Sacred Iconoclasm

Portland-KKK-1922-FSDM2 small

 

“This image shows a photograph from the early 1920s, probably in Portland, in which robed and hooded Ku Klux Klan members share a stage with members of the Royal Riders of the Red Robe, a Klan auxiliary for foreign-born white Protestants. A large banner reading “Jesus Saves” occupies a prominent position on the wall at the rear of the stage and testifies to the strong role that Protestantism played in the KKK philosophy of “100 percent Americanism,” an ideology that developed during World War I as a reaction to the perceived threat to national unity posed by the influx of non-Protestant, non-English-speaking immigrants.”

https://oregonhistoryproject.org/articles/historical-records/portland-kkk/#.WT77sWjyvIW

While reading the Washington Post this morning I was accosted by this photo from the Oregon Historical Society.  Although the story it tells about the Pacific Northwest is familiar to me, the stark truth of the paradox depicted  shook me to the core. I read it as “Jesus Saves, but only white people.” I invite the photo to go viral as a warning to all that we are again confronted by the “KKK philosophy of ‘100% Americanism’.” Let the warning go out that espousing a warped brand of Americanism in the name of a warped brand of Christianity calls for an iconoclastic revolution.  Perhaps Meister Eckhart’s most puzzling statement is, “I pray God that he may quit me of god.”  This is the time to throw out all profane idols and embrace the real God devoid of all ego clammoring for power.

This poem from a few years ago speaks to this experience once again:

natures stained glass 50 per cent

 

Photo Credit:  https://oregonhistoryproject.org/articles/historical-records/portland-kkk/#.WT77sWjyvIW

Photo Credit:  Nature’s Stained Glass Window overlay Lynn Scholar

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/06/07/when-portland-banned-blacks-oregons-shameful-history-as-an-all-white-state/?utm_term=.0280aaa83460

 

Waiting

nude in the desert framed

 

I came upon this blessing in a moment of empathy for a friend who is enduring the death of her husband.  A Gift for you, Mary Lou, and for all of us who grieve loss. I am reminded of a line from Call the Midwives, “We just go on living until we are alive again.”  May we endure together.

 

The Art of Enduring
For Holy Saturday

Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me. —Psalm 31: 2
This blessing
can wait
as long as you can.

Longer.

This blessing
began eons ago
and knows the art
of enduring.

This blessing
has passed
through ages
and generations,
witnessed the turning
of centuries,
weathered the spiraling
of history.

This blessing
is in no rush.
This blessing
will plant itself
by your door.

This blessing
will keep vigil
and chant prayers.

This blessing
will bring a friend
for company.

This blessing
will pack a lunch
and a thermos
of coffee.

This blessing
will bide
its sweet time

until it hears
the beginning
of breath,
the stirring
of limbs,
the stretching,
reaching,
rising

of what had lain
dead within you
and is ready
to return.

Ann Richardson in Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings

 

 

 

The Spiritual Practice of Truth Tango

 

dancing-skeleton

 

That old familiar tune
Strikes up in the recesses of my soul
Heralding the familiar promenade of pretense.
I cast off layers of deceit
To the tattoo-tune of the Holy Stripper
And the raucous pleadings of my victims,
“Take it off! Take it all off!”
The bright white bones of truth
Step out of their camouflage
To dance La Cumparsita with wild abandonment
Until the familiar tune calls me back
To the stage of my humanity.

© Rita H Kowats June 3, 2017

 

 

 

Photo Credits:  Dancing Skeletons http://www.mbird.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10dancing-skeleton.jpg

Relinquishment

cappadocia_05

 

1 Kings 19:11-13

11 God said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of HaShem, for HaShem is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountain apart and shattered the rocks by HaShem ’s power—but HaShem was not in the whirlwind. After the wind there was an earthquake—but HaShem was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire—but HaShem was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Relinquishment

After

Whirlwind
Earthquake
Fire

You come to me,
Finally Faceless.
Eyes Ears Mouth relinquished,
I hear the steadfast summons
With Other ears.

Here I am. Send me.

© Rita H Kowats May 21, 2017

 

Photo Credit: https://honesterrors.com/2013/10/16/the-cave-cities-of-cappadocia-were-carved-by-hand/

Good In the Very Genes Of Our Souls

goblins4

“Their Eyes Were Watching God”

 

Spiritual awakening is the process of recognizing our essential goodness, our natural wisdom and compassion. In stark contrast to this trust in our inherent worth, our culture’s guiding myth is the story of Adam and Eve’s exile from the Garden of Eden. We may forget its power because it seems so worn and familiar, but this story shapes and reflects the deep psyche of the West. The message of “original sin” is unequivocal: Because of our basically flawed nature, we do not deserve to be happy, loved by others, at ease with life. We are outcasts, and if we are to reenter the garden, we must redeem our sinful selves. We must overcome our flaws by controlling our bodies, controlling our emotions, controlling our natural surroundings, controlling other people. And we must strive tirelessly—working, acquiring, consuming, achieving, e-mailing, overcommitting and rushing—in a never-ending quest to prove ourselves once and for all…. Feeling that something is wrong with me is the invisible and toxic gas I am always breathing.

