A caller asked the radio talk show host this morning for a list of things to do, in order of priority, to start to fix the problems (they were focused on American politics) today. Yikes about the response (!) But as usual this gives me the idea of what people are honestly seeking, and how I can be helpful. So I'm starting this new series of blog postings for you.
As I thought about the caller and the talk show guy response, I realized that they have the wrong impression in the first place, so while in the shower thinking about this, I realized a computer or media example is the best to start people with, which is the idea of hitting "reset."
As you know, when you hit "reset," you aren't destroying the device you are using (like the TV does not explode, or the computer melt down). "Reset" starts the device over again from the last point where it worked properly. That is why this is the theme for the renewal (and I mean globally, and not just in terms of politics, of course, but all the joys and challenges of life) is "reset." I will help you to reset both your mind and spirit, and the human made institutions around you, back to the actual (or theoretical) place where it was last functioning truthfully, factually, logically, faithfully and agenda free.
So these suggestions will be both actual activities to perform, and also mindset and meditative orientations. I'm going to start with big fundamentals that will lay the best foundation first. All other advisers unfortunately give advice from within the error, rather than stepping back. So here are some of the first essentials, and I'll add onto this as I think of more each day.
1. Immediately eliminate all combative speech and strategy from all your activities (unless of course you are in the military). In other words, if you are advocating an action, or opposing someone else's action, continue to do so but not at all in a military or combative stance.
Example: "We need to fight the healthcare bill" and then attack strategies and tactics are used by both "sides" *wrong.*
Instead: "I believe the healthcare bill is a mistake in these areas or for these reasons...... I will continue to try to persuade others of the facts and logic of my opinion....." and then do so. If you cannot persuade then vote your conscience but do not demonize the opposition no matter what.
Somehow the modern world has gone completely astray by soaking everyone in combative and military frameworks. It is an error to think that not doing so makes someone weak and ineffective. Ultimate effectiveness is in the middle, in the peaceable approach to achieving real gains, including when there is a "right" and "wrong" being debated.
Young people, you have been saturated by your ignorant parents, ignorant teachers, and money grubbing society to view everything through a combative, warlike lens. But by peaceable I do not mean being weak, giving up your honest strong stance, or giving up when you are on the "losing" "side." (See what I mean? Even your supposed faiths/beliefs have been soaked with the "spiritual combat" attitude, with winners and losers.)
Practice each day, everyone, to eliminate any speech and thought that pits your opinions "against" someone else's. This does not mean to ignore injustice or error, of course. See, that's the difference. A Peaceful person recognizes "injustice" and "error" and attempts to remedy them; they do not remedy "injustice" and "error" by increased injustice of hostile and combative thoughts and actions toward the other party.
I will explain each of these from a secular (reasoning) viewpoint and then also from the faith viewpoint. Non-believers can focus on the secular reasoning alone, if they wish, as what I am saying applies to everyone (see, this is how to be genuinely inclusive, and not "us" versus "them").
The secular reasons for eliminating combative speech and thoughts except from actual military conflict is as follows:
1. No one human is ever 100 percent right about anything. If you "oppose" the other view you cannot recognize the valid aspects of their view and the error in your own.
2. If you make bitter an "enemy" in one forum, you have lost him or her as a partner in any future dealings.
3. There is an old saying "Two heads are better than one." If you work with a second person to solve a problem, a third greater result occurs as your thoughts build off of each other's. Thus even if you are diametrically opposed on a solution to a commonly agreed upon problem, even polar opposites in opinions about the solution can, with good intentions, work together and achieve a) a combined solution b) one person's solution but with the other's refinement and input c) you both think of something out of the blue you had not thought of before at all d) realization that some other factor or problem is hindering a unified solution, and so you can report back to others that another issue must be addressed before the problem at hand can be solved.
4. Combative thought takes away the dignity and human rights of the other person.
5. Combative thought eliminates your own effectiveness and dignity.
6. Combative thought and actions tend to militarize problems that do not fit a military model. In other words, you think less about solving the problem (let's say something like delivering milk to schools for children) and more about being combative (my idea is right, I want to impose an agenda regarding food policy on someone else, I want to win the federal contract, etc).
7. Combative thought in non-military matters dilutes genuine combative thought when it is needed in military situations. If everyone is a "spiritual" or "video game" "warrior," it is less obvious how and when to shift into the genuine urgency of a true military mindset when it is needed. In the old days men and women knew when to set aside the farming tools in the field, and when to march to war. They did not weed their fields during peaceful times thinking that it is a "war" between them and the weeds, or the insect pests, or the weather, and they certainly were not in "competition" with the neighbors. People lived in the reality of their world without military or combative framework until it was genuinely needed.
Now, here is the faith framework for understanding my advice and admonishment:
1. Luke 244:36 Now while they were talking of these things, Jesus stood in their midst, and said to them, "Peace to you! It is I, do not be afraid."
When Jesus is "in your midst," you do not have to be warlike or afraid.
2. Luke 19:41-42 And when he [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, [Jerusalem] he wept over it, saying, "If thou hadst known, in this thy day, even thou, the things that are for thy peace! But now they are hidden from thy eyes."
The Jews did not recognize Jesus as being the Messiah, working for their peace and salvation, because they ignored the scripture that prophesied a peace bringer and instead with their militaristic and combative mindset expected a "fighting Messiah." Thus the actions of the Messiah, right there in their midst, for peace, was hidden from their eyes.
