Power Over

“What posturing and performance share in common is a deep disconnect between the inspired heart and our gut instincts, between rising up and sensing ground where all life dissolves into the rich humus of earth. Make no mistake white bodies are capable of sensing deeply and can become conscious of the insidious ways that colonization is held within our flesh and blood. We may squirm and distract ourselves, but we have what it takes to dissolve these century-old impulses to cage, control and power over body. With awareness, we can begin to recognize our conditioning and through attention we can allow our primal impulses to grow a capacity to dissolve the distortions and claim life-supportive gestures and expressions.” Liz Koch, excerpted from the post on her website, Core Awareness, titled “White Bodies, Psoas, & Gesturing Power Over”

We colonized the land and the people of the land we now call the United States of America and we colonized our own bodies. Power over is the rabid beast created when we divorce ourselves from being soft, hairy animal human. We infused our religious beliefs with power over. We insisted on obedience like we insisted on this land, raping and violating the bodies of children in the name of discipline and good behavior and, for some, godliness. I can say that my daughter and two sons have birthed me because they broke my heart open and opened me up to my own tenderness and the validity of the wild human. I could not fathom how the sort of discipline inflicted on me, and on my sisters, in the name of Jesus was anything remotely connected to love and that realization occurred when a baby girl came out of my body. Everything changed. Who was this sacred creature? How could you thump her on the forehead for speaking her mind or challenging you at the dinner table? How? You must be divorced from your own body, colonized from head to toe to soul if you do this and you must be addicted to power over. Dethroning the inner tyrant anchored on the seat of the heart and placed there by fear, that is a work on which to commit a life. Enshrining love as a fully-muscled set of doings and thinkings and makings of solid evidence of love and value decolonizes the body, rids the mind of toxins long dormant. And the work never ends. There is no arrival. I don’t know what I’d do without people like James Baldwin who lives though he’s gone and Liz Koch who is here and now shining light on needful truths.

Here’s to freedom from power over and losing all the baggage that goes with it.

Salvation

Semi-cultic subcultures wanna love you, baby.
They wanna show you the way and draw you to their great God, Jesus,
showcasing his masterpiece affliction, the covid19 pestilence,
an example of his latest work to call people to him.

Ain’t nuthin’ better than a viral attraction to the best God. Ever.
He must love us, see, ‘cause if we don’t do right,
he gonna kill us all.

See, now you know it’s love, when it’s open wide or die.
Yeah, man, they got the viral meme for sure.

See they hug rapists and invite them to dinner.
Say one thing won’t happen and do it anyway.
Invite you to forgive them for violating you for decades.
And they just don’t understand how they got to where they are today
where you won’t hug them or come out to play.

They don’t know when you push that gas pedal,
and steer in that direction you will most definitely arrive
at that exact location,

‘Cause they got it all upside down and inside out
with shame for the one who made an appearance after being invited by a court to do so
and nothing but cutesy terms of endearment for the man who raped their daughter.
Over and over again.

Wear the badge of honor, Ruth.
Wear it proudly and loudly.
They are ashamed of you.
These who see love thus.
These who can do no wrong.
These who lie, claim Christ falsely and have mutilated their own souls.
They find you an embarrassment.

Glory to Goddess, you are finally saved.

 

Season’s Christalizations

“I love Jesus. I love the Pagan Solstice Christmas pine. I love Mother Earth, I love Goddess Shakti. I love my Buddha-heart. I love freedom from religious authority. I love the perfect consistency of my contradictions. I love luscious berries of fire and mistletoe clustered on the cross of paradox. I love the tree of life, where I am ripening fruit. I love the newborn sun.

And I love what my body says to my soul. ‘Every particle of me is made of Matter, Mater, Mother Dust, each atom a cathedral where pilgrims arrive from the stars to celebrate the miracle of flesh. O my soul, You irradiate the world through me. I am your dance. Let there be no more talk of our difference.’ And so after thousands of years of religious combat, my body and my soul are Christalized in one magnum mysterium.

And where does this mystery occur? In the nameless roadside shrine of my chest, in a flame that never stops burning yet has never been lit until Now. Here I celebrate the birth of God, who is this Breath.” Fred LaMotte

 

photo by j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2019

Where We Stand

(Former Semi-Evangelical Facing Post-Trump Choices)

There was a time in my life when I had to make a choice about where I stood on a crucial issue in my community and personal life. It feels like a lifetime ago. I have since faced similar choices — deciding “where I stand now that I know this…now that I have experienced that.” Sometimes I can choose the luxury of not standing, just flowing with and being with what life has been. But the one point in time that defines so many moments for me and especially helps me find clarity in the midst of confusing feelings, thoughts and impressions stands out in the starkness of illumination that only abuse survivors can provide.

