Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Apocalypse Now

(Reposted from Progressive Spirit)

I suspect that after this post gets sent, the number of people who follow me via email (currently 2174--see sidebar) will decrease substantially. The Progressive Spirit radio show has ended and I am taking a different turn in regards to the things that I view as important and worthy of my time and hopefully yours. Yet I hope you will be curious enough to stay with me and pass this blog on to others.

We are in an apocalyptic time. Apocalypse means revelation. This is a time of revealing, of making manifest that which has been shrouded. Apocalypse in the popular sense means massive destruction. This time could be that as well especially if we decide as a human species to ignore the revelatory aspect of apocalypse.

But I am hopeful because I believe in God (not Gawd)to use David Ray Griffin's distinction. To believe in God means to believe that morality and purpose are more than human social constructs. Morality and purpose are as real as atoms and supernovas, beetles and Bohemians. The very fabric of the universe is moral and we are a part of it, participating in it, being guided by and, to a degree participating, in its unfolding.

That belief is important, according to Griffin, because without it, without a belief and hope that the universe in some way "cares" we will not be able to face the task before us that is immense beyond measure. That task has come to us in the form of Global Warming or Climate Catastrophe.

Monumental in itself, our situation is far worse than a problem to solve. Our destruction (apocalypse in the popular sense of the word) is enabled by the evil in high places that temporarily profits by our impending demise. The work of this evil is to shroud our true situation. Evil works in darkness as our wisdom traditions remind us. None of our institutions is capable of dismantling this evil or even capable of naming it. All of the institutions associated with education, religion, politics, commerce, justice, military, and media are held by the grip of this evil, unable to see in the darkness their own complicity.

The only thing that can save us is apocalypse in the precise meaning of that word, which is revelation. We need an unveiling, a de-shrouding, an unfolding, and an awakening. This is not simply an intellectual activity. It is a deeply spiritual event. I use the word 'event' because apocalypse is an event in which we participate. This event is happening now. This time is apocalypse now.

All around us the shroud of evil is tearing. Glimpses of light are piercing it. These glimpses are truth-revealing glimpses into the reality of our imprisonment. What exactly happened on September 11th, 2001 is a question related to this apocalypse. We know that we have been deceived but at the same we are not allowed to know. I am not supposed to be writing about this. You are not supposed to be reading it. It is taboo. Yet here you are. You are still with me. The apocalypse event unfolds as more and more people see what they are not allowed to see, say what they are not allowed to say, and do what they are not allowed to do. Apocalypse nowis rendering the taboo powerless. I need not convince you of anything. You already know it. I don't need to show you Building 7. You know the official myth is a sham. You only need to trust what you know. Find your heart (courage) and act. When you are ready, you will.

Arbaeen is Apocalypse Now. It is not apocalypse (revelation) in the sense of a religious ritual by a sectarian group of Muslims. Arbaeen as revelation is an unfolding of truth and courage so profound that Christian bishopsprostrate before itand American Christian ministers (yours truly) return home and preach sermonsabout its transformative effects.

At first glance, Global Warming, 9/11, and Arbaeen are not related. But of course they are intimately connected. Global Warming negatively effects the poor first. It results from unbridled fossil fuel extraction that is linked to unsustainable economic growth that results in global resource war which is justified by demonizing the "Muslim enemy" that was created by the false flag of 9/11 who resists via Arbaeen.

Evil trembles before Arbaeen. American media cannot even report on it. But 15 million bear witness. Arbaeen (Apocalypse Now) is when the oppressed of the world lead the march toward justice.

Apocalypse Now (revelation) is a divine, redemptive event that uncovers the evil that is hell-bent on the popular version of apocalypse (destruction). Apocalypse Now is our summons to participate in our collective salvation.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Sound of Silence, Longest Night

My reflection for the Longest Night. 
(OK so the service was on December 18th. Not the Longest Night. But Long Enough.)

The Sound of Silence, Longest Night

“Silence like a cancer grows.”

Paul Simon’s “The Sound of Silence” is a powerful and prophetic song.
It speaks to fear that cripples us and causes us to turn away from what is unspoken
but needs to be spoken.
Silence is a weapon by those who would oppress others.
It allows them to work in secret while suffering people are not heard.

