Dear Family, Friends and Fellow Extraordinary Peoples among Equal Peers:
Today is a day to celebrate the twofold fruitfulness of Sabbath as deep welcome and Democracy as “Something Endlessly New Under the Sun.” This is the underlying welcome, new creation, amazing grace and endless love, the unified spirit of all I write, my own original public theology in the tradition of dual theology (e.g. Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Quakers, Antinomians, all those of ongoing Exodus and universal, civil and human rights, as well as justice, peace, labor, solidarity and other social revolutionary worldwide movements interwoven with humankindness) and my corresponding and also original secular work, which is my first and forever love, my Jeffersonian Renaissance Dialogo Democracy (e.g. a pantheon far too high, wide, dear, near and clear to even dare to limit in writing, but let me simply say these are billions of multitudes who are with all inspiring “I Am” sovereign liberal peoples and then also with and in all inspiring “We Are” original and last “twofold and mystic” native humane beings intimately interwoven and relational impossibly but amazingly real with God, nature, one another, all humanity and living creation, all creatures great and small (and especially Golden Retrievers like Scout and Gracie).
Let us pause, inhale the fresh, sweet air today as deeply in and out like the rhythms of nature and the ancient and eternal oceanic gentle waves upon the shore of this beautiful little rock of an island called Monhegan. I enjoyed being in a small chapel for service today next to the Monhegan House where I am staying, and thought of many of you as if here beside me. And the message was God is simply love, and like Jesus sent out his disciples, we are called to bring this unconditional love to all others and to welcome them in bringing it to us in turn. And in this kind of reciprocal love, this sending out and this returning within, this giving and receiving, we are like the very heart beat rushing out its nourishing blood to energize all of our vital, creative embodied humanity and then returning to the peace and contemplation of sabbath rest. We are in this same harmony of the yellow daffodils and wild orchids that similarly open their petals to receive the golden sunshine most glorious at noon and then close again with evening song, its own sweet private sabbath rest. We are the ferocity of the oceans, the changing seasons, the tumultuous unpredictable weather that can overwhelm the bravest, most undaunted good lobstermen, women and children: we persevere, we overcome, we usher in the very pleasure of God’s own heart, passionate participation and holding of all of us together in beloved communities, places under the sun, families and places of joy, peace, love and sanctuary all across America, from Lake Webb and Camp Kawanhee in Maine to Vienna, Virginia and our Valley Stream Park and Topanga Canyon, Malibu, Santa Monica and Venice Beach—idyllic places in the mountains, on Pacific Oceans of amazing surfing, and Venice canals and boardwalks of all mosaic differing generations, peoples: all of this like a Mexican Mural in the artistry of Diego Rivera, a celebration of an America ever becoming, being, evolving and emerging as all our dreams realized, realized as something new, here and now, and all godly and humane goods, all noble dreams of eloquent mountaintops and deep hollows enchanted below, democracy as rightly understood and the worlds we need that stir our souls with “no more tears” of possessing other people’s lands, homes and peace, and completely liberated of all poverty, hatred, division and cruel indifference.
I am in deep Sabbath joy today, my friends! I am in sweet surrender to the generosity of spirit that is Jeffersonian radical democracy today!! We are a double “gracelove” and divinehumane beloved people of God and a fiercely democratic people of justice. And let’s come together wherever we are today, and feast, dance, hike, swim, chant democratic: we are celebrating our Fourth of July as realized utopian Jubilee today!!
We are, each and every one of us, blessed and called to bring to ever greater promise and fruition all the promise, life and possibilities of our life together, our embrace and sharing of all the liberality, generosity, freedoms, courage and empathy of an imaginative, engaged and “two-hearted” moral and jubilant people who at once a democratic solidarity and international citizenry.
We are two orchestral movements today and forever when we use our divides and oppositions as two everlasting gospels of good and differing ways, truths, mysteries and deep commitments to the same eternal God of amazing Grace and the same illimitable Humanity of endless love.
We are all living generations—past, present and future—a permanent American Fourth of July fireworks celebration of joy, hope, faith, love and peace in every city, town and community and simultaneously a universal French Bastille Day world revolution in every way that stirs our souls and fills our hearts with overflowing pleasure!
