Articles published in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.
MYSTICS INVITED TO COME OUT OF THE CLOSET
TAKE AN INCLUSIVE APPROACH TO THE WORLD, 1-18-15
A FRIENDLY APPROACH TO PARTISANSHIP, 11-16-14
. THE NEED FOR BALANCE IN OUR LIVES AND WORLD, 5/1/11
POPULATION GROWTH A CRITICAL ISSUE, 9/10/10
SYSTEMS CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE CHALLENGE OF EARTH DAY, 4/7/10
PEOPLE OF FAITH CALLED TO LEAD, 10/12/08
GLOBAL CHANGES & THE NEED FOR MORAL LEADERSHIP, 1/13/08
PEACE, PATRIOTISM & JUSTICE IN THE NEW YEAR, 12/31/06
JUDEO-CHRISTIAN VOICES ON WAR AND PEACE, 6/14/06
THE COMMON SOURCE OF LAW AND RELIGION, 5/13/03
Click Here for an article on Community Gardens.
MYSTICS INVITED TO COME OUT OF THE CLOSET
There is a thread through all the major religions of the world called the Perennial Philosophy that has found the ego or separate self to be illusory, and life in all its diverse forms to be One Being, without a second.
Those who have experienced and have come to recognize this unitive identity are commonly known as mystics. Because their numbers are small and their experience is contrary to our normal sense of the world as divided into separate things, over the centuries mystics have been reluctant to identify and explain themselves, and have often been the target of religious persecution.
While in the east mysticism has been more central to religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism and their scriptures, in the west Christian mystics have often been considered heretics, as have the Sufis and other mystics within Islam.
Aldous Huxley’s 1947 book, “The Perennial Philosophy,” brings together statements by mystics from most of the world’s religious traditions that describe their direct experience of and identity with the Divine, increasing our understanding of mysticism considerably. A link to an online copy of this anthology is available on the website www.unitiveself.blogspot.com.
In spite of several well-known mystical sayings by Jesus in the New Testament, including “the Kingdom of God is within you,” and “What you do to the least of these you do to me,” as well as Old Testament sayings such as, “I Am What Am” and “Be still and Know that I am God,” not until more recent times has there been openness in the west to the presence of a single Being within all life.
Despite our current age of relative openness as well as our increasing acceptance of the unitary nature of the physical universe as demonstrated by modern cosmology and quantum physics, I was surprised to see the writings of Eckhart Tolle, a German-born mystic now living in Canada, become best sellers, and even be chosen as a book-of-the month by Oprah Winfrey.
Tolle’s teachings in “The Power of Now” and “The New Earth,” along with those of many other mystics, offer an experience of life that remedies the intense internal and external conflicts that alienate us from others and from our own identity. In a world of increasing divisions and need for reconciliation, the realization of a deeper unity within and beyond our apparent diversity is an important potential for everyone that is also of current interest to many.
Those who have had either an intuition or a direct experience of this reality, or are simply open to this possibility, may be interested in a public Study Group on the Unitive Self that has begun meeting on Thursday evenings at 7 pm. The group meets at Wynmrh House, 233 S. Park in Walla Walla across from the YMCA gymnasium, and is sponsored by the recently formed Noetic Council, www.noeticcouncil.blogspot.com.
The goal of this group, which is open to everyone, is to increase public understanding and recognition of the one Self, and to deepen its direct experience. As there are infinite facets to the Self, the group will meet weekly to consider selected topics, with each new topic announced publicly to encourage those with a particular interest to attend. Topics will be led by different members and chosen by the full group. In addition, there will be shelf space available for sharing books and other materials that may be useful to participants, as well as time available before and after meetings to look through or borrow those of interest. The meetings will also include a period of meditation, which is an almost universal practice of those seeking to become more aware of the Self.
When mystics are asked to explain how they experience or seek to experience reality, in most circumstances they have difficulty being understood. As one member of the Noetic Council active in a local church put it, “My Christianity is different from most. While the goal of others is to have a relationship with God, my goal is identity with God.”
It is useful for all of us to have relationships with those who are capable of understanding and accepting us. If you are a mystic or are interested in mysticism but have been reluctant to talk about it, you are invited at this point to come out of the closet, and to share your experience and interest with others. It will be a benefit to all of us if you do.
