The price of living passionately

In 2004, Mel Gibson directed a film called “The Passion of the Christ.” Perhaps you’re familiar with it. The movie focuses on Jesus’ final hours, depicting his death in gruesome detail.

The rest of his life is mostly edited out.

Some of us were raised in traditions that focus almost exclusively on Jesus’ suffering and death – referred to as his passion – while skipping what he was passionate about. The lessons he taught, the love he embodied, the relationships he established are relegated to verses recited on Sunday but relegated to the cutting floor the rest of the time.

The truth is that Jesus’ suffering and death weren’t his passion; they were the price he paid for his passion. And there’s a lesson in this story for all of us about living with the same passion.

He was passionate about healing and reconciliation, not only us to God but to one another as well. He passionately announced, embodied and created a sacred space where everyone is welcomed and treated as the beloved child of God that they are.

This alternate kingdom was the antithesis of Caesar’s kingdom, then and now.

The price for living passionately

He preached about God’s deep passion for the needy, the struggling, the oppressed – woe to the rich, blessed are the poor, the least are the greatest, help anyone who is bleeding by the side of the road. He made whole again anyone who came to him for healing.

And justice – he was deeply passionate about justice.

Gospel stories describe him staging a provocative Palm Sunday procession that confronts Caesar’s values of power, wealth, dominance, violence, and militarism.

He was passionately prophetic by overturning the tables of those who misuse religion – then and now – to amass power, preserve the status quo, and ignore the needs of those they are supposed to serve.

This was his passion. He lived it. He paid a price for it. And he invites us – no matter what faith or religious background — to do the same and live in a passionate way that challenges the status quo and heals the world. He challenges us to put our passionate lives on the line for those who are being trampled by the many opportunistic political and religious leaders of our world.

Each of us can, in our own unique way, bring love, healing, reconciliation, restoration and resurrection to our world, our society, our relationships. We’re forced to choose between between living passionately or playing it safe and never truly living at all, which is an even greater price to pay.

Jesus knew there would be a cost for his passion– there always is. He lived it anyway. May we, too, live passionate lives sustained by transformative love and daily resurrection.

Clearing our heads and hearts

Before we can repair and heal our society and ourselves, we’ve got to let go of a lot of toxic stuff we’ve inhaled.

On some levels, we’ve absorbed the words of division, domination and derision in our society. We’ve heard the war cries of those who want to pit us one against the other. We’ve been conscripted into nonstop battles over religion, culture and politics.

Nobody who’s engaged in our society can avoid being drawn into the muck. When something noxious is dumped into water, animals that live there can’t avoid ingesting it.

Neither have we.

We’re anxious and on edge. We’ve become addicted to our screens, habitually looking for the latest outrageous thing that will set us off.

People waging their nonstop wars have gotten into our heads. They don’t want people living in joy and peace; they demand conflict and attention.

It’s time to let all that go.

We need clear minds and loving hearts as we set off on this journey to build a better land. We can’t let those voices continue to get under our skin and inside our souls.

This work of cleansing is as old as humanity. We see it throughout our history and our Scriptures as well.

Jesus lived in times much like ours, full of wars over culture, religion and political power. He invited everyone to live a different way. He advocated for the kingdom of God, a place where we call a truce to our nonstop wars and love one another, even those deemed an enemy.

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We don’t achieve peace by winning wars; we create peace by instilling
justice in our world.

The culture warriors of his day reacted the same way they do now, attacking and demonizing him. They clearly recognized that his message of love and healing and peace was a threat to their divisive way of life.

“Evicting those voices from our heads and hearts”

In the midst of all this, Jesus would go off by himself to clear his mind and get re-centered. He pushed those other voices out of mind and created a space to hear God’s voice.

So must we.

We can’t allow the voices of conflict and division to take up space in our heads. We can’t obsess over them or let their harsh words provoke a harmful reaction. We can’t allow them to conscript us into their latest war.

Instead of allowing them to rob us of our peace, we need to show them the door and evict them. We need clear heads and loving hearts to transform and redeem our world.

This doesn’t mean we stop working for justice – far from it! We persistently push for it. But we do this holy work in a spirit of healing and unifying rather than dominating and dividing.

We’re children of God, not enemy combatants.

