Ask Jonathots …December 17th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I have a co-worker who thinks that all the religions of the world are the same. She believes that they all teach human beings to love and respect each other, take care of those in need, be honest and that there’s something greater than ourselves. I have other friends who disagree vehemently. What do you think?

Choosing up sides seems to be the great pastime of the human race. A sociologist might insist that this is natural since we basically are gregarious and like to clump together.

But I think it is often a sign of our insecurity and the lack of faith we have in presenting our individuality.

Is there a purpose for religion?

Is it the bastion for our souls or is it, as Karl Marx insisted, merely an opiate for the people, to keep them calm so they can be controlled?

If you remove the word “religion,” then you’re left with a term called “belief.” And belief should be an acceptance of scientific discovery mingled with a psychological profile of getting along with others, interspersed with our theories of what an afterlife might truly be.

If religion could transform into belief, then I think it would become rather obvious to us how it should play out in our society. Whatever the religion and whatever the contentions may be of those who deem themselves holy, there has to be some respect given to one another and to the planet, not merely a conjecture on for heavenly dreams.

So I will tell you–not all religions are the same, simply because not all religions honor Earth, humanity, justice and respect for the scientific community.

There are three questions you can always ask of anyone who claims to have a religious inclination, and from the answers, you can determine whether the religion is Earth-friendly or has a tendency to alienate human beings from their environment:

1. Does the religion believe that some people are better than others?

If it does, it generates the climate for dissension, which will never allow us to be peacemakers.

2. Does the religion accept the fact that the world is evolving, and that everything in it is expanding to a different situation?

If the religious community continues to insist that our creative God did not evolve things through time, then there will be a complete misunderstanding on how to handle the natural bumps that come in the road.

3. Does the religion believe that kindness can endure and win out, or does it demand or tolerate retribution? Even though we may have a desire for revenge, that particular action has no end game, since there’s always someone prepared to retaliate to the last attack.

Not all religions of the world are sensitive to these three ideas.

If they aren’t, they hinder the progress that God intended for human beings.

If they do offer agreement in these areas, then they are not only acceptable, but necessary to our emotional and spiritual growth.

 

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When They Got the Mike … November 27, 2012

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He came running into the church, grabbed my arm, pulled me outside, took me around the side of the building, opened his Bible and began to read. He was Mike. He was my friend who was one of those bizarre mixtures of annoying and amusing.

Now, Mike reading the Bible had absolutely no theological motivation at all–I knew that Mike must have found something questionable. And I was right.

Mike had discovered that the Bible contained the word “pisseth.” Even funnier to him was the fact that the Bible suggested that it was really dumb to “piss against the wall.” Splash-back, I assume. He was laughing uncontrollably as he shared the passage.

That was Mike. If any sentence spoken aloud offered a double entendre, Mike would find it. Mike loved to giggle at words. Mike loved to take normally somber situations and turn them into a comedy club because someone said something that could be interpreted another way. You can imagine what he was like during sex education class in high school. He giggled so loudly that he had to be escorted out of the room by two teachers.

I thought Mike was just going to be an immature guy I met during the process of growing up, and that when I finally became an adult, all the “Mikes” of the world would turn into–well, Michael.  You know. Maturity.

But it’s not so.

I am going to make a bold statement: Every book ever written, including the Bible, the Qur’an (the Koran), the Book of Mormon and any number of presumably spiritual volumes, is full of statements that can be taken many ways–and are even occasionally embarrassing.

For instance, I tighten up with discomfort when the Epistle of Timothy is read and Paul suggests that women are supposed to be subject to men because they were the ones who fell to Satan in Eden and are responsible for the decline of humankind. Yet you and I both know there are “Mikes” walking around who pronounce this erroneous idea to be as just as holy doctrine as “love your neighbor as yourself.”

There are millions of Muslims who believe the better parts of the Qur’an and ignore the portions that are out-dated and without practical use. But there are those “Mikes” even in the Arab world who find words to justify hate, bigotry and murder.

And God knows, there are folks who read the Constitution of the United States and discover all the phrases that support their particular form of backwardness, extolling them as noble gestures instead of passed-over practices. The Constitution does tell us we have the right to bear arms, but at no time does it tell us we have the need. The Constitution informs us that we have the opportunity to pursue our own happiness, but it also warns that we have a greater requirement–to chase down the common good.

I guess you and I will have to deal with all those people and organizations who “got the Mike.”  For as long as people laugh about “pisseth” being in the Bible, there will have to be someone who comes along who finds the truly important meanings and brings them to the forefront, while warning us all that anything that’s been touched by human hands–even if we think it’s divinely inspired–smells of “people.”

My choice? I choose to believe in what is still human-friendly, scientifically confirmed and God blessed.

So women–relax. Just like both sexes worked together to fall from grace in Eden, if we work together now, we just might be able to plant a new garden.

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There’s Got To Be a Morning After… October 2, 2012

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Three words: humble, humility, humiliation.

I think I have spent a lifetime learning the difference among that trio of offerings. For after all, I’ve met many people who have suggested that “humble” is the path to take in attempting to please God and make your life spiritually in order. Here’s the problem–acting like you’re not capable of much is quickly proven to be true when your efforts fall short of adequate, and rather than being viewed as humble, you are deemed inept.

