Thursday, November 10, 2011

Occupy Movement: Phase 2: Now What?

The Mayor of Portland OR - just announced that he'll be having the Occupy Protestors removed from the city park soon (click here for the press release).

Similar action is occurring around the country and it seems that the Occupy Movement has gained all that it can from the "sit in" strategy. So, what is next? Where does the movement go from here? Before I answer that - let me explore some thoughts on where we are at from a New Thought perspective.

I believe that the Occupy Movement arose from a consciousness that was "fed up" - tired and weary of the inequity of our world. Similar uprisings in the Middle East - the so called Arab Spring - arose from a similar place in consciousness, a desire to be heard, seen and validated as a being of significance in the world. This is a universal desire - something that we all want. We all have the need to be heard, seen and feel as if we matter to the world - that our presence makes a difference and that we live in a world where we are empowered and can direct our life with purpose. Whenever one wakes up to the awareness that they have been oppressed or suppressed the natural desire is "take control" to make one's presence known and felt. Once this occurs, the door opens to the next step - to take restorative action. But before restorative action can take place there must be a grounding in a greater awareness of who we really are. Without this grounding restorative action turns to reactionary and retaliation action. This is the difference between effective social change movements and ineffective ones. Let me give you a few examples:

1 The Tea Party - This group actually tapped into the same collective frustration and feelings of oppression and suppression that the Occupy Movement did. In doing so they were able to quickly turn this frustration into action in the form of election of "Tea Party" platform candidates. All of this is part of "Phase 1" of social change: Frustration, Awakening, Get Noticed (ie "Take Control").
However, the Tea Party failed to get grounded in a greater awareness and inclusive vision of who and what we are as a human family. In fact, much of the early Tea Party support was actually funded and organized by those with a divisive agenda. And it was this more divisive agenda and vision of "us vs them" that the movement was grounded in. As a result, potential restorative action turned to reactionary action - in the form of "obstructive politics" and most recently by ballot measures and policy platforms that only served to deepen the gap between "us and them." The result on election night 2011 was major defeat and rejection of Tea Party candidates and ballot measures. A house divided against itself cannot stand. The Tea Party believed that they could take the general frustration and disenchantment of the people and turn it into support for divisive politics and policies. They were wrong. And the reason is simple: It is a universal principle that all dissonance seeks to resolve itself in terms of harmony. In other words while the frustration or "dissonance" of the people can be leveraged - it ultimately seeks to resolve itself in terms of greater harmony - not more "us and them."

2. Civil Rights Movement - This movement also begins with a growing frustration, dissonance, inequity and inequality in our culture. The tension builds until there is a spark of awakening which leads to boycotts, marches and site-ins (Get noticed, take control). But this movement becomes grounded in a deep spiritual understanding that we are all in this together - we must make a world that works for everyone. The movement was about Civil rights (grounded in the principle of inclusivity of everyone) not "African American rights"
Out of this grounding came the action steps to restore "justice and equality for all." The actions of the movement were restorative in nature. Restoring us to a nation that reflects is highest moral and spiritual values of including everyone in a "single garment of destiny"

The template is made clear - and can be seen throughout history.  In the Bible we read the story of Moses who awakens to the injustices of his world - his reaction? 40 years in the land of Midian as a shepherd - metaphysically meaning that he went within to watch over the flock of his own thoughts and emotions until he receives the insight (burning bush) that where he is standing is Holy Ground and that God's people are destine to be freed to their rightful place. It is from this grounded vision that he then takes action to lead his people (restorative action) to the Promised Land.
In the story of Siddartha (Buddha) - he awakens to the inequity, inequality and injustices in his world - outside the walls of his protected palace. His reaction? He sits occupy himself in meditation until the awakening of enlightenment - from which the teachings of Buddhism come. These teachings become the template for restorative action (the Eightfold Path and Four Noble Truths)

The Occupy Movement must now decide which type of movement it is going to be. Phase 1, frustrations over the inequalities and inequity of our systems, has come to an end. The collective attention of a nation has been obtained. The next phase is about action. Will it be restorative action that seeks to unite us in a collective consciousness of the 100% that needs to work together to build a world that works for everyone - or will it be reactionary and retaliation action that continues to divide our world into "us (99%) and them (1%)" categories that must fight each other for supremacy and control?

