Author Archives: Dr. Larry Taylor
a fish tale
Not through any lack of seamanship had she become encased, imprisoned, in ice. Unpredicted by any of the computer models, a radical wind-shift, a sudden plunge in temperatures, unseen currents combined in a rapid ambush to quick-freeze ship and crew in an icy hell. Her hull was double steel, as sturdy as it is possible to make an Antarctic explorer, but the marine architect’s best materials are no match for the crushing power of moving ice. She would crumple like an aluminum can. The choice before them now – wait it out, yearning for rescue before the crush, or set out across mile after mile of horizontal glacier in the slight hope of reaching a weather station. Here, all is white – sun’s rays and eyebrows, ice sheets and ocean foam in the distance.
Here, the legendary albino cachalot is rumored to dive 3,000 meters in search of its arch enemy, the colossal squid. Deep below the frozen surface, the monsters clash in mortal combat. For decades – legends say for centuries – one particular white whale wins battle after battle, scarred and bloodied, he breaches for air after nearly drowning in the squid’s grasp, the enemy’s 20-foot-long tentacles clinging to his mouth with suction cups that don’t know they are dead. He is said to have stowed ships of old, sending harpooners by the scores to Davey Jones’ Locker. Poseidon reincarnated, at war with humans, destroyers of the seas. Every piece of plastic, every drop of oil, every spewing pipe and deafening explosion angered him more, made him more determined to eradicate the horrid species.
Unaware of the beast’s presence below, the crew waits. Fuel exhausted, generators dead, no sign of rescue. Bundled against the 60, 70, 80-below zero temperatures where winds blow unobstructed for leagues, they set out. The ship was still in sight when they heard the metal crunch and watched her slump sideways on her frozen death bed. Day after day. Fatigue. Boredom. Too numb to be afraid, they trudge, march, led by sun, stars, and compass. Is there still a weather station ahead? How long? Weeks, at least.
An engineer’s mate was the first to drop. The stupor lasted only minutes before his breathing ceased and his skin turned blue. Silently, they stripped the body of useful objects – ice axe, knife, socks. The scene repeated – one a day, two or three a day. The survivor party weakened, diminished. Those remaining starred at each other through vacant eyes. Now there were three – the captain, a seasoned salt as tough as iron; a strapping young deckhand, and the associate chief scientist who defied her femininity with a combination of keen intellect and dogged determination. Mile after mile, day after day, no structure in sight. Nothing but ice and sky.
She heard the men plotting to kill and eat her body. From then on, she walked behind so she could see them. She slept with a hand gripping her hunting knife – half her brain awake at all times, like the behemoth who ruled the seas. But she was sound asleep as the sun glared sideways across the frozen surface and the hunters approached their prey, knives drawn, stepping lightly, softly, insane with hunger and cold.
A massive roar, exploding shards of ice the size of ships, salt water erupting high in the air as if bombed from above – the massive white sperm whale erupted like a volcano through the ice, breached high, and with its massive weight, crushed captain and deckhand just as they were raising their knives to kill her.
She screamed awake and sat dazed staring into the massive eye of the whale four feet in front of her. Although the monster was slashed with scars, several harpoons sticking from its hide, dorsal fin nicked and misshapen, its eye was soft, somehow gentle, and even seemed to carry empathy, care.
Trembling, she stood, gingerly walked to the beast, stroked his side, and with her knife carefully surgically removed the harpoons. It must have hurt the whale, but he did not flinch. It was as if he knew the surgeon cut only to heal. They looked at each other with mutual gratitude. They were one.
The Doctrine of Discovery is Enshrined in American Law …
… and that is very, very, unjust
I was aware of the as yet unretracted series of papal bulls that made up the Doctrine of Discovery in the mid 15th century. I knew that the Roman Catholic Church authorized the invasion and subduing of any land anywhere not ruled by a Christian monarch. I knew that it justified genocide in the name of the Prince of Peace. It was the basis and rationale for European conquest and colonization.
What I did not know until recently was that the Doctrine of Discovery has been embedded and enshrined in American law since 1823 when Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall stated “that the principle of discovery gave European nations an absolute right to New World lands.” As late as the mid-2000s, the Supreme Court issued rulings that Native people have no right to their ancestral lands because the Doctrine of Discovery gave those lands to the United States of America. According to American law, Native Americans have already been fully compensated for their land, culture, livelihoods, and wellbeing because they have received “civilization,” and “Christianity.”
Historically, Christian missionaries were ambassadors of western (and in their view, superior) culture. “Pagans” had to “civilized.” Missionaries paved the way for entrepreneurs to extract valuable resources from the land.
