Saturday, January 30, 2010

Haiti: Update on Progress by Fonkoze

Friends, I am passing this along with a recommendation, and as a special notes for readers who are not in the US: the best way to support Fonkoze from other countries, is to find a sponsoring charity, so that it can be made tax deductible in your area. If you find a good one, they may be willing to do a limited campaign in which they guarantee that 100% of funds are donated to Fonkoze, so that there is no charitable graft going on.

January 29, 2010

Dear Friend,

On behalf of the 200,000+ Fonkoze clients that touch approximately 1,000,000 Haitians, all of us in the Fonkoze Family appreciate your prayers, phone calls, emails and especially the donations and pledges that we have received in response to the devastating earthquake that ravaged Haiti on January 12th.

Fonkoze staff in Haiti, led by Anne Hastings, CEO of Fonkoze Financial Services, Carine Roenen, Director of Fonkoze, and the rest of the Fonkoze management team continue to amaze us with their ability to cope with yet another major catastrophe.

We are now in touch on a daily basis with Fonkoze's leadership in Haiti, where they have worked feverishly to contact and account for all employees, establish a temporary headquarters, and enter negotiations for permanent headquarters space. As of today, 37 out of 42 branches are operating and delivering essential services like money transfers and savings deposits.

More importantly, they have begun to assess and estimate what will be needed to assist and accompany clients and staff, and the costs to replace branches and equipment destroyed by this unprecedented natural disaster. In addition to the central office in Port-au-Prince, management estimates that nine branches will need to replaced and eight will require substantial repairs.

We have been updating our website daily. So, please continue to visit for the latest information about the situation on the ground with Fonkoze and to contribute to the "Relief and Rehabilitation Fund."

Donations are urgently needed to serve our borrowers and clients by helping them re-establish their homes and families and their businesses. This will take time, but Fonkoze has a wealth of successful experience in responding to disasters in the past and has already made great strides in overcoming the latest disaster.

To date, we have received a little over $1.5 million in donations. Staff is feverishly working to determine how much financial support will be needed to help our clients who have basically lost everything.

Please make a donation now to our "Earthquake Relief and Rehabilitation Fund." Please do it today by mailing a check to Fonkoze USA, 50 F St., NW, Suite 810, Washington, DC 20001 or contribute online at


Alex Counts, Chair, Fonkoze USA           

John Mercier, President, Fonkoze USA

P.S. Recent legislation has been enacted that will allow most U.S. donors to deduct contributions to Haiti relief on either their 2009 or 2010 tax return. Please consult with your accounting professional to confirm that you meet the qualifications.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Haiti: Passing the Black Jack

Lisa Miller, in her discussion in Newsweek, writes in response to the comments about Haiti from Pat Robertson, in which he accuses the Haitians of a pact with the Devil, and the latest natural disaster as simply due them as a result of that particular "sin." She speaks of "the frustrating theology of suffering," and brings up both Bart Ehrman and Rabbi Harold Kushner as voices to counter these now infamous statements of Robertson. The comments from these two authors however mostly merely blunt the issue without really resolving it.

We will have to be more drastic, as it cannot be resolved as long as you remain stuck in the notion that God is both the creator of the world, and all good, all powerful, but at the same time either powerless to stop evil, or, alternatively, he has his bad days, when he is a vengeful God. Or, if you would have it in the fundamentalist model of Pat Robertson, you end up in a complete dualism of God and the Devil, who are at war with one another at the expense of the people, and if anyone makes a pact with the Devil, God will be out to kill him or her. This is the Faustian problem in its many variations. And of course that notion is brought out in the Judeo-Christian world as early as the Adam and Eve story, in which the ontological sin ends up being blamed on Eve and the snake, and God in the process is made into the heavy, who throws them out of paradise.

