Ponderings of the Spiritual Life Director- 9-25-19

Balance: Holding the Discomfort

Sometimes, we learn truths that are uncomfortable. And often, we don’t know what to do with those truths. Denial seems to be the most comfortable place to go. Denial means not having to change our frame of reference and make changes. But those truths can still live on in our hearts and minds, eroding our conscience, causing disharmony if denying those truths means living out of line with our values.

Seminary has been a wild ride so far. Truths are being uncovered and revealed and deep examination is required. Our emotional and spiritual lives are being contextualized in history- our own, our family’s, this country’s, the entirety of the Earth’s history, even. I suppose that makes sense when you think about it in terms of what sort of deep, theological reflection you might expect from a minister. But it’s kind of flipping us all upside down and shaking us out.

One of the questions we had to discuss in our small group conversation the other day was: How do we reckon with the depth and pain of the conquest of indigenous populations and the enslavement of other peoples? When you were a child, were you taught, implicitly or explicitly, practices of recognition of harm, repentance, forgiveness and reparations/reconciliation/restitution?

Oh. Ok. Well, no. I was taught by my father that the Native Americans were here first, not Columbus. And their consequent demise was a horrible thing. So, what does one do with that as a 5 year old?

For whatever reason, I grew into a rebellious, anti-establishment teenager, and repentance wasn’t really on my radar. I don’t know if that’s exactly what my father, professionally a cop, had in mind for me. And, unbeknownst to me, I needed to do a lot of personal reconciliation. The only practice I really knew of, also taught to me by my father, was music.

Music holds the discomfort, my professor reminded me the other day. It helps us bring balance to ourselves when we have truths that we don’t know what to do with.

I went to a Bad Religion concert last week. Punk Rock was probably the closest thing I had to a practice of recognition of harm when I was younger. Much of it has stayed with me. It still holds me in the dark and leads me to creation, widening my ability to be intentional now about repentance and reconciliation. So, I leave you today with lyrics from Bad Religion’s 1996 song, “Punk Rock Song”.

Have you been to the desert?

Have you walked with the dead?

There’s a hundred thousand children being killed for their bread

And the figures don’t lie they speak of human disease

But we do what we want and we think what we please

Have you lived the experience?

Have you witnessed the plague?

People making babies sometimes just to escape

In this land of competition the compassion is gone

Yet we ignore the needy and we keep pushing on

We keep pushing on

This is just a punk rock song

Written for the people who can see something’s wrong

Like ants in a colony we do our share

But there’s so many other f**** insects out there

And this is just a punk rock song

(like workers in a company we do our share

But there’s so many other f**** robots out there)

Have you visited the quagmire?

Have you swam in the sh**?

The party conventions and the real politic

The faces always different, the rhetoric the same

But we swallow it, and we see nothing change

Nothing has changed

10 million dollars on a losing campaign

20 million starving and writhing in pain

Big strong people unwilling to give

Small in vision and perspective

One in five kids below the poverty line

One population runnin’ out of time