Category Archives: Review

Advisers speak

Last night, Hamilton College, in Clinton, New York, hosted a discussion between Condolezza Rice and Susan Rice, with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell moderating. Even though I was headachey, I went.

The benefits far outweighed the hassle. The nearly two hour drive went fine. I sat next to a couple who told me about Hamilton College. And, the women forum was fantastic.

They spoke intelligently, eloquently, and on topic for an hour and half. The occasion substantiated the reality of people learning to get along and trust good, yet knowing it involves hard work and challenges.

I better understand world events in Syria, Iran, and Russia, with less fear of the unknown. Human beings can work things out.

Condolezza said, “I learned to respect correct timing.”

Susan said, “If I can’t change my opinion in light of new information, then I shouldn’t be in this business.”

The women showed me that they are like me and you: people willing to work twice as hard, who knows there are no victims, and won’t take on the prejudices of others. There is good work to do whether in government, in church, on the job, or at home. Diplomacy is crucial. Don’t enable dictators. Encourage the democratic nations and people.

hamilton stage susan mitchell condelezza

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Movie and book

Okay, I admit, I liked watching the flick, Spiderman: Homecoming, 2017.

Casting was superb. Acting was fine. Script was catchy enough. A few times, I got bored and of course there were too many of what I call, chase scenes.

The writers managed, however, to bring out the importance of family and looking after one another.

Now, at the same time, I’m listening to, In the Footsteps of Paul, by Richard Rohr, and I really like it too.

The topic is superb. The spoken words are fine. Ideas shared are catchy enough. A few times I doubt his conclusions, and of course it sometimes seems like I’ve heard it all before.

Rohr manages, however, to bring out the importance of thinking for oneself, and only criticizing one’s own religion and not others. Speaking for oneself, not others.

Quoting from science & religion to God:

Divine Truth is known by its effects, not words. When you do experience spirituality, you may not be able to explain the experience in words that others will understand. Human thought doesn’t immediately capture an understanding of the divine equation and its solution. We feel stuck on this material plane, stuck in problems, stuck in words that have multiple meanings. We must educate our thought to the higher meaning where substance is understood to be Spirit.

How we interpret life affects not only our outlook and expectations, but also the consequences. Interpretation is either literal or spiritual.

Taken literally the words, “Clean your room,” produces decent results. But when dealing with less concrete concepts, open to wide interpretations, such as, “Be nice,” the results can vary. Spirituality comes to our rescue.

Divine interpretation gives us the deeper meaning our hearts yearn for. Spiritual interpretation maintains our life purpose and makes our experiences, words, expressions—even myths—useful.

Book recommendation

I just finished a book that portrays fairness and intelligence. It also allowed me to get to know Islam a bit better because the author grew up in a Muslim home. I want to rid myself of bias or prejudice against other religions and this book helps.

The book title is, The Blindfold Horse: Memories of a Persian Childhood, and it’s written by Shusha Guppy.

The first chapter is about a blindfolded horse and to be honest, it confused me some because I don’t really see how it tied into the rest of the book. But the chapters are short, so I was able to get to the second chapter quickly and read about Guppy’s life and memories, which were written very well.

I could identify with her life in that God, love, trust, friendship, and courage are important.

Guppy talks about the dangers of religious fundamentalism and how it sadly affected the Persian countries in 1979, when the Shaw was overthrown, and religious authorities took control.

The book reminds me of the importance of keeping state and religion separate and to put God before religious organization. It reminds me to follow divine rules before I follow church rules.

I recommend The Blindfold Horse.

History of women fades quicker

The attention given to women during March annoys me. It only takes half a minute to look back and see the future. A month of admiration given to women, then comes April Fool’s Day. Just joking, women are on the front line in the fight for equality and respect and our casualties outweigh the survivors.

A study on the 2017 state of women in corporate America reported that women, especially of color, remain underrepresented, hit low glass ceilings, get less support on the job, and then, 54% of them go home to do most or all the housework.

What are we up against? The human system. It’s rigged for inequalities by its very nature of diversity, yet we keep giving it power. And that power is abused.

Through research, social scientists find that when participants are assigned positions of power, they often willingly take candy from children or give near-lethal shocks to strangers for no reason other than being told to do so.

Professor of Psychology at University of California, Dacher Keltner reported last fall in Harvard Business Review, “These findings from laboratory studies tell us that abuses of power are predictable and recurring.”

I talk about recurring abuses of power in my memoir, I Am My Father-Mother’s Daughter. I also talk about stumbling upon better strategies to expand equality and respect.