Daniel Clark is a retired lawyer and member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). He has recently written two books on unitive consciousness, “You are the Self” and “Notes to my Self.” He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TAKE AN INCLUSIVE APPROACH TO THE WORLD
We can’t help being horrified at the violent actions of Islamists throughout the world who injure and destroy innocent people in the name of God and justice. Their way of advancing their ideas of truth and right conduct is something we tell ourselves we reject. At the same time our nation sends its drones and warriors off in response, often killing innocent people as well.
The Islamist sees us as evil and seeks to destroy us or many of us in order to end that evil. We view the Islamists as evil and are also seeking to destroy them or many of them to end their evil. Fundamentally, the evil we each see in the other is due to ignorance of the value of what we each believe to be the truth.
The question we face is whether there is any way to deal with this level of conflict other than by continuing to engage in violence, which as we know begets more violence, in unending cycles.
A FRIENDLY APPROACH TO PARTISANSHIP
The results of our recent national and local elections were profoundly pleasing to some of us while deeply disturbing to others. When our candidates or parties have prevailed, we have confidence in the direction of government, while if they were unsuccessful, we lament the prospect of decision-making in the hands of those we feel are less capable or less committed to the principles we value.
When it comes to major political parties, whose reach extends from local issues to the well-being of the planet, we often look on one or the other as the embodiment of good or evil, while our judgment of the members of the opposite party to ours becomes increasingly harsh.
THE NEED FOR BALANCE IN OUR LIVES AND WORLD
It seems to me that our present lives and world are seriously out of balance. We lack balance in the relation between our spiritual life and our temporal activities. We lack balance in how we meet our individual needs in relation to the needs of others. We lack balance in the relation between how we meet our human needs and what we leave to meet the needs of other creatures.
Spiritually, we tend to forget the wholeness that is at the root of our being, beneath all our activity. It’s easy to do that, the easiest thing of all, since it is so clear and transparent, and easily overlooked, like the air we breathe. Yet without the recollectedness and experience of that wholeness, we are adrift on a sea of sometimes frenetic activity in danger of swamping us. What we need is to cultivate the awareness of that essential aspect of our being as a continuing foundation throughout our daily life. In the world music class I’m taking at Walla Walla Community College, I’m learning this is like the drone in Indian classical music that forms the underlying spiritual nature of the raga, above which the play of the changing notes provides pleasing variety in music, as well as in life.
As we see around us every day now in dramatic fashion, the way we provide for our individual needs and the needs of our communities is seriously out of balance. Though the well-being of our communities and neighbors is intimately tied to our own, we appear to be far more focused on how much personal discretionary income we will have than on assuring that before we spend resources on individual luxuries everyone can at least meet their basic needs. These needs include health care, both mental and physical, food, housing, education, clean air, clean water, and reasonable safety. Instead of agreeing to contribute from our personal surpluses in an equitable manner to assure that these basic needs are met as a community, we see basic services in almost every field being cut because of lack of revenue, and vigorous opposition to increasing our contributions to meet the public needs we all share. As an example of this lack of balance, when someone gets seriously ill, their friends and family often have to beg the community for help because in our country, the richest in the world, we do not have universal health care.
As a human community, our use and care for the world’s resources has also lacked balance. As we are all realizing, our levels and manner of consumption have destroyed habitat for other species, poisoned the oceans and other bodies of water, fouled the air and the soil, contributed to the daily torture of animals in factory farms, and otherwise shown disregard for life around us which we are a part of, and on which we depend.
In all things, there are periodic swings from one extreme to another, which contribute to the drama and variety of life, including both joy and suffering. As we are told in the Book of Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season…” For humanity, both far and near, this has been a season of extreme self-seeking, and self-service. It is time now to move back toward a better balance of self and community, humanity and nature, part and whole. Though movement in this direction appears inevitable; the sooner we begin, the better off we’ll all be. Let’s get started. 5-1-11
POPULATION GROWTH A CRITICAL ISSUE
At the annual meeting of Quakers throughout the Pacific Northwest in 2011, a small discussion group took up the question of continuing human population growth and its effects on the life of humans and other species on the planet.
