”Unless there is some additional symbolism to building the mosque [near the World Trade Center location commonly referred to as ground zero], this group would understand the geographic sensitivity of the location and decide on their own to build the mosque elsewhere. Certainly under the circumstances, if their objective is to “build bridges” with the non-Muslim community, then they’re off to a very bad start…” – justinwashingtontheblogger
I have been going round and round with a visitor to my blog about the Islamic cultural center and mosque planned to be built about two city blocks away from the famous World Trade Center location made infamous by the horrendous happenings that occurred on September 11th. I had written an article a few days ago expressing my frustration with the majority of my fellow Americans who believe that they are entitled to dictate where Muslims should not be allowed to put their religious institutions. So much political posturing against Muslims has been made from all kinds of people simply because the hijackers on that fateful day were radical Muslim extremist.
Now, people like this commenter are content to label all Muslims as hateful radicals programmed to commit acts of suicide at the first opportunity to murder as many nonbelievers as possible. This supposition requires little support or evidence and relies on nothing but people’s prejudice and bigotry. Many of us feel justified to judge all Muslims as radicals because of the crimes of a few. A few Muslims in other places of the world are making the choice to blowing themselves up so it makes perfect sense that Muslims here want to do the same. We can stroke all Muslims with a very broad, condemning brush and demand that they prove their allegiance to the rest of America by requiring them to build a conciliatory bridge to us. Muslims can prove their desire to be part of our collective by submitting to the will of the majority by submitting to our intolerance for the Islamic community.
It’s pretty much the same thinking that was commonly applied to black people once upon a time. Black people were not allowed to live where they wanted. Black people had to prove their allegiance to the dominant community by submitting to the rule that black people were not welcome. Black people who respected white people’s desire to keep black people out of their neighborhoods were good. Black people who pushed against orthodox thinking and fought for the right to live where they choose, regardless of how others felt, were considered radical trouble makers who refused to recognize the natural order.
We recognized that rhetoric for what it was, and that was bullshit. While it might be true that some people still refuse to recognize black people’s right to live wherever they might be able to afford, we don’t allow people to blatantly say that black people aren’t welcome or advertise that housing is strictly for whites only. We proudly stand together and say such discrimination is unacceptable in the land of the free and the home of the brave. But we are quick to throw these high minded principles out the window when we it suits us to do so.
However, all is not lost. Muslims can become a welcome part of the American collective if they would just do the heavy lifting of building the bridge to our sensibilities. But in the immortal words of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, that’s a bridge to nowhere. We don’t require people to gain acceptance in America by surrendering their freedoms. That’s just plain stupid. America isn’t built on the principle of people giving up and acquiescing to the whole. America is built on the principle that all men are created equal with inalienable rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So why do so many of us continue to insist that Muslims tread softly down a different path of submission?
The people who want to build the Islamic cultural center two blocks from the World Trade Center location are not criminals. As far as I know, nobody there is making the suggestion that Muslims should don exploding vest and go out hunting for infidels to blow up. As far as I know, nobody associated with that organization has done any anything that requires the entire organization to submit to a condition that tries to deny these people the right to the property of their choice because of what somebody else may have done.
We don’t require other Americans to build bridges to all of America by surrendering their rights. I know that if I was part of the leadership of this organization, I would not care if the rest of America, an America that is known for its penchant for discriminating against certain groups of people who are obviously different, disagreed with my organization’s right to buy land and build on it according to the established law. My thinking would be more like, why doesn’t America build a bridge to me by recognizing the fact that the people in my organization has the some rights and privileges that other Americans enjoy.
The rest of America can build a bridge to the Muslim community, on a local, national, and even a global perspective, this community of people that we’ve been accused of unfairly attacking in our so called war on terror, by standing up for those American principles we like to say that we’re all about. We’re supposed to be about letting individuals practice their freedoms without the interference from others. We need to recognize the hypocrisy of this whole affair for what it truly is. Hypocrisy!
I see a crime and a sin as two starkly different things. A sin is a matter of conscience. I shouldn’t be having those thoughts about my wife’s new best friend or I shouldn’t have cheated on my final exam. Yes if I got caught there would’ve been hell to pay. The wife would probably get a new diamond necklace or I would’ve been expelled from school or automatically flunk the class. But there are ways to fix things that doesn’t really impact our ability to recover and keep on with our lives. These violations are more of a failure of ethics or morality.
On the other hand, a crime is a violation of law and some government agency will probably get involved in order to set things straight. A crime might include a fine or some jail time or both for the perpetrator. But make no mistake, if a crime is proven to have been committed without any mitigating circumstances to justify the act, or a good pricey lawyer to come to the perp’s defense, somebody’s going to pay.
