BB Webb as BB Webb!

Exploring the Possibilities

Jimmy Carter…Losing his Religion for Equality. October 5, 2009

I spent a lovely weekend with some new and old friends eating, drinking, sharing ideologies and stretching what I know, what I believe, how I see the world and certainly my next steps.  My dear friend, Sherry, fondly referred to as Louise to my Thelma,
…..(our first adventure took us north in my little red truck, 14 hours straight through the night to visit our families over Christmas.  The bond was then and there set, me then an itinerant performer, she a landscape architect.  We’ve both traveled through a variety of lives and interests since then, our paths intermingling providing rich history, and now an unseverable bond).

Sherry shared an article from Atlanta’s magazine Aquarius, written by President Jimmy Carter.  I am encouraged and inspired by this extraordinary statesman and his bold and humanitarian actions.

Losing My Religion for Equality (From the current Oct. 2009 Aquarius Magazine) http://www.aquarius-atlanta.com/currentissueview.php?issueid=343

president_jimmy_carterWomen and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.
I have been a practicing Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service. This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime. The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. “Religion, and Tradition” are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy – and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building. We draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, against women. The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers. I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church, women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

Thank you President Carter for making such a compassionate and bold move. The impact of your actions is more profound than we might know or see at this point in time.

With gratitude for you being you. (And happy belated birthday President Carter, we share the same birthday)!

BB Webb

 

The ‘Religion’ Thing… September 17, 2009

jesus-1Religion and politics can rile even the most mild mannered citizen. Much as pets and children can ‘steal the show’, heated debates around the aforementioned topics can reek havoc on relationships as to me, what I hear most is a fervent need to ‘be right’.

I am intrigued after reading my business coach’s blog, The Unsinkable Brian Cork. His blog is read by some 30,000 folks a day. His topics are diverse and he loves to ‘stir the pot’, something I too am drawn to in my own, probably for now, quieter way.

So, in commenting on the righteousness felt by some, or as Brian states, the folks who claim to ‘tip their toes’ into religion through stating they are instead ‘spiritual’, (I loved that), it was fun to watch my own reactions.

I’m sure he has received scores of responses….some of which he makes available for others to read and some not. My response was as follows:

Thank you for stirring the ‘religion’ pot Brian. I enjoy witnessing my own reactions as it shines a useful spotlight on where I am or where I’m not.

I’m not sure why I’m not a joiner, but I’m not, (well, unless there is a discounted price on something involved)! When I think of most religions I’ve experienced, in perhaps my limited way, I am reminded of my daily decision to either be ‘right’ or to be ‘loving’. (That brings up the gnarly hairball of controversy over the meaning behind being ‘loving’). Isn’t this fun! And besides, I’m enthralled with expansion, unlike what I feel is a rigidity of thought within many religions. buddah

Nevertheless, I do consider this earth sojourn as certainly the ‘spiritual’ part of ‘me’ having a human experience, fraught with all the limitations of ego (fear). Be that as it may, as I watch scores of devotees and the intelligensia, clammering with their astuteness and bravado, debating over ‘their’ God, summoning false security or claiming to KNOW one thing or another, it is then that I am more enamoured to thinkers like Osho and Tom Robbins. Consider this if you will from Mr. Osho…

‘don’t try to become anything- patient, loving, nonviolent, peaceful. Don’t try. If you try, you will force yourself and you will become a hypocrite. That’s how the whole of religion has turned into hypocrisy…..Basically you are totally free to choose, but once you choose, your very choice becomes a limitation. If you want to remain totally free, then don’t choose.’

That statement alone has kept me up into the wee hours with an attempt to ‘understand’. Ahhh, we mortals. To me, the magic is in the moment, the place of unknowing and the illusive, undefinable force within, which well, I call ‘Godforce’, but I made that up. Because I can. Viva la difference… in the end, naught matters as back to the ether go we. I’d say listen to the wisdom within your heart and let IT be the master of your mind. or….not! That’s okay….I won’t take it personally.

But that’s just me. Today.

And I’m sure, you have your own favorite views. So chime in…. he (or I) would love the debate. The mystery of it all and the passion behind each person’s views are what intrigue me the most.

In the meantime, enjoy yourself if you can….no one really does KNOW much of anything, for sure, now do they.

BB Webb

 

Chocolate Jesus July 2, 2009

While in high school I took a part time job at a near by nursing home, (what is the politically correct term now, something or other care facility)??  WhatEVER they’re now called, this placed was filled with really old people.  I worked with a group of rather merciless seasoned nursing care folks who would test me with the most difficult tasks and residents.  I administered enemas, washed private parts, emptied bed pans and suffered the pinches of old men you’d think too old to lift an arm.  From one day to the next someone you’d just gotten to know might die, another resident might be caught walking down the hall with a bed pan attached to their rear, or I’d witness a resident’s lonely isolation or a family’s reaction to the loss of an elderly loved one.  I learned a LOT about human behavior, not just from the residents, but the nurses as well.

