Aldon Hynes's blog

#DigiWriMo: The Journey from Paris

In a recent BBC Broadcast, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, talking about the terrorist attacks in Paris asked of God, “Where are you in all this?” To me, the answer seems fairly obvious, Calvary. Yet, I too must admit that I’ve had doubts about my own faith. Calvary and the terrorist attacks in Paris are both beyond my comprehension.

I think this illustrates an important idea about faith. It is often said that the opposite of faith is not doubt, the opposite of faith is certainty, or that the opposite of faith is fear. I do not believe that the terrorists in Paris were people of faith. I particularly, I do not believe they were people of faith in the God of Abraham, like me Jewish, Muslim, and Christian brothers and sisters are. They were people who had given themselves over to hateful certainty aimed at destroying faith by creating fear.

To me, the bigger question is, where is God in the responses to the terrorist attacks. God seems to be particularly missing in the responses of many politicians that claim to be Christian. Echoing my response to Archbishop Welby’s question, I respond that God is in the welcoming of mother giving birth and placing her baby in a manger because there was no room at the Inn; that God is in the flight of a parents taking their baby son to Egypt to protect their son from being killed by a ruthless political leader; that God is in the story told by the son, years later, explained the idea of being a neighbor by talking about a Samaritan man taking care of a victim of violence.

In each of these stories, there is an important theme, that of ‘journey’. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own journey this past year as I’ve struggled with the question of where does God want me to be in all of this. One friend talked about her desire to walk the Camino de Santiago, a famous pilgrim’s journey in northern Spain. The Camino has become a metaphor I use for my own journey.

Online, I’ve participated in #Rhizo15 and #DigiWriMo, two explorations into writing and teaching online that often talk about maps, journeys and getting lost and yesterday, I stumbled across an online meditation, in a blog called, Walk With me on Our Journey.

Imagining the unimaginable : That we are walking in the footsteps of our family members who are refugees.

Today is the last Sunday of the liturgical calendar, where we celebrate Christ the King. Next week, we start the new liturgical calendar with Advent, a time of waiting and preparation for the coming of Christ. We start a new journey from waiting for the incarnation and grieving the crucifixion to celebrating the resurrection. Many, during Holy week will journey through the Stations of the Cross, a journey through grief, a journey to Calvary, a journey to the terrorist attacks of Paris, and a journey that ultimately brings us to Easter.

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Courage and Compassion

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Yes, I understand the fear that terrorists seek to instill in us. I feel some of the same fear. Yet I believe we are called to face our fears and show our compassion. Yes, I know that it is hard, yet I’ve hoped our elected officials would show the moral leadership that is so desperately needed right now.

I think of these things as I try to write about my disappointment that both Rep. Himes and Rep. Courtney from Connecticut voted in favor of the house bill that could limit Syrian refugees.

A CNN article about the vote notes:

FBI Director James Comey has expressed deep concerns about the bill, two U.S. officials tell CNN. Comey has told administration and congressional officials that the legislation would make it impossible to allow any refugees into the U.S., and could even affect the ability of travelers from about three dozen countries that are allowed easier travel to the U.S. under the visa waiver program, the officials say.

I pray for Rep. Himes and Rep. Courtney that they might find the courage and compassion that was so sorely missing in that vote.

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What Sort of World?

My teenage daughter
worked her way
through the mass of humanity
towards the front of the stage
to hear her favorite band.

I sat in the back
checking my messages,
“Terrorist kill
a hundred and nineteen
in Parisian
music hall.”

Paris is over three thousand miles
from Hartford,
but I wondered
would I risk my life
rushing towards the danger
to save my daughter
or would I cower
seeking to save my own life?

Would I have stayed in Aleppo
hoping to outlast
the latest fighting
only to leave
my daughter
an orphan,
a refugee?

Would I have asked Allah
to lead her
to the safety
of a good Muslim family,
or maybe
to the protection of Christians
in the West?

Will I be the sort of person
willing to risk harm
that welcomes a stranger
here in Connecticut
fleeing from danger?

What sort of world
will I leave
for my daughter?

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The Journey Reading List (As of Nov 2015)

In a recent Facebook post, a friend also seeking discernment asked, “What books have you been suggested to read as part of your discernment?”

