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The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

April, 2013 During a big world trip and a bit of a spiritual quest, I spent a week at the Taiz Community in the Burgundy region of France. While there, and in the days right after, I began writing a list of things I had learned, things I had done, concepts I had worked through, and ideas I had wrestled with in that time of prayer and community. Like Martin Luther before me, my list came out to some ninety-five items in length. Nothing here will be tacked onto any doors in Wittenberg or elsewhere, though. This list is merely of thoughts I want to incorporate into my own personal reformation, as I form and reform my own ideology and theology. It is shared freely with anyone who would like to read about this step in my journey.

The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

What happened to me at Taiz? What did I learn at Taiz ? 1. I listened. 2. I learned I could live happily without TV, Internet, iPhone, phone calls, or movies. 3. Nothing is more pleasant than a walk in the country on a nice day. 4. There are other ways of being. 5. If I concentrate to pray, I can find it difficult to remain a tabula rasa and not think, but I can do it; even if I fail at times, I can do it well. 6. If I sit in silence and allow myself to think and my thoughts to roam, I can entertain myself endlessly. I must remember this if I am ever in prison or in peril and I need to rely on my own thoughts for my well-being. 7. I have a well-developed interior life. I owe this primarily to training with my parents via Camps Farthest Out (CFO). 8. I want my life to be a life of service (specifically, going to forward, a life of service to the poor). To the end that my journalism career allowed me to do this (in listening to the outcast and sharing stories of the marginalized) I am deeply grateful for how it allowed me to serve. However, it is not the only way I can serve. I am, and will always be, a writer; but I can write while serving in other ways. 9. Much of being a professional journalist in the United States in general and in New York City specifically involves promoting myself in a way in which I was never comfortable. 10. I have lived a life in which I wanted to help others but in which I subscribed to and practiced the airplane safety instructions dictum: secure your own mask before assisting others. I especially believed I needed to secure my own financial well-being before helping those less fortunate. I would like to reverse this. 11. I would like to love more perfectly. Of course, all love is perfect but, mysteriously, with the same desire as creating a more perfect union, I desire to love more perfectly.

The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

12. Poverty is not simply about money. I have been given so much in education and medical care, in life experiences and travel ability, and most of all in love and friendship that I feel a burning desire to share more of myself, particularly with those who are the poorest of all and bereft of love, friendship and hope in their darkest hours. 13. By and large, Christianity as I know it works for me. 14. I do not believe Christianity is superior to other religions or states of belief, nor do I feel a need to convince anyone that my path should be theirs. But, when I am honest with a critical analysis of the story of my life, I am overwhelmed with how Christianity has opened me up to people, experiences and love. Specifically and most importantly, it has opened my heart and told me to open it again. When I have hurt so badly that I thought Id never open it again, the critical mass of 2,000 years of Christian zeitgeist has opened it once more. I have known and deeply loved people of all faiths and beliefs, and I believe in my heart that each and every one is on a perfect cosmic journey towards their own highest being. But in my life, Christianity in general (and Christian retreats specifically) have introduced me to many of my closest friends, and/or given me the tools to give and receive love in other life experiences so that I may love more perfectly. 15. I will never be short of friends. There are great people everywhere. It is a gift that I have to connect with them and cultivate meaningful relationships with them wherever I am. It is a gift that I owe to my parents and to God, and as freely as I receive it, I desire to share it.

My Bible study group at Taiz, with new friends from Europe and Asia. One week, I didnt know these people existed. The next, I loved them all.

16. I love the United States and I have been given much in the blessing of being born in the nation with the most material wealth on earth. However, it is my strong suspicion that my future is not in the United States. I have recently been blessed to see friends, new and old, build lives of meaning in other nations. I sense it is time for me to take stock of what I received in America, take my show on the road, and find a corner of the world where I can more freely share what I have received.

