Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Letter of Loving Concern to our homosexual brethren

Allow me to suggest that this faith community, scattered and virtual such as it is, might work together to develop a letter of loving concern for our gay brothers and sisters in canonical traces and those preparing for ministry and the vowed life. Here is a first draft. You are invited to comment and edit for this purpose.

Brothers and Sisters:
Pope Benedict XVI has decided to declare your natural homosexual orientation as objectively wrong, and not believing that you can remain celibate, refuse canonical ministry to you. This, I propose, is an insult to many persons, not simply your selves.

We from our own faith gathering reach out to you in loving concern today. What shall we say to speak to your hearts? Let us begin with the gospel of Jesus.

There is no indication in the gospel that Jesus intended this kind of power over others to be given to a single person. To assume that one man in the shoes of the fisherman should or could have this power is an objective disordering of the intent of Jesus. The vast majority of scriptural exegetes and most theologians today would agree.

When the Pope takes it upon himself to decide moral issues without consulting bishops, without listening to papal commissions, without consulting the faithful, this manner of operating is simply not from God, not from the Spirit. There is an objective disorder in the Roman Catholic view and practice that assumes power over others to interpret the gospel without listening. It is faith inside a bubble.

Let us consider what ethical behavior in our times requires. Ethical behavior requires five behaviors to be both authentic and gospel inspired. First, a habit of inner consultation, of listening to oneself. Jesus employed parables to speak to the Inner Authority of each person, their inner teacher. The organized church, organized religion, has long forgotten how to do this via an idolatry of creed, code and cult and obsession with externals, turf, membership and money. The primacy of the individual conscience is saluted but not observed, nor is it honored or respected in practice. Organized religion as a whole spends very little time in helping individuals develop an authentic conscience. This urgency is vastly ignored.

Catholic religious leaders want followers: obedience and submission. To believe you have a direct pipeline to God without the necessity of listening to the community’s own sense of faith is the way to destroy the community. It has happened many times in the past and is happening now

Secondly, there must be loving behavior, the actual practice of the gospel, in loving one another and in welcoming the Stranger. Matthew 25, verses 36 ff is certainly about this ethic, when Jesus tells us how he will separate the “sheep from the goats.” Without loving practice, one has a notional or sterile faith, a faith without works. Churches are full of talk, but little walking of the gospel imperatives.

Thirdly, the practice of faith must be open to listening, to feedback from others, to growing. Otherwise it is faith in a bubble, as has been the sad history of religious persecution down through the ages, and the ecclesiastical support of slavery, abuse of the Jews, the
Crusades and Inquisition, and many religious wars undertaken “in God’s name.”

Too many leaders today practice their faith in a bubble that is closed and isolated from the views of others. When one cannot or will not listen to the views of others with sincere differences, one has their faith in a bubble, protected from challenge, and protected from Otherness.

Aside: If this mystery we call God is inexpressible and can never be captured in words because it is beyond all words, how can one presume that any form of belief is final and complete? Is it not curious that it is faith and love that is healing, not any particular brand of faith? Since it does not matter for your health and longevity what kind of Christian you are, but whether your faith is vital, this suggests that the Christian pre-occupation with Right Doctrine is a fetish of the ego.

Fourthly, faith that does not actively reach out to those who are different, isolated, marginalized, estranged, the outsiders of society, is simply not a gospel faith. The Hebrew prophets continually called the Israelites to the care for the poor. Faith that does not reach out to others, to welcome the stranger is not a gospel faith. It remains faith in a bubble of self concern, careful measurement and protection.

Today this means that we Christians must listen to Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus AND accept the validity of their own self chosen paths to God.

Leaders who aspire to govern and lead without listening are guilty of Faith in a Bubble, inside which they see only their own self-reflection on all sides. We have many examples today of faith in a bubble, of the assumption that faith can be vital without listening to the views of others.

This kind of faith is actually an idolatrous faith, because it places one’s own faith, a received gift, above the faithful views of others, while refusing to listen.

