Archive for the ‘Healing’ Category

Forgive Me Father For I Have Sinned

Monday, August 21st, 2017

For those unfamiliar with this Catholic meme, it is the opening sentence Catholics whisper to the priest to start confession.

My confession is that I find this particular point in our history fascinating.

We have a President who appears determined to self-destruct, a party that is uncertain they are willing to go down with him, and his supporters who have swallowed the kool-aide and have lost touch with reality.

So here’s a little bonus coverage courtesy of one of my favorite academics, Jonathan Haitt of Righteous Mind fame.  He has a great article in The Atlantic which explains the widespread negative reaction to Trump’s Charlottesville comments.

This IS NOT a political rant.

It is simply an explanation of a taboo that Trump broke.

All societies have taboos.  I won’t go through why, though Haitt does in his article.  Suffice it to say that we use a common set of deeply revered values, people, or places to hold all our citizens together in a shared bond.  That bond is our willingness to sacrifice our individual interests for the greater common good.

Charlottesville was a clash of sacred symbols.

The far right displayed their sacred symbols including swastikas, confederate flags, and guns – lots of guns.  They were marching to defend another symbol – the statue of Robert E. Lee.  The goal of the rally was to bind white people together with a shared hatred of Jews, African Americans, and other minorities using claimed white victim-hood and racial purity. (BTW racial purity is a myth.  Skin color is the result of a not well understood interaction between about 100 genes rather than the presence or absence of a particular set of genes.  Commonly available genetic ancestry tests are causing real problems for those advocating a “pure white” society.)

For UVA students, “the lawn” in the center of campus is also hallowed ground.  Students rushed out, unarmed, to defend the Jefferson statue from the approach of the torch-bearing armed white supremacists.  The marchers weren’t planning on vandalizing the statue, but from the student’s point of view these particular marchers would have “contaminated” the statue if allowed to approach unopposed.  That’s because for a Jeffersonian, neo-Nazi’s are taboo.

That’s what the country saw.  Unarmed students spontaneously opposing an organized group chanting the worst slurs against Jews and African Americans and making Nazi salutes.  It was a desecration of our most cherished American story based on the belief that “all men are created equal”.  We all know that this creed is aspirational, but we demand that all of our political leaders accept this premise as a requirement to hold office.  Denying this premise is blasphemy.  As a result white supremacists, the KKK, and neo-Nazis are widely regarded as blasphemous outsiders.

We treat our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution as sacred texts.  We erect monuments to our martyrs.  We punish or shame anyone who ignores our documents or dishonors our martyrs.  We expect our president to play the role of high priest and chief unifier in times when those texts and martyrs seem under attack.

In Trump’s press conference on Tuesday August 15th, Trump fumbled his opportunity to play the role of the high priest and chief unifier because he failed to condemn the blasphemers exclusively.  In response to the public outcry, the President read a staff-written speech to right that wrong.  If it had stopped there, perhaps he could have recovered.  Instead just 24 hours later, he committed the greatest sacrilege of his presidency by saying that there were “very fine people on both sides”.  That’s because our basic belief is that Nazi’s aren’t just bad – they are taboo.

Trump has become taboo by embracing those that we have decided are taboo.  The moral stain of the blasphemers has rubbed off on him.  That’s why you saw such a scramble by all those who understood what he had just done.  Those who fail to distance themselves from the taboo will also become taboo, just as Trump has done.  That’s also why most people in this country were willing to condemn those who just walked in the march.  They didn’t have to carry a flag, shout a slogan, or salute.  Just being there made them taboo too.  They got fired.  They were disowned by their families.  People won’t want to live next to them any more than they would a sex offender.

You can’t apologize for breaking a taboo, particularly one as deep as the Nazi or KKK.  You can’t even use the excuse of ignorance because that would suggest ignorance of our basic values.  In Trump’s case, it doesn’t matter, because he is not going to admit that he did anything wrong.

the stain, the moral pollution, the taint, will linger on him and his administration for the rest of his term. Business leaders have quit his panels and projects; artists who were due to receive honors from the president have changed their plans. Pollution travels most rapidly by physical touch, so be on the lookout for numerous awkward moments in the coming months when people refuse to shake the president’s hand or stand next to him. It is unclear how far the contagion will spread, but it will surely make it more difficult to attract talented people into government service for as long as Trump is the president.

