SPIRIT AND ELECTION 2012
Commentary by Kay Whitlock
Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.
Siddhartha Gautama, founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.
This is an unusual Critical Mass Progress post, written because almost everyone I know is feeling psychically worn and battered by this election season. I certainly am, although I know the tide has turned and we will see any number of necessary and heartening victories – including the presidency. I hope you know that, too.
Even so, we can’t ignore what’s been happening, or its meaning as we come through the election and work to give even deeper strength to the many interdependent struggles for freedom, human rights, social and economic justice, and environmental integrity.
Constellations of psychic energy are in motion, and the most difficult ones to deal with are embedded in the onslaught of Republican/Right messages and tactics that emphasize fear, rage, resentment, enmity, racism, misogyny, heterosexism, xenophobia, brutal disdain for poor and working class people, and callous disregard for the climate and our natural environment.
Unleashed in these frenzied storms of fear and rage are mythic images and archetypes that touch us all in unconscious ways, even if we reject them: white supremacy; violent and patriarchal authoritarianism; bully boys; religious inquisitors; tricksters and confidence men (yes, men) who offer only lies, deception, and greed. And this is what’s coming cloaked in the language of faith and values. It’s clear that politicized religion either works for liberation or against it.
The Right’s messages, mythic images, and violent, emotion-soaked archetypes call out the worst in all of us – whether we reject them or, out of a desire for vicarious power over others, embrace them. They often keep us reactive to and bound within the great whorls and whirlpools and quicksand created by those who prefer an ethic of dominance and subordination.
I’m not having it. I want leaders and neighbors and colleagues to be calling out the best in us, not the worst, the smallest, the meanest. And I don’t mean just speaking out on issues. I mean calling us all to something much larger than ourselves – and to engaged, community-based organizing that goes on before, during, and after elections.
I’m no spiritual leader (hear that roar of raucous laughter from my pals and partner in the background?), but I am a person whose spirituality (Buddhism) is central to who I am. So I decided to post something here and send it out into the Great Noise because I believe that everything we say and do matters, for good or ill. I’m not doing it because I believe everyone must or should be religious or spiritual. We’re all so different, and there has to be room for us all. I’m doing it because I have to.
Many (too many) years ago, I was a member of the NGLTF’s National Religious Leadership Roundtable, representing an organization I worked for at the time. I wrote something for the NRLR for a particular event, and it’s never been used again. I’ve tweaked it somewhat and offer it here as my personal prior-to-the-election and after-the-election reflection.
ON LOVE, JUSTICE & SPIRIT
The presence of Spirit, or God, is the life-giving presence of love and justice for all people and for the earth itself. The presence of Spirit, or God, is the realization, here on earth, of just and beloved community in which we celebrate the dignity and sacred worth of every person and all peoples.
The spiritual call to love and justice is a joyous call to resistance and transformation. We are called to resist the unjust beliefs, structures and practices in ourselves, in our communities, and in society that declare some categories of people superior or subordinate to others. We are called to transform by example the corrupt ethic of domination and supremacy, which justifies the social, economic, environmental, and spiritual evils of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, heterosexism, and ecological devastation.
The call to love and justice is a call to radical generosity and open-heartedness in a time of spiritual and social stinginess, greed, insularity, and indifference to the suffering of our neighbors. We reject the fearful message of scarcity and enmity preached by some who claim there are not enough civil and human rights to go around, not enough social and economic goods to meet everyone’s basic needs. Only by taking up others’ burdens of injustice and suffering along with our own will we transform the curse of fear, hatred, and human brokenness that afflicts our society in so many painful ways into the blessing of just, generous, and compassionate community.
The call to love and justice is a call to radical nonviolence in the midst of great storms of psychic, structural, physical, and economic violence. It lifts up a vision in which all of us, not only the most privileged of us, can live freely and exercise our rights and responsibilities without fear of exclusion, threat, intimidation, or violence.
The call to love and justice is a call to spiritual wholeness within our churches, synagogues, mosques, sanghas, ashrams and other sacred gathering places. Where stifling boundaries constrain our ability to claim wholeness, the call to love and justice gives us the strength to shatter them.
The call to love and justice gives us the strength necessary to lift up a bold, audacious vision of spiritual community in which all are welcome and invited to participate equally in worship, sacred ceremonies and blessings, and in which the gifts of spiritual leadership are recognized and honored in people of all races, cultures, genders, gender identities, and sexual orientations.
A commitment to love and justice is one that demands everything of us – and in return, it offers us infinite possibility. It calls us to nurture – in ourselves as well as others – the courage, integrity, kindness, and generosity necessary to create just and beloved community, in which none of us is cast aside and all of us are kin.
See you on the far side of the election.