The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

17. I have worked out, on a personal level, the theological question of why bad things happen to good people. In reading Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross (a gift from my friend Noel Bordador), the seed first began to germinate in my mind that God can come to me in silence. (And by silence, I do not mean mere listening in quiet, but in that state of soundless despair when I thought God had abandoned me.) Buddhism would (to me) concur here with Christianity that suffering is a part of life. It simply is! Christianity goes a step beyond the other major monotheistic religions, acknowledges the God behind the Big Bang (etc.), and says, God is not somewhere ethereal. God came down to earth and suffered on the cross, not [to me] to save us, but to be with us. (The original radical nature of the story of Christs crucifixion was not that it was an exceptionally brutal way to die, but that it was at the time an extraordinarily common human way to suffer and die.) Even in my suffering, I believe, I am on a journey towards a higher place and on an eternal journey to love more perfectly, a journey so profound and infinite I doubt I will ever consciously grasp the full dimensions of its trajectory. I take comfort in the words of Julian of Norwich (introduced to me by Michael Hegeman) that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. At Taiz, it was the words of Brother Alois, the Prior of the community, which crystallized for me almost perfectly why Christianity works for me as a religion and an approach to my life: Jesus was no great ascetic. He performed miracles, especially acts of healing, but at the decisive moment when he could have proved that he was the one sent by God, on the cross, there was the silence of God, a silence to all who suffer and that he agreed to share. It was hard for the disciples to understand that Jesus was a poor messiah. They may have hoped that he would change the social order or political conditions of the time; they did not realize that he had come principally to eradicate evil at its roots. 18. Even Jesus (!!!) cried out, My God, why has thou forsaken me? 19. I have never been a great fan of the Bible, but my Bible study group convinced me that there is much to be learned in reading and discussing it. 20. Saint Peter was not, much of his life, much of a saint. He was doubtful and imperfect and yet, Jesus said (I am paraphrasing), I want to build my church on you. (Paradoxically, as my new friend Eva Maria pointed out, though Jesus trusted one who was fallible, the Papacy, which evolved as the Seat of St. Peter, is widely considered infallible.)

The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

21. Crying out help for me is hard, and trusting that it will come is particularly hard for me. 22. Taizs welcome message is a pilgrimage of trust on earth. Is that a perfect definition of my own life journey? 23. Prior Alois leads his letter from Taiz asking: Is not our response to personal trials, and to those which other people endure, to still love more? When Michael Premo was on trial, I think Michael and Rachel Falcone led their lives answering this question as Christ, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King did: with a resounding, Yes! I want to answer Yes as well. 24. Resurrection simply means, to get up again. I am skeptical of the phrase born again for the way it has been defined in modern American theo-political terms. But do I not fall down, again and again? Did I not fall down with my feet, only to rise again? Did I not fall down in my ability to trust and love openly many times over the past year? Do I not fall asleep (sometimes with anxious difficulty) each night and wake each morning? It is living and loving with a circumcised heart, as Christianity has exemplified for me personally, which allows me to be born again each day; and this grace and love, given by all who have loved me and cared for me, resurrects me when I need it most and am least able to help myself. Born again am I, as Yoda might phrase it, indeed.

Six days of Burgundy rain produced a stunning double rainbow

The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

25. Christ calls me to wash others feet and to allow my own feet to be washed, too. The latter is hard for me, especially in a literal sense with my nasty feet. I think the former is natural to me, but on my terms. I was called, in Christs name (I knew this at the time, actually) to wash some filthy feet a few months ago. But, when my washing was not, metaphorically or literally, accepted as Id wished, I was disappointed and bitter. I should not be. To wash those feet was my calling and duty; to ignore this call would have been a sin. 26. Sin, for me, is not an abstract concept it is merely giving in to that which is not of my best being. A slightly different way of saying this is that it is what separates me from feeling at one with God but these are the same thing, I believe. There is, to me, no evil suffering is inevitable, and what is, is but sin is that state in which I am not being true to my whole-being, but to the fragmented self-within me. I pray that, with the love of friends known and unknown, I may avoid sin. I still accept that, as much as I may fall down, I am on my best possible journey towards wholeness; for though sin may create the feeling of not being at one with God, God is with me wherever I am. 27. If there was a better way to go then it would find me, I cant help it, the road just rolls out behind me Fionna Apple I dont believe that winning, losing and #fail are useful descriptions of the journey. 28. I do not especially believe in evil. 29. Christianity is the main religious touchstone in my life, and in the past few generations of my family, but is not the only one. Taiz was, after all, founded as a refuge for Jews during World War II, and Jews and Judaism have been an integral part of forming the spiritual, intellectual and ethical frameworks of my life. Very recently, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims have been my guides. Atheists and atheism are integral to my journey and to the well-being of the planet. 30. God is good, God is good, God is good, and I love is now my go-to mantra. I had to nearly go to hell to receive it. Every turn of the journey has a meaning. 31. Worry, as Gloria Knapstad taught me, is wasted energy. 32. Fear not, as my friend Antje Eltzner-Silaschi pointed out in my Bible study group, is one of Jesus go-to mandates. Fear not! and Be not afraid are two messages that I need to internalize and re-affirm often.