Recently there’s been a lot of discussion regarding the pedophiles that have become all but synonymous with the Catholic Church. The public press has been pretty harsh against Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican. There have been a number of high profile accusations concerning the sexual abuse of children perpetrated by priests in Wisconsin, Germany, and Ireland. All the stories make the suggestion that the church leadership has been criminally negligent in handling the many charges of abuse brought to its attention. There has even been some accusation that the Vatican has been an accomplice in covering up crucial details in some of the cases.
The New York Times reported that from 1950 to 1974, Reverend Lawrence Murphy worked as a counselor at an acclaimed school for deaf children in Wisconsin, where he molested at least two hundred boys. Church bishops alerted the Vatican that Mr. Murphy had been accused of molesting children at the school, though his behavior was never brought to the attention of local law enforcement. Instead of allowing the investigation to come to its natural conclusion and allowing Mr. Murphy to face potential criminal prosecution, he was quietly transferred to another parish.
From 1981 to 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was later elected to become Pope Benedict XVI, headed the Vatican department responsible for investigating and acting on such allegations, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. When the bishops in Wisconsin finally initiated disciplinary action against Mr. Murphy, the accused priest wrote a letter of protest to Cardinal Ratzinger citing his failing health and his earlier repentance for his actions. Shortly after Cardinal Ratzinger received the letter, the trial was halted by one of his subordinates. Mr. Murphy died in 1998 as a fully decorated priest.
In response to this accusation and similar ones from Europe and the United Kingdom, the Vatican has gone on the attack accusing the media of an attempt to smear the Catholic Church. The fact that there is a paper trail that implicates Cardinal Ratzinger and the Vatican in a cover up of monumental proportions within the church is inconsequential. The real crime is the smear campaign from people who simply refuse to let all the dust flying around this story settle down and eventually die.
Like many fraternal organizations, priests are sworn to secrecy. And so any investigation by government authorities is seriously compromised by the mentality of the church authorities who want to take care of the matter quietly on their own. Breaking the priestly code of silence that prevents a more open discussion of the implications surrounding these scandals is a critical first step to breaking the far deeper conspiracy of silence that permitted these heinous acts and their subsequent cover up to happen in the first place.
To add insult to injury, some people actually feel, or at least at one time felt, that priests were above reproach simply because of their occupation. No priest would ever abuse anyone. You couldn’t possibly get the job if your character was that immoral. We simply trusted the church to do the job of policing their own. To some, the whole affair is something for the church to handle. We view these acts as if they were nothing more than sins easily rectified with a rote recital of a rosary or something similarly trite.
But these aren’t sins. What we are talking about are crimes. And when we take into consideration that these were crimes against children, you damn skippy the law needs to get involved. If a priest is accused of assaulting someone then that priest may have committed a crime. And if a crime has been committed then there’s a chance that there were accomplices to that crime. No where else would we be willing to make the sin of leaving an accomplice to the crime determine the punishment of the main perpetrator of the crime.
You know what? I didn’t even ask Baba Orunmila about a reading for the year when 2010 rolled around. What’s the point? Baba always says be patient, it’s coming. And so I’ll be patient. The next thing you know it’s a couple months later. It happened in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. I figured this year I’ll do something a little different. Straight off the bat, I waited. And I waited. And I waited. But it’s hard to out wait an Orisa.
When March rolled around I figured enough time has passed and Baba is going to wait for me to ask no matter what. I can understand. He’s a busy guy. The assistant to the Supreme Being of our universe is simply doing other things waiting for me to simply ask. No biggie really. Baba is a busy spiritual entity. When it comes to being busy, he’s probably number two throughout the universe, at least according to the Yoruba spiritual belief system. So figuring that all I had to do is ask, I waited for him to show up and I asked. He said he’ll get back to me. It was the same thing who would’ve said if I asked like clock work when the New Year rolled around.
Baba was toying with me. Either he was in an extremely good mood or he was about to slap some education on me or a little bit of both or a lot of bit of both. Okay Baba, we’ve gone without it this long, I guess we can go without it little longer. Baba asked me if I really needed the reading. I told him that if he’s not giving it to me then I guess I’d have to say that I really don’t need it. I mean, we’ve been going this long without any reading. I imagine we can always go longer. Baba just nodded.
But I couldn’t leave the subject alone. Obviously, somewhere along the way, somebody decided that there was going to be an annual ritual of year reading where people would receive instructions for how they should live for the next year. I wanted to know how the yearly reading became an annual tradition.
This sparked a conversation I had serious difficulty following. Baba peppered me with a series of rhetorical questions. Who is to say when the time comes for a reading? What does the time stops? When does the next phase begins? Isn’t it just a reading? Can’t you get a reading any time of the year? Why is there a need to hold fast to tradition and allow rituals from the past from people unknown to dictate the path of the people today?