The answer lies entirely in what type of vision the movement collectively grounds itself in. How the Occupy Movement handles itself in this transition will be the most telling aspect of its destiny. This was captured beautifully by Portland Mayor, Sam Adams in today's press conference:
 "It is my sincere hope that the movement, with its focus on widespread economic inequity, will flourish in its next phase - a phase where we can focus all our energies on economic and social justice, not port-a-potties and tents."
to that end I offer this prayer (an adaptation of the Global Heart Vision of United Centers for Spiritual Living - submitted by my friend Rev. Edward Viljoen):

  • We envision The Occupy Movement as a bridge across the illness and illusion of separation thereby dynamically empowering the vision of Global Heart.
  • We envision The Occupy Movement as united and actuated by this compelling vision of a healthy world (a world experience of Global Heart) and is ardently committed to bringing this vision forth through transformative teachings and democratic action.
  • We see The Occupy Movement as a global community of inspired individuals caring for and about each other and the entire planetary family, thereby bringing the gift of active compassion and kindness to the world. Our Occupy Movements and communities become “points of inspiration and influence” effectively advancing the vision of the Global Heart to benefit all expressions of life.

Friday, September 09, 2011

9-11, A Time to Remember: One People, One Planet.

One Planet One People - We're all living in a dream of one worldThis Sunday marks the 10th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country.  The airwaves and blogs will be filled with Patriotic and touching tributes, memorials and remembrances of a very painful chapter in our history.

No doubt the men and women who lost their lives should be remembered and honored.  The brave men and women who put themselves in harms way to help in the rescue efforts serve as powerful reminders of the courage and compassion that is the human Spirit.  We will gather together with our friends, families, co-workers and faith communities to reflect and remember where we were on that fateful morning.  All of this is as it should be - and as you gather together in this reflective time, I ask of you to do more than just reflect, morn and pay tribute from an American point of view....

I ask that you become Global Citizens this weekend.  Ambassadors of Peace, Reconciliation and Oneness.  I ask that you join me in becoming a point of consciousness that remembers and reflects upon the greater wholeness of the human family.

You can begin this sacred duty by recalling the greater vibration of September 11th.  You see, this day has a much longer history than the last 10 years.  And this longer history is anchored in a global call to Peace, Unity and Nonviolence.

Let's begin in 1893, on hundred and 18 years ago... Chicago, IL, USA.  The World's Fair was taking place in Chicago - a global exposition on culture, modern technology, commerce and religion.  It was a first of many... the Farris Wheel was introduced, along with the hamburger, picture postcards, florescent lights, Quaker Oats, Cream of Wheat, moving walkways and so much more.  The fair ran from May through October 1893.   It was also the first gathering of World Religion Leaders in the first ever  Parliament of World Religions.  The closing day of the Parliament was September 11, 1893  and the final speaker was Swami Vivekananda.  He was the first Yogi from the far East to visit American and teach...

Swami Vivekananda’s message
on September 11, 1893:
"Sisters and Brothers of America. [At this moment came a three minute standing ovation from the audience of 7,000] It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us.....
"Sectarianism, bigotry, and it's horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful Earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now.
"But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.

 And so from the East we received a message of Peace and Global Oneness on September 11, 1893 - here on American soil.  

Then, on September 11, 1906, 3,000 people, mostly Indians, packed the old Empire Theater in Johannesburg, South Africa. They came to protest a draft of the Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance that would require that every Indian over the age of 8 be fingerprinted and carry a registration card. Moreover, the law stipulated that the police could enter the home of any Indian at their discretion and fine, imprison or even deport those found without proper identification.

"It is not at all impossible that we might have to endure every hardship that we can imagine without resorting to violence, Gandhi warned. The crowd sat in solemn silence. While "everyone must only search his own heart" about taking the vow, Gandhi announced that there was only one course open to him: "I can boldly declare, and with certainty that so long as there is even a handful of men true to their pledge, there can be one end to the struggle, and that is victory." 
Awestruck by the eloquence and power of Gandhi's words, all present in the theater that fateful afternoon stood together with their hands raised and took an oath of nonviolent resistance.   With this, the Nonviolence Movement began...on September 11, 1906.  Some fifty years later this is the movement that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would use to empower the Civil Rights movement in America. 

So long before September 11, 2001 - the day had reason to be remembered and a day of Peace, Nonviolence and as a call for Global Unity and Reconciliation.  Now as we turn our attention to the 10h Anniversary, let us use this opportunity to reawaken this call to Global Unity.

