Perhaps all Christians need a local-yokel Nobel-prize winning Theravada Buddhist to chase them back to their Jesus freak roots – especially when she’s neither yokel nor local. Take me. I’ve been reading and re-reading a paragraph from Aung San Suu Kyi’s Freedom From Fear: “A revolution which aims merely at changing official policies and institutions with a view to an improvement in material conditions has little chance of genuine success. Without a revolution of the spirit, the forces which produced the iniquities of the old order would continue to be operative, posing a constant threat to the process of reform and regeneration.”
Snap! A psychological-spiritual window shade flies up and rap-rap-rap-rap-raps. Light floods the room. We see the truth of our intuitions: Our supposedly sophisticated political discussion barely scratches the surface. We’re hollering about the ice burg’s tip, the ocean’s surface, the thin crust on the lava sea. I see the reason for my own frustration: I’ve been a reluctant political commentator, chased into the fray because a shrill fringe has led many in my branch of Christianity astray. I must engage. But politics can coo words like “relevant” and “practical” and seduce us from the truly significant: “Luxuriate in oblique spiritual banter later; be realistic now.” The “realistic now” never ends and the time for “luxury” never arrives – and a sneaking suspicion loiters: Political reform without spiritual renewal is like taking aspirin for cancer. The pain relief doesn’t cure the metastasizing disease.
America’s incivility betrays a deep spiritual malady, with no faction immune. I saw symptoms galore when I visited several churches a year ago: Political views not anchored in the Bible were lifted as “prophetic words.” There was slander and subtle racism (would anyone level unfounded accusations of Muslim terrorism at a white president?). Snip-snip. Much of the Bible lay on the cutting room floor. I was repulsed. I found myself wandering among so-called “progressive Christians.” It was refreshing at first, but soon those tell-tale symptoms paraded in a different guise: all pro-lifers hate women; advocates of traditional sexual morality are bigoted and homophobic (my homosexual friends, thank God, understand the difference between disagreement and disrespect); and any talk of Heaven or the “afterlife” meets a blank stare. We don’t discuss that. We’re “relevant” now.
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