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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Adjusting back to the “West”

by @ 9:38 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants
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Men cleaning their feet for evening prayer at the Jama Masjid Mosque in Delhi India.

I have to admit, I have struggled a little with coming back.  I came back to multiple projects at work, a death of a close friend, and the news media filled with riots, rapes, murders, corruption, and all sorts of other bad news I had not seen since I hadn’t been reading the news while I was away.

One thing I have been thinking over the past week or so since coming back to the US from India is this is a religious country and not a spiritual country. Lots of obsession with dogma and adherence to a faith and yet little spirituality of actually putting the dogma into practice. Here people are very critical of people adhering to dogma. Any dogma not like yours is heresy or militant evil. Everyone who believes, does, or lives differently is the enemy. We may be polite about it and we still think those who are different than us are going to hell. We claim to be a Christian Nation, yet look at what is happening in Ferguson. Look at what is happening on Wall Street. I hear the dogma and I don’t see the principles of Christianity lived out in the Christian nation. The same could be said about other regions here in the US. Lots of rules, and lists of those “destroying” the nations, and few people living out the principles of faith.

I definitely saw something different in India. There were dozens of religions yet people seem to live on the principles of those religions rather than the dogma of those faiths. People didn’t seem to respect particular religions. They seem to respect how well you lived the faith you professed to believe. What was respected is that you displayed the traits of a Hindu, a muslim, a Buddhist, or a Christian. Karma is king. Can you walk your talk? I don’t see that here in this “christian nation” where the recent news is filled with injustice, killing, and moral judgement of others. People seem more interested in posted a monument to the ten commandments but not interested in living those commandments. The same politicians who want to build monuments to the ten commandments also support the second amendment despite the 6th commandment that clearly says, with no holds barred, thou shall not kill.

On the one of days we spent shopping at the Kahn Market in New Delhi, we happen to get caught in the downpour of monsoon.  A shop keeper saw that the paper shopping bag I was carrying was falling apart due to the wet weather.  Even though I did not purchase anything from him at his store, he still sent his worker to give me a plastic bag to protect my purchases.  I was moved enough by this action, that weeks later I am still writing about it.  What I remember most is his smile.  He found such great joy at contributing to my well being in that moment.  I found great joy is his actions.

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Carvings in the Jain Temple in Delhi, India.

India may be dirty, polluted, and smell funny and it also has a sense of spirituality everywhere I went. There were shrines, reminders, and smiling faces who responded to greetings from others (or at least from those who are western). The west has much to learn from the east about religious dogma versus spirituality. What does it mean to walk the talk?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Joe Brummer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, July 11, 2014

A School 4 Kayimet

by @ 2:41 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication, Poverty

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Punishment & Peace

by @ 6:34 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants

I keep trying to explain to people my theory that punishment is the root of all violence. I think this article from the Huffington Post shows the true effects of punishment and violence. It shows the thinking behind violence and punishment and how they are linked. Violence is the way we make other people “get what we think they deserve.” Punishment and Peace are incompatible ideas. They cannot co-exist. To end violence on the planet we need to end the idea of making people “pay” for things they have done. I agree with the words of Marshall Rosenberg who is quoted as saying, “All violence stems from people being tricked into believing other people are the source of their pain and therefore deserve to be punished.” The true solution is to teach people how to restore the harm and the community rather than punishing. When children do something “wrong” we do best to teach them how to make it “right” not punishing them.

This is also the reason I believe we need to promote Restorative Justice as the alternative to punitive measures.  It is what I believe we need to do if we want more peace.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Journey Into Nonviolence Continues

by @ 6:45 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants

I have been writing this blog about my journey into Nonviolence since late 2006.  It has taken me though the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence’s Training of Trainers program in Kingian Nonviolence.  It has led me to study, practice and even sharing of Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication.  It influenced me being trained in mediation and even changing my career from mental health training and community organizing  to working the field of mediation, peace building, and conflict resolution.  Now, it is leading me to continue my quest to live a nonviolent life by taking me to India to take part in the Teaching for Peace Program.

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I am excited to be going to India for a number of reasons and one is the chance to visit sites that were linked to the life of Gandhi.  As one of the larger influences in my own understanding of Nonviolence, it will be a life changing to see and be in the spaces relevant to his life.   I am also excited to see the Buddhist Ajanta caves and the Taj.

As part of this program, participants are asked to reframe from meat, diary, alcohol, drugs, etc…while they are in the three week program.  To prep for this, I started eating a vegetarian diet on June 1st and with a few exceptions like a nice dinner with friends this week, I am staying away from alcohol.  Really thinking this trip will be taking me slightly out of my comfort zone and that I wanted to prepare for that ahead of time rather than be thrown into eating different at the same time.

I am also hoping to make this trip traveling as light as possible.  I want minimal stuff to come with me and I don’t mind wearing the same clothes over and over if it means I can trace light.   Feel free to comment and give me tips on making that happen!