For me this twofold principle of being a spiritual radical of deep and abiding peace and a good friend of fierce and unconditional love includes two everlasting gospels:
Our First Everlasting Gospel: Yes to the first good news, actually the breath and pneuma of sheer goodness inspired in Genesis as universal creation story of all first fruits and first nations, but not just and only this one gospel is sufficient which is my lifelong testimony of being in and of two inspiring futures and thus pasts and presents. This first Gospel, o my God, I feel it too, I need, desire, surrender and love it with all my heart; it is indeed a whole way of life that I embrace like anyone of one way, life, truth, faith, path, miracle, paradox and mystery that is every good faith and good science that is interwoven with a Cross that is of a kind of suffering what is with our God and thus the transfiguring, redeeming, overcoming and Eastering renewal, rebirth and ever rising of new creation, new birth. I know and fall to my knees like anyone in this three things in one particular/universal sacred/sensual pattern: when we have a deeply rooted HOPE within our very home, our heart, our family, our selves; when we then also have a courageous FAITH to go out in the neighborhood, world, and we are undaunted, vital, strong, gentle, open and fascinated to follow our imagination and sensibilities and truths wherever they lead, when we have this kind of whole-hearted faith and passionate engagement of our whole selves in our social relationships, our presence as wholly alive, learning, teaching, giving and receiving at school, paly, work, community, and finally as we are then on progressions of life, career and democratic and world citizenry and in the embracing (not fighting), extending (not fleeing), educating (not freezing) and enriching (not folding) of every political, cultural, economic, social, linguistic and intellectual sphere, every tier of solidarity and fellowship, every axis and dimension of “XYZ secular affairs” or in my mystic and religious language but just the same as above, the three axes of “immanence, transcendence and kairos”;
and then, in addition to hope and faith, these first two of three first things, when we also have endless LOVE where we can be simply in Sabbath rest, our own sanctuary with God regardless of our circumstances, conditions, capacities or naming, status or relationships. This endless Love is God’s hidden treasure and discovered in our secret hiding places as a boy or girl, and for me at age five and then evermore and throughout my liberating, enchanted childhood of sweet innocence and joyful imagination under a fragrant cedar of Lebanon in my dei missio poet grandmother’s and good doctor grandfather’s backyard at 49 Church Lane in Scarsdale, NY; and in all of these kind of hiding places, I and thou, and we simply lose ourselves in timeless joy!
Or with this endless love as a citizen’s delight and integrity of patria and scholarship as habits of heart, mind and imagination, which my beloved mentor and good friend, Mr. Morgan, taught me of American Democracy’s unique blessings and solemn duties when I was his student simply entranced with him as a professor at the University of Virginia of American Political Thought, as well as main currents of our Western Civilization culture, heritage, canons and traditions and concurrently the tragedies, ironies and barbarism of our history as tentacled with multiple flaws and inhumane “civilizing by excluding, depersonalizing and dehumanizing others: he is with me today and probably this entire week as perfect friend, mentor and lover of our Jeffersonian democracy as “something impossibly still new under the sun!” and so let’s go, and like all good citizens, all good friends in the unchurched fellowship of all peoples, come alive and together as each of us in our own ways today celebrating democracy. And make sure to enjoy the spectacle of our and children’s faces lit up by luminously, multi-colored incandescent skies, when we have love as known, felt, needed in our own Jefferson’s sanctum sanctorum, our hiking in the great Pacific Northwest Cascades, when we have the love of beautiful kingdoms under the cope of heaven, or let us say we are good doctors like my uncle in Holden, Massachusetts, and we have our family, our medicine as our Hope and Faith, and then we have as our place of endless love, replenishing and joy, our Molly Brown unsinkable 35 foot sailboat moored at Warwick, Rhode Island, and we can one-man this boat up through our eighties (please pause and take this magnificent fact in, one fragile man and one indominable spirit when in sacred, solitary and loving communion with this equally extraordinary work of artistry, both sublime and concrete, the genius of both God and humanity, and now we are in this journey, this boat, this forever sanctuary, alone under “the ancient night sky like that of Greek poets of myriad eyes,” and as C.S. Lewis rightly rejoices, “we transcend ourselves and are never more ourselves than when we do. We heal the wound of individuality without undermining the privilege” (An Experiment in Criticism, 1961).
Yes, dear family and friends, this first and forever Gospel of these first three things is a personal, private testimony that resides in every humane being and people, whether ecclesial, secular, natural, scientific or spiritual their sources of this kind of living authority. It is also a sacred mystery, enchanting ritual that resonates in every social, communal and universal setting, gathering, time and place, that is simultaneously a secret sharing of this ineffable truth: that when we have these first three things, Hope, Faith and Love, we have the one and everything of the spiritual fruits and germinal strengths of our liberating God and enchanting humanity. For this is the Three in One Trinity of my Christian Faith (e.g. Our Western Civilization perennial tradition) and it is the Oceanic Feeling of Oneness with God or Cosmos that is the same transcendence, immanence and kairos as above. This is a kind of universal compass that is truly of all particularly inspired good peoples, faiths and sciences, East, West, North and South.
