Reflections on My Personal Theology

June 1, 1991

Over the years I have learned about the importance of faith in what I call the life force, the Great Spirit or the Higher Self. Truth unfolds on a daily basis through intuition, experience, observation, conversation, informed judgment, being questioned while questioning, reflection, quiet listening, and secluded contemplation. Security becomes more internal as I have begun to risk surrender to the infinite wisdom of the Great Spirit, a daily struggle to extricate myself from conditioned ego needs to be in charge, to be "secure." This surrender process entails a profound cooperation with and openness to the Great Spirit to this life force. It is not passive. It requires a certain amount of courage, at least in the initial years of liberation from ego and control to uncertainty and faith. It requires a synthesis of mind (thought) with heart (feelings) to arrive at wisdom (passion from interconnectedness) and transcendence through faith (spirit).

I am an advocate of nonviolence. This, in a word, describes my "theology." It is rooted in the belief in the sacred interconnectedness of everything and everybody. An injury to any one part of the whole, including to or within oneself, injures the whole, and therefore, each other part of the whole. Using Gandhian language, Satyagraha replaces the methods of violence. Satyagraha, or soul or truth force, seeks truth through passionate pursuit of justice. This truth-seeking approaches union with the higher self, the Great Spirit (some would call this god). This effort is distinguished by its strict utilization of the methods and spirit of nonviolence, a concept approaching unconditional love. This might be considered agape, or unsentimental love. Nonviolence is an affirming love that tenaciously resists evil, resists the perceived wrongdoer with action that just as tenaciously refuses to do harm. Active nonviolence is a conscious willingness to suffer, even die if necessary, as a chosen substitute for violence to others, or to any other form of life. It requires acute consciousness about human and ecological justice. For centuries we have been living without a consciousness of sacred interconnectedness, in a more or less materialist framework. Thus, we have acted and lived in ways that have been extraordinarily destructive to life, including to ourselves. Adherence to nonviolence is considered nothing short of radical and revolutionary. It will effect all of us in dramatic, but liberating ways. It will have great impact upon all of life’s current patterns.

Nearly all religions embody this ethic. But in practice, all religions to different degrees have sanctioned violence, often through brutal and diabolical methods.

All the major religions embody nonviolence through (what I was taught in Baptist Sunday School as) the ‘Golden Rule." The one fundamental precept they share in common is that "we should treat others as we would expect to be treated ourselves:"

Buddhism — "Hurt not others with that which pains yourself." (Udana-Varqa)

Christianity — "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law of the prophets." (the Gospel of Matthew)

Hinduism — "This is the sum of duty; do naught to others which if done to thee would cause thee pain." (The Mahabharta)

Islam — "No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself." (Hadith)

Judaism — "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men. That is the entire Law, all the rest is commentary." (The Talmud)

Zoroastrianism — "That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self." (Dadistan-i-Dinik)

Native American — "Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know–The earth does not belong to man; Man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family." (Chief Seattle)

It should be obvious now that I am a Buddhist, a Christian, a Hindu, an Islamite or Muslim, a Jew, a Zoroastrian, and a Native American. I presume that I am part Confucian (Confucianism) and Taoist (Taoism) as well, though I don’t have a source for their precept relating to the "Golden Rule."

If I were to pursue a ministry, I see it as a risky venture to become part of a community of faith-based people to share in experimental mutual aid, reducing dramatically cash and material needs, similar to living in an ashram, disengaging from an immoral and destructive economic system as much as possible. In the alternative, I would want to engage, and confront, the system and its components and employees with a decentralist model based on caring and justice. Often even middle-class people are ready to make a radical break with the system as they experience its emptiness and destructiveness. In effect, people of any community would begin to join the world’s people as equals, working with the poor in the struggle for a new world based on nonviolence–justice for all life. Local service projects would become part of normal community life. Resistance actions to governmental and corporate policies and practices viewed as evil and destructive would be planned as discernment determines, using nonviolence in both attitude and external behavior. Tax resistance would be important, placing all extra proceeds in a service fund for peace through justice efforts. Relationship with all peoples in struggle, both locally and internationally, would be creatively maintained through dynamic cultural exchanges with participants in popular justice struggles. The members of this community would no longer be middle class.

Relationships to social, economic, ecological, political and other issues would best be developed through action and reflection cycles. This emerging community would be committed to experimenting with the implementation of a radical, nonviolent revolution of "First World" values, moving from greed and selfishness to sharing and justice. In effect it seeks to literally live out the "Golden Rule." It takes Tolstoy’s philosophy very seriously that a Christian, for example, must live apart from the nation-state and all its institutions while living within it and speaking to it by example and resistance. A radical new consciousness is necessary, so historic, so dramatically apocalyptic as to be beyond our imagination. We must be prepared to experiment with the new journey, one step at a time, one day at a time. It is an ecological awakening never before known to the modern human condition. This is the issue of the day. Distinctions between the "First" World and "Third" World disappear. Exploitation of the majority by the minority will have to end. Our complicity as U.S. citizens, consuming 900% more than our global due, will have to end. We are talking radical, nonviolent revolution–the spirit of the call of love in a world rapidly becoming so dehumanized, so insane, as to place Homo Sapiens literally on the brink of extinction.

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