Further this is going to do generational damage to the Republican Party.

people’s political orientations are shaped for life by events that happen when they are young, particularly between the ages of 14 and 24. The young generation—iGen, as Jean Twenge calls them—is extraordinarily progressive and passionate about matters of race and prejudice. If Republicans stand by their tainted president rather than renouncing him, an entire generation of voters may come to see the GOP as eternally untouchable.

It’s hard to say what will come next, but right now the country is unbalanced.

Extraordinary sacrilege has occurred, but divine retribution has not yet come down from the heavens.  We have no priest and no scripture to guide us.  The country may suffer for failing to remove this apostate.

What I can see in the not too distant future, however, is an emotional pivot toward impeachment as a cathartic recovery of purpose and balance.  Trump will be blamed.  Some in his administration will go to jail.  All will be disgraced.  The country will heal.  I saw this happen with Nixon.  It could very well happen with Trump too.  All that is missing is the smoking gun of corruption or scandal and the game will be over.



The Enemy Is Us

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

big pogo

I’ve spent some time writing about the absurdity of Trump.

Now I’d like to spend a little time digging into the two fundamental dangers of his campaign.

First a couple of basic assumptions.

Trump is NOT a conservative in any conventional sense of the word.

Though he managed to capture the Republican Party nomination, his views do not reflect very much of what could be considered Republican Reagan-inspired orthodoxy. He ran against that orthodoxy and the “elites” who represent the Republican establishment.

Trump did not create the pool of white disaffected conspiracy-theory addled voters who support him. He has just become the most recent populist to capture their attention by calling out the establishment, regardless of party, who failed to deliver on the decades of promises that this group feels were made to them.

Conspiracy theories are part of our DNA. They were the source of legend and myth. They are independent of party. Conservatives have been the group that has recently brought them into politics in a dangerous way.

The danger of those who believe in self-serving conspiracy theories is that they are easy prey for those who may seek to turn them against the very institutions that provide them the only opportunity for relief. The best example is the past 8 years of Republican obstructionism. That obstructionism prevented passage of a more robust jobs creation program based on the big infrastructure investments that both candidates are talking about in this campaign.

That obstructionism was based in part on the effective campaign to delegitimize Obama. Though there was no basis in fact for any of those claims, Republican leadership became enablers of this strategy through their silence. As a result, significant percentages of Republicans still believe that Obama was born in Kenya and is Muslim. This made it much easier for House and Senate Republicans to effectively grind government to a halt for six years.

This same scorched-earth policy is being created for Clinton. She’s an historic liar, she should be jailed, she is too ill to be President, and the only way that she could be elected is if the elections themselves are rigged.

The fundamental concern of those unhappy with the direction the country is taking is that government is not working for them. The danger of this conspiracy-dominated strategy is that it erodes faith in the fundamental institutions of government rather than just the party that is in charge. Those fundamental institutions are what are SUPPOSED to work for all citizens. When a significant percentage of the citizens feel that not only elected representatives, but government itself is biased against them; the seeds for violence are being sown.

That brings us to a second danger. That is violence and the extremist in our society that advocate it.

Just like we have always had a segment of our society that believes conspiracy theories, there is also a segment of our society that supports violent overthrow of the government. These segments are also typically racist, nationalist, and libertarian.

The difference is that the hate speech associated with these groups was always relegated to the political fringe. Until recently, political leaders across the political spectrum rejected this bigotry outright.

Over the past eight years, racial hate speech has crept into the mainstream political conversation under the guise of political criticism of an African American president.

In this campaign; racial, religious, and even disability hate speech has been used by Trump. His excuse is that it is “straight” talk. He claims to take pride at speaking off the cuff and rejecting political correctness. His enablers add that he can’t be expected to show the sort of sensitivity that “professional” politicians display.

