Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Having a Heart for the World

You might notice to the right of this article a quote from Amma, a Hindu spiritual leader and teacher and world renowned saint whose extraordinary acts of love and self sacrifice have given rise to a vast network of spiritual and charitable activities.
When someone is full of Love and Compassion,
he cannot draw a line between
two countries, two faiths, or two religions. amma
It matters not that Amma and I do not share the same religion.   We share the same heart of the world.  We share the same love of God's purpose for our lives in the world. This is not only a religious and spiritual statement but it must also be a political one.

One of the first people I think of after reading this quote is Barack Obama.  He has a heart for the world.  Many Americans fear this focus on reconciliation and bridge building.  It seems to me they are more comfortable being the bully on the world stage. President Obama's message at Cairo University, June 4, 2009 was representative of a shift in focus away from the extreme isolation America experienced under George W. Bush's administration.   Mr. Obama seems to me more truly "Christian" in his words and actions.
It's easier to start wars than to end them.  It's easier to blame others than to look inward.  It's easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share.  But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path.  There's one rule that lies at the heart of every religion -- that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  (Applause.)  This truth transcends nations and peoples -- a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian or Muslim or Jew.  It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world.  It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.
Interestingly enough, I was reading  an article in the August 2010 issue of HomeLife  a  LifeWays publication, about this very subject. The article entitled, The Either or Proposition addressed the religious nationalism in America that limits the mission of Christians in the world.   It surprised me to actually find this article in what I would consider a conservative magazine.  

The word is LOVE!
This may be my own prejudice coming through here.  I grew up in the North but live in the South. And though I have lived here 10 years and have come to love my home, I still carry some (mis)conceptions of the conservative South.  Some of which I am sure are not misconceptions.  I have a Democratic ffiliation.  I cringe at the idea of  the Republican party though  my brother and husband would say they wear the Elephant button.  My politics are liberal.  I give all glory to God and allow God to Judge the "living and the dead."  I live by the commandment to 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' And since I know that God has a heart for the whole world I consider my neighbor all of human kind.  I always found the "WWJD" armbands cheesy, however, I will measure the rightness and wrongness of a situation based on just this question.

As I was thinking more about this topic I searched the web for what others might be saying.   I found this fabulous article that takes on the topic from a political psychology angle.  The article name is Globalization and Religious Nationalism: Self, Identity, and the Search for Ontological Security. The author's argument is the following:

The prominence of religion and nationalism, in novel interpretations, thus may engender the growth of new local identities in response to the destabilizing effects of globalization. It is at such times of “homelessness” and alienation that leaders may emerge to channel existential fears and feelings of loss and despair. The globalization of the local, or the global-local nexus, encourages resistance and rejection of traditional power structures (Haynes, 1999) as securitized subjectivity becomes the main priority among people who feel at a loss with their current social and economic situation. Rejecting one set of structures, however, means implementing a new or different set. The construction and reconstruction of historical symbols, myths, and chosen traumas supply alternative beliefs to everyday insecurity. The more inclusionary such beliefs are, the more exclusionary they tend to be for individuals or groups not included in the definition of these beliefs. The construction of self and other is therefore almost always a way to define superior and inferior beings. (my emphasis) Superior are those on the inside (of the religion or nation) who represent purity, order, truth, beauty, good, and right (order), while those on the outside are affected by pollution, falsity, ugliness, bad, and wrong (chaos) (see Bauman in Featherstone, 1995, pp. 143–170). The inside (the home) can bring order from the chaotic outside.

My argument is that nationalism and religion supply particularly powerful stories and beliefs (discourses) through their ability to convey a picture of security, of a “home” safe from intruders. They do this by being portrayed as resting on solid ground, as being true, thus creating a sense that the world really is what it appears to be. The world, in this view, “really” consists of a direct primordial relationship to a certain territory (a “home”) and/or to a certain god(s). In this way nationalism and religion, as identity-signifiers, are likely to increase ontological security while minimizing existential anxiety.

Basically, she is saying, that the expansion of economic, politics and human affairs into the global stage has given rise to insecurity and anxiety in the lives of individuals experience  a sense of chaos in the world structure they live in.  The them-or-us dichotomy born from 9/11 has encouraged an extreme patriotism and narrowing Christian mission in the world.  I encourage you to read all of Ms. Catarina Kinnvall  article.

So what am I saying?  Only that it has always befuddled me that many Christians have a narrow understanding of who and where we should offer help.  To have any compassion for another race, culture or religion makes your suspect. Can I really love my country and still believe that people should not be tortured?  Can I uphold the rights of Muslims and Arabs and find genuine truths in their religious beliefs and still be a Christian?  Because God's creation is global and God loves his creation I must assume and act on the belief that God's loves and honors all the people of the world. Then so must I.  If that makes me radical or too liberal in the eyes of some, I will stand tall under that banner.

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