Noonday Sun

By: Woodrow Lucas

In the wee hours of the morning,

There is sometimes a painful expectation,

Like a mother giving birth,

We hope so badly for the sun,

But we realize that clouds might come,

And so we wait,

And in that expectation we create the hope that will cure cancer,

And in that expectation we free many a soul from torment,

In the wee hours of the morning,

There is sometimes a painful expectation,

Like a mother giving birth,

We hope so badly for the sun,

But we realize that clouds might come,

And so we wait,

And in that expectation, we learn to rest in uncertainty,

Secure in the knowledge that in the end, all will be well.

And when the noon hour comes,

And the sun is at its brightest,

And we realize that all of our dreams have come true,

And God is just as good as we thought.

We look back on our former doubt,

And we feel no shame,

Only a compassionate desire that all might feel this brilliance,

And a patient and secure resolve that one day all will.

 

The Amazing God

I know a Muslim Fundamentalist who had decided to strap a bomb to his chest and destroy a Jewish schoolhouse in Israel.

And he told me that the night before the event, he had a dream and saw the prophet Muhammad in a vision.  And the prophet Muhammad came to him and said, “My Son, stop hating yourself.  We love you.  All of us love you.  Allah is beneficent and merciful and his mercy is for you.  Do not do this thing you are planning, but rather embrace yourself, shadow and all.”  The man woke up and started to cry and he cried for 4 days.  And when he stopped crying he thanked Allah for the beauty of the Jewish people and the wisdom of Ecclesiastes.

I know a Hindu woman who was very promiscuous as a teenager and she walked with a deep shame and bitterness, so much so that she could not bear to go to temple.  And one day, a Christian Evangelist found her and said, “Young lady!  Jesus loves you! Jesus wants you as one of his very own!! All you have to do is confess his name.  Just confess his name and you will live forever.”  And the woman confessed the name of Jesus, and when she did, she felt energy like water from a faucet rising up in her belly and she began to speak in unknown tongues and dance feverishly screaming “Thank you Lord Christ!!!”  “Thank you Lord Christ!!!”  That woman spent the rest of her life counseling teenagers on self-love and their worth before God.

I know a Baptist man who spent most of his days afraid that he would go to hell forever as he felt that he was unworthy of the Lord.  But one day he met a psychic woman, and she called him by name and said, “There is no such thing as eternal hell, and even if there was, you are not going there.  You are beloved by God and God loves us all so much that he will not let any of us writhe in torment forever.”  And the man normally would have dismissed the psychic woman as a worker of satan’s iniquities except that she sang him the song that his mother would sing to him when he was a child before his mother died and the psychic told him how much his mother had been watching over him throughout the years and how he would one day be reunited with her.   And now the man reads Tarot cards as a hobby, always stressing that Jesus can make anything happen, even if it ain’t in the cards!

The God of Abraham, The God of Isaac, The God of Jacob, The God of Malcolm, The God of Martin, The God of Hindu Yogis teleporting themselves to other dimensions, The God of Sufi Mystics spinning round and round to the sound of the universe, The God of Cogic Pentacostals tarrying and sweating and clapping and dancing and praising on Friday nights, The God of Einstein beginning to remove the veil between the invisible and the visible, the concrete and the ethereal, the physical and the spiritual, The God of Jimi Hendrix mesmerizing his fans throughout the universe as he works miracles on his vintage guitar.  The Amazing God has so many faces which sometimes look so different from the outside, but if you look closer, beneath the scaffolding of dogma, you see a love as wondrous and multidimensional as the creation that he, she, it, they created, and then the bliss of awe overtakes you and you feel the soft and thunderous caress of God’s unconditional love.

The Shadow

In times of transition, as we walk a tightrope of hopelessness, the shadow comes to claim us.

The shadow descends, reminding us that there is no way out of the endless darkness.

The shadow screams at the top of its lungs, “there is no hope my child.

Your destiny is to wander in dark places with quenchless thirst for a new beginning.”

The shadow surreptitiously insinuates itself into every aspect of our perception.

The shadow ensures that when trials come they descend like an avalanche,

And we feel like the darkness is infinite and that all things begin and end in suffering.

But all shadows need light to accent their darkness.

There can be no shadow without light.

And while a shadow is delimited by shape and form, light is endless and eternal.

There can be no shadow without light, and the light from which the shadow garners strength is endless and eternal.

I do not express this through emotion or inspiration, as my emotions are buried beneath the debris of depression’s languid odor.

All I sense and smell, all I feel or see is darkness enveloping me in the deception of the shadow.

But there is a knowledge of light that cannot be vanquished.

And it is with this knowledge that I declare that all shadows must eventually succumb to the light which begets them.

And this light is wondrous and glorious.

This light is more than enough to lift me to the sky and beyond.