And thus, with these first three things, however you describe and come to them, thus you and I, as great “I Ams” and self-determining individuals and communities, and “we the people” have the one thing that is then everything we can ever need, desire and enjoy: we have Peace that is amazing grace, unconditional love, it is all through us, immediately, sensually, life-affirming and deeply abiding, nourishing and ultimately sustaining, enriching and universal. In this way of the first everlasting Gospel, we are everyday acts of charity, kindness and simply enjoying one another as forever familiar, no matter the time or distance separating us. And we are the fierce advocacy for all kinds of justice, peace and solidarity, not just the beatitudes of the historical Jesus, but the realizing of utopias in the ascendant transcendent and triumphal Christ who is a metaphor, a singularity, a presence of life-affirming and irrevocable relationship with our God, our Cosmos, our Humanity (Please, dear friends, understand the Pentecostal joy that I can speak and hear all of my eternal relational God in my twofold mystic radical amazement and yet this is the same language of God within and without each and every one of us: it is sheer goodness come alive in us, not a particular religious ecstasy, ritual life, systematic, dogmatic, doctrine or creed).
I can go on and on of our life together in this first and ultimate and everywhere in between everlasting first Gospel. But let me end pure and simple and speak it plain: each of us is of a God of surprises, life-changing events. And we too in the same way are in relationship to others and our own selves as astonishing mystery, magnificent truth, enchanting of all possibilities and endless love within and without us. Every part and whole of us is alive, connected and transfigured with every part and whole that is without us and so on, and on, this is the essence of every dialectic or messianic faith, part and whole, whole and part, please look at my Four Master Tropes of Kenneth Burke under About to see the connection between Scripture, religious content, sacred tradition, and the musical resonance of poetry and this dialectic dynamic kind of hope, faith, love and peace is a synecdoche in literature: it makes us feel good in every part and whole of our being too. However we embrace or are embraced by God or Humanity, we are all of the same good news, the everlasting Gospel that William Blake, a radical mystic and Muggletonian poet (just ask my cousin, E.P. Thompson or read his last book before dying in 1993, Witness to the Beast): writes about, the one that Jesus in history and Christ in utopia (as I will describe and explain it) called to bring visibly, honestly and powerfully to greater fruition by sharing, living and cultivating, and not just the grace, faith, hope and deep commitment to being a good person, friend, family, mother, father, son or daughter, and essential maker of good artistries, works, service and leadership as beautiful, meaningful, joyful and true as possible (my renaissance ethos at the core of my HighLow Dialogo Democracy) and so on
No! This is perfecting of a certain kind of grace, but for me and all other twofold individual sovereign personhoods and social interwoven extended humane beings it is insufficient of the overwhelming love of illimitable humanity we feel, resonate, intuit and know pouring in from the end of history and all directions, and all that is before, after, beyond and hidden (i.e. seen as utopian) in all of our first inspired thoroughly saturating modern world. I welcome you into this most welcoming of ancient and modern mystic communities, just begin in your own distinctive way as those in Quaker meeting houses who await the Holy Spirit, shout into the salt brine air on the seashore with your whole self directly face to face with God or simply do the opposite of what you know you do but do not want to, and do what you know you desire to do (e.g. Pauline theology that is the human predicament and theology of the harm and evil that all people do, regardless of questions of where they are on moral spectrums of good, bad and ugly).
Anyways, I celebrate my gratitude of the amazing grace of God who loves us unconditionally and the passionate engagement of Humanity whose justice burns in our hearts endlessly by being and becoming in and of social revolutionary movements, and moral campaigns like the Poor Peoples Campaign, the Riverside Church, the Marxist Education Project, The Public Education Network, National Alliance for Mental Illness, many small and larger faith communities across all denominations, political cultures and classical to postmodern temperaments, The Catholic Worker of Dorothy Day, The Institute for Theology and Disability, both Wesleyan and Virginia Theological Seminaries, evolutionary Social Democratic parties that no longer really exist due to Cold War entanglements and ruthless either/or tests of faith and loyalty, and all other great fears that are usable villainies of meta-hegemonic anti-democratic triune tyrannies of the Modern Totaling World of the Abstract State, Capital and Culture that is in constant pursuit of infinite accumulation of power, wealth, authority, influence and the innermost and outermost shaping of our realities by its ubiquity of deep, sophisticated and invasive communications and surveillance systems. I am nonetheless in what is left of the international christian ecumenical democracy community and socialist left in all rightly lowercase and theological senses of these words, and not the often too UPPPERCASE perversions and abominations they have become in reality or the presumptuous schema and uncritical “seeing” of others. I am in and we are in today’s Democratic Progressive and Democratic Socialist parties too, and once and maybe again community-based organizing like Austin Interfaith in the radical Industrial Areas Foundation spirit of Saul Alinsky, Ernie Cortez, Black Panthers, Jeremiah Wright but no longer Barack Obama, I suppose, and the larger visions and practices of justice exemplified by many spiritual radical women like Angela Davis, Grace Boggs, Ella Baker and so on.