Supposedly, we've been stuck ever since, until - according to Christian theology at least - God sent up Jesus as a blood sacrifice for our malfeasance, which washed away our sins. This model ends up as a vicarious salvation, which cancels out our sins, and particularly the original sin, and leaves us all good and guilty (Look what Jesus did for you! Now are you going to eat your spinach or not?!), so we can be cajoled into tithing to the Christian churches for life, while we wait for the second coming. That's how society pays the salaries for Pat Roberts and the like, who mostly just repeat the dogma, to reinforce it and make sure we really believe it. In that model anyone not professing to believe like the fundamentalists, has de facto chosen the wrong ballot, the Devil, and must suffer the consequences. Then, when someone like Carlton Pearson takes even the first step outside this model, and realizes that Jesus was preaching love and inclusion, not hate and exclusion, he ends up being thrown out of the fundamentalist camp. For apparently "we" just hate the idea of love and inclusion, perhaps for the simple reason that we then left with no one else to blame.

It is all so convenient, if I just have to believe one way and my troubles are over, and everyone else is bad. Very apparently then, the vicarious salvation through Jesus was not enough, for there still seems to be a need to also blame everyone else, who do not believe the story, just so as to make it really clear who are the good guys ("us," who go to Heaven). In other words, this God, while being praised as all powerful and all loving also appears to be too stupid to know what's in the hearts of his children, so they need to make a lot of noise, and pass the blame to everyone else. It's a game of Black Jack, and it's a game of judgment, for the bad people are always out there, they're not me. Thus I don't have to take responsibility for anything, except pointing fingers. The absurdity of this whole model was probably best shown in Tom Lehrer's famous song, "National Brotherhood Week."

An alternative within the Christian tradition is thankfully present these days from Bishop Carlton Pearson with his Gospel of Inclusion, which represents the radical notion that God loves all his children equally, and doesn't play favorites. This is a major step, but it does not all the way resolve the odious "theology of sin and suffering," as we are still left with a supposedly loving God, who lets presumably his "only son," Jesus (so what are we, step children, as Paul would have it?), be gruesomely murdered on the Cross for our supposed sins. Presumably, that was the same Jesus who in his ministry did nothing but preach forgiveness of sins, and whose own teaching says nothing to promote sacrificial slaughter, let alone the vicariously salvific value of crucifixion. Those interpretations of his life and teaching all date from after his death, with Paul and Peter leading the parade for a belief system, which gradually became "Christianity," in which his teaching was made suitable for the Roman Emperor, and which very early made it its business to suppress any beliefs that were at variance with its own.

Jesus of course stood for the notion that the truth needs no defense, and that all that's needed is the forgiveness of sins, and to love our brothers like ourselves, and God above all. It's this "loving our brothers like ourselves" which Christianity, or any religion have the most problems with, again, quite in the spirit of Tom Lehrer's song, unless we fully and completely understand that ALL God's children are equal. Which is so evidently untrue, when we trust our body's eyes. Yet in the original teaching of Jesus, such as we find it in the Thomas Gospel, parts of which survived in the canonical Gospels accounts that became included in the New Testament, the emphasis is on the Kingdom as an ever present reality, which we merely do not perceive as long as we remain preoccupied with the things of the world. The world of the senses is thus a distraction from the world of the spirit, and of course all of our problems in this physical world which we mistake for our reality, have a way of securing our attention in the world, very unlike Jesus, who was in the world, but clearly not of it, and whose teaching consisted of asking us to follow him, to a Kingdom not of this world. Once we can fathom this, then the people in Haïti are simply our brothers, and we can address their needs on the basis of love, to the best of our abilities. No need to find fault or judge.

The churches - and all religions, but, thank God, with exceptions - have too often made the mistake of blackmailing people into joining their camp, completely oblivious to the simple truth that truth needs no defense, as Jesus taught in word and deed. It is only if we do not speak the truth that we need to expend so much effort at convincing others, because we are really in doubt ourselves, and operating from fear, holding on to a belief system which deep down we know to be at variance with the truth. Once we understand the spirit of Carlton Pearson's "Gospel of Inclusion" we must realize that we don't have to include anybody, since they already are, on the strength of the fact that we are all God's children.