And so I say, even in the grips of hopelessness, that light is the truth of all things and this light has claimed me.

The Post Election Blues

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

As a progressive democrat with bordering on Socialist allegiances I saw this year’s election as one of utmost importance.  Affordable access to healthcare, a likely Supreme Court seat, and the war in Afghanistan were just a few of the major policy issues that were at stake.  For the past 3 months I have been praying every day for Barack Obama to win the presidency and for democrats to take control in the Senate and the House of Representatives.  This was unusual for me, for normally I would have prayed a general prayer like, “Lord God, please bless the candidate who is best for our country to win this election,” but this election was so important to me that I deviated from proper prayer protocol and asked for a specific result.

As a person who has been diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder politics is a very dangerous road.  Given the capricious nature of politics in general, having definite allegiances to candidates just increases the stress on one’s psyche.  So needless to say, I have been very stressed out in recent weeks over the developments of the election.  In addition to praying about the outcome, I would say mantras to myself over and over again.  I would chant, “No matter who wins this election, I and my family are going to be alright.  No matter who wins this election, the sun will still rise and the night will still come.  No matter who wins this election, Jesus is still on the throne.”  But deep down, I believe that I may have invested just a little too much of my soul in this year’s contest.  I believe that I may have invested a bit too much, because with the exception of the elation that I felt on Tuesday night when the election was called, I have been experiencing acute depression in the days which followed.

Depression is a very mysterious experience.  For those of us that suffer from severe and persistent mental illness, depression can come upon us without warning and can seem to have no apparent cause.  But in this instance, I believe that my depression may have stemmed from a fundamental confusion concerning my relationship with God.  As an African-American politics is very important to my welfare.  Most of the strides toward African-Americans having equal rights in our society have come about as a result of political activism.  From the voting rights acts of 1964-1965 to the desegregation of public schools and public places, to the end of slavery, to equal access to employment, African-Americans have utilized the tools of civic protest and political engagement to fight for our rights.  This legacy is in stark contrast to for instance the legacy of Native-Americans in this country for whom political activism has been less fruitful in securing national rights for Indians and Indian Nations.  But perhaps the lack of success of Native-Americans in the political spectrum might produce a better attitude among Natives when historic elections such as this past election arise.

It seems that during this election, despite my mantras to the contrary, I explicitly connected my welfare as a person directly to the outcome of this past political contest.  The truth is that for me, God is the center of my existence and my strength flows from my ability to rely upon God as a source of sustenance.  Unlike some other people, I cannot count on my moods to be stable or my mind to accurately assess reality at all times.  Rather, I rely on medications and fervent prayer and seeking god as a way to fulfill my duties as a father, husband, citizen, and servant of Christ.  And unfortunately, medication while useful in helping me avoid catastrophic happenings such as a psychotic break, rarely works to stabilize my mood or keep me from social paranoia and agoraphobia.  No instead of my meds, it is the 45 minute prayer regimens that I pray on a daily basis that keep me focused and productive.  For me, as a person that lives with severe and persistent mental illness, God is often literally and explicitly the difference between death and life, darkness and light, and depression and stability. I realize that philosophically, this is true for all people, but for me, my dependence on God manifests in my life as a much more visceral reality given my challenges.

So, in this election, I sacrificed my usual center of God, for the external reality of the election. I dovetailed all of my hopes and dreams into the election outcome.  Unfortunately, politics, while important for a variety of reasons rarely directly informs or dictates my spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and circumstantial welfare.  I readily admit and assert that my life would be different if I did not have Barack Obama’s healthcare stipulations on my side as I deal with chronic illnesses like Schizoaffective, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, but in terms of my level of hope, my level of functionality, and my level of mental stability, politics is for the most part not a pertinent variable.

So in this election cycle, I made the mistake of relinquishing my karma yoga attitude about life and putting all of my existential eggs into the election basket.  The problem with this approach is that it creates somewhat of a psychic catch 22, in which if one does not obtain one’s desired outcome one might be devastated and if one does receive one’s desired outcome one must then contend with the reality that such an outcome pales in comparison to the Universal Source of God as a cause for our well being.  Today, I really tried to regain my center by reminding myself that I am in the same species as I am sure discouraged Republicans and that I need to pray for their adjustment to the political reality that emerged.  Today, I attempted to regain my center by recommitting my allegiance to God more so than a political ideology.  I am not trying to suggest that voting is not part of our civic duty, that advocating for justice is not part of righteousness, or that we should all put our heads in the sand and wait for God to solve all of our problems without our active struggle and participation.  But I am suggesting that as we advocate and that as we fulfill our duty as citizens in a democracy to pursue the end that we have decided to be best for the country, that we need to realize that God is ultimately our source of strength and happiness more so than any circumstance that we experience or political reality that we desire.

