You vs. Me? No – We’re All in This Together – Rev. Barbara Gilday, guest speaker

As the world watches us and we move steadily toward November, I have been thinking a lot about the forces of good pitted against the forces of evil and about the manipulation of fear and how it contorts our thinking and our actions. This duality, or black and white thinking and the fear that is employed to enforce it- is particularly evident where faith patterns or politics are dogmatic and judgmental. We see it in interpersonal relationships, we see it played out in religious conflicts in many places around the world, and we’ve seen it in recent years in the major political parties in this country.

A country, is a reflection of the individuals within. When we as individuals deny parts of ourselves creating an inner duality, splitting or repression, we are setting ourselves up for emotional, spiritual or physical illness. I believe we are seeing this played out in our national political arena now.

Some decades ago, Ernest Hemingway said: “We have come out of the time when obedience, the acceptance of discipline, intelligent courage and resolution were most important, into that more difficult time when it is a person’s duty to understand the world rather than simply to fight for it.”

How do we understand what is going on now, without being afraid. A friend sent me a reading by a psychic with regards to our political race that suggests a way. She suggested that Donald Trump is embodying the death of patriarchy. That the fear, racism, sexism, cynicism he expresses, is nothing but the dying screams of patriarchy and that he can not win the race. She went on to say that Hilary Clinton is the transitional figure to Feminine leadership. She is one of the early feminists who learned to play the masculine game to get ahead. In that way she will transition to what may next be a more wholistic model of leadership. Could Elizabeth Warren be next? Who knows.

Now, let’s consider the religious arena.

Religions have historically developed out of a particular culture, many of them very isolated, and over the centuries most took on the trapping of their cultures. They served a useful purpose – taking some of the fear of chaos out of life and providing a metaphorical and historical framework of understanding their world and a community that provided people with a sense of belonging and security.

In their purest form, they were holy and sacred in their teachings. There was a time when religions could hold onto their own particular view of the world as defined by an ancient culture without consideration of other ways of believing. For a long time, some of these religions were fairly isolated, and so there was little to challenge them in their belief that their way was *The Way*. 

Unfortunately, where they intersected, there were often violent clashes, such as the crusades – where one religious group, felt the need and the right to try and overcome another. That such strongly held views are still the cause of wars in many part of the world is self-evident and tragic. Can we afford this insular view of the world in our day? Today, we are constantly incited to fear by politicians and others, often in the name of religion, who inflame our emotions and sense of safety.

Were they to put their money and their ideas into addressing the very real problems of poverty and sense of separation that feed this extremism, the Universe would be a safer and happier place to live in.

The Bible teaches us: “For every thing there is a season”. Is this one of those seminal times in history when the Universe is putting out a new challenge to us? Is this movement the Universe’s way of beckoning us to look at the walls we have built around our cultures, our religions and our genders that separate us from others in mind, body and spirit? With intermarriages across cultural, gender and religious lines, we are searching for ways to rethink our futures- or perhaps it is just happening naturally and causes us to rethink our paradigms.

Whose bathroom is whose, is just one small symbol of that search. Rather than defending ourselves against the differences, it is long past time to find our common ground with those outside what we have considered the norm, whether it is religion, politics, gender identity or whatever. Is this part of a grand design of the evolution of our psyches and our cultures? In each generation, there seem to be new challenges for us as a people, but somehow, they are all linked. Here is one of the great peace songs from the 60’s.

Copyright Chet Powers, recorded by the Kingston Trio
“Get Together”

Love is but a song to sing
Fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing
And you may not know why

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Some may come and some may go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moment’s sunlight
Fading in the grass

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

If you hear the song I sing
You will understand (listen!)
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at your command

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Do we have to go to war within ourselves to fight those ideas and people we abhor? Many, including Buddhist teachings would say not. Periodically in history there have been enlightened thinkers that said not. In 1790, Universalist Benjamin Rush, physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence encouraged American Universalists gathered in Philadelphia to believe in universal love.

Rush believed that these principles grew out of theological beliefs turned into social action. He further believed that “although defensive wars are lawful, there is a time coming when God’s universal love…to all His creatures…will put an end to all wars.” Such early Universalist beliefs take their roots from the inclusiveness of Jesus’ message, the teachings of Buddha and Confucius as well as Greek Orphic religion and the Ionian philosophers who taught about a unified lawful cosmos.

I keep thinking, there must be a better way? Jesus modeled love over violence – especially to those who were helpless, sick and strangers. Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, is a prime example of how to do this. He drew upon the Bhagavad Gita as inspiration for his non-violent struggle for Indian independence- he recognized in these verses a call to a spiritual struggle to build a just society through truth, selfless action, and always giving love to the enemy. (Bhagavad Gita 3.10-26).

And I quote:

They that are desirous of victory do not conquer by might and energy so much as by truth, compassion, righteousness, and spiritual discipline. It is not easy, but it is possible.

Here’s one such situation that most of would have thought was hopeless. It is a story that comes from South Africa before the end of their recent war. In a small village inhabited only by poor blacks, in the middle of the day when all the men were away from the village, the women and children were alone in the village.

Along came the white Afrikaners with their bulldozers to raze the village. They gave the women just a few minutes to vacate their homes. The women knew that in the traditional sense, they were powerless against these men, but one of them remembered that the Afrikaner men were very modest. All of the women stood in a line facing the bulldozers and removed their clothing and the men turned and left. The Afrikaner men were beaten back by their own modesty and the wits of the women and the village stood.

We are above all a creative people. What is it that keeps us from using that creativity to find new ways of dealing with violence? Is it that we as a country have lost our moral righteousness to be able to respond to acts of terror in ways that do not wreak further havoc upon thousands more innocent Afghans for example where over 90,000 people have been killed – over 20,000 of them, civilians.

When we look at the arms business and international economics, we as a country have to question our own righteousness. What would happen if we applied our resources, mental, emotional and economic, not just for our part of creation, but for all of creation, in the struggle for freedom, peace, and justice? What would happen if we developed a spiritual discipline that matched Gandhi’s.

Yes, the perpetrators of terrorism must come to justice, but I would contend that in so many ways, we have become perpetrators of terrorism through arms sales, international politics and economics.

Meeting the stranger, having the stranger as neighbor, lover, parent, child has made us realize more than ever before in history, that the enemy is not the other – the one who is not like us, the enemy starts with the one that is within us.

The great religions of the world commonly agree on that fact. They invite us to know the truth about ourselves and our stories, and to be whole and undivided within ourselves. They also agree that it is always better to find peaceful means to reconcile disputes when they are external.

I would pray that we ask for a blessing, not just for Republicans or Democrats, not for America and Americans, but for all that is. Let us regard our own darkness gently and come to know its lessons so that we can be reconciled, holy and forgiven within ourselves, that we can hold hands around our communities and our world, holding the vision of unity that comes from deep within the traditions of many of the great thinkers and faiths.

If we move in cycles, perhaps as the 50’s was a time of fear and the 60’s a time of flower children, peace and love, could the next generation be one of expanded wisdom, understanding, acceptance and cooperation with others?

How could our combined wisdom and life experience lead us to wholeness and solutions that will *knock the socks* off all of us. May we all live to find the answer and the fulfillment to that question.






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