Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Compassionate Resistance

Regular readers of this blog know that I try to balance Christian spirituality and social activism. In my podcast and YouTube channel I focus chiefly on the spiritual dimension. I use the phrase “Christian nonduality” to describe my approach. I explore the mystical dimension of Christianity and other faiths. In my blog I often tackle the political and social issues. Inevitably the two areas intermingle.

Recently I received an unexpected email from Rev. Dr. Christopher Schelin, Dean of Students at Starr King School for the Ministry in Oakland, California. Starr King is a Unitarian Universalist seminary, a member of the Graduate Theological Union, affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Schelin also holds the positions of Director of Contextual Education and Assistant Professor of Practical and Political Theologies.

He wrote to inform me that he had written a research paper entitled “Compassionate Resistance: Opposing Trumpism in the Nondual Political Theology of Marshall Davis.”  This month he presented it to the Annual Meeting of the Western Region American Academy of Religion. For those who are interested in reading the paper, it can be found at academia.edu.

I was surprised – but pleased - at his announcement. Even though I had corresponded with him previously, I did not know he was researching my work. I certainly did not consider my work worthy of an academic paper. Furthermore I have never thought of myself as a political theologian. Yet … come to think of it … of course I have a political theology! All people who intentionally seek to live out their faith in the public arena are political theologians! Mine just happens to be more public than most.

First of all, Dr. Schelin did an excellent job in his research. He understands my approach better than most people, who know only bits and pieces of my writings. I also like his choice of the term “compassionate resistance” to describe my approach.  I have compassion toward those who disagree with me on political and social issues. I try to enter into the hearts and minds of those who hold views different than my own.

The key factor of this approach is the spiritual teaching to love one’s enemies. That is the essence of both the Apostle Paul’s and the Lord Jesus’ social engagement. This is what is missing in secular politics, especially the extremist forms gaining popularity today. Both the Right and the Left are afraid that listening to and understanding their enemies will undermine their position. Without someone to fear and hate, they think the motivation for their position will dissipate.

Fear and anger are the twin engines of politics these days. They are sources of disinformation and misinformation. One must demonize one’s enemy in order to justify them being enemies. If we turn our enemies into devils, it is easier to justify our own cause as righteous. So the facts become distorted in order to confirm our fears. In time we start to believe our own rhetoric.

The truth is that our enemy is more like us than we wish to believe. Enemies are mirror images of ourselves. They are us. As the comic sage Pogo famously said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” That is why we fear them. That is why they stir such anger in us. They expose our true selves. There is nothing we hate more than seeing what we really are. We will do almost anything to prevent ourselves from acknowledging that painful truth.

When we love our enemies, we recognize our enemies as neighbors. Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves. We love our neighbors when we realize that at a deep level they are ourselves. We are one. Jesus said that the commandment to love our neighbor is “like unto” the command to love God. When we love our enemies we see God in them.

Loving our enemies tears down the “dividing wall of hostility.” That is how the apostle Paul described Jesus’ sacrificial love. Love destroys our enemies by turning them into brothers and sisters. As Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”

This does not mean that we give up on the political process. It means that we engage in political thinking and action out of compassion and love - not from fear and anger. We do it from a position of unity rather than division. We are one. As a country we are the United States of America. When we forget the “united” part, we have lost before we begin. When we keep the union front and center, all things are possible.  That is nondual Christian politics. That is compassionate resistance.

1 comment:

happi said...

The Schelin article and the latest Blog of yours lifted my soul in recognition.The Oneness, the inability of us humans to capture the Spiritual (whatever that means) in mere words. Words are insufficient for the task. We are all aware of Love, Beauty, Compassion. We recognize these things, we "know" them, but capturing them in mere words is beyond our ability -- or the ability of mere words.I do find comfort in "We Are One". In "Be still.and know that I am God." When I am able to discard the tyranny of thinking in words (For what other way is there?)and just simply BE my spirit relaxes. When I give up trying to capture with mere words and just BE, I am able to sit in awe, wonder, acceptance,joy and unity with what is. I'll be home soon and hope we can get together to attempt to express the inexpressible and laugh together at our attempt John Happi