Let our prayers be not just for our troops, women, children and lives lost - but for all lives affected by this tragic manifestation of "us and them" consciousness.  Let us be the bridge to greater understanding of our fellow beings that we share this sacred planet with.  Let us be the ones to tear down the towers of Us and Them - and rebuild on a foundation of Oneness.  Let us use this sacred time to reawaken the call to create a world that works for everyone.   A world that has no need to defend or attack, because in "the other" we only see ourselves.  Let us remember that we are One People, Living on One Planet.   Lord hear our prayer.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

All religions are self-made, some just have better marketing.

My last blog about regarding the phrase "Spiritual but not Religious" drew out some wonderful comments and lively dialogue on Facebook as well as on the other blogs that inspired my post to begin with.  There was so much good stuff to chew on,  I've been tempted to just let it linger, so that the post doesn't get buried.   But there was one facet of the conversation that I wanted to make sure got the full attention it deserves.....

In Dr. Lillian's longer post she warns against the danger of "self-made" religion.   And while I think her real and bigger point is again about the importance of being in community and the transformative growth that comes from sticking to a discipline and practice, while resisting the temptation to only do what "feels good,"  I think the point is once again too easily dismissive of a greater sensitivity to the faith formation process.

If you read my previous blog post, you'll remember I made the point that all religions are self-made. Meaning that they all follow a personal revelation by one person.  I brought this point forward on Dr. Lillian's blog to see what kind of comments it would draw and hoped for a deeper dialogue.   Instead, this is what I got....

"No, I didn't make up my religion, God the Son did, and I am following Him in part by belonging to the Church He build."

Um, ok...few questions then....  Which religion are your referring to?  Christianity?  Because Paul had a lot more to do with that than Jesus - at least in the formalizing religion part...and which Church?  Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal?  Or one of the other 100+ varieties I don't have time to mention?
While it's tempting for me to dismiss the simplistic naiveté of this persons comments, it only drew me deeper down the rabbit hole of this entire concept.

So let's establish the basics again.   From the work of Theologian Paul Tillich:

Revelation is Gods attempt to reach man
Religion is man's attempt to reach God.
Revelation is always personal never universal.
So once again it stands to reason that ALL religion are self-made.  They all came from a personal revelation of one person.  Jesus, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Muhammad, Joseph Smith, Baha'ula...

Each of these individuals (and may others) had a profound personal experience with God, a personal revelation.  They shared that revelation with others who then, having been inspired by the revelation sought to touch the wisdom of the insights - by creating rituals, cultural practices, religious rules and observations etc.  These things in turn became "The Religion"

Of course the point that Dr. Lillian is trying to make is that there is real value in being steeped in a tradition, ritual and practice - that you did not invent, that you stick to it and don't just throw it out or replace it when it seems to not work, feel good, convenient or comfortable.  I get that.  And I agree.  Which when I reflected on it further - discovered that this point leads you to yet another way that all religions are ultimately "self-made."

 If you are steeped in an ancient tradition, doing thing the way they have been done for eons...because it was how you were raised, what works for you, or what you believe is more "right" than anything else.... there is something magical that happens at some point on your journey.   There is a flash, a moment of insight, an "Ah-ha!" and Eureka!   Moment where suddenly it becomes clear to you.  Suddenly that which you have been doing as routine, gains new life and meaning to you.   This is the moment of self-discovery, whereby you discover for yourself, the meaning behind that which others (or your tradition) has told you was meaningful.   In this great awakening you don't need others to tell you how valuable it is, because you know - first hand!

This is what Brazilian educator Paulo Freire described as the re-learning moment, when the student learns something by re-learning it in their own mind.  Paulo noted that this is the only moment in which real learning occurs, everything else is just regurgitation of someone else's knowledge - not our own.  We are not "blank slates" to be filled with knowledge and value as determined by others, but rather co-creators of our world through the engagement of our mind in self-learning and self-knowledge.

And so, as you practice your religion of choice and do all the things that you are suppose to do as a good member of that religion - be mindful that one day, it will take on new and profound significants for you, it will become more real to you than it ever has been, and in that beautiful ecstatic moment, your religion has become self-made.    And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

NEWS FLASH: Jesus was "Spiritual but not Religious"

In the last 24 hrs on some of the blogs that I follow and Facebook comment threads, there has been quite the stirring about the phrase "Spiritual but not Religious" aka SBNR. After spending a good portion of the day chatting and commenting, I thought I'd blog about it as well.

It all began with a Facebook post from Chad Holtz (the guy who got in trouble for liking Rob Bell's book). I enjoy the way Chad thinks about things and tend to pay attention to the things he post that are of interest to him.