Yes it is true that I got the yearly readings in the past. But that was because I wasn’t ready for the next step from a spiritual perspective. I was still caught up in the tradition of getting that annual reading with community wide implications. Now that I’m a little older and a little wiser, I shouldn’t feel the need for getting that yearly reading for everyone, especially when so few are listening or are listening elsewhere.
There are some people, way too many people who follow the Ifa spiritual belief system, who are still too caught up in traditional rituals to do anything else. A yearly reading here means nothing because there is nothing being asked in return. Other people will give a reading telling people to give the babalawo five thousand dollars and throw ten cowry shells into the ocean and people will do whatever they can to make it happen. What have I done to impact such an arrangement? Giving a yearly reading for everyone to read at will isn’t enough to dissuade somebody from being led where they want to go instead of where they need to go or should be going.
The lesson is that people will do what people want to do. People who are looking for the yearly reading are people who are still looking for something to believe in. Ritualistic ruts are not something people should be looking forward to. But nevertheless, it happens. It’s nice if people develop the spiritual maturity to look beyond the ritual and the rote. But that takes a healthy willingness to grow. And all too often, people prefer the intellectually lazy approach of letting someone else take responsibility for their spiritual guidance. All too often, people don’t want the responsibility that comes with growth. It’s easier to just pay someone else. And like everything else in this level of tangible existence that comes with a price tag, you get what you pay for. Things that come for free cannot possibly compete with things with high sticker prices. That’s just the way it is.
Essentially, if people are looking for answers they will find them. It is easier to see the folly if there is someone to help you. People who see the flaws and want to do what they can to change things will find their way. If people want to change, change will come. Don’t wait for the yearly reading for your answers. That’s letting somebody else dictate the terms of your growth. Do what you can when you can. That will demonstrate real spiritual responsibility. This is the last yearly reading.
*** WARNING: This post may contain spoilers! ***
As the movie started, I wondered what Orisa would manifest. I saw the images of Eli shooting people with a bow and arrow and I thought Ochosi. But his hunting was only for survival or defense on an apocalyptic Earth where food was scarce. He was not a serious hunter. I saw images of him wielding a machete where he was facing several opponents at once and thought Ogun. But he was not a man of technology. He used what he had for protection and survival but didn’t do any building or creating in a MacGyver like style. I thought he might be a manifestation of Sango. There was one scene with the lightening in the background. But Eli was not interested in being a ladies man or being charismatic. He kept his interaction with others to a minimum and seemed to be more at ease by himself, reading his book.
When it was revealed that he was delivering his book, when it was obvious he was delivering a message, I settled on Esu, the Orisa of communication among other things. Embracing Baba Esu is often considered the first step towards spiritual enlightenment. He opens the door for spiritual learning. The fact that his book was a Christian bible pretty much sealed the deal for me. Eli was a manifestation of Baba Esu, only far more serious than the always laughing, smiling Esu so many of us have been introduced to in such movies as Crossroads featuring Ralph Macchio as Eugene Martone, and Joe Seneca as Willie Brown. Esu went by the name ‘Legba in the movie and was always smiling his way into causing mischief for anyone. This manifestation of Esu was far different. Although his deception was never intended to cause mischief for anyone, he played his fair share of tricks on the other characters in the movie.
The movie appears as a remake of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. It is set on an Earth trying to recover from a nuclear war in the future. Just take Mel Gibson’s Max and replace him with Denzel Washington’s Eli and then take Tina Turner’s Aunty Entity and replace her with Gary Oldman’s Carnegie and you have ninety percent of the film. The last piece of the new formulation is Eli’s book, referred to as the last surviving copy of the Christian bible. Eli is on a quest to take his bible somewhere where it will be safe from the likes of people like Carnegie who would use the good book as a tool to control other people.
The movie says more about our rather confusing relationship with our spirituality than with anything else. Carnegie is old school. He remembers the days prior to the nuclear exchange when people live and died by the words found in the bible. He remembers how a bible could disguise a man of hate. A bible can make some of the most obscene devils look like appealing angels as long as they held a copy of god’s alleged word in their hands. A man can feel like he has god’s favor as long as he kept his hands on god’s book. A man can feel like he can cast judgment on an entire country of people trying to recover from an earthquake as long as he is alleged to have a reputation for doing god’s work. A man of god can control people and Carnegie is looking for absolute control in a town where he already controls everything. And when Carnegie discovers that Eli has a bible, he must have it at any and all cost.
Eli has his own spiritual mission. If I didn’t know better I’d say he was a Shoalin Monk with a bit of an attitude. He easily trounces his adversaries with his martial art moves and his machete. Eli is using his faith to guide him across the country, traveling west as he searches for a place of redemption for himself and god’s word. He knows that Carnegie has plans to corrupt the word of god for his own personal benefit. The word of god isn’t safe with such a man. And the paths of these two men are on a collision course with the future of what’s left of the world at stake.
