Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Torture and Crucifixion

When I was in college I was on the swim team and was an expert swimmer. I did not fear the water and made it my friend and enjoyed the pure pleasure of swimming. Once in a while we swimmers would play water polo. One team tried to get the ball into a net at one end of the pool while the other team tried to prevent them and to steal the ball. One trick was to “duck” opposing players and hold them under water while they went for the ball and the goal. I got ducked a number of times and felt I was going to drown. Holding my breath as long as I could, I screamed silently for air until my head burst free and I got to the surface for air. I became quite frightened and gave up the sport

The United States under the guidance of our president and the approval of the congress has endorsed water boarding as a proper technique for interrogating prisoners in order to get information from them. This is torture. It is simulating drowning. The prisoner is tied up, held down and water is poured into his open mouth to make him feel like he is drowning and presumably will be forced to give vital information.

This is supposed to be more humane than pulling out fingernails, beating prisoners on the soles of their feet or using a hot branding iron on flesh in order to elicit information. American propaganda had us believe that only Nazis, Communists and Imperialist Japanese used such methods. During the inquisition Christian prelates used the rack, starvation and cages to convert non-believers into becoming followers of the prince of peace.

Now that water boarding is the preferred form of American torture, can flogging and beatings be far behind? No matter that thoughtful studies have indicated information from torture is vastly unreliable, our leaders hurtle on to allow torture to be just another part of the American way of life.

Christian Churches will hear the narratives of the Passion of Christ read on Palm Sunday, during Holy Week and finally on Good Friday. The story is told of Jesus being tortured by the Roman soldiers and executed on a cross in a slow and excruciatingly painful way until his death. Torture will always be with us, and humane human beings need to do all we can to prevent and stop it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I Love My Monkey Mind


Monkey-minds are bad for you, so goes conventional wisdom of the artists of meditation and spirituality. The monkey-mind races from thought to thought, image to image, stirring up throbbing emotions and passions that disturb the peace and quiet that bring serenity and peace.

Calming the monkey mind will bring stillness and balm to the harried and hurried persons who hurtle through modern or postmodern life. Presumably we will sleep better, think more carefully, become more creative and be better persons. Religious people proclaim that in this calm we may better discern what God calls us to do and be.

The western interest in Zen Buddhism, the religions of India and the orient have aroused and interest in the calming effects of meditation. The Jewish and Christian religions have called on adherents to pray, be silent and hear the “still small voice” from within or from God.

Meditation centers, Gurus, retreats, spiritual directors and fakirs thrive in today’s secular and religious world to help people calm the monkey-mind and help us be better people.

Since I was a student in the seminary in the early 1950’s I have been exposed to all kinds of meditative practices. I have failed miserably at them all. I either fall asleep or think of sex. I used to feel bad that I could not calm my monkey-mind. My thoughts jump happily from concepts, ideas, schemes, plans, occurrences, notions and ideas. It finally dawned on me that the monkey-mind was really a good thing and I was not going to try to calm it any more.

I decided to watch my monkey mind when I tried to take a nap, go to sleep, think about writing or planning a trip. The mind gives me ideas and thoughts that jump out at me and I choose the ones that are interesting, unusual or creative.

Writing with approval about the monkey-mind is an example. Thinking about my busy mind made me ask myself, “So what is wrong with the monkey-mind?” I thought nothing, so enjoy it.

Putting a theological twist on it, perhaps the Holy Spirit speaks to us through our passionate and ever-changing thoughts. Traditionalists proclaim that the Spirit comes in stillness. Yes, maybe that too.

I have a big problem with my friends and colleagues who spend time calming their monkey minds. I do not see any results from such search for tranquility. I still see a lot of anxious and harried clergy and business people, worried about money, success and advancement. Out of the deep or shallow spirituality that pervades the churches and much of society, I see no passion for justice, peace or concern for the poor. I saw no outcry from the spiritual community when the president openly and cynically allowed more inhuman torture by governmental agencies.

I do hope that many people will get benefit from calming their monkey minds. People who meditate often say they derived great peace from their practice. I am glad this is true for them. But I fear this emphasis on meditation and spirituality keeps people quiet, tranquil and devoid of social consciousness or passion for justice.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Youth and the Military

Church groups pride themselves on having vigorous youth programs, ski weekends, spiritual retreats, fun and dances. My eldest granddaughter loves the Bishop Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center in her diocese. I am delighted that she has that important church connection.

I do wonder about what teaching goes on in today’s youth work about the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am sure it is a delicate issue with the strong polarizing positions held by many parents.

I suggest that teens should visit in groups a nearby Veteran’s Hospital. They could bring food and sweets for the wounded. They could sing and put on plays and skits for the recovering soldiers.

Let the young people of our churches see young men and women blind for life. Let them talk with a service man whose arms have been blown off. Let them chat with a young woman whose face is horribly scarred for life because she was burned when her truck exploded.

I suggest discussions about serving in the military and the righteousness of war would take on a whole new dimension.

On another but similar note: There has been much in the news lately about citizens protesting recruiting offices on campuses. People do want trained military recruiters working on the minds of young men and women about patriotism, love of country, fighting for freedom and benefits provided after one’s enlistment is up.

Marine recruiters should be required to take prospective enlistees to a Veteran's Hospital. Let the gung-ho young men and women see wounded soldiers, blind, no arms, no legs and disfigured by burns.
Then if the young people want to enlist let them. Recruitment offices could then be set up wherever the military wants.

I hope any young men and women thinking of the military should take such a trip.