Healthy religion and religious mythic stories

Religious myth provides people with enduring stories and metaphoric frameworks for making sense out of their lives and the world.

I believe that all religious myths have been created by human beings, as opposed to revealed by a deity to human beings. That doesn’t mean that I think myths have no spiritual truth. On the contrary, myths are deeply important to how we human beings seek to understand ourselves, the cosmos, and the meaning of life.  In fact, if we assume that we are intimately connected with the universe around us, then myth also holds the potential of being one  of the ways that we express or reflect deeper realities. Acknowledging that myths come from us, and not from “out there” somewhere, simply implies that the impulse and the creativity to see the world in a sacred way is embedded within us.  As Jean Houston writes:

“Myth remains closer than breathing, nearer than our hands and feet. I think it is built into our very being. … Myths serve as source patterns originating in the ground of our being. While they appear to exist solely in the transpersonal realms, they are the keys to our personal and historical existence, the DNA of the human psyche. These primal patterns unfold in our daily lives as culture, mythology, religion, art, architecture, drama, ritual, epic, social customs and even mental disorders.”

So what makes a religious myth more or less healthy?

Continue reading “Healthy religion and religious mythic stories”

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In summer 2012 I wrote an essay proclaiming that America-the-diverse had prevailed over America-the-white-supremacist. I don’t know any more if that was right. Here’s the essay…

Fearing the Change That Has Already Happened

By Maurice Harris

June 2012

Recently I saw Romney on TV warning that Obama is on a mission to change America into a country that we hardly recognize, and that this election represents our last chance to stop him before we lose “the America we know. Echoing this message of cultural paranoia, last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC provided a platform for the most extreme versions of this thought, including panelists associated with white nationalist and anti-immigrant groups. The GOP’s core campaign message so far appears to be “Obama is dangerous because he isn’t really one of us.

In the first couple years of Obama’s presidency, the right promoted this message in the form of “birtherism” and the “he’s a Muslim” claim. Now they’re pushing it in the form of the he’s a European socialist” canard. In the space of three years, right wing paranoia has moved the geographic location of Obama’s Otherness from Kenya, where he wasn’t born, to Mecca, towards which he doesn’t pray, to Western Europe, whose fully socialized medicine he didn’t promote. Republicans are going to need a GPS navigation system to keep the American people up to date on the geography of their fictional portrayals of Obama.

The truth, however, is not that Obama is trying to change America into a country we won’t recognize, but rather that the GOP’s leaders don’t recognize the country that America has already become. America has already changed into, and will continue to become, an ever-more-diverse nation of many cultures, religions, and ideas. Before anybody knew who Barack Obama was, this change had already taken root. Obama is an American with mixed racial heritage and family ties to Kansas, Hawaii, Kenya, and Indonesia. He also has Muslim, Christian, and even Jewish relatives. He is a walking American melting pot who could only have become president long after the death of Jim Crow America. What the fearful right doesn’t see is that Obama is an awful lot like most people in this country – mixed heritage, ties to different strands of the weave of this nation, and a values system that has tolerance and respect for all these different cultural elements. Continue reading “In summer 2012 I wrote an essay proclaiming that America-the-diverse had prevailed over America-the-white-supremacist. I don’t know any more if that was right. Here’s the essay…”

Rabbinic Pastoral Counseling in the Citizens United Era

A congregational rabbi’s reflections 8 years after the landmark Citizens United Supreme Court ruling changed her world.

FROM THE DIARY OF RABBI HELEN BLOTZ-KUGELMEISTER

It happened on a sunny April afternoon – the day I first met with one of the new kind of congregants who’d been joining our synagogue recently. The truth was I had been nervous about meeting with one of them for more than a casual hello. Our Senior Rabbi, my mentor, Mervin Snubelman, had told me that it was only a matter of time before we had to start counseling and officiating at life cycle events for these new people, and we needed to handle it well.

My assistant had booked the appointment after receiving an email from Bergman-Schneider, Inc., saying that the multi-billion dollar conglomerate would like to meet with me to discuss a personal matter. Ever since the truth that corporations are people was finally recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court, Rabbi Snubelman and I had been reflecting on the greatness of America, which despite its many flaws, seems to find a way to extend equality and human rights to wider and wider circles of people over time.

Of course, Snubelman and I talked about how we also had to confront our own toxic upbringings regarding corporate personhood. After all, we had grown up in a society that for centuries had denied that corporations were people. Corporations had lived among us, worked with us, even employed many of us, and yet we had denied them their humanity. Even though Snubelman and I had been supportive of the movement to right this wrong, we still had been infected by a stubborn and structural anti-corporate racism.

Anyway, Snubelman had told me that whenever the first corporate congregant to seek pastoral help would come to me, I should carry on as I would with any other person and not overthink it. Now that Bergman-Schneider, Inc. had asked for an appointment, I had to step up and be the rabbi I had trained to be.

It all started off rather typically. Bergman-Schneider, Inc. came into my office and nervously took a seat. “Rabbi, I need help.”

“What’s on your mind?” I asked.

“I’m about to give birth to another corporation,” Bergman-Schneider, Inc. said. I tried to smile hopefully, but distress clearly registered on Bergman-Schneider, Inc.’s face. My heart was stirred. Bergman-Schneider, Inc. was carrying a heavy burden. Continue reading “Rabbinic Pastoral Counseling in the Citizens United Era”

There’s more to Smokey and the Bandit than I realized

Amazon Prime is featuring Smokey and the Bandit (Universal Studios, 1977) in tribute to Burt Reynolds, who died this past week at 82. I was 8 when the movie came out, and I remember coming home from summer camp and going to see it in the theater with my childhood friend, Steve K. We counted the cuss words in the movie – I remember that we emerged from the cinema telling our friends that there were 76 bad words uttered in the film. We thought that was awesome. My parents, however, didn’t like the movie. They said it was disrespectful to law enforcement, and they were generally put off by movies about irreverent playboy outlaws being pursued by pathetic and humorless cops.

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In one of the most iconic (and controversial) moments of the film, Carrie (Sally Field) flips the bird to get the attention of a motorcycle cop, so she can lure him away from Cledus’s big rig.

Anyway, I spent this past Saturday night watching Smokey again for the first time in decades, and while I can’t say that there’s anything about this movie that asks to be taken seriously, I was surprised by some of the images and touches in the film. It’s a film whose Southern US world is one where white good ole boys, working class black folk, truckers, prostitutes, and little old church ladies are friends and collaborators in resisting the authority of ridiculous white lawmen, who themselves are the poorly paid errand boys of repugnant Southern white billionaires who have so much money and power that they entertain themselves by placing bets on contests in which the working people try to pull off risky and absurd feats. That’s right: Smokey and the Bandit is a socialist allegory aimed squarely at the capitalist menace. OK, not really. But there’s some surprising social commentary embedded in a movie that is basically a cinematic bag of potato chips. Read on if you’re interested and I’ll explain more 🙂 …

Continue reading “There’s more to Smokey and the Bandit than I realized”