So dear friends, wherever you are, whatever your party or ideology or theology, whatever your good work, faith, family and integrity, all that you cherish, honor and enjoy of timeless virtues: come celebrate both the sacred and profane epic grandeur in each and every child, adult, native humane being, community, people, nation and all other living public bodies!
We are a beloved people! We are a democratic people! Isn’t that amazing!! That’s enough!! Now let’s begin again!!
Dear Lord, this day is also time of remembrance of all those who are gone or have suffered this terrible time of troubles, this insidious pandemic, this time I call the grapes of wrath, the year of cholera: all of these are when burdens are too heavy, our trials too trying of our souls, and yet dear lord, we have been here before, we are in the spirit of Tom Joad, all the good folk of the Depression Era, whose extraordinary grace, bold humility, and profundity of love, in the midst of poverty, indifference and even a kind of horrible vanishing, is indeed the stuff the promise, the reality and the dreams of America, Democracy and Justice are made of.
Dear Lord, it is more comfortable to pray for peace. However, I need the fire of the Holy Spirit, flooding me, cleansing me.
From our sacred Scripture, I pray the Jubilee prayer as if with all those in 1826 who first celebrated it in the spirit of Jeffersonians everywhere, and perhaps a solemn relevance, a deeper joy, knowing that Jefferson made it through his last night and awoke to celebrate this Jubilee too with them in and of their spirit in turn, for that is what democratic and beloved peoples do:
“Count off seven Sabbath years-seven times seven years-so that the seven Sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.
The idea of the Sabbath ran through Israel’s experience. Not only was it observed weekly, but every seven years the land was given a rest. Then, after 49 years, the whole nation was to practice a Sabbath writ large. This is the rhythm of the heart, the heartbeat of holy life, the joyous bipolarity of being in God! I have this rhythm built into my life, and I now embrace this downbeat as grace, pause, reflection, even if in darkness, it is light to me for I reclaim my shared humanity with all who suffer, and rejoice that this is interwoven with joy, brings me greater appreciation for faith, for God, for the sacred and precious blessing of being beloved, being a light, and able to share this hope with others.
But please know, my dear family and old and good friends, and all new good friends and peers, I have come to embrace this bipolarity in my own way in private sanctuary and innermost and outermost relationship with God as the radical amazement of Heschel, Quakers and all mystics of eternity. I feel this polarity as one of being twofold and in the original paradoxical flourishing of heightened sensibilities and senses of humane being and consciousness who are in the full tutelage of God and Nature at the same time: their life and mine too is a two-way liminal threshold of being in and of two whole independent worlds, truths, ways of being wholly alive. I simply call this the miracle of double “gracelove” that any one can be, feel, love and know by simultaneously being in and of our eternal God and in and of our illimitable Humanity.
Why is this important to me and why do I believe this twofold testimony of this doubling miracle is significant to share?
It is quite simple: I was born of a certain kind of complex infancy-induced trauma of a certain kind of remarkable astonishing and flourishing paradoxical gifts, insight and capacities to both survive the worst kind of predatory barbarism that preys on the naked helplessness of Innocents like infants in their time of sacred nativity and epiphany, and all other’s in a similar kind of complex trauma where they are experiencing the slaughter of their own children, women and men, they are witness to the Beast who is dispossessing, alienating and extincting them of their own particular/universal blessedness of three in one hope, faith and love, and then deep abiding and everlasting peace. They like me are of this same filicidal, eugenic and genocidal cruelest exclusionary violence, and yet look at us!! We are quite astonishing, everlasting and of mystic amazement of our whole enchanted worlds of our triumphal social flourishing, our fruition loves, our new and old heavens and our beloved good earth and our passionate engagement in justice, peace and solidarity of every good, right and eternal kind.
I am with you in your world of liberation and this modernizing way of the three in one universal pattern.