So, as I pull myself out of the post-election blues, I am sober in my understanding that God is and must be my center and that I need to revisit my duty as a Christian to love other Christians and other citizens of this country who do not agree with my vision for a better America.  As I pull myself out of the post-election blues I am sober in my remembrance that this world is not my ultimate home and that I advocate for justice out of my devotion to God more so than a desperate and fearful allegiance to any political outcome.  So thank you God for in your infinite mercy allowing the election to unfold as it did, but more importantly thank you God for being the center of my life and the source of my ultimate joy.

Destination Love

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

Recently, I reconnected with a dear friend of mine to whom I had not spoken in 2 years. In the process of sharing our experiences since we had last talked, she intimated to me that recently, she had a near death experience.  During this near death experience, she said that she met Jesus and experienced what she described as “eternity” in which there was “no time” but rather past, present, and future were all simultaneously occurring.  She intimated that being in the presence of the Lord was beyond any experience of love that she had ever had.  She said that Jesus’ love completed her in a way such that she could not think of anyone else in his presence.  She said that in the “eternity” in which she operated, that Jesus was huge and was the center of all activity.  Her authority in communicating this was mesmerizing as she spoke with a confidence that I have scarcely encountered.  I told her that she seemed “transfigured” and that I believed that she had actually met the Lord.  Ironically, another friend of mine was recently telling me about a book that she was reading called, The Prince of Heaven by Eben Alexander, in which an unbeliever had a near death experience and recounted going to a place of infinite love.  Similarly, Wayne Dyer the spiritual teacher and PBS personality had a woman on one of his telecasts who had a near death experience and spoke of a state of being where worry, anxiety, and fear had absolutely no place and were completely muted by the unconditional love that surrounded and infused her.

As a Universalist, these accounts are very affirming of my conviction that all human beings, from the worst of us to the best of us, are eventually destined to bliss, wholeness, and the unconditional love of God.  Even given the idea of hell that some people who have had near death experiences recount visiting, this hell is surely not eternal and is a place of remediation where much needed lessons are learned.  Revisiting the first near death account of encountering an existential condition wherein Jesus is the center of reality and his love is all consuming makes me think of Phillipians 2:5-11 wherein Paul describes our savior as “being in very nature God” and yet humbling himself to be born as a human being and live a life of sadness and loneliness for the greater redemption of all things.  When one considers how big Jesus is in the afterlife, his humility in deciding to live among a people who in many ways did not value his gifts of love and compassion is dumbfounding.  While Jesus had a considerable following in Israel at times in his ministry, he was a relative unknown compared to historical characters like Julius Cesar or even Herod Antipas.  In fact, Jesus was such an unknown to most people that finding historical confirmation of his life is difficult.

There is something about this earthly and natural realm of existence that creates a profound temptation to devalue things that are important to eternity and value things that in the scheme of the cosmos have very little true significance.  It seems that there is something about this experience of human life that inappropriately puts great weight on relatively meaningless criteria such as worldly accomplishment, worldly notoriety, and material gain and that underestimates the truly eternal significance of love, justice, mercy, compassion, empathy, and gratitude.  This world’s problematic value system can sometimes be frustrating if we forget that one day, one fine day, we will be in the presence of unconditional love and the learning experiences, trials, and difficulties of this life will be over.

Some claim that a worldview that seriously integrates the notion of a beautiful and wondrous afterlife will cause the believer in such a hope to neglect practical matters and to become so spiritually minded that they are “no earthly good.” But in my experience, it is my understanding of a wondrous destiny for us all that motivates me to make this earth better and to make people’s lives better.  The confidence that Jesus truly got the victory over hatred, greed, malice, and contempt on the cross and that in some profound mystery secured the destinies of all human beings in that moment of sacrifice helps me work through discouragement and hold fast to hope.  I truly believe that understanding love as our ultimate destination helps one to advocate for justice with more rather than less fervor because one operates in the unflinching belief that righteousness, equality, and love are not just destined to win, but have in many senses already won.  This kind of awareness helps us to persevere when it seems like circumstances in our earthly journey are untenable.  To know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this earth will one day resemble that wondrous afterlife where fear and hatred have absolutely no place, is so empowering that it will one day make real what is already real to the angels.  Because love has already won, it will surely win.

No matter how bleak things seem in reference to the mass incarceration of the poor or lingering racism or homophobia or worldwide violence or ethnic cleansing we have an existential guarantee that evil and suffering must and will fade to be replaced by the perfect love that is all around us but often times not acknowledged.  The truth is that misery, suffering, and pain are ephemeral and it is joy, love, and peace that are eternal.  The truth is that this earth’s destiny has already been decided and in spite of global warming, over-population, and the unconscionable hoarding of wealth that seem to be defining our reality that this planet’s destiny is ultimately good.  We who stand for love truly cannot fail and those who stand against love will soon be converted.  For our journey is blessed and our destination is love and no worry, pain, anguish, sorrow, bad choice, or adversity can ever change that.