Next: Picking a destination

(“Praying Hands” image courtesy of josephleenovak @creativecommons.org)

Faith in our broken society

values burrows.nichole28 CC

The pandemic has shown us that we need to change not only our individual lives but our collective ones as well. There’s a lot in our society that’s deeply broken and needs fixed.

Our spending priorities are askew. Our health system is a mess. Our leadership is lacking. Our decisions favor some lives and render others expendable.

In times like these, prophetic voices challenge systems and shape discussions. We need to be those voices.

We can’t hide inside places of worship. We must get involved in what’s happening outside our doors.

Faith and values apply not only to our personal lives, but to our collective lives as well. If they don’t, our faith is only half-hearted and our values null and void.

Our religious tradition urges us to love God with all our hearts in all areas of our lives, not just the convenient parts. We’re to love our neighbors – all of them, in all situations – the same way we love ourselves.

Real faith is an all-or-nothing proposition.

Throughout history, many religiously observant people have endorsed superficial faith. Some Christians peddle the notion that Jesus’ values — love, compassion, forgiveness, healing, inclusion, caring for the needy, promoting peace — should apply to personal lives but can be excluded from our collective choices.

They say our society should be run by conflicting values – wealth, greed, privilege, self-interest, domination.

The same mentality created slavery and Jim Crow. White Christians insisted that their oppressive systems were exempt from Jesus’ commands to treat everyone as an equally beloved child of God.

We can’t limit faith to a few areas of our lives. We can’t ignore what’s being done by the various social systems that need our support or our inattention to continue.

That’s the real test of faith.

As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., put it, “A religion true to its nature must also be concerned about man’s social conditions. … Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them is a dry-as-dust religion.”

One form of religion mustn’t gain privilege or supremacy; rather, faith compels us to ground our collective decisions in the loving values that are the foundation of all true religion.

Our conversations about the many challenges confronting us must begin by acknowledging our shared responsibility to care for all God’s children and all God’s creation in all circumstances.

It’s all-or-nothing.

We’ll sometimes disagree about how best to accomplish goals, but we must always be in accord on the underlying intention for all we do. Love alone must be our motivation.

If we choose a different starting point for our collective decisions, then we’ve not only lost our way but any semblance of faith as well.

(Photo illustration courtesy of burrows.nichole28 @creativecommons.org)

Tomorrow: Healers in a broken system

 

 

No going back

Personal Transformation

Several of my friends were cured of cancer. They describe how every part of their lives was turned inside-out during treatment. They asked God to help them through it. They longed for everything to return to normal.

Once healed, their lives were never the same. The experience changed them significantly. What once seemed so important was now unsatisfying. They experienced life differently.

When they realized there was no going back to how things were before cancer, they went through depression and grieved the loss of their former lives. Some of them got angry at God.

Eventually, they made peace with their circumstances and set about transforming their lives into something new and better – more real, more alive, more Spirit-filled.

Although not thankful for the illness, they recognized that it interrupted their lives in needed ways. They felt more peace and joy. Their relationships – including with God – grew richer and deeper and more satisfying.

I’ve thought about those friends as we navigate the coronavirus pandemic. In many ways, our lives also have been turned inside-out. We yearn for things to go back to how they were a few months ago.

They can’t. Nor should they.

The interruptions provide a chance to examine at our lives and make needed changes. This applies not only to our individual lives, but to our faith communities and our societies as well.

The pandemic can teach us necessary lessons and become an impetus for changes that make us better.

Our challenge is to take a clear-eyed look at how our lives need to be refocused, how our faith communities need to adapt, and how the systems and values of our society must be significantly reformed.

For the next week, we’ll consider some of those areas to spark thoughts that lead us to transformation.

We can’t go back to the way things were three months ago – it’s not possible. Nor should we try.

Instead, we can embrace this opportunity to grow into people and societies that do a better job of caring for ourselves and all God’s children. We have an opportunity to grow closer to one another and to God, who yearns for us to experience the gift of life and the joy of love more deeply.

Let us make the journey together.

Tomorrow: Learning from our restlessness

(Image “Personal Transformation” courtesy of GroggyFroggy @creativecommons.org)

Why is all this happening?

eye photo pexels

When things happen as fast as they are now, we ask a lot of questions.

What’s the latest news? When do the newest virus-related restrictions go into effect? Who’s affected by them? Where will I be able to go?

And then the best question which we humans tend to ask most often throughout our lifetimes.

Why?

Why is all this happening?