Jesus never summoned or invited us to certainty. Take care, he said, lest the light in you be darkness. Luke 11:35. When he continually faced religious authority which was closed and certain of itself, he found the Kingdom already present, there among the outsiders.

Lastly, the fifth mark of a gospel ethic, the far more difficult one, is that the motive is loving God and neighbor as ourselves, that is, generously. We are asked to act lovingly, not for the sake of obedience or reward or a return on our investment, but for the sake of loving. Therefore, unless loving is in the truth proclaimed, it is not gospel truth. Truth without love is simply not gospel truth and not from Jesus.

Follow the man from Galilee and know that we accept, welcome and love you as you are, in the mystery of your own God given sexuality.

It is the current practice of Roman Catholic authority that is objectively disordered. Authority that cannot accept the erotic poetry of God in in our God-given sexuality and in marriage, leadership which still insists that artificial contraception is an intrinsical evil, that is, objectively disordered, is faith in a bubble.

To use faith and piety to exercise power over others, without listening, is an objective disordering of the gospel of Jesus.

Paschal Baute
Married Priest and Psychologist
September 24, 2005.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Storytelling, a Vision and an Ordination.

Dear Friends:
I just returned from the OPA (Ohio Psychological Assn) Retreat on the Union between Psychology and Spirituality, held at the stunningly beautiful Mohican State Park, near Belleville, northern Ohio. Some forty psychologists and other participated in some 14 workshops. I was privileged to lead one on Celtic Spirituality,and share leadership in another on Dreamwork: A process, led by Rick Reckman, who has pioneered in organizing and leading this new dimension of Continuing Education for Ohio Psychologists.

I was not sure how I would structure my three hour workshop when I went out the door here at home to leave for Ohio. Someone just communicated via email of her appreciation of a creation story I did with drumming at an independent Catholic annual convention in Louisville some years ago. I have done very little storytelling with drumming, hardly none in the past three years. So I picked up the drum (a beautiful drum lent me by Mike Kavanaugh and Ann Siudmak, dear SGN friends - See Spiritual Growth Network blog)on the possiblity that I might be inspired on the way to use the drum and some storytelling as part of my presentation.

My creative brain always seems to work well while I am driving. So I imagined more concretely how I might do so in a manner that would promote the purpose of the workshop, and then, when I got there, I just did it, the next morning.

Well, there was another storyteller present in my workshop, an amazing woman who is 97 years young. She was taken with my ability to use the drum in my storytelling, as it reminded her of another storyteller she had greatly admired. She told me so at the end of the workshop.

That afternoon, Rick and I shared a workshop on Dreaming. His summons, overnight, was to address our Inner Teacher to reveal to us our heart's desire, to write it down and bring it the next morning to the group.

I awoke knowing that my heart's desire was to become a famous storyteller, not famous in terms of travel which I do less and less at three score and 16, but reaching many.
I argued with God that my drumming was a minor talent. She agreed. I argued that my harmonica playing (which I sometimes also do and can do along with drumming) was also a minor talent. She agreed. Then she said "Your heart is a major talent." I said I agreed, tho it was not always a wise one. I then offered that my imagination was probably more than a minor talent. She agreed.

Then, there seemed to be a long silence. Finally she said, "I have given you love and amazement which you are passionate to share with others." I said I had to agree, and that was an underdeserved, unearned gift, especially the last four years. I have been living with gratitude, humility and increasing amazement at my life and relationships and opportunities. The giftedness of my life is incredible. I walk in wonder and awe at it all.

Then she said and here is where she really spoke to my heart of hearts. "You have no choice but to share you sense of giftedness and amazement with others." And it is the very giving that is the reward, ( recognized) not any outcomes. Does not matter if to some I appear silly or foolish. "You ARE a love, an amazement. That is your calling and your passion. Go do it." She said. "Be a fool for my amazement."

That last word really got me!

The next morning I am doubtful about all this. I call Olga to meet her for breakfast to ask her THE question. Has she just "kissed the blarney stone" in her warm affirmation of my drumming and storytelling. Her daughter, Ellen, a psychologist with whom she had come, said "No, she had talked all night about the impact of my drumming combined with story telling." Olga then assured me that I was already ready, that I did not "need" her mentoring, that I had the gift. (My wife and a few others, have also told me I have a gift of storytelling, which is also commmon in her family, although this feedback from her has not always been complimentary, as she has been skeptically amused whether at times I have not enhanced my stories.)