Then there are people who take the other route. They decide to lead with their talents, accomplishments, dreams, aspirations and fleeting acclaim. They think a little piece of pride is necessary to grease the wheels of the train of success. The only problem is, there’s going to be a morning after. Eventually you have to display your wares in the marketplace of life and be evaluated by the existing forces on the qualities of who you are and what you do. If you’ve spent too much time bragging about your potential, the end result will be humiliation–and others will get the chance to tell you how rotten and unfulfilling you really are.

The third choice is humility. Humility is when you have a private counsel in your soul with all your faculties and the spirit of God, and through that meeting you decide on a course of action and quietly set it in motion without fanfare, planning it meticulously, rehearsing your portion faithfully and believing God to be able beyond measure.  When prosperity is brought about through that effort, you then have the power to receive the praise and deflect it in any direction you desire.

I am astounded, as I travel this country, at the arrogance displayed from both the conservatives and the liberals, and the phony, humble attitudes manufactured under the guise of coming across like “just one of the people.” Humility can not be faked. It is a delicious blend of effort with faith. It is a concoction where we understand the importance of excellence, while also comprehending that perfect things are often nailed to a cross.

As I sat onstage last night in Conneaut, Ohio, at New Leaf United Methodist Church, in front of some of the sweetest human beings you would ever want to meet, and the cameras were rolling, filming my show, I was temporarily overcome by the beauty of a simple word: opportunity.

Some folks spend their whole lives trying to achieve a station, a stage, or a format they deem to be worthy of their abilities instead of grabbing any soapbox available and standing in humility and delivering. As I watched my partner, Janet, display all of her years of rehearsing and excellence in front of the audience, I was moved with great admiration that this dear lady was absolutely delighted to be sharing her portion of God’s gift in this small, Ohio town.

Afterwards, I interfaced, embraced, chatted, laughed and cried with these kind folks who had come out to see me shake my reed in the wind. It was beautiful.

But as I lay down to sleep last night, I felt a burning, incendiary anger in my soul. Yes, I am furious with Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, religious, secular, fundamentalist and scientific folk who have squared off against each other and created an atmosphere of tension and inflexibility instead of building pathways to understanding.

I even saw it yesterday.There was a conservative contingency in Conneaut which collided with a liberal element, which was introduced by the presence of my film crew. They never were quite able to make connection. I am sure both would be enraged that I suggest that such an impasse exists. But the truth is, when you believe there is a distance between your belief and that of another, you will just naturally try to maintain the distance.

So I would like to introduce you to three other words: collision, congealing and cohesion.

All we have succeeded doing in this country is creating a collision of ideas, coyly referring to it as “debate.” It isn’t debate because there is never resolution–just an agonizing, gnawing needling about one group’s superiority over another. I, for one, am so tired of it that I not only refuse to participate, but fully intend to dismantle the intransigent, selfish attitudes of both sides, until they are exposed for the charlatans they truly are.

You conservatives, it doesn’t do any good to tell the world they are going to hell in a handbasket unless you also tell them that Jesus has given us the keys to the kingdom and that the gates of hell will not prevail against us.

Liberals, it doesn’t do any good to put your faith in science and technology, when the very nature that you acclaim was created, fostered and implemented by the will of God.

We are in the midst of an ongoing collision which is doing much more damage than we can imagine, even though we insist that it’s just two big tanks, hitting each other. Somewhere along the line, we have to congeal.

Here’s a start–you can’t have art in the church and think it’s going to conform to your doctrines and theology. Art by definition is expansive and is set in motion to challenge ideas rather than confirm them.

On the other hand, how can you build a mutual respect for human beings when you’re constructing your Tower of Babel based solely on personal self-worth and the aqcuisition of money and worldly goods? How can you expect to keep the earth well-rounded when you square off the corners in foolish controversy?

Congeal. Find a reason to mingle what you believe with the feelings of other human beings without compromising the depths of your spirit, but expanding the borders of your heart.

I agree with about half of what my conservative friends in Conneaut have to say and about half of what my film crew thinks. This doesn’t make me better. It makes me usable. I can work with any conservative as long as he or she tells me that God does not have a vendetta to hurt human beings. I can work with any liberal as long as he or she does not try to express their superiority by showing God the back door.

If we would begin to congeal, we could set in motion the possibility of the final phase, which is cohesion. Yes, we would begin to cling to each other in respect, love, admiration, and also a bit of wonder–because our lack of comprehension about the other party’s views would keep us on our toes, learning and growing.

When I walked off the stage last night in Conneaut, I was so grateful and felt such humility–to be part of the process moving us towards cohesion instead of destroying us in perpetual collision.

My journey has just begun. Right now I am introducing the notion of congealing. Conservatives are not my enemies. They remind me of little children who are afraid to play with the toys because the gifts are still in the boxes and they’re not sure they have the right to tear into them and launch into great joy. I love my liberal friends–because they have torn into the boxes and they are playing, but the toys are broken. And because they do not know the manufacturer very well, they do not know how to fix them.

Could I be more of a blessed man than to have interacted with the salt of the earth from Conneaut, Ohio, and delivered the only true, eternal message–NoOne is better than anyone else.

There’s got to be a morning after–and on this particular morning, I feel great humility, because I didn’t try to be humble or prideful, ending up in humiliation. I feel a giddy leap in my soul because I’m walking away from the collision and asking my brothers and sisters to congeal so that one day, in the sight of God and man, we can create a cohesion of fellowship with a bond that cannot be broken.

Would you join me? Forget about me, for I, too, will pass away. Would you do what’s right for yourself? Stop being part of the problem and at least make an attempt at the solution?.

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