Sex is Violent

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

Last night, while surfing cable television for some entertainment, I happened upon the show “Spartacus – Vengeance” on Starz, one of the premium cable channels.  The episode that I saw was a visual smorgasbord of gratuitous nudity, close to pornographic sex, and indulgent violence with a bit of plot mixed in to provide the illusion of coherence.  The episode made me think of a Jane’s addiction song coined, “Ted Just Admit It,” which the group released as part of their 1987 album Nothing’s Shocking.   Here is a brief excerpt from the song’s lyrics:

“Camera got them images, Camera got them all, Nothing’s shocking Showed me everybody Naked and disfigured Nothing’s shocking And then he came Now sister’s Not a virgin anymore Her sex is violent
The T.V.’s got them images T.V.’s got them all It’s not shocking Every half an hour Someone’s captured and The cop moves them along It’s just like the show before The news is Just another show With sex and violence
Sex is violent Sex is violent Sex is violent Sex is violent Sex is violent Sex is violent Sex is violent
I am the killer of people You look like a meatball I’ll throw away your toothpick And ask for your giveness
Because of this thing Because of this thing Because of this thing
That’s in me Is it not in you? Is it not your problem? A baby to a mother
You talk too much To your scapegoat That’s what I say He tells you everyone is stupid That’s what he thinks
Snapshots Make a girl look cheap Like a tongue extended A baby’s to a mother
Sex is violent Sex is violent Sex is violent Sex is violent.”

In my opinion this alternative rock song captures the cultural obsession with sex and violence better than any fundamentalist preacher who rails against pornography in media.  The song by stating, “I am the killer of people…Because of this thing, Because of this thing, Because of this thing, that’s in me, Is it not in you?  Is it not your problem?” cuts to the heart of this issue by attributing violence and profligate sex to a “thing” within us that stems from a darker nature.

I make the claim that “profligate” sex stems from a darker nature to distinguish it from the kind of beauty that occurs when two devoted adults engage in the process of “making love.”  Many evangelical fundamentalists advocate for morality by publicly condemning homosexuality and attempting to encroach upon a women’s choice of how to use her body.  In my opinion, a homosexual has just as much chance of being holy as a heterosexual to the extent that they stay within certain prescribed guidelines such as devoting themselves to a life partner.  To be honest, distinguishing “holiness” from “debauchery” makes me feel uncomfortable as though I am some kind of judgmental Moses proclaiming parameters for living from a morally superior mountain top, but the bottom line is that some kind of “parameters” in reference to sexuality are necessary to separate us from the “state of nature” to which Perry Farrell and the rest of Jane’s Addiction so eloquently refer.

But what are the parameters that separate us from other more violent mammals as it concerns violence and sex?  In the state of nature, the strongest and most apt in reference to violence become the “alpha males” of that society and consequently end up “studding” all of the available females.  To some, this might be natural selection’s way of keeping each species strong and healthy, but to me this represents perhaps the heart of the matter concerning sex and violence.  In the state of nature “power” is the essence of authority.  The “strongest” lions rule the pride.  The first epistle of John describes the state of nature as “the world.” 1 John 2:15-17 states, “15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

Some may make the claim that the “world” according to God is society writ large and that believing in God demands a kind of separation from society writ large, but I assert that ‘the world’ is a darkness that exists in all of us, the darkness that “wills to power” out of fear of annihilation.  The state of nature is characterized by a constant struggle for supremacy which stems from the fear of death.  So in the state of nature, sex is part of violence.  In a sense, in the state of nature, sex is a reward for violence.  All one needs to explore to see that sex is a reward for violence in our “baser” instincts is the mass rape of women that has often occurred throughout history after warring factions fought a battle.  In fact the tendency to rape women as a “reward” for victory in war has only subsided in relatively recent history.

When one considers the “chauvinism” which characterizes our “baser instincts” the impotence of fundamentalist attempts to curb sinful dispositions like fornication and adultery is not surprising.  Fundamentalists attempt to curb a “will to power” with a “will to power.”  Fundamentalists seek to judge and shame the offender into stopping the offense.  Fundamentalists may make the claim that it is the modern “rebellion” of women that is to blame for our society’s erosion of morality.  But this perspective erroneously privileges some distant past wherein we as human beings were moral.  Just when was this past?  Has it ever really existed?  The truth is that any rhetoric which attempts to privilege males over females, white over brown, or straight over gay is intricately connected to “the survival of the fittest” way in which the “state of nature” functions.  Fundamentalists in a sense, attempt to impose their concept of order on others as a way to curb disorder.  But forcefully imposing “order” on people is an act of violence in and of itself.  Violence cannot curb violence in the long run and sexual chauvinism cannot curb sexual malfeasance in the long run either.  For the will to subjugate is inherently connected to the way in which the “alpha male” sexually subjugates in the darker recesses of our imagination.