Too often the stories of the victims don’t make the news.
No matter how hard they cry, how hard they try, still…

“no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence.”

The Presbyterian Church in its Brief Statement of Faith speaks to this deadly, cancerous silence:

“the Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
to unmask idolatries in Church and culture,
to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.”

The faith statement knows the contrast between silence on one hand
and justice, freedom and peace on the other.
It isn’t the oppression that is most deadly; it is the silence.

The Spirit’s response is the courage to witness,
to bear witness to what we see and hear.
It isn’t anything dramatic or heroic or even difficult on the surface of it.
Speak. Speak what you see and hear,
not what others in their fear tell you what you should see or hear.

“Do you hear what I hear? Do you see what I see?”

How can we break this deadly grip of silence on our culture and in our church?

It is more than just being loud, like the flashing neon lights.
It is about bearing witness.

Now there is another silence that is not deadly nor cancerous.
This is the silence that comes to us in our yearnings beyond words.
In our weakness, when we don’t know how to pray.

St. Paul writes:

“God’s power comes to the aid of our weakness—we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but God’s power intervenes with yearnings beyond words. The One who searches human hearts knows what the divine intention is. God’s power and presence intervenes on behalf of the people of God in accordance with the purposes of God.”

This is the silence that is the appropriate response to Divine communication.

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence.”

That is not about being silent in the face of injustice, no.
This is the silence that is the response to grace.
This is the silence imposed upon Zechariah
when he couldn’t fathom the miracle
about to be visited upon him and his wife, Elizabeth,
–a son in their old age.
Best keep quiet, Zechariah,
than busy your mind with thoughts too large for your mind.
This is the response to the presence of the Holy.

This is the response when we are too earthly-minded,
too shallow in our thought,
too stumbling in our faith,
when the Divine One “intervenes with yearnings beyond words.”

Then we are known as we know.

“Silence like a cancer grows.” True.

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence.” True.

Both are silence.
One deadly.
The other,

“Spirit intervenes with yearnings beyond words.” True again.

Grief is love that has lost its object.
Grief is still searching.
Grief is still yearning.

It has been six years since we lost our son, Zachary.
I give myself permission to say his name and what I am feeling
during this Longest Night service.
I am grateful that you are here to hear it.
If I don’t say his name on a regular basis,
it is deadly.

The yearning is sharp at Christmas.
So often I have no idea how to pray,
how to process,
how to think or even
how to feel.
The grace is that I don’t have to know how to do any of it.
The grace is that God intervenes with yearnings beyond words.
God searches my own heart,
bringing out what is Divine within.
My heart is known.
In that I trust.

Of course, not just me. You, too.
I am just making it personal.

You may say, “So, God does all that for you, huh?”

That is rather funny.
I wouldn’t have said that six years ago
when I told my counselor that God was like a dead tree stump.
I guess it is true what the prophet said
that a root will grow out of the stump.

I bear witness to that.

No matter what happens, it is good.

It is possible to be changed for the better.
It is possible for one’s heart to be known by God.
It is possible to have a sense of peace about who one is and what one is to do.
It is possible for the healing power of silence that comes from grace,
to be transformed into words on behalf of those who suffer in deadly silence.

It truly is possible to be moved through grief and grace to life and purpose.

For that, on this dark night, I bear witness and I am grateful.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Sacred Darkness and Holy Grief

I am preparing services for Christmas. Christmas Eve and our Longest Night Service (December 18th, 7 pm) for those who are, in the words Robert Frost, "acquainted with the night." I ran across what I wrote last year at this time about loss and love.
Reflections on Darkness… 
I like sitting in the dark. It doesn’t have to be pitch black. It should be mostly dark, though. I find the darkness peaceful, embracing. It doesn’t demand anything of me. It doesn’t even know I am there. I don’t need an agenda. I don’t need to work. I don’t need to play. I don’t need to be busy. I don’t need to do anything. The darkness is healing. It flows through me.