As a result, the violent extremists are moving from the lunatic fringe into the political mainstream. Right wing tribalism now provides them a cover to spread their hate and lies. Within the Republican Party, you can talk about topics that would have been embarrassing even during the Bush II administration. You need no better example of this legitimizing of the radical right than the appointment of Steven Bannon as Trump’s campaign manager. This guy has been one of the champions of the alt-right. His past history alone would have disqualified him from being involved in any previous Republican campaign. Now he is able to pass with barely a whimper.

Regardless of the outcomes of this election, we are dealing with a new reality. This reality is pick-up trucks with Confederate flags and rifle racks in the cab. It is open carry red-necks looking for confrontations at Black Lives Matter rallies. It is a rise in terrorist acts inspired by white supremacist groups rather than ISIS. It is a full-throated attack on the pluralism that is at the core of our democracy. It is a return of the cancer of white supremacy that has plagued this country from its founding.

My hope is that this is the first step to finally confronting and rejecting bigotry and racism in this country as acceptable behavior by any citizen.

Open Letter to Obama Critics

Monday, December 17th, 2012

This is an open letter to all those who have criticized President Obama’s visit to Newtown, CT.

Some characterized it as a publicity stunt. Some suggested that it was evidence that he was a poor leader shirking his Washington DC duties. Some felt it was hypocritical to express such sorrow over the deaths of these innocents while supporting things like abortion or drone strikes. Some have even suggested that this is part of a larger government conspiracy to take away our guns and leave us vulnerable to invasion by the UN.

If you have entertained or expressed any of these opinions, this is not day for them. Pick another day in another week. But not this day, not this week.

Are you REALLY that cynical and heartless? Have you become so twisted by your hatred of this one man that you are blind to the purpose of his visit?

It isn’t always about you and your issues, and it isn’t always about politics.

This was a NATIONAL tragedy. It tore at the fabric of our society by suggesting that we can’t protect those that we cherish most, those that are most vulnerable.

President Obama was there carrying out his highest duty, which is representing us.

He carried our collective sorrow with him to CT. He was there to represent the empathy that we all feel for those who are grieving. He was there to offer help to those that survived, but now have to learn to live with loss. He was there to give voice to the questions we all have about what can be done to bring an end to these massacres.

This event demands more than a few days of headlines and news reports. It requires more than a moment of silence. In fact silence on the underlying issues of violence and mental illness and easy access to weapons designed to quickly kill large numbers of people lulled all of us into a false sense of security.

He was there to promise that we aren’t going to let this incident fade from our memory as so many others have. He was there to express our collective outrage that this is enough. We are better than this. We are more responsible than this. We are not going to allow our country to deteriorate into armed enclaves and raise a generation of kids who are afraid to set foot outside their door. We have to have a higher concept of freedom than the mutually assured destruction of the wild west or the false security of a police state.

Yet for you, this was just another opportunity to express some petty partisan political snipe.

Shame on you!



Peacemaker Deficit

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Toss all the bums out.

This is the simple solution for a government that doesn’t appear to be working.  This solution, though, is based on the assumption that those elected to take their place will do a better job.

My view is that the ideological divide that we see preventing progress in our government accurately represents the deep divisions in the voting population.

When the tea partiers, for example, say toss out all incumbents, they aren’t expecting them to be replaced by new liberal Democrats.  What they are really saying is replace them all with people who support the Tea Party agenda.  Republicans are definitely saying toss out all of the Democrats so that the Republicans can regain control.  Democrats counter that suggestion by asking if voters really want reward Republican obstructionism by returning them to power.

So the “toss the bums out” chant isn’t really what it seems.  It is just a simple expression of hope that things would run better if everyone were in the same page.

It’s probably true, but in simplest terms, that’s not going to happen.

Government has been less effective because it has become more representative.  It has become more representative because it has become more ideological.  As it becomes more ideological, it becomes less open to compromise.  As it becomes less open to compromise, it becomes less effective. 

As government becomes less effective, it seems to fan the flames of polarization.  Everyone is looking for someone else to blame.  The easiest and most obvious target is anyone who has an opposing philosophy.  The self-righteous blame sinners.  The sinners claim they are not guilty.  The not-guilty have to prove that they are innocent.  The innocent get punished.  The unfairly punished cry for help.  The self-righteous ignore cries for help because they feel punishment is the best method to teach people to make better choices.  The media mobsters gleefully stir the pot and are rewarded handsomely for their rabble rousing. 