At the time, my children were only toddlers and I had one more beautiful child to bring into this mad world. I was sure of so much. I had been raised Republican, evangelical Christian and most of what that entails, with the exception of racism. Or so, I thought. In any case, as I look back, I can see the cloaks falling away from me, the ones that covered my humanity in shame and confusion, the labels and identifiers now wiped away by a love of human, of being human and the divinity found where my skin begins — stripped by life’s more relentless tides, timely connections, brutal truth and a refusal of my own bullshit. No longer evangelical, republican or much else, I sit here viewing where we are as a nation with a Trump presidency on the horizon and it asks me to choose.

And I’m drawn back to that time when I chose to stand with a family member who had survived sexual abuse at the hands of one who was meant to protect her, her husband. The fact that so many in Christendom have believed that a man has every right even if his wife isn’t consenting was not without oppressive effect at that time in my life. (The historical imprint of this toxic belief may well be what has influenced so many white women to vote for Trump. They have become desensitized to their own value.) So, I fell back on pure logic and grace. It was the next phase in my walk out of the confusion created by the dogma of my youth as I asked myself: what is marriage and how is a marriage shaped by actions and how do divorces evolve out of those failed marriages? What are actions of divorce vs. actions of union? I asked myself how much a ceremony makes something real. And how much more real the actions of those involved in the relationship might be, more real than beliefs and more real than stated intent. I asked myself how a broken person could ever truly join with another broken person if the breaking point had to do with capitulating who you are in order to survive authoritarianism. Questions like that gave me no room for pretending. It impacted my own marriage in the process. And in the final analysis I found myself at that place where you ask: “How do I show love to both of these people in my life without betraying the one who was abused?” That question is inevitable when you have shared your life with both people and are faced with the truth. Then ensues questions about love and what love does or doesn’t do and especially Ruth as love and love as Ruth being honest with herself about things like spiritual energy and historical imprints of abuse on family trees. And.

So, the picture of someone standing over a line dominated my thoughts: one foot set on the ground on one side of that line, the other set down on the other side of that line and one hand outstretched, holding the hand of the abused while the other is holding the hand of the abuser. Straddling one truth: someone brutalized another and I’m the connection between them now. Why? What message does this send to the abused? The abuser? There are some mind fucks that just shouldn’t ever occur. But there it is. I realized that there are times when our deepest expression of love for abusers is to refuse their darkness, to turn away from them as a whole organism and silently hold out for their battle with their demons to end well for all of us, banishing the darkness. There are people who dedicate their lives to helping abusers. They invariably discover the abusers have been previously abused. But they don’t rush out to the most recent victim and say “Hey, s/he couldn’t help it…”

I look at this election and the racism, misogyny, climate-denying, xenophobia and bigotry teeming from the underbelly and oozing from every orifice of its history. It reeks. And in the middle of it all, I find my parents voted for Trump and in the ensuing confusion find myself trying to understand why people vote for Trump. Previously, all I could do was knee-jerk react: You choose Trump, you hate and enable hate. But these are my parents. I’ve faced plenty about my past. Why now this? Why did we have to also add this to the strain of our shared history? Where do I go with this? And on Facebook, I find posts of articles that ask us to look at what motivates Trump supporters can be met with intense disagreement by some who passionately loathe Trump. I passionately loathe all that Trump has created with his life and his platform, if you could call it that, a platform. It’s more like a quagmire. Those disagreements catapulted me into days of silence, reading, poring over my own words, posting, deleting posts, blogging, deleting the blog post. It’s tough when you want to speak to the heart of what is critical right now.

Suddenly I’m standing on that line in my mind and I realize that at this point, as had been true way back when, my only choice is to pull my whole being to one side and one side only for now. I am with those who mourn, who need healing and restoration, who see the abuses hurtling down the lines of generation after generation, individual after individual for centuries of oppression and abuse. The only way for me to hold to what I value the most with my life is to turn my back on any attempt to understand why a person would vote for Trump. For. Now.

For now, my questions to those who say they did not mean it as a racist / misogynist / xenophobic / climate-denying choice is this: Why were you comfortable with the associations of racism et. al. if you are not thus? Why is it so easy to ignore and/or dismiss the centuries of suffering of minorities, the marginalized, women and the earth? How much more easily will you be dismissed should this monster decide you have no value? These questions remain when all others have been somewhat answered. I cannot yet find an answer that assuages the sense of the power of this particular association.