And We are in a world not at all of any of your totalizing modern over, under and multiple determining too much in your image and mission for constant, endless growth of a certain commodifying, distracting and fragmenting desacralizing and disenchanting kind. We are in the world we and God prefer of our making, rejoicing and determining; we reject and repudiate your world that is thoroughly saturated with the trails of tears, blood of killing fields and the wailing of Rachel and all other mothers of every culture, history and sun: the children are no more. No!! Our people, our children, our traditions, our inspiring futures are forever and intimately, concretely, here and now, wholly alive, beautifully and fearsomely made. We are realizing all the so-called utopias in the rational and moral modern mind, the stigma, the impoverishing language of anti-democratic established meta-hegemonies. And we welcome you as our most dearest of friends. For we need, desire and love you endlessly, our two independent worlds are like two everlasting gospels, two orchestral movements in the music that is in each of our souls and hearts, the unfinished symphony of God and Humanity together, liberation and utopia as perhaps my constructs but I feel the essential truth of my lifelong testimony, fascination and struggle of seemingly naturally, effortlessly and constantly being in and of two opposing worlds more as the blessedness of God than the psychological phenomena of tragic dissociation and all manner of other disorders.
For me and all my other similar friends of this same certain kind of complex trauma when our entire lives and worlds seem to come to an end, it is the insider/outsider critical distance, oceanic creativity, intuition, empathy and unifying reconciling of all those like Jesus, Margaret Mead, Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, Marx, Mill, Clifford Geertz, William Blake, E.P. Thompson, and all romantic antinomians, spiritual radicals, old and new Lefts, and all ancient and enduring Rights, each are all on the same liberal emancipation spectrum where are liberating, generous, conservative, classical, revolutionary, hierarchical, egalitarian and traditional/postmodern peoples.
We who are of this certain kind of filicidal, eugenic and genocidal trauma are crucibles of a differing and amazing kind of peace, hope, faith and love: we are better understood and embraced as having all the heightened agonies and ecstasies of those like HighLow renaissance makers when engaged in the making of works, lives, loves and communities of an everlasting sensual and sacred epic grandeur: we are in the seat of oceanic creativity that is actually our first modern homo sapiens anthropology. I am referring to the emerging findings in the neurosciences and other disciplines in the sciences, humanities and arts that are focused on the integral whole of our humanity as evolved, developed, inspired and social banded as distinctly modern as today c. 300,000 bce, but with only the cerebellum alone as our one mind, for the neocortical layers and prefrontal cortex does not complete its evolution until c. 40,000 bce. So, what does this mean? The latter and far more recent evolutionary arrival and “fact” of our second modern humanity is the executive mind and integral organizing seat of all intelligences of a certain kind of rationality, strategic cunning, morality, logic and art. It is perhaps rightly names the advent of what is most unique and now possibly self-annihilating of our second modern species, if you will: the unbound sense of envisioning, harnessing and manifesting our mastery of our own destiny, and all those subsidiary or dependent or helplessly with these executively minded masters of the will to power as augmented by technologies and the moral authority of a vital, dialectical and messianic growth imperative of a certain traumatizing ruthless but optimal ethos of “civilizing, advancing and achieving ever greater mastery by excluding, commodifying, dehumanizing, desecrating and thoroughly depleting all that is of our living relational God, humanity, creation and beloved good earth.
I prefer as do all my mystic friends and extraordinary humane beings as equals among astonishing peers, a more balanced and twofold flourishing way of both these seats within our mind, that of executive rational intelligence though horribly hegemonic and that of oceanic creativity and mystic paradoxical consciousness though terribly vulnerable, oppressed and repressed.
Thus, we come into the world convicted in the womb in a manner of speaking and though you see us as traumatized and in hyper limbic constant arousal, we are as we have every self-evident right to proclaim, both due to Jesus’s first proclaiming of our first and forever Beatitudes for the profound dignity, promise and life of the poor, and then Jefferson’s Declaring of Independence as a rejoicing in freedoms and one’s own nature that is “self-evident” which means like hope, faith, love and peace, it needs no proof!!
And so we are crucibles of a certain kind of trauma where in God’s own palpable presence and swept up into his everlasting arms, we are of the insider/outsider intuitive gifts as just the same as little prophets, poets and radicals: our own three in one pattern of awakening the people as all good prophets do for the people we love by shattering their complacency and obliterating their comforting worlds and moral certitudes, if needed; and then like all good romantic poets we are hearing, speaking and inspiring of larger, older, hidden, new visions, words and languages of beauty, justice, egalite, solidarity and peace; and finally, we are like all good utopian Jeffersonians and radical democrats we are unifying, mobilizing and sustaining our peoples, here in our own nation and yet everywhere as interwoven of the same garment of history, humanity and creation (as Martin Luther King Jr so eloquently affirmed) but what is clear, near, dear and intuitive to us, our revolutionary common sense and native genius like Malcolm X, and all elders and youth of native indigenous peoples everywhere. These three thing as prophets, poets and dual citizens and then the one thing in all our souls, minds, hearts, bodies and imagination: abiding, deep and wide universal nourishing peace that is justice, and both of these together are the end to all poverty that is death, and the enchantment again of all who are already like twofold mystics of the unique, original and humane, social and universal development of all potential, capacities, truths and dreams that are the whole world come alive when stripped bare of every hideous strength of exclusionary barbarism.