He posted a link to an article on the United Church of Christ site from The Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel, "Spiritual but not Religious? Stop Boring Me." in her post Rev. Lillian shares that she dreads conversations on airplanes with people who identify as SBNR. She dreads it because she seems to find their version of spirituality boring, uninspired and lacking of the real substance that is required for growth (that being the element of community). She further claims that SBNR folks are little more than typical self-centered Americans. Self-Indulgent consumers of their own brand of spirituality, she claims.    An interesting judgement for sure. For those of you who are friends with Chad, we had a wonderful exchange on his comments section of the post.  Chad later posted his own blog entry about the conversation, which is getting some great feedback as well.

Now to Dr. Lillian's credit this article was a mini version of a much longer article posted on the Christian Century site, "You can't make this up: The limits of self-made religion" and as she expressed to me in a personal email, you can say a lot more in 3,000 words than you can in 250.  In the longer article her tone is not as snarky, and her points are better delivered and overall provides some wonderful thoughts for consideration.

Even so, there is still an overall theme that seems to look down upon the classification SBNR as inferior to "religious people."   A judgement that I think naively overlooks the rich history of the SBNR movement.  It makes me wonder if those who criticize the term actually understand what it means?   Do they understand that SBNR is not some mer post-modern cultural fad - but is in fact a deep and enriching part of American culture for over 150 years and has positively impacted nearly every major religious institution for the better?  It makes me wonder if their criticism is balanced with scholarship. Have they read "Spiritual but not Religious" by Robert Fuller  and others like it (which you can find along with other great info on SBNR movement at

If the answers to these questions were yes, I imagine we'd find a slightly more understanding and tolerant tone.  Perhaps we would discover that those who identify as SBNR often do so as a result of the religious abuse and oppression that they have suffered in the name of God and religious authority.  That more often than not, the SBNR among us do not "reject" religion as much as they reject Dogma.  Dogma that has too often been defended and promoted by organized religion.  Dogma that has oppressed the weakest among us, dogma that has suppressed the Holy and Divine Feminine making it shameful and wrong. Dogma that has made a mockery of scripture by using it to defend racism, homophobia, sexism and classism. Dogma that has the audacity to put conditions on Grace, Love, Mercy and Salvation which Jesus so freely gave to all.  Dogma that helped produce a religious institution so unlike the name and nature of Jesus that the Son of Man himself would be hard pressed to recognize, much less defend it.

So please forgive us, for I too am SBNR.  Forgive us for looking outside of the institution that has far too often failed exemplify the simplest element of it's own creed, to Love thy neighbor.  Forgive us for looking into nature to find God's true Nature.  Forgive us that while on this seemingly self-indulgent path of personal discovery, we in fact discovered Jesus, Buddha, Krishna and The Christ Principle.  And please forgive us if we discovered that this encounter was far more real, authentic and transformative than anything we previously experienced in "church."

And forgive us if we happen to notice that this seems to be the path that Jesus took as well.  Remember, he disappears from the narrative from age 12-30 and when he reappears he is not touting the virtues of religious and spiritual community.  In fact, quite the opposite. He railed against the institutions of his day, their dogma, rules and authoritative judgements over society.  He sought his own personal relationship with God, so personal he called him Abba, Father.  So personal that this connection was not made through a creed, book or Temple, but in fact was closer than his breath and dwelled right within him.

Forgive us for thinking he was not self-indulgent for doing so.   Forgive us for noticing that Jesus was "Spiritual but not Religious"

And while you consider forgiving us for these transgressions, take note of the following;

SBNR people do not deny nor reject the power of being, growing and learning in community. In fact a more loving, inclusive and charitable community that is working toward a world that works for everyone is something that we care deeply about.

Take note that often the loudest voices against Religious Institutions have been voices from the inside. Voices that have been the source of positive and evolutionary change.  Religious voices that have called upon us to be more Spiritual and less Religious.

Rev. Henry Emerson Fosdick
Shall the fundamentalist Win?

Bishop John Shelby Spong

"So it needs to be said clear that the God presence of this Jesus will lead us ultimately beyond every religious definition.  Indeed, it will lead us beyond Jesus himself.  That becomes essential to human development whenever our idolatrous convictions identify the messenger of God with God.  So the Ground of Being will finally be worshiped apart from any system of religious thought.  It is a startling but real insight into the future of worship."  - Why Christianity Must Change or Die, p. 224

 Paul Tillich, Protestant Theologian
"The importance of being a Christian is that we can stand in the insight that it is of no importance. It is the spiritual power of religion that he who is religious can fearlessly look at the vanity of religion. It is the maturest fruit Christian understanding to understand that Christianity, as such, is of no avail." - The New Being, p 19

In other words Christianity is not about Christianity. It is about a new way of Being. When Jesus said "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" he was not speaking of a religious way of Being, but a spiritual way of Being.