In the Quaker tradition of “speaking truth to power,” though the issue of population stabilization has become something of a forbidden subject in public discourse, the group decided to draft a proposed statement for consideration by Friends throughout our regional association of traditional Friends Meetings.
That September, the Walla Walla Friends Meeting considered the draft statement, made a few changes in it, and approved it. Here’s what we adopted.
World population has been growing over 75 million persons per year, over 200,000 persons per day, over 8,500 per hour. Previously, world food production managed to keep up with increases in human population. Now we are reaching the limits of arable land, ocean fish populations, fresh underground water, fossil fuels, and other resources, and are crowding out the spaces and resources essential to other species. To accommodate the growing human population, forests are being cut down at the rate of 5,000 acres per hour, water tables are being drawn down at alarming rates, and wastes and poisons are polluting the air, water, and land at an increasing pace. Population growth is also a factor in persistent public health problems, poverty, crime, and wars. In order to realize the Quaker vision of an Earth restored and a peaceful, just society, we must seek ways to stabilize human population and consumption at levels that are sustainable for humans as well as other species.
To do this, we encourage voluntary measures to promote smaller family size and reduced consumption, including (1) adequate funding for family planning services worldwide, (2) raising the status of women, and better education for women and men, both of which are keys to smaller family size, (3) support for those who choose adoption, shared childrearing, or celibacy, while honoring biological parenthood for those who choose that, (4) ) simpler lifestyles in high-consuming nations such as the United States, including fewer possessions, greater sharing, and more responsible choices in what we eat, and (5) increased research on sustainable methods of food production, energy production, and other ways to meet human needs throughout the world without sacrificing natural systems or the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
We believe that these and other voluntary approaches should be vigorously pursued now to avoid the necessity of more coercive measures in the future to maintain a needed balance of resources between present and future generations of humans, and other species.
We urge Friends and others everywhere to join us in pursuing these approaches to sustainability in our personal lives and in our local communities, states, and nations.”
As Friends meetings throughout the northwest engage in the discussion of this issue over the next year leading to our 2011 annual session where we will try to reach unity on a common statement, Walla Walla Friends encourage our brothers and sisters in other congregations to do the same. Population growth and stabilization is an issue that affects all others, and along with levels of consumption, needs to be addressed in our local communities and beyond. 9-10-19
SYSTEMS CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE CHALLENGE OF EARTH DAY
We are each a part of many systems, though our “systems consciousness” varies considerably.
We are principally conscious of our individual bodies and thought processes—our primary system—and usually think of ourselves as discrete, independent beings who inhabit a world filled with other independent, unconnected beings.
From a broader perspective, life appears as an integrated web of primary systems, each in turn functioning as a subsystem for a variety of larger systems, and also as a supersystem containing a myriad of subsystems.
We’re aware from time to time of the existence of some of the subsystems in our bodies, usually when they’re not working normally. Who hasn’t occasionally been reminded of their digestive system and its demanding stomach, intestines and other organs?
Most of us are also conscious of the role we play in a variety of larger systems, such as “my family”, “my community”, or “my country,” whose well-being depends partially on us, and on which our own well-being depends to some extent. Our consciousness of our relation to larger bodies varies of course, some of us identifying beyond our country with all of humanity, others with all of life on Earth.
There are also those among us who identify with the entire system of life we’re a part of— the cosmos, the Divine Mystery, with what some of us call God. These include the scientists who have discovered the interconnectedness of all physical events throughout the universe, the mystics for whom “My me is God,” and others for whom “Thy will is my will,” or “Not my will but Thine be done.”
When we commonly speak of “public-spirited” or “community-minded” people, we refer to those who share in the spirit of a larger system, such as a local town or other community, breathing life and energy into it, and receiving life and energy back from it.