The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

33. Reverend Rodney Romney said words when I was a teenager which have stayed with me for two decades now: The principal verb of life is not to have or to do or even to be, but to love. I concur. 34. I thought of Gandhi a lot while in his footsteps recently in India; also, I thought of him much at Taiz . He respected and studied Christianity (though he always considered Hinduism the perfect religion); the Taiz community respects him; and Taiz founder Brother Roger and Gandhi died deaths in not dissimilar manners. I love this quote of the Mahatma, which rings with the peace I recently made with the word resurrection and the concept of being born again: I know the path. It is straight and narrow. It is like the edge of a sword and I rejoice to walk on it. I weep when I slip. Gods word is: He who strives never perishes. I have implicit faith in that promise. Though, therefore, I fail a thousand times, I will not lose faith, but hope that I shall see the Light when the flesh has been under perfect subjection, as some day it must. 35. Brother Pedro, my Bible study teacher at Taiz, said that he left out a quote from Jesus that he didnt think sounded much like Jesus. I love Brother Pedro and his candid honesty about his edit. I often do the same. 36. In a workshop about answering Gods call, we were asked: What is the definition of the word risk? Risk means placing myself in a position in which I stand to lose something of value to me. There is never any risk in loving someone, for if it is love, it has no conditions and therefore I never stand to lose anything, no matter what happens. 37. The poet brothers at Taiz do not seem to write and speak at length, but in poetry. Poetry can reduce the meaning of the world to a simple set of words without reducing complexity or engaging idiocy. Poetry can reveal truth. 38. Ive had close friends argue that the Bible is fact or fiction. I believe it is neither it is poetry. 39. I want to write about the relationship between Peter, Pedro and PADI. 40. It is better to ask for help, no matter how embarrassing, than to die needlessly.

The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

41. I have not used a cell phone for two months and would like to explore not having one permanently. 42. I have fallen down many times and will fall down many more. I have always gotten up and will always get up. There is no answer to avoid this cycle. The best I can hope for is to remember that, until the day I die, I will always get up eventually. But even on that day, I can take solace knowing that: De tout mon tre, je poursuis ma course With all my being, I keep on running 43. Someday, sooner or later, I will lose everything I have and it will become without value to me: my possessions, my honorifics, my slights, my home --- and, eventually, even my body. But even then (!), when I am losing this mortal vessel, and my lungs are breathing their last breath and my heart is beating its final spurt of blood, it would behoove me to remember that I can never lose the truly meaningful things I have experienced on this earth: the beauty I have witnessed, the grace I have been blessed with, and the kindness, generosity, and (most of all) love my fellows have shown me. 44. The message of Christianity should be love and, equally, compassion. The Church can do this by, as StoryCorps puts it, realizing that listening is an act of love. Prior Alois: When tirelessly the Church listens, heals and reconciles, it becomes what it is at its most luminous a communion of love, of compassion, of consolation, a limpid reflection of the Risen Christ. Never distant, never on the defensive, freed from all forms of severity, the Church can let the humble trusting of faith shine right into our human hearts. 45. There is, for me, no tension between reason and dreaming, science and religion. One mind can equally appreciate Picasso and Pythagoras (or Sharon Olds and Albert Einstein) as equal disciples of the truth of the Universe.

The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

46. Communion is not just a ritual, though I do take solace in participating in the simple dance which has gathered increasing strength in the human story as tribes have danced it for 2,000 years. I celebrate in the meaning of sharing it with so many I have loved. But the true meaning, for me, is the Christ of Communion, as Brother Roger phrased it, or Christ existing as community, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer did. I have experienced communion in this way at Camps Farthest Out (CFO), Journey Farthest Out (JFO), Middle Collegiate Church, St. Pauls United Methodist Church, Burning Man, Occupy Wall Street, Taiz, and elsewhere. Yet despite living in what is essentially a monastery, Brother Alois writes: The Christ of Communion did not come to set Christians apart and form an isolated society out of them; he sends them out to serve humankind as a leven of trust and peace. What a beautiful mandate! And though I have experienced great joy in sharing communion with fellow Christians, I find that for me it is not an explicitly Christian act. For instance, celebrating the Hindu holiday Holi in Kathmandu this year was, for me, one of the most powerful times I have celebrated communion. Because Holi fell during the Christian Holy Week, the two felt especially linked to me as I celebrated both. A definition of Holi, when people run around all day painting each other: It is believed that the combination of different colors played at this festival takes all the sorrow away and makes life itself more colorful. Despite its roots in the last supper, this is the role of communion for me: to commune with one another, and affirm our humanity, so that all the sorrow drifts away and all that is left is color and light. This is how I felt when I took communion with my parents and Gloria Knapstad and B.J. Boone and so many other friends at CFO; this is how I feel dancing with all of New York City during Gay Pride; this is exactly what I felt painting kids faces, and having strangers paint mine, during Holi.