The program is focused on nonviolence in educational settings and even takes us into a few schools in India to see how they do it.  I am excited to be getting this inside look at Ahimsa in schools.   We will be looking at how Ahimsa (nonviolence) carries into schools and educational settings.  How do you do classroom management using the principles and fundamental basics of Ahimsa?  I am guessing I will learn as I am there.

I must admit preparing for this trip has been stressful.  It is all about rethinking your comfort zone.  What makes you deal well with the surroundings you are in?   The food?  The accommodations?  The water?  Bathrooms?  Sometimes the stuff you think nothing about is the stuff that makes a trip to India life changing.  What changes your life?

Keep checking back, as I plan to post some updates!   I also plan to updates and build up the site “Speakcompassion.com” which isn’t up to speed yet and I hope it to be a place where I can blog this trip and let others with me blog too!   Keep watching….  I also plan to invite the key players in bringing Nonviolent Communication, Compassion, Restorative Justice, and education reform to this blog.  Check out speakcompassion.com for posts about my trip to india, my thoughts on India and Nonviolence, and to hear from others who share my vision about bringing nonviolence education to CT and beyond.

 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A School for Kayimet: Marshall Rosenberg Classroom for Peace

by @ 1:39 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

 

The land where the school is to be built

Trinity Episcopal Church on the Green in Branford, CT has begun a project to build a school in the town of Kayimet in Northern Haiti.  As a part of that mission, they are allowing those who donate $7000.00 to have the rights to name a classroom. I, Joe Brummer, author of this site,  want to name a classroom the:

Marshall Rosenberg Classroom for Peace.”

I am asking my friends, family, and those who are supporters of Nonviolent Communication and Marshall’s incredible work throughout the world to donate to this cause.  Why?  So every kid that passes through that room asks the question, Who is Marshall Rosenberg and what’s he got to do with peace?

About the project:

Trinity Church was introduced to the people of Kayimet through the work of Global Health Ministry. Rev. Sharon Gracen and Janet Constantino, a nurse practitioner who attends Trinity, have taken part in this non-profit organization’s yearly trip to Haiti. The visits to the villages are to set up health clinics that are organized by Sister Jackie Picard, from the convent The Religious of Jesus and Mary, in Gros Morne, the nearest town to Kayimet. She is one of our local partners for this project.

The plan is to build a two story building, built to the best earthquake and hurricane resistant standards, that will house seven classrooms, a cafeteria, clinic, office, restrooms and showers. It will also include a food pantry, and a storage facility which will qualify Kayimet for distributions from the World Food Program.

Who is Marshall Rosenberg and why name a room after him?

Marshall Rosenberg is the founder of the Center for Nonviolent Communication

Marshall Rosenberg has been a huge influence in my life and my work.  While I agree, it is odd to name a room after someone who is still alive and well, my hope is that those who have also been influenced and touched by Marshall’s work in Nonviolent Communication would agree this is a worthy cause and would enjoy seeing Marshall’s name attached to something so worthy! It is also my hope that this school could one day be a giraffe school.  While that is further down the line, this is a nice start.

How Can you Help:

Trinity Episcopal Church is serving as the project facilitator, which also allows all contributions to receive tax deduction eligibility (please consult your tax advisor). Donations can be made by check or online with PayPal*. Send your check to Trinity Church, 1109 Main Street, Branford, CT, 06405.  Please note Kayimet School-ROSENBERG in the memo line of your check so your donation will go to the Kayimet School Project and the naming of the classroom for Marshall Rosenberg. The funds will be held in a discrete account and wired as appropriate to our onsite partner in Haiti, Sister Jackie at The Religious of Jesus and Mary convent in Gros Morne.  ALL proceeds from donations, less wire transfer fees, will go directly toward the Kayimet School project.

DONATE ON THE WEBSITE: A School for Kayimet

*To donate using Paypal, there will be a box on the second page of your PayPal process that allows you to make notes, please type Kayimet School-ROSENBERG in the note field.

If you have questions, or would like to talk to someone who has actually been to Kayimet, contact Rev. Sharon Gracen atrector47@trinitybranford.org.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

10 Ways to Give Up Violence for Lent

by @ 3:12 pm. Filed under Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Recently, I was asked by a local church to do a series on Nonviolent Communication (NVC) in celebration of Lent. During this time, Christians are suppose to give something up in penance for the 40-days before Easter, we chose to name the series: Giving Up Violence: Communicating Compassionately in a World of Conflict.  I was thinking that going beyond just learning Nonviolent Communication, I really want to challenge those who attend to actually give up violence for Lent.  So many people believe in their hearts that they are not violent, that is until we really look at our daily lives and see exactly what violence we help to support on the planet.  So here are my 10 suggestions for doing this.

