Will Marre Christmas Message - I received this by email on Christmas Eve day from Will Marre of the American Dream Project. I find Marre such a genuine voice of humanness. He doesn't hide his flaws, is always questioning, and always finds an inclusive perspective on often divisive topics. I see that he was brought up Catholic, attended 12 years of Catholic school, but seems to have adjusted his Catholic faith...Perhaps that's why I can relate to him so well.
Happy Holidays and Holy Days @ American Dream Project
Posted on December 23rd, 2007 by Will Marre.
Categories: Community, Lifestyle, ADP Diary.
Last night my wife and I took our (sic) 80-year-old Jewish widow neighbor to her daughter’s holiday party. It turned out to be a “Noah’s Ark” gathering of human beings who represented the full spectrum of belief and non-belief. We all had a wonderful time. I would call it a celebration of human holiness.
My spiritual journey has been long and intense. I’ve been a Christian all my life. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools for 12 years. And I have to say I pretty much enjoyed it. I was never physically tortured or browbeat with fear. What formal religion training didn’t prepare me for was that life would be hard, often disappointing, even tragic and that there isn’t a damn thing we can do to avoid much of the worst stuff. Death, illness, accident, divorce, business or job failures often show up like a blitzing line backer driving you into the ground, spitting in your face and taunting you. Our physical experience of life is absurdly uncertain. But, I have learned that it is neither hopeless nor random. In fact, what over five decades of intense “seeking” has taught me is that my spiritual life is my ultimate source of wisdom, judgment, and energy. It is the literal power to swim in a pool of hope and meaning no matter how often sharks attack.
Today, my wife and I attend a gospel-centered community Christian church. We like it because the pastor is a teacher, not a preacher. We never talk about Christian belief as manifesto of an exclusive club. Rather, that followers of Christ are remarkable for their love, service, and inclusiveness. I like it. The truth is there is much we don’t know. That’s why we seek. I am guided profoundly by my father’s words on his cancer-ridden deathbed. I asked him if he had any “concerns” about his impending death. He replied, “It’s pretty simple son; love God and love your neighbor as yourself. All the rest is just ideas about what the truth might be.”
Seven years after Dad passed away he came to visit me. I have read a lot of “scientific” literature trying to explain away direct spiritual experience. Let me say it’s a complex area of human experience. And emotional humans can easily deceive themselves when their own brain chemistry creates a moment of “enlightenment.” That, however, does not mean all spiritual experience is delusional any more than flawed scientific experiments mean all experiments are flawed. All I can tell you is that Dad was full of an indescribable love and that he affirmed that my legacy was my character rather than my accomplishments. He encouraged me to “fulfill my unique nature.” And not to worry about anything. At all. That happened ten years ago. That’s what I’ve been trying to do ever since.
As for my beliefs, I don’t get caught with what’s wrong with religions. History proves that man’s lust for power, authority, sex and wealth can corrupt any organization. Religion, government, academia, and business are all victims of human weakness. But that doesn’t extinguish the flame of belief.
So why do I celebrate Christmas? For me, the core of Christ’s message is that we are created equal. He upset the thinking-as-usual of his time and culture. He expanded the idea of a “chosen people” with the truth that we are all chosen. He spoke of the supremacy of compassion, peace, and giving. He offered dignity to the poor, sick, and disfigured; to women and people of all races and professions with whom he came in contact. And finally, I believe he gave us the best news of all. That since the dawn of history human beings have done all manner of horrible things to each other. Murder, rape, child abuse, betrayal, war, genocide are but a few. And the suffering caused by flood, famine, death, earthquake, and hurricanes is unimaginable. Christ’s message is that although all of our suffering is real, it isn’t final. It doesn’t matter in the way we think it does. (And I believe if there could be less suffering, there would be.) It’s because what matters is not material or physical because our spiritual identity is immortal. What matters is who we become. What matters is our inner motives. What I understand from Christ is that in an inner-sense, heaven and hell already exist in each of us. If what we really desire is to express love and compassion and to contribute our unique gifts to bless others, we are already in the outskirts of heaven. Or, if our hidden selves seek primarily to simply avoid pain, label unbelievers, and manipulate others to serve ourselves, welcome to hell.
I know I take great risk of angering or disappointing some of you who either don’t believe in any god or those who only believe in a specific version of God. Today, please don’t get sidetracked by that debate. Recently my 25-year-old son, Nick, suggested that God is ultimately very personal. He is what every individual needs him to be. For some, it might be an all-knowing judge, for others, a loving grandfather, or a benign spirit. And for some, God might show up as a scientific order or the energy behind evolution so my beliefs are personal and powerful. But the reason we cannot agree on whom or even what God is is because God is infinite. That doesn’t mean whatever we choose to believe is true. It only suggests that what we call God is much bigger than we know or can know. Beyond our fears that separate us is the quiet assurance of the common thread of transcendent love and we sense that life has a noble purpose. At least that’s my experience.
For believers Christmas represents an infinite God’s ultimate empathy with the human condition. For non-believers Christmas can still be a celebration of a moral and ethical commitment to live for love.
So for me, the message of Christmas is a message of unlimited hope. A way to see reality through the tinsel of materialism. A way to celebrate the inborn dignity of life. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!
|Your Dreams on Fire - by William Marrè|