That’s a far cry from the gospel of Messiah Jesus. Jesus defined the gospel as good news to the poor. Good news to the poor involves four things: liberating prisoners, giving sight to the blind, setting the oppressed free, and proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord. (See Luke 4:18-19) Proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord is a reference to Jubilee (Leviticus 25). Land was rested, crops rotated, debts forgiven, and property equitably distributed.
Because the Doctrine of Discovery is embedded in American law, anyone, or any corporation, with enough money can buy land anywhere in the world and legally extract anything of value for their own profit without consideration for the effect on the people who live on or near the land. I’m not just talking about mining and drilling operations.
Consider the Great Black Swamp that covered what is now much of Ohio. It belonged to indigenous people for at least 10,000 years. Using the Doctrine of Discovery, Europeans legally seized the land, cleared the native trees, drained the wetlands, and farmed. As cities grew, developers bought some of the farmland, scraped off the topsoil, destroyed what was left of the native plants, and built houses. Farms and suburbs pour chemicals on the land – chemicals that drain into waterways and pollute them. Automobiles and industries pollute the air. Native habitat is gone.
None of that is what God intended. God created us embedded in a closed economic system. Once we pollute all the water, there won’t be any pure water. Once we destroy the atmosphere, we can’t trade it for a new one. We humans do not have the ability to destroy life. We do, however, have the ability to destroy all human life.
Part of the problem is the uniquely American focus on individuals. “Freedom” in America too often means doing whatever I please. Our brand of Christianity is all about individuals coming into right relationship with an individual God. We have little sense of being connected to the vast web of life. We read the Bible through the lens of American individualism, but biblical culture is communal, not individual. I am affected by choices made in past generations. My actions will affect future generations. Trees and dolphins are my siblings. Every sunrise is a gift from God.
The earth and everything on and in it belong to God. I am required by the Creator to respect creation because it don’t belong to me. I should be treating the natural world like I would treat someone else’s valuable piece of art.
Handle with utmost care.
Bitter cold horizontal rain
stung our faces while gale winds
shredded the sails, rendering us
helpless, smashed against the
rocky shoal, gasping for air on a strange
beach only to be imprisoned by Circe
herself in spells of undulating force-fields.
What she did to the others, I have
no way of knowing, but
after some hours of interrogation,
she used her enchantments to turn
me into a sea creature with gills and
flotation bladders sufficient to dive into the
She twirled her fingers and I spun like a top
round and round – flung into the ocean from which
Curious with my still human brain,
I dove, down, down, down
through kelp beds, past submerged fumaroles,
and curious serranids and sperm whales into
utter darkness and immense pressure,
only to discover a light, like a headlamp
lighting the way. Strangely, it came from within,
as if by a search light mounted on my fish-head.
Down, down, down, past creatures too strange to
describe – translucent, luminous, wheels in swarms.
Ahead, a tunnel opening onto the bottom of the ocean
from which belched hot gases tinted with green.
Still curious, I approached, and to my surprise, felt no
pain, only warmth. And so, I swam in, down; able, somehow,
to breath the gasses like air. Further down into vapors of
unknowing, through chasms of fire into a realm that was
pure ethereal music. Light blue mists swirled, creatures, some
with three heads, others half human, half beast – mythic
creatures from the old stories – here, alive, singing – they
seemed to smile with gentle eyes.
It was an easy swim; always with the current through
Rainbows of Flowers draped with Ribbons of Mercy.
Creatures so bright no eye could look directly at them,
soaring on wings above and below as the tunnel opened
wider, still wider, expanding into infinite space.
But not empty space. Space filled with creatures, plants,
Songs, Music, Dance, Blooms, a cacophony of vibrate Beauty.
My fish-body shape-shifted on its own as the golden shore approached.
Human again, now clothed in white robes woven of sunlight,
I came to the center of all universes and knelt before an
still stained with
And, there, I knew at last, I am loved.
LRT 7 March 2023
Although they had sailed the seas and
Traversed the mountains, forded the
Rivers and streams, navigated the
Chernozem wetlands, and crossed
Vast deserts where nothing had
Stopped them – not blizzard,
Rockslide, derecho, avalanche or
Blistering sun – they came to a halt,
Unable to proceed. Dead stop.
In front of them an inferno blazed with
Exploding pines, fire tornados thousands of
Feet high, lava and coals spewing,
Rocks melting like wax, heat so intense
One could not come within miles.
From within a deep voice bade them
Enter and not be afraid, but fear
Welded them in place. They could not
Move and seemed afraid to breathe.
