Tag: Spirituality

A Clear Piece on Romney’s Mormonism and Its Impact on Election

This piece on Salon.com today does an excellent job (with only rare forays into sarcasm) of discussing the parts of Mitt Romney's Mormon religion that ought to be of interest to voters and therefore fair game for journalistic inquiry.

As a former (excommunicated by request) Mormon Elder myself, I can attest to the veracity of everything Sarah Posner says about the LDS Church, its polity and its politics, its leadership and its stance on social issues. I would add that another troubling aspect of Mormonism for me is its teaching of the doctrine of blood atonement which leads to the conclusion that only an execution can atone for certain offenses. Back in the late 1970's when I was an active member of the LDS Church and living in Salt Lake City, I ran afoul of its rules by refusing to picket a local X-Rated theater as ordered by my priesthood leader and by participating in vigils protesting the pending execution of Gary Mark Gilmore. Those incidents led to my request to be removed from the Church rolls, which proved to be a long, drawn-out process during which church leaders continued to try to "minister" to my family.

I do not believe that Romney's Mormonism ought to disqualify him from holding office, of course. But I do think that given the uniqueness of Mormonism and the degree to which it governs — or attempts to govern — the thoughts, positions and behaviors of its members, the subject of his role in the church and his response to anti-feminist, racist and other public policy statements made by the church leadership ought not be off limits.

108-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor a Great Inspiration

This YouTube video captures an interview Tony Robbins did with a 108-year-old Holocaust survivor who lives in London and who is an amazing eternal optimist in addition to being a wonderful pianist.

At my church, we are studying some of the work of a student of Viktor Frankl, a psychologist named Alex Pattakos. His new book is called Prisoners of Our Thoughts. Frankl, of course, was the famed Jewish psychiatrist who survived the Nazi death camps and founded a new school of psychotherapy based on the belief that what drives us is a will to meaning. Pattakos' book extends those ideas into seven core principles for how to live our business and social lives in ways that encourage us to remember that will and to keep it in our thoughts.

I love encountering such teachings. Thanks to my daughter Heather for the pointage.

The President’s Gospel vs. Ralph Reed’s Bigotry

President Obama's clear understanding of the message of Jesus being, in part, the necessity of caring for the poor among us came up against Ralph Reed's narrower perspective on the meaning of Christianity yesterday. I thought the contrast was stark and important to bring to greater attention.

The President, quoting from Luke 12:48, said his view of social policy coincides with the statement, "for unto whom much is given, much shall be required." That was an accurate paraphrase of the actual quotation from the King James Version but I prefer the NIV on this: "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded;"  The passage goes on to say, "and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

That the largest portion of Jesus' teachings — insofar as we have them recorded reliably — is about neighborly love and caring for the downtrodden. So, too, were the teachings of virtually every Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament) prophet,'

But Reed, of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said that for the president to tie his tax policy to Jesus’s teachings “is theologically threadbare and straining credulity.”

It's a classic clash between the Social Gospel and Socially Conservative Fundamentalist Christians. This clash, in turn, is a product of late 20th Century America. Jesus talks not once about abortion or gay rights or any of the other social issues on which the Christian Right is focused like a laser beam while ignoring most or all of his teachings about love, relationship, charity, compassion and forgiveness.

It's sad, really. This time, at least, the President got it right and the guy with a Ph.D. in history who leads a large faith-based movement got it, if not wrong, at least sideways.

Spirituality and Political Activity Can Co-Exist

(In an email chat with my good friend Paul Jimerson @pauljimerson, a Baha'i for whom I have great respect, I found myself addressing the question of how to reconcile a fundamental spiritual belief that radical political action is incompatible with a true spirituality based in Oneness, and a gut-level perceived need to do something. What resulted seemed worth sharing.)

I think the key to our dilemma lies in the Christian admonition to be in the world but not of it and in an acknowledgement of the deep truth of the Buddhist teaching that suffering derives from attachment to outcomes. We suffer when we are tied to specific outcomes that we establish in our own minds. So, e.g., in terms of environmentalism if I were to be attracted to that as a primary socio-political cause,  I would try hard to be focused on solutions rather than problems, and open to a potential range of solutions rather than focusing on one specific law or action that I had determined was the best. For me, in these cases, it's about integrating the idea that the wisdom of Spirit (or the Universe if you will) far exceeds my own.

When I meditate, contemplate or pray about political concerns, I am (or try to be) careful to add, "This or something better" to my prayer when it does focus on a desired specific outcome. 

I am anti-capital punishment. I can (and do) pray for the United States to become sufficiently enlightened to outlaw its use. But I have recently become more open to other solutions Spirit might bring to bear such as:
  • enlightening humanity to the point where we no longer kill each other
  • awakening Americans so that they no longer favor capital punishment (in some polls) heavily enough to offer political cover to those who govern
  • reforming the justice system so that the chances of executing an innocent person decline to near zero (not a real solution, in my mind, but clearly a significant potential improvement)
  • sudden spiritual awakening around the demonstrated execution of an innocent person (such as happened in Illinois a few years back) that results in a single, bold executive decision to suspend the practice indefinitely
I'm sure there are others. The point isn't to be specific about alternative outcomes but to be open to them. I have found Buddhism's teaching that suffering comes from being tied to the outcome to be so repeatedly true in my life that I have tried earnestly to avoid attachment. I'm a long way from there, but I'm a lot closer than I once was.

