Last weekend, Dorianne and I joined six thirty-somethings (i.e. millennials) for a weekend in Havana, Cuba. I have been especially interested in Cuba since my days as a police officer in Miami-Dade County, working alongside many Cuban-Americans. I never thought I would visit Cuba in this lifetime, but, things change and we went.
Cuba is very enigmatic. There is great poverty visible in Havana, but also a great spirit. People were generally open and friendly; music streamed out of nearly every home, no matter how impoverished. Despite being a communist country, there is plenty of entrepreneurial activity – taxis, restaurants, bars, etc., where business is transacted. My sense is that if the current trend toward greater openness is continued, the country will transform in coming years toward a more free and prosperous society. And yet, most churches are either closed or converted to performance spaces, as is the one pictured below.
Here are some photos.
Returning from Cuba, I must say that I find the current state of US politics very disturbing. It is as if the two nations are going in different directions. Our newly elected federal government is taking an approach that seems to violate both progressive and conservative principles (LINK). There is little sense of respect for humanity, nor is there a sense of government as being public servants. The initial White House budget proposal drastically cuts many essential services and unnecessarily (IMHO) builds up the military budget which is already bloated (and for conservatives, no balanced budget in sight). And, of course, The Wall must be funded. Historians will note that this is a pattern that every declining society has taken since the Romans – taking funds from arts and citizen support programs and pouring money into the war machine.
That said (full disclosure: my viewpoint is progressive), the US is a nation divided and many people (37% in a new Gallup poll ) support the actions of the new administration.
So, what is a spiritual leader to do?
First, he can remember this quote from Mark Twain:
“In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand and without examination from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.”
~ Mark Twain
Second, she can remember this quote from Bertolt Brecht:
“The worst illiterate is the political illiterate, he doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events. He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies.”
~ Bertolt Brecht
Third, he can remember this quote from Tariq Ramadan:
“You can’t say ‘I don’t do politics,’ because silence is a political statement.”
~ Tariq Ramadan
And fourth, she can remember this quote from Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee:
“Do we have the courage to hold the grief that comes with the end of a story? You can only hold the beginning if you are prepared to also hold the grief for what is over, otherwise a certain maturity is lacking. At this time, we are called upon to recognize the bigger story—which is not the story of supermarkets, not the story of politicians, not even the story of religious fanatics—but the story of the earth at this time.”
~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
Spiritual leaders cannot, must not, attempt to be apolitical, for there is really no such thing. Often the spiritual leader does not want to upset or alienate someone in the membership who holds different beliefs. Would this hold true if there were a Nazi or a Maoist in the membership? Is it an absolute position or is it a matter of degree? Or they do not wish to get into the coarseness of the political realm; but that is the nature of that realm at this time, and the level of discourse can only be elevated by reasonable voices for compassion. Where are such voices going to come from?
And if the spiritual leader is teaching the importance of spiritual principles being applied to the larger world, and some public figure or institution is, in the judgement of that leader, in violation of those principles, is not speaking out really an option? Can we fail to speak out or to act and still see ourselves as not being political?
My readings of The Science of Mind and other New Thought philosophies make it clear to me that ours is a politics of Oneness, Love, and Compassion. Also, the teachings say that through the realization of our own inner Power we can make our own way in the world. This can be seen as a conservative element of New Thought, in alignment with the American conservative ideal of the “rugged individualist.” It is often used to justify cutting programs for the poor, for instance, out of the belief that if the program is not there, the poor person will be more likely to realize his or her own inner power sooner.
But the founders of New Thought saw themselves as Christian, too. To them the idea of holding someone accountable for a level of consciousness that they had not actualized was wrong. This was why Christian Science, with its expectation of high consciousness from all, even those new to the teaching, as reflected in a dogmatic prohibition of medical care, was never a part of the New Thought family.
We in New Thought also bring something else to the equation – the idea of unlimited possibility, available in full in each moment, accessible to anyone who becomes receptive to it. This critical aspect of New Thought philosophy comes with a very steep requirement – that we be willing to release anything – ANYTHING – that does not serve the emergence of the new possibility. This statement from Abraham Lincoln speaks to this idea from a time before our New Thought Movement existed:
“It is not, Can any of us imagine better? but, Can we all do better? The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise – with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
~ Abraham Lincoln
And from Ernest Holmes, the developer of The Science of Mind:
“We shall often need to announce that the Truth which we announce is superior to the condition we are to change. When the inner consciousness agrees with Truth, then – and not until then – a demonstration takes place.”
~ Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind
Our politics is Oneness, Love, and Compassion. It will be brought about through principled engagement in the world around us. Can we be silent to a world that cries out for healing?
Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard
Here is where you can get CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY:
A Handbook for Spiritual Leadership,
in paperback or Kindle editions –