1. Give up Violent TV, video games, and Movies:   Stop supporting violence as a form of entertainment!  No more Law & Order, no more Criminal minds, even Pretty Little Liars or other shows that focus on murder, killing, revenge and crime.  No movies with explosions, wars, machine guns, or scenes where violence is celebrated.  There are many films and movies where violence is implied and never seen. While I prefer those over the blatant killing, blood, guts, and gore.  I would even try to avoid those.  See if you can get through just 40-days of not allowing those violent images into your mind and heart. In stead for these 40-days, find movies and tv that will make you laugh (not at other’s expense), movies and tv that will inspire and feed your spirit.  Stuff that makes you smile or weep in joy. Look for romance movies, feel good comedies, documentaries that inspire you to be and do more.  Try watching the movie “Happy” rather than the show called revenge. OR even better yet, read a book!

Also, put down the video game controller that allows you to shoot people, run little old ladies over with cars, and stab people with magic swords.  See if for just the 40 days of lent, you can make it without killing anyone in the cyber world for points or pleasure.  Especially for those who are younger and teen boys, this constant barrage of violence is having an effect on your spirit and your life.  Now contrary to popular scare tactics, these games don’t turn youth into serial killers, but they do have effects on youth.  Some studies have shown these games won’t make kids more prone to violence but will make them more prone to believing they will be the victims of violence. While other studies show these games actually change the brains of healthy young men between the ages of 18-29.  While we are still unsure what those changes mean, I would bet that NOT playing games that fill your soul with violence would have far more impact than actually playing them.

I have been following the work of educator and author, Jackson Katz for many years.  His work focuses on the fact we as a nation are addicted to violence and that the vast majority of violence is perpetrated by men and young boys.  As we continue to fill our system with violent imagery, we are also teaching young men and boys that to be a man is to be masculine.  I explore this much further in a post written last year.  You can read it here.

 

2. Keep a Violence Journal: So many of us don’t realize violence is more than just physical. It is also the amount of emotional violence we inflict on others.  We may not do it on purpose and we still do it.  The name calling, the put downs, the judgements, maybe even the simple acts of gossip are all forms of violence.  One of our worst uses of violence is to shut others down when they need us.  We send kids away for a “time out” to punish them yet it is the times we think they deserve our love the least are the times they need it the most.  Write down daily all the violence you own. Write down the nasty stuff you said under your breath about the lady who cut you off on the highway.  Write down that you cut in line at the supermarket.  Write down that you flipped off the guy driving to slow while you passed him.  Even write down how you refused to help with the dishes to get back at your spouse for not listening to you about your day.   The more aware of your violence you are the more you will be likely to change it.

3. Give up “Power-Over”:  Be mindful during these 40-days of how you use power.  If you are truly using nonviolence then you seek to use power-with and calibration to achieve your goals.  Give up on the idea you can make people do stuff by using threats, bribes, rewards, punishment, or fear. Seek only to share power on decisions.  Don’t use power to get your way to meet needs, attempt to negotiate ways to meet everyone’s needs.  Conflict really happens at the strategy level, not the needs level.  As you become aware of all the times in the day you were about to use power-over or when you discover you had already done it, add it to your violence journal.

4. Give up violence to the earth: Make sure you recycle everything you possibly can and make sure you are mindful are where your trash will end up.  Make sure the chemicals and cleaning products you use are kind to the earth and to the other creatures we share this planet with.  Skip products that have been tested on animals.  Buy local and organic foods when it is possible.  Use paper or reusable bags at the grocery store instead of plastic.  Get yourself a refillable, reusable water bottle rather than drinking bottled water.

5. Give up Self-Violence:  It is amazing the things we say and do to ourselves we would never say or do to others.  The name calling, the put downs, and even the excesses we ingest into our bodies can be horrible forms of self-violence.  The biggest form on violence on this planet is the violence we inflict on ourselves.   We tell ourselves we are not good enough, not pretty enough, not man enough, not smart enough.   We feed our bodies poisons and foods that hurt our systems.  We take drugs and eat junk food in excess.  We drink sodas with more chemicals than we can even pronounce.  These are all forms of self-violence.   Be kind to yourself.  Find self-compassion.  Eat foods that comfort and sustain you without killing you.

6. Give up the word “SHOULD”: One of the ways we drive violence in our lives is having these locked expectations of how each of us “should” be.  Aside from the unhappiness this inflexible way of living causes, thinking in terms of should is one of the ways we justify and fuel our anger and sometimes our violence.  YOU SHOULD BE MORE….  I SHOULD HAVE BEEN.  The word should is laced in blame thinking and blame often leads us to violence.  Change the word “should” to a simple “I would like.”

7. Give Up right/wrong thinking:  The biggest problem with right/wrong, good/bad thinking is that the lines are so blurry.  One persons “right” is another person’s “wrong”.  One person’s freedom fighter is another persons terrorist.  The terms have a hidden baggage that comes with them and that why Marshall Rosenberg referred to them as “Deserve Language.”  They are basic moral judgements of others that secretly tell what punishment or reward we think people should get. Sadly, that is an easy way to justify violence against others.  They are bad, therefore….  Change all of your moral judgments into values judgments.  Instead of worry about who is wrong or right, good or bad, look at what universal human needs are met or not met. You have a much better chance of remain peaceful when you see the needs in other humans rather than what you think they deserve.  I wrote more about disconnecting language like this in this older post.