I found this movie smart and well thought out. There were some discrepancies. I wondered what happened to the children who would have been born disfigured and deformed in a future so bleak and bound to be suffering from radioactive fallout. But other than that, the film is smartly done. The monotonous grey tone throughout the film lends itself well to the bleakness of the future and the loss of humanity. The world is a much more dangerous place where people fight and kill each other over things that are much less than what we throw away. This movie comes with a commentary about gluttony and a reminder about everything we choose to casually waste.
If there is one overriding characteristic of Baba Esu for me to point to is his ability of presenting us with opportunities to show the true nature of our character. When we believe that things are truly at their toughest, what decisions do we make? Do we think long term about the social ramifications of our choices or do we simply dwell on the immediate gratification aspects? Somebody made the choice to stockpile nuclear weapons and when that choice was made it gave other people choices to eventually use them. And it was just a matter of time before we collectively give somebody the opportunity to make the wrong choice for everybody. There is a lesson about choice here. And that has got to be Baba Esu’s domain.
Not too long ago I was driving down the highway during a particularly strong thunderstorm. The rain stopped for a brief moment and the sun managed to find a break in the deep, dark, rolling clouds. But on the other end of the horizon, I saw the most intense rainbows I’ve seen in my life. Not only did the ends touch the ground, the typical arch going from ground arcing through the air and returning back to the ground was matched with a faint opposite that started way in the clouds, arced down and then went back into the clouds. I had never seen such a setup before. And didn’t think a rainbow with a mirrored image floating in the sky above was even possible.
The clouds gathered once again and the sunlight’s contribution to the rainbow disappeared. But five minutes later the clouds dissipated once again, the sunlight came back, and the rainbow came back, stronger than ever, with its mirror image in the clouds. I started to get suspicious. A couple minutes later the sun went away again. But a few minutes after that the rainbows came back for a second encore. I got the message. It was time to do a little something about Oshumare.
To listen to some people describe Orisa you’d swear they were more human than anything else. Orisa are supernatural beings that cannot be described in human terms. Even terms like Iya and Baba, mother and father respectively, really don’t do the Orisas justice because many of us have a tendency to take such terms too literally. Many people want to think of Iya and Baba in terms of sexuality and little else. Most people will use vague terms like paternal energies and maternal energies and other vague sounding nonsense to try and put these things into perspective. But really, to try and wrap human consciousness around the meaning of sexuality for an Orisa is a fool’s game.
Nowhere does the misapplication of sexuality is more evident than when we try to describe the Orisa Oshumare. Some describe him as androgynous and others might go so far as to say that he is bisexual. What the hell? Bisexuality refers to a biological condition where sexual behaviors manifest as an attraction to both genders, male and female. People who have a bisexual orientation will have an attraction to both people of their own sex and people of the opposite sex. But what does that mean for an Orisa? Is there such a thing as a homosexual Orisas as well?
Like most of the things we’ve been we’re taught about Orisa and the rest of Ifa, the ancient African spiritual tradition rooted in the Yoruba people, we simply accept what we’ve been told about Oshumare without really thinking about what we’re being taught.
The rainbow is a manifestation of Oshumare. He’s often referred to as the serpent and the rainbow, but he is no serpent. Caring and attentive he’s the messenger that carries communications back and forth between our plane of existence and olorun, or heaven. When people need some assistance getting their messages to any Orisa, Baba Oshumare will be there to help facilitate a dialogue. However, more often than not these days, people are ready to send a message but all too often have deaf ears to hear the response. These days, business is pretty slow for Baba Oshumare. The number of people who are ready to listen as well as they are ready to talk dwindles almost on an hourly basis.
These days, more people see the rainbow in the sky and the last thing they think of is an Orisa let alone Oshumare, and the children of Ifa are no exception. If it is not one of the most popular Orisas such as the Babas Ogun, Sango, Obatala, Orunmila, or Esu or one of the Iyas Yemonja, Oya, or Osun then most people don’t know much of anybody else. Oshumare is part of that obscure majority of Orisa. And if people think they do know him it is as an example of some spiritual sexual perversion.
Baba Oshumare is the Orisa recognized as a manifestation of the rainbow. It’s not to be interpreted as a judgment of his masculinity, at least not in our basic human terms. Orisas aren’t so limited and we really should learn not to transfer our ideas and experiences to them. Baba Oshumare is as prime an example as any Orisa for how we as humans misinterpret nature’s manifestations into the most incorrect terms. And some of us wonder why we’re out of touch with our spirituality. We experience the rainbow and yet we still do not see.