Are not stories always enhanced? Is this not part of the storytelling ART?

Then Olga Boone and her daughter go another step, at our lunch together on the final day of the retreat, yesterday when we all together for the last times, she gets up to announce that I will do my gig of drumming and tell the story I told our small workshop to the entire group of those attending the retreat. I take a deep breath. I have never performed on request for any group. My first ever performance on request. Hyphenated story, some improvisation / enhancement, spirit led for the occasion, and applause was vigorous. I truly felt affirmed and endorsed. So I will continue to envision and develop this way of healing. After all, it was Jesus' own way, and his stories still entrance us and tease us out of our ego-driven frames and cages. Should I not aspire to walk in his path and share the gifts I have been given?

I have to say "Thank you, Olga-Eva, goddess of amazement, for arranging this ordination ceremony, and affirmation for me." Your sense of adventure, love of life, have affirmed my own. This morning I created on my computer a greeting card for you to say my thank you for meeting you. Cynthia, last name lost, sitting next to me for lunch, a young woman therapist who shared earlier how she had taken an early morning walk to watch the sun rise over the awesome lake there, and had spent some two hours in amazement at the beauty outside, (and later in the Saturday p.m. workshop shared another piece of her own inner beauty) was also amazed at my ability to improvisize in the telling, which was another affirmation for this neophyte storyteling drummer.

Since this is my newest empowerment "ordination" story, I will also start a new blog on storytelling and drumming for ongoing focus and feedback, to center my energy and to invite others into storytelling and amazement.

I will admit and affirm that both the book and the audio tapes on Beauty, by John O'donohue have primed me into readiness for this summons.

I wish also to thank Rick Reckman of Cincinnati, for organizing this event and for inviting me to lead this workshop on Celtic Spirituality. Accepting new challenges like this always seems to bring out new parts of me but better still, new awareness of this Mystery that we are all part of, and sometimes even new ways to touch others.

Overnight, Olga had looked up my home address and found it to be "Lofgren," which she said was her mother's maiden name. At this point I am more than slightly over-whelmed and do not think I remember all of that detail clearly at all.

Thank you, Lord, for today
and for all of these
amazing coincidences.
It was a coincidence that I got that email message three days ago from that person who heard my storytelling and drumming some 7 years ago, and that I picked up the drum as I went out the door to leave for Ohio.
Did not someone once say that
"coincidence" was simply God's way of
remaining anonymous, so we could live by
faith, in love?
Paschal Baute
priest, poet, psychologist,
author, storyteller.
September 11, 2005

Other story telling work underway:
We are completing the second printing of our first book,
Hidden Lions: Pitfalls of Leadership: A True Story by a Manager
with Critical Analysis by an Organizational Psychologist.

Copyright, Paschal Baute and Steve Mobley, 2003.
We shall use this in Seminar 3 course, Critical Evaluation of
Leadership, in the Human Resource Management program at
School for Career Development, Midway College,
where David Cooke and myself are co-chairs of that HRM program.
We hope to re-activate our web page / blog for this book soon.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Whose Lamps will be lit?

Op Ed submission, Herald Leader.


We have a severe crisis in this country: a crisis of leadership on many levels, and a crisis of many proportions, both moral, political, spiritual, religious and community.

If we needed another example to confront us, we are faced with it in the multiple tragedies of New Orleans during the past week. We and the authorities have known for years that the city could not sustain a Category 4 storm, yet funding for necessary attention was repeatedly cut by the White House and by state authorities. Now politicians, clear up to Mr. Bush have been saying that no one could have predicted the levees would not hold. That is clearly another lie, as multiple evidence will show. Lying and pretense is now the regular practice from the top down.

