"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

The Serenity Prayer, the Beatitudes and Healing This Wounded Earth

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 
The courage to change the things I can, 
And the wisdom to know the difference." 

The 9/11 atrocity changed our world for ever, and it seems an even more dangerous place today, with no apparent let up in the dreadful acts of barbarism, cruelty and depravity we witness with a frightening immediacy and in so much detail through our media.
Man's inhumanity to man seems to know no bounds. 
Do you want to cry when you witness or hear stories of wrongdoing and suffering in the world around you? In its written form the above "serenity prayer" is widely attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, the American theologian. Only later was it adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve step programmes, for its powerful message of serenity, courage and wisdom.
But is this serenity prayer to some extent a cop-out? Yes it is true that it can often take courage to change things for the better, to take a stand, to be a whistle-blower. I can relate to that. But how easy it can be to shrug our shoulders, leaning on the first line of that prayer, and say to ourselves that some things we just have to accept, while having a nagging doubt in our hearts that perhaps we could do something. No, it is all too difficult. We won't upset the status quo. It's easier just to get on with our own lives. But as the American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once said: "Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world – indeed it’s the only thing that ever has."
Matthew tells us in his Gospel that Jesus had travelled throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, performing healing miracles and telling his audience of the good news of the kingdom. The crowds came from far and wide, from Galilee, Jerusalem, Judea and from lands east of the Jordan river. Seeing those crowds, Jesus climbed the mountain side, sat down and proceeded to teach his disciples who had followed him there, starting with the Beatitudes, (or what Billy Graham once called the Beautiful Attitudes.)
These do not make for comfortable reading, in that to receive our blessings there seem to be some pretty harsh conditions, and the blessings themselves are a little hard to grasp. What is clear is that Jesus is telling his followers what he is expecting of them, what it means to follow him, and therefore it is imperative for Christians or Jesus followers to listen that message and try to understand it. Luke tells a slightly different story, in what is known by many as the Sermon on the Plain, where Jesus teaches four blessings and four woes. These seem to be less well known and make for even more uncomfortable reading for Christians.
The combined Beatitudes and the Woes from both Gospels challenge us to examine our lives and behaviours and they teach us some tough lessons. In our material world full of self help guides we are encouraged to pursue our happiness through wealth, status, power, consumption and material comforts. But this type of happiness is insecure and fleeting. The Beatitudes are all broadly rooted in love and humility, mercy, spirituality and compassion. Billy Graham called them the Beautiful Attitudes. They paradoxically tell us that true happiness or blessing is found through being poor in spirit, meek, merciful, hungry, thirsty, and so on, values which often seem alien to our 21st century world. These are tough lessons, but the Woes are even more difficult to accept into our lives. Perhaps this is why they are often neglected.
Some years ago I felt inspired by world events to explore the many areas of our lives where perhaps we could introduce more compassion, spirituality and healing for the benefit of all; where we could change things, however hard that might be. I set out these ideas in my first book, Healing This Wounded Earth. This was an ambitious project, and is uncomfortable and challenging reading for many. I meant it to be.
Now I have come to see that those Beatitudes and Woes which Jesus taught his disciples in those Sermons (on the Mount and the Plain) form the very backbone of many of the ideas I set out in Healing This Wounded Earth, inspired by what I saw as a spiritual poverty and lack of compassion in so much of the world around us.
So take a fresh and very critical look at the Beatitudes, why don't you, in the context of the really hard hitting and challenging views I expressed in Healing This Wounded Earth.

Which by the way is available for just £1.99/$3 on Kindle for February only (with a free Kindle app available if you do not have a Kindle).

UK Amazon 
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