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No Time to Be Bitter: Padre Steve takes a Lesson from Buck O’Neil

Where does bitterness take you?

To a broken heart?

To an early grave?

When I die

I want to die from natural causes

Not from hate

Eating me up from the inside

Buck O’Neil

 

I was browsing the internet the other day searching for information on  the life of a person that I am interested in and came across a number of internet sites which indirectly referenced the man but were filled with more bitterness, anger and hatred than I could ever imagine being harbored in the heart of a single person.  They came from the far right and far left but the far right crowd seemed more angry bitter and then I had remembered them being, admittedly this website was extreme even by the standards of Der Stürmer  especially in the overtly racist overtones of the site and that the woman that runs it claims to be Jewish and “mad.” I presume that the site owner was referring to mental illness because only a deranged person could be so bitter, hateful and vengeful and all in the name of righteousness.   I was amazed just how far this woman went but instead of being put off I was morbidly drawn into her site reading article after article as if I had come upon a horrible accident involving Lady Gaga and Sarah Palin.  I finally got away, put down my laptop computer and resumed reading Buck O’Neil’s America on my Kindle.

The sites that I had visited when looking for a totally unrelated subject were filled with such hatred and bitterness that I was stunned. Anyone who reads this site knows that I am certainly not naïve and fully aware of the evil that lurks in the hearts of men, and I include women in that somewhat exclusivist comment.  I began to realize that although I get angry at injustice I don’t have time to be bitter even at things that have been said about me or done to me.

I have seen the cost of bitterness in lives of people around me and in lives of people dying horrible deaths eaten up by the bitterness in their hearts.  I realized a long time ago that even if I was angry and even right in what I knew I could not remain bitter. When I came home from Iraq and was emotionally torn by things that were happening to me as well as the terribly bitter invective of the 2008 elections I knew that I could not live that way.  I had allowed such anger and bitterness to be part of me for a number of years after 9-11 that it consumed me at times, some directed toward those that directed those attacks but an even more vengeful attitude toward political liberals in the United States and Europe.  For a time I lost my sense of moderation and ability to see people as people that God loved and cared about.

Iraq changed that and since I have written about that time and time again I will simply say that when I came back from Iraq I could no longer bear the anger and bitterness of those that hated their fellow Americans as much or worse than those that attacked us.  It made no sense and I knew that I had changed.  I no longer had the time or energy to be so angry that I was bitter.  I was done. I stopped reading and listening to those that promoted such attitudes from the left or the right. Even then I had my moments especially as I battled all the components of PTSD, depression and a loss of faith that left me for all practical reasons an agnostic.  As faith, hope and stability began to return to my life those moments have become far less frequent and for that I am most grateful.

I am now inspired by those that overcame great obstacles of hatred, racial, gender, economic or religious prejudice and many of those stories come from baseball. One of those is the story of Buck O’Neil the great player and manager of the Negro leagues who never played in the Majors and was denied the chance to manage at the Major League level, instead serving as a coach and scout for various Major League teams.  In spite of having endured prejudice, discrimination and all that went with being an African American man, even a talented and successful one.

Yet O’Neil was one of those people that found good in everything and everyone.  He was one of those unique individuals that rises above hatred and does not become infected by it.  Such people seem to be a rarity but thankfully there are others like him and they reside in all corners of our land, they are of every race, religion, ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation and even political affiliation.  They would give the shirt off their back to help others and somehow in spite of things that they have experienced and the painfully nasty tone set by so many politicians, pundits, media types and terribly nasty and bitter people like the lady I referenced above, they still see the good in others and refuse to live lives infected by hatred, prejudice and discrimination regardless of the source.

However I ran into a number of people in the past couple of days that I could not believe. A few years back I started a Facebook page for those in my graduating class at Edison High School in Stockton California.  The title was Edison High School 1975-1978 and its description plainly said that it was for Edison High School in Stockton California.  I thought that was pretty straight forward I set up the page and forgot about it, which I often do because of my Mad Cow symptoms which is what I call my continuing PTSD symptoms, mild cognitive and speech cognition deficits that have affected me since Iraq.

So I forgot about the page, I don’t know how many people are even on it and I start getting nasty and condescending messages on Facebook from a bunch of people from New Jersey for God sakes.  These people were all over me like stink on shit and for what reason?  That I didn’t specify in the title that it was California and not New Jersey. It was in the description for goodness sake; all these people had to do was read. Instead they were all telling me that I needed to change things, tell all of the New Jersey people that this was a California page and remove them from the page. I’m sorry I don’t have time for that and if people can’t bother to read details or even see that the mascot logo was a Viking and not their school’s mascot.  According to the most vocal of these people there were like 29 people that can’t bother to read. So I changed the title to say it was Edison High School Stockton California and put a blurb to the New Jersey people that it was California and not New Jersey. Even that wasn’t good enough and so I passed it by, made a comment that people should read something before signing up for it and left the conversation. If I had stayed I would have started losing any sense of peace.

The I realized that people that do this are probably mad at the world in general, they feel cheated or lied to, they are bitter and need to take it out on someone.  So I took a deep breath, re-read some of Buck O’Neil’s story and thanked God for him. I knew at that moment that I was on the right track. As much as an irritant these people were I could not be angry at them or let it fester.  They must have things going on in their lives that I cannot understand which contribute to them needing to come after me when the obvious solution was simply to remove themselves from the site and tell their friends that they made a mistake.

Whatever, it doesn’t matter because I haven’t got time to be bitter and I don’t want anger and bitterness to eat me from the inside out and take me to an early grave. Maybe someday those that thrive on hatred, division and the promotion of enmity will figure out life and let go.  But as Master Yoda said to Luke “Strong is the power of the dark side” and “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”  I have seen enough of suffering and don’t want to contribute to the climate of hate and discontent that pervades our country.  I think Jesus even talked about not living in anger and bitterness and preached forgiveness even from the Cross. Funny how we have such a hard time living that way.