The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

47. Service born out of love equals the same primary expectation of love itself: an expectation of nothing in return. Christian missionaries do not, by and large (I believe), understand this; one cannot truly serve the hungry or the poor if the expectation of receiving food, shelter or medicine is a quid pro quo religious conversion. Prior Alois asks: Can we, without imposing anything, journey alongside those who do not share our faith but who are searching for truth will all their heart? 48. Celibacy is oft derided as unnatural and idiotic. But I can now see the benefits in the very personal decision to lead (or attempt to lead) a celibate life. I know plenty of people who have lead celibate lives against their will (as I have, too, for long periods of my life). I do not view a persons decision to try to lead such a life as any more or less natural or moral than someone who chooses to live an openly homosexual life, heterosexual life, monogamous life, polyamorous life or transgender life in an ethical manner. Here, Hinduism and the Native American religions are helpful to me in identifying the many facets of human sexuality in all its individual holiness. 49. I do not believe that God wants us to suffer; I also believe suffering is simply a part of life; I also believe God is all-powerful. I realize these things are not especially compatible. But I also believe in the mystery of life, the contours of which I will never fully know, and I am joyously resigned to a meditative state of wonder. Therefore, I believe in all three. 50. The physical suffering I have endured over the past three years has made me far more sympathetic to my fellow humans than I was previously. This has made me love better. This has made me better. It has been, therefore, a gift, and like all gifts, I need to receive it, accept it, appreciate it, and give what I have gotten from it freely to others. 51. It is always to nice for everyone to hear the words, I love you. I shouldnt be afraid to say them, and I shouldnt take for granted that certain people may need to hear them. 52. I will probably never have children but this doesnt mean that I cant have meaningful relationships with children.

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The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

53. I have been thinking about this a lot since I was in India: I understand, in a better way now, that many of my vegetarian friends are engaged in a high form of compassion, and someday I want to join them. As the composer Philip Glass (a Jewish-Hindu vegetarian) told me when I asked him what the meaning of love was: We can talk about the love thats part of compassion, which is a general empathy that we have for every human being, every living being, I could say. Whether we can develop an empathy to that degree, thats a form of love. And thats a very high form, which most of us arent able to do very much with, but some do, and just knowing about it is important. And theres the love that happens within a family. Thats not just romantic love, but the love that happens with children, and maybe partnerships that go on for a very long time. Theyre a bit different. Of course we cant have a world worth living in without both of them. Most of us, I would say, dont do such a good job with either one. We do our best. And everybody has their demons, everyone has their problems. But we also have our aspirations, and I think thats important. Even though we may, we havent always been so successful at every form of love, but the fact that we know its there and its something that we aspire to, and I think its something that keeps us on some kind of a track that makes our consensual social life livableand, really, besides that, enjoyable, and even enlightening. 54. Despite it recently being my profession, I love not being in the minutiae of the news media. I love having time to reflect and to think before I write. 55. Unpaved roads make my life better and my feet less painful. (There is a metaphor here, but I am thinking literally.) I never thought this New Yorker would say this, but I think I want to live in the country (not just for my physical well-being, but because Ive realized there is nothing more entertaining or enjoyable than a walk in the country). 56. At Taiz, I took communion each morning. One day, while Bread of Life was being sung, I knelt down in prayer and thought of my late mother and father, with whom I had engaged in this ritual (with joy) so many times. My eyes welled up with tears. I felt my moms hand on the left of me and my dads on the right of me. We are with you always always! I heard them say.

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The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