To stand over the line and hold the hand of a Trump voter and the hand of those who hurt is to abandon so much of what is precious, vital, essential to our wholeness as individuals and as a people. It is a splitting down the middle and a tearing asunder. Until there are better days, more clarity and more of a sense of change of heart in those who protest the “deplorable” label (without self-examination or attempt to understand the minds of those of us who have a huge issue with enabling an abuser the likes of Trump et. al.), I can’t smooth ruffled feathers when statements about Trump voters are made. Those statements have been earned. I can’t seek to understand something that, at this point, appears insane and not make a liar of myself and a sham of the work to oust oppression. I can’t do that without abandoning my own humanity, my own grief.

(But I am wired to seek that understanding eventually. And it will be part of what I write and post about here, there and everywhere at some point. In fact, I did diverge into a moment of understanding here already, didn’t I?)

While I left the rigor of adhering to Biblical codes aside with a few exceptions, I remember a passage of scripture that resonates to this day: “To everything there is a season…a purpose…under heaven…a time to embrace, a time to refrain from embracing.” The season of standing with those who mourn is upon us here in the US and all over the world. Until the majority can agree that our exceptionalism serves only to rape, maim and destroy value, we must hold together with those here and abroad who know, who are kith and kin of the heartaches and losses created by the violations and brutalities of ignorance, “rightness” and elitism. Our work will be one of supporting and birthing a new way of being with our humanity as a nation and as people refusing the hatred, and ugliness that has landed us where we are today. We pull ourselves together in unity, in reform and in the hope for deeper understanding when the time is right. We stand in love.

Not Your Business…

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it.

“It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.”

Quote by biographer Agnes de Mille in “Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham”

The world experienced a unique expression of vitality in the active life of someone I loved from a young age. And sometimes I circle ’round and ’round the conundrum in my mind created by the somewhat immature conflict over why it is I can be so very glad he did what he did when I don’t share in the basic premise of his beliefs, that we have all sinned and fallen short. But I land on this quote and find the conundrum is only in my mind.

The soul makes sense no rational thought can fully comprehend.

The one who had such a profound effect on many, and died this past Friday, was very much a “Christ-in-you,” highly religious person but oftentimes with an undercurrent of Zen flow. John was more like a highly believing inspiration. And it was a challenge to fathom that combination of Zen Christ-likeness. And in retrospect, I cannot fathom except through this quote.

“There is a vitality. A life force. A quickening.”

And in this one man, it was contagious. It came through and was received by many as a call to Christ. And when I walked away from what I had embraced of the semi-fundie world I formerly resided, that which came through was not completely lost. Love remained. Acceptance remained. The same soulful transaction took place but my “receptors” had changed. This is not true of everyone I’ve encountered from my past life. Their channels are clogged with judgement and fear. His were not.

We often, if not always, translate who we are by the sometimes ancient, sometimes recent code of dependency, particularly dependency on beliefs or thoughts we are either intentionally or unintentionally embracing. And in that translation, the world either rejects or embraces us. Or is ambivalent. John mostly experienced hearty acceptance and he embodied what is best known of Christ, beyond the ultimate sacrifice. He loved regardless of ________.

I have no stomach for sin-fixation or a basic premise of need for a savior. But in the celebration of John’s life, the undeniable reality shines through all the confusing mental riddles. He translated the life force we all partake of and that translation imparted hope, strength, a desire to live outside of fear and in love. Both in and out of the realms of semi-fundie confusion. He said often “You are the Your Name Here expression of Jesus.” And many were blown away by it. It set aside the “WWJD” fixation and required a personal expression of Christ. In my view, both in and out of that particular flavor of Christianity, it is the purest form of Christian practice, evoking the highest possible walk of integrity within the structure of that religion and it has my high regard.

And so today I came across this quote again from a source supreme. And I found peace in the words not because they solved the riddle as much as because they pointed me to the reality of soul, of life force and of how it is we can receive the best from those we may not totally agree with and we can receive because there is that life force nourishing us within and beyond all belief systems.

“Keep the channel open.” He was able to keep the channel open through his faith in Christ. And not many, in and out of Christianity, have found a way to keep that channel open. His life and passing into the next grand adventure reminds me that we don’t know what we think we know. “Christianity is bad because it…” The truth is, when we are sick within, whatever we embrace will be corrupted by that sickness until we face it, heal it and translate life anew. Whether we’re heavy into our atheism or our religion or…

Keep the channel open…accept who you are without denying how you’ve fallen short (we all do, whether we believe there’s this thing called “sin” or not) and…

stay in love.

