United Church of Christ

Breathe Deep

In 1992, a Christian alt rock super-group formed called the Lost Dogs. Their first album was called Scenic Routes. The last song on the album is called “Breathe Deep the Breath of God.”

Each verse is a staccatic litany of labels we attach to the other – whoever it may be whom we recognize as different, and for whom the difference we see seems to mean something.

Here’s the second verse:

Suicidals, rock idols, shut-ins, drop outs
Friendless, homeless, penniless and depressed
Presidents, residents, foreigners and aliens
Dissidents, feminists, xenophobes and chauvinists 

There is no sentence structure to the verses – just a list of words that serve as a reminder to us of what we are conditioned to do to and think about one another in order to generate fear.

Give someone a label and you dehumanize them. You give yourself the power and authority to claim their essence in a single word, to encapsulate the complexities of their being into something that unsettles you, and to reduce their life story to whatever it is you need them to be to feel better about yourself.

Except you don’t – feel better about yourself, that is. What you feel is a false superiority that masks your own inner fears. And fear – well, fear is a hard friend to live. It erodes the soul force within us that fosters the virtues of love and grace. It overrides the higher orders of thinking that humans have evolved to make good use of, and which allow us to live in peace with each other. Fear asks too much of us to be worth what we give over to it.

Breathe, people.

Breathe deep.

Breathe deep the breath of God.

Once again, we find ourselves living through an election cycle where we are being taught and told to both label and fear the other. A litany of labels that get used every time we do this are appearing across the landscape of our collective attention: liberal, conservative, cheat, liar, bigot, misogynist, immigrant, criminal, foreigner, hawk, coward.

Breathe, people.

Breathe deep.

Breathe deep the breath of God.

With each deep breath, feel the abiding present of a loving creator whose first breath filled our lungs and animated us. We are wonderfully, fearfully made. So wrote the Psalmist. “She has made us little less than a God,” also from the hand of the Psalmist. “'What a piece of work are we! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! in apprehension how like a god!” So wrote the bard himself.

Let’s drop the labels. They don’t help. We are each God’s child, crafted at the hands of a tender heart who, like a mother beholding her child, sees only those things that engender deep pride and profound satisfaction. It may be too much to ask of our politicians this election season, but not too much to ask of us.

We take these journeys with companions often not of our own choosing. Learn to see in your fellow travelers the beauty of the one who shaped them and breathed into them life. And know the peace that passes understanding as your travel your own way Into the Mystic. 

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