A member of one of my previous churches shared with me that after she had lost her husband, people would wish her well, that she would be embraced by light and love, and so forth. She, of course, appreciated the caring, but she told me that the wish to be in the light was not something she really wanted. She wanted the dark.

Grieving may best be done in the dark. Grief is too vulnerable, too personal, too fragile to be left in the light. The darkness allows for thoughts and for feelings to move around a bit more freely, feelings of sadness, or even the less sociable feelings, like anger, annoyance, fear are free in the dark to move around the space with you. When the light goes on those feelings hide. The darkness creatively plays with them, shaping them, teasing them, making something new.
We need the darkness of the womb or the cave to be a place of birthing. I am fond of the dark. In the dark I am free from display. Robert Frost said it so beautifully.

I have been one acquainted with the night.I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.I have outwalked the furthest city light. 
I have looked down the saddest city lane.I have passed by the watchman on his beatAnd dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain. 
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feetWhen far away an interrupted cryCame over houses from another street, 
But not to call me back or say good-bye;And further still at an unearthly height,One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
--Robert Frost, Acquainted with the Night 
Part of me is sad to see the night begin to lose its battle with the light at Winter Solstice. Oh yes, the light is coming back, the sun, the longer days are promised. Yes. That is good, too. But, now, I like, I need, I want, I treasure, I embrace…the dark.
Reflections on Loss and Love…

The last time I played chess with my father, I admit I let him win. It wasn’t obvious. I made more risky moves than usual and overlooked opportunities. But, nonetheless, I did and I didn’t particularly feel good about it. We never played that way, that is to let the other win. But with the arrival of Winter Solstice, he is now closer to his 100th birthday than his 99th. He sits out his days in a Veterans home, even though he isn’t a veteran, but sometimes he makes a convincing case that he once was one.

His mind is mostly jumbled. Several times a day, he remembers that his beloved Olive May, who he married in 1948 is gone. Gone for over two years now. He shakes and he cries, everytime he remembers which is several times a day. Something he rarely would ever do. In fact, never, in my memory. My father didn’t cry, didn’t hug, didn’t say he loved people. But he could laugh.

Our house was filled with laughter when I was a child. My father loved to joke and tease and my mother was, well, I always thought she was sinless, like Mother Mary. When I think of her not being there for any future visits, phone calls, emails, or letters, it is almost unbearable to go there. Never is a long time. I am missing my parents this Christmas.

And, of course, my son. Five years since his exit. I can think about my mom, or look at a picture, and be happy without the wince, mostly. You know what I mean, the wince. The wince is overwhelming with my son, Zach. I can’t look at a picture and just enjoy the memory. It has a cost to it. That cost is the feeling of loss and all the myriad feelings that come out and play when I sit in the dark. That is why I have to sit in the dark if I want to go there. You have to plan for these things.

A good friend, who I trust, told me there will be a time, at least it was for her, that the wince goes away, and the memory of a lost daughter, in her case, a son in mine, will not force its way into the joyful memory. But that time isn’t this Christmas.

Christmas is what it is. I like it. There is a magic to Christmas Eve that I love. It must be so much humanity poured into one night that it has taken on a life of its own. But sometimes it is that time a few days before Christmas, somewhere around solstice, that some darkness, and some loss, and some articulation of sadness, some Christmas blues from a piano man, is what demands airtime.

I’ll be back. But for now, some time, some space for sacred darkness and holy grief. In his book, Lament for a Son, Nocholas Wolterstorff wrote about his son Eric and his grief and he was questioned if grief ever lessens. Yes, he wrote.

“The wound is no longer raw. But it has not disappeared. That is as it should be. If he was worth loving, he is worth grieving over. Grief is existential testimony to the worth of the one loved. That worth abides.”

Monday, November 05, 2018

The Arctic from 33,000 Feet

On a fourteen-hour flight from Istanbul to Los Angeles we flew over the North Pole. The coolest thing on the entire airplane is the Forward/Down camera. It is like a window seat even when you are sitting in 50E smack in the middle. Movies? I can handle maybe one, but watching the Arctic go by is mesmerizing.

