Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. – Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Carl Glen Henshaw - Simple Acts of Kindness






Simple Acts of Kindness

by Carl Glen Henshaw

The worst college class I ever took was a literature class on short stories. One notable memory from that class was a story we read about a group of kids who conspire to destroy the house of an old man. They befriended the man so they could get into the house, and while there slowly cut through the beams holding the walls up. They did this for weeks and weeks; when they were done, they ran a cable around the house, got the man into the yard, and pulled it down with him watching.

The instructor asked us to write a piece on the story with the topic of “creative destruction”.

At the time, this struck me as deeply wrong, and I refused to write the report the way the instructor wanted and got marked down as a result, which is representative of my entire undergraduate experience. But I didn’t have the wisdom or skill to really say *why* it was wrong.

Now I do.

Shortly after 9/11, Stephen Jay Gould wrote a column about the day drawing on his background as a biologist who studied complex systems. Complex systems tend to be interconnected and somewhat fragile. In order for a complex system to function, nearly all of the parts have to do their jobs. If the system suffers a significant injury, all of its parts have to work in unison to knit it back together.

Society, Gould said, is a complex system, and had just suffered a significant injury. Offsetting this injury took the collective efforts of many. Gould wrote:

“Good and kind people outnumber all others by thousands to one. The tragedy of human history lies in the enormous potential for destruction in rare acts of evil, not in the high frequency of evil people. Complex systems can only be built step by step, whereas destruction requires but an instant. Thus, in what I like to call the Great Asymmetry, every spectacular incident of evil will be balanced by 10,000 acts of kindness, too often unnoted and invisible as the ''ordinary'' efforts of a vast majority. We have a duty, almost a holy responsibility, to record and honor the victorious weight of these innumerable little kindnesses, when an unprecedented act of evil so threatens to distort our perception of ordinary human behavior...

I will cite but one tiny story, among so many, to add to the count that will overwhelm the power of any terrorist's act. And by such tales, multiplied many millionfold, let those few depraved people finally understand why their vision of inspired fear cannot prevail over ordinary decency. As we left a local restaurant to make a delivery to ground zero late one evening, the cook gave us a shopping bag and said: ''Here's a dozen apple brown bettys, our best dessert, still warm. Please give them to the rescue workers.'' How lovely, I thought, but how meaningless, except as an act of solidarity, connecting the cook to the cleanup. Still, we promised that we would make the distribution, and we put the bag of 12 apple brown bettys atop several thousand face masks and shoe pads.

Twelve apple brown bettys into the breach. Twelve apple brown bettys for thousands of workers. And then I learned something important that I should never have forgotten -- and the joke turned on me. Those 12 apple brown bettys went like literal hot cakes. These trivial symbols in my initial judgment turned into little drops of gold within a rainstorm of similar offerings for the stomach and soul, from children's postcards to cheers by the roadside. We gave the last one to a firefighter, an older man in a young crowd, sitting alone in utter exhaustion as he inserted one of our shoe pads. And he said, with a twinkle and a smile restored to his face: ''Thank you. This is the most lovely thing I've seen in four days -- and still warm!''”
---

I also study complex systems. Unlike Gould, my systems aren’t natural; they’re engineered. But my experience mirrors Gould’s. Engineered systems are even more fragile than natural ones. Every piece has a part to play.

Gould’s point, and mine, is that we do not counteract immense acts of evil through immense acts of good. We counter them through hundreds, thousands, millions of small acts. Bringing someone grieving a hot dinner. Comforting a child. Helping someone change a flat. Planting a garden and giving away the produce.

Those of us who try to follow Jesus of Nazareth should understand this, although too often we act like we don’t. Goodness doesn’t lie in enormous sacrifices (although those do occur). It lies in the small things, in how you live your everyday life.

Because this is not rare, it is often thought of as banal. But it isn’t. Destruction, evil, no matter how grand the scale, no matter how carefully planned, is not creative. It cannot be. Destruction is the ground state of the universe. Entropy gets everything in the end. No matter how it is carried out, it is evil that is banal. All evil does is speed up what the universe will do sooner or later anyway.

It is quiet acts of goodness and kindness that are transgressive, revolutionary. It is loving your neighbor as yourself, it is visiting the sick, tending to the injured, being a peacemaker, showing your love of God through seeing His image in the countenance of the guy in front of you in the grocery store, or the immigrant the next street over, or the screaming toddler kicking your seat on the airplane.