3. Matthew 10:19-20 [Jesus speaking to the disciples preparing them to go forth] "But when they deliver you up, do not be anxious how or what you are to speak; for what you are to speak will be given you in that hour. For it is not you who are speaking, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks through you..."
If the disciples were combative or spiritually militant, they would not be able to turn themselves over to the Spirit through what God will speak for them. Combative mentality does not allow genuine guidance from God to flow.
4. Matthew 5:9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God."
Peacemaking is a process so Jesus is referring to those who continually promote God's peace in their day to day lives, which is the opposite of a combative mentality.
5. Luke 7:50 But he [Jesus] said to the woman, "Thy faith has saved thee; go in peace."
Faith generates peacefulness, for to go in peace means to have a peaceful heart, not to be the winner in a war. The traditional salutation "go in peace" falls on deaf ears if it is said to someone who is combative.
6. Luke 9:51-56 Now it came to pass, when the days had come for him to be taken up, that he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before him. And they went and entered a Samaritan town to make ready for him, and they did not receive him, because his face was set for Jerusalem. But when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, wilt thou that we bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?" But he turned and rebuked them, saying, "You do not know of what manner of spirit you are; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." And they went to another village.
The disciples, with good reason, thought that a combative punishing reaction could be delivered by them onto the disbelieving (they believed in God but not in the authority of Jerusalem and thus they and the Jews discriminated against each other) residents for their rejection of hosting Jesus in his travels (a very rude thing to do to anyone). But Jesus points out the peaceable commission which is to save, not destroy, lives. Later Jesus would, of course, show the peaceable way wins, for he uses a Samaritan in his great parable of the Good Samaritan and he converted an entire Samaritan town through the intercession of the woman at the well. Peaceful problem solving and witnessing, not combative stances, yields genuine results.
7. Psalm 84(85):9-11 I will hear what God proclaims; the Lord-for he proclaims peace to his people, and to his faithful ones, and to those who put in him their hope. Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him, glory dwelling in our land. Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss.
This beautiful psalm written by "the sons of Core," recognizes that truth and kindness must meet and thus, within the context of God, "justice and peace shall kiss." It is not enough to have "truth" and lack "kindness." Combativeness in day to day life is antithesis of kindness, and without genuine kindness one will not have the joining of justice and peace in greeting (kissing is not intimate kissing in Bible speak but the kiss of genuine greeting as in a warm genuine handshake and embrace).
8. From the Qur'an 13:24 Peace be on you because you were constant, how excellent, is then, the issue of the abode.
Those who are constant in their belief in God have peace in their abode (home), both on earth and then upon death their heavenly home.
9. From the Qur'an 4:36 And serve Allah and so not associate any thing with Him, and be good to the parents and to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the neighbor of (your) kin and the alien [foreigner] neighbor, and the companion in a journey and the wayfarer and those whom your right hands possess; surely Allah does not love him who is proud, boastful.
Here one is instructed to be good to everyone (even the neighbors of your relatives, and the strangers who live in adjoining foreign lands, for example, and those who you "own," which means not only slaves but also employees and laborers) because God does not love those who are not kind but are instead proud and boastful. Combative attitudes come from pride and are a barrier to kindness; the Bible and the Qur'an certainly agree.
Thus, no matter how small the issue or the thoughts, recognize and weed out and discard combative and militaristic thoughts toward even those you have the most extreme disagreements. You must discard "us" versus "them" as the framework for your thoughts and actions, even when there is (and I would say especially when there is) vital areas of great disagreement. It is disagreement, not combat. It may be dislike of a person, but that person is not a military target. It may be refusal by someone to witness to truth and honesty, that may be stupid, meanspirited and even criminal, but they are not your "foe" on the "battlefield."
Stop thinking of people and situations as being enemies, opponents, "wrong," or evil. Stop thinking of them that way even in the minority of times that you do genuinely encounter someone who is evil and who bears ill will to you. Their wrong mindedness should not lead you into similar categorization, prejudice and demonization of them. This does not mean you have to agree with them or cave in on their oppression. If you have a combative attitude you miss all the other optional ways for dealing with them (including ignoring them, as Jesus did when he was rejected by that town, until the time was to approach them again, or they learn their error the hard and painful way, but not delivered by you in "combat" mentality).
Cultivate your talents in diplomacy, sharing activities that you can agree upon first (and ignoring the rest if you can), mutual problem solving, kindness (but not smugness) toward their lacks and most of all start to reject the continual diet of combative entertainment and confrontational social tactics (the admiration of "in your face" etc).
Understand and value the genuinely combative and militaristic where it belongs, which is in the armed forces in legitimate situations of conflict and security.
Understand and value that even your "worst enemy" is not your enemy if you refuse to make him or her so. Avoid their negativity but lead your life in trust that God will handle them for you when the time comes.
Certainly remove the combative mentality from all politics and resolution of social issues. It's "community organizer" not "community army vanguard." It's "a person who disagrees with your policy and values" not "the enemy on the other side."
If you do this first you will do a huge part in hitting that individual, community, national and global "reset" button.
A humor oriented suggestion. Don't "hate" those certain people (you know who we mean), be "exasperated." Works for me: I don't hate but I sure am exasperated.