I don’t know exactly what the Arctic should look like on my mom’s birthday, November 4th, and it isn’t always easy to distinguish clouds from snow, but to this amateur Arctic-watcher it seems quite broken up in spots, sea where I would want snow and ice.

Things are changing quickly.

What a rare opportunity to see the “top of the world” from 33,000 feet. Only a small percentage of the human population will see this view. Those who lived 100 years before me never saw this view, and I don’t know what those living 100 years after me will see.

I am reminded of the (not so) old Arab proverb:

My grandfather rode on a camel.
My father rode in a Rolls Royce.
I ride in a private jet.
My son will ride on a camel.

Plenty to worry about.
But for right now, I am mesmerized.

Monday, October 22, 2018

In the Spirit of Imam Husayn (as)

I am posting pics and thoughts on my Facebook page while I am participating in Arbaeen. Here are some radio show podcasts on Husayn and Arbaeen that I have broadcast (or re-broadcast) this month while I am in Iraq.

On April 13th, 2019, Josh Townsley and I will offer reflections and some audio/video on our trip, inshallah, for the Husaynia Society of Seattle.

Husayn Means Beauty: The Attraction of the Seventh Century Martyr, Part 1
These are excerpts from speeches given at Husayn Day earlier this year in Seattle.

Husayn Means Beauty: The Attraction of the Seventh Century Prophet, Part 2
This broadcast includes the speech from Maulana Mohammad Baig, who is leading the tour I am taking in Iraq.

Arbaeen: The Walk, A conversation with Sheikh Mohammed Al-Hilli
I just posted this interview with the author of the first book on Arbaeen in English.

Resisting the Beast: Conversations with Dr. Susan (Elli) Elliott and Imam Muhsen Al-Dhalimy
From my monthly live show on KBOO. Imam Muhsen Al-Dhalimy serves at the Islamic Center of Portland across from my church.

Also of interest are these broadcasts:

The Covenants of the Prophet Mohammad with the Christians of the World: A Conversation with Dr. John Andrew Morrow
Dr. Morrow also spoke at Husayn Day in Seattle. Here he talks about his very important work showing, despite propaganda to the contrary, that Christians and Muslims lived peacefully for centuries (and still do).

U.S. - Saudi War Crimes Against Yemen
This conference, sponsored by Roots of Conflict, features two powerful speakers, Aisha Jumaan and Mohammad Al-Nimr, who follow in the spirit of Imam Husayn (as).

US - Saudi Coalition: Bringing Peace or War?
On my live KBOO show, I spoke with Catherine Shakdam, Scott Bennett, and Aisha Jumaan about the conference.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Portland to Istanbul

The journey has begun! So far no hitches from the bus stop outside my house to the PDX airport to LAX and then thirteen hours later, Istanbul.  We are in the lounge and will stay until our flight leaves for Najaf in about ten hours.

Josh, the cameraman, and Maulana Mohammad Baig who is the leader of Caravan72 and caring for us all along the way.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Bound For Iraq

I begin tomorrow my trip to Iraq. This wasn’t on my agenda. That is how it is with things that matter. Spirit blows them into your life. I read that Isa (Jesus) is the Spirit of Allah. Husayn is the Spirit of Isa.  Ali Asghar was the youngest person martyred at Karbala. He was six months old. He was the son of Husayn and Rubab.