We’re hard-wired to seek explanations – answers to “why” — so we can understand better. Parents know how often a young child will ask that question. Why do I have to do this? Why can’t I do something else?

Why is everything this way?

Sometimes, however, “why” isn’t an especially useful question when we’re trying to deal with a challenge. There are more helpful questions for the moment.

How
do I navigate this? How do I help others get through it, too?

Right now, we’re all trying to get through our lives being turned upside-down in many ways. We’re full of lots of questions, most of which don’t have well-formed answers.

But we intuitively know the answer to the most immediate questions.

How do we get through this? How do we heal from all this?

Together, as we always do.

There’s so much fear and pain and grief around us and within us now. We’re grieving the loss of how our lives were only a couple weeks ago. We feel pain from losing jobs and routines and connections.

We also grieve the loss of long-awaited events, things we’d worked so hard to achieve and celebrate – graduations, weddings, proms, big events that we’d circled on our calendar.

We fear what might happen in coming weeks and months before we begin to see an outline of our new normal.

But here’s the thing: We can get through by entering into not only our pain and fear and grief, but others’ as well. Once we share it, we no longer shoulder all the weight by ourselves.

And then it becomes manageable.

As Richard Rohr put it, “When we carry our own suffering in solidarity with humanity’s one universal longing for deep union, it helps keep us from self-pity or self-preoccupation. We know that we are all in this together. It is just as hard for everybody else, and our healing is bound up in each other’s.”

Even as we create physical separation to keep each other safe, we need to create shared, common spaces within us to heal together. We can’t withdraw from each other.

(photo courtesy of pexels.com/@magoi)

 

 

Little Joey and the blue sidewalk chalk

chalk be kind2

The toddler grabbed a stick of blue sidewalk chalk and licked it. His grimace showed that his taste buds worked perfectly.

I cleaned Joey’s lips with my handkerchief and told him chalk isn’t for eating – none of which he understood, of course. Words are a mystery at his age.

I guided his hand downward to the church sidewalk and showed him how the chalk can make pretty blue lines on the ground. Joey was unimpressed. He had a better idea.

Holding the stick of chalk aloft like a scepter, he scampered down the sidewalk, as though he was royalty and this was his kingdom. Then, he stumbled. The scepter flew from his hand.

The chalk rolled beneath an artsy, metal bench next to the sidewalk. Joey spotted the chalk and ducked his head beneath the bench’s sharply angled edge as he went to retrieve it.

Oh, no!

Joey and his family were at the church as part of an interfaith program that helps struggling families. Volunteers provided dinner. Afterward, we took the kids outside for playtime while the parents relaxed for a little while.

Little Joey got my attention, and not just because we share a name. He looks similar to me in my baby pictures – same hopelessly thin, curly hair, eerily similar facial features.

I felt like I was looking at one of my baby pictures.

And now, when Joey stood up, that curly-haired head would encounter the unforgiving edge of the bench. Scalp would meet metal. Screams and tears would follow. Maybe some blood, too, and perhaps Joey’s first trip to the emergency room for stitches.

Oh no!

I dashed toward the bench. As Joey reached for the chalk, I stretched my right hand protectively over the top of his head and guided him safely away from the edge.

Joey gave me a quizzical look, wondering why I’d just done that. Then he held his blue scepter aloft and toddled away, murmuring something happy.

In a moment of grace, his noggin had been saved – for tonight, anyway.

Joey will grow up with no recollection of that moment or that night. He won’t recall how awful the chalk tasted or how a stranger’s hand found his head at an opportune moment.

As I watched him ramble away, I wondered how many times in my life somebody had done the same for me, helping me while I was oblivious.

So many people have entered my life at different moments and given me what I needed – protection, encouragement, a hug, direction, friendship, love, stitches, casts, words of healing. I couldn’t have gotten this far without all of them.

Grace, embodied.

I think of grace as the hand that finds our head when we’re about to bash it against a hard edge. Grace also guides us and teaches us — no, you can’t eat chalk.

Of course, grace isn’t a bubble wrap. Life isn’t a Hallmark movie. We get hurt, things don’t work out. But grace is there in those moments, too, ready to sweep us up, wipe our tears, heal our hurts, stitch our wounds, and remind us that we’re always loved and never alone.

And then we toddle away toward our next adventure, flirting with some other sharp edge.

Grace is that mysterious Presence that helps us go where we need and get what we need, even when we don’t know where we’re headed or what we really need.