And we are all liberating and enchanting little historians, cultural anthropologists, theologians, scientists, artists and poets: we are all renaissance makers, servers, lovers, helpers and leaders. And I trust you know what Jesus said as true for all present, future and past disciples, apostles and all those healed, liberated and loved and loving with him even though in small communities, and then all those who said the same of all small communities everywhere:
“Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
That is the best way to end this first celebration of the Fourth of July as that of a democratic people who are forever something new under the sun. And the rarest of rare hidden mysteries of the soul is that of all of us who are what I call twofold mystics, but they are simply of the folks that Abraham Heschel writes about in his book, The Prophets, and are the same as all Quaker friends and all others of inner lights: when the sun is no longer sufficient in one world and the darkness begins to come at noon, then joyously go into your other world where the sun is rising after a deep, nourishing sleep and your sun is fully shining at noon. This is the paradoxical enchanting way of those who live in two opposing worlds and truths. My testimony, dear friends, it that it is in fact a beautiful way of being in the same liberal liberation historical world I share with you, and I simply can’t wait to share more of my “utopian” world with you!!
These are Black migrant farm workers in the 1930s, their grapes of wrath were of a horribly bitter fruit and yet look at the dignity, the strength, the joy and inspiring futures in their hearts and minds!! Is there any better testimony of the promise, life and spiritual gifts, human and social unbound potential and flourishing capacities of our country!!
Now to return to Jubilee in its ancient origins of here two millennia in the Judeo-Christian Biblical grand narrative, but I argue in my own original public theology for over forty millennia:
The horror of slavery ran deep in Israel’s psyche because of their experience in Egypt. So, God introduced the Year of Jubilee during which all debts would be cancelled, and people would return to their family property. The year started with the blowing of a trumpet and the proclaiming of liberty throughout the land on the Day of Atonement.
Epiphany!! This prophecy of slavery that Yahweh announces to Abraham will occur to his people in 400 years, and its attendant experience of horror, can be turned around as a spur to the Israeli faith, their profound strength to persevere as a people, a divine polis, able to defer, respect and support their leaders to keep them from slavery. To keep them in a condition of freedom, a condition of permanent exodus. And so, through faith and conformity to the patterns of “the world” that of hierarchy, violence, poverty, etc., they remain in the traditions of their ancestors, their sacred condition of being set apart, chosen. This status of identity in God also makes them the other throughout human history. This status is their cross!
What courage and faith and conviction to persevere in a world of increasing hostility to their very existence let alone their faith!!! What joy, spirituality, love, beauty they have in this faith, to ever know they are the children of God, God’s chosen, a permanent state of exodus and blessedness, transcendence, of being beyond the limits of the world of man, of great spiritual integrity and intellectual inquiry and pursuit.
God’s approach to economics emphasized compassion. The Year of Jubilee was designed to prevent the rich from become richer and the poor poorer. Israelites were never to “take advantage of each other,” especially when someone had become financially vulnerable. God was concerned about family stability and knew the value of families having roots. Property ownership was obviously permitted, but Israelites were only ever stewards of their land, managing it on behalf of God. They were never to regard it as theirs by right.
As well as making good financial and social sense, these verses epitomize the wider heart and ways of God. When Jesus read Isaiah 61 at Nazareth, he was proclaiming that with his coming the ultimate Jubilee had arrived (Luke 4:14-21). Through him, the poor received good news, the blind their sight and prisoners were set free. We live in Jubilee times, so let’s proclaim liberty.
This reminds me today of Jefferson’s quote on the occasion of the Jubilee celebration of the Declaration of Independence:
“May it (Fourth of July) be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view, the palpable truth that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.
This contemporary totalizing modern world’s aversion to faith and religion (as exemplified by Jefferson but increasingly the seeming entirety of so-called liberal, enlightened, educated and science-minded peoples. By “liberal” I mean in the larger sense of an underlying Western civilization (and now rightly influenced and enriched by diverse cultural traditions and world civilizations), canons, constitutional history centered on illimitable freedoms within a legal, responsible self-governing people, free market ideology.
