Archive for June, 2013


Interconnectedness

imageSitting in the hotel lounge, I sip ice tea and marvel at basketball legends and gladiators throwing themselves unto battle – game 7 between the Pacers and Heat, a perfect example of interconnectedness.

Interconnectedness, a term meaning “continuous movement” and here in this room, on this night, we all connected in basketball’s cyclic existence, a paramour, of life and death, birth and rebirth.

Like life itself, we are interconnected and live in the present moment. Here in this darkened lounge, in radios, chat rooms, and home television millions of people are connected at this very moment to ten great warriors racing from one end of the court to another. We live and breath with each play; we live and die with every shot, we pray, salud, cry, hope and inspire.

This is an amazing event, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jewish, Taoists and Atheists alike, large or small, rich or poor, strong or weak are this very moment, interconnected. Regardless of faith, regardless of life’s circumstances, all join our universal brethren, being in the moment and share ourselves, if for only a moment with the surrounding world.

Regardless of belief, interconnect with others daily. Employers connect to employees. Consumers trek to our favorite stores, stadiums, theaters, restaurants, interstates. Many gather at our employer and connect with cowrokers. We pray over rosary, meditate, gather for births, honor our fallen and celebrate anniversaries. Like those before us, stand together to defend our country, provide relief to the homeless, honor our soldiers, volunteer in disasters.

The One unifying body of the living Christ and the interconnectedness of the living Buddha are among us all. Regardless of our race or creed, interconnection is everywhere. It is our life.

JuiceSpilled punch at a kindergarten graduation ceremony resulted in the arrest of eight people. Apparently two teenage girls started hitting each other over spilled punch and their families joined in, with individuals bringing out a pipe and a hammer.

How times have changed. My parents brought cameras.

Accroding to Christian pundents, the human race was created in God’s image. From that conceptual thought, there are many times where I imagine God looks down and asks, “WTF?.” Other WTF moments:

  • In August 2011, a Little League game turned into a game of “Who can be the biggest racist?” It started with your typical sportsmanlike behavior of screaming racial slurs and gay slurs. But since the parents of one team thought the umpire was rigging the game, a fight ensued, with parents shoving each other, parents screaming at the opposing team, and gangs of men surrounding a grandmother in her car.
  • A semi-pro soccer player smashed the face of referee Pete McCabe with a helmet. Almost every bone in McCabe’s face was broken, his skull fractured in several places and his nose nowhere close to where it belonged. As he lay on the ground the player stood over him yelling: “Take that. Take that. This is what I’m all about.”
  • Soccer Referee Ricardo Portillo died a week after he had been punched in the head by a 17-year-old player angry over a yellow card.
  • When a coach disputed an umpire’s call during a Miami Friends Baseball Association T-ball game between the Yankees and Tigers, parents charged the field, throwing wild punches and shoving and tackling each other. The baseball game was for 4 and 5 year-olds.
  • A youth football game took a wild turn in the town of Wickenburg, west of Phoenix, when a fight broke out among parents, coaches and children. Many people got hurt during the Sept. 29th melee including four children, one of whom was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

In truth, I would presume that everyone listed above wish they could wake up in a different time and be someone different. I believe everyone searches for key answers; to open a mind long closed by preprogrammed responses to everyday life. However, each of the people referenced tells the story of an everyday person who believed some major injustice occurred desired to find peace. Instead each tried to put out water with fire (television series Kung Fu). Rather than mindfully addressing issues, each created a greater self-inflicted suffering.

Kung Fu offers a wonderful lesson:

 Look at the world you live in and this pool of fish. There are twelve fish, twelve worlds. — Master Kahn
But only one pool. — Young Caine

Yes, there is only ONE pool. All of us tend to forget we`are intertwined. From a Buddhist and Christian viewpoint, every single person is not different. In Christian thought, we are of “One” body. For Buddhists, all things are inter-connected. Thus, living Christians and living Buddhists are significantly interdependent. What hurts one, hurts all. When one laughs, we all laugh. When one is in pain, so are the rest.

All of us must graduate to a greater sense mutual acceptance and understanding, but it’s a tough slog. No matter what God’s plan is, I hope we can eradicate “hate” and cease silly thoughts such as fretting over spilt milk.

Religion & PoliticsAccording to a CNN Belief Blog article, Baptist churches sponsor nearly 4,000 Scout units representing more than 100,000 youths. As such, the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, will soon urge its 45,000 congregations and 16 million members to cut ties with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

Conservatives seem to funnel similar issues as John Stemberger. Mr. Stemberger’s issue is that, “Sex and politics have no place in the Boy Scouts, and allowing open homosexuality will lead to myriad bad consequences.” The new policy will rob parents of the sole authority to raise issues of sex and sexuality with their own children.  Parents have the exclusive right to raise issues about sex and sexuality with their children in their own way, not brought up by other older boys around a campfire.

In responding, I have several thoughts. First, last time I checked, the BSA does not facilitate open heterosexuality among its members. I’m positive the BSA would not make an exception for homosexuality. I can’t envision an eight or nine year old, sitting around the campfire with peers and mentors alike and openly discussing …issues about sex and sexuality.Secondly, these are children. They are like most children. They want to be openly accepted and honored.

By the numbers, recent estimates claim gay and lesbians represent only 4% of the population. How many are teenagers remain unclear, as many do not define themselves as either ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian.’ How many of those young teens will openly declare their sexuality is even less. How many of the openly gay teens will actually join the BSA? Even Less.

Statistically speaking, how many of the remaining gay minutia (of the total) would actually be capable of destroying the entirety of parental and BSA values? The odds equal to that of being hit on the back of the head by an errant meteorite while standing in St. Peter’s Basilica, in Vatican City attending a papal enclave.

