Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Out of Kilter

I have been feeling off-kilter recently. I think the reason is the political rhetoric that is creeping into New Hampshire as the summer winds down and presidential primary season winds up. It feels like a virus is infecting our state’s peace. 

Also the indictment of former President Trump last week has thrown me off balance. This indictment feels different, like a line has been crossed that cannot be uncrossed. This federal indictment is different from the impeachments, and it will have far greater ramifications for our nation.

When I read the news (I no longer watch it on television), it reads like the plot of a political thriller novel or an adventure movie. It doesn’t feel real. I felt the same way on January 6, 2021. This is not something that happens in America. For my entire lifetime the United States of America have seemed so … united. Not perfectly united, of course. After all, I lived through the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement of the 1960’s and 70’s. But we were always seeking a “more perfect union” as the preamble to the US Constitution says.

I am not sure Americans are seeking that “more perfect union” any longer. Many people seem to be encouraging the opposite. This feels like a turning point in our nation’s history, and we don’t know what is around the corner. Jesus spoke of a time when “a person's enemies will be the members of their own household.” This feels like that. It feels like the enemy is at the gates. My grandfather fought in the First World War, which was fought “to make the world safe for democracy.” Today I hear politicians denounce democracy as a threat to our nation.

The world feels off-kilter, out-of-balance. Jesus called this condition sin. The word that Christ used in the New Testament does not have the individualistic, moralistic connotations it has today. The word in the gospels means “off the mark” or “falling short.” The word the Buddha used for this condition is similar. It describes an axle that is off-center, so that the wheel is out of balance as it rolls.

That is the way things feel. The wheels of our nation are unaligned, off balance, out of kilter. The world is wobbling on its axis. There is a part of me that wants to set it right again. To realign it. To make the world safe for democracy again. To fight the fascists again. To wage a war for freedom and human rights again, whether that war is rhetorical, at the ballot box, or on the battlefield.

But when I sit with this feeling awhile, I remember that our present situation is just another cycle in history. It is the way of the world. Empires rise and fall. Countries come and go. Many people alive today have experienced their country falling apart. We might be experiencing this now. This could be the beginning of the end of the American experiment and liberal democracy.

The cause of this is human nature. We are a violent species. It is in our genes. Jesus said there will always be wars and rumors of wars. His brother James said that wars arise from the war in the human soul. As long as there are humans there will be violence. It is our nature. It is the original sin, represented better by Cain and Abel than Adam and Eve.

Yet there is another nature, a deeper nature. There is something in us that is more than an ape fighting over territory and resources. There is something in us that is divine. The Bible refers to this true nature as the image of God. This spiritual nature is our true Self. That is where peace dwells. That is where the Kingdom of Heaven dwells, according to Jesus. “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.”

That is why Jesus did not start a violent revolution – or even a non-violent campaign - to overthrow the rule of Rome. When on trial for treason, he said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight…, but My kingdom is not from here.” The Kingdom of God has the balance we seek in a world that is out of balance. Being a citizen of God’s kingdom means to be in the world but not of the world.

Living from this inner shalom is the way true peace comes. Wars sow the seeds of future wars. An eye for an eye just makes the whole world blind. Wars bring only a temporary respite. Something more is needed to bring humankind into balance with the Divine and bring peace to earth. This “something more” is “the peace of God that transcends all human understanding.” As the hymn says:

There is a place of quiet rest,

  Near to the heart of God,

A place where sin cannot molest,

  Near to the heart of God.

 O Jesus, blest Redeemer,

  Sent from the heart of God,

Hold us, who wait before Thee,

    Near to the heart of God.


1 comment:

Tophness said...

"There is a part of me that wants to set it right again. To realign it."

You are Brother! I am grateful for your bravery and being a light shining Christ's true message! I'm sure you have taken your fair share of shots and slander because of it too. Please know your blogs and vlogs have helped me reconcile conflicts in my own heart and spiritual journey. Thank You.

Christopher Emmons