Our local and regional ecosystem is another broader community we’re a part of, whose well-being and ours are mutually intertwined. These broader shared systems include our children and grandchildren, our present human communities at the local, regional, and global level, and the natural environment worldwide. All are jeopardized when we fail to understand how connected we are. Our challenge, which we can meet if we are faithful, is to live our daily lives in ways that are true to our identity as individuals, as members of broader communities extending forward and backward in time, and to the Spirit that is the source of our being and of all things. Earth Day 2010 this Thursday is the 40th anniversary of what is considered the birth of environmental consciousness or of larger system awareness as it relates to ecology and habitat. As part of the observances this year, we are asked to look at more sustainable practices, both for our personal, primary systems and for our larger community systems. We are fortunate locally to have many concerned citizens working on ways we can be true to ourselves in all our dimensions. The Earth Day Fair at Walla Walla Community College this Thursday, April 22, from 9-2 pm and the Earth Celebration Fair on Saturday from 10-3 pm at the Farmers Market site are occasions to learn new ways and to relearn old ways that are again useful but have been forgotten. Green Days of Worship sponsored by Walla Walla Valley Faith Communities for Sustainability this weekend, and the community-wide Green Commute Day Competition this Thursday are also opportunities to develop more sustainable ways of living and moving around in our community and beyond. Let’s expand our consciousness of who we are and our relationship with all of life, and begin to live out that expanded awareness in more thoughtful and sustainable lives. Earth Week reminds us of how important this is; today is a good time to start. Daniel Clark is a retired attorney, and serves as clerk of the Walla Walla Friends Meeting, a local Quaker group. 4-7-10
Our local and regional ecosystem is another broader community we’re a part of, whose well-being and ours are mutually intertwined.
These broader shared systems include our children and grandchildren, our present human communities at the local, regional, and global level, and the natural environment worldwide. All are jeopardized when we fail to understand how connected we are.
Our challenge, which we can meet if we are faithful, is to live our daily lives in ways that are true to our identity as individuals, as members of broader communities extending forward and backward in time, and to the Spirit that is the source of our being and of all things.
Earth Day 2010 this Thursday is the 40th anniversary of what is considered the birth of environmental consciousness or of larger system awareness as it relates to ecology and habitat. As part of the observances this year, we are asked to look at more sustainable practices, both for our personal, primary systems and for our larger community systems.
We are fortunate locally to have many concerned citizens working on ways we can be true to ourselves in all our dimensions. The Earth Day Fair at Walla Walla Community College this Thursday, April 22, from 9-2 pm and the Earth Celebration Fair on Saturday from 10-3 pm at the Farmers Market site are occasions to learn new ways and to relearn old ways that are again useful but have been forgotten.
Green Days of Worship sponsored by Walla Walla Valley Faith Communities for Sustainability this weekend, and the community-wide Green Commute Day Competition this Thursday are also opportunities to develop more sustainable ways of living and moving around in our community and beyond.
Let’s expand our consciousness of who we are and our relationship with all of life, and begin to live out that expanded awareness in more thoughtful and sustainable lives. Earth Week reminds us of how important this is; today is a good time to start.
Daniel Clark is a retired attorney, and serves as clerk of the Walla Walla Friends Meeting, a local Quaker group. 4-7-10
PEOPLE OF FAITH CALLED TO LEAD, 10/12/08
People of faith are continually called on to examine our spiritual values, and to be leaders in the community in assuring that our behavior expresses those values.
Nothing is as fundamental in all our faith traditions as the importance of respecting what lies beyond us as much as we value what is inside our own skins. Every major faith calls us to treat others as ourselves, and most call us to stewardship of the Earth. Yet our daily behavior often demonstrates a pattern of disregard for the needs of other people and other species, both in our own generation and in the generations to come.
The impact of our daily lives on our habitat, our climate, and our grandchildren is starting to become clear to us in a variety of ways. While we all have a right to lives of fulfillment and to a reasonable share of the earth’s resources, at the same time we have a moral obligation to avoid waste and to assure a fair share is left to others. This is often stated as living simply, so that others may simply live.
Simple living may not have seemed important when people were few and resources abundant. But now that human population and our levels of consumption have risen dramatically, we are beginning to recognize that we are reducing the limited capacity of our habitat, the earth, to support humans, and are increasingly driving other species to the point of extinction.
With this reality in mind, we are called to examine what it means to live simply and morally in the current century. Our faith communities are excellent places to begin this examination of how well we are living out this fundamental religious value in our daily lives.
At our places of worship, for example, are we making the most conscientious use of energy to avoid unnecessarily depleting non-renewable fossil fuels for heating, cooling, and other purposes?
