Power Corrupts? Absolutely Not. Arrogance Corrupts Power.

The issue of white privilege and black disadvantage has lately gained much-needed attention in American and international media due especially to:

Two more incidents have also cropped up recently in the news and on social media:

In each case, a black man was shot by a white man (or Hispanic, in the case of George Zimmerman).

Officer Sean Groubert shoots Levar Edward Jones

Officer Sean Groubert shoots Levar Edward Jones

Obviously, these cases involve racial politics—and they have evoked strong responses from the black community. Whites in America are often blissfully unaware of the double-standard, and often simply assume that race has nothing to do with stories such as these. Meanwhile, black Americans live every day with the knowledge and the fear that they or someone in their family could be unfairly and even lethally targeted simply because they are black.

Though some of the individual cases are complicated, the general picture is clear enough: blacks—especially black men—are often subject to harsher responses from police and other authority figures than whites who are engaging in the same actions.

This pattern of harsher treatment of blacks than of whites is an example of abuse of power. Of course, it is only one of many examples of abuse of power. But since it’s been prominent in the news, it offers an opportunity to look at the bigger picture of why we humans mistreat one another when we get into positions of power over one another.

Hold on. That’s not quite accurate.

Yes, I know, Lord Acton (1834-1902) famously said:

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

But as catchy and oft-repeated as this aphorism is, it’s based on a mistaken idea. Power does not corrupt people as Acton thought. Rather, it is people who corrupt the power. Fortunately, not all people.

We’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s take a look at the most recent incident-gone-viral of a man getting shot for “driving while black.”

For more on power, arrogance, and unselfishness, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events

Seasons of Life

In January of 1969, a photo was published that forever changed our view of the earth, and of our place in the universe. The photo was taken on Christmas Eve day, 1968, by the crew of Apollo 8—the first humans to orbit the moon. It showed a marbled blue and white gibbous earth rising above the barren, brown, crater-pocked surface of the moon.

"Earthrise" - Apollo 8, Dec. 24, 1968

“Earthrise” – Dec. 24, 1968

The photo was quickly dubbed “Earthrise.” It has become one of the most famous pictures ever taken. For the first time, it showed the people of earth the beauty and fragility of our planet as a whole, floating in the blackness of space. The stark, lifeless surface of the moon in the foreground showed just how precious is the abundant life on our own planet.

Based on this indelible visual image, we realized on a gut level that whatever conflicts and divisions we may have among us here on earth’s surface, our planet is one. Seeing the entire earth in a single view put it all into perspective.

And yet, here on earth the struggles and challenges of each day still loom large for us. They fill up the horizons of our ordinary vision. When we’re up close and personal with the task of getting through this day, this week, this month, it’s easy for the years to slip by without ever seeing the big picture of our life.

How would it change our perspective if we could see our whole life, from birth to death and beyond, in one view, just as the “Earthrise” photo showed us our whole planet in one view?

For more on seasons of life, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Science, Philosophy, and History, Spiritual Growth

What is a Real Apology and How does it Help Your Soul?

Apologies have been in the news lately.

Many apologies by celebrities and other public figures fall seriously short in sincerity and believability. They’re more of a CYA response than a real apology.

But sometimes apologies are real.

Mike Fiers apologizing for hitting Giancarlo Stanton with a pitch

Mike Fiers apologizing

Giancarlo Stanton hit by a pitch

Giancarlo Stanton hit by a pitch

Last Thursday in major league baseball, Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Mike Fiers hit Miami Marlins batter Giancarlo Stanton in the face with an 88 mph fastball, causing facial fractures, lacerations, and dental damage. He likely ended the ace hitter’s season. Clearly rattled, in his very next pitch Fiers hit the next batter in the hand, before being taken off the field.

Though tempers flared while all this was happening, afterwards Fiers issued a public apology for the unintentional injuries he had caused. You can read about it and watch an associated video here.

Mel Greig, Australian radio DJ

Mel Greig, DJ

Jacintha Saldanha, 1966-2012

Jacintha Saldanha, 1966-2012

Another public apology occurred on Friday during a long-delayed inquest into the death by suicide of Jacintha Saldanha. In December 2012, Saldanha hanged herself after mistakenly passing on to the floor nurse a prank call from Australian radio DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian. The DJs, posing as Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, had called the hospital where Prince Charles’s daughter-in-law Kate Middleton was being treated for severe morning sickness during her first pregnancy. When the floor nurse revealed private details of Middleton’s condition, and the story went viral, it proved too much for Saldanha.

For our take on the story soon after it happened, see “It Takes a Village to Make a Tragedy.” Now, almost two years later, DJ Mel Greig traveled to England to personally offer a tearful apology for her role in Saldanha’s suicide. You can read the story here.