57. As did my mother and as many religious and secular writers and artists have I believe in the concept of angels. Angels can be the parts of us perhaps in the memory of loved ones in the way a part of them is always a part of us which calls to our highest and best. Angels can be, as the Gospel scribes (and even Tony Kushner) have written, the less-than-gentle, brute forces that bear messages of (sometimes harsh) truth. I believe they can be a kind of intermediary of ideas, linked to the divine, which the human mind could not receive directly. And I believe in the collective angels of our societies. Abraham Lincoln named for the founder of the worlds three major monotheistic religions, and Americas only poet president called to the better angels of our nature. Is there any denying that these angels are real, in how they have aided humans through out the course of our history? In his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker shows how the human race has consistently grown less violent from the moment we arrived on this planet until now. Indeed, we are now living in the time of most peace and least violence in the history of our species. Granted, there is more to do, and this is no fluke: it is because of the conscience of individuals and societies to appeal to these angels among and within us in order to honor, share with and have compassion for one another. 58. I used to discard the idea of the devil. I still dont think it is worth spending too much time on, but is a useful concept to me now. As Mirabai Starr describes it in her translation of Dark Night of the Soul, she tweaks St. John of the Cross and calls the devil our fragmented self that part of us which keeps us from our whole self. But as my Muslim friend A.J. Muhammad recently reminded me (and as just about every Kirk Franklin song proclaims), The devil is a liar! The devil, therefore, is just my fear, and the devils only grip on me is fear of vulnerability a temporary moment when my fear overwhelms my love. It is a lie, and it is fleeting. 59. Light always wins, eventually. All the black empty space of the Universe cant destroy light particles. 60. Though light always wins out in the end, there is great mystery, self-discovery and chiaroscuro to be born and experienced in the dark.

Sunset at Taiz, April 16, 2013

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The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

61. I do not believe that either guilt or shame are useful emotions. The phrase guilty pleasure rings false to me. If I am taking in pleasure in something, there is no need for guilt. If I feel guilty, I should either stop doing what I am doing, or not feel badly about it. 62. Doubt makes me no less of a believer; it is but one continuing aspect of my journey. 63. What does Jesus mean to you? I was asked, over and over again, at Taiz . To me, the example of Christs life means I want to lead a Christian life in the same way the most devout Buddhists lead theirs: with an open heart and a willingness to bear witness to the beauty and suffering of the world, come what may. 64. I am on a beautiful journey by myself. Paradoxically, I am never truly alone, but I am often the only soul at moments of transition that is going through that particular transition. What I mean is this: no one else is on this journey but me. Still, I am endlessly encountering friends and guides, previously known and unknown, whose aide often comes when I least expect it. Whenever I leave someone as I board a train, say goodbye and head off on my own, I grieve with longing for the present feeling of the love we shared in each others physically proximity. Its a feeling, I think, shared by bonded souls near the time of one of their physical deaths, as one soul remains on earth and the other rockets off into the cosmos each on its perfect, singular, individual journey. But despite this grief and it is real at such times of transfiguration I am not alone. I am the sum of every interaction with every soul who has ever shared love with me. In this way, I am at one with all who have come before me and all who will come after; I will never be truly alone, even if I feel very alone, for love will always be with me. I will always be at one with the God which created the Universe, the Big Bang, time, space, and the greatest power of all: love. I am, to reference Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke, the stuff of which stars are made, indivisible from the majesty and mystery of creation. 65. And yet, the one part of Buddhism (in the limited way in which I understand it) that is hard for me to accept is the dictum not to be attached. I grow deeply attached to my people, and I miss them terribly when we are physically separated, even though they are still with me in my heart. This paradox is also answered for me by Buddhism: suffering is a part of life.

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The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

66. I want to better understand my friends, so that I may be a better friend to them. This takes a willingness of time, listening and an openness to learn about them at times unexpected. Just on this trip alone, I have learned much more about two friends, though they were 4,000 and 10,000 miles away respectively when I encountered their cultures without them. I hope I can use what I learned to love them more perfectly. 67. I find it can be easy to be sarcastic, bitter, and the bearer of low expectations; I find it possible, if at times more work, to live with a heart of expectation of the highest and best in all situations. As I am completely capable of the latter, I long to live my life in this state as much as possible. 68. There are, to my human mind, an unknowable number of atoms on an unknowable number of planets revolving around an unknowable number of suns in an unknowable number of galaxies. Each one creates an infinite number of expressions of the divines majesty in an infinite number of stories. Would not the God of all this, as my friend Paul Murdock once taught me, reveal divinity in an infinite number of ways?

The water source of Taiz is St. Etienne s (Stevens) Spring

69. Though I was named for my uncle Steve (a man I never had any relationship with) and Steve Sax (who played second base for the Dodgers), I have considered myself a namesake of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the church (and a really oldschool rabble-rousing instigator). At Taiz, I grew to appreciate him more, as we read the Book of Acts: Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the peoplefilled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen gazed into Heaven and saw the Glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Look, he said, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God! But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against himWhile they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Then he knelt down and cried in a loud voice, Lord, do not hold this sin against them.

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The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

70. Rain is beautiful not just in the way it waters the fields which feed me, the way it makes the sunshine sweeter and creates rainbows (regenbogen). The rain itself not for what it does or leads to, but for its own sake is perfect and beautiful.