  -Tara Brach, PhD Radical Acceptance

 

Photo Credit: Goblin State Park Hoodoos

http://www.americansouthwest.net/utah/goblin_valley/goblins4_l.html

Holocaust Day of Remembrance

bitsela-2HR

  Yom HaShoah

“You just keep living until you are alive again,” said a character in a BBC episode of “Call the Midwife.”  The words stir me to write on this Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Survivors, their families, indeed, the whole Jewish community endure, and even thrive, with a resilience I can hardly even dream of mustering.  I repent and grieve for the evil perpetrated against Jews, gays, and those physically and mentally challenged.l  I celebrate their resilience, born from a deep well of faith.

Inaugurated in Israel in 1953, Holocaust Remembrance Day is ritualized differently throughout the world.  Common threads are the lighting of six memorial candles to represent the approximately six million victims.  The Mourners’ Kaddish is often recited to show that despite their loss, Jews still praise G-d.  At the memorial ritual in Auschwitz, school children participate in “The March of the Living,” which is a profound defiance of the Death Marches to the crematoriums.  I am reminded of the work of theologian Walter Brueggemann, who calls for a “prophetic imagination” which re-appropriates acts of injustice as positive acts of life- a way of living until we are alive again.

One Sunday I came to Hebrew class at Temple Beth El- always the only Christian student- this day, the only student.  My teacher, whose relatives did not survive the holocaust, took the opportunity to teach me some of the more obscure facts about anti-Semitism.  She said with searing pain, that in the Spanish Inquisition Jews were denied the right to recite Kaddish.  The refrain that G-d will “uproot foreign worship from the earth,” threatened the power of Christianity.

As I imagine the youth reciting Kaddish on their March of Life today at Auschwitz, I rejoice in the hope their action evokes.  In them, their ancestors live on.  Paul Celan’s poem, “Death Fugue,” draws us inside life in a death camp.  The images are shattering, but we must look.  We must remember.  After embracing the horrifying reality, I return to celebration of the resilience of a people who still chooses life.  L’Chaim!

 

Death Fugue
by Paul Celan

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at sundown
we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night
we drink it and drink it
we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents
he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden
hair Margarete
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are
flashing he whistles his pack out
he whistles his Jews out in earth has them dig for a
grave
he commands us strike up for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you in the morning at noon we drink you at
sundown
we drink and we drink you
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents
he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden hair
Margarete
your ashen hair Sulamith we dig a grave in the breezes
there one lies unconfined

He calls out jab deeper into the earth you lot you
others sing now and play
he grabs at the iron in his belt he waves it his
eyes are blue
jab deeper you lot with your spades you others play
on for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at at noon in the morning we drink you
at sundown
we drink and we drink you
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Sulamith he plays with the serpents
He calls out more sweetly play death death is a master
from Germany
he calls out more darkly now stroke your strings then
as smoke you will rise into air
then a grave you will have in the clouds there one
lies unconfined

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at noon death is a master from Germany
we drink you at sundown and in the morning we drink
and we drink you
death is a master from Germany his eyes are blue
he strikes you with leaden bullets his aim is true
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
he sets his pack on to us he grants us a grave in
the air
He plays with the serpents and daydreams death is
a master from Germany

your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith

Translated by Michael Hamburger

Clip Art Credits:  http://free-bitsela.com/

Laying It To Rest II

Laying It To Rest II

If you have experienced suffering in the context of instituional religion perhaps you will relate to my poem.  I offer it as a catharsis  to create an opening to healing.

 

I   Venomous Voices

Specks of stray spittle launched on spurious words
in hallowed halls of religion
fifty, thirty, sixteen years past:

“I’m the one asking the questions here.  You just answer them.”
(Yes, Daddy…or was that Father?)

“How long has she been chasing you?”
(Whore)

“I won’t hire her.  She’s angry.”
(Scared shitless)

“She discusses WITCHES with her students.”
(One of THOSE feminists)

II  Healing Voices

Hope is an April shower pinging
off tender green shoots
promising possibility:

“…I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction….Now choose life.”
(CHOOSE LIFE)

“Rather than focus on what’s threatening to strangle you, why not focus on what’s struggling to be born?”
(Let go)

“Trust your intuition.”
(Be the Spirit Whisperer)

Passing showers lift
this withering flower
by the bootstraps of her integrity
and stand her up straight and strong.

III  Metamorphosis

The landscape has changed.
Fissures of venom have burned
new pathways in my heart.

No longer Bride of Christ
No longer Battered Wife

I am a seasoned colleague
In the business of Gospel Living.

© rita h kowats 2014

 

Photo Credits:  My dear friend ministers as a psychiatrist to veterans.  I took the original picture of this sunflower in the community garden which her team and the vets established as a sanctuary of peace and sustenance.