8. Drive Peacefully:  One of my early mentors in nonviolence told me that if I could master nonviolence in my car, I could master it in my life.  When they cut you off, instead of calling them a maniac, think about your own needs unmet and then give some empathy.  Maybe they honestly didn’t see you, we all make mistakes.  While it is tempting to respond in violence and flip them the middle finger with our scary mean face, that response hurts us more then them.  When people are going too slow for you, empathize that this may be the first time they have driven their car since their big accident.  They may be nervous and would request your patience.  Would you give it to them?  All the names we call people prevent us from connecting with the needs that keep us human.  They prevent us from seeing each other’s humanity.

9. Give Up Punishment:  So much of the violence we have on the planet stems from the belief that others have wronged us and therefore they “should” be punished.  In our schools, our homes, and our streets we are always trying to make people “pay” for what they have done.  We misguidedly believe that people learned valuable lessons from punishment and nothing could be further from the truth. Punishment has several big problems:

PEOPLE NEED OUR LOVE THE MOST WHEN WE THINK THEY DESERVE IT THE LEAST!  Here are some tips to end the use of punishment

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10. Give up BLAME!  For the 40-days of lent, take responsibility for all of your actions.  That means giving up the phrase “I have to” and “I had no choice.”  The reality is we always have a choice about how we respond in the world.  We may not choose the things that happen to us and we do get to choose our response.  In William Glasser’s Choice Theory, he explains that the only behavior we can control is our own.  No one controls us and we don’t control them.   Our reality is that our universal human needs cause our feelings and our actions.  We do things because they meet our needs for fun, love, worth, or freedom.  Everything we do is our choice and it is generally in the service of one or more of those needs.  In others works, nobody made us do it.  We don’t “Have to” do anything, we choose to because it meets our needs. Think of any activity you believe you “have to” do and change it to “choose to because it meets my need for….”  By owning our actions and allowing others to own theirs, we give up the blame that so often leads to violence.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jesus and Nonviolence

by @ 1:48 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants

While many of you know I am an unabashed atheist, I also attend a church every week. I enjoy the sense of community and I also appreciate the message of peace and nonviolence demanded in almost every religion ever known. Today, the national Episcopal church reading for this Sunday was Matthew 5:38-48.

Eye for Eye
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[b] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

These passages happen to be my favorite parts of the Christian bible. It comes from the Sermon on the Mount (I prefer Luke’s version of it) where Christ pretty much laid out his plan that nonviolence is the way we are to respond to violence and injustice. The line about turning the other cheek is so often misunderstood as a passive allowance of evil and injustice. It is not. It is the turning of one’s head to force an opponent to hit you as an equal.  In the time of Christ, it the left hand was considered evil.  If you were to hit someone such as a slave being hit by a Roman Soldier, you would do it with a closed fist.  If you were to hit an equal, you would hit them with an open hand.  When someone tries to hit you on the right cheek and you turn your head an offer your left, you are forcing them to hit you as an equal.  Since it is physically impossible to hit someone backhand on the left side with your right hand.  This is one of the ways the bible reminds us we are all equal, we are all connected.
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Whether or not you believe in god or the bible, that is one powerful message.  The message was a huge inspiration to the entire foundation of Gandhi’s Satyagraha and ahimsa. Along with his own Hindu faith, Gandhi deeply believed in the message that came from the Sermon the Mount of Olives.  It has long been rumored that when asked by Lord Irwin what would solve the problems between Britain and India, Gandhi picked up a bible and turned to the passages in Gospel of Matthew and said,
“When your country and mine shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in this Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems not only of our countries but those of the whole world.” (source)
We also all know Gandhi referenced the famous quote “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”  We must find ways to work together to find solutions and collaborations to our problems rather than find ways to punish each other’s actions.  I truly believe punishment is a root of all violence on this planet.  End punishment and you will end all violence.  An eye for an eye is nothing more than you hurt me, then you deserve for me to hurt you back.  It is retribution and punitive thinking like this that fuels so much of the violence on our streets, in our homes, and in our counties.

Lately,  I see many “pro-family” leaders who are doing their best to stand their own religious morals using terms to describe gays like “gaystopo” and “Gay-k-k” or the even more popular, “homofascist” which I am not even sure makes any sense.  These terms are really ways of creating enemy images of others.  They are ways to portray an adversary and an enemy.  Funny, most of those using these terms claim to do it in the name of god and yet, its is pretty clear in the passages we are talking about, Jesus Christ commanded otherwise.