A tree in the valley below Taiz, on one of Burgundys many rainy days

71. What is a human being? It is something to be cherished and valued. Human bodies themselves are precious, not merely shells of living, walking meat that house minds and souls. I find it difficult to truly honor the holiness of humans fully when they are interchangeable with beasts or machines in their labor, or eating from or defecating in piles of trash. It is too tempting to see humans as objects in these settings. I find it much easier to honor human holiness when I am eating with them, looking in their eyes, listening to them, praying with them, dancing with them. Yet all humans, everywhere, are of value those known and unknown to me, of similar and varied backgrounds and yes, when literally living in trash. How can I better honor this and better serve my brothers and sisters I do not know and may never meet? This is a question I want to revisit the rest of my days.

This lady in Goa, who caught my eye on the beach, is one of countless human beings I saw on this journey that I could only see but couldnt speak to directly. But something about her immediately screamed to me that she was sacred and, indeed, that everyone is sacred, whether I can see it or not. If I could sit down with anyone and hear their story I would inevitably care about them; so the fact that I can t sit down with everyone individually need not mean that I can t care about them all the same.

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The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

72. I have long puzzled about how 20th century Christianity came, in the United States, to be aligned with the most rapacious elements of market capitalism. Jesus message of love and sharing along with the Old Testaments answer to the question am I my brothers keeper? would, after all, be more in line with the socialist ideology and very simple concept (which every American kindergartner learns) of sharing. As I arrived in the fertile green valley of Taiz, having recently been among the Nepalese in Kathmandu (a people with access to hardly any natural resources, in a capital city deprived of roads, consistent electricity or even basic sewage treatment), I thought about how much fortune and suffering is assigned to a human being merely by birthplace. Would Christ want me to horde what I am given, or to share? I was awed by these words of Prior Alois in his letter from Taiz (titled Toward a New Solidarity) that I read my first night in the community: Although human solidarity has always been necessary, it needs to be constantly renewed and rejuvenated by being expressed in new ways. Today perhaps as never before in history, it is vital for the younger generations to prepare a fairer sharing of the resources of the earth, a more equitable distribution of wealth, between continents and within each country. 73. A guiding prayer for my life: Dear God, Please do not allow me to give in to fear and resignation. For deliverance from such despair so many times before, I am eternally grateful to the Divine and to the angels, physical and ethereal, who have saved my spirit. 74. Cynicism and despair have led me to want to write off the Catholic Church. But to do so would be to write off hundreds of millions of my fellow seekers, and to give up hope in the legacy of St. Peter. This is a not an acceptable attitude for me to have, especially as a member of the Jesuits (whose grace, intelligence and simplicity so embody the Christ of Communion) now serves humbly as its shepherd. 75. I have guilt about having access to experiences and resources others do not but what good is this guilt? Instead of wasting this energy, I should release the guilt, give thanks for what I have been given, and freely share what has been freely given to me. 76. Brother Pedro spoke of decisions made out of freedom, not fear. I want to avoid making decisions from a place of fear more often.

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The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

77. The minutiae of electoral and identity politics, which once thrilled me so, may be a part of my past and thats OK. I twice helped elect a servant I believed would serve my nation well. I did my part with courage and joy, I think to advocate the causes of love and equality in my nation when the moment called for it, and I made the most of the blessed platforms I had at my disposal. I should hope I would do so again, if called upon. But for now, I suspect this is largely in my past, and I think I am on a different path now. Though not fully known to me, this is good. 78. I thought I had nothing to learn from Pope Benedict XVI. But when I read his address to the Taiz Youth Meeting in Rome in December, 2012, I realized I was wrong. Two passages moved me deeply: [T]he Word of God says the Second Letter of Peter, is like a lamp shining in a dark place, which you do well to be attentive to until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (1:19). You have to understand: if the morning star must arise in your hearts it is because it is not always present there. Sometimes evil and suffering of the innocent create doubt and confusion in you. And saying Yes to Christ can become difficult. But these doubts do no not make you non-believers! Jesus did not reject the man in the Gospel who shouted: I do believe, help my unbelief! (Mk 9:24). Also: Dear young friends, Christ does not remove you from the world. He sends you there where His light is missing, so that you may bring it to others. Yes, you are all called to be small lights to those around you. With your attention to a more equitable distribution of the goods of the earth, with your commitment to justice and a new human solidarity, you will help those around you to better understand how the Gospel leads us to God and at the same time to others. So, with your faith, you will contribute to uncovering the wellsprings of trust on earth. Be full of hope. God bless you, your family and friends! 79. I have much to learn from anyone, perhaps especially from those with whom I think I agree with about little or even nothing.