First, I learned how to isolate the enemies.

The enemies aren’t men, they aren’t submissive women, and they aren’t nature or nurture. Whether believed or not, the enemies are inequality and disrespect.

It’s that simple and yet that complex. And to keep it simple, uncomplicates a better plan of action. An example from my memoir.

I grew up learning about Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) and about Christian Science as taught through her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

Christian Science is a divine system sourced to help improve the human system.

Eddy developed Christian Science into a religion by founding a church in Boston. Her accomplishments struck powerful chords early 20th century. Individuals were transformed, the church flourished, and then branched out worldwide, as successes far outweighed failures.

Mary Baker Eddy was a household name. Respected more than not.

By the 1980s, however, when I was in my twenties, her storyline backfired.

The backfire can be traced to contemporary controversies about the practices of healthcare and prayer, especially regarding children. Arguably, these sharp challenges are necessary to expose spiritual failures on the part of Eddy’s self-professed followers, but the result is Eddy’s original reputation and her accomplishments plummeting to obscurity.

Another female casualty. It’s tiresome, even if she’s used as a tourist attraction.

But, I uncovered and confronted my own guilt of being pretty proud of myself for admiring and following a woman. Basically, my arrogance pushed the limits of respect into a reverence for Eddy’s personality and her words. I admired the wrong thing. It was disrespect disguised as respect.

I pulled back to figure out a better plan of action: Use the power of admiration correctly.

The power of admiring women can’t go unchecked. What are we admired for? Sex appeal? Stop it now.

Intelligence and skill? Okay, but don’t let your guard down, because the power to approve of feminine intelligence and skill is limited and quickly slips into disapproval with any prodding from envy.

Are women admired for patience and empathy? Fine, but arm yourself, everyone, women and men. Arm yourself with better teachings and better learning, untainted by annoyance.

I just learned something.

Yes, the fight to give power to equality and respect is teachable and learnable. It means not trying so hard to give power to gender or positions in life. It means fighting correctly during Women’s History Month, instead of complaining about what I don’t like.

Bio: Cheryl Petersen is a freelance writer and student of Christian Science living in upstate New York. Her books are: 21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: A revision of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health, and, from science & religion to God.

 

 

 

 

 

Tribute to Billy Graham

The death of American Christian evangelist Billy Graham deserves homage. I’ve only heard Graham speak a few times, over the radio or on the television. He didn’t really hold my attention. I have read books about Graham, they were nice. I’ve also read about his wife, Ruth Graham, because behind every great man is a great woman.

Graham is known for repeating, “The Bible says…” and, to be honest, those words don’t appeal to my thinking because the Bible is open to interpretation. Words in the Bible can say many things to many people and I have yet to meet someone who gets it always right. And words in and of themselves don’t have power.

So, Graham’s words didn’t enlighten or inspire me, but his integrity, perseverance, and dedication did and still will enlighten or inspire me. What motivated Graham? I suppose it was his love of God, family, and the Bible. And I suppose that is about all I have in common with this, which is plenty.

Caring for Religion, Commentary in The Daily Star newspaper in NY

My article printed in The Daily Star February 10, 2018

Reading in The Daily Star about closure of First Baptist Church in Oneonta provoked flashback. I don’t know their circumstances, but my church community folded about fifteen years ago, and I now offer one piece of advice. Care for religion.

This is not to say religion hasn’t been cared for, but there is a difference between caring for religion and taking care of sacred centers or defending religious policies.

To care for religion isn’t to worry about religion. It isn’t to get distracted by thinking religion is dying. It’s not dying. Pew Research Center reports that 84% of the world’s population is religious-minded and it’s on the increase.

Religion is part of human life, like dirt. And, it is the religious-minded who provide the best care for religion. In other words, pointing fingers at the nonreligious-minded is silly. We don’t expect people who don’t own pets, to care for our pets.

So, how do we care for religion?

I started pondering that mystery when a teenager. I had plenty of time. I spent a gazillion hours operating tractors on the family farm, working the dirt. Plowing, planting, harvesting.

In between listening to Elton John on the AM radio, I’d think over narratives from the Bible, such as the parable of the sower, reportedly given by Christ Jesus. The storyline starts with a sower, throwing seed everywhere. Seeds on the road, on rocky places, in shallow soil, in thorns, and, yep, “on good soil.”