A being of light ten stories tall wielding
A flaming sword lifted them in its
Gigantic hand and carried them to the
Edge of the firestorm, gently whispering
“Fear not, fear not, for here only
Dross can burn.” And, in very fact, as they,
Holding hands and trembling, walked into
The conflagration, they felt no pain, only a
Warm glow that caressed them like a
Mother’s breast, and a strange feeling of
Safety and wholeness swept into them.
As they walked deeper into the fires, they
Had a sensation of becoming lighter,
Freer, and more peaceful. The flames
Sang and music filled the air. Now
Wingéd creatures flew with birds,
Horses pranced, and monkeys swung; then
People from every tribe joined them in
Song and dance, all light; trees, still on fire but
Not consumed spoke old wisdom, lovers
Embraced midair; at last, they emerged on the
Other side into a flowered meadow beneath
Towering peaks that framed a
Tender divine one who
Walks on soft moccasins without
Even rustling the pine needles
Gently alert, listening like the
Deer, attuned to the subtlest
Scent, Ursula-like, attentive to
Each movement with eagle-eyes,
Who walks on wind and drifts in
Swirling eddies amongst microcosms
Whispering, whispering, now
Crashing, invading, breeching,
Smashing into lives, disrupting
Neatly packaged theologies,
Overturning tables of tradition.
Seismic shaking, erupting,
Disconcerting, suddenly there is
Life! Joy! Creativity – allegro,
Now vivace with cosmic explosions,
Pillars of creation, the light, fast
Tempo of spheres singing in
Joyous harmony, colors radiant,
Paramours in Chagall glass
God crashes in with dazzling
Delightful, glorious destruction.
The fire that roasted our fish, and
The coals that warmed our feet,
The glow by which we read the poems,
Flamed forth into the refining fire of
Why are so many people abandoning churches?
I was part of the Jesus Movement, the Jesus Revolution. I personally knew the people in the movie by that name. Many of those folks are gone now. Some, though aging, retain sweet, loving, Christ-like hearts filled with compassion for those Jesus called “the least” of his siblings. Sadly, others have morphed into ridged supporters of ultra-right-wing politics diametrically opposite the hippies we were.
The Jesus Movement was an amazing, worldwide outpouring of God’s love. We were so very young, fresh, full of joy, and love after our initial encounters with the living Christ. Church was a place that welcomed everyone, judged no one, focused on love and grace.
Now, evangelical churches in North America are hemorrhaging members. Most of those leaving still love Jesus and want to follow his teachings. Many are having a hard time finding a community they can be a part of. Those who are thoughtfully reconsidering their faith and affiliations often have prophetic voices to which it would behoove us to pay heed.
Some reasons given by people who have left or are leaving evangelical churches in North America include (in no particular order):
- Many churches are known only what they’re against
- Some churches support far-right-wing politics and are tied to the GOP
- Some actively promote homophobia
- Some are not doing much to end racism
- Women’s issues are ignored or opposed in many conservative churches
- Women are forbidden to use their gifts in some churches
- Some churches seem to not care about the environment
- Many people feel like they just can’t fit in unless they completely conform
- People feel like there isn’t a safe place to ask honest questions
- Megachurches are sometimes seen as full of corporate hype, as a big show
- The leadership of some churches seems more interested in power than service
- Some churches are not committed to social justice – alleviating poverty, promoting universal healthcare, eliminating homelessness, helping the mentally ill, addicted, disenfranchised, and marginalized.
- Some churches are actively participating in white capitalism rather than redistributing wealth with equity by participating in some form of jubilee.
- Many conservative churches support war, the death penalty, and the gun culture while claiming to be pro-life.
- Churches are criticized for their lack of support for immigrants and refugees
- CEO pastor salaries are obscenely high. It is ludicrous for a pastor to make $500,000 to a million dollars a year, yet many do.
- The idea of hell as eternal conscious torture is incongruent with a God of love
- Many people are scandalized by creationism, which holds no scientific validity
- Some churches are anti-science, anti-vax, and promote conspiracies
- There has been sexual abuse by clergy preying on innocent kids
- Single people say they feel like second class people
- Abused women were counseled poorly – told to go home and submit, for example
- The central issue of theodicy: Why would a good, all-powerful God allow suffering?
Personally, I’m grateful that the age of the megachurch and its corporate model is dying. Meaning is found for most people in small fellowships where people who consider themselves family meet, pray, read scripture, take communion, share meals, love and serve one another, and together reach out to others in need.
In the Jesus Movement, there was simplicity. I don’t wish to return to the theological naiveté or the toxic eschatology, but simple gatherings of people who love Jesus were, and are, nice.