The clincher then is to realize that Jesus very much spoke of the Kingdom of God as our reality, which we merely do not see in our present condition, or we would not feel the way we feel, but which is all around us, if we merely follow him, and learn to see as he sees, by practicing the forgiveness of sins, and loving our brothers like ourselves, and God above all. Would we not have a nicer experience if we treated all our brothers like ourselves, and treated every encounter as if we were meeting Jesus in that brother? That is the option which Jesus holds out to us, to live from forgiveness, love and inclusion, and to join with him in the Kingdom of Heaven. Most of us are a while away from that, but practice makes perfect. This is also why Jesus is so dismissive of our worldly relations, and emphasizes the spiritual brotherhood that flows from doing the Will of God, as in Logion 99, in other words, our reality is not who we are as bodies, our parents children, our sisters' brothers, or our brothers' sisters, nor even as parents of our own children. Who we are as brothers in spirit is only through joining with Jesus in doing God's Will, which is to forgive and to love. Not to judge. Clearly then, since we all have this propensity to judge and not forgive, we have some practice ahead. The only remaining questions is do we want to start now or later? So how long do we want to stay miserable?

As long as we stay stuck in judgment, we remain in the quandary of Logion 26, and we persist in seeing the speck in our brothers eye, and we never get around to cleaning house ourselves, forgiving our brother for what he did not do, by finally recognizing the speck in our own eyes, first, so we swallow our accusations. Likewise the Christian explanation of Jesus achieves the same quagmire, for to believe that we will be saved vicariously by someone else's sacrifice, serves to get us off the hook. It is a way of having your cake and eating it too, to sin and be forgiven magically by an external savior, and so starts the extortion by the agents of that savior. What Jesus did ask was rather to follow him in practicing doing according to the Will of the Father, and nowhere does he ask us to be perfect at it. But if we get busy practicing ourselves, we will have less and less time for judging others, and will easily be more helpful as well.

From before the formation of Christianity there were strands of Gnostic tradition where a better explanation of our ontological frame of reference was attempted, particularly in the insight that the God of Genesis, the creator God, could not possibly be an all loving and all powerful God, and was a creature of a second order. This teaching was not well understood and became suppressed by the emergence of the Pauline/Christian creed of a sacrificial, vicarious salvation. In our day and age it is making a comeback in the very profound teachings of A Course in Miracles, where one of the central tenets is that God did not create this world, and by implication that the God of Genesis is merely a projection by man, a made-up God of the second order, a creature of mythology, who bears a remarkable likeness to us, and is loving some days, and angry and fearful on others. He has friends and enemies, and he needs to be praised to remain in his good graces, and feared otherwise. Thus the Bible has become a collection of stories, which very often succeeded in nearly blotting out the memory of the real God of whom Jesus spoke, and who is all loving, because he is our source, in spirit. As long as we believe that, then the Kingdom is also deferred to something mythical, after death, because this life then is nothing but an affirmation of everything but that Kingdom not of this world, which Jesus says is our only reality.

Thus this illusion of a world, and illusion of a life, are merely the expressions of a belief system that puts my individuality central, and demotes God to a second order role, to "co-pilot," and which is the exact opposite of what Jesus advocates. This awareness is present in the Bible when a deep sleep descends on Adam, from which he apparently never wakes up. We find it in Advaita-Vendanta in the notion that the world is an illusion "Maya," and it's cause merely a play of the Godhead (Brahman), who got bored one day. But the gnostic concept as it is elaborated in A Course in Miracles, is clearer than all that, and ties in remarkably well with today's quantum physical notion of the holographic nature of this world of perception, namely that God did not create the world at all, which deprives it of any objective reality, and relegates it to purely the realm of perceptual phenomena, dreams or illusions. In Einstein's words, we are non-local beings having a local experience, or in Shakespeare's words, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." Instead, the mind made it up as an expression of the belief in a separate individual reality, in which we are all in conflict, and God is relegated to second place, although the primordial fear of him never quite leaves us, and stays with us as ontological guilt, which in our insanity we try to blame on everyone else. Round and round it goes, until someone, somewhere is willing to break the cycle, and look for "another way," which invariably becomes the path to a "Kingdom not of this world."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Theodicy Redux

Oh well, it was time for the heavyweight championships of judgment this week, and the Haïtian Ambassador did a marvelously humorous job of countering Pat Robertson's fundamentalist judgment of Haïti, without really soiling himself with heavy duty argumentation, which would not have helped.