“Peace, Peace, Peace… I guess it’s ok when we speak of things we don’t know or understand. Peace is one of those vague thoughts that sound great until we try to define it. Then wow, we have war. Well all of you new age gurus managed to obtain that fuzzy feeling of peace again (smug and somewhat tantalizing to the intellect, but void of any reality). What is interesting in this article is how far off base the writer really is. The Christian God is not as you inaccurately promote, mans attempt to fantasize a religion that strokes his incredible ego, it is God humbling Himself to rescue men who could not make it on their own. This Christian religion in reality doesn’t bode well for mans ego. Wow! This may not register with squishy, feely, check out your brain at the counter folks. The same ones who speak of peace and then slam a religion their intelect is truly incapable of understanding. Even the basics.” – Randy Koch
Thanks for the feedback Randy Koch,
And of course you know everything about your religion. Your god is so simple and that’s why you’ve got him figured out so easily. If I’m a new age guru then you must be one of those old fart gurus. And it’s not the principles of Christianity that makes it inappropriate but the way the majority of Christians put their beliefs to practice. Talk about people checking their brains at the counter. The Christian bible teaches that Jesus threw the money changers out of the church. And yet, mega churches are popping up everywhere telling people god wants them to be rich and bless everyone with material wealth and riches beyond our wildest dreams. All you have to do is give up the minimum ten percent of your gross income and give god his cut by cutting a check to the mega church. But of course, old fart gurus like your self see nothing wrong with this practice.
Old fart gurus say things like Christianity “is God humbling Himself to rescue men who cannot make it on their own.” Now that’s a real “don’t make sense” thought if I ever heard one. Why is god humbling himself to rescue men? To get man’s approval? If that’s the case, why isn’t god doing more to save all men? Why is the Supreme Being, creator of the universe, wasting his time and energy humbling his self trying to save men he made too weak in the first place? And this is the major flaw of people who practice Christianity. All too often the Christian concepts that people speak of only lead to more questions and it’s only a matter of time before it all boils down to “you just got to have faith”. If that’s your idea of understanding then you can keep it.
I’m not pretending to understand the Supreme Being. I wouldn’t be so egotistical to think that I can understand why he does what he does or why he doesn’t do what I think he should do. But the way some Christians tell the story you would think that they’ve studied god in a lab somewhere and did their thesis on the subject. Their only real “proof” is what’s written in the bible by somebody thousands of years ago who thought that the Earth was flat and the center of the universe. That was old fart thinking. Who knew it would endure for so long? God wants to save man? Why doesn’t he do it the easy way and just snap his fingers and make it so? Better yet, why did god make man so weak in the first place? Why doesn’t he just come out with a better model that is more resistant to our current plague of weaknesses?
By the way, Peacemaker is my name. That’s why I end my comments with “Peace”. Sort of like you putting your name at the end of a letter as Randy even though your name might be Randolph. Peace can mean more than just the absence of war. Expand your thought processes for a moment and you might be able to see things from a different perspective once in a while.
And while it is true that I mostly enjoy the double meaning of “Peace” at the end of a comment, some times it is just my name. As egotistical as you are, I could not care less about you achieving some sense of peace. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if you spent every waking moment of your life in turmoil. That way, when you do obtain some sense of peace, you might really appreciate it.
The past week has been one of the most intense ones for my family. A family member’s health took a turn for the worse and my brothers and sisters came home in an expression of love and support. It was a time for family. We came together, happy to see each other. To help relieve the stress of the moment we shared a few laughs. If anyone looked they probably would have thought we were simply having a family reunion because it was time and not because of circumstances.
Our family member needed immediate surgery and we needed a time for prayer. One of us started and we each got an opportunity to express a hope, a fear, a desired outcome, or a belief that things will workout. Some of us referred to our loved one’s condition as something evil that must be eradicated. Some of us were adamant that this was a time for a miracle. Unfortunately, our prayers did not result in a happy ending. The surgery was ineffective. We are now experiencing a time to cry and a time to mourn.
Along with everyone else I wanted to believe that everything would be okay and we would go home knowing that all would be as well as expected. As we sat as a family in the room waiting for some word about the operation, we were confident and sure. We were cheerful and buoyant, silly and playful. But all too soon our sister walked through the door and the tears in her eyes silenced everyone in the room like nothing else could. My heart sank. Before she could say anything several of us replied with our own tears. The news could not be good. It was time to put our silliness aside.
It was a time to plan. Some of us didn’t want to face the reality of the moment. But we did not have the luxury of more time. It was a time to decide. Decisions had to be made and we had to make them as a family. It is still very much a time to come together.
It was a time for me to reach into my spirituality. My family is deeply rooted in various forms of Christianity and I was participating in their belief system, my old belief system, out of a sense of solidarity with my family. It was time for us to be as one.
