Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

Links to the Camino de Santiago pilgrimages are on the navigation links to the right of the web page.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Beware of the Leopard

One of my favorite exchanges in "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams has to do with the planned destruction of the house Arthur Dent, the main character. He hadn't heard of the demolition details for the new highway bypass, and bulldozers were poised at his door, ready to plow his home down. The foreman claimed that everyone knew the plans, well, except Arthur, who was lying in the mud to block the destruction. 

" ...You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually telling anyone or anything." 
"But the plans were on display..." 
"On display?! I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them." 
"That's the display department." 
"With a torch." 
"Ah, well the lights had probably gone." 
"So had the stairs." 
"But look you found the notice didn't you?" 
"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of The Leopard'."
In many ways, that's how I'm feeling about the current discussion of social justice in the Vice Presidential debate. (Yes, I'm a geek). We're hearing lots of talk about how the Paul Ryan budget is aimed to improve the efficiency of the economy, improve our finances, and ensure that the business will thrive. But like planners who thought a highway bypass would be a great way to move forward, it completely ignores those whose lives are destroyed, whose homes will be lost, who will be cast under the tractor in the name of progress.

Both candidates are Roman Catholic. I was raised Roman Catholic, though now I'm a practicing Episcopalian. In either denomination, the concept of social justice is fairly deep. It's part of our religious culture, our DNA. We take care of those who need assistance. Look around the country, and a vast number of larger hospitals, hospices, shelters, and food banks are run or were started by churches with a social justice tradition. 

Social justice is not a political position. It's a moral obligation. It's part of our covenant with God: love each other as God loves us. It has nothing to do with communism, socialism, or other such "Beware of the Leopard" demagoguery.

Without the details of what an economic plan involves, I have to agree with Sister Simone and the Nuns on the Bus. The social safety net is most assuredly going to be hacksawed in order to accomplish all the things that have been promised. If there were other reasonable offsets and plans (reduction of military budgets, elimination of capital gains tax preferences, etc) that addressed the revenue-expenditure imbalance directly, I would believe that the budget could do this without sacrificing the needy on the cross of economic realities. But I don't see it. The Romney-Ryan budget plans don't add up. 

I don't understand why it's too difficult to share the details, explaining how the numbers will actually work. To insist on hiding details is to demonstrate arrogance, paternalism, and elitism. We can handle the truth, as it shall set us free.

So, like Arthur Dent, I feel like I need to lie in the mud in front of my house, hoping I can thwart the implementation of a plan I feel I know nothing about, a plan that cares not a whit about those who lie in its path. And as Arthur eventually puts a towel over his eyes so that he cannot see things that might cause panic, so too are we being asked to ignore the bulldozer at our door.

Our Vice Presidential candidates may talk about their Roman Catholic faith, but I can certainly sense when one hasn't really been listening in his pew. I pray that we hear the details soon so that we can in fact make progress, without sacrificing the needy.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Squirrel vs Dog - Unleashing our drug laws

The title of the article might have been about the so called  surprising results from Portugal's decriminalization of drugs. I can't say I'm very surprised at all. In fact, it's about time we address the astonishing cost, both financially and in human lives, of our war on drugs.

Our country's relentless frontal attack on the problem reminds me of animal behavior classes I took years ago. A dog on a leash, seeing a treat, will tug on its chain to try to reach its goal, even if the chain is snagged on a pole. It might try to dig, claw, bark, but it never looks back to see that the chain is caught and never addresses the root cause of its problem.

A squirrel on the other hand will, if chained, look around, move backwards, climb, scramble, go backwards even to find a way to get to its treat. It will usually figure a way to correct the chain's problem and get to its treat.

Portugal looked at the drug problem, stepped back and found a compassionate AND cost-effective way to  address the issue. It reduced the number of people shackled by drug issues, and showed that relentlessness does not have to be the same as a direct frontal assault. Our countries spends billions on attacking drugs with full force head-on, without the same thoughtful, comprehensive approach. It's the club rather than the protractor approach, and it's clear that it isn't working.

As in the movie "Up", it's time we yell a collective "POINT" and help this dog of a drug policy around its blinders, and instead lead it towards a more compassionate, comprehensive, successful strategy. We need a real solution that respects the value of all the people caught in the chains of drug addiction.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Something old, something new

This week's news was again about celebrating a wedding, about bringing something old and something new. I mean, very new. Yes, this morning, Slate published an article on the first gay wedding on a US military base.

Here, we have an old institution, a bedrock of American society, standing firm since the very beginning of this country. Yet, it didn't know who its people truly were, what they wanted deep inside, and what it took to keep them firm in their commitments, faithfulness, truthfulness, honor.

But it became apparent through the years, that many were not being truthful or living in honesty. An institution grows decrepit when populated by such folks, and people grow to distrust the institution. So, this mainstay of American wanted to confirm its relevance and authority, not by redefining itself but by affirming what it truly envisioned itself to be. And it wanted to a beacon of justice, when its past had too many examples of otherwise.

