Saturday, February 23, 2013
SALVATION AS PARTICIPATION
I’m a little nervous. I’ve signed up for a Great Falls HIV-AIDS Outreach workshop next week. I haven’t been an activist for years -- maybe decades. If anyone says “committee,” I’ll bolt. It’s not that I fantasize I might catch HIV. What do you think these workshops are like??? Hep C is a much greater danger in a public group and there’s a lot of it around here, but not much HIV -- so far as anyone knows. Our local attention is rather on immature young men who abuse their girl friends’ infants and toddlers, occasionally killing them. The stats show few cases of HIV in Montana, but there a few sequestered populations that probably don’t show up in the data. One is Malmstrom Air Force Base, one is the reservation populations (Indian Health Service) and another is probably post-prison felons.
Otherwise most of the HIV cases are around the universities -- not just students but also the fellow travelers who hang around campuses, esp. IV drug peddlers. Of course, University of Montana has attracted attention for cases of rape, including urban athlete recruits from the rough parts of eastern cities. These days even nice ranch girls have defined anal and oral sex as somehow “not sex.” Low income women dependent on men (maybe only emotionally) will accept bad treatment of all kinds esp. when both are drunk. These days HIV is not homosexual -- it’s human. The pattern is the same as tuberculosis or polio: under-lain by poverty, poor nutrition, housing shortage, mixed populations, lack of education or skills.
When I taught on the rez over the past decades, I had to take a tuberculosis anti-body test because the “bug” moves as aerosol and most schools have closed ventilation systems that recycle rather than pulling in outside air. For a while I got false positives. When I was ward clerk at a nearby nursing home, the lead nurse was sweating out an eye-splash she’d gotten while working in an OR elsewhere. There was no known HIV on the premises, but many stories about Hep C. (The nurse was spared HIV.) The first AIDS death of someone I knew was a fellow UU minister, a handsome young man whose father was a denominational leader and whose male partner was an MD.
If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that I leap from the particular to the universal. Therefore, what I see in this virus is a call to theology -- one of the many needles and shuttles that connect us with threads. This web has powered my shift from an understanding of salvation as personal and individual eternal life in some other place (as I was taught in Presbyterian sunday school), to awareness of eternal life as a fabulous shifting code pattern in which we participate through the phenomenon of consciousness -- our ability to reflect and enjoy. This is Eastern and Native American thought, which are contexts that were spared the Roman Empire as well as the Abramic paternalistic worldview. It’s not “New Age.” It’s scientific. It’s the cosmology of those who are aware of the evidence.
Like every other threat to existing prosperity, HIV-AIDS is virulently attacked by the representatives of the status quo -- which use as disguises the imported dogma of the Mediterranean, filtered through battles for dominance in Europe, and temporarily successful domination of the Americas. These forces (call them right wing or ultra-conservative) are really about owning and controlling. They are propelled by fear.
A key concept of participation-based wholistic life rather than preservation-based personal life is that there is no birth and no death -- one’s consciousness is simply received and then surrendered. Use the body as you will, while you may, to traverse the web as you encounter it. This is so different that it has penetrated [sic] many people on this planet without those who are preoccupied with getting-and-spending even perceiving it. But children can see and feel this universal sense of the world.
Yesterday on www.hereandnow.org Matt Damon’s mom, who is an expert on child development, discussed the impact of so much “dark” violence in our media, esp. since her son is pretty deep into it. http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/02/21/video-games-guns The question is in part why ordinary nice suburban kids are so attracted to these sexualized, monstrous, terrifying images. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t have to ban them. Since nice suburban moms with good incomes are discussing the issues, they miss the most obvious fact: many (maybe most if you include the Third World) kids right-here-right-now are LIVING what’s in those video games. They don’t see murder on TV -- they ARE murdered. This is one of the reasons kids have so much contempt for adults; that adults turn away.
Even the nice ordinary suburban kids know this -- odds are some of those kids are sitting in the same classrooms, undetected and unaddressed by adults. Anyway, the state of the world on the news, the ragged “canners” pushing shopping carts, the urban myths that circulate even in the countryside, are mostly denied and ignored by adults. If games are a way of working through kid issues, then video games quite likely address the moral and spiritual puzzles that adults fail to address in reality. I still dream images of torture from WWII when I wasn’t even old enough to attend school yet. (Bulldozers push high piles of the naked bodies, bones barely covered by flesh.) No adult ever discussed them. They are the bulldozers behind my questing, which isn’t about God-dogma at all. It’s existential. And mercifully, the adults who WILL address such Evil are often located in the better seminaries.
So this workshop in Great Falls is being addressed by a man on the boundary, Greg Smith: young, good-looking, and dynamic. Because he is a partnered gay, he cannot be a priest. I’d like to see the world from his eyes for at least a few hours. I’d also like to see what he knows about the Underworld where big tough outsider tribal felons hang around in bars the college guys love to cruise to show how initiated they are. What I know is mostly second hand, but mighty vivid. (If I’d investigated first hand, I’d be dead now.) Being a "virtuous" old lady, impoverished and celibate, is like being a priest without a church.
Of course, I don’t SAY that, because many people are terrified of religious people, having had relatives who were “seized” and put into prisons of one sort or another. Christianity can be predatory. The irony is that a physical prison -- when it reaches critical mass -- can force a spiritual rebirth. Not always. And some fake it.
The media doesn’t really get all this stuff, partly because reporters tend to be young, underpaid, ambitious kids controlled by old guys with an eye that is interlocked with readership and advertising. News is defined by profit. The educated are too busy sitting in seminars arguing over regulations. The priests are burying young people. (But only their bodies.) Some realize that life is “for reals,” not a video game. But it’s going on and going on -- through us. To feel that is an astonishment and a joy.