Even when we try to reject it.

Grace is never optional

 

Our American ethos of rugged individualism is essentially a rejection of grace. We’re told to be self-sufficient and earn all we have. We’re lectured about taking responsibility for our own heads and, if we bump them, we shouldn’t go crying to anyone — it’s your own fault, leave me alone.

It’s the opposite of grace, which is completely unmerited and essentially needed. Grace is always a collective effort. Grace is never optional for any of us.

We may convince ourselves that we’ve retrieved the chalk without anyone’s help. We can toddle away without recognizing the hand that not only gave us the chalk but also saved us from the sharp edge.

Thankfully, grace keeps reaching toward us.

 

A drink from a different cup

Cup of poison

Next to me sat a minister wearing a collar. In front of me were two men wearing yarmulkes. On the other side of the mosque were women in various head coverings. A nun sat among them.

Everyone in the mosque was in stocking feet, seated on folding chairs or simply reclining on the carpeted floor.

An organizer invited everyone to share the name of their place of worship. Dozens of churches, mosques, synagogues and temples were represented at this gathering prompted by the massacre at mosques in New Zealand this month.

We were reminded that religion – the real deal – is about standing up for peace, compassion and healing. It’s about choosing love over hatred in our individual and collective interactions each day.

The man who killed Muslims in New Zealand is the latest example of what happens when we drink from the cup of hatred. Important parts of us die off. A man whose compassion, decency, and sense of humanity were killed by this poison committed a great evil.

Poison that divides

The various hate-filled men who have violated sacred spaces – an historic black church in Charleston, a synagogue in Pittsburgh, mosques in New Zealand, and many others — all drank the same poison that is readily available these days:

The poison that exalts nationalism and supremacy and privilege.

The poison that advocates war and weapons as solutions.

The poison that stokes fear of anyone who is different.

The poison that builds walls against those who have a different skin color, different religion, different ethnic origin, different nationality, different sexuality, different political viewpoint.

The poison that aims to divide God’s children and turn one against another.

The struggle against hatred has gone on as long as humans have been around, and it will continue after each of us is gone from the planet. But this is our time – our moment — to offer an antidote to the poison in its various forms today.

I’ve been inspired by the many interfaith gatherings in the last couple weeks. People joined hands in offering the world a healing dose of love, compassion and peace -– the shared values of all actual religion.

They renewed their commitment to transform poisoned hearts and divided communities with a love that is undeterred and undiminished.

They offered the world a drink from a different cup.

They prayed for the victims and the perpetrators while recognizing that their thoughts and prayers were only a starting point. Words are never a finish line. Action must follow.

At the gathering I attended, we were reminded that this action must start inside each of us. We need to guard our own hearts against the poison. It’s easy for words of hatred to seep inside and influence us.

Offering an antidote

Next, we have to challenge our leaders – those who have outsize influence — to denounce these acts as expressions of evil. But the denunciations can’t end there; all leaders must emphatically and fully reject the ideologies that produce these acts.

Acts of hatred don’t come out of the blue. They’re shaped by the poisonous words in our world. Any leader who contributes to the poison or who refuses to condemn hateful ideologies is aiding and abetting and promoting the inevitable results.

Finally, we must respond in some way to the poisonous words we encounter in our daily interactions. We mustn’t allow them to pass without offering alternate words – a reminder that everyone is an equally beloved and beautiful child of God and must be treated as such.

It’s not about enforcing political correctness; it’s about offering an antidote to counteract the poison.

As the imam prayed on behalf of everyone in the mosque that day: May we work together so that goodwill dominates, love prevails, and hope spreads through our communities.

There will always be hatred in the world. We’re obligated to make sure there’s always more love.

We offer a drink from a different cup.

When God’s inside the hashtag

# Me Too

When the “Me Too” movement began, one of my long-time friends shared the hashtag on her social media page. She’d never mentioned her experience. I sent her a supportive note.

When we next met, she told me about her initial reluctance to go public for many reasons. Ultimately, she was swayed by the courage of other women. She hoped her hashtag would make a difference somehow.

So many women and men are speaking up about the sexual abuse they’ve encountered, knowing there will be a push-back in many cases – powerful men will dismiss them, church leaders will vilify them, people with agendas will attack them on social media.