This crib was one of the ways he was remembered at the Islamic Center of Portland on Ashura, the day that commemorates the martyrdom of Husayn and his 72 companions including members of his family, including his son, Ali Asghar. As I write this, I wonder if the spirit of Ali Asghar is in the children of Yemen.
A somewhat grainy video, presumably shot from a decade old cell phone, shows more than two dozen load Yemeni kids, aged 6 to 15, playing, laughing, and excitedly moving about their school bus, invoking warm childhood memories for anyone who has ever caught a bus to and from a school outing. 
Moments later every single one of these kids were killed, vaporized by a Saudi fired missile. This atrocity took place on 9 August, leaving 51 dead, 40 of whom were children, with most victims under the age of 10, while another 77 were seriously injured, according to the International Red Cross.
A Saudi fired missile made by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth Texas:
Remnants of the missile, which were posted on Twitter by Hussein Albikaiti, a Sana’a-based journalist, show its CAGE code, serial number, and the wording, “FIN GUIDED BOMB.” 
A search of the CAGE code shows the missile to be issued by US defense contractor Lockheed Martin, while the serial number shows it to be a MK-82 missile manufactured by General Dynamics in Fort Worth, Texas. 
“A US made laser guided bomb did this 2 a bus full of school children,” tweeted Albikaiti. “The bus was directly hit by a Saudi-UAE jet, fueled by USA plane, coordinates by US and UK satellites. One bomb sent these happy children to the graves after burning them alive and cutting them to pieces.”
I do not know what is in store for me or what I should expect as I make my Ziarat to the various shrines in the Holy Land of Iraq. John Andrew Morrow in a beautiful article about "The Call of Karbala and the Awe of Arbaeen" also writes this:
Iraq is a country that has been bruised, battered, and brutalized. It has suffered under the savagery of the Baath regime. It suffered through a senseless fratricidal war with Iran. It has suffered from American wars of aggression, invasion, and occupation. Millions of civilians lost their lives. Although Iraq has little in terms of infrastructure, and has spent over one hundred billion dollars in the war against ISIS, it hosts, with pride and pleasure, the largest religious gathering in the world, a peace march that receives essentially no attention by the major media outlets in the world since it contradicts the Islamophobic narrative that they advance.
I am going to Karbala and I am not even a Muslim. Many don't think I am even a Christian. Why argue? They are right as far as it goes. Johnny Cash said he was a C-minus Christian. For the likes of a heretic like me, a C-minus is an aspiration. I am afraid I would be an even worse Muslim. So how is it that I am going on the most spiritual event on the planet to honor some of the most important figures of Islam? I don't know. I know many, many Muslims hope to do this their whole lives. I don't take this lightly. I am humbled to be invited by my friends at the Husayniah Society of Seattle, yet on another plane, the invitation comes from Imam Husayn himself, who in my mind, is the spiritual brother of the historical Jesus. The Spirit of Allah. Truth and Goodness is my shorthand.

It is a call from both of these brothers. It is a call. It is a cry. It is a summons:

"Hal man nasirin yansurun?" "Is there anyone to help me?"

And the response from those with ears to hear:

"Labbayk Ya Husayn!" "Here I am, Husayn."

I am here. We are here to hear.
Hear voices silenced by the oppressors and their media.
Hear the cry of Ali Asghar and the children of Yemen.
Hear the cry of the faithful, "Labbayk Ya Husayn!"

Wednesday, October 03, 2018


(Update: October 5. Just learned from an admin at that group that none of them removed the post. It must have been Facebook.  Take comfort that Big Brother is keeping you safe from mayhem like me).

The Happy to Be Presbyterian Facebook Group is not happy with me. I posted a link to my interview with Fran Shure and after few exchanges (civil from my end) the post was removed. Erased. Even the notifications in my history were removed. I don't know if it was group admins or Facebook who removed it.

It was removed right after I posted a link to a study guide that had been created for David Ray Griffin's book, Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11.  That book was published by WJK Press of the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC) over ten years ago. The book was later removed by the PPC in a shameful act of censorship. Dr. Griffin talks about that in his address, 9/11 and Nationalist Faith: How Faith Can Be Illuminating or Blinding.  He addresses Presbyterians in Section 3 B. 

It was a strange feeling to have my work, just a Facebook post in this case, completely erased without a word, to vanish as if it never existed. I broke no rules. I was not aggressive. I did not use bad language. I wasn't even informed as to why the post was removed. Just gone. Why? What else could it be but that the content of what I posted is a direct threat to Empire and to Empire's church? Empire cannot dispute the evidence. It can only try to mock it and when that fails, to erase it.