Despite my inclination to debate the waste and inefficiency of randomly throwing seeds everywhere—we used precision planters on the farm—I still was able to grasp the possibility of seed bringing “forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.” (Matthew 13:8)

Arguably, religion has brought forth the fruits of spiritual texts, guidance, relief, wellbeing, and meaningful lives. But, the farmer in me knows that growing fruit depletes nutrients in the ground, big time, and diminishes soil.

That’s why farmers fertilize or amend soil, alternate crops, or leave the land fallow.

Nevertheless, it was that very strategy of caring for soil that moved my mind to care more for religion than for the soil depleting religious practices and policies. I’ll give an example.

When a child, my parents introduced me to Christian Science, defined as an infinite force of divine spirit interpreting harmony to the universe.

As a religion however, it was established by Mary Baker Eddy late 19th century. Early records show churches prospering and members enjoying noteworthy healing and advancements in the study of both human mind and divine mind.

I, myself, experienced tangible benefits from the religion. These fruits, so-to-speak, were self-satisfying until the 1980s when I was first surprised, then grieved, to see churches headed toward their deathbeds.

To be honest, it took me years to stop reminiscing or trying to relive the glory days even if they were in my imagination. It took me years to stop advocating for a human ideology and start advocating for improved religion or convictions.

In my situation, I carried an unfounded conviction that Christian Science required radical reliance on prayer for healing. Why did I have such a conviction?

Good question, and I didn’t get good answers. So, I confronted language used by both admirers and critics of Christian Science, either excusing or condemning going to doctors or not. I traced the language to a sentence in Eddy’s textbook on Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She wrote, “Only through radical reliance of Truth can scientific healing power be realized.”

A 19th-century dictionary showed me that the word “radical” has, well, radically changed in meaning during the last one-hundred years. It meant, pertaining to the root or origin, and didn’t carry todays weight of extremism.

But the regrettable notion of “extreme prayer,” paled next to the mistake of grossly confusing reliance on Truth with reliance on prayer.

Sure, prayer is a big component of Christian Science, but prayer is not synonymous with truth. And this new conviction sprouted. I could see it and hear it.

More accurate language was used to discuss and write about religion, teaching me indirectly that spiritual texts also aren’t synonymous with truth, but are interpretations. The conviction multiplied.

Religion is not synonymous with truth. Science, politics, and the media are not synonymous with truth. These institutions aren’t even sources of truth but are methods to discover and share.

Unfortunately, these methods can be used to notice and share information that does little or no good, even harm, to humanity. That is why we should be careful before repeating information. That is why our institutions need continual care.

Historically, proper care doesn’t come from anger, complacency or arrogance. Care comes from insight, education, and an openness to take the time to listen to others to learn where they started from and how they got to where they are. It comes with courage to outgrow the old and wear the new.

Posted online January 9, 2018, Barna Research reported that, “In a post-truth climate, the challenge, particularly for faith leaders, may be to find that balance between encouraging positive signs of introspection while confronting wholly subjective approaches—whether in interpreting facts, discerning truth or practicing faith.”

After reflecting on the bygone Baptist Church, I felt positive respect for its 185 years of singing praises and serving the community. I also was urged to confront and rethink that parable about the sower.

Remember that sower mentioned above, sowing seed willy-nilly? Is it telling me that my religion, or religion in and of itself, isn’t the only place where seed was sown? I’m feeling a growing conviction that seed is everywhere, ready to bear fruit. Let’s get the soil ready.

Bio: Cheryl Petersen lives in Delhi. Her books are “21st Century Science and Health,” “from science & religion to God: A narrative of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health,” and “I Am My Father-Mother’s Daughter.”

Little miracles

Miracles seem to come in different sizes. Some big, some little. But, if we look at all the little miracles, do they add up to a big one?

It’s the many little miracles in the 1947 film, The Bishop’s Wife, staring Cary Grant, David Niven, and Loretta Young, that bring meaning.

A Bishop, played by Niven, is troubled by an obsession to fund the building of a new cathedral. He prays for guidance and an angel by the name of Dudley, played by Grant, appears.

The miracle wasn’t a funded and built cathedral, but spiritual guidance that influenced the Bishop, his wife, and the people around them. They were influenced to treat themselves and others better.

At one point, Dudley, the Bishop’s wife, and a taxi cab driver went ice-skating. With a little angelic miracle working, everyone ice-skated, heavenly.

Afterward, the taxi cab driver thanked the couple for including him and said, “You restored my faith in the human soul.”

Restored faith in goodness and humanity is a big miracle.

bishop wife

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