Then, for good measure, in the press it was Bart Ehrman, quoted in Newsweek, who did a nice job of putting things in perspective. He of course has stumbled upon theodicy as part of his recovery from fundamentalism, in which for the time being he has settled on atheism, as documented in his book God's Problem, which basically says that since Bart Ehrman can't figure him out, there must be no God.

On another level, the whole episode made me think again of the inspired insights of Carlton Pearson, and how he came to develop his Gospel of Inclusion, which within the Christian context is perhaps the best answer to the painful comments of Pat Robertson about Haïti, though written 10 years ago. Pearson's original inspiration came from the crisis in Ruanda years ago, but the tenor is the same. Exclusion and judgment are the opposite of the inclusion and love which Jesus represents, regardless if you follow the basically Chrisitian theology of Pearson, or you follow A Course In Miracles and the Thomas Gospel. The problem is theodicy, the question of how can a loving God do this... (fill in the blank with the latest war or natural disaster), to his people. The ultimate answer in the Course is that he doesn't, because God does not know about the world, for the world is only the out-picturing of the thought of separation, and we are God's creation, not as bodies in the world and of the world, but as spirit, and in spirit we are still one with him, but it's the reality of Heaven, which is obfuscated by this ego life, which we think is our main act, not realizing it is just a role we play while we are in denial of our true reality as God's Son.

Ultimately the cosmogony proposed by A Course In Miracles is utterly simple.  Oneness must come before two-ness, just as much as one comes before two. Thus:

Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh. In his forgetting did the thought become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects. Together, we can laugh them both away, and understand that time cannot intrude upon eternity. It is a joke to think that time can come to circumvent eternity, which means there is no time. (ACIM:T27.VIII.6:2-5).
So, before some clever kid in the class hollered "two," thinking it was a new idea, there was only one. We should have known right away that "two" could not possibly be such a bright idea, since "one" came first. That ontological One is the oneness of Heaven, of Eternity, in the above sense. And we can all intuitively understand that "two" is not an original idea, since it does presuppose "one," thus the oneness of Heaven is the original state, and the individuality of the separation is somehow the secondary idea, a poor substitute for Heaven.
The Thomas Gospel is full of the awareness that Heaven, the Kingdom, is a state which is omnipresent (by definition, if you followed this), which we merely do not see as long as individuality, and the physical reality of this world remain our vantage point. There are any number of the Logia of Thomas which reflect this type of thinking, and it is implicit throughout the entire collection. Logion 28 is one good example. It compares the state of ego-individuality to a drunken stupor, promising that we will know our reality again, when we recover from that drunkenness. Or, in a more gentle fashion, using the traditional analogy of the dream (remember, in the Bible Adam falls asleep, and he never wakes up), the Course puts it as follows:

    You are at home in God, dreaming of exile but perfectly capable of awakening to reality. Is it your decision to do so? You recognize from your own experience that what you see in dreams you think is real while you are asleep. Yet the instant you waken you realize that everything that seemed to happen in the dream did not happen at all. You do not think this strange, even though all the laws of what you awaken to were violated while you slept. Is it not possible that you merely shifted from one dream to another, without really waking? (ACIM:T-10.I.2)
As this becomes our frame of reference, we come to take responsibility for our nightmares, which are merely a reflection of our disastrous choice FOR individuality, and AGAINST Heaven, which however mercifully is not the great big idea (sin!!!) the ego thinks, but merely a "tiny, mad idea" which by joining with Jesus in our minds we can laugh away, and never take seriously again. That is when finally we realize that all our nightmarish experiences and those of others are merely a reflection of that one wrong choice, which we can learn to undo through forgiveness, and the more we do, the more we realize that forgiveness in every form is only forgiveness of the same old tiny, mad idea in a variety of forms, which merely seem endless, but which ultimately collapse back into the one wrong choice, and when we forgive it, which is called accepting the atonement for ourselves, we are once again free of the delusion of separation and back home in Heaven, where we belong - and as the Course points out, that decision (accepting the atonement for ourselves) is truly our only job as students of Jesus' Course.

