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The Native Alien Rants About...

Spiritual Activism
2005, July 20

If you're on John MacEnulty's "eman8tions" mailing list, you've already seen his little blurb for today, which we're including here:

Well, today is the first day of the Tikkun spiritual activism conference. I'm in Berkeley staying in a room at a student center that has no telephone but does have high speed internet connection. I'm not able to access my aol account so if you have written to me at my address I may not respond until next Monday night late.

The question for the next few days will be how to bring peace and love into the world, how to become effective in the so-called real world of the social and political, how to bring true spirituality bubbling to the surface for governments and corporations.

It is probably THE challenge to the spiritual collective, to find true relevance in the way things happen in the world.

I ask your prayers and thoughts for the success of this conference, that we lay a foundation for truth and beauty in the world to guide us to a world of peace, love, caring, honesty, and would (sic) in which we don't hurt anybody.

Copyright © 2005  by John MacEnulty
7/20/05, St. Louis, MO

So, the purpose of the Tikkun spiritual activism conference is to answer the question "how to bring peace and love into the world". Hmmm...we didn't realize it was all that difficult to figure out. As far as we can tell...

== Radical Concept Alert! ==

...the way to bring peace and love into the world is to bring peace and love into the world yourself. Pretty radical concept, that one.

Why do you need a spiritual activism conference to do that? If you want to bring peace and love into the world, just do it. It's called setting an example, being a role model, walking your talk, and practicing what you preach. Isn't that enough?

Apparently not.

It sure seems to us that these spiritual activists are missing a fundamental principle:

True spirituality, by its very nature, is its own activism.

This stuff about "how to become effective in the so-called real world of the social and political" is just another case of what Yeshua ben Yusef (aka "J.C.") was talking about in Luke 6:41:

'How can you say to your brother, "Brother, let me remove the splinter from your eye," when you yourself don't see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye; then you will see clearly, so that you can remove the splinter from your brother's eye!' Note_1

These activists seem to be saying, "We want other people to be more spiritual than they are now." Well... OK, they're free to want whatever they want, as long as they're prepared to accept the price of wanting it and not getting it. If they stopped there, they would cross no moral boundary. But that's not where they stop, and therein lies the rub.

The whole spiritual activism thing is about getting other people to change their behavior.
But in the real world, the only time people willingly change their behavior is when they WANT to do so. So, what the spiritual activists are really saying is that their purpose is to make other people want something other than what they want now. And there's the heart of the spiritual activist agenda:

The purpose of spiritual activism is to make other people want what the spiritual activists want.

...uh, that doesn't work. We're not talking about the means by which they hope it will work. (Prayer is one method; "holding it in consciousness" is a variant of the same thing.) It's not a question of whether prayer works; rather, it's a question of whether it's even morally appropriate to pray that people will want something different.

It's not. It's none of their business.

Besides, they're not smart enough to know what other people should want. No one is. What other people want is up to them, not up to some spiritual activists. Here's a better kind of "should"—an actual principle:

The person who has to live with the consequences of choosing should be the one who gets to make the choice.

Here's another way of saying it:

You can have all the authority for which you're willing to accept personal responsibility.

It doesn't matter whether it's spiritual authority, professional authority, political authority, or any other kind of authority.
If you want authority without personal responsibility for the consequences of using that authority, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Problem? What problem? Is there a problem?

Well, yeah. The problem is the universal belief that it's OK to interfere with other people's lives. It's not OK. It's not OK to do it with guns, it's not OK to do it via the legitimized coercion of political states, and it's not OK to do it with prayer. Interference is still interference; changing the instruments or methods of interference doesn't solve the problem.

The solution is simple: stop interfering. It has nothing to do with getting others to do anything. You can't solve a problem by proliferating it. The way to stop interfering is to stop interfering. Leave people alone.

It's probably a safe bet that at least some spiritual activists don't consciously intend to interfere with others, but so what? If they actually do interfere, their intentions are irrelevant. Morally, they have no business being concerned about what other people want. That is the fundamental flaw in all forms of political activism — and that's really what spiritual activism is; it's the politics of religion. It's political activism in quasi-spiritualistic clothing.

Political activism in all its forms is essentially an assertion of superiority. It's a de facto statement to the rest of humanity that the activist is more than they are — more wise than, more judicious than, more spiritual than, more compassionate than, more "environmentally conscious" than, more fiscally responsible than, more politically correct than, more anything and everything than — in other words, better than everyone else.

In the most insidious cases of political activism, the activists get the state to do the interfering for them. They never have to get their hands dirty or see the negative effects of their better-than attitude, which makes it easy to maintain the self-delusion that they are positive instruments of social change. That's how they justify using the coercive mechanism of the political state to compel others to do what they want them to do. And then they call that "being enlightened". We call it arrogance. we're into some serious blasphemy! What started out as a rant against the politics of religion has turned into a rant against the religion of politics. Dangerous ground, that. After all, politics is the most ubiquitous religion on planet Earth.

Ah, well...let us now heed the comic relief...

Kind of boils it all down, doesn't it? The way you treat others will tell them what's really in your heart better than anything you say. We know some people who precede their names with "Reverend" who still haven't figured that one out.

True spirituality is its own activism. Just be the example of what you think is so wonderful. If it's really so wonderful, everyone who's ready to see it will see it. If they're not ready, shoving it down their throats won't help. People usually recognize what they want. It's not your job, our job, or anyone else's job to "make" them want anything else.

©2005 - The Native Alien
2005, July 20
1Scripture quotations are taken from the Complete Jewish Bible, copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern. Published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. Distributed by Messianic Jewish Resources. All rights reserved to the copyright holder. Used by permission.

The Calvin and Hobbes cartoon was created by Bill Watterson.
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