approaching the level of targeting the Jews were at, the Catholics were certainly not one. But I am a Catholic, and we do love our saints.

Wednesday Warriors – Alan Watts

Welcome to our new weekly special, Wednesday Warriors. Each week, Danny and I will be choosing one special figure in history who has inspired us. People walking all paths of life from social activism, to economics, to art (and best of all, where they all intertwine), these are the masters who have made our selves and our world a little better. We hope you learn something and are inspired, too.

Alan Watts is a British philosopher noted mostly for his bringing Eastern religion to Western audiences. His lectures are profound, funny, and certainly uplifting. If you’re into podcasts or are a YouTube junkie, this is the guy for you. Don’t believe me? Have a listen here.

Don’t skip it. Go back and listen, it’s only 3 minutes long.

So as much as I’m not about promoting old dead white guys, what he has to say is just too relevant to today not to discuss. Are you struggling with what to do in life and how to live it? Do you have a sense that things just aren’t quite right, and that our society maybe has some weird or even stupid rules? That its requirements for how to be and act aren’t very good requirements at all? Are you feeling, like so many of us, a bit disillusioned with the standards and expectations thrust upon us each and every day? Then cool, this is the guy for you.

I hear people talking every day about, and I see people living it out, too, alternative realities for life. What do I mean? I mean people who aren’t following the status quo of college, steady 9-5 job, life partner, babies, etc. Not that there is ANYTHING wrong with those things. There’s not. However, when that becomes the only narrative available, and in that order, for ones life then there’s a problem. Alan Watts helps illuminate the ways in which we live our lives, the ways we are EXPECTED to live our lives, and asks us to question them. Why are we really doing the things we’re doing? Why do we use society’s standards? Will they really make us happy? What is happiness?

You can find most of all his lectures online for free, so no need to indulge in any capitalist consumerism for this one. Enjoy.

Interreligious Relation in Trump’s America

Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.

So, how we all doing in the hellscape of America? Good? Good.

Your friendly neighborhood Catholic pagan has an invitation for you at this time. I’d love for everyone to take a second and read Nostra Aetate. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Ok, now that you’re done not doing that, I’ll let you in on what it is and why I want us all to read it. Nostra is a declaration by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965, regarding the Catholic Church and her relation to non-Christian religions.

You seeing where I’m going with this yet?

Banning a whole people from a country, marking people as “illegal”, calling an entire religious group automatically dangerous…these things may ring familiar.

Regardless, there is a message of action and attitude toward other peoples in Notra Aetate. Pope Paul VI encourages Catholics to remember Christianities birth in Judaism and to recognize them as people of the same God.

Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Of Muslims, the Pope says, “The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.” Tied up in this message of a shared God and the morality of Muslims is something greater than historically connected belief systems.

The declaration, in highlighting for Catholics specific historical and spiritual connections with other people, is really reminding us of the value and dignity of all people’s which, in a Catholic view, comes from creation by God and in His image. He relates that, “We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God.

I’m not trying to do any theology here, really. I’m just a religious studies major who recently had to read this declaration for a class, and as I read the call I became aware of the failings of Christians as a whole, including moderate and apolitical Catholics, to support others in this time of injustice and discrimination.

We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God.

Meaning, to all of us, it is time to stand actively against these actions instead of living in our safety, recognizing all people as our family in need of protection.

And if you don’t want to do that, if you think you aren’t part of the problem, I’d like to introduce you to an MLK Jr. quote that you likely won’t see in mainstream media:

“First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” – Letter From a Birmingham Jail

A final note: does my cover photo for this post seem contradictory to a Catholic view? Yes. Do I care? Not really. Punch a nazi, it’s the American spirit.

 

A Jew, A Catholic, A Protestant, Two Pagans, and a Familiar Have a Passover Seder

Actually, that might not give a totally accurate view of the full diversity we had there, but you get the gist. A more accurate title might be “A Jewish Atheist, A Catholic Christopagan, a Protestant Almost-Buddhist, a Celtic Pagan, A Nordic Buddhist Pagan, a Familiar, and Three Tarot Decks (They Really Need to Be Counted as People) are at a Seder, and A Catholic Shows Up Late” but that’s not really as snappy, is it?

