"Transcend and include... this is the self-transcending drive of the Kosmos—to go beyond what went before and yet include what went before... to open into the very heart of Spirit-in-action." Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if a group of people somewhere were for something and against nothing?" Ernest Holmes

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Calling All Bodhisattvas

Why no apology to liberals?
Karl is right to ask me why I seem fixated here on apology to conservatives and those with traditional religious beliefs and not to liberals and those who have fled traditional belief to the next level of orange rationality and green pluralism.

It's true that everybody deserves an apology because every position in religion and politics gets skewed, skewered, and vilified by its opposite side. And I have done my share of skewering in my lifetime and still do some in my heart.

And I want to make it plain that I understand and sympathize with every grievance against blue: shadows of judgment, hypocrisy, shame, and exclusion of outsiders. However,
  1. The responsibility is to those who CAN
  2. Green can see blue better than blue can see green
    (Orange gets a pass because they're still so fresh from breaking free of blue that they can't see its good side.)
  3. Attacks from orange and green are not only unleashing pre-existing red, but also pressuring blue and even some orange to regress to red. This is the world problem I seek to solve. Two examples:
    • The London subway bombers were doctors and lawyers highly respected in their communities for their good works with the poor
    • Moral Majority founder Jerry Fallwell opposed the preaching of politics from the pulpit until school prayer was outlawed. I "voted" for that at the time, but now I think it was a sleeping dog we should have let lie. Choose your battles!
Calling all Bodhisattvas
Thus, because healthy green is theoretically capable of valuing blue, I'm calling them up on their tiptoes--into yellow--to do so. It was David Zeitler of Integral Institute who, in reading a draft chapter of my book, first interpreted it as a Bodhisattva call: A call to forgo the ego pleasures of putting down blue, put on the spiritual body armor that permits us to stand calmly in the face of being told we're going to hell, and lend a sympathetic ear to blue. In fact, not just lend an ear, but go back down to stand among them and acknowledge their professed highest value to love our neighbor as ourself. Acknowledge it, model it, draw it forth, and perhaps even learn it better ourselves.

Take a fundamentalist to lunch
A secular friend of mine reported this remark from her colleague who is a traditional Christian.
I have several people in my social and business circles who are secularists. But I'll bet you have no traditional Christian friends and no knowledge of who the Christians are in your professional life.
I seek to open this up a bit. Take a fundamentalist to lunch. (For inspiration, see my post on A Black Man who Befriended the Klan.)

P.S. For a hoot, see potential illustrations of bodihisattva spiritual warriors:
a blue one, a green one, a yellow one and one that uncomfortably reminds me of myself--while I go ask permission to use them.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Beliefs Don't Matter

Are you out of your mind, Teri? you just spent 20 years learning from New Thought that you can "Change your thinking, change your life." What do you mean beliefs don't matter?

It's not the content of the belief, its the response to the belief that matters. That's what I witnessed in my two years living among a group of high-end fundamentalists.

Let's say I believe the world will end through global warming. My neighbor believes the world will end when Jesus comes to slay non-believers and take believers to heaven. My response to my belief is to buy guns to fend off the hordes of beach dwellers I expect to swarm my upland property. My neighbor's response to her belief is to stock up canned goods and plan to share them with all comers in the last days.

Which one of us is more spiritually advanced?

Without getting into the distinctions between the ethical line, the spiritual line, and the congnitive line of development, I'll just say for myself, I'm glad she's my neighbor! (For fans of Ken Wilber, the four possible definitions of "spiritual" are on page 101 of "Integral Spirituality")

And yes, mythic beliefs are often correlated with ethnocentric behavior. But not always. And I believe that distinction is key to relieving some of our prejudices against each other and thus making room for new responses. It can often be easier to change a response than change a belief.

Change your response, change your life.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Why the Strange Book Title?

Update Sep 2009: The book has been retitled "The Bishop and the Seeker: Wrestling for the Soul of the 21st Century." We figure it will generate enough controversy even without an in-your-face-title.

Comparing "total depravity" to negative thinking

Some people have gotten the wrong impression from our draft book title, "Wicked and Evil Isn't That Bad: A Fundamentalist and a New Ager Wrestle for the Soul of the 21st Century." It definitely does not excuse evil or excuse those who use religion for intimidation.

The phrase "Isn't that bad" refers to several themes that recur throughout the book. Teri learns that the view of salvation presented by Bishop Thomas isn't as bad as her preconceptions about it, and Bishop Thomas learns that the motives of most people in alternative religion aren't as selfish as many Christians believe. They even discuss how moral relativism isn't that bad--when it is practiced with an intention to seek the highest good of all. Bishop Thomas amazes Teri by claiming that Christians are the original moral relativists charged with promoting the spirit of the law over its letter. "All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient." he quotes from the New Testament.

Then at one point half way through the book, Bishop Thomas tells a friend of Teri's that EVERYBODY is wicked and evil.

"That's sad!" the friend exclaims.

It takes a moment for Bishop to realize she means it's sad that he thinks that way. "No wait," he says. "Wicked and evil isn't that bad."

Everybody blinks in astonishment until Bishop T. explains that he sometimes uses "wicked and evil" to refer to the petty jealousies, judgments, and self-centeredness inside us all, even those of us who are outwardly compassionate. This doctrine of total depravity is a hopeful thing because it reminds us not to judge others, he says. And then he compares his doctrine to Teri's New Thought belief that everyone must guard against negative thoughts.

It is a moment that ruptures preconceptions on both sides, thus making way for something new.

Do you think it would be more clear if we changed the title to "Total Depravity Isn't That Bad"? Or how about, "A Fundamentalist and a New Ager Join Forces to Transcend Extreme Moral Relativism?"

Catchy, heh?