--Have we done an energy audit to examine the adequacy of our insulation and weather-stripping, and the efficiency of our heating and cooling systems? Are our thermostat settings so cold in the summer that people have to put on sweaters, or so warm in the winter that we have to take them off?
--Have we replaced most incandescent light bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent ones?
--Have we plugged electronic equipment that draws power even when off into outlet strips so we can easily switch off power to it at night and other times when it’s not in use?
In maintaining and supplying our congregation’s buildings and our various religious gatherings,
--Do we try to buy locally or regionally produced products rather than those transported thousands of miles, and to avoid unnecessary packaging?
--Are we using tap water in pitchers or stainless steel bottles instead of buying and land-filling plastic water bottles that are made with petroleum and aren’t biodegradable?
--Do we use durable cups, dishes, and utensils instead of throwaways?
--Do we recycle what can’t be re-used or repaired?
--Do we replace toxic chemicals with safe alternatives?
In getting to and from services, meetings, classes, and social events, do we carpool, walk, bicycle, or take the bus whenever possible, instead of driving individual cars?
Outside our buildings, instead of large expanses of turf demanding significant water, chemicals, and mowing, should we plant more trees to transform carbon dioxide into oxygen and provide shade and beauty? Should we consider using some of our landscape for community gardens, or for wildlife habitat?
We can also ask these same questions of ourselves in our work places, homes, and personal lives. As people of faith, we have the power to make a significant difference in the practices of our congregations, our families, and our community.
The Walla Walla Valley Religious Leaders Sustainability Group is a local interfaith effort demonstrating that people of faith are capable of walking our talk when it comes to respecting other humans, and all God’s creation. We hope you and your congregation will join in these efforts.
The recent conference on Global Change and Local Challenge sponsored by our three colleges has been a wakeup call—one that has brought home to many of us the deep changes that are called for in our way of life in order to make a moral response to the new conditions we face.
As now-retired WSU professor William Catton put it in his seminal book, Overshoot, “today mankind is locked into stealing ravenously from the future.” Catton speaks of competition with our descendants, in which our contemporary satisfaction is achieved at the expense of our children and grandchildren, and our current lifestyle is “dependent upon massive deprivation for posterity.”
What Catton and increasingly others are talking about is that we have been living far beyond our means in terms of energy and natural resources, drawing down the savings accounts of fossil fuels deposited millions of years ago, as well as borrowing from the capacity and well-being of future generations as we overwhelm natural systems and load large amounts of toxic waste on them.
Not only is the availability of these stored fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal) peaking, but burning them is clearly contributing to the global climate change that is already affecting us in the state of Washington and throughout the world.
As our numbers continually grow, humans have been taking over increasing portions of the earth’s total life-sustaining capacity from other creatures, and from less technologically advanced people. We have used this capacity and the spending of our geologic reserves to develop a variety of hungry technologies that now require vast amounts of energy themselves.
To understand our predicament and how to relate it to our religious traditions, we need to face the fact that we have damaged the carrying capacity of our oceans, the purity of our air and water, our global climate patterns, and other vital resources needed both by humans and other species on which our life depends. We have created critical problems for future generations, and have built a lifestyle for ourselves that can’t be sustained due to the lack of sufficient renewable energy supplies to feed our technological appendages or ourselves at current levels.
It’s now clear, say Catton and others such as Richard Heinberg in his book Powerdown, that inevitable contraction of the global economy and human population is ahead. The only question is whether this will happen humanely, through mutual planning and cooperation, or through famine, destructive resource wars, and other catastrophe.
The challenge we face as religious people who view humans as one family and as stewards of the earth, is a challenge both of leadership and of personal example. Will we actually be able to curb our materialistic appetites, and to cooperate humanely in reducing our expenditures to sustainable levels?
What is clearly called for is a return to a life more focused on spirituality and simplicity, rather than on materialism and the energy-demanding devices which currently surround us. We need to transition from an Age of Excess, where increased production, manufactured demand, planned obscolescence, and throw-aways are key, to an Age of Modesty, where conservation of resources, durability, and reparability are the norm.
Our churches and religious communities have a critical role to play in terms of the moral leadership needed for this transition. Reading the works of William Catton and Richard Heinberg is a good place to start.