Sometime after the surgery, I asked Orisa for some help. Babalu Aye, the Orisa of health, said that he could not change the outcome. But we could make things easier by sharing the pain and discomfort of our loved one’s condition. No one should have to bear the sickness alone. If we all took a small piece of the pain away, we can dilute the pain enough to make it much more tolerable. Our family member deserves our help.
I participated in the Christian ritual of prayer with my family. Even though I haven’t been a Christian for years I still participated. So I asked my family if they would consider doing something for mom that is rooted in my belief system. I asked if they would take time to do something that I believe would help. I explained that fate may not change but we might be able to dilute pain and discomfort if we all were willing to share a little of the pain coursing through one’s body. We could show our willingness to help by doing something as small as eating popcorn in our loved one’s name.
It was a time for questions. Why popcorn? How can this work? Why would I want to do that? Because it is part of my belief system and I believe it will help. I can’t explain the spiritual mechanics of it. This is just part of my belief system. If we all are willing to take away some of the pain, share some of the burden, I believe our family member won’t have to suffer through this bearing the brunt alone. It was a time for trust. It was a time to step out of comfort zones and do something strange.
Some of us stepped right up to the plate. Somebody pulled out a bag of microwave popcorn and started going to town. It was a time of support. Others refused. In their opinion it wasn’t time for such nonsense. It may have been a time for disappointment, but I had no choice but to respect their choice.
Like everything else that has comes our way we will face it as a family unit. It would be nice if family learned a time to compromise so that we can try every thing at our disposal to face our life challenges. Unfortunately that’s not always the case. We are still a family. Not all of us are open to new ideas or to respect other’s belief system. That might come in time. I know I’m willing to do just about anything to help family. Even if it means coming together to support my family with their belief in prayer at a time when not everyone is ready to support my beliefs as well.
However, now is definitely not the time to write our family member off. Whether we have just a few more days or whether we have a few more decades we will be hurt whenever time is up. That time is not right now. We have things to do. There is a time for all things. But now is not the time for that. Now is a time for living. A time to die will come soon enough. No need to rush it along.
Prayer and spirituality go hand in hand. With just about any popular religion there are a standard set of prayers for just about every occasion. Are you about to eat? You’d better thank god for the many blessings. Are you about to sleep? You’d better ask god your soul to keep. Are you about to come together to discuss community business? Better say a word of convocation. Are you about to play a football game? Better ask god for victory. Is a family member about to have surgery? Better say a prayer for their safe return. Humans are quick to bust out with a prayer for just about anything and everything that happens in our life.
The way a lot of people tell their story, prayer was the only thing they had in certain desperate situations. How many of us have prayed to pass a test that we may have been ill prepared for in school? How many soldiers have prayed in their foxhole? God, if you help me get this car started I promise to go to church this weekend. Many times prayer is all we’ve got. And then you have people who will credit their success in a particular situation to prayer. God is good and we have to give him all the glory. Halleluiah! God hears all and knows all and he knows what we need. Let us bow our head! God, help me finish this post! Have mercy on me and give me the strength to convey an intelligent message. Have mercy on me!
Prayer has its purpose. It’s very helpful in getting someone the self confidence or the self assurance to help us in our personal endeavors. There is nothing more uplifting than believing the all mighty has got your back when you’re running down a football field with the ball and there are eleven big ass players on the other team who believe god has got their back in their effort to stop you in your tracks. God please don’t let them catch me.
But then the players on the other team are saying their prayers too. God give us the strength to catch that bastard!
And if the other players are lucky enough to catch the little bastard and flatten him into the turf, they’ll want to say a prayer that they didn’t kill the guy. How many times have we heard the announcer encourage the crowd to pray for a player knocked unconscious? Ladies and gentlemen the defense just stopped that running back. Uh, oh! It doesn’t look like he’s getting up. Let’s bow our heads in a word of prayer.
And at the end of the game, when the team didn’t win they’ll have another prayer. Oh god, why didn’t we score that touchdown? But the answer to that is easy. God works in mysterious ways.
Are you angry at god? Let him have it with double barrels. God! Why the hell didn’t you do what I told you to? Are you even listening to me? I specifically asked that you do something for me and you didn’t. What was the point of all that prayer? God works in mysterious ways. It wasn’t god’s will. It is kind of complicated. You would understand if it was god’s will. Since you don’t understand you must not be praying enough. Just send me your tithes and I’ll handle all that prayer for you from my church funded Gulfstream IV with hand stitched ostrich leather seats at thirty five thousand feet.
But the reality is that it is really very simple. God and prayer go together like oil and water. With a little work and a little effort you could get a combination that can work. God will be more than ready to listen to you when you are ready to listen to him. But don’t be fooled into thinking that every time you open your mouth god is waiting at your beck and call. God is a very busy entity. Stop and think how busy the creator of the universe must be if the universe is as large as what we think it is. Last time I heard the known universe is something like several quadrillion light years east and west by a quadrillion light years north and south and another bazillion light years up and down. That’s a lot of galactic real estate that needs to be managed. And he’s ready to stop what he’s doing a megazillion light years away to listen to what one of us have to say.