This post is a joint effort by the Catholic Christopagan (me, Danny) and the Protestant Almost-Buddhist (Nat) to describe the experiences we had at the Passover Seder we had with our friend who unfortunately could not go home to have it with her family this year.

Danny’s Experience

I know, I know, a couple of Christians talking about their Jewish friend, how trite, but hey, I’m a religious studies major, when I have a religious experience, I can’t help myself.

The Seder was not really what I expected. I mean, I don’t know what I expected, and it certainly wasn’t a completely traditional one. We joked a lot. We asked for clarifications a lot. We interspersed discussions of each of our own spiritualities, and the clear relations we saw. It was all wonderful, however  few things stood out to me.

The first thing that struck me was the ceremonial hand-washing. This struck me as a Roman Catholic who had once been an altar server, that this was the first time I saw the origins of what I had done many Sundays on an altar for years. I knew for at least half of those years that the Last Supper that we acted out every Sunday was a Passover seder. The sheer fact of doing the Seder, shortly after Easter, was powerful. I was excited, thrilled, to be participating in something integrated in my religion in it’s own religious context, in a context closer to how the man I followed would have done it.

But it truly hit me at this moment: We shuffled through the bathroom, our Jewish friend turning the faucet on for each of us in turn then offering a towel, until she was the only one left. She handed me the towel and said, you’ve done this before, because I had, and I had known I had, basically, but I didn’t fully realize it until the towel was on my arm, and I was turning the faucet, that for years and years standing on an altar I held a jug of water, a towel, and a basin, and poured water over my priest’s hands before the Communion, and I was doing this ceremony again, differently, in a new way, with a completely new mindset.

The second thing that struck me most was the Dayenu prayer-song. The blessings given to the Jewish people as they left Egypt, escaped their pursuers, and received the Word of God were listed, and each time, at each step, we spoke a chorus “Dayenu”, a Hebrew word that means “it would have been enough”. At each step, if nothing else happened, if no more blessings were bestowed, we said, “it would have been enough”. This is beautiful and grounding and perhaps one of the greatest gifts given to me in this experience, this reminder. It was such a grounding concept, to think each step of the way, at each great gift, that even if nothing more followed, even if there was still negativity and bad conditions around, the gift was still there, and it was enough, it was something to be grateful for.

The final thing was the moment when we ate matzah with horseradish and an apple-cinnamon mix. For those who have not had this lovely experience, you eat through half of the matzah covered in horseradish, through to the apple mix. This is supposed to represent passing through hardship and bitterness to get to sweetness. I got the horseradish in my mouth, and then my body did this lovely thing where it refused to let me swallow because of how much I hate the taste of horseradish in my mouth, so I just sat there suffering with it sitting on my tongue, because I did not intend on being rude (or a wimp) and spitting it out, but my throat would not swallow.

But let me tell you, when I got that canned apple pie filling (this was a college student Passover, after all), it was the sweetest and most lovely thing that has ever been in my mouth. It was a type of visceral symbolism that Catholicism had never given me, not cruel, not over the top, but perfectly satisfactory to the occasion.

We spend religious holidays together at school when we can’t go home for them, because we don’t want each other to be alone. I did this for a friend, but I think I got more of a gift than she did. I say this not to make something so entirely Jewish about me, a non-Jew, but instead to express how lucky and grateful I am to have had such an experience. I felt closer to my Lord than I had after many a Catholic mass, and though I don’t think I suddenly know what it means to be Jewish, let alone a first century Palestinian Jew, I think I’m a little closer to understanding the messages He left. My spiritual landscape is changing, I am shifting paradigms and my relationship to the Divine, and if participating in a Passover Seder was the only thing the Lord gave me to guide me on my path, well, it would have been enough.

Nat’s Experience

This was actually my second Seder. The first happened a couple weeks prior, in my hometown, with my grandparents and their Christian congregation being led by Messianic Jews in the community.

It began innocently enough, with everyone a bit impatient but curious, and very respectful. But gradually, the regard for the sanctity of the event was lost to political commentary and crude, oversimplification of things like the “Palestinian-Israeli situation.” It got so bad, and I became so upset that I quietly left the auditorium where the dinner was being for a brief evening walk in the last lights of the day.