So if “judgment” and “shame” do not work as ways to curb our baser instincts toward violence and debauchery, what does work?  In my limited experience, it has not been fear that has ultimately helped me in times of “temptation.”  Rather, devotion is the only force which I have found to be effective in my attempts to forgo “the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.” Webster’s dictionary defines devotion as love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause and Hinduism describes devotion to a deity as a legitimate path toward bliss.   Devotion is not a force centered construct, but is rather a love centered construct.  Only love can conquer lust.  In times of fierce temptation it has been my sense of devotion or loving loyalty toward God or my wife or my kids that has given me the ability to reject the world as a corrosive delusion rather than an apt reality.

Some may say that only reflective thought separates us from living like wolves or dogs.  But I claim that reflective love also separates us from our baser instincts.  The ability to reflect on the questions of “what is love?” and “what does love look like?” are in my opinion the foundational building blocks of every advancement that human kind has made to date.  So if sex in the most chauvinistic view of the word is violent then love is non-violent and love and debauchery cannot occupy the same space.  So I suppose that my response to last night’s exploration of “Spartacus-Vengeance” is to continue to pray for my own love and the love of others to grow and expand and ultimately rule over every part of us, not through subjugation but rather the inspired revelation of what it is to be loving.

The Edge

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

The woman steps out on the balcony of her high rise apartment and among the buildings and streets and stoplights witnesses a fulcrum, an edge.

An edge, the edge, the intersection of beginnings and endings,

The moment when crops are ripe for harvest.

The edge calls to us and invites us to forsake what is known,

The edge calls us to test the limits of our understanding,

And step into an abyss of possibility,

Sinking down into relaxed awareness of beauty,

The edge awaits us.

The edge, where race no longer matters and neither does popularity,

The edge, where souls delight in the magic of music,

The edge, where souls revel in the power of seasons to change and of death to beget life,

The edge is the precious moment where we are neither disappointed at what we have not done or anxious that we will not continue in doing,

The edge is where we can see a life, a leaf, a soul for what it is without a biased back story of prejudiced contrivance,

The edge is where babies go when they are awakened in the womb,

The edge is the horizon where sunrises and twilight take our breath to the height of admiration,

For only God can make this atmosphere to shine just right as the sun and moon dance their dance of gratitude,

The edge is what I wish for now and always,

The woman steps out of her house in the mountains and among the stars hidden in sunshine and premature butterflies hidden in billowy leaves on trees she witnesses an edge, a fulcrum.

Where divinity and gratitude explode in the praise of creativity and the worship of life anew.

Edges, edges where comfortable platitudes have no voice and ignorant assumptions are ostracized,

Come quickly edges, come quickly and embrace me.

Eternal Damnation – A Doctrine Whose Time Has Come

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

There are few doctrines that are as integral to the “world view” of most modern evangelical Christians than the doctrine of eternal damnation.  According to many modern evangelicals eternal damnation is the fate that all people who do not confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior before they die will experience for an eternity.  As an African-American who lives in the south, I can also state with a fair amount of certainty that although they may not have the same political leanings as most modern evangelical Christians, most African-American preachers and teachers also hold to the notion of eternal damnation as an integral dimension of a robust faith in Jesus Christ and the coming ‘Kingdom of God.’  Some Christian Universalists that I know make the claim that Eternal Damnation is not a biblically supported principal and that the bible unequivocally supports Universal Reconciliation of all to God as the scripturally sound belief system.

As an African-American I believe that I can state with some authority that the Bible is very important to African-American Christians.  The reason for our emphasis on the bible is that during slavery our masters would often use the bible as a way to justify their actions toward us, but would also forbid us from reading the bible for ourselves for fear that we might become unruly if we had access to the biblical stories of liberation and the biblical themes of justice, mercy, faith, and equality.  So for African-Americans the bible has been a profound source of freedom and has become a book which many of us turn to for solace and as a philosophical basis for our lives.  It is out of reverence for the tradition of “the word” among African-Americans that I must disagree with my Christian Universalist brothers and sisters and assert that eternal damnation is most definitely a biblical concept which is supported throughout the New Testament.  Jude 1:7, James 3:6, and 2 Peter 2:4 all either directly or indirectly support the notion of Eternal Punishment.  Similarly, in the gospels that speak of Jesus, Jesus supports the notion of eternal damnation throughout those gospels.  More specifically Matthew 5:22, Matthew 5:29, Matthew 5:30, Matthew 10:28, Matthew 18:9, Matthew 23:15, Matthew 23:33, Matthew 25:41, Matthew 25:46, Mark 1:47, Mark 7:45, Mark 9:3, Luke 12:5, and Luke 16:19-31 all either suggest or explicitly mention the notion of hell and eternal damnation as the penalties for the rejection Jesus’ love.

