01 Oct The Spirituality of Politics
My deepest sense of personal calling is about getting at the roots of human behavior through contemplative practices. I believe that the best chance we have at changing our own lives and the culture in which all of us exist is through the transformation of human consciousness, which is the goal of all true spiritual paths. If this sounds like new-age talk, then turn toward Jeremiah’s prophecy of a new covenant which will transform the human heart in Jeremiah 31: 31 – 34. Christians have seen Jesus as the fulfillment of this prophecy for a new covenant. And this new covenant is not about using legal means to drive behavior, but using spiritual means to change the human heart.
In our culture, religion has been described as a private matter, to be kept separate from any political concerns. Yet, as all of us learn in time, every dimension of self is related to every other dimension. As our hearts turn more to the spiritual, they also turn inevitably toward wholeness, because the heart of God turns to wholeness too. Maybe this is why religious people on all points on the ideological spectrum find themselves so passionately engaged in politics. The drive for wholeness is spiritual.
What I observe, however, is that religious or spiritual people on the left and on the right tend to go about their engagement in the political arena with very unspiritual energies. In our unstable time, fear is easily triggered and even devoted religious and spiritual people find themselves justifying, in one way or another, why it is excusable for them to show up in public life with an energy which is contrary to their deepest spiritual values. I believe that if we do not bring our religious and spiritual values and practices into politics that we will continue to operate collectively at a very low, unproductive, and uncreative level.
I know that what I am suggesting is not easy, but I believe that it is necessary. Our times are decidedly not easy times in which to live, and all of us are being called to access the depths of ourselves in ways we may never have before. The hope in this is that as we go deep within our hearts, that God will meet us and transform us. A new covenant might be realized and a new era in human history be born.
The great contemporary wisdom teacher in the Christian tradition, Cynthia Bourgeault, has her wisdom community working at bridging the gap between contemplative practice and working for the common good. I just finished one of several books recommended by Cynthia for this work—The Holy Thursday Revolution by Beatrice Bruteau. Dr. Bruteau, who pioneered the integrated study of science, mathematics, philosophy and religion, died in 2014. Her book makes a thoroughly researched and compelling argument for why deep change is possible for human beings, individually and collectively. She helps us to see the level of change that is necessary for our future and why we can make these changes. She challenges the cynic in all of us, and inspires us to take a journey in which our hearts are changed for our wellbeing and for the wellbeing of us all.
It is easy for us to despair and to give into rage and blame at our state-of-affairs. There is a better way, and our spiritual tradition can point the way. We may not see the completion of the transformation that is needed, but as we begin to live into it on a daily basis, we find a level of compassion and hope in us which makes us feel more alive and which enables us to engage in a way that keeps us in the life-giving energy of love. See you in church!