If we work together, we have the capacity to create a new community of caring and respect for creation and all its creatures, present and future.
Daniel Clark, a retired attorney, is Clerk of Ministry and Oversight and one of the founders of Walla Walla Friends (Quaker) Meeting.
PEACE, PATRIOTISM & JUSTICE IN THE NEW YEAR
The new year is a good time to examine our most fundamental religious principles, the extent to which we’re acting on them, and the effect they have on us and our world.
The theme of the Community Coalition for Peace entry in Walla Walla’s Holiday Parade of Lights was “Peace on Earth—We Really Mean it.” One way to take stock at this time of year is to ask ourselves what it would actually take to achieve a peaceful world, or at least a substantially more peaceful world than the one we face.
Sometimes we hear that the way to peace is through more weapons and bigger armies, better able to beat opponents into submission. Increased use of torture is also suggested, as is now part of our official policy, along with assassination.
Torture has long been against the rules of international law, and until now has been openly used only by outlaw nations. Wars of aggression, preemptive attacks, and assassinations are also a violation of the law of nations, which is the legal framework that attempts to embody fair standards for the treatment of every nation and its affected citizens. The basic principle of this code is to treat others as we would be treated. This is a principle familiar to people of every background, since it’s the golden rule central to every religion.
A look at our use of torture is an important way for us to test our adherence to both religious principle and the principles of fundamental fairness and law. We clearly don’t want our own citizens and combatants subjected to torture by others. Our own legal principles also prevent the use of coerced evidence in our courts, because we have found it to be inherently unreliable.
Yet we menace captives from other nations with dogs, hold their heads under water, deprive them of food, place them in painful postures for prolonged periods, and apply other, worse tortures to them to serve our ends.
When we justify these practices as patriotic, we are confusing patriotism with nationalism. Patriotism, which is consistent with all religions, is the love and service of country, which should be encouraged. Nationalism, in contrast, is the belief that our own country and countrymen are of greater value than any other, a position profoundly inconsistent with all of our major religious traditions.
It’s easy for both nations and individuals to think of themselves as special cases, exempt from the rules we require of others. It’s also easy for us to rely on force to achieve what we want, while not wanting others to do this, even though force, unlike justice, rarely brings peace.
If we really mean to have a peaceful world, we need to build a just world. The essence of justice is that what is equal is given equal treatment. At the very least, that standard requires respect for the essential humanity and value of all people, and for their needs. As people of faith, it also means that we need to honor the divine in all creation, and to speak to that of God in every person.
Beyond patriotism, justice means that we need to teach love and service not only of our country, but of our family, our local community and our world community. When this dedication to treat others as ourselves encompasses all creation, then our actions as well as our laws will help eliminate the occasion for war.
For the new year, let’s pledge ourselves to sowing the seeds of peace and justice throughout the world and throughout our own communities. Daniel Clark, 12-31-06
JUDEO-CHRISTIAN VOICES ON WAR AND PEACE
Most of us have our roots in the Judaic and Christian traditions, or are interested in what religious leaders from those as well as other traditions have to teach us. In these troubling times, it is important for us to hear what two prominent leaders from those traditions had to say to our nation about war and peace more than three decades ago, and to test its relevance today.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Christian minister: I come to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. No one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Jewish Theological Seminary of America: At this hour, (this war) is our most urgent, our most disturbing religious problem, a challenge to the whole nation as well as a challenge to every one of us as an individual. To speak about God and remain silent on (this war) is blasphemous.
Dr. King: I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed. I speak as one who loves America. This business of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love.
Rabbi Heschel: Who would have believed that we life-loving Americans are capable of bringing death and destruction to so many innocent people? Who would have believed that our own nation at the height of its career as the leader of free nations, the hope for peace in the world, whose unprecedented greatness was achieved through "liberty and justice for all," should abdicate its wisdom, suppress its compassion?
Dr. King: To the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours. I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved.
Rabbi Heschel: We are sensitive to the dilemma confronting the leaders of our government. Our government seems to recognize the tragic error and futility of the escalation of our involvement but feels that we cannot extricate ourselves without public embarrassment. It is the dilemma of either losing face or losing our soul. In the sight of so many thousands of civilians and soldiers slain, injured, crippled, God confronts us with this question: Where are you?
