SPIRITUAL DIVERSITY

By: Zoë Muntaner 

WOW,  Pentecost was a diversity fest.  This day became especially significant for Christians because, seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, during the Jewish celebration of Shavuot/Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon his first followers, thus empowering them for their mission and gathering them together as a church.

Jean_II_Restout_-_Pentecôte
“Pentecost”by Jean Restaut II, 1732 Public Domain

 

“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?  Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?  Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome  (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”  Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” ~Acts 2:5-13

That’s how I feel at times when I go to City Council meetings. As if everyone is speaking a different language, but hearing the discussion in their native tongue. Their interests are at stake.  If land use is in the agenda, for sure I’m perplexed and amazed.  Maybe they had some drinks beforehand (I’m not talking about the councilmembers).  It has not crossed my mind until now.  Some people are drunk with power, that’s why I support term limits for City Council.  Is time we bring reform to that area or our government.

Last Sunday was the church birthday.  The night before, I walked to St. Anne’s for a quiet moment of silent reflection and noticed red programs stacked in a stand.  They read:

Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained. ~John 20:22-23  

Sin is  particularly interesting to me because, like most humans,  I’ve sinned.  Through confession, I own it in order to move on and change direction.  I show up at life imperfectly.  In the spirit of keeping it real:

“Perfection is shallow, unreal and fatally uninteresting” ~Anne Lamott

Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” ~John 8:7  

The concept of sin is heavy for most people that lack a broader concept of the word or its meaning.  It was tough for me until I studied other traditions with meanings that allowed me to accept myself the way I am: imperfectly perfect.  Lack of love or missing the mark are two of my favorites.  Catholic guilt is a terrible thing.

“Our virtues are made by love, and our sins caused by the lack of it.”~Hazrat Inayat Khan

On Sunday, I went to yoga class early.  I placed my mat at the back of the room and stretched on my own. My teacher had a substitute.  Fifteen minutes into it, I started to cry.  “What’s going on?  I don’t have time for this, it’s Sunday, I want to have some Zen, not a breakdown.”  Then I remembered going to an Evangelical church in Malibu years ago.  The moment I walked into the classroom where they met and listened to music, I started to cry.  The friend who brought me to the service told me, “Don’t worry, that’s the Holy Spirit, is a normal reaction, just let it go”  Was this the Holy Spirit at work in the yoga studio?  Hmm. Here we go.

By the time I arrived to St. Anne’s my body was feeling ready to receive whatever message was there for me to get. After the service, I approached  the deacon and priest to ask if it would be possible to bless my laptop.  I’ve been  working on some stories for a while now, way before I launched the blog, without knowing their destination.  I want to make sure I’m writing them for the right reasons.  I would like to feel there is purpose behind their publication.  It would be nice to feel I’m transcribing them instead of writing them, to have any sense of ego out of the picture.  I’d like to feel I’m doing some service to the community.  I’d like them to come from a pure heart because, well….the issues are not particularly pure.

Both Deacon Raul Molino and Father Anthony Mbaegbu prayed, it was quite beautiful, poetry, a holy moment.  I cried again, a lot!  The deacon looked into my eyes and said:

“That is the work of the prophet, this is your calling”.

– Oh, no,no,no,no.no!  Father, you don’t understand, I’m just writing a blog, there is no prophetic business in that, I’m a sinner, that’s why I come to church, to heal, not to be scared like that sir!

Saint

He shared some spiritual wisdom. I was scared and stayed for another service.  I sobbed for hours.  If the Holy Spirit manifests itself through tears like my friend told me in Malibu years before, I definitely received it.  No doubt about it.

Father Jorge Guillen is a theology scholar, he gave a memorable sermon with historical background, current church politics, weaved with spiritual insight and guidance.  It was a first for me, it felt like professors you still remember from college because they were real, really good.  I was lucky, he prayed for me after the service and with that, there was some confidence and peace to go about the rest of my day. I stopped by their cafeteria to eat some of the Mexican food the Guadalupanas cook every Sunday and learned more about their community.