(BTW, if this is an area you find interesting, I heartily recommend Marianne Williamson's wonderful book, Healing the Soul of America: Reclaiming Our Voice as Spiritual Citizens, recently re-issued under its new title. The book isn't really America-specific; it has global value and meaning.)

Spirituality Playing Greater Role in Conventional Healing

This article discusses the clearly increasing role patient spirituality plays in healing processes and describes the reluctance of health care providers and workers to  become involved in their patients' spiritual beliefs. Whether out of a sense of concern that they may get "sucked in" to a time-consuming discussion or process or a sense that they just don't have any expertise to guide them in dealing with the subject, many caretakers are reluctant even to acknowledge their patients' spiritual needs and interests.

It seems to me clear that we need to include dealing with spiritual concerns and practices as part of the training which health care workers undergo. Spirituality — not to be confused with religion — is showing up in many ways in our culture; the better-prepared we are to deal with and understand basic issues, the more likely we can be helpful to one another in times of difficulty.

Spirituality: Could it Be a Cure-All?

This wonderful piece in the India Times describes how spirituality — which the author defines somewhat broadly as “Basically … a non-materialistic approach to life’s issues as opposed to the other approach that is based on materialistic interest.” — is the key to stopping the corruption that is so rampant in India and throughout most of the world. I concur with the writer and wish to broaden the discussion.

It seems to me that spiritually, properly understood as I think the above definition comes close to doing, is indeed the answer not only to corruption but to much of what is going haywire in the world around us these days.

Specifically, it seems to me that a spiritual approach to economics, banking and finance, would, once in place, all but eradicate much of the unfairness, bias, and economic violence which is now rampant. If even a substantial minority of those who call the shots in these arenas was focused more on the non-material issues of fairness, justice, opportunity and equality, we could cut through a lot of the garbage out there passing for serious economic policy but serves the materialistic selfishness of a minuscule minority of our citizenry.

If we looked at our unilaterally launched and all-but-morally-indefensible wars against terror, and in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya (and lots of other places nobody’s talking about), with non-materialistic aims in mind. We’d shut them down in a nanosecond and divert those resources to activities that promote love and peace and harmony.

Maybe if, instead of calling it spirituality, we called it “non-materialism”, we’d get more traction for these ideas in the public arena?

ACIM Conference: Get My Full Report

I spent last weekend at the Miracles Distribution Center's (MDC) Course in Miracles conference in Irvine, CA. My report on the conference is way longer than my usual post, so I posted it in its entirety on the blogs intended for that subject matter and I'm just providing a link to it here.

So check out the whole story in this blog post.


Back From Great Course in Miracles Conference

I've been away from here lately because I traveled to SoCal (Irvine to be precise) to attend the annual Miracle Distribution Center conference on A Course in Miracles


Not only fantastic for the content provided and for the high-scoring entertainment value, this conference also proved life-changing for me. My favorite speakers at the conference, which drew about 300 folk who consider themselves God's Teachers:

Marianne was awesome, holding down a two-hour slot that seemed to be over in about 15 minutes. Jon is fast becoming a friend on this path and his talk was a nice blend of humor and information (and some of the humor also contained information!). Jacob was a new name to me. He's hysterical and he is the most responsible for the life change I'll be working through in coming months. Ms. Kieves' talk was bright and witty but more entertaining than informative. She did, however, get the juices flowing in my brain for what Jacob sealed on Sunday.

As they say in some ad campaigns: watch this space.

New Video Game With Spiritual Spin from Chopra Sounds Intriguing

Deepak Chopra has apparently had a large team working for some time developing a new video game called Leela that is designed at least in part to encourage and teach spiritual principles in a gaming environment on the XBox 360. The game is being developed by THQ, Inc., one of the better known video game development outfits.

I was an early adopter and supporter of the first spiritually centered video game, a production called The Journey to the Wild Divine that used a biofeedback mechanism and ran on Windows initially and later on Macintosh. Chopra was involved in the design and development of that product as well. That game developed a fiercely loyal niche following but never set any sales records anywhere.

But I agree with Dr. Chopra that we can "accelerate neural development and biological evolution through video games" and that doing so is a worthwhile, if perhaps not profitable, undertaking. What isn't clear is the intersection of people who are interested in spiritual development with those who own and use the underlying technology. I suspect THQ will regret having made its initial play on the XBox (though a somewhat modified Wii version is also apparently to be released). Those systems are largely enjoyed by hard-core gamers, who are young, male and frenetic. Deployment on a desktop or perhaps a mobile platform like the iPad might have been a smarter marketing move. We'll see.

I won't be experiencing Leela unless it does come out on the Wii; I at least have one of those. I'm not a gamer but we have as a family enjoyed some of Wii's sports offerings.