As the ideological differences increase, the fabric of our democracy begins to fray.  We become more interested in our own ideals than the welfare of our neighbors.  We lose the common decency that is the hallmark of our towns and cities.  We justify our hard-heartedness by pointing out the shortcomings of those we disagree with.  We trust only the like-minded.  We value those that we agree with and discount those that disagree with us.  We reward demagoguery and punish the peacemakers.

This is not new news.

This has been happening since humans discovered there was strength in numbers.

Jesus recognized the problem and gave us direction on how to overcome it in His Sermon on the Mount.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Matt 5:9    

As is usually the case, the way to change the world is to change yourself.  As we can all attest, this is much easier said than done.


Thursday, May 28th, 2009

“And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague” Mark 5:25-29

I like this story in Mark because it talks about the power of faith. Later in the story Jesus seeks out the woman in the crowd and complements her by saying that it wasn’t Him, but her faith that made her whole.

Faith and healing in modern times, however, is a much touchier subject.

The recent case in Minnesota of a child diagnosed with Hodgekins Disease raises a lot of questions about individual rights versus government rights.

I think it is easiest if you extract religion out of it for a moment and simply discuss what choices an individual has.

So should the government have the right to lock up an individual who has a communicable disease?

In general, I think that the simple answer is yes. People should not be allowed to infect other people. The more complex answer, however, is that in practical terms the government doesn’t have the ability to exercise this right on any sort of a widespread basis. Swine flu and AIDS are only a couple of examples. So, though the government has the right, it has very limited ability to exercise that right.

Backing up from there, should the government have the right to intervene and prescribe care for someone who is unable to declare for themselves the sort of care they need?

This is the Terry Schiavo case. The answer from the courts is no. The next closest relative has the right to determine care (or lack thereof) for an adult who can’t decide for themselves, hasn’t left any instructions for the court, and is otherwise in a persistent vegetative state.

Backing up from there, should the government have the right to prevent an adult from enlisting the aide of someone else in order to end their own life?

The courts here say yes. State governments can prohibit or allow assisted suicide.

Backing up from there, should the government limit the medical choices an individual has?

Here the courts say yes. The government has the responsibility to determine what is effective and what isn’t. As a result, individuals have had to go to other countries to get treatments that are illegal here. Clearly there are a lot of issues here. Acupuncture is just one example of an ancient technique that has only recently been accepted by western medicine as effective.

Finally we get to parents and children. The government has a responsibility to oversee the sort of care children receive. So parental rights can only be exercised to the boundaries that the government has described. If parents or legal guardians step over those boundaries, the state can assume custody of the child in an effort to protect them.

One example is whether or not the government should have the right to require children to be immunized?

Again the courts here are fairly clear. In the interests of public health, the government has mandated that children who associate with other unrelated children (school, athletics, etc.) have to be immunized. The greater good here is to prevent outbreaks of childhood diseases and also take steps to eradicate those diseases. The reality is that there is some risk to the injections and those whose parents opt out of immunization only endanger themselves and any other children who have opted out. So as long and the bulk of the adolescent population is immunized, the risks are small.

The government is in a difficult position because they have an obligation to step in where there is evidence of neglect. The challenge in the MN case is that they law has no way of measuring how much the parents love their child, how much the child loves the spiritual concepts that his parents espouse, and what his ability is to really understand the potential consequences of his actions. The court also has no way of knowing how effective the treatment he has chosen will be, so they can only decide based on the opinions of medical professionals who are only familiar with conventional medicine.

The bottom line is that we are dealing with the challenges of the human patterning the divine. Human laws will never reflect the wisdom of the divine. Human constructs work fine most of the time. It is the exceptions to the commonplace where they fail very badly.

In the case of the MN boy, the physician has intervened and offered to expand his treatment to include some of the methods the parents were seeking as well as the more conventional course of chemotherapy. The boy and his mother returned home agreed to follow the direction of the court.