Truth Fetish?

‎”Nothing should stand between yourself and God. Not imims, priests, rabbis, or any other custodians of moral or religious leadership. Not spiritual masters, not even your faith. Believe in your values and your rules, but never lord them over others. If you keep breaking other people’s hearts, whatever religious duty you perform is no good. Stay away from all sorts of idolatry, for they will blur your vision. Let God and only God be your guide. Learn the Truth, my friend, but be careful not to make a fetish out of your truths.” Shams Tabrizi

Jesus Plays Violin

I got to sit and marvel over both my sons last night. One with longish red hair and a still-cherubic face and viola vibe. The other with this dignified silence his friends can’t ignore. The way our lives twist and turn, taking on hues and chords we never imagined before struck me as I sat there with my daughter in-between me and the father of my children, a man who is friend and co-parent but no longer husband. It was at once amusing and moving. Amusing because the ironies are many and moving because it works beautifully. Like my eldest son’s chucks and long hair with black dress pants and long-sleeved white shirt, the concert garb of a boy from a family held by love.

The image below shows my eldest son, Isaac, complete with cleft chin and slight smile. For over a year now he’s been dubbed “Jesus” by some of his classmates. The irony of such, given the intensity of my past life, blasts a trumpet of hilarity and resilience the likes of which I have to say I thoroughly revel in. I still have the leather purse given me at a tender age with the phrase “Jesus is King” etched on the outside by the maker, one of those 60’s hippie-style numbers with a Jesus Freak twist. I still have appreciation for what Christ accomplished. But my sense of humor sings louder than anything else on this one colorful thread of life’s relentless irony weave.

Does Isaac mind being called Jesus? No, it was meant as a joke because he’s grown his hair fairly long for this quiet town in the Bible Belt and he’s one of those compassionate but candid creatures with a propensity for keeping it simple. A young man of few words, the moniker has stuck. Give this Jesus 2 hours on Minecraft and the worlds he builds are intricate and elaborately planned. His deep affection shows little use for words while the hugs, pats, and meaningful eye contact sing a silent feast. He feels deeply but don’t ask him to say much.  Isaac is busy with his amness. And he’s rockin’ great at it.

Formerly known as Buddha Boy, back when he was a chunky toddler, it’s fitting his friends playfully call him Jesus now. His hair goes a few inches past his shoulders and he’s been known to evoke the nickname “string-bean.” This shift to Jesus works well. It goes right along with the path he’s on, not in terms of service to humanity but just in the way he’s open to the various songs of truth coming from seemingly opposed forces. And that, in itself, is a service, isn’t it?

Buddha boy should inevitably take a Jesus turn. And it’s a blast to watch him grow, play his way along the violin’s voice and kick a soccer ball with the kind of precise finesse you expect of someone who cares about detail. More and more I love these lives whose actions speak so many things, singing varied melodies and saving their world one work of individuality at a time.

Jesus Plays Violin

Plenty to Learn…

I’ve had a bit of adventure over the past couple of days in my exchanges with both a Christian and an atheist. Suffice to say it has taught me more about myself than anything else. My struggle has been more along the lines of accepting the loss that Christianity’s frailties exacted on my life. The uber-positive guru groupies might not want to hear anything about loss but that doesn’t change the fact that there is irretrievable loss in many lives. But even in my process of acceptance and healing I find that the loss does afford me a unique treasure through the lessons I’ve learned of value, of the preciousness of every pulse of our lives. And I still have so much to learn. This little nugget from John Spong hit me hard. It’s not that I haven’t realized this truth he expresses before – in terms of how to manage my frustration with narrow-minded Christian thinking. But for whatever reason, it hit more fertile ground in my soul than it has in the past. And it specifically connects with my angst with more ignorant, destructive Christians and encourages me to see things from a different perspective. It doesn’t change the fact that someone’s best experience of the Divine might be so limited and limiting that they actually injure those they have charge of for a season. But it does bathe the angst in a bit of much-needed light, dispersing bitterness in a more balanced perspective… “That person is responding to as much of God as they can experience….” Insert “love” if that’s as far as “god” goes for you, in any case, it’s a beautiful truth Spong expresses here… As someone standing outside of Christianity I still need to hear this from time to time in order to deal with my own reactions to those I experience as toxic.