What does make an apology real? Back in June of this year, actor, filmmaker, and comedian Jonah Hill did it right.

For more on real apologies and the soul, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events, Spiritual Growth

Eat My Flesh, Drink My Blood

When it comes to the Christian sacrament of the Holy Supper, it’s all about eating and drinking. That’s true whether we look at it physically, philosophically, spiritually, or interpersonally.

Let’s look at an earlier story of Jesus feeding the people, from the Gospel of John, chapter 6. I encourage you to click the link and read the chapter first.

The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, by James Tissot

The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, by James Tissot

For more on eating, drinking, and spiritual meaning, please click here to read on.

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Posted in The Bible Re-Viewed

Advanced Tech Brings Down American Plane in Border Skirmish

Knee Defender

Knee Defender

Okay, you’re right, that title is just a little bit exaggerated. The technology isn’t very advanced at all. It’s just a plastic device called a “Knee Defender.”

But it did bring down a U.S. passenger plane.

What?

Well, yes, the Knee Defender didn’t actually bring down the plane. But this weapons technology was deployed in the border skirmish that brought the plane down.

Huh?

Okay, okay, let’s get technical. It’s not really weapons technology. It’s a little gizmo that can be used on a passenger airplane to prevent the passenger in the seat in front of you from reclining. It was deployed for that purpose in the border skirmish that brought the plane down.

Eh?

Yes, it was a border skirmish that brought the plane down. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

For more on border skirmishes and downed planes, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events

From Literal Slavery to Spiritual Freedom

In Exodus 6:5–6, God said to Moses:

I have heard the groaning of the Israelites whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the Israelites, “I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.”

Ten plagues later, the ancient Israelites were on their way from slavery in Egypt to freedom as a self-governing nation.

Israel in Egypt, by Edward Poynter, 1867

Israel in Egypt, by Edward Poynter, 1867

The exodus from Egypt is a seminal story in the formation of the Jewish religion and nation. It is the basis of Passover, one of the most important religious festivals in Judaism.

Yet there is little or no archeological or documentary evidence (outside of the Bible itself) that such mass migration of two or three million people from Egypt to Palestine ever took place. Current scholarship suggests that the Israelites most likely had continuously inhabited the land of Palestine. If there is any grain of historical truth to the story, it appears that it must have been a much smaller and less spectacular event, perhaps involving a few hundred people instead of a few million.

Does this mean we must throw the story of the Exodus out the window as a myth and a fallacy?

Not at all.

The truth of the Bible, and of divine revelation in general, does not depend upon its historical or scientific accuracy. The Bible, as the Word of God, is concerned not with material-world truth, but with spiritual truth.

The Exodus story has become a powerful metaphor for Jews and Christians alike. It tells a deeper story of the human longing for freedom from bondage of all kinds: political, social, financial, emotional, intellectual, and especially spiritual bondage.

In this post, we’ll apply the story to a specific issue: freeing our minds from the oppressive bondage of literalism in our reading of Scripture.

Yes, I am suggesting that reading Scripture in a doggedly literal way is a form of slavery from which we must be freed if we are to fully inherit the spiritual kingdom of God.

For more on freedom from bondage to literalism, please click here to read on.

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Posted in The Bible Re-Viewed

Robin Williams, 1951-2014

Robin Williams, 1951-2014

Robin Williams, 1951-2014

Annette and I are saddened to hear of the death of Robin Williams yesterday, August 11, 2014, at the age of 63. He was a great and compassionate soul. His humor lightened the lives of millions of people around the world. He was also a community-minded man who contributed in many ways to the San Francisco Bay Area where he made his home, and to the wider world. We offer our condolences to his family and friends, and to all who mourn his passing.

We are especially sad to learn that his death appears to have been a suicide after a long struggle with depression. We cannot help but think of his role in the movie What Dreams May Come, in which his character descends into the hellish regions of the spiritual world in order to lift his wife up from there into heaven after her suicide.

It is our belief that people find their life in heaven or in hell based not on the way they died, but on the quality of their character and their life. To put it plainly, no one goes to hell just because they have committed suicide. Though the dark state of mind and heart that leads to suicide may follow people into the spiritual world and persist there for a while, those who have a good heart will over time rise up into heaven through the care and compassion of wise and loving angels.

Robin Williams showed through his life that he has a heart for heaven. Though we on earth mourn the loss of a great entertainer and a good man, Annette and I are confident that it will not be long before Robin Williams has his angel audiences roaring with laughter at his latest heavenly comedy!

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Posted in Current Events, Pain and Suffering, The Afterlife
Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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Earlier Posts
Lee Woofenden speaking at Fryeburg New Church Assembly, Fryeburg, Maine, August 2012

Lee Woofenden speaking at Fryeburg New Church Assembly

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