The opposite of love, Elie Wiesel said again last night in Danville, is not love, but indifference. Indifference, according to this Holocaust survivor, is the root sin of humanity. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The key question for us as Americans of every stripe and color is who are we as Americans when we cannot and will not care for our poor? When we not help them escape looming destruction? When we simply gaze as various tsunamis approach.

How could those who live from paycheck to paycheck, or no paycheck at all, without cars, be expected to leave the fateful city? What arrangements for order, sustenance and security were anticipated and provided when the Superdome was opened to them? If we dare to investigate these matters, we shall find neglect and malfeasance at several levels. Apparently one third of the New Orleans police force simply deserted. Now it is stated that the local security force was known to be widely corrupt.

This past year, our taxes paid for five days of special FEMA training for precisely such emergencies. Yet food, shelter, transportation, and security were not ready for this city despite days of warning that a Category 4 would very likely hit this metro area. Will there be an investigation?

Can we expect as much cover-up and stone-walling as the White House has shown to 9/11 families trying to find out how and why 9/11 could happen?

We are at a turning point in this nation. Maybe we have passed the point of no return in the decline of the community we have been. We shall now have a great outpouring of help from the citizenship and remedial funds from the governments. Well and good. But are we ready to admit that we are still a Bowling Alone community largely indifferent to what is done in our name? More urgently, can we face how we can put into office such incompetents as we have in both parties?

Who is asking us to face the sacrifice we need to make in waking up to the reality of the abuses we are condoning, ignoring and continuing? Most of us would rather go shopping or chat on our cell phones.

Our idols of materialism, nationalism, corporate narcissism and religious fundamentalism loom large. Are we being brought by our destiny and by God to a place where we are summoned to rise into a new transcendence or instead be destroyed by our greed and indifference?

Shall New Orleans be a wake-up call? Who would risk voicing such a summons? And who will listen? What if there is a still hidden tsunami approaching us all? Whose lamps will be lit in the darkness?

Paschal Baute
Lexington, Ky
September 5, Labor Day, 2005

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Who are we if we can't take care of our own?

September 3, 2005
United States of Shame

Stuff happens.

And when you combine limited government with incompetent government, lethal stuff happens.

America is once more plunged into a snake pit of anarchy, death, looting, raping, marauding thugs, suffering innocents, a shattered infrastructure, a gutted police force, insufficient troop levels and criminally negligent government planning. But this time it's happening in America.

W. drove his budget-cutting Chevy to the levee, and it wasn't dry
. Bye, bye, American lives. "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," he told Diane Sawyer.

Shirt-sleeves rolled up, W. finally landed in Hell yesterday and chuckled about his wild boozing days in "the great city" of N'Awlins. He was clearly moved. "You know, I'm going to fly out of here in a minute," he said on the runway at the New Orleans International Airport, "but I want you to know that I'm not going to forget what I've seen." Out of the cameras' range, and avoided by W., was a convoy of thousands of sick and dying people, some sprawled on the floor or dumped on baggage carousels at a makeshift M*A*S*H unit inside the terminal.

Why does this self-styled "can do" president always lapse into such lame "who could have known?" excuses.

Who on earth could have known that Osama bin Laden wanted to attack us by flying planes into buildings? Any official who bothered to read the trellis of pre-9/11 intelligence briefs.

Who on earth could have known that an American invasion of Iraq would spawn a brutal insurgency, terrorist recruiting boom and possible civil war? Any official who bothered to read the C.I.A.'s prewar reports.

Who on earth could have known that New Orleans's sinking levees were at risk from a strong hurricane? Anybody who bothered to read the endless warnings over the years about the Big Easy's uneasy fishbowl.

In June 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, fretted to The Times-Picayune in New Orleans: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

Not only was the money depleted by the Bush folly in Iraq; 30 percent of the National Guard and about half its equipment are in Iraq.
insert bold tags
Ron Fournier of The Associated Press reported that the Army Corps of Engineers asked for $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans last year. The White House carved it to about $40 million. But President Bush and Congress agreed to a $286.4 billion pork-filled highway bill with 6,000 pet proj
ects, including a $231 million bridge for a small, uninhabited Alaskan island.