Oops Honey I Changed the World

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Gen 1:3

This is the basis for the first of the two creation stories in Genesis. In Scientific terms, this was the big bang. There is a second chapter in Genesis that introduces a talking serpent, but has a much less optimistic ending with man becoming a mortal sinful being. This pretty much set the stage for discussions that fundamentalists and progressives have been having ever since.

Scientists working on expanding quantum theory to the operation of the universe have come up with a second chapter of their own.

It wasn’t too long ago that scientists created the concept of dark matter to explain why the universe kept expanding. Based on the matter that we could see, the expansion from the Big Bang should have slowed significantly by now. So these clever guys said that there must be something else out there left over from the Big Bang of creation that we just couldn’t see that kept things running away from each other.

In 1998, scientists actually observed a phenomena which supported the theory of dark matter.

The problem is that another pair of scientists have now concluded that the observation itself may have altered the nature of this matter and as a result altered it’s ability to force the universe to continue to expand. This alteration will ultimately result in the universe collapsing back on itself like the film of the Big Bang run in reverse in very slow motion.

The reason why this argument has interest from a spiritual point of view is that it suggests that those that think the deepest about physical reality are telling us that this reality is actually an expression of our thought. In other words, we through our thought create our reality rather than some absolute reality acting on us to control or influence our thoughts.

If that is true, then where can we turn for dependable truth?

At least for me, the being that made the universe seems like a logical choice.

It also seems logical to me that if He created all to be good, it was good then and should still be good now. So when I see what appears to be evidence of poverty, sickness, war, and hate; where did the good go? Did God somehow change reality, or perhaps has my thought and the thought of millions of generations of humans warped our perception of good into our own human version of reality?

My sense is that God doesn’t change. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We are the ones who have an opportunity to change by figuring out how to be more like Him. As we learn how to be more like Him, our reality changes too. The lame walk, the dumb speak, the blind see, the poor have the gospel preached to them, wars cease, and all men treat each other as brothers.

Jesus proved that it doesn’t take much to change the world. Just an open mind and a willing heart.

Happy Thanksgiving

They shall be your Judges

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

“And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?  And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.”
Matt 12:25-27

Jesus ability to heal others really bothered the religious establishment because it went against their understanding of how the world worked and what the Bible meant.  The Pharisees were obsessed with condemning sinners.  They felt that those who were disabled were being made public examples by God for their sins.  They also felt that only God could forgive sins. So when Jesus healed a blind and dumb man, the only explanation they could come up with is that Jesus must be in league with Beelzebub, because only God can heal sin, and obviously this man was a sinner. 

As he always did, Jesus had something for the Pharisees and something for us.  He challenged the Pharisees logic by pointing out that Satan would have no reason to want to forgive sin or heal anyone. 

What he had for us was the promise that he wouldn’t be the only one who would heal.  Our children will be healers too and as such they will also be our judges because they will heal the problems we create. 

Our children today are telling us that they have problems with Christian Churches in the United States.

In a recent survey published by the Bama Group, only 60 percent of 16-29 year olds consider themselves Christian.  That is a dramatic shift from the 77% of 60+ year olds who answered the same question.

Those who don’t consider themselves Christian feel organized religion is hypocritical, judgmental, and too political.  They generally are very favorable to the basic teachings of Christianity (77%), but feel that organized religions no longer represent those teachings and values.  As a result only 16% say that they have a good impression of Christianity.

What is even more eye-opening is that 50% of those in this age group who do go to church share those same views.

One of the key issues separating young people from organized Christianity is the hostile position many churches hold to homosexuality.  80% of those who call themselves Christian and 91% of those who don’t describe organized Christianity as “anti-homosexual”.

Numerous surveys have shown a growing majority of young Americans have a relaxed, tolerant attitude toward homosexuality. A 2001 Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 60 percent of Americans ages 17 to 29 support same-sex marriage, yet same-sex marriage is illegal in 49 of the 50 states.    

One pastor familiar with the study said, “How did homosexuality become such a huge issue for us?  As I see it, it’s no different than any other sexual sin.”

I can’t answer him, because I ask myself the same question.