Their courage is slowly changing how our society views sexual abuse and those who survive such abuse. The powerful are being held accountable – some, at least. A public conversation has started. New standards are being fashioned. Those who speak up are feeling empowered, getting justice and protecting others from abuse.

#MeToo is healing, holy work. God is inside every hashtag.

There’s another side to the story, of course. Powerful men – religious men, political men, corporate men – have dug in and resisted the divine quest for justice and healing.

And that puts each of us in position to decide where we stand, especially when people masquerading as religious leaders try to preserve the status quo.

Healing, holy work

We’ve seen it in the Catholic church. Those who were abused came forward and were essentially abused again by clergy who discounted and even shamed them. Working with God, they’ve finally brought the clergy to a moment of accountability and their church to a moment of reckoning.

The next step is to challenge the church’s broken, insular leadership structure that enabled and supported the abuse, even as clergy try to preserve it. God is working with the abuse survivors to bring about a reformation and a transformation.

In the past two weeks, we’ve seen the spectacle of Evangelical leaders insisting that a woman’s word about attempted rape doesn’t even matter – as though it doesn’t matter to God.

Many Evangelical leaders insist we should ignore a courageous woman’s “Me Too.” Franklin Graham said in an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network that Christine Blasey Ford’s account of fighting off rape doesn’t amount to sexual assault and isn’t relevant to any discussion.

It’s the good-old-boys’ line of defense: Shush the woman, support the man, sweep another horrific story of abuse beneath the sanctuary carpet to join the mountain of dirt already there. Pretend it didn’t happen. Move on.

A rejection of God herself

It’s that attitude which must be challenged and changed. Sexual abuse will continue so long as it gets the wink and nod of religious and social and political leaders.

That attitude must be called out for what it is: a rejection of God herself.

It’s a rejection of God who always sides with the oppressed and never with the oppressor, sexual or otherwise.

It’s a rejection of God who wants to get at the truth in every situation and never settles for silence or lies in the face of wrongdoing.

It’s a rejection of God who partners with women and men to challenge the male domination that has justified and enabled such evil things throughout human history.

It’s a rejection of God who always holds the hand of a survivor as they tell their story and never sides with those who try to sweep their story under the carpet.

It’s a rejection of God who says in solidarity: #MeToo.

Earth dust and star dust

stardust3

Growing up Catholic meant that Ash Wednesday was a big deal in our school and our church. Personally, I never cared for it all that much.

Part of the reason was that Ash Wednesday marked the start of giving up something until Easter. Usually, it was the start of doing without candy or soft drinks or ice cream. I recall that one year, a family on my street decided they would give up television for Lent, which seemed like cruel and unusual punishment.

The ashes never thrilled me, either. The pastor of my immigrant church in Cleveland loved the ashes and would make a HUGE, messy sign of the cross on everyone’s forehead, turning them into a giant hot-cross bun for the rest of the day. Of course, we weren’t allowed to wipe off the ashes until we got home, so the little black flakes ended up on everything.

(By contrast, the younger associate priest in the parish would just leave a thumb-print mark of ashes on the forehead. We tried to gravitate to his line.)

Ashes on everything

What bothered me most about the day, though, was the message. It was so dark and seemed to be about beating up people simply for coming up short – which, of course, is the total opposite of the original message.

The person who started the movement went around telling people that they are blessed and beloved and beautiful and worth more than they can possibly imagine. He spent his life trying to build up those who were getting beat down by their religious and economic and social and political systems.

And he said that his followers must do the same. Forgive, embrace, include, heal and love everyone.

I totally get why so many people are turned off by Ash Wednesday, the way it has devolved over the centuries. We’re all bleeding in some ways, and the last thing we need is someone lecturing us on how we deserve to bleed. Instead, we need someone to take the time to stop, gently bandage our wounds, end the bleeding and start the healing.

That’s what the ashes represent – a reminder that every day is a precious gift and we mustn’t waste it. Day by day, we need to grow in love and shine more brightly.

The ashes also remind us that that we are intimately bound to everything and everyone, and we must live as such. The creation stories teach us so beautifully and poetically that everything — including you and me – is made from the same stuff.

In our diversity, we’re kindred creations. And it’s all very, very good.

The star that you are

One of the many cool revelations of science is that everything in the universe is built with the same divine tool box. Everything and everyone is made from the same set of elements, the same holy ingredients.

We are more than sacred earth dust. We are sacred star dust, too.