And yet, I as an African-American, assert to you that this biblically supported idea of eternal damnation is perhaps the most demonic facet of modern day Christianity and is truly an idea whose rightful rejection by all has come.  From a biblical perspective, although the bible does support eternal damnation, the hope and love that the bible helps to engender in us as believers cry loudly against it.  Hebrews 11:1 speaks of faith being the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.  So yes, the Bible as a book may support eternal damnation, but the bible also calls us to a hope that goes beyond what is readily understandable or visible to our natural eyes and consciousness.  Similarly, Jesus speaks of hell and eternal damnation more than any other biblical figure.  But Jesus also claims in John 14:12 that the works that he did we shall also do and greater than those, and Jesus states in Matthew 13:52 that every teacher of the law will bring in old and new treasures from scripture.  So while the readily visible and ascertainable dimensions of scripture fully support eternal damnation, the ethics of love, hope, and belief to which scripture calls us to aspire rail against the idea as the demonic deception that it is.

It is my sincere belief that the Jesus who went to the cross for me and who rose from the dead would encourage me to question any notion that perverted the character of God, even if it was a notion that he himself suggested.  For did not Jesus attempt to send the Syrophoenician woman away when she asked him to heal is daughter under the precept that she wasn’t Jewish and was therefore a dog.  But, then, did not Jesus say that she had great faith when she said that “even the dogs eat the children’s crumbs.”  Herein this scenario the Syrophoenician woman is challenging Jesus’ worldview with a world view that requires more faith, faith being in this sense, imagination for what is possible.  Jesus in this instance does not punish the woman, but rather rewards her by healing her daughter. I query, is it courageous and faithful to hold to what somebody believed in the past in a way that causes one to judge one’s human brothers and sisters as worthy of eternal torment or is it courageous and faithful to grab onto the reigns of hope that Paul in 1 Timothy 2:3-4 gives us when he says, “This is good and pleases God our Savior who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth?”  I query, does it glorify Jesus to think the worst about God and our human brothers and sisters by holding to an idea that Jesus and the early disciples held to in the midst of abject oppression and degradation or to scrutinize and examine the letter of truth that we have received with the spirit of unconditional love and hope who God has given us to help us interpret that scripture.  Jesus never said, “And I will give you a bible which will comfort you and lead you into all truth.” Instead Jesus said, “I send you a living, breathing spirit who will lead you into all truth and comfort you through any adversity.”  So when we read in 1 Peter 4:6 Peter avowing, “for this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit,” we are duty bound out of our allegiance to the Holy Spirit of love to say to ourselves, “Oh my goodness, this suggests that people have longer than their earthly lifetimes to believe in and receive Jesus.”

Just as Jesus was the chief cornerstone on which the mindsets of the Pharisees and the Sadducees were destined to be destroyed, so too is the Holy Spirit the chief cornerstone of this age who calls us to a higher hope and a more profound vision than the explicit exposition of scripture suggests.  I query, when Paul states in 1 Timothy 4:9-10, “This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially those who believe,” are we called as God’s emissaries of hope to pessimistically interpret this scripture to mean that some of the men of whom Jesus is Lord and Savior will suffer in eternal torment or that Jesus as the Savior of all will find a way for all to successfully devote themselves to God?  I query, would Jesus, the man who reviled pride and vanity in all of its manifestations smile more upon us believing that we are somehow so much more special than other human beings that God would predestine us for salvation and predestine others for torment or on us realizing that every soul is of equal value to God and so God will find a way for every soul to make it?  Kalen Fristad, whose pivotal sermon is on this website, aptly states that eternal damnation either makes God into a “tyrant” who would predestine some for happiness and some for torment or a “stupid weakling” who cannot find a way to realize the essence of his will for all people to intimately know him.

It is my contention that many of the horrors and cruelties in which the Christian and Catholic Churches of our history have been complicit owe their origins to the notion of eternal damnation.  Consider, was it really cruel for Catholic inquisitors to torture unbelievers until they “confessed” appropriately if those same unbelievers would end up in “eternal torment” if they did not confess?  Was it really wrong for John Calvin to burn a dissenter at the stake if the truth that she or he was spreading would result in the eternal punishment of many?  Was it really wrong for Catholic missionaries to impose belief in Jesus and Capitalism on native inhabitants of the lands that their European kings and queens were colonizing if such imposition saved those natives from eternal suffering?  Consider, any amount of limited suffering in this earthly life is virtually nothing compared to eternal torment.  So is causing people to suffer in their earthly lifetimes so that they will prosper in eternity really so wrong?