Thus, contrary to religious conservative opinion, gay members of society have not in fact destroyed society. My parents, having been married for 50 years, did not declare, We are divorcing because a gay couple moved in three doors down. Looking out my window, I can honestly state that much of society is the same today as it was yesterday. All the buildings are there. And while it’s an overcast sky, I’m going out on a limb to presume the sun continued to rise in east and will probably set in the west. Had it not, I presume someone in the “lamestream” media would have considered such an event noteworthy.

Most forms of Buddhism have no problem with homosexuality. Homosexuality is treated the same as heterosexuality, whether one is lay follower or monk. What I do refer to are prohibitions against adultery, underage partners, or partners otherwise in some relationship. I believe those values are beautified in Buddhism, Christian and the BSA alike.

The true message of BSA is nurturing a Duty to God, Duty to Others and Duty to Self.” In truth, gay and lesbian friends are a big part of our life and culture. They are part of me, as I am part of them. God is in all of them, as He is in me.

Religious ignorance, intolerance and secularism require renouncement. That’s exactly what Christ did.

God Needs UsLast night I returned from a Christian Bible Study. Theoretically, Bible Study groups are to be supportive and uplifting, but I found the study content, Matthew 10:34, to be verbose at best. Morbid would be better.

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

Pretty matter of fact, the study group leader stated, “Relationships will be ripped, but life in Christ will be found!” And life can only be found in Christ. Christ is the only way to eternal peace. Knowing the Savior transcends our nearest and dearest.

Since I was the only Buddhist, I find afore mentioned chatter a harsh example of organized religion’s imposing principles while simultaneously convincing the public at large that to believe otherwise is wrong.  My belief is that elements of any faith that fosters intolerance leads to hatred.

I believe the kingdom of peace and love is within all of us. The kingdom of peace and love is also outside us. We are the both the kingdom and a participant. Just as Christ was a unique person, so are you. A Christian is just as much a child of God as you and I. My Buddhist faith does not separate us. Rather it’s our un-commonality that binds us.

There are multiple ways to Christ’s form of agape love. Those of us who have seen waterfalls from Alaskan glaciers will experience the power of nature’s love as one who walks a Florida beach at sunset. The same power of agape love is available for both a Buddhist and Christian mother bearing a child. I simply cannot fathom God allocates more love based upon one’s religion. As such all can be nourished by the best values of each religion; that somewhere, somehow, a minutia of every faith breathes within us.

Reducing spiritual negativity is challenging. And as I attend these meetings, I challenge with dialogue – a dialogue that hopes all of us are willing to change. I entrust myself to the moment and presupposition that if we do not believe we can change, then we cannot become a deeper, richer Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Taoist, etc., etc., etc. Without change, we are useless to God and unto others.

We are interdependent. God needs us, just as much as we need Him.

EqualIn light of the organization’s recent vote to allow gay youths to join, the Rev. Derek Lappe, pastor of a Roman Catholic Church in Bremerton, announced his parish will separate ties with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

I do not feel that it is possible for us to live out, and to teach, the authentic truth about human sexuality within the confines of the Boy Scout’s new policy and so I would like to give an explanation as to why it will be necessary for our parish to part ways with the New Boy Scouts.”

In a related incident, Pastor Greg Walker also that Boy Scout troops will no longer be welcome to meet onsite at the First Baptist Church of Helena (in Alabama).  Pastor Walker said the Boy Scouts are supporting a “sinful lifestyle” by allowing openly-gay scout members to join. Also, “Focal Point” radio host Bryan Fischer ranted that the BSA stands for “Boy Sodomizers of America,” further suggesting the organization’s decision was supported by the Mormon church because officials of the latter group hope legalization of polygamy.

So I’m pretty darn confused. In the BSA policy, sexual conduct, of any kind has never been condoned. Therefore, I have to question why homosexuality is singled out.

Reverend Lappe, Pastor Walker and Mr. Fischer all seem to have neglected BSA’s own internal problems, specifically allowing sexual predators to pass. In confidential files, BSA secretly hid details of sexual abuse, the files — parts of which have surfaced recently through lawsuits — illustrate how the Boy Scouts frequently failed to protect youths within the organization and beyond. Too often, allegations were treated as Scout secrets and not referred to law enforcement. Yet how many BSA clubs were excommunicated by churches across the country?

Pastor Walker seems to focus on a BSA non-issue. But does Pastor Walker focus on real issues at home, where reports show that Alabama has gone from the 9th poorest state in the U.S. in 2010 to the 5th poorest state in 2011? Alabama has the highest tax rates for families at the poverty line. So now, when rates are likely to increase even further and increase the burden on the state’s most vulnerable residents, Alabama is doing its best to remove residents who pay into the system but almost never receive any services back. What does his church do for those issues?

In Season 2 of the West Wing, Martin Sheen’s character demonstrates the need for intelligent, temporally contextual interpretations of religious thought (paraphrased).

  • I want to sell my youngest daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. What’s a good price?
  • My chief of staff insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself? Or is it okay to call the police?
  • Here’s one that’s really important, because we’ve got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?
  • Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side?
  • Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads?

As a nation we declare “all men equal.” But we must not be blind to those who read “all men are created equal; except negroes; Hispanics; Asians; homosexuals; immigrants; illegal aliens; Buddhists; Catholics (or whatever religion); the ‘lamestream’ media, etc., etc., etc.” where absolutism is subjectively infused with a splatter of hypocrisy.

In truth, we are all equal.

I respect the BSA leadership for inclusion. I am enthralled by their courage. They should be honored.

To all others, I unequivocally state, “Your fifteen minutes are up. Get a life.”

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