I recently went to my mother's ancestral home in Jonesboro, AR to see her when she briefly went into St. Bernards Medical Center. I worked there in the early 90s myself as I finished college. @StBernardsHlth
My mother's father was Dr. Rector Clay Hooper, Jonesboro's first urologist and one of its first surgeons I believe. I think he was also the first Chief of Staff of St. Bernard's. He had previously served as the chief medical officer of the entire Panama Canal Zone right at the outbreak of WWII. Both my mother and uncle, Dr. Anthony Hooper (1945-1992), for whom I was named, were born in the Zone which was United States territory at the time.
I found grandpa's picture still hanging in one of the corridors outside the Administrative offices of St. Bernards, although it used to be directly outside the front of Administration- apparently they were all moved a bit down the hall at some point. I am glad to see that the tradition is still honored.
I was also pleased to find the picture of my cousin Layne Blanchard (1981-2008), who appears on the St. Bernard's Wall of Heroes because he gave multiple organs to people who needed them. I believe that 7 different people benefited from Layne's selfless action- one that mirrors the way he lived his life. I miss him to this day.
1 Year at Silent Unity <3
My Post Traumatic Growth
Many people ask me about how difficult it was to stop being an attorney and university instructor to studying to become a minister. I will say that the transition from active addiction to active recovery is perhaps the most challenging movement anyone can ever face in their lives. It is a traumatic upheaval that takes a lot of courage..and transformation- in much the same way as becoming a minister does. I love the image of the Phoenix arising from the flames of its old form emerging into its new life.
Many of you know how avid a gamer I am and have always been since junior high school when I programmed a simple text-based adventure on an Apple IIc. I loved that machine. I have recently been exploring the metaphysical ways that my love of gaming has informed my recovery. I had the absolute pleasure of running across Jane McGonigal's TED talk wherein she discusses the parallels between the top 5 regrets people had on their death beds (as compiled by Hospice providers) and the top 5 traits of people like me who have experienced Post Traumatic Growth. Her talk is 19 minutes- you should give yourself 19 minutes that could change your life.
The simple fact is that some people get stronger after trauma. One can use trauma as a springboard to unleash one’s best qualities to lead happier lives. People who have survived trauma and moved on to growth say the followings things defined their life post trauma: their priorities changed and they are not afraid to do what makes them happy. They feel closer to their friends and family. They understand themselves better and know who they really are. They have a new sense of meaning and purpose and are better able to focus on their goals and dreams. Ironically enough, the top 5 traits Post Traumatic Growth survivors experience are the exact opposite of the top 5 regrets of the dying.
This reaffirms the Unity understanding that an event is WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT. Nothing has an essential essence- you as the observer choose your reaction to it. My experiences of education and arrest and Missouri 13th Judicial Circuit Drug Court (Judge Christine Carpenter and Judge Kevin Crane) and the tremendous growth through my 12 step program all facilitate the emergence of the new I AM. Trauma may breed adversity or it may be the catalyst the most exciting and enlightening time of your life- which will you choose? :)
Join us for a Father's Day celebration this Sunday at Unity of Columbia, 1600 W. Broadway, 573-447-0414, http://www.unityofcolumbia.org
What if God is One of Us?
Forgive the banality of this statement, but Goddesses are awesome. Most religious schools portray a God who is androgynous and anthropopathic, a god who has emotions, feelings, sensitivities. However I understand the Divine, if I describe God as emotional then I cannot really call it a "man." It is equally right and wrong to see God as Male or Female. For me, God as "Father" or "Mother" are simply different ways of describing our relationship with that which we seek, which serves to begin to de-mythologize Jesus. When we take out the supernatural and the politics then what are the messages trying to say?
If Jesus existed, and many scholars have made compelling cases of that fact, it appears to have been handed down that he was a man. Duh. So we look at the male humanity he was. Only his masculinity has been handed down and has overpowered his feminine side. Sadly, and once again missing the metaphorical boat, the contemporary theological trend is an over-correction of the masculine to the feminine. For me, the best of both worlds is Jesus as the Compassionate Judge, the appropriate balance of both masculine and feminine or Humanity and Divinity.
As for the human side...I bet he had kids...c'mon now. When he was done walking on water and feeding many with the loaves wouldn't it have been nice to go home to the goddess? These miracles show that Jesus was power in the world, walked through it but wasn't brought down by it. Metaphysical interpretation of these events leads to their applicability in my life- concretizing the metaphor in a literal way elides its power, reduces it to the absurd and makes a mockery of the transcendent power it is. When we look at the human Jesus, we also see markers as to the nature of the Divine, which is why I see him as a "wayshower" to the nature of my highest good. Professor Shepherd stated that in medieval iconography, Jesus was pictured with both a lilly and a sword- balancing both gender approaches.
Unfortunately, the metaphor becomes concrete and thus politicized into competing camps (kind of like the Copernicans and the Ptolemaics- and we know who won that game eh?) The way we see God is shaped by the window of Jesus- if we "see" a warmongering radical then we will find that. Paul Tillich noted that any symbol of God must be "affirmed and denied" at the same time.