Jefferson and the generations at his time and across the previous centuries are “enlightened” in the context of the horrors of the tyranny of church and state as exemplified by the Catholic Church in France and Spain, and the Anglican in England. At the same time, they were proud of the English tradition of the rights and liberties of English citizens in protest and resistance to this kind of oppression by the Church and Crown in England.
Jefferson, like many of the nineteenth century secular “system-builders,” founders of revolutionary new ways to the good society, to freedom, peace and justice for all, was deeply imbued with a humanitarian sensibility, and compelled by a sense of mission and justice, and simply could not look at faith as a source of freedom and justice for so horrific was its course in the world. And with this sense of rejection of faith, the church of reason and freedom of opinion seemed so promising, so intoxicating, so fascinating in its hope of emancipation from darkness and oppression.
Jefferson himself was enslaved by the culture and history of his time. For he envisioned himself as a learned and just elite, unlike the previous “booted elites.” As did Adams and others. By their grace would they set the masses free!! He was a prisoner of pride and hubris and arrogance, of self-delusion, and yet also an apostle of hope and freedom, and gave prophetic and poetic voice to enduring truths for democracy, though he himself blinkered by his ego, culture and history, as we all are!!
To see him as a paradox, aristocrat as democrat (Richard Hofstadter) is to state the obvious!! It is to kick down an open door! For we are all paradoxical, at once struggling with opposing selves, ways of seeing and being, at once hypocritical and true to our authentic selves. Integrity and flawed. We are human beings seeking the divine! This is the most astonishing and audacious of human pursuits! The most dangerous, and yet the most beautiful and loving when leavened with genuine humility.
I actually had a recent correspondence with today’s emeritus authority on Jefferson, a former professor at the University of Virginia, Peter Onuf, and he rightly says the first discussion to have before we judge and dispatch Jefferson as a profoundly transgressive, fraudulent and monstrous hypocrite, is to look within ourselves and ask, “what will future generations think of us and our silence, our complicity and our active benefitting from and advancing of the vast disparities of wealth, power, authority and influence in the world, and the corresponding almost unspeakable injustices, impoverishing, oppressive and repressive regimes of poverty, caste and depersonalizing, dehumanizing death that is our indifference and extinguishing of any trace of equal dignity, joy, peace and liberation of all these four-fifths of the world. They still have saddles on their backs, and I ride them, as we all do by the grace of God, science, faith and all other primary and social goods of such an extraordinary democracy that is truly still something new under the sun, and we affluent, creative, compassionate and courageous inspired and inspiring good people. We are in the divinehumane miracle and the gracelove privilege of our abiding and sustaining peace that is indeed the germinal three in one particular/universal pattern that is the eternal and immediate meaning of privilege in the right divine, humane and theological sense. And yet look at the world we are making and that is making us? And at least pause today, pray, be grateful, affirming and confessing too, what of the children, women and men who are as enslaved, disappeared, vanished and excluded as in the time of Jefferson and perhaps far worst today?
Rachels all around the world are lamenting in the ancient refrains once called “ululatu” and the resonating that has our eternal God sobbing, lamenting and holding tightly in his everlasting arms all good mothers, fathers and children beloved, strong and tender planted: our children are no more!
NO!!! This is not the final lamenting or truth or despair! For we are both a beloved people of God of amazing grace and a democratic people of endless love. That’s enough! Now let’s begin again!!
Pray: Loving Father, Your heart is tilted towards the disadvantaged, the marginalized, and the needy. I confess at times I don’t share that perspective. [For I am afraid of it where it will take me.] Open my heart to Your heart, a heart of love.
I Am! We Are! Again in the epic grandeur of the story of God and Humanity, a democratic people who are something new under the sun today!
We are each and every one of us, every party, ideology, culture, society, all of the underlying inspiring of every good faith and good science: we are renaissance makers, abundant lovers and instinctive helpers of each and every good brother and sister, every good neighbor and friend, every good stranger and native resident as equal citizen, especially those aliens and immigrants in their own lands, for all of our beloved good, flourishing earth belongs to the living, all peoples and communities and persons rightly bring the whole world alive when triumphal in this kind of interwoven social flourishing. At least that is what Jefferson said consistently throughout his life, and this I also know because my Bible tells me so.
Dear Family and Friends, this is a Sabbath day, and so please pause, take a rest, and contemplate the blessings of our lives, loves, works, families and all the treasures from God, Nature, Humanity and from within and without our own selves and one another. But I can’t!! This day is simply too inspiring, heightening my every sensibility and insight and feeling. So, I am going on and on, but you don’t have to. But please end if you will with this last paragraph below and invitation to make this image the one to include in your celebrations today.