Today’s reading was a great reminder to us that every religion in some way or another reminds us that peace is not the end result, its the way to get there. Read on for the real meaning behind turn the other cheek. http://streetpastor.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/turn-the-other-cheek/

And here is a Nonviolence in Action story (hat tip to Sal) that directly puts line 40 in the above passage into perspective and real life:  http://www.tickld.com/x/this-man-got-mugged-what-he-did-next-was-genius

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Gay Rights Movement

by @ 1:52 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants, Nonviolence

Martin-Luther-King-Jr-9365086-2-402Recently, Matt Barber wrote a piece for World Net Daily about what he believes Martin Luther King, Jr.’s position would be on gay rights. While it is impossible to really know where King would have really stood, everyone wants to make these assumptions because it simply helps their cause.  Of course, Matt lines King’s beliefs with his own based on things King said about gays back in 1958.  The trouble with this logic is that if we really want to make a prediction about where King would have stood on Gay rights in 2014, his 1958 words won’t tell us nearly as much as the Six Principles and Six Steps of Nonviolence already tell us.

King lived his life based on the principles of nonviolence.  He took those from both his Christian beliefs which basically mandate nonviolence in both thought and action for Christians, and from a well studied and meditated review of philosophy, theology, and personal experience.  His Pilgrimage to Nonviolence was an amazing testament to that study.  His message and his work evolved beyond just civil rights for blacks in his later years and moved to a campaign against poverty and his opposition to the war in Vietnam.   It is my belief based on my study not just on King, but on those principles he based his life on that he would have evolved to see rights for gays and lesbians not just as a civil rights issue but a human rights issue.

For starters, I believe King would have followed the steps of Nonviolence.  He would have started by gathering the most current information on all sides.  That is the first step he put out there on Nonviolence.   He would have wanted all the info on the science and current theological arguments both for and against rights for gays and lesbians.  I think even King, who was well documented for being a scholar, would have been overwhelmed by the sheer amounts of information some of which is accurate some not so much.

Next, I would imagine King would have gone to Step 2 in his Steps of Nonviolence.  He would have educated everyone involved with what he had gathered and learned.  In almost mediator fashion, King would have laid out all arguments on both sides and tried to make some sense of them.  He would have consulted and met with all those involved on all sides of the issues.

For these reasons, I believe King would have come to the same conclusions both socially and theologically that gays rights are more than just civil rights, they human rights.

We also have the evidence of his words in the Pilgrimage to Nonviolence.  King clearly showed his own evolution of thought on liberalism, socialism, communism, and social evils.  It shows a man who searched for the truth, the answers.  I am completely positive that King would have continued the search for truth.  He would have thought homosexuality as evil in 1958.  He would have also evolved his thinking by 2014.

I also believe King would have been extremely opposed to the language and violence of words used to discuss the issues.  Words like homofascism, heterofascism, GayKK, and even the word bigot would have brought about strong objection from King as they are personally attacks on people and not actions.  King’s principles would not have approved of calling anti-gay folks like Peter LaBarbera names like “porno peter” which I also personally find unhelpful.

King’s principles were to build the Beloved Community and in that, he hoped we would all find ways to live with our differences.  It is for those convictions, I think he would have supported and affirmed gay couples, same-sex marriages, and human rights for gays and lesbians.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Choose Nonviolence, Choose Peace!

by @ 12:43 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants

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Can you be a Christian Atheist?

by @ 12:08 pm. Filed under Atheism, Joe's Rants

I keep hearing this term tossed around by Christians referring to other Christians as not “True Christians.” I have been pondering exactly what does it mean to be a true Christian or even a Christian at all.  I also suppose we could be talking about Islam and Hinduism as well.  What constitutes one being “X” religion.

On one hand, you would assume that each person calling themselves a Christian, Muslim, or whatever they are would mean they are a believer.  The question becomes a believer in what?  The message,  the person, the deity?  One might also assume that calling someone a Christian means they are a follower of Christ.  The next question would be a follower of the message, the book, or the deity?  Simply put, does one have to believe in the divinity of a god to be considered a Christian, a Muslim, or a Hindu? If you believe in the message of Christ, does that make you a Christian?

Beyond all that, what are they so called “true” Christians and what does that make all the other people who call themselves Christians?  What is the criteria for being a “true” Christian?  Who decides the true Christians from the other ones?

The bible as a book of guidance on how to live your life has some great messages.  It also has some messages I believe to be harmful and hurtful to us as a human race. I think the god of the bible is petty and vengeful. You’d think that such a powerful being would have mastered anger, vengeance, and other petty human traits.   I still think like many books, there are some great lessons about who we are and who we could be as people.  I believe the same is true of most religious texts.  Lots of amazing lessons to help us be better at being human, being compassionate, being good to each other. Each has some amazing version of the “golden rule” about how to be.   If I follow those messages, do I get to call myself a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu?  And who gets to decide if I am a “true” Christian, Muslim, or Hindu?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Responding to Matt Barber’s WND Article

by @ 2:16 pm. Filed under Atheism, Joe's Rants, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Last night, religious pundit, Matt Barber published a piece for the e-commentary site, World News Daily. The site is more of a opinion site than a news site. I wouldn’t have even paid this article a second glance except Matt tweeted 31 tweets in a row linking to the article, which actually made me laugh out loud.  I wonder if Matt was afraid we’d mis it if he didn’t post it repeatedly.  Oddly, his tactic worked because I actually read his article.