Dr. King: It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor. Then I watched this broken and eviscerated. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. We must stop now. Our loyalties must become ecumenical. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This is the calling of the sons of God. Our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Let us begin.
Rabbi Heschel: America's resources, moral and material, are immense. We have the means and know the ways of dispelling prejudice and lies, of overcoming poverty and disease. We have the capacity to lead the world in seeking to overcome international hostility. Most of us prefer to disregard the dreadful deeds we do over there. The atrocities committed in our name are too horrible. O Lord, we confess our sins, we are ashamed of the inadequacy of our anguish. Help us to overcome the arrogance of power. Guide and inspire the President of the United States in finding a speedy, generous, and peaceful end to the war.
These words from two religious leaders of our recent past speak powerfully to our present situation. Within each of our faith communities, and individually, our task is to test the current actions of our nation as well as our personal part in them against the age-old standards of our faiths, and to ask ourselves how we can do better. Daniel Clark, 6-14-06
THE COMMON SOURCE OF LAW AND RELIGION
We often think of law and religion as very different in nature, and in many ways they are. Religion finds its source in inspiration and intuition, while law is largely the work of the rational mind expressed by political bodies.
When the world’s religious leaders have spoken out repeatedly against war in Iraq, they have based their appeal both on the moral requirements of religious faith and on the requirements of international law. This surprised me at first, but also got me thinking, and has helped me understand that the fundamental principles of law and morality are identical and permeate all religions and cultures.
Both morality and law, wherever they are found, seek a single standard of behavior for ourselves and others. That standard is that the principles of action we demand others honor and respect, we must also apply to our own behavior. This is the essence of the Golden Rule, embodied in one form or another in all the world's religions.
In Christianity this is expressed as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” in Judaism as “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man; that is the entire law, all the rest is commentary,” in Islam, “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself,” and in Buddhism, “Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.” This is also the fundamental principle of the rule of law, which is expected to apply universally to all, and is embodied in the familiar axiom, “no one is above the law.”
This common standard of conduct applied to conflict resolution has given us the religious principles of both nonviolence and just war. It has also given us the legal concept of a fair trial, and the treaties and rules of international law, including the Nuremberg Principles and the Charter of the United Nations. Fundamental to these religious and legal rules and principles is a respect for all people, and for common norms of mutuality and fairness.
When religious leaders have spoken out against unilateral U.S. war against Iraq, they have called on our nation’s government to apply these basic principles of law and morality to its actions. They have asked us to respect and value the lives of Iraqi people, whether civilians or soldiers, just as we would our own. They have also asked us to respect the rules of law we have helped to establish over the years, just as we wish and expect other nations to do.
A good and thoughtful friend of mine has often reminded me that when we are considering the fairness and justice of our actions regarding others, the real test is whether we would be willing to trade places with them. How do our current actions in the world stand up to this test? Would we be willing to have other nations and peoples act on their own with force against us when they perceive us to be a threat? Or do we wish them to present their grievances and their proof to international bodies such as the UN Security Council or the World Court, and to abide by a common decision, as required by the legal principles we have all adopted?
If our leaders are accused of genocide and waging aggressive war in violation of the Nuremberg Principles we developed for use against the Nazis, do we want the evidence against them to be presented to the International Criminal Court or another tribunal, or do we condone immediate assassination attempts and the bombing of our leaders’ homes by their accusers?
I think it is clear how we wish other nations and peoples to proceed under these circumstances. We want them to comply with international law and to refrain from violent actions.
My friend’s “Golden Rule” test of our willingness to trade places with others also applies closer to home. In dealing with our national and state budget crises, as we struggle with the question of what are fair and just levels of taxation and social services, what do we think of a system that leaves hundreds of thousands of people in our state without health insurance and proposes to cut basic services to the poor and unemployable? If we were to trade places with those in need, would we consider that failure of service just?
Whatever faith perspective we come from, whether an organized religion or a fundamental sense of relatedness to the world, our values call us to mutual respect for others at home and abroad. And they enjoin us to constantly test our behavior against the easily forgotten but essential standard common to both law and religion--that we act unto others as we would have them act unto us. It sounds simple, but can we do it?
Daniel Clark, 5-15-03