God, thank you for the meal we are about to eat. I can imagine god’s response now. You stopped me from forming a new galaxy with a cluster of black holes at its nucleus, with a billion solar systems waiting to be born to tell me thanks for dinner? Didn’t you thank me yesterday? Didn’t you thank me this morning? Am I going to have to stop and listen to you every time you eat? If that’s the case maybe you need to stop eating! I’m busy. I don’t mean to be rude but I’m trying to do something over hear. If you truly have something to say I’ll be more than happy to listen. But until then, could you do me a favor and show a little more discretion with the prayer line? It would be very much appreciated. Now, where was I?
More often than not what happens in our lives is a product of human choices, human actions, and series of random events driven by environments and circumstances. God stood above the football field and helped one team defeat the other? Not very likely. More probable is that the oblong football took a favorable jump for one team, an unfavorable jump for the other. God stood over the people trying to cross the bridge on their long walk to Montgomery, Alabama when the police attacked with dogs and fire hoses? Not very likely. The dogs attacked, people saw the dogs attack, and developed sympathy for people who were just trying to demonstrate their resolve for equality in the face of white oppression. God stood over your shoulder and magically imbued the ill prepared test taker with knowledge he or she should have studied for? Not likely. Probably explains why they’re flunking the class.
God isn’t waiting to hear our prayers. If you want to have a conversation with god then learn to be still and clear your mind and learn to listen. It takes a lot more than falling to your knees, saying a few rote words, and going through the traditional motions of prayer. God shouldn’t be taken for granted so easily. Learn to respect who he is and your relationship to him. Humans are not god’s equal and he’s not sitting around waiting for you to give him something to do. I pray that you understand what I’m trying to say. God, did you hear that?
Ifa is an African spirituality deeply rooted in African tradition. For most people who practice this spirituality, strict adherence to African social structure is absolutely necessary. These people feel that you can’t be a true Ifa devotee if you are busy developing new understandings about spiritual concepts that the wider Ifa community takes for granted simply because somebody who may be an elder says claims it as tradition.
It is inevitable that new understandings and concepts are refuted by elders with a vested interest in keeping the state of spirituality status quo. In this respect, Ifa is no different than any other organized religion that adheres to tradition for the sake of tradition and ceremony for the sake of ceremony. And without exception, the traditional way of doing things protects a very lucrative business for spiritual elders who can charge a king’s ransom to perform spiritual rituals that have absolutely no tangible or measurable results.
People can pay priest to do absolutely anything. In Ifa, there are rituals to protect health, protect relationships, assure financial success, or do whatever else somebody may want in his or her life. It is my experience that the ritual includes the slaughter of an animal in a very spiritually dramatic process. But all the ceremony and spiritual procedures in the world don’t amount to a hill of beans if a person’s character is lacking. I don’t care how well you know prayers, if your character needs attention then all the rituals in the world don’t matter. I don’t care how much you pay a priest, the best way to get a job is to prepare yourself through education or experience.
And what happens when the ritual doesn’t work and all that money is spent for naught? More than likely the priest will say that the devotee was unsuccessful because there was a bigger lesson to be learned here. But the priest would never admit that the biggest lesson a devotee can learn is to quit wasting time and money on pointless rituals. Although a spiritual ritual can make a person feel like they have spirituality on their side, things are not so cut and dry. If all it took was a ritual, everybody in the Ifa community would be living large. And that is simply not the case. But nevertheless, the orthodox Ifa practitioner believes in his or her spiritual elders, in ritual, and in the traditional thinking that eschews people developing their own sense of spiritual understandings.
The orthodox practices heap a great deal of significance on hierarchy and protocol. A great deal of significance is paid to people with impressive sounding titles. What exactly goes into getting a title? Well, a lot of it is nothing more than people buying them. And like rituals, almost any title can be bought for the low, low price of whatever. Like a prayer expertly recited can have little meaning from someone with questionable character, a priestly title can be neutralized as well.
Recently I have seen a number of communications from a number of devotees trying to expose people committing fraud in the name of Ifa. I was personally contacted by a couple in Trinidad who had a concern about a priest visiting from Nigeria. The priest did a reading and “discovered” that the couple’s baby was a gift from god and a ritual was necessary for the child to reach its full potential. Typical of a lot of spiritual work, the price of the ritual was exorbitant. And when the couple said that all they could afford was a fraction of the original asking price, the visiting priest didn’t hesitate to take what he could get.