I have too many friends who have experienced the hatred of others and been wounded deeply by the words and actions perpetrated against them. Some have endured these patiently and others have turned to the same tactics and attitudes that they have been the victims of, perpetuating the cycle. Some things never change; the victims often in time become the persecutors.

Does this make this moderate a liberal and will the label stick?

It most probably does, but what the hell?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, christian life, faith, History, philosophy, Political Commentary, PTSD, Religion

New Year’s Resolutions and the Problem of Forgiveness

 

“New Year’s Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”  Mark Twain

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions well.  Usually mine are not worth the time to make them. However this year I am resolving the make a couple of resolutions that actually are resolvable it real time which I actually stand a chance at keeping.  Well….at least I hope that I can keep most of them, one will be tougher than the others.

The first of these resolutions is to make sure that I am within my weight and body fat standards for the Navy. This is doable and if I don’t do it I could get put out of the Navy and never see the rank of Commander that I worked so hard to be selected. The big test of this is the middle of April and I will make sure this happens and once I meet the standards in April the goal is to keep them and get in even better shape the rest of the year.  Thus I resolve to lose the weight and body fat while keeping it off and getting in great shape. P-90X here I come.

The second resolution is to do everything that I can as a supervisory chaplain to set my co-laborers up for success and to care for the spiritual and human needs our hospital staff as well the Marines, Sailors and their families that come to our hospital for their medical care. I am blessed to have a great staff and a supportive administration so this should be a pretty resolvable resolution.

My third resolution is to continue to rebuild my spiritual life both in daily spiritual disciples and in relationships with God and all the people that God puts in my path.  The past few years have taken a lot out of me and the past year has been a year in which faith returned after living life as for all practical matters an agnostic after I returned from Iraq.

At the same time I still have issues that I struggle with. One of those is on forgiveness. However when people make nasty attacks on me I struggle to forgive. I am rather earthy and certainly cannot be mistaken for a real saint as I have far too many rough edges to think too much of myself in regard to “how good of Christian I am.”  I have to leave that to judgment God and others.  I remember my first confession when I asked the Priest hearing the confession “if they deserved it is it still a sin?” I was told that my actions were still sins even if they deserved it although there might be some mitigation.  I think that my response was “damn.”

A rather nasty attack on me occurred on a website run by people that have left the CEC that had posted my essay about leaving the CEC on their site.  The comment has since been removed as the site administrator.  When I contacted this person he was shocked that was on the site and removed it and apologized to me a number of times and provided me the text of the offending comment.  The weird thing is was that I would have never read the comment if a CEC Bishop had not asked me to go to the site to defend him when the attack was on me.

The comments made about me were typical of much of my experience in the denomination. The person who was quite obviously a CEC clergyman twisted my words and accused me being an apostate. He accused me of “posturing” and denying need for the work of Christ to forgive the sins of humankind especially in regard to homosexuals and Moslems.

In fact these are some of his words: “Fr. Steve now believes that it was unnecessary for Jesus to atone for our sins as even Muslims can obtain Heaven without the Cross. And hasn’t God repeatedly taught us throughout Scripture that homosexual sex is condemned as an abomination. Yet Fr Steve now believes God didn’t really say that at all and that gay sex is okay with God.” My crime is to believe that the grace of God can extend to anyone and the Blood of Christ is sufficient to save anyone.

To put my beliefs and words about this I quote from one of the keynote documents of the Second Vatican Council.  It is a long quote but obviously my critic is clueless and readers unfamiliar with my writings could take what he wrote at face value and agree with him thus I quote from The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church Lumen Gentium paragraph 16:

16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.(18*) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.(125) On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.(126) But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohammedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”, (130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.

I may be a moderate to liberal on some social issues and be more inclined to err of the side of the grace of God when it comes to people that many conservative Christians demean and damn to hell but I don’t deny the Creeds and my beliefs are those espoused in the documents of Vatican II and the Encyclicals of Pope John Paul II.  Personally I think that puts me in some pretty good company as far as my orthodoxy and Catholicity are concerned but there are some in the CEC that like to twist words and beliefs to demonize those that have left that church.  In fact when I was in the church I was attacked and even silenced for being “too Catholic.”  At the same time I was one of the most stalwart defenders of the CEC Church leadership despite how I had been treated by some Church leaders and not defended by others that should have defended me. I understand the pathological needs of those that make such spurious and cowardly attacks under the cloak of anonymity I have a terrible time forgiving them.  I don’t hide who I am or what I believe I expect that anyone that claims to be a Christian minister would have the decency to contact me personally rather than take the low road and do a drive by hit on me on another site. This process will be terribly hard and I will endeavor to forgive and get beyond it but I know my nature.  I am one of those old fashioned people that believe in honest and open dialogue and have a concept of personal honor.  This will require a lot of work and prayer and I will need your prayers to do this.

So there they are. As you can see some resolutions will take some work but I should be able to accomplish them. The last resolution regarding forgiveness will probably take a lot of struggle. Since I presume that the aforementioned coward and those like him will take other pot shots at me my wound will probably remain fresh as much as I want to leave it this part of my life behind.

I appreciate your prayers for me in the coming year. So many people have been so encouraging to me on this website in so many ways since I began the site in February of 2009.  I am so grateful for all of you and give thanks to God for all the love and care that so many readers have shown to me over the past two years.  I pray that you will know the love, peace and blessing of the Incarnate God in the coming year and covet your prayers that I will be able to do the same.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under christian life, faith, Pastoral Care, philosophy, Religion