Options, Part Two

One of my more common failings, friends, is getting something started and then forgetting to finish it. And such was the case with this. My apologies for the delay in posting part two of this essay. Part One can be found here—or, if you’re looking at this on the main screen, just scroll down.

Now to the communal options! I’ll list these in ascending order of audacity. Continue reading

Options, Part One

A Friend came to the Spirit and asked, “Spirit, how may I achieve perfect peace?”

The Spirit said, “Follow the testimonies, follow my leadings, subscribe to Friends Journal, and love your neighbors as yourself.”

The Friend said, “I have done all of that for years.”

Then there is one more thing to do,” the Spirit said.

Tell me.”

Go, sell everything you have, and give the money to the poor.”

The Friend waited expectantly, and, after a few minutes, said, “Please, Spirit. What is the one thing I have to do?”

The Spirit said, “I just told you. Go, sell everything you have, and give the money to the poor.”

The Friend was becoming agitated. “Spirit, why won’t you answer me? I’m listening.”

Sell. Everything. Give. The money. To. The poor. …Is this thing on?”

The Friend was by now distraught, and wandered away wailing, “Spirit, where are you? I feel so lost; I cannot find the Light! I don’t know what to do…”

(Later…)

And that’s how the Quakers died out?”

Of course. They had exactly one thing going for them: listening to Me. Have you seen their business meetings? They never would have survived so long if I hadn’t been helping out. When they stopped hearing Me they were doomed. But money talks louder than I do… and fear talks louder still.”

~~~

Or…

We could do something different. Continue reading

Weapons and Women

This is a week of anniversaries. The 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, for instance, and the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But today is my anniversary, my 5th. It’s now been five years since I last tried to handle pain by inflicting more, and deal with the damage in my life by dealing more. A couple retrospectives are in order.

Both the aforementioned presidents knew something about violence, and of course violence took both of them from us, at great cost to the country. So I could have reposted this first flashback on the 19th, or, with still-greater significance, on the 22nd:

“Use of Weapons”

(The friend I mention in the first lines no longer owns firearms, by the way, but my point stands.)

And how did I get out of that cycle of violence? Well, a lot of hard work, and a lot of patience. But I give credit where credit is due, and I give a lot of the credit to

These Women

Many of the women in question, when I praise them for their help in my return from darkness, tell me that I did the work; they just helped. Which is true. But the women in question made me want to do the work. There’s a lot I can do, if the Spirit is willing and my desire is strong. But the trick about depression is that internal motivation is hard to come by. Yeah, I did the work. Yeah, I got myself out of my hole. And yeah, now I’m much more able to get started and get things done on my own. But I could have stopped cutting any time. I could have gotten help any time. I didn’t want to. Not until these women gave me reasons. And so I am deeply blessed by the Spirit that I have known them.

I could add to the list of women by now, by the way, but that will be for future posts.

So rejoice, my friends! My clouds have lifted and my storm has passed. Five years of ever-improving health. Five years of getting stronger. Five years of victory. My scars are badges of honor now, nothing I am ashamed of, for they show the world how far I have come.

Sing a joyful song today, my friends, in honor of the Spirit of Healing and Life who so beautifully drew me out of darkness. Sing a joyful song and dance.

The Problem of Evil

For centuries, theologians have wrestled with a simple problem. If there is a god, then that god would have to be all-powerful and all-knowing; any limitations would make such a being less than divine. But if there is such a being, and that being is loving and merciful, then why do terrible events befall the world? Surely a powerful and loving god would step in and do something. I feel, however, that (with apologies to the Bard) “the fault is not in our gods, but in ourselves.” The worst evil and the darkest disaster, such as the storm that has just pounded the Philippines flat and left death and desolation in its wake, is not the fault of any god above, nor necessarily the fault of the lack of such a god, but due to our own inaction. Edmund Burke probably never said “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” But my point remains regardless. If there is evil in the world, it is because we allow it.

Longtime readers will remember, however, that I am not concerned with the proof of God. I will not try to prove the existence of the divine, nor will I try to argue against it. It is, quite simply, not my issue. I don’t care if God exists, though I believe that the Holy Spirit is real—God or not, my actions would be the same. So why am I, so resolutely dedicated to the here-and-now world, addressing a theological debate? I do so because there are real lessons in the discussion for believers and doubters alike. Continue reading

The Economy of Love in Action

I’ve spoken of the Economy of Love as if it were something to be done in the future. But when you look around, you can see hints of it already present. Friends, I encourage you to take these hints as inspiration and build on them.

From the menu of Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe, here in Seattle:

The Community Bowl: We created this bowl to allow those in financial need to have access to nutritive, organic food. Brown rice, black beans, mixed vegetables, tahini sauce and spiced sunflower seeds. Choice of orange or banana. Payment is by donation. No one is turned away. Suggested value is $7. Feed yourself and someone in need for $14 or more. Overage will be donated to a local food bank.”

An Open Letter to the Seattle Times

To the editors, the Times:

I will let Mr. Eaton speak for himself:

“We navigate our way uncomfortably among teenagers who occupy Westlake Park, hanging out with their pit bulls, backpacks and skateboards, lately with their babies, freely smoking their now-legal marijuana. With utter dismay we read the stories of random violence…

“Tragically, fear may lead to resentment of the poor and the helpless.”

Did none of you see the dissonance there?

I value the chance to read points of view different from my own in the Seattle Times, which is good, since you run so many of them. (Go on, print a pro-union piece, I dare you.)

But when you run a piece so obviously lacking in thought, it reflects poorly on the quality of the Times. Here’s a man whose heart is plainly in the right place, and yet is, with equal plainness, falling victim to one of the problems he’s deploring. I’ll give Mr. Eaton the benefit of the doubt and assume that no one pointed out the tinge of hypocrisy in his argument. But since you were presumably editing the piece and should have pointed out exactly that, this does mean that I can’t give you the benefit of the doubt.

Mr. Eaton again:

“I have no expertise in these complicated matters, only a love for this city, a care for the poor and a belief in the power of community… Maybe we start with the trashed flowerpot in front of Macy’s, the gum spots all over our streets or the camped-out teenagers; we begin with the little things.”

When a man can write that he “care[s] for the poor” and then, just a few paragraphs later, puts homeless teens on the level of trashed flowerpots and used chewing gum—when a man can profess love for his fellow humans and then calls them “things” in the next breath—I must be deeply skeptical of his words. And I must be even more skeptical of a newspaper which finds such words worth printing.

Sincerely,

Paul Christiansen

[Addendum: many readers of the editorial will observe other gaping flaws. I elected to stick to a single point in the letter itself, following Lincoln's policy of giving ground on secondary issues while standing firm and prevailing on the crucial point. I do see Eaton's lack of compassion, disguised as it is in compassionate language, as the key point. Any number of other issues could be raised with his flawed argument, however:

  • The "broken window" theory has been rather discredited
  • The Seattle Police Force clearly requires greater scrutiny at present, not less
  • Mr. Eaton seems to be demanding action about symptoms, not causes
  • If Seattle is a "broken city" then Detroit must be a war zone, and Mogadishu must be Hell itself
  • The Salvation Army is a great resource for the poor... unless you're gay

Etc.]