Matt’s article was in opposition to atheists, nonbelievers, and Planned Parenthood.  He wrote the article in response to a previous article by a woman named, Valerie Tarico, where she writes her opinions about the signs she sees leading her to believe that “fundamentalism is going down”.  Matt’s article makes some interesting claims that have nudged at my intellectual neurons just enough to make me feel like writing, something I haven’t been up on doing for the last several years.

First, before I jump to thoughts on the article, I want to put out there that one of the reasons I stopped writing about gay rights, religion, and nonviolence was the challenges that come from living compassionately and nonviolently while still respectfully being able to challenge ideas.  I sometimes find this blog itself has been a journey of that.  If you go back to my original posts from 2006 and compare them to the stuff I wrote in the past few years, the is a huge differences to be seen in my response to things I believe are harmful and things and people with which I disagree.  It has been part of my reason for not writing, I need to keep growing in my own understanding of nonviolence, respect, and compassion first.  Now, onto Matt’s article.

I think what has struck me most about this article is the strong tone of black and white thinking that seems to permeate our current culture.  We have been living in this “all this-all that” mindset for just far longer than I like.  I amazed how many people ask if I am for or against guns or even gun control as if those are simple yes or no answers.  The same is true of socialism, communism, marxism, abortion, god, nationalism.  You are either for these things or against them rather than a spectrum of ideas.  We Americans seem to feel more at ease if we take complex and colorful concepts and simplify them into black and white issues.  My experience of the world is that life just isn’t that simple and neither are these issues.

Matt’s article is heavy in the language of sides.  You are either a north American progressive or a god fearing conservative.  You are on god’s side or satan’s side.  You are either for god or against god and by that, he is only referring to his god and none others.  Again, I don’t think the world is this simplistic.

Matt writes:

For those of us so very blessed to have raised our personal white flag in mankind’s inherently fruitless struggle against the Creator, there can be no joy in watching God-deniers continue to labor under the grandest of all deceptions. Regardless of how nasty they may be as individuals, there can be only sadness, genuine pity and prayer.

First off, I want to say I totally get what Matt is saying. I can empathize with this pain because I share the exact same sentiments just from the other view.  It is painful for me to watch religious folks to labor under what I would call the greatest of deceptions.  Over the years, I have found no joy or pleasure in watching people engage in things in which I don’t believe. This includes god, psuedo-science, homeopathic medicines, chiropractors, and acupuncture.  Where Matt and I differ is that I am working in my life to find compassion for those who believe different stuff than me.  I really want to have empathy and understanding as opposed to pity.

I also am not really sure what a “god-denier” actually is.  How do you deny what you do not believe exists.  I personally don’t believe in a god.  There is no more denial in that than there is the fact I also don’t believe in ghosts?  Does that make me a ghost-denier? I don’t believe in homeopathic medicine.  Does that make me a homeopathic medicine denier? Makes me wonder why Matt would make such a choice for a label?  Does he not really understand how belief works?  Does he simply think everyone who doesn’t believe really does believe and they are faking it with denial?  Not sure I could make any logical sense of that and then again, is there any logical sense to be made of it?

Belief is an interesting concept Matt seems to only grasp in terms of choice.  Reality is we don’t actually choose what we believe.  We take in the evidence (and I use that term lightly) and come to our own conclusions.  Even if we wanted to believe in something, we cannot make ourselves believe.  I certainly can’t wake up tomorrow and say, “Yup, I am deciding I believe in unicorns” and then actually do it. Doesn’t work out that way.  I could say I believe in god and the fact is, I don’t.  It would be  lie if I said I did. I also know I can’t make myself believe in god anymore than I could make myself believe in ghosts, psychics, or the Loch Ness Monster.

The flip side of this, and a fact that has built much compassion in me for those who do believe, Matt won’t be waking up tomorrow and making a choice not to believe.  He has read and heard the evidence and it has led him to believe there is a god and that it is the god of the Christian bible.  He couldn’t stop believing that by choice anymore than I could start believing it by choice.

I find his comment about nonbelievers being “nasty” as just his anger that people like me don’t see what he sees the way he sees it.  Guess what, Matt?  I don’t see what you see and it doesn’t make me nasty, sad, unhappy, or anything of the sort.  I will say that I miss my belief in god and Jesus.  I was raised a Catholic.  I went to mass most weeks.  I was an alter-boy in 6th and 7th grades.  I also went to Catholic Schools for all of my schooling.  I studied scripture in high school and for a short time in my early teens, I sincerely wanted to join the priesthood.  I had very strong beliefs then that god existed and that he and I were actually talking to each other when I prayed.  Something I did often.