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The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

80. Of the Taiz Four Proposals 2013 [for] Uncovering the Well Springs of Trust in God, the last one rang with me the most: Be open without fear to the future and to others. Oh, how I long to do this! For too long, I have suffered with fear, anxiety and questions about my future. What if my career never started? I wondered for years. And when it did, I was plagued with wondering, What if my career ends? And when it felt like it had, it was, What becomes of me now? Will I be employed again? Will I run out of money? Why not now, instead of fearing about myself, serve others (which will undoubtedly have its own rewards) and grant me the practice to more perfectly trust others, trust in the future and trust in the Universe that all shall be well? Worry is never solved, and practicing worry can just lead to more worrying. But practicing trust can lead to more trust. 81. Gloria Knapstad taught me that perfect love casts out fear. Would it not be true that if I am to love myself perfectly and unconditionally in all my imperfection, accepting myself as perfect and unconditionally lovable that I would not fear any aspect of myself? Similarly, if I were to love my fellow brothers and sisters on this planet, accepting them just as they are, would I not cease to fear them? And if I loved the Universe and accepted it as God intends, would I not cease to fear the world (and also end my anxiety about the future)? 82. Prayer, for me, is not about asking for something and receiving it (though I have prayed for compassion and mercy many times). For me, prayer is a desire to align my heart in order to be at one with the Universe. To the end that I can do something, I pray for discernment that my actions may be righteous and my heart may be open. But to the end that I cannot do anything, prayer for me is a request for grace, acceptance and peace with the Universe. To best love people, I have been with them at times of great sorrow. Often in these cases especially when I have been with them at the moment of their deaths there is nothing to do but to be with them: to be prayerful and present, and to share their joy and their sorrow along with them. That is what God, as Jesus, did with me, and thats what I can do with others: listen to them, love them, pray with them, be with them. There are times when there is nothing to solve and the highest gift is to simply be with others. That, to me, is living prayer in Christ. In this way, the verb to pray is interchangeable with the verb to love.

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The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

83. There is no shame in feeling sad when I am feeling sad. Aware of my blessings, living life with an open heart still includes the real and present feeling of sadness. There is, however, no need to compound my sorrow by feeling bad about feeling bad. 84. Still, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. (Matthew 14:27) 85. Remember: Nada te turbe Nada tespante Quien Dios tienne Nada le falta Nada te turbe Nada tespante Solo Dios basta Nothing can trouble Nothing can frighten Those who seek God shall Never go wanting Nothing can trouble Nothing can frighten God alone fills us 86. Maintaining good habits simply means maintaining good habits. If I want to keep my physical health, I must physically take in good fuel and exercise regularly. If I want to maintain good mental, emotional and spiritual health, I must take in good fuel and exercise my spirit regularly. (That may not mean yearly but weekly, daily, hourly.) A continued need to exercise is not a sign of failure it means I am taking the small steps of my journey that will give me the most strength; nor is a periodic need to exercise with a reduced/resting schedule anything to worry about. 87. The most effective prayer for my daily well-being may be gratitude. Standing in one of the mosques of the Taj Mahal, the sun shining upon my face as I gazed at the main mausoleum, I recorded the following prayer of gratitude: Thank you, God, for this beautiful place: for the sun I feel on my skin and the life that it gives me; for this planet, and the home it provides for me; for this beautiful building Im looking at that proves that humans can create,

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The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

87. (Continued) receive and appreciate eternal beauty; for the earth beneath me, the water that I drink, the air that I breathe. Thank you, God, for all the people around me, for friends known and unknown. Thank you for my head, for my eyes, for my nose, for my face, which feels the sun radiating upon it; for ears that I may hear, for a voice that I may speak truth. Thank you, God, for these shoulders, these arms, these hands, this chest, the lungs that breathe in and out, in and out; my heart that beats beats blood, - gives loves, receives loves, gives love, receives love, gives life, receives life, gives life, receives life, gives love, receives love, gives love, receives love, gives love, receives love. Thank you for this belly, this stomach and the food it can eat; my intensities that they may digest; thank you for these hips, these legs strong legs that carry me; thank you for these feet. Thank you for all who have come before me, and all who wil come after me, and that this dust has a moment to look at the light,

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The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

87. (Continued) and love, and look, and love, and look, and love, and look, and love, and look, and love, and look, and love, and look, and love, and look, and love. 88. People who dont take Christianity too seriously, but who do take the idea of Christs mission on earth very seriously, are my kind of people. Still, my people are all kinds of people of all kinds of faith (and none at all); and, despite my Protestant Christian upbringing, my two longest serving peer guides have been Nancy Lin, a Buddhist, and Ryan Raffaelli, a Catholic. 89. In selecting Peter, a man who said Who am I to speak for you? and practically screamed, Lord I am a sinful man leave me! to him, was not Jesus basically saying what Marianne Williamson would write to her readers two millennia later: Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people wont feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. Its not just in some of us; its in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. 90. One of the great gifts homosexuals have given human civilization is in their disproportionate numbers as servants of the church. More than their numbers should suggest, homosexuals have served as Christs professional representatives on earth and have contributed greatly to the poetry, music and life of the church.