Scripture reminds us that it is the letter of the Law (religion, creeds and dogma) that kills, while the Spirit of the Law gives Life. An to enter the Spirit of the Law, one only need be spiritual, not religious.

And finally Dr. Lillian, do not make haste in your criticism of "self-made religion"

All religion is self made.  Paul Tillich reminds us that "Revelation is God's attempt to reach man. Religion is man's attempt to reach God." All religion stem from the personal Revelation of one individual, who then shares that revelation with others who in turn seek to touch the wisdom of the revelation by way of rituals, customs, rules and traditions that ultimately become...a religion.

In the end Dr. Lillian's point on the importance of community is well taken. We need community.  In community we grow, we are challenged and we change. But the world will not be served by more communities of "us and them."  In fact the world of divisive separation that humanity has created can only be served by the spiritual insight and revelation that there is only One Community. One global community of humanity in which, as Dr. Lillian stated, "[in community] we are stuck with each other"

And, like it or not that this is the way it is... This transformative insight can only come one personal revelation at a time.

Ernest Holmes
"The Church of God"
The Church of God is not built with hands, it is eternal in the heavens; it is not lighted with candles; its dome is heaven and it is lighted by the stars of God's illumined thought, and each member in his separate star "shall draw the thing as he sees it, for the God of things as they are." Here all people recognize the God within their own souls and ask for and see no other God. When you can look upon all creation as the perfect work of a perfect God, you will become a member of this church. I doubt very much if the church universal admits members from the church individual. When you can see in the saint and the sinner one and the same person, when you can realize that the one who kneels before the altar and the one who lies drunk in the street is the same one, when you can love the one as much as you do the other, no doubt you will be able to qualify. As it now is we have too many preachers who do not understand, that have no purpose; too many prayers, too many creeds, too many teachers, that have no message; too many churches, too many "learned" people, and too few thinkers. "The Kingdom of Heaven cometh not by observation." It is the "Still, small voice" within the soul that speaks. The expanded thought will never wish to join or be joined to. Nothing human can contain it. It feels the limitation of form and ceremony and longs for the freedom of the Spirit, the great out of doors, the Great God of the everywhere. Alone in the desert, the forest or by the restless ocean, looking up at the stars, man breathes forth these words, "With only my Maker and me."  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Inclusion Conference 2011

If you or someone you know is intrigued by the expanding consciousness of Oneness and Inclusion and what that means for organized religion, spiritual communities and our individual roles in the human family... then join us in Chicago (July 28-31) for an amazing opportunity to deepen the dialogue and explore the possibilities of Inclusion Consciousness!

Bishop Carlton Pearson, author of God is Not a Christian and the Gospel of Inclusion - and his wife Gina Pearson will host 4 days of amazing speakers, presenters and interactive dialogue on the cutting edge conversations of expanding consciousness in our time.

Among the featured presenters; you'll have the opportunity to hear and be in active dialogue with:

Bishop John Shelby Spong - retired Episcopal Bishop and long time change agent - author of many books including Why Christianity Must Change or Die.

Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith - Founder of Agape International Spiritual Center - a transdenominational and New Thought Spiritual Community and author of Spiritual Liberation.

Pastor D.E. Paulk - born and raised 3rd generation Pentecostal preacher - leader and change agent - Senior pastor of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Atlanta, GA - and author of The Holy Bible of Inclusion and I Don't Know, the Way of Knowing

Pastor Chad Holtz - Methodist minister who was removed from his post after a facebook post in which he agreed with the premise of Rob Bell's book Love Wins.  Chad's latest writings can be found at:

Randy Potts - the grandson of Oral Roberts.

Gina Pearson will host a special session for women as well.

Of course Leela and I will be there as will many other wonderful contributors to the conversation.

Conference registration is ONLY $189.00 - this is an amazing price!  Where else will you be able to spend time with the speakers and authors listed above for several days and participate in meaningful dialogue that will contribute and shape the evolving consciousness of Oneness on the planet?

It's going to be an amazing experience - spread the word, share the post... hope to see YOU in Chicago.


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