When there is no evidence of light, when the night sky is seemingly pitch dark at a pivotal time of 2 or 3 am, that is when the planet Venus pierces the blackness. It is just a pinpoint and it looks as though it is wavering, and perhaps will be extinguished and defeated. And yet, the night has no power. When it is seemingly the darkest time, the night is actually desperate, frighteningly aware of its imminent exposure and death. The Bright Morning Star then propels forward the glorious, all-consuming Sun. The cycle happens over and over, but one day there will be no night.
The appearance of the world is false, just as the power of the night is false. I think these thoughts after learning about the shooting in Orlando at a GLBTQ nightclub. It’s everywhere in the news, hot on the heels of the Stanford rape case. The media coverage of such horrors is a nightmare unto itself. But strangely enough the power of love, gentleness, compassion, justice and hope is ignited like a wildfire… I feel it burning and it brings me to tears!
Intolerance for the gay community is evil, just as hatred for Muslims is evil, just as rape culture is evil. Access to excessive guns, weaponry and ammunition is foolish. If it wasn’t obvious before, it is blatantly obvious now! The actions of one distorted, angry, isolated individual is simply that… the actions of an individual, yet one who lives in a society where hateful thought is easy to retrieve and fuel oneself if it is sought out. He or she may have had their mind twisted by false doctrine, sickness and lies, but the power of love repeatedly dominates over such actions, intent on destroying. It seems so dark right now, but this is the turning point.
I hope for new gun policy, new attitudes of tolerance and compassion, and restored communities who might be living in fear. I also hope that there is a real understanding that when one person approaches a high school, a church, a mosque, a gay club, a funeral, a marketplace, a business tower, or wherever, with the intention to maim and destroy life, whatever or whoever they claim allegiance to is simply called “evil.” Throughout history the name of the allegiance might change depending on structures of power / insecurity / cowardice, but ultimately it is all the same.
It’s too easy to condemn religion. That kind of sweeping statement suggests ignorance when you consider all those who have pursued their faith with the intention of humility, gentleness and love. For example, those individuals who truly practise Ramadan seek to quiet their hearts and fast. This is the time for focused charity, generosity, and prayer. Anything else is a distortion and an abomination.
I feel the same when I hear of acts and words by so-called “Christians” that are judgmental, condemning, greedy, violent, racist, prejudice, and frankly are insane. What does such behaviour have to do with following Christ? Absolutely nothing. If a so-called Christian harbours feelings of homophobia, they are simply on par with the so-called Muslim man who committed this murder… a person of evil, not a person of faith or love.
It is hurtful to be remotely associated with bigots and hypocrites, but I plan to continue to claim Christianity as my own, and what I know it to be deep down at the heart of things, in the quiet still morning. I also feel confident that the Muslim man at the corner store, who closes shop for a moment each day to pray, who greets his customers with a beautiful, gentle smile, remembering his customers names, does not feel slightly aligned with the shooting. I wouldn’t dare clump him in with such actions. I claim allegiance to the weak and powerless, the gentle hermits and the poets.
Speaking of poets, I recently watched a netflix documentary on the mystical practise of Sufism, Rumi, and the whirling dervishes which is under the umbrella of Islam. The “Ancient Origins” website explains things below:
“The Mevlevi Order was founded by the followers of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi (popularly referred to as Rumi) in 1273. Rumi was a 13th century Islamic spiritual leader who was born in 1207 in Balkh in present day Afghanistan. With the onset of the Mongol invasion of Central Asia between 1215 and 1220, Rumi’s family journeyed westwards, eventually settling down in Konya, Anatolia, in present day Turkey.
One of Rumi’s most fruitful friendships was with Shams-e Tabrizi, whom he met at the age of 37. Among other things, Shams had introduced Rumi to music, poetry and dance as a mystical way of connecting with the divine. It is these artistic expressions that are the characteristic features of the whirling dervishes of the Mevlevi Order, which was founded after Rumi’s death by his son, Sultan Veled, his disciple Çelebi Hüsamettin, and his grandson Ulu Arif Çelebi.”
The interesting part to me was how Islamic extremists actually condemn Sufism because of its love of dance and music as a way to pray, meditate and connect with God. For years (since 1925) Sufis in modern day Turkey have had to meet underground to pray, sing and dance, because they are banned. There is now some tolerance because of tourism, as the whirling dervishes are seen as spectacle, when it is actually a counter-cultural religious movement! How awesome is that? The fact that western civilization reveres the poetry of Rumi is also very fascinating. The descriptive sentiments of love, light, wisdom and compassion resonate across cultures, even if Rumi is not fully understood, and I think that is okay. Our hearts are human.
On Facebook, a friend reflected on how the gay dance club is a home and safe place for Queer people to dance and feel free, historically underground. I then think of how many times in history a gay poet or celebrity is one minute adored, then suddenly condemned after being outed. Who has this right to condemn? Extremists may think themselves entitled to do so, but such thought is comical and a farce.
I also enjoyed speculating on how the early Christian desert Mothers and Fathers, living as hermits, repeating the “Jesus Prayer” with their prayer rope, living in Syria and Egypt had close ties and even influence upon Sufi meditation, which was alluded to in the documentary. I imagine these desert mystics whether Sufi or Christian, felt that they had more in common with each other, living a solitary path in communion with God, than with those practising mainstream Religion.
I even wonder if most Western Christians understand their middle eastern origins? To look at a crew of Coptic Christians in Egypt, or Orthodox monks in Greece, would they feel a sense of connection and understanding? I want to be open and curious, aware of cultural differences, but trying to see to the gold veins that weave through us all.
All this to say that there are many things in common with religions at the heart, being peace, love, justice, simplicity, compassion and humility, just as there are also things in common at the extremes of religion, including power, greed, hatred, insecurity, and violence. The choice is where to look. Do you sum up a faith by the extremes or by its true core values, undiluted by human failing? I choose the truth because the truth is hopeful.
The media may be littering your mind’s eye with violence, but this is still an exciting and beautiful time to be alive. I suspect the gay community may be on the brink of saving America, and I pray that those who have an ounce of Christian understanding in the U.S.A. will be humbled by this unfolding! Bring on the gun legislation, and shame to those who cling to their rights to violent acts and violent tools.
For a final message for those who are in pain right now, Rumi writes:
“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”