What I can see is that our children have a better grasp on the basic values and teachings of Jesus than many of us do.  Their love of their brother isn’t blinded by hate or fear.  They will be our judges.  Fortunately, they will also be our healers.

The Perfect Man

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:”
Eph 4:7, 11-13

The most perfect man to ever have walked the earth was Jesus. The rest of us are all just pale imitations doing our best to figure out how to measure up to his example.

This post was inspired by a recent column by my friend Tom Treece. Tom is so wonderfully open, honest, and humble in his efforts to work through the challenges he sees around him. In this case, he was openly wondering why we treat those who disagree with us so badly.

That bothers me too. It’s one of the reasons why I write. I hope that if I can express my particular view in a well reasoned way, it will encourage others to do the same.

Here’s my thought for Tom and others that are trying to figure out how to deal with this situation. I think the Bible in general, and this quote from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in particular, gives us some insight.

None of us are perfect. Those that claim to be are false prophets and should be ignored.

None of us have all the answers. Those that claim to have all of the answers usurp God’s position and so their advice should also be ignored.

All of us are blessed with talents and insights. Those that suggest otherwise are saying that God somehow made a mistake. Who are you going to believe?

Our talents and insights are given us by God to accomplish His purpose. That means that there is a reason for every person on this planet to be here at this time and place. It’s your job and no one else’s to find out what your part in that plan is. You can’t do it for anyone else, and no one can do it for you.  You have to work out your own salvation.

Each of us reflects some portion of God’s perfection because we were all made in His image and likeness. If we could look at everyone all at once, we would glimpse the face of God. If you leave anyone out because of politics, belief, gender, race, or sexual orientation, you are missing some part of God.

If we want to follow Paul’s advice and aspire to at least a measure of perfection, we have to first seek out what we all have in common with Jesus – our humanity. Those of us who are Christians also have the responsibility of coming together in the unity of our faith. Paul is saying we have so much more in common than we have in difference that we are wasting precious time and energy arguing when we should be doing.

It’s very easy to get caught up today in pointing out another’s weaknesses and failures. Whether it is Pete Stark calling out President Bush, Rush Limbaugh calling out war-protesting soldiers and 12 year old kids, or just about everyone attacking Hillary Clinton; none of them are perfect. None are devils. All have the potential to be angels. All of them are made in God’s image and likeness.

If you want to see change, a good place to start is by rejecting the public spectacle of character assassination as entertainment. This is our modern day equivalent of the Roman Coliseum. Instead of watching Christians being eviscerated by wild beasts, millions tune into their favorite media outlet to cheer the dismemberment of a person’s reputation.

If, like my friend Tom, you end up being the one being chewed on while others cheer, there some solice if it is for Jesus sake, He said in the Sermon on the Mount that He feels your pain because He and other prophets were treated the same way and worse.  As a result, there is special place in heaven for your reward. 

If you are one of those who have been cheering the public persecution of your favorite victim, cut it out!  Suppress that blood lust and think about how angry you were when it was your guy getting the same treatment.  Once you’ve got that out of your system, pray to see the world as God sees it. Focus on our shared divine sonship and the world will change. We will all gain a measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.  We can certainly use it.

What Would Confucius Do?

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

I’m almost through a book by Karen Armstrong called The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions. It covers a remarkable period in world history that she calls the Axial Age. It was that period of time in the ninth century BCE when people in four different parts of the civilized world created four of the great religious traditions that are still shaping our world today: Confucianism and Taoism in China; Hinduism and Buddhism in India; monotheism in Israel; and philosophical rationalism in Greece.

I was particular struck by the Confucian concept of ren. In simplest terms, it is a form of the golden rule. In practice, however, it is much more profound.

What we know as the Golden Rule shows up in the Bible in a number of places including the second great commandment given by Jesus.

“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matt 22:35-40

Confucius took this much further. In his thought, it wasn’t sufficient to simply wish good things for your neighbor, or refrain from inflicting on your neighbor whatever you wouldn’t want inflicted on you. Confucius articulated what “love” in “love they neighbor” really meant.

In order to achieve ren, you had to seek to achieve your life goals through your neighbor. You had to love your neighbor so much that you seek to bestow on your neighbor all of your life’s hopes and dreams.