And like the stars, we are made to shine, each in our own way and in our own place. We’re meant to provide light for the world, and we can’t hide from our responsibility. We mustn’t build walls between ourselves and others and cower in the shadow of fear, insecurity and certitude.

Mostly, we need to stop listening to the voices telling us that we don’t matter, we’re not important, we don’t measure up, we’re not good enough or worthy of unconditional love.

That’s what we need to give up – paying attention to those voices.

Instead, be the star that you are. In your way, bring love and compassion and healing into the world as best you can. Let every speck of dust remind you of the Source of your light and your brilliance.

Go and shine.

Away from the abyss

church1

I came across the picture above on the internet. Something about it resonated with me, the way people were falling out of the church and into an abyss.

I held onto the picture, planning to write about how we need to be careful of where we worship because some places lead us not to a higher plane of love and compassion but into the abyss of hatred and self-righteousness.

I worked up an indignation over how so many “Christians” reject anyone who experiences God outside of their tiny theological boxes. How they want legal consent to hatefully shun others in Jesus’ name. How they insist we should turn away refugees – let them die over there, it’s too dangerous to save them over here.

And I just want to say: WTF? What’s That Faith?

A couple of things I saw while driving around recently also got under my skin. First, I came upon a pickup truck toting a trailer that berated everyone on the road who didn’t share their beliefs. On the truck bed was a videoboard playing gruesome scenes of crucifixion. You also notice a U.S. flag, an Israeli flag and a POW flag. Whatever.

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A week later, I pulled up behind an SUV with this bumper sticker:

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Jesus loves me more? Really??? What in God’s name is going on here? I totally get it why so many people call themselves spiritual but not religious these days.

Oh, and I haven’t even started on the white, evangelical “values voters” who decided to become disciples of someone who has lived an entire lifetime mocking and repudiating their values. The ones who heard him say that he’s the only one who can save them, and they were like: We’re good with that!

Out with the old savior, in with the new.

As you can tell, I’d worked myself into a nice, judgmental mood for an into-the-abyss blog.

And then, I had a come-to-Jesus moment.

A man who is friends with someone in my UCC church contacted me. He said he wanted to talk about God. We met at a Starbucks. He comes from a deeply fundamentalist background. I sensed that he was anxious.

WTF? What’s That Faith?

He started quoting scriptures about judgment and punishment, and I just wanted to get up and leave. But then it occurred to me why he was doing what he was doing. He’s terrified that his friend is going to hell because she belongs to a church that believes God actually loves us.

Fear. I sensed a deep fear in his tone.

He kept going, hoping that if he repeated his Bible verses enough times, he might convert me and then God might accept me and not eternally torture me. He was worried about me, too.

I was touched. And I felt so sad for this kind, caring, anxious man.

It reminded me of something Nadia Bolz-Weber said during her reflection on the parable of the prodigal son – you know, the story of how no matter what we do wrong, we get love and hugs and a party in the end.

Nadia tells how an 82-year-old woman posted a heartbreaking message on her public Facebook page saying that she was afraid of dying because she thought God was angry at her and was going to torture her.

This poor woman’s “religion” had made her terrified of God.

“She’d been so condemned by the bogus reward-and-punishment system of false religion that at the end of her life rather than her faith being a source of comfort for her, it was a source of torment for her,” Nadia says.

How horrible!

I felt the same way sitting in Starbucks across the table from a good man who has been taught that the most God-like people in his life weren’t good enough for God because they didn’t attend his church. He’d been told that God hates most everything about all of us but will grudgingly accept those who get baptized into his denomination. All the others — we get eternally waterboarded.

Can you imagine the anxiety it produced in him? Poor man! I felt so sorry for him.

This poor man!

In that moment, all my indignation – OK, some of my indignation – melted. I saw not a self-righteous person but, instead, a victim who’d been beaten up by his “religion” and left bleeding by the side of the spiritual road.

He didn’t need theological debate. Instead, he needed someone to offer compassion and reassurance and love and healing and peace and hope – all the things that his religion was denying him.

In other words, he needed what religion is supposed to do. It’s supposed to lead us upward to a higher place, directing us to love. Away from the abyss.

I really hope he finds his way up and out. He deserves that grace. As do we all.

___

A link to Nadia’s reflection: http://wp.production.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/files/2016/03/2016-03-06_NBW_HFASS_Podcast_64kbps.mp3