We cannot live this way, citizens. Those who are seeking to unmask the powers of death and falsehood and bear witness to what they think is true, are being erased.  As Graeme McQueen said in my interview with him:
And so it’s the job of citizens to stand up and say, “We are whole persons. And our perception, and our sense of smell, sense of hearing and sight and touch, they are valid. And we know how to use our intelligence. And we’re going to insist on that. We’re going to speak out loudly for what we believe is the truth.”
I posted the link again. And I wrote this:
A little about myself for those who do not know me. I am a PCUSA minister in good standing and the pastor of a church. I have posted occasionally on this forum, not often, but when I think a particular topic is of interest and importance. I am the host of a podcast and radio show that has aired weekly for nearly seven years. I have interviewed many Presbyterians including two moderators and a vice-moderator. Throughout my ordained ministry, I have been concerned deeply about issues of censorship and the silencing of unpopular voices.  
As it says in our Brief Statement of Faith:  
"In a broken and fearful world
the Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
to unmask idolatries in Church and culture,
to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace."  
This book that I featured for the past four episodes on my radio show offers evidence that should lead people of conscience to explore. The voices I lift up in this show are voices who have been long silenced, censored, vilified, and mocked because they seek to unmask idolatries in church and culture. I am not saying that anyone needs to agree to these voices or even to listen to the podcast. I should, however, be able to post a link to it without my post being removed.

9/11 Unmasked Interview Package

Reposted from Progressive Spirit

I made transcripts for each of the interviews in my series on the 9/11 Consensus Panel.  The panel's book, released on September 11th, 2018 is called 9/11 Unmasked: An International Review Panel Investigation.

This series of interviews with transcripts will be a helpful resource for an individual or a study group with an open mind and a courageous heart. We need open minds and courageous hearts. Graeme McQueen, who I interviewed in the first episode in the series, said:
...when your police have failed at their duty, and your intelligence agencies have failed you, and the executive branch has failed, and the legislative branch has failed, and this...enormous crime in the 21st century has happened and isn't being investigated, what do you do? Do you let them get away with the lie? Do you let your democracy be hijacked? I hope not.
and he concluded the episode by saying:
I think it goes to the question, what is a citizen, and ultimately what is a person. I would like to think that at least in a democracy, a citizen is a whole person who is able to perceive the world around them and also to use their intelligence to make sense of it. And that's what people did on 9/11 at the scene. They perceived explosions and clearly called them explosions. They made conclusions with their minds. They said, “Wow, this looks like a building being demolished purposely.” And when a government does what the United States government and frankly almost every government in the world is doing, and dismisses over 100 ordinary citizens standing there perceiving this, they are showing not only disrespect, they're really showing a very degraded notion of what a citizen is. They're treating us like rabble, who are, you know, who can be easily dismissed. So people are supposed to listen to say, U.S. elites, who were not even there that day, when they say there were no explosions? Instead of listening to their fellow human beings who were there and who clearly perceived it. This is a democracy in trouble. This is a democracy that's in danger and unfortunately, it's not just the U.S. My own country, Canada our government, buys all this nonsense as well. And so it's the job of citizens to stand up and say, “We are whole persons. And our perception, and our sense of smell, sense of hearing and sight and touch, they are valid. And we know how to use our intelligence. And we're going to insist on that. We're going to speak out loudly for what we believe is the truth.”
Here are the podcasts and the transcripts for the four episodes:

1) 9/11 Unmasked: A Conversation with Elizabeth Woodworth and Graeme McQueen

PS 132 Woodworth McQueen Transcript

2) 9/11 Unmasked, Part 2: A Conversation with Dwain Deets about Able Danger

PS 133 Deets Transcript

3) 9/11 Unmasked, Part 3: David Chandler and the Day of Magical Physics

PS 134 Chandler Transcript

4) 9/11 Unmasked, Part 4: Fran Shure and the Problem of the Media

PS 135 Shure Transcript

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

For The Martyrs Who Bear Witness

If they tell you I suicided,
It may be not because I killed myself.

If they say I went crazy,
It may be not because I was mentally ill.

If I am accused of doing all kinds of bad things,
It may be not because I did them.

If I stop talking about what I think is true,
It may be not because I have changed my mind.

If I end up vanishing from public space,
I may be still found in secret places.

If the world goes dark with lies and violence,
Look for the candles of those still bearing witness.