We often mark 9/11 by tipping our caps to the first responders, to the kids who signed up at the Marine recruiting office and went off to fight terrorism overseas, to the passengers who fought back. And this isn’t wrong, but it’s far from complete. We must also remember every kind act, every apple brown betty baked and given away, every hug, every phone call checking in on loved ones — and every one of the million, billion, trillion caring acts since. Because it is those acts that build and rebuild society, that fight against the dying of the light. So when you think about how to best commemorate the day, consider:

The act most alien to evil is kindness.

- Carl Glen Henshaw


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“In the Resurrection, the power of Love overcomes all evil."
Easter Letter of the Minister General, 2017


The Power of Love Overcomes All Evil


Posted at April 15, 2017 in
Featured, Letters, Letters & Homilies,
Minister General, News

“If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him” (Rom 6: 8-9)

My dear Brothers and friends,

Alleluia! In our Easter commemoration, we celebrate the events of the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Like the faithful women who stood by Jesus in death and who were the first witnesses to the resurrection, we too recognize in these paschal events the dawning of a new hope for the life of the world, a world torn apart by divisions and conflicts, a world God has chosen to love unconditionally (Jn 3:16). In the resurrection, the power of love overcomes all evil.

We stand as believers and followers of Jesus giving witness to an alternative vision of life, an alternative way of living in this world, guided by the Spirit of God. We recall that it is this same Spirit of God who is present at the moment of the creation of the world. This same Spirit is present in the events of the annunciation of the birth of the Messiah to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. It is the Spirit who accompanies Jesus throughout his life on earth, inspiring his preaching and teaching, his simple acts of kindness and love. It is the Spirit who accompanies Jesus along the road to Golgotha, witnessing Jesus’ suffering and humiliating death on the cross. It is the Spirit of God who remains with Jesus through death and burial, demonstrating unwavering love for the only beloved Son who gives his live in love in order that the world might be reconciled to itself and to God. And it is the Spirit who raises the Son to life anew (Rom 8:11).

This Holy Spirit who was present in every moment in the life of Jesus, from life to death and to new life, is also present in our world today. The resurrection is the definitive sign of God’s fidelity to the Son, to each of us, and to all of creation. We have need of this message today more than ever: God loves us, is walking with us, healing our wounds, calling us to live reconciled lives with all people, called to be messengers of love, mercy, and peace.

The Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead continues to carry on the work of the Father and the Son, reminding us that divisions, violence, hatred, destruction, and death do not have the final word; they are not the victors. In the resurrection of Jesus, we receive the final confirmation that love and only love is the final victor, and the ultimate vocation to which we are called. I witnessed this in the lives of our brothers and sisters living in Damascus, Aleppo, and Latakia in Syria these past days. In the midst of death and destruction on a cataclysmic scale, the Christians of Syria who have lost loved ones, homes, and livelihood refuse to submit to the temptation of abandoning God, their faith, and their commitment to pursue a path towards reconciliation and reconstruction. They stand with Mary Magdalene before the empty tomb; they search for meaning in the total absence of all that might seem rational and human; they run to the community of faith where they share stories of discouragement and despair, hope and love, and where in the Eucharist they discover, as did the disciples of Emmaus, the presence of the risen Lord Jesus who never abandons them, never abandons those who have been called into relationship with Him.

My dear brothers and friends, let us take to heart the words from the Sequence, Victim paschali laudes:

“Christians, to the Pascal Victim offer sacrifice and praise. The sheep are ransomed by the Lamb and Christ the undefiled, hath sinners to his Father reconciled. Death with life contended: combat strangely ended! Life’s own Champion, slain, yet lives to reign. Tell us Mary: say what thou didst see upon the way. The tomb the Living did enclose; I saw Christ’s glory as he rose! The angels there attesting; shroud with grave-clothes resting. Christ, my hope, has risen: he goes before you in Galilee. That Christ is truly risen from the dead we know. Victorious king, thy mercy show! Amen! Alleluia!”

He is truly risen! His love and mercy are victorious!

A blessed and joy-filled Easter to all!

Fraternally,

Bro. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant

Rome, 15 April 2017
Vigil of Easter