Within this framework now, there is nothing bad that is done by God, for the true God does not even know about the world. He created us as spirit and knows us as spirit, and what we imagined in our silly nightmares he is blissfully unaware of, including the fact that we blame him for it, just as we blamed him for creating the world. When we rejoin that reality, the dream of the world will merely collapse "into the nothingness from which it came." (ACIM: M-13.1:2) Mercifully when we realize that all the "bad things" which happen to "good people," are not a punishment from God, as our guilt feelings imagine them to be, but merely the out-picturing of the one mistaken thought of the separation, then we can start forgiving like a fiend, until we're done with the whole mess and remember once again that we are no longer in the diaspora which is this world, but safely asleep, at home in Heaven with God, where all the nice children go to play. And while we learn these lessons we will let ourselves be guided to help in the world as best we can, quietly representing the choice for peace.

Let this review be then your gift to me. For this alone I need; that you will hear the words I speak, and give them to the world. You are my voice, my eyes, my feet, my hands through which I save the world. The Self from which I call to you is but your own. To Him we go together. Take your brother's hand, for this is not a way we walk alone. In him I walk with you, and you with me. Our Father wills His Son be one with Him. What lives but must not then be one with you? (

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Most Direct Way to Help Haïti

I'm just posting this letter, with the additional comment that Fonkoze is an incredible organization, run with just a handful of people Stateside, and hundreds of staff in Haïti, so that any dollar you donate for their efforts goes where it's needed most. They are far more effective than most other aid organizations, who spend up to 85% on overhead.

January 19, 2010

Dear Friend,

All of us at Fonkoze USA appreciate all the prayers, phone calls, emails, and especially donations that we have received in response to the major and tragic earthquake that ravaged Haiti just a week ago today. We have been in touch on a daily basis with Fonkoze's leadership in Haiti which is now working feverishly to design a strategy to respond to this unprecedented natural disaster. 

We update our website at least daily. So, please continue to visit the website at for the latest information about the situation on the ground with Fonkoze and to contribute to the "Relief and Rehabilitation Fund."

Donations are urgently needed. The courageous staff of Fonkoze are ready to move forward with a major relief effort followed by an aggressive rehabilitation program.  The staff themselves have, however, been significantly impacted.  Fonkoze leadership met with some 50 staff members on Sunday, and half of them lost virtually everything they own. (At least three staff were killed in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.) We are planning to give these impacted staff some immediate resources to stabilize their lives so they can focus on the clients.  Another major funding need is for Fonkoze to establish an Emergency Operations Center and re-build branch structures in order to serve the branches and our clients throughout Haiti.  The costs related to doing so are being calculated as we write this update and appeal. 

The ultimate priority is to serve our borrowers and clients by helping them re-establish their homes and families and their businesses. This will take time and will build on the successful client rehabilitation efforts following natural disasters earlier this decade. 

To date, we have received a little over $80,000. While we don't have a good grasp of our overall financial needs as yet, we anticipate that we will need more than $1 million dollars in the next few weeks in order to meet the needs of Fonkoze's clients and staff.

Please make a donation now to our "Earthquake Relief and Rehabilitation Fund". Please do it today by mailing a check to Fonkoze USA, 50 F St., NW, Suite 810, Washington, DC 20001, or make a donation online at:

We also encourage you to continue keeping up with Fonkoze's progress on the web site. There is new updated information on sending money to Haiti, the status of some of our personnel, the status of branches, and other information.

Please continue to PRAY, PHONE, PARTNER, and PITCH-IN FOR HAITI.


Alex Counts, Chair, Fonkoze USA                                   

John Mercier, President, Fonkoze USA