On my second day as a nurses aid, I was approached by a very large Mennonite woman, Sadie Miller, who while showing me how to wash a nearly emaciated, naked old man, (she nearly rubbed his skin off), not missing a wink, she looked directly into my young hazel eyes and bellowed loudly, ‘Have you been saved?’

I was taken aback.  I thought quickly, remembering the summer when Ann Murray, my best friend nearly drown me in Mrs. Smuck’s back yard pool.  Her elder son, Graham, had to pull me out of the pool, drenched in clorinated water looking like a skinny drowned chiuaua.  HE had saved me.  A moment later I realized she meant, ‘SAVED,’ as in ‘Jesus’ saved. 

I felt on trial.  Her stare was imminent.  I stammered a moment and then with a bright lilt to my voice bellowed forth, ‘why YES, I have.’  I knew I was lying.  I was an intermittent church goer at best, liking only the candlelit Christmas eve services at the Moravian Church that was attached to the girls’ school I attended.

Though I did remember the fascinating stories my roommate Ruthie told me about her father, the Moravian minister, who on occasion would shake up the congregation by walking in on his hands up to the alter. I never seemed to attend during those spectacles but would have liked to. I might have attended church more often had he performed a more regular circus act.

It’s funny how memories can crash into your brain in a moment when engaged by a question. I immediately remembered also being chosen as 3rd grade President of the Sunday school class, begging and pleading with my mother to never go back after my election.  After my successful win of the coveted Presidential role, I’d had the misfortune of playing, ‘Bluebird, bluebird in and out the window’ where 12 young children gathering in a circle while one child danced in and out of the arms of the players, while we in the circle moved and flailed our appendages singing robustly to this cheery song.  Much to my dismay, my left hand swung too close to the face of my adjacent partner and my finger accidently went up Cindy Metzger’s nose.  I was mortified.  There was no WAY I could return, President or not.

But back to Sadie the menacing nurse/Mennonite recuiter.  I learned early in life how to play the ‘game’ to folks persistent on me joining, most ANYTHING really. I learned to avoid being exposed for my rather personal beliefs, (even though they were just budding and not conscious then).  It was my early developmental stage in ‘selective transparency’.

So here I am, living an hour outside of Atlanta in the ‘Bible belt’.  When I first moved here, the owner of the local cleaners asked me, ‘Do you have a church family.’ I hadn’t practiced my skill in being polite yet evasive and certainly didn’t want to insult this neighborly recruiter any more than I wanted to engage Sadie the Mennonite.  I’m not sure what came over me but I just looked him dead in the eye and said, ‘I’m not a Christian.’ I didn’t even feel I needed to follow up with a qualifier, ‘but I’m a good person,’ or, ‘though I have my own spiritual beliefs,’ better yet, ‘but my old roommate’s Dad was a cool, ACROBATIC minister.’ I just felt solid telling the truth, picked up my dry cleaning and went home.

I’m not sure what I am.  I don’t like to define such things, they are too mysterious to me and well, personal, evolving.  Labeling is confining and I’m all about expansion. And, people get threatened, I’ve found, if you’re not in agreement, they want to recruit.  I’d rather someone follow me throughout the day or week and they can assess who or what they think I am if it’s that important.  They’ll find no doubt that I, (like you I’ll bet), are a mix-match of many things.  At the end of the day I hope I was more loving than not.  And if I did my best, well, to quote a playwright friend of mine, Kay Butler,

‘all you can do is all you can do and all you can do is enough.’

I’ve been resonating with that quote a lot lately.

Tom Waits, (a favorite poet and artist of mine) says it well, I feel, in his performance of what I might call the ‘post ecumenical movement’.  But that’s just me.   Freedom of thought, freedom of expression, of belief…..horrah for the seekers, the voyagers, the Magellans of the earth.  It’s all good.  And clearly horrah for Jesus! Might we all be more like him!

And for fun, a little song I wrote on religion…

I Found Religion

I found religion and it ain’t in a church,
I found religion and it’s on my back porch,
I found religion for the quick and the slow,
I found religion and ya’ll be happy to know,

All are invited Catholic and Jew,
Muslim and Buddist, Agnostic too,
I found religion now don’t push and don’t shove,
It ain’t a big mystery, It’s all about love,

So put down yer brimstone, yer fire and rules,
Let’s keep it simple and let’s change all the schools,
I found religion and the blessings abound,
It’s all about lovin and living right now!

I found religion and it ain’t in a church,
I found religion and it’s on my back porch,
I found religion for the quick and the slow,
I found religion for every Sally an Joe!

Here’s to love!

BB Webb