This image of an Alaskan Great Pacific Northwest “twofold indigenous Salmon” as I name it to honor, exemplify and teach of the original first modern humane beings as those who magnificently flow with the currents of mighty rivers and gentle streams, and then fiercely, impossibly and wondrously go against the currents as easily as with them.
And then celebrate, picnic, eat, drink and play and dance under fireworks during the magic hours of early evening and into the night and throughout this wondrous day, this mystic’s radical amazement: this day that celebrates so much of who, what, how and why we are today, a democratic people of courage, integrity and empathy, and if these three things, then we are of infinite possibility of all other virtues, goods, fruits and mysteries.
For on this day celebrating the Declaration of Independence, we must read the first sentence if not the entire preamble with a friend, a lover, a gathering, a family, it is sheer poetry and music of an unfinished symphony of two orchestral movements, I call one that of self-determining liberation from all kinds of historical sins like poverty, egoism, elitism, racism, nativism and exclusionary barbarism of every enormous to subtle monstrous cruelty: perhaps you already heard it recited on NPR! What a grand jubilee tradition!
And so, it goes that Jefferson struggled throughout the night near death, he had already declined an invitation to the grand jubilee 50th anniversary in 1826 of the 1776 July 4th signing and declaring of American Independence. And so I heard and believe in my heart that Jefferson, finally when taking his last breath, he asked, “Is this the Fourth?” and when told it was, he smiled and passed away, this very morning 245 years ago.
His dream for his people—all of America, the Americas and the world too if you ever have the privilege and pleasure to read and study his actual works, life and correspondence, including all of his own contradictions, despairs, paradoxes and insight into his own savage tainting by the modern disorders of slavery, racism, caste and domination, as well as his own hypocrisy, vanity, blindspots and tragic moral hubris—he nonetheless dedicated his entire life with a singularity of purpose that is quite remarkable and indeed astonishing for someone so obviously vulnerable, naked and helpless before the sting of any kind of attack, mockery and persecution as a fraud, philosophist and the worst kind of owner of human beings as slaves: the one like Nat Turner’s presumably good-hearted and kind Plantation owner who sells and tears apart families, individuals, lives and dreams just like all others who make no pretense of their hideous Beastlike privilege and “just hierarchy.”
And so Jefferson too knows the tragedy of how we are convicted in the very womb due to how we are embodied by certain facts inherent not in us but in the schema, stigma and prejudice of the world that sees what it knows already in its own minds, fears and dark unconscious. It quickly presumptively like vigilante justice deeply embedded in our very bone, blood and tissue detests, condemns and damns all those of a certain body, origin or history. I know this intimately as all those “utopians” with and in me and I with and in them as well—all those the world crucifies, condemns, patronizes and condescends as “poor, marginalized, disfigured, disabled, weak, non-being, invisible or untouchable—we are not at all the things you have in your own heads and then project onto us. We are not your beastlike cruel, rational, moral and presumptive exclusionary depersonalizing, dehumanizing and extincting of us.
We far prefer our Jeffersonian self-evident truths to affirm who we are, our why, our how, our what, our sacred mysteries and inner and outer being, our sanctum sanctorum, and most of all for me and all those twofold mystic original and indigenous humane beings:
We are simultaneously, spontaneously and joyously in the endless and prodigious embrace and astonishing loving authority of both our eternal God who gives us the inspiring breath of life, all creatures great and small, and
Our illimitable Humanity that gives the same but of a distinctive, paradoxical flourishing of all freedoms, convictions and passionate engagements for fulfilling, challenging, surpassing our first kind of divine and everlasting embrace with a whole world alive that is simply in this one way of humanity relating to God and the totalizing modern world as made by this first inspiring great “I Am” we are embodied and convicted in the womb like Jefferson, all the enslaved Africans and all those of Europe, Asia, Americas and Africas similarly on the same spectrum of human bondage, wage slavery, debt servitude, utopian, not here or no room at the inn for the nativity and epiphany of each of us, that those of disability and as I have then and for all future generations is that we become all that was then hoped for but scarcely realized, Jefferson was an aristocrat in an aristocratic world, and he was a brutal overseer as a hideous slaveholder in the midst of an , one and each and creative, vital, beautiful, strong diverse and complexly interwoven Americas and all international forms of egalite, Liberté, solidarity, justice and peace.
Happy Fourth of July, and please don’t forget about all creatures, great and small, and as golden of sunshine and joyous deep souls, my Golden Retriever, Gracie, always reminds me. And I try to speak everything I hear her say, and when I don’t, she uses her wagging tail, joyful energy and smiling loving of me and me of her in return