Just last year, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials practiced how they would respond to a fake hurricane that caused floods and stranded New Orleans residents. Imagine the feeble FEMA's response to Katrina if they had not prepared.

Michael Brown, the blithering idiot in charge of FEMA - a job he trained for by running something called the International Arabian Horse Association - admitted he didn't know until Thursday that there were 15,000 desperate, dehydrated, hungry, angry, dying victims of Katrina in the New Orleans Convention Center.

Was he sacked instantly? No, our tone-deaf president hailed him in Mobile, Ala., yesterday: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

It would be one thing if President Bush and his inner circle - Dick Cheney was vacationing in Wyoming; Condi Rice was shoe shopping at Ferragamo's on Fifth Avenue and attended "Spamalot" before bloggers chased her back to Washington; and Andy Card was off in Maine - lacked empathy but could get the job done. But it is a chilling lack of empathy combined with a stunning lack of efficiency that could make this administration implode.

When the president and vice president rashly shook off our allies and our respect for international law to pursue a war built on lies, when they sanctioned torture, they shook the faith of the world in American ideals.

When they were deaf for so long to the horrific misery and cries for help of the victims in New Orleans - most of them poor and black, like those stuck at the back of the evacuation line yesterday while 700 guests and employees of the Hyatt Hotel were bused out first - they shook the faith of all Americans in American ideals. And made us ashamed.

Who are we if we can't take care of our own?


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina, God and Social Morality, by Rabbi Lerner

from Tikkun, online, September 1

It didn’t have to happen. And it didn’t have to result in so many deaths and social chaos.

Before going down the route of spiritual analysis, let me pause for a moment of prayer and sadness for the suffering of the people of New Orleans, prayers for comfort of those who are mourning losses, and prayers for the survival of those who are still in danger. Prayer must always be accompanied by acts of tzedaka, righteousness or charity. The American Red Cross is playing the lead support role here, so you might consider donating to them: call 1 800 HELP NOW.

But this is a classic case of the law of karma, or what the Torah warns of environmental disaster unless we create a just society, or what others call watching the chickens come home to roost, or what goes around come around:

* Environmentalists are making a strong case that the escalated number and ferocity of earthquakes is a direct product of global warming, caused in large part by the reliance on fossil fuels. The persistent refusal of the U.S. to join the nations of the world in implementing the Kyoto Accords emission limits, and to impose serious pollution restrictions on the cars being sold in the US, is a major factor in global warming.

* The development for housing and commercial purposes combinded with massive oil and gas investments destroyed the natural protections from storms that the coastal wetlands has previously provided.

· Funds that were specifically allocated for New Orleans which could have been used in rebuilding levees and for storm protection were cut from the federal budget so that President Bush could use those funds to wage the war in Iraq.
· The white majority of the people of Louisiana elected Congressional representatives who enthusiastically support the war in Iraq and the Bush Administration’s environmental irresponsibility. When economic devastation hit workers in northern cities over the past several decades, Louisianans voted to downsize the federal government and to let others fend for themselves. Many talked about the glories of relying on the free marketplace rather than on the “handouts” from a national government that they abhorred. Or they told the poor and the homeless in northern cities that “if they worked harder or had better habits or were smarter they’d have employment and wouldn’t have to depend on others’ help. Or they saw that suffering of others as “the hand of God.”

And yet, the law of karma or Torah doesn’t work on a one to one basis, delivering “just rewards” to those who have been directly involved in causing evil, as JOB noted in the Bible and as we can note watching global warming play out. The terrible truth is that it is the POOR, the MOST VULNERABLE, who are the first to suffer.

The wealthy built their homes on higher ground, had better information, more insurance, and more avenues of escape. So whether it is in facing the rising waters in Bangladesh or Malaysia or Lousiana and Missippi, it’s going to be “the least among us” who will suffer most immediately. This is why it is inappropriate to blame the victim: because the way the world has been created, the consequences of past social injustice, war and ecological irresponsibility come to a whole planet--because from the cosmic perspective we are one, we are all interdependent—and those who suffer most are often not even those who are most culpable. Ditto with environmental cancers—it’s often not the oil company executives but poor people living in proximity to the air and water polluted by corporate irresponsibility and abetted by the lawmakers who depend on corporate contributions and pay them back by imposing the weakest possible environmental regulations.