I don’t claim to have a personal stake in the issue. I’m not Jewish nor do I have relatives who are affected by the conflict. However, I have worked with women’s grassroots organizations working for a peaceful solution when I interned this past summer. And I do have friends whose hearts are close to this issue. And seeing an event, a sacred practice and ritual that is meant to bring people together be used to further divisiveness and fuel conflict and hatred was just too much.

Which brings me to my second Seder.

This one took place at my apartment, which I have with great commitment and pains attempted to nurture good and calming vibes. Some peacefulness in the life of anyone is good, but particularly stressed out undergrads. This Seder was led by my Jewish friend, someone I consider very close to me, and was attended/participating with others in our friend group. A diverse, eclectic group of people from varied backgrounds, childhoods and upbringings, religions, and academic disciplines. But what we had in common was what brought us together that night, and was, I believe, one of the main purposes of rituals like the Seder.

First, we wanted to support our Jewish friend who was far from her community and her home. Second, and the more selfish but more honest reason, was to participate in and honor the struggles of a people who overcame enormous odds and hatred to not only survive, but thrive. For a brief evening, we were allowed to enter into this community and experience the minutest portion of this struggle, perseverance, and overcoming to help us realize our own determination to overcome and succeed. For me, it was both a reminder of others immense struggles and a reminder of the ones that I have overcome and will overcome.

I am immensely grateful to have been a part of such a tradition, and I have only thankfulness and respect for the people of this tradition.

Next year in Jerusalem!

What I Did for Beltane

For those who don’t know, Beltane is celebrated on May 1st, and is celebrated as a secular holiday in many places as May Day. In Celtic tradition, Beltane (Bealtaine) was a fire festival bringing in the beginning of summer. The celebrations often including young men and women collecting wood for the bonfire the night beforehand, and on returning livestock would be passed between two bonfires to ward off disease. As such, Beltane is also a fertility holiday, and a traditional time for witchcraft work having to do with love (though many Neopagans speak against love spells directed towards a specific person, spells for general help in the romantic sphere are acceptable). This holiday is generally a lively celebration, and a time to let go of inhibitions.

What did I do for Beltane?

Almost nothing.

I lit a candle (jasmine) and burned some incense (rose and lavender), and I sat at my desk chock full of DayQuil and attempted to write a paper.

This paper is a final for a religion class titled “The Story of the Universe”, and the paper is giving me a headache. I had little idea what I was going to write on, and at first explored what interested me as I was developing my own new cosmology: Celtic paganism.

I am beginning to accept to my own sadness that Celtic tradition might not hold a lot for me, and I had little interest in reporting on the tradition. So instead, this became more a creative writing project than a paper per se, and I decided to begin to write on what I believe, and use that as a base to answer the question of my class: What is a cosmic person?

I could answer that question for someone else, follow a disconnected cosmology, research and cite and find what wisdom some other tradition offers, but instead I am trying to find the wisdom I’m developing, searching to see if I have the answer in my changing spirituality.

Yesterday, Beltane 2016, I had a hard time writing a paper, but I sat down and worked on it, I wrote through my ideas of the divine masculine, my ideas of the divine feminine, my ideas of the source of life, of the physical and metaphysical, of travel through the Wheel of the Year, and of the Holy Days of Catholicism, and I may not have had any revelation but I solidified words inside me that had yet to be turned into words. Maybe I did something for Beltane.

So, if Beltane is getting a party this year, it wasn’t yesterday. It will be later in May, my birthday, my 21st birthday. This signifies something of the reason I have transitioned my own faith system into the Neopagan paradigm. If this is a holiday of freedom and excitement, celebration of light and my favorite element fire, if it is joy and growth and the Triple Goddess entering a new life stage, then I truly ought to celebrate it when it feels right, and sure it seems silly to call getting inebriated on my 21st birthday religious, but I truly believe that if I do a spell, a meditation, an offering for Beltane, if I attempt to connect to the Divine in nature and in myself and in the cosmos, that is where it belongs, at least this year. It certainly doesn’t belong in the middle of papers and finals stress.

Oh, and I guess this is something to, because this writing is the first time I’m attaching my name to paganism online.