It seems like the list of books that I’m reading or have had recommended to me, grows faster than I can read. So, I thought I’d share some of the books I’m reading here, and the impact some of them are having on my journey.

I mark the start of the most recent phase of my journey as starting at a poetry conference at Yale Divinity School last May. One of the speakers was Christian Wiman and I picked up his book, “My Bright Abyss”. This has turned out to be a really important book to me, and I’m slowly reading it, along with several other books. I also picked up Denise Levertov’s “The Stream and the Sapphire” and
“Sands of the Well”. I’ve loved Levertov’s writing since I stumbled across her back in college. I also picked up Mary Oliver’s “A Thousand Mornings” as well as the Poems and Prose of Gerard Manley Hopkins and The Complete English Poems of George Herbert. Poetry is an important part of my journey.

Also at that conference, I picked up Spiritual Direction Beyond the Beginnings by Janet K Ruffing. I’ve read a few chapters of this and set it aside for later.

My priest recommended The Wounding and Healing of Desire by Wendy Farley. There is a lot in this book, but it has also slipped further down my stack of books I’m currently reading, and I hope to get back to it soon.

At our church, there is a faith study group that has been reading Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis. I joined the faith study group part way through and have only read portions of this book. Meeting with others to discuss books about faith is really important to me and I greatly appreciate the faith study group.

Meanwhile, a group formed at a church in a different part of the state. They posted information about what they were doing online. They were reading Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans. I participated as much as I could reading the book and sharing thoughts on my blog. This is a great book, and an important influence on my current thoughts about where God is calling me.

I’ve spoken with the Dean of Formation, and gotten many great recommendations for books to read. Two that jumped out at me are Joining God, Remaking Church, Changing the World by Alan Roxburgh. Another is People of the Way by Dwight J. Zscheile. I was just starting to read Zscheile’s book when I got interrupted by another book, so I don’t have much for thoughts on it yet.

The book that interrupted me was An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor. Our church used one of the chapters from this book for our recent retreat. It caught my attention, so I picked it up and started reading it from the beginning. I’m only part way through, but I’m likely to add it to Wiman’s and Evan’s books as ones that are shaping my current thinking. Barbara Brown Taylor also wrote Leaving Church, which I am going to have to read.

I’m still very early in the discernment process, so I have lots of time to read more. What books are important to you?

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Responses to Terrorism

It seems like everyone is talking about the attacks in Paris to push their own agendas, and instead of resisting the trend, I’ve decided to go with the flow.

Many people are changing the background of their pictures on Facebook to the French flag. At church today, the organist played “We shall overcome” in the background at one part of the service and played the La Marseillaise as the postlude. Others are expressing concern over the recurring drumbeats of war and pointing out that there were also attacks in Lebanon which aren’t getting the same attention. I’m thinking about changing my Facebook picture to the Lebanese flag.

This has brought about various reactions on Facebook:

“I really wish people would stop trying to delegitimize my feels by suggesting that I should be just as heartbroken about places I don't have a personal connection to or where I have friends living”

“Stop it with the ‪#‎PrayForParis‬ thing. Just stop. If you want to help people, donate to a charity. Donate time. Donate blood. Don't pray - if we've learned anything from this, it should be that the last thing the world needs is more religion.”

In response to one of these, a friend shared, The Empathic Civilisation which is a wonderful video worth commentary on its own.

My thoughts, as they often do at times like this, went to John Donne’s No Man Is An Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Some people may be only able to have empathy for one group of people, for the French, but not the Lebanese, for people who donate to charities, but not for people that pray. Others may have no empathy at all, or all they can do is change their Facebook avatar.

Yet another friend put it in another frame that I think is really useful.

Applying the French tricolor scheme to your drunk selfie isn't the most effective response to terrorism. But compared to launching a bloody, expensive, and counterproductive eight-year occupation of an irrelevant country, it's a master stroke of geopolitical strategy.

Meanwhile, other friends have shared the statement from the Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, In Paris, do we have to love our enemies? Bishop Whalon statement

My agenda? With apologies to those who have no empathy for those of us that pray, I pray that we might all take a moment to become a little more empathetic to those that are different from us, whether it is differences around nationalism, religion, or anything else that separates us.

What we need is not less religion, but less intolerance of those different from ourselves

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