When some Christian fundamentalists talk about these as signs of the impending doom of the planet, they are laughed off as irrational cranks. It’s true that these fundamentalists see no connection between the doom and the environmental irresponsibility that the politicians they support have brought us. But nevertheless, their perception that we are living at “the end of time” can’t be dismissed by those of us who know that the life support systems of this planet are increasingly “in danger” if politics continues the way it has been going, with politicians in BOTH parties capitulating regularly to the ethos of selfishness and materialism that is sustained by our corporate plunderers but is validated by the votes of ordinary citizens.

Yet the fundamentalist message is deeply misleading also, because it seems to suggest that all this is out of our hands, part of some divine scheme. But it’s not. The biblical version is quite different from what they say: it insists that the choice between life and death is in our hands. After laying out the consequences of abandoning a path of justice and righteousness, the Torah makes it clear that it is up to us. CHOOSE LIFE, it tells us. That choosing of life means transforming our social system in ways that neither Democrats nor Republicans have yet been willing to consider—toward a new bottom line of love and caring, kindness and generosity, ethical and ecological responsibility, and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe replacing a narrow utilitarian approach to Nature. This is precisely what we have been calling for in our Interfaith organization, the Tikkun Community, and in our new project of the Tikkun Community called The Network of Spiritual Progressives. We need a New Bottom Line—a fundamental transformation of what we value in this society. We want to take that message into the public sphere, into the political parties, into the media, into the schools, into the corporations.

What too frequently happens when disasters like this hit is that everyone gets momentarily worked up about helping the victims, then a few weeks later forgets the whole thing, and rarely do we get a serious discussion (much less “follow through”) about how to solve the underlying problems. Let’s not let that happen again. Please join the Network of Spiritual Progressives of The Tikkun Community. For more information about our perspective, go to the Core Vision at To Join, click here:

There is one beautiful thing that sometimes happens during these kind of emergencies: the cynical realism that teaches us that people just care about themselves, a teaching that makes most of us feel scared to be “too generous” or “too idealistic” temporarily falls away, and people are allowed to be their most generous and loving selves. When the restraints are momentarily down, there is a huge outpouring of love, generosity and kindness on the part of many Americans. People do things like this that I saw yesterday: advertising on the internet’s Craig’s List that they are willing to take in to their own home for many months a family that has been displaced by the floods. This kind of selflessness is something that people actually yearn to let out, but under ordinary circumstances they’d fear to do so. So watch the goodness show itself.

Not to deny that ugliness will also appear. The looting of stores in New Orleans momentarily revealed the “bottom line” of government responsibilities when the New Orleans police announced that they were going to switch policing priorities from saving lives (of the poor) to saving the property of the wealthy and the corporations from the looters. It’s this kind of misplaced priorities over the course of many decades that makes some poor people (and not only poor people, but others who feel that they have a deep sense of social grievance) think (mistakenly and unjustifiably) that it makes sense to take advantage of this moment to rectify a long history of social injustice by taking from the “haves” to provide for themselves as the “have-nots.” It’s hard to witness this perversity on the part of both looters and police without a deep sadness of heart about the depths of depravity that reveal themselves in these moments, alongside the heights of goodness mentioned in the previous paragraph.

For me, this is a prayerful moment, entering the period just before the Jewish High Holidays (starting Oct. 3), realizing that the Jewish tradition of taking ten days of reflection, repentance and atonement is so badly needed not just by Jews but by everyone on the planet. I hope we can find a way to build this practice among secular as well as religious people, because America, indeed the whole world, so badly needs to STOP and reflect,repent and atone, and find a new way, a new path, and return to the deepest truths of love, kindness, generosity, non-violence and peace.

--Rabbi Michael Lerner
Editor, Tikkun and co-chair (with Cornel West and Sister Joan Chittister) of the Tikkun Community
Author, The Left Hand of God (forthcoming in January from HarperSanFrancisco)