Yes, the article was about the US military. I, though, am talking about the Episcopal Church.
When we ask people to commit themselves 100% to their mission, their passion, their love, we cannot treat them like second class citizens. We cannot say that their baptism was a mistake, because God already made holy their incorporation into the body of the church. They are our kin, even if we're just not that into them.

It pains me when I see the way these soldiers were ostracized by their churches. Yet God's expansive love found a way to them, and they are together in the eyes of the army and in the eyes of God. Just as we are commanded to feed the hungry, so must we nourish the souls of those who seek out the divine.

If the US army -- conservative, assured, protective, firm -- can meet the needs of its people, other institutions that we trust should as well. My church has taken continued its many new steps in this direction, and for that I am humbled and grateful. I pray that we continue to recognize all who work towards justice and bring the God's kingdom to all who desire.

-- Mel

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Repost from my Walking With Integrity Blog - "Let All Who Are Thirsty Come"

Reposted Article, originally published on Integrity USA's Walking With Integrity 

"Breathe" I told myself. It's the Episcopal Church's triennial General Convention, you'll be surrounded by other faithful people, and you've worked at high tech conferences and convention halls for 25 years. But this was different.
I was volunteering to be the social media dude at Integrity USA.
The first orientation gathering didn't calm me down. The eager staff and volunteers meeting was packed with clergy, seminarians and the discerning. Who was I to be the mouthpiece or at least the e-megaphone for this amazing group of God lovers?
But after a couple of days, we settled down. I sat in committees, tweeted, posted, blogged, facebooked, photographed, webbed, texted, videotaped, video-blogged, sang, and prayed. I broke bread not just with Integrity but with a caring, larger community from a world-wide church. I learned much about the church in continental Europe as well as in our own backyards. I befriended Bishops, cried with transgender clergy, sang with ordinary canons and canons of the ordinary, and was told to go fishing by +Gene. 
We all worked so hard, got tired, then worked harder. And we hunkered down, afraid of the 107F swamp air outside the convention center. I listened and sang to Taizé songs in my room, for I needed to center myself against the flurry, so as to better share Integrity's message with others.
And the message of God's inclusive love wasn't getting sent out there. It already WAS there. I can't express my surprise at the difference between GC 2009 in Anaheim versus Indianapolis. People WANTED to make all mean ALL. And with that, I was humbled by the Holy Spirit as she lifted us higher.
Even more so, I connected more strongly with social media in a way that I hadn't expected. I became a fan of twitter three years ago after the last General Convention. The fact that the General Convention was one of the TOP TRENDING search topics (#GC77) shortly after the passage of A049 on same gender blessings blew me away. We were acting because of God's prodding, and the world was watching, sharing, retweeting. It was humbling.
And on top of all that, I even got to enjoy a few minutes of Bonnie-Ball (tweet or facebook me if you haven't seen the final score).
At a local watering hole on my last night, a waiter expressed surprise that we were having cocktails AND we were at General Convention. Clearly, he didn't know  the Episcopal Church, on several levels. We shared our message with him, and he seemed impressed, pleased, and most curiously, curious. It's that curiosity that I found most powerful, because in the seeking lies the seeds of new awareness, new life, and new followers.
Thank you Integrity, #GC77, and all who build bridges for those who were lost or locked out. I pray that your work evangelizes and helps the discouraged and distraught find justice and equality. 
Let all who are thirsty come, and let all who wish receive the water of life freely. Amen.
by Melvin Soriano
Geeky Volunteer/Choir member/Vestryperson from All Saints Pasadena &
Check out all that we did on:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Let All Who Are Thirsty Come

Big mistake.

I let my thoughts wander and I fell away from my blogging. I apologize. I hadn't walked away from the church, from Christ or from thinking (as though those were mutually exclusive), but I did walk away from creating a journal that recounts my experiences.

And that's a mistake. One can't tell they've made a journey, trekked through the swamps and mountains, unless they've logged where they've been. Worse, they might circle back to the same dead-ends and road blocks that impede any journey.

As such, I've renamed and repurposed the blog. I'm going to be more focused on who and what I experience. I may not pen something immediately (the pen, by the way, is a writing utensil that does not require electricity), but I intend to put it down eventually.

And I'll hold myself accountable by tweeting about these thoughts.

So, I apologize to myself and to those who may have ever been interested in my thoughts. Simply saying that God knows what I am thinking isn't enough. I must be clear enough to myself to make sure that I know what I'm thinking.

The new name is "Let All Who Are Thirsty Come". I realized that my inward thoughts weren't helping me focus unless I understood why I prayed. I want to encourage others to feel God's expansive and relentless love. If they thirst and hunger for it, it's there for their nourishment. We may not be able to stare at God directly, but God's light shines and illuminates all that we are and see.

For those of you who have influenced my return here, directly or indirectly, thank you. I am grateful for your role as guardian angels of my spiritual life.

Paz y fe,