Your path to financial success, for example, starts with doing all you can do to make others financially successful. Your path to security is by making others secure. You path to respect is by respecting all others. Ren is an idealistic state that even Confucius agreed was likely beyond the grasp of most students. The path to ren, however, is one that Confucius felt all should follow. As one description put the Confucian idea, a good life is an endless aspiration for ethical perfection.

As I was thinking about ren within the context of our proud Christian nation, I thought it might be interesting to analyze how our current policies would change. Instead of trying to return to some mythical fundamentalist golden age, as some Christians are teaching, what if we as a nation strove for ethical perfection.

We would see our economic success from a global perspective and focus our attention on helping the poorest countries get their economies going. How do you think that would affect global stability? We would invest in clean water for developing African countries before we tried to sell them weapons. We would use our military might to protect the most vulnerable (e.g. Darfur) rather than those who had oil to sell. Our policies would conserve earth’s resources for our neighbor’s use rather than exploit them. Wouldn’t that be a breathe of fresh air (pun intended)? We wouldn’t torture, we would help free those who were at risk of torture. We wouldn’t start wars, we would help end them.

You might say this is fantasy and could never work. Many would say that unless every nation shared our values, these policies are too risky and idealistic .

I agree that Confucius was an idealist and saw more in men than maybe they saw in themselves, but then so did Jesus.

Humility Memorial

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5

This particular Bible verse is a favorite of mine.

I leaned on it heavily during one of the more difficult times in my life.

As a country, we’re going through a difficult patch right now too and could benefit from remembering our need for humility.

As we honor those who have served our country in the past, we also have to cherish those who are serving today. We’ve put almost 200.000 brave men and women in harms way in a foreign country. We’ve asked them to fight a war which we started under what we now know to be false pretenses. They have engaged what they thought were the enemy, but in the process we have radicalized a country, weakened ourselves, and strengthened the real enemy (bin ladist Islam).

Those who support this path of action claim that victory is just a matter of will. With more patience and commitment, they claim, we will achieve our goals in Iraq. I don’t think that it is a question of will. I think it is a question of understanding.

I just heard an interesting comment on NPR by a Chaplain Major John Morris who has served in Iraq.

“In this fight, which we call the global war on terrorism, we say that we understand that the people we’re fighting are motivated by an ideology that’s rooted in an aberrant view of a religion. It’s a great line. But I’ve often had to really be forceful with commanders that, ‘You don’t understand. These people are tapping into something in a spiritual realm. And if you fail to take it seriously, it doesn’t matter how long we fight, we will not defeat them.’”

“We’re in a war. But this is a war where you can’t kill enough people to win because this has a spiritual motivation to it. You’ve got to have more tools than kinetic energy. And that’s how I talk to commanders because they understand kinetic energy as firing of a weapon system.

That means we have to take seriously religious leaders. We have to take seriously the religious worldview of people. We have to think that when we fire that weapon and we miss, that round goes somewhere. And when it hits somebody else that’s innocent, it has a ripple effect on a culture that takes seriously life and death, clan and family. That when we search mosques, it has an impact, whether the mosque was used as an armory, which I often saw that it was, or not. There is an impact.”

I don’t think that the American people have as clear a view as Major Morris, but what they do grasp is that the current strategy is fatally flawed. I’m not sure that the American people understand what we should do next, but they do understand that we have to change what we are doing now.

As Major Morris said, this is not a war that we are going to win with bullets and soldiers and the sooner we realize this, the sooner we will be able to starting doing what we as a country do best. We are the best at giving those with good ideas an opportunity to be successful. We are the best at providing families an opportunity to build a better life for their children. We are the best at assimilating immigrant cultures into our own.

We will win the war against fundamentalist Islam by figuring out how to solve the fundamentalist strife in our own country. That is going to come from prayer and the realization that what we have in common is far more important that what we have in difference. Then we have to take those lessons of loving our neighbor as ourselves and apply them globally. When we accomplish that, we will wake one morning to find that our enemies have disappeared because they have become us and we them.

“Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.” Isa. 41:11-12

Happy Memorial Day