Eternal damnation is a doctrine of fear which reinforces fear.  So do you believe that the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete that Jesus gave us to comfort and convict us really wants us to hold onto a fearful notion when John states that “he that fears is not made perfect in love” and Paul attests that “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and soundness of mind.”  The idea of eternal damnation versus Universal Salvation is truly a choice that we have before us, to hold to an “old letter” which creates a “schizophrenic” understanding of God, where God is simultaneously love and the author of other people’s torment or to aspire to a “new Spirit” the Holy Spirit of love and life who calls us to heal the broken hearted and set at liberty them that are bruised.  The Holy Spirit lead the original apostles to truths that they could comprehend given the apparent darkness and evil of the times in which they existed.  Our times are different.  People are no longer being punished by being nailed to a wooden cross and women are no longer being raped at random.  As a result, the truth that the Holy Spirit would lead us into is far brighter and more beautiful than what the original disciples received.  I truly believe that it is impossible to follow the Holy Spirit through and toward all of the truth and states of being that he wants us to experience and still hold to eternal damnation throughout our lives.  Eternal damnation stagnates and stunts the growth of the Christian and is something which many Christian leaders hold to out of a fear of losing their places of honor and respect among other leaders and believers.  Did not Jesus say that if we are to truly please him that honor and respect need to be things that we are willing to sacrifice in our journeys toward wholeness in him?

Eternal damnation as a doctrine calls us to judge oppressive leaders as going to hell forever rather than speaking the truth in love to them about their injustice.  Eternal damnation as a doctrine leads us to believe that God loves us more than others and so too leads us down the deceptive corridor of pride and vanity.  Eternal damnation as a doctrine inspires us to constantly strive against others to succeed and prosper so that we have evidence of our election by God in perverse comparison to their horrific destiny.  Eternal damnation as a doctrine causes us to show others love often as a part of a manipulative scheme for them to believe as we do rather than in the transparency and purity of motive to which God calls us.  Eternal damnation as a doctrine reinforces the kind of absolute distrust in other religions which were the foundation for the violence of the crusades and other forms of religious violence throughout history.  Eternal damnation as a doctrine by its very nature must diminish our sense of showing compassion to the stranger by creating the possibility that we will never have to see them or deal with them in the after-life.

It is time for us as Christians to stop bringing our gifts to the altar before attending to our brothers and sisters who we have wronged.  It is time for us as Christians to let go of vain and prideful notions of our “preferred status” with God.  It is time for us as Christians to stop hypocritically aspiring to get rich all the while believing that large segments of the poor are destined for eternal torment.  It is time for us as Christians to stop imaging our fractured personalities on a schizophrenic God who inconsistently destines some for hell and others for heaven and to start operating in the joy inducing coherence to realize that God loves all equally and as a result will eventually call all to be reconciled to himself.  Bottom line, it is time for us as Christians to embrace the Holy Spirit as he speaks to us and urges us to let go of this demonic doctrine for its time of judgment has surely come.

The Fence

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

I see my brother walking, running towards dust,

It couldn’t be?

Oh wait! I think I see?

A bit far off, he jumps against and falls so short to disappear.

But no one Saw?

God bless the men who jump the fence to wave at me imprisoned.

And as the watchman fixes sights, a hazy, shady outline of a barb as thick as any soul who tries to silence, sister’s strength,

As locked in one, we journey towards and up, surmount this wire hold.

I just begin to glimpse it.

What fear it must have been to blind a border wall so menacing,

Incarcerates us all against sublime the state of reason.

And as the watchmen fixes sites, acute to slightest stirring.

I grab a hold of passers by and scream, implore to see about this bulwark that imprisons us.

“We must attempt to jump this fence, my friends and brothers strong let’s go.”

And as such passers by I saw, “lets free to climb and see beyond.”

“Just dust, you fool there’s nothing there!

Just dust”, response, “it’s just mirage, just ask the one who sits atop to guard against a foreign fear.”

“But wait I see it clear as day.  My friends, I ask, I beg to run and soar against this barbed thing, perverting as I only hope to what might lay beyond its hedge.”

“Just dust, you fool there’s nothing there!

Just dust”, response, “it’s just mirage, just ask the one who sits atop to guard against a foreign fear.”

“But wait! My brothers, I implore, let’s soar to see what lay beyond, to see what’s past this bulwark fence.

Let’s clasp our feet and march as one.

Like thunder we shall strike it down so that the brothers after us might see beyond its evil stare!”

“Just dust! You fool there’s nothing there,”

Response, “it’s just mirage we say!”

And as the watchman fixes sights, the children sit eyes sweet and pure and wave my hand I do goodbye and run to touch and break it down,

I jump to grab and shake it down, and as I do a shot it rings, and such a peace enraptures me,

I rise to see what lay beyond.