I normally attend St. Monica’s at 5:30 PM service with Monsignor Torgeson.   Both of them are Catholic communities but their demographic composition is distinctively different.  St. Anne’s has an element of social justice that is not as evident in St. Monica’s.  St. Anne’s is a little piece of East LA in Santa Monica, most of their services are in Spanish and the one in English is given by a Nigerian priest who is here for his PhD at LMU.  You see where I’m going?  We live in a segregated city.  Is alarming to me that the land use we discussed last week at City Council promotes further segregation by having affordable housing off site.  It could be easily controlled by the City Council.   Wellbeing? Compassion? Diversity?  Seriously?   We can’t call our city any of that if we plant the seeds of further segregation.

Some years ago Jodi Low, Coordinator of the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market told me that perhaps the Virginia Park Farmer’s Market was more attractive to me than the downtown Saturday market because it was in the Pico neighborhood, where the poor community of Latinos and blacks traditionally shop. And …I’m the politically incorrect?  Thank God I know who I am, and recognize the ill-managed social training of some city employees.  However, at this day and age is still shocking someone makes a comment like that in a city like Los Angeles is beyong my comprehension.   Santa Monica is a special pocket in LA.  Since I have to pace myself,  I will leave Laura Avery for next post. I would like to draw from the words of Jesus in his crucifixion:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” ~Luke 23;34

IMG_5431

I have a good radar to evaluate intentionality.  Some people know exactly what they are doing, they just don’t care.  Two years ago while in campaign for City Council, I got in the elevator at City Hall to find an employee from the City Clerk’s office who told me: “keep doing what you are doing, they are scared” . My intention is not to scare anyone, my intention is to have an honest conversation about  some issues that don’t align with the so-called City Wellbeing and do not affirm the Charter for Compassion.  After the conversation we can go about the business of making change.  Shall we?  If we keep ignoring the white elephant in the room, you know what happens: “If you don’t pay attention, God will turn up the volume”.  On another instance Rebecca Adams, Administrative Staff Assistant who used to to be in the City Clerk’s office told me -as if she was incharge of the office- “come another time because everyone was busy and they can’t help you”.  Esterlina Lugo was ready to help me, but Adams was set on using her entitlement to make herself feel superior.  It does not stop there.  Last week, I sat on the same table she was sitting with other staff, waiting for the COSW meeting to start, she stood and left with someone I was striking a conversation to wait in front of the door.  This juvenile behavior belongs to a scene in Mean Girls not a city that claims Wellbeing, Compassion, Empathy, Diversity & Inclusion.  This stuff is relegated to films and fiction circa 1950 in the South. Do you agree?

via GIPHY

Am I the problem?  That is debatable.  If you want to keep Santa Monica a city of of racial tension and discrimination, perhaps I am.  On the other hand, if you want Santa Monica to be a real city of Wellbeing, Compassion, Diversity & Inclusion, I believe I’m part of the solution.  I tweeted yesterday a new mantra: “Zoë, just keep writing” , I t came to me in a moment of quiet reflection.  That is my job, to report from the frontlines, shine a light to issues that seem to get no attention but influence a fundamental part of our identity as citizens and our community.

BETRAYAL

I was betrayed on Friday.  Perhaps I had a delayed reaction and was vulnerable and fragile by Sunday, therefore all the crying.  Church was a place to find solace.  One thing is when someone let you down, betrayal is a whole different business.  Is a horrible feeling.

In Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, the ninth Circle of Hell is ringed by Biblical and Classical Giants. Nimrod , Ephialtes, and Antaeus are found here. THIS IS ONE TOUGH CROWD!

“The lowest, blackest, and farthest from Heaven. Well do I know the way.” — Virgil

 

Treachery is the ninth Circle of Hell. This last circle is dedicated to those people who betrayed their loved ones, friends, best friends, countries, cities, guests, and even to their masters.  YES PEOPLE, CITIES!  Are you betraying yours?  According to Dante, the end game is not pretty.  For me the best strategy in Public Relations crisis management is: own it, apologize, change directions.

That is my prayer for you.

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