Over time, those beliefs changed and faded.  There was no one reason for this but many.  I do have to admit, the kicker for me was the realization that religion was more geographical then factual.  Most people are the religion they are because they were born into it by location.  If I had been born in the East, I might be a Hindu or a Muslim.  Since I was born in the USA, I happen to be Christian.

I do miss my “beliefs” in god.  I sometimes think it would be lovely to wake up tomorrow and believe there is a god.  On the other hand, I am also happy I that won’t happen.  There was a lot of comfort to be found in it.  There was also a great sense of community going to church each Sunday and being involved with church activities.  That is why, while not a Catholic church, I do still attend a church.  The pastor of the church knows I am an atheist.  She also knows I joined this church because of the social justice work they are doing around hunger, Haiti, and the homeless.  I get a little freaked out by the whole communion thing because I see it differently than I when I was a kid.  It now seems a bit odd that people are eating flesh and blood regardless of whom they think it belongs.  Either way, I still enjoy going, especially for the sermon  which generally meets with my values.

Matt also writes a few paragraphs about there being no freedom unless you are a believer.  Of course, I would ask Matt, what is your definition of freedom?  I don’t think I felt anymore freedom when I was a believer than I feel now except now that I don’t believe, I no longer struggle with odd and outdated rules about morality that makes little sense to me.  In fact, I might say I feel an increased sense of freedom in my life because I am no longer held down by dogma.

Matt writes:

When God-deniers like Ms. Tarico dig in their heels, a pitiable paradox occurs. While they think they’ve achieved intellectual enlightenment and freedom, they have, instead, been played for the fool. They have become slaves to the flesh, and playthings to the enemy.

I have never met anyone who thinks they have more intellectual enlightenment and freedom through the strategy of “god-denial” whatever that means.  I don’t think I ever met anyone who thinks intellectual enlightenment is an achievement that is achievable.  I would go as far as to say, what does that even mean.  Next, I just laughed at the slaves to the flesh comment.  I can assure you Matt think about and writes about sexuality way more than any nonbeliever I know.

Ultimately, I see Matt’s entire article as a way of drumming up fear and hate for people who don’t believe in Matt’s god.  My question would be, what purpose does that serve?  Does Matt think he will insult them into believing?  What is Matt’s end game? To turn other believers against those who don’t believe?  Is it to rally the troops of believer into having some reaction?  What is Matt’s intention behind his article?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Heading to Church

by @ 11:25 pm. Filed under Atheism, Empathy, Nonviolence

So, I have been attending a church.  It is a local Episcopal Church in town.  The building has been around for over 100 years.  When you walk inside, the church was designed to look like the inside of a ship turned upside down which makes such sense when you live on the shoreline.  It has two Tiffany stained glass windows I wish they would sell off to the highest bidder and use the money to feed the poor and help the town and I guess I can live with their choice not to do that.  I get they want to hold on to the history.

Don’t get me wrong, nothing has changed.  I still don’t believe in a god, let alone the Christian god.   I struggle a little with some of the readings from the bible, and I definitely struggle with the communion thing each week as I think it is creepy to talk about eating the body of a dead guy.    I stay for two reasons.  One my beautiful and partner and husband wanted to join a church and I could have sent him to do this by himself and that also wouldn’t be me.   I am there because I want us to do this together.  I also think there is something here in this church for me to learn.

Over the years I have gone from a very devout Christian to a die hard nonbeliever.  It has also left me with some intolerance of religion.  That hasn’t changed for me.  I get very frustrated with the lack of critical thinking I see in religion.   It seems people of faith have made a conclusion and then looked for facts and data to back up this conclusion. This is very different from my belief that we have to look at the evidence and come to a conclusion not come to a conclusion and then look for facts to back it up.

I am looking to this local church to teach me tolerance and patience.  Not everyone is where I am and they are happy where they are.  Maybe this whole god thing meets needs for them it clearly doesn’t meet for me.  Can I learn the lesson of understanding for this?  Can I learn to be okay with others believing in stuff I not only believe is crap, I believe this can be harmful?  I don’t know the answers to those questions but they fit with this journey of nonviolence I am trying to take.  So, I have been going to church each Sunday and exploring it.  I love the people and the coffee hour after service.  I am a little freaked out by the rituals.  While some part of me finds them nostalgic, the other parts of me find them creepy.

It will be interesting to see where this takes me and what I will learn.  Mostly, I am hoping to learn a new view and look on believers.  I want to be able to find a place of compassion for those who believe even though I don’t.  While the intellect in me wants to debate with them right and left, the spiritual person in me wants to stay open.  While the atheist in me wants to roll my eyes, the Gandhian follower in me wants to learn a new respect for believers I currently don’t have.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Queer Talk, Caring Talk: Nonviolent Communication for the LGBTQ Community

by @ 12:15 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants

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 Queer Talk, Caring Talk: Nonviolent Communication for the LGBTQ Community (April 25th-28th)

Learn powerful skills of compassionate communication to transform your relationships with yourself and others, in a warm, diverse, and welcoming LGBTQ environment.