So an image of Jesus holding some guns would be affirmed and denied in the sense that the affirmation is that Jesus stands by his beliefs and denied in that he never took up arms (right?). Unity defines the "Trinity" as "Mind-Idea-Expression." This is Modalism: God as Divine, as God-Idea-as-Me, and as Activity Expressed (me and the universe). "I can see God in XYZ way" (modalism, quantum perspective= is it a particle or a wave (depends on how you look at it)) vs. "God IS this way." (organic, 3 leaf clover, pretzel, all three aspects are required).
So, Is Unity "Trinitarian"? Jesus, a .45 and a shotgun? Are we saying what God is? Or are these simply ways of organizing our thinking about the divine mystery that is God? We have borrowed some terms from Christianity to express these issues just as the Catholic church made those same choices after several centuries of debate in antiquity and made the choices concrete in the Nicene Creed. I would agree that it is possible to believe in Jesus Christ as the Second Person of the Trinity while remaining faithful to One Power/One Presence and to the biblical witness. BIG qualification though: I do not believe this at a literal level- these are metaphors of my deepest primordial Self. If as Professor Shepherd suggests that Jesus "represents" each of us in the Trinity, the perfect-man idea, the "offspring of God-Mind," then I can palette the idea. Can palette be a verb?
Each of us is Divine. God is not "out there" somewhere- God is everywhere, in/as EVERY HUMAN. HELLLOOO. Wake up! God is within each of us, is us, as us, through us. Jesus shows the way to our own divine potential. Thanks for the Joan Osborne reminder:
"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability." (Acts 2: 1-4).
Um, this is scary stuff. I think if that happened to me I'd be curious and maybe a little concerned. This is the original passage upon which contemporary Pentecostals rest their claims to receiving the "gift" of glossolalia- speaking in tongues.
My first observation is that the passage says that the Apostle actually SPOKE LANGUAGE, simply different ones. In other words if this happened to me today I'd be speaking in Russian or Japanese- languages with which I have no relationship. Well, I guess I know "sayonara." Anyway, even a plain reading of the text without recourse to advanced literary theory clearly states they were speaking languages.
Every review I've ever seen, which Professor Shepherd acknowledged, notes that contemporary Pentecostals, when "fallen out" make guttural sounds, gibberish, and non-linguistic pre-language. This affords the individual an opportunity to receive the "gift" and thus complete an intricate social system of baptism that indicates the difference between an insider (called a "Saint") and an outsider (called a "Sinner"). The possession by the loa of the Vodou devotee functions in much the same way- to provide an individual a subjective way to experience god and to cement one's insider status.
I have never experienced this form of prayer. I am leery of the fuzzy margins of where the individual ends and God begins because of course in my tradition there is no separation of the two requiring a reunification of any kind- certainly not in a public dramatic way. To me this type of display is a detachment of the brain from an animalistic sensory experience and is thus grounded purely in physical expression. When the politics of initiation and social status are layered on top of that issue then the "authenticity" comes into real question. My former Ph.D. dissertation adviser, Dr. Elaine Lawless, writes
"Specialized language serves further to mark the group to outsiders, to delineate boundaries that keep groups distinct, and to intensify group cohesion and solidarity. A special language must be close enough to the mother language to make sense to the members of the group and simple enough for the novice to pick up fairly quickly. No tome is set aside for the teaching of this specialized language, but its constant and repetitive use in the verbal messages of the group members serves to teach the newcomer what the words mean and where and how it is appropriate to employ them" ("The Special Language of Pentecostalism" in God's Peculiar People, University of Kentucky Press, 1988).
For me, too many levels of questions lead to avoidance.
So much time seems to be spent in the Medieval practice of determining how many angels fit on the head of a pin as a way of discovering the ontological nature of God. Today there appear to be a couple of camps devoted to the nature and practice of belief in God, the traditional "Religious" track and the somewhat reactionary response to the track, the "Spiritual."
Adherents to the traditionalist system (mostly) take an approach to God that stresses structure, dogma, social church context, and a system of belief that usually stresses God "out there" somewhere (with some small exceptions such as panentheistic religions). This group seems rather suspicious of the historical newcomer group and its view of them can be seen here: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/29/my-take-im-spiritual-not-religious-is-a-cop-out/
The "reactionary" camps consists of those who see themselves as practicing a spiritual perspective but who don't adhere to a traditional religious path to do so. The reasons for not doing so are as varied as the stars in the sky. Perhaps some fall into the laziness outlined in the blog above. Others are emigrants fleeing whatever pain was inflicted upon them in their experiences with the larger organized structures. Whatever.
To me the distinctions are irrelevant and both sides have things to offer. Much of this has more to do with our obsession to label and categorize and control than it does about experiencing authentic relationships with ourselves, our deity(ies), and finding the practices that bring us to happiness, satisfaction, enlightenment. For me that is the bottom line- what is advancing me? What can I glean from X experience? Religions offer history and thousands of years of experience in the nature of metaphysical ideas. Spiritualists for lack of a better term offer the ideas of freedom from structure and individual thought. The whole thing is kind of like a mini-Reformation. For me the truth lays in transcending both and incorporating the underlying lessons.
Anthony Phillips, MA, JD