Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism.
Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.
- Oscar Romero
I follow a number of teachers that I respect very much. Some have already died, some are elders, some are younger, and some are blown out of proportion rock stars like Bono (say what we will, but he has done incredible humanitarian work and the subversion of Macphisto certainly has its place at the theological buffet.)
When I'm working out what it looks like to be non-dual, but present in the problems of the world, I certainly open to what Christ looks like in me, but I also keenly watch my teachers... because as they make very hard decisions about how to speak into the times, I know that the standard by which their careful, wise words and actions are voiced, is a standard that exists beyond tired, partisan arguments and remains anchored to the heart of God's dream (as Bishop Tutu calls it). They don't do it perfectly, and why they don't and never could, is because they have a welcoming practice for the fact that God's dream is unmoored in the oceanic universe of things and the world is messy - and often what gets demonized, if the "wrong-doer" is not in a position of power, is far more complex, once we are willing to humanize the situation. In other words... I trust the teacher who doesn't put a lot of stock in a facade of morals, and who warmly and patiently owns their own shortcomings, and simply isn't perfect. Or as James Finley says, "it isn't that the master is no longer confused, its just that they're no longer confused by their confusion."
Now more than ever, something to watch for, very keenly, is how quickly victims are twisted into being the culprit, rendering the victim's voice to be asphyxiated... and how quickly the culprit is made the victim, and rewarded with more power. This is gaslighting 101, and that is what it should be called, because it fuels the fires of violence; but it cannot be detected if all we're looking for is a veneer of individual morality dressed up in trustworthy skin and rational gender.
Today is the canonization of Oscar Romero. After 38 years, the Catholic church is officially canonizing the El Salvadorian bishop who to many, is an example of what the church set out to be: Christ's conscious presence in the world. When the El Salvadorian government was shifting toward an oligarchy (which eventually killed over 75,000 people, and displaced millions), Romero spoke out and was very openly present with the people whose government had very forcefully turned against them, so that the few had so much and the many had so little.
Romero was mortally wounded minutes after delivering a homily during Mass, in a small chapel in Divine Providence Hospital. The scripture reading for that homily was John 12:23-26 in which Jesus famously references the grain of wheat falling, to bear much fruit.
For those of us who are not officially Roman Catholic (and maybe for some official Catholics who need to brush up on their terminology!), Romero was beatified in 2015, allowing people near the places he worked and lived to venerate him publicly as a candidate for sainthood. Canonization is when the pope formally decrees that someone is a Saint. Today is the day when Pope Francis decrees Oscar Romero an official Saint in the church across the globe. For many around the world, especially Central and South Americans, San Romero has been San Romero long before this day, but the timing for this is still poignant, and very possibly, fruitful.
This standard I speak of, that I observe in my teachers, (and I count Saint Oscar among them)... is the standard that makes no sense in a culture that teaches us to win and overtake at any cost.
Here is what I've observed about these folks I respect, who live by a standard that is very different than mere partisan mud slinging:
1. they have a daily contemplative practice, usually comprised of the practice of letting go... of thoughts and hang-ups, that would otherwise wield subtle acts of violence on themselves and others, throughout the day
2. they know that in the desert, the presence of corporate evil (Macphisto?!) offered Jesus all of the power in the world, but Jesus passed the test, and chose instead to risk his life by eating with, befriending and giving voice, to the people who were not welcome at the tables of power (and had no say in how those tables were built) - including people of other faith traditions
3. they are willing to probe their own hearts, for the place that would say yes to all the power in the world, that would believe the trappings of their renown, which is the same place that would stone the prophets
4. they know that energy is powerful and how we spend it determines what fire gets fed
5. they don't allow individual sin to become a cheap decoy, and they hold themselves open to Holy Wisdom, so they might be shown the sin of oppression, and the lust for power-over others, wherever it shows up, but especially in their own group... which in this case, is the Western Christian church (* watch for this as we move forward... Bonhoeffer spoke of the "secularization' of the church. Many today read that word "secularization" in terms of what they see as individual sin... but a very, very key point to Bonhoeffer's use of that word, was to suggest that the German church was being used as a key vehicle for very powerful, corporate sin).
6. they have a sense of humour
7. they show up in their gifts and remember they are instruments of the breath of God
8. when in doubt, they remember that God is with the last and the least and wants them to rise and to shine
9. also when in doubt, they remember that God has set a Universal Mythic Realm at play, which topples towers that would enslave, (no matter whether those still in the tower are claiming persecution). God wants this tower toppled, certainly to free the captives, but also, because God desires for even the oppressor to become fully human, and knows they never will, so long as they have their false sense of security (or as Oscar Romero put it: "there are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried").
I chose the song Strange Islands (from Point Vierge: Thomas Merton's Journey in Song) for today's Sunday Song and Rumination, because the veneer of the perfectly lived, pearly-white teethed life in the tower, is beginning to show its bloody fangs out in the open. That we would be so foolishly swift to victimize and "saint" a powerful, elite, tantrum thrower (you fill in the blanks as to whom I am speaking of- because it would seem, there is more than one), but so painfully slow to canonize the courage of Oscar Romero, means that we are still falling, in order for the God-created Mythic Realm to bring a voice to the voiceless, and full humanity to the near-inhuman facade of morals, who refuses to look power in the eye, name it as a lie, lose that which is not there, and awaken to what alone always is.
In the song, you will hear the spoken word of James Finley saying:
what feels like negation,
is actually a liberation,
a liberation from a falsified consciousness
in which nothing is lost
except that which is not there
and nothing is gained except an awakening to what alone always is
You will hear the voice of Thomas Merton, warning his novices:
"this is one of the things our Lord came to reveal, is that human beings, especially when they are right, especially when they are holy, and especially when they are good, they can be terrible".
And finally you'll hear me sing these lyrics, from Thomas Merton's poem Strange Islands:
When in the soul of the serene disciple
With no more fathers to imitate
Poverty is a success
It is a small thing to say the roof is gone
he has not even a house
Stars as well as friends
Are angry with the noble ruin
In several directions
There is no longer any need of comment
It was a lucky wind
that blew away his halo with his cares
It was a lucky sea
that drowned his reputation
Alana Levandoski is a song and chant writer, recording artist and music producer, in the Christian tradition, who lives with her family on an aspiring permaculture farm on the Canadian prairies.