It is a given that when someone is performing spiritual ritual, we believe that they are in communication with spiritual entities. No where is this more important than when someone is getting a reading. A reading is supposed to come directly from the Orisa Baba Orunmila himself. But not everyone has the integrity to pass along spiritual communications and keep their ego in check in the process. And when someone’s ego becomes more important than the messages, chances are they no longer recognize their purpose and are now just as misguided as the people they lead.
Fortunately, it is fairly easy to spot spiritualist who may have fallen off the spiritual bandwagon. All one has to do is look and listen and apply a little logic. When a priest says something like a child is a gift from god and a ceremony is needed for the child to reach its true potential, suspicion levels should go off the scale. What can a priest do on a spiritual level that god failed to do? My first guess would be very little. That would be one of the first clues.
Another good clue about a priest’s integrity or lack thereof would be the need for more spiritual work after getting a reading. That ranks right up there with going to get an oil change and having the mechanic tell you that your engine needs a complete overhaul and the transmission needs to be replaced as well. I will go out on a limb and say a reading should never lead to a need for more work. It just doesn’t work that way.
So before devotees get caught up in the spiritual tradition of throwing good hard earned money away by paying for expensive ceremonies and rituals from priest they hardly know, or from anyone else for that matter, I would recommend that they sit down and ask a single question. Why? It shouldn’t cost a fortune to become spiritual. Before our ancestors knew what money was they were able to establish this spiritual tradition. When did money become so important to the tradition?
Not too long ago I made a comment about Miss California Carrie Prejean’s comment about opposite marriage being the only acceptable form of marriage in her country and in her family. What I wrote must have been an invitation for people to hate because I got a lot of comments from people who questioned my intelligence, my patriotism, as well as my sense of spirituality. Because Ms. Prejean was being honest about the way she felt and how she stood up for the sanctity of opposite marriage she was going to get a heavenly crown from god. Who the hell was I to give my honest opinion about someone giving their honest opinion about people who were honest about their sexual orientation enough to have their same sex relationship sanctified by the state?
Ms. Prejean and her peers believe that god loves people who hate the idea of homosexual marriage. It sounds like a lot of people believe that they will be in god’s good graces if they hate in the name of god. God doesn’t like gays and lesbians and therefore, to get a holy crown, I’ll hate gays and lesbians. And how do we know that god hates same sex marriage? It says so in the bible. It says so in the book of Romans 1:24-27 and the First book of Timothy 1:10 and the First book of Corinthians 6:9-10.
It’s funny because these same Christian bible books also mention the hatred god has for adulterers but nobody ever says that people who commit adultery should not be allowed to marry in the name of god. These books also talk about sexual perversions and unnatural sexual acts. While that might include some same sex acts, I know a few heterosexual acts of sex that might cross the line of perversion. I’m not going to go into any detail here but I spent nearly my entire adult life learning a few sexual perversions in order to help satisfy the woman in my life. I know for a fact some of the things I do wouldn’t pass a lot of people’s idea of conventional sex acts.
But that’s okay. If god is going to judge my spirituality based on how prudish my peers think my bedroom life is I seriously doubt that god understands my spiritual nature at all. My god doesn’t judge me based on what you might think. In all honesty, my spirituality has absolutely nothing to do with my sexuality. As long as I respect myself and respect my partner and respect my family and respect my community, as long as I do what I can to be the best person that I can be, how does my private sex life interfere with that overall sense of respect? Why would god put such emphasis on what I do for good, healthy sexual relationship?
Honestly, I don’t think god cares. And since I’m talking honestly nobody can condemn me for what I say and I should be getting my heavenly crown any day now.
God is not a voyeur looking into my bedroom for sexual deviation. The idea that the creator of the universe wants to condemn me to hell because of my extracurricular sexual activity is an idea that doesn’t sit very well with my psyche. If the only people who go to heaven are the people who stick to orthodox sex without perversion, it doesn’t look good for me. I will definitely be disqualified at the pearly gates. But then again, if the heavenly bound are people who are so rigid that they cannot accept those who are different, then I would have to say, even if I was so inclined to stick with nothing but missionary sex with my partner, heaven would not sound very heavenly to me.
I have family members and friends who are part of the gay and lesbian community. The idea that they are not welcome because god doesn’t like the fact that they are honest enough to follow their true sexual nature, their true sexual spirit, is not one that sits well with me. If this is the nature of the Christian god, then hell sounds a lot more appealing than heaven.
But I know for a fact that god doesn’t judge people on such trivialities. My god doesn’t award heavenly crowns to bigots. My god doesn’t smile down and love small minded people because they hate in his name. The god that I have come to know and develop a relationship with is the type of god that would not think to judge others no matter what. God doesn’t need people to hate in his image. My god is big enough, strong enough, and capable enough to hate all by himself. People who revel in hate should learn to stand up on their own and hate on their own. Quit putting petty bigotry on god’s shoulders.