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The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

91. The beauty of Christianity to me is the way it pulls God out of the air and places the burden of creating Gods will to be done on earth as it is in heaven squarely on me. I am not a big one for the Jesus died for my sins school; I think that, if I believe in Gods goodness, it is my responsibility to make it manifest here on earth in the form of good deeds when I can perform them. This aspect of Christianity is best described by St. Theresa of Avila: Christ has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which he looks Compassion on this world, Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, Yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Christ has no body now on earth but yours. 92. I draw strength and inspiration from people who have the courage to lead their lives in ways that may not be traditional. On this trip, Ive drawn inspiration from these Henry David Thoreau types like Katrina Markel, Charlotte Blackwell, Jinger Dixon, Preim Amor, and the brothers and nuns at Taiz . 93. I love writing when it serves as a vehicle for finding truth. Outside of that mission, it doesnt interest me. 94. Half a lifetime ago for me, with my best friend at my side, I first visited New York City for a week. I couldnt wait to return and felt out of place in Southern California when I went home. A few months later, I returned by myself to New York to start a new life from scratch. I knew no one when I arrived, but for the next seventeen and a half years, I did make a wonderful life there. Now 35, having spent my longest time ever outside of the United States, I think Im ready for a similar leap into the unknown, and Im being called to start over again somewhere new.

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The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

95. I have no answers. I only have questions. Many of my questions only lead to more questions. And thats OK. Tomorrow could (and very well may) bring new questions and possibilities I have not yet dreamed of, and thats OK. That is nothing to fear. Still, when something seems true to me, I should share it. Even if it seems embarrassing, incomplete or contradictory to other things I think I know, I should share that which rings true to me. There is courage in speaking truth, especially when its dimensions are not fully understood by the speaker. For all I know, speaking truth that may seem mysterious to me may be the missing piece to someone elses puzzle. In sharing what seems to be true with others, we can all reveal the one piece of truth weve found our one part of the Gospel, as Brother Roger put it, which when combined can help each other to more fully see the whole. This is the power of community. Brother Roger: When the storms come, in the darkness where there is so little light, instead of turning in upon ourselves, we may come to realize that it is by this means that a heart open to all is created, engendered in us. We may discover something of the truth about our person, a little of what constitutes it, and from that moment onwards we want to understand others, to be with them, not to give advice because in that way we risk making vast errors, but to be there to listen to them. I will never see the entire picture, but Ive seen heaven on earth in the form of stunning beauty and eternal truth. For the grace of those moments, I will always be grateful. And though I will always have more questions than answers, I marvel in the mystery, and I take great comfort and joy in seeking with fellow seekers. My fellow travelers, who question with me, are with me wherever I go, teaching me again and again to listen, listen, listen. Amen.

- Steven W. Thrasher Taiz and Lafare, France and Zrich, Switzerland April, 2013

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The Ninety-Five Theses of Steven William Thrasher

Dedicated, with love, to Vincent Mangano Gloria Knapstad James Schmitz, Jinger Dixon, Daniel Lasher Stephan Thimme, A.J. Muhammad, Sally Rosen, Bruni Pabon, Belinda Johnson, Noel Bordador, Charlotte Blackwell, Ericka Mays, Alex Goldmark, Alex Heilner, Denis Gawley, Scott Wooledge, Eric Talbert, Christine Wong Yap, Jan Fisher, Paul Van De Carr, Lisa Masotta, Dr. Nancy Lin, Dr. Ryan Raffaelli Shankar Baile, Aideep Tamang, Preim Amor Martina Geissler Ann Marie, Carolin, Astrid, Carolin, Julia, Bernhard, Antje, Joseph, Noel, Markus, Andreas, Stefan, Judith, Wolfgang, Martin, Brother Pedro, Kees, Christie, Bjrn, Dominik, Eva Maria and to Katrina Markel Dr. Andr Bideau and Regine Gilbert whose vision, love and guidance made this leg of my journey possible 24