Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Every once in a while I come across a discussion that begins with the question I posed as the title to this post - "Can I be a person of faith and....?" Honestly, most of those discussions are pretty much a waste of time because they are hypothetical and walk a line of extremes that doesn't reflect the world in which we live, a world with shades of difference lived mostly in the vast middle ground between extremes. Examining some of those questions will illustrate my point, and in the middle of this Presidential election year some of the questions are timely.
Let's begin by examining a few questions of belief. We will examine these issues from the broad perspective of a generic person of faith, a member of one of the three Abrahamic traditions (i.e., Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) or of the two large Eastern traditions (i.e., Buddhism and Hinduism). Further, the perspectives within those traditions we will respond from will be fairly centrist and neither extremist nor radicalized.
Q. Can I be a person of faith and hold some racist beliefs?
A. Yes, because the great majority of people hold some prejudice even though they may be unaware of it. What is required is a willingness to grow and to change.
Q. Can I be a person of faith and belong to any mainstream political party?
A. Generally speaking, yes.
Q. Can I be a person of faith while struggling with violent thoughts or tendencies?
A. Yes, because many if not most of us do, even though we may not be aware of it. What is required is that we are addressing these issues.
Q. Speaking now to the American political parties, does either political party more accurately reflect the views of people of faith on a regular basis.
A. No, and particular candidates or office holders may or may not.
We could go on, but it's probably clear by now that in terms of beliefs, there are no particular beliefs - even those that might generally be thought to be problematic - that in any way disqualify a person from being a person of faith. We all have room for improvement in some areas and strengths in others. Presumably, as people of faith we all want to live into our particular belief system more fully. Here's where we run into some problems.
You see, there is no religious or spiritual tradition that advocates racism or xenophobia. Quite the opposite, in fact. Religious traditions call for special care for the stranger, the foreigner, and the outsider along with the less fortunate. So much for a massive wall on the Mexican border, no matter who pays for it, and so much for mass deportations on any basis. In fact. despite the fact that many people believe that American society was not only endorsed but mandated by God, nothing even remotely resembling our system of government existed in biblical times. Kings ruled the world. Jesus didn't prop up the local government in his day, he was killed because the occupying Roman forces thought he was plotting to overthrow them.
What needs to be said, and it needs to be said very clearly, is that if you consider yourself a Christian and support Donald Trump - including the wall, including his racist rhetoric, including his anti-Muslim rhetoric, including his misogyny - you are apostate and no longer a Christian. What's more, if you are one of those people I have seen on the Internet comparing The Donald to Jesus, that would be pretty close to what Jesus described as the unforgivable sin.
America is full of people who claim the label Christian but have so watered down and modified what that means that it has become little more than say a prayer, get out of hell free, and listen to a kicking worship band every now and again. Beyond that it's okay to hate, it's okay to beat people, it's okay to sling your rifles around, and to do pretty much whatever else your want, including an occasional "Heil Hitler" salute to the Donald, because now you are "saved." You might want to take another look at that.
Right now, America is a country that seems to be long on fear and short on common sense. Nowhere is that more evident that in our political process. I confess that I am biased, but I believe the only way that we will be able to move away from this horribly misguided belief we have that stuff will make us happy is to rediscover spiritual practice. It doesn't have to be any particular form of spiritual practice, but we do need to commit to it, for that is the only place we will find lasting happiness.