Say what you mean, without blaming. Tell others your feelings and needs, simply and clearly. Find your voice. Listen without judging. In this powerful and transformative retreat for those who identify in the LGBTQ spectrum (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, or queer/questioning) we’ll develop skills of Nonviolent Communication, an acclaimed practice pioneered by Marshall Rosenberg. We’ll explore our differences as well as our connections in queer community, share our experiences from varied backgrounds, and discover ways to live fully in the world at a time when gay culture is becoming more visible and accepted in the mainstream, yet heterosexism and homophobia still persist. Join us as we play, laugh, sing, learn, and grow together.

Certified NVC Trainers Dian Killian, Jerry Koch-Gonzalez, and Kristin Masters will be assisted by Phoenix Soleil and Joe Brummer, making the facilitation team diverse across gender, class, race, and ethnicity.
You’ll discover tools of Nonviolent Communication to:This program is designed both for those new to Nonviolent Communication and those with some or extensive prior NVC training; different tracks will be offered for different levels of experience.

* identify your deepest vision and values, and to hear others
* deepen trust, authenticity, and intimacy in your relationships
* handle your internal critics
* relate to and fully accept your sexuality
* deepen connections with others, gay and straight
* move hearts as well as minds across political divides, especially on issues of queer equality
* deepen empathy for yourself and compassion for others in your life

Dian Killian, PhD, is founder and Director of the Center for Collaborative Communication in New York City, a Certified Trainer with the international Center for Nonviolent Communication, and co-author of Connecting across Differences and Urban Empathy: True Life Adventures of Compassion on the Streets of New York. Dian has served as union organizer, in the peace movement, and with Pride at Work. In 2003, she was recognized by NY City Council with a hero award for her efforts around LGBTQ inclusion in New York City. In 2011 she co-lead, with Marshall Rosenberg, an International Intensive Training [IIT] Nonviolent Communication training.

Jerry Koch-Gonzalez is a Certified Trainer in Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and in Sociocracy/Dynamic Governance, founder of New England NVC, and an activist with a passion to share the skills and consciousness that support egalitarian relationships of all kinds. Growing up in Cuba and New York City and identifying as bisexual since college in 1973, he lives with his two children in the Pioneer Valley Cohousing Community in Amherst, MA.

Kristin Masters is a Certified CNVC trainer. She shares from the principles of compassionate communication. As a longtime diversity trainer interested in liberation and awareness of power, she speaks many dialects of street giraffe. And in her love of Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects, Kristin offers an empowering and invigorating approach to social change work. Kristin hails from Santa Cruz, CA, where she is grateful to live and sing in community.

LEARN MORE 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Reduce Bullying by Supporting Peer Mediation

by @ 12:14 pm. Filed under Conflict Resolution, Joe's Rants, Nonviolent Communication

Community Mediation, my day job, is very excited to announce the launch of our IndieGoGo campaign, “Help Kids Making a Difference in Their Communities.” The purpose of this campaign is to raise funds so we can order hoodies for the peer mediators we’ve trained in New Haven area schools; these will help our peer mediators advertise the program, stand out from other students, and be part of something larger than themselves: reduced suspensions, incidents of violence and fighting, and creating a peaceful climate.

The campaign will be up for 55 days, and we are aiming for $8500 dollars; this will ensure that we order enough hoodies to cover the kids we have trained, as well as more for the students we will train in the future. The campaign is based off of similar initiatives in other states which have been successful.

Peer mediation is a proven way to reduce conflicts and other problems in our schools, and our peer mediators learning these skills will keep using them throughout their lives. Peer mediation has a proven success rate of anywhere from 58-93% in reducing conflicts in schools, resulting in reduced suspensions and an overall decrease in disciplinary measures needed. Most students, when asked, state that they use the skills they learn both in and out of school, with their friends, family and others.

If you are able, please follow the link below to donate, and even if you aren’t, please share it with anyone you know who is.

http://www.indiegogo.com/hoodiesforpeermediators?a=787793

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Video Dialogue on Empathy

by @ 4:18 pm. Filed under Empathy, Nonviolent Communication

I have been working toward updating this site and trying to find some time to get back into my writing.   I have also been writing a year in review for 2011 as for me, it was an incredible year and I got to do some amazing things.  I will finish that up soon!

In the meanwhile, I recently did an  interview/dialogue on empathy with Edwin Rutsch from the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy and Compassion. We discussed an article which was critical of empathy: ‘Great Negotiators Think With Heads, Not Hearts‘ in Forbes Magazine written by Victoria Pynchon.  It is about an hour in length and goes off into a few topics beyond the article.

You can watch the video with a transcript at here.  Otherwise….here is the video.

Edwin is doing some great stuff and his website is loaded with information about empathy, compassion, neuroscience and just we really are wired for connection.  Check out the full site at http://cultureofempathy.com/

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