“My friends I love and say goodbye, just see my brothers not the dust, just see my brothers dear to soar.

And as the fence grows out of sight, I FEAR NO MORE!”

GOD BLESS THOSE SOULS WHO DARE TO SEE AND FIGHT THE FENCE OF IGNORANCE SO THAT MY CHILDREN OPEN EYED MAY SEE BEYOND AND FEEL SUCH MIGHT.

GOD BLESS THOSE SOULS WHO DARE TO FIGHT

GOD BLESS YOU FOOLS AND PASSERS BY WHO BRING THE LIGHT OF TRUTH MY FRIENDS.

GOD BLESS YOU FOOLS MY SISTER’S LOVE,

GOD BLESS THE FOOLS SUCH LIGHT ABOVE COME CRASHING THROUGH TO SEE NO FENCE.

ONE DAY SUCH LIGHT SHALL CONQUER.

Dear Lucifer

Dear Lucifer,

There was a time when I hated you. There was a time when rage afflicted me as you confused me and my brethren into judging and maligning each other.

Dear Lucifer,

There was a time when I focused all of my malice against you.  For every time I thought of an entire race of people enslaving another entire race of people and calling it your will I saw you in the shadows laughing and mocking.

Dear Lucifer,

There was a time when I wanted to be the one that vanquished you in this generation, for when I thought about a nation stealing the land of other nations and calling it manifest destiny, I saw the imprint of your wicked hands.

But now dear brother, I must admit that I more pity than hate you.  You have exhausted me.  You have been such a little nuisance that now I just don’t have any feeling left for you.  And Lucifer, Beezelbub, Whore of Babylon, Lilleth and whoever else has been attempting to torment me and mine, I forgive you.  I do not think that I have the authority to forgive you on behalf of other people.  But for my part, I truly cancel the debt that you owe to me for all of your misery making.

The truth is Lucifer that I am now truly beginning to realize just how badly Jesus beat you 2000 years ago.  I mean you want to talk about a “Warrior King,” Jesus battled you as you attacked him from the outside through the rejection of the people he came to save and Jesus battled you as you attacked him from within through the nature of the corruption that he received from Mary’s flesh.  Jesus battled you his entire life and then he battled you again to make it to the cross, and then he battled you again on the cross.  And then he descended and battled you again in hellish places of conscious and natural torment.

And now dear brother, I am becoming aware of just how final his victory over you has become.  You see Lucifer, every human soul is destined to become either a Son or Daughter of God.  And while I do not understand it fully, somehow Jesus assured those destinies through his life, sacrifice, death, and resurrection.  And those destinies are locked into the annals of God’s foreknowledge brother.   Yes, for a time, we as human beings play roles of tyrant and victim, betrayer and betrayed, but soon these ideas and identities will fade away beneath the glory of Jesus’ second coming both in the flesh and through all human identity being wrapped up in the mysterious epiphany of love’s all-encompassing power.

Lucifer, Satan, whatever and whoever you are.  However many there are of you.  I am writing you this day to say that I forgive you.  Perhaps not out of love, but more a sort of indifferent pity,  for you will lose as you have already lost.   Perhaps your final destiny is redemption, perhaps it is destruction, but either way dear brother, I do not want you occupying any space in mind more than what is absolutely necessary.  Oh, every now and again, I can see myself listening to the Holy Spirit concerning some wicked scheme that you have plotted against me, or every now and again casting you out of something or binding some principality, or helping someone who you have targeted with malevolent intent, but for the most part brother, I view you as a nuisance and I just don’t want to think about you anymore.

So I forgive you and I forgive all human beings who still in their ignorance serve you both unwittingly and voluntarily.  In truth devil, I have lost interest in you.  A time ago you were an interesting object for my mind and heart, even if it was hatred that I felt for you.  But now, you are so predictably pathetic that I just want to let go of our relationship and so I forgive you.  Again I say that I forgive you and am moved to pray, “Lord God, thank you for the teacher that satan, Lucifer, and the rest of them have been for me.  Thank you for every bit of suffering they have caused me, for in the long run it will only make me stronger.  Now I ask that you saturate my consciousness with yourself.  Lord God I ask that you reveal yourself to me in every dimension and cranny of the human experience.  Lord God, please bless me, like the Navaho Warriors Pray with “beauty before me, with beauty behind me, with beauty above me, with beauty all around me, I will walk in long life, I will walk according to beauty.  It is completed in beauty.  It is completed in beauty. It is completed in beauty. It is completed in beauty.”

Lucifer, I and all of my human brothers and sisters are completed in beauty.  And your madness in believing anything different will soon end either in your redemption or destruction.  I am not partial to either.  Go with God dear brother.  Go with God.