Monday, October 27, 2008

Seicho-No-Ie founder, Dr. Masaharu Taniguchi wrote, "Praise yourself the same way you would praise others… [and thus] bring out the God who dwells within you."

Within the Christian tradition there are examples of scripture being used to uphold class privilege, keep races divided, subjugate women, justify the brutality of war, demonize same-gender loving people, and insist that only people who agree with certain constructed religious beliefs are acceptable to God. These examples have contributed to violence, pain, and suffering in our world.

I believe the reason we have used religion to condemn, control, exclude, or vilify others is because we have not learned to affirm, accept, and celebrate ourselves. When we feel small, wounded, or separate from the Whole, then we become afraid and even desperate. To feel less insignificant, we look for an "Other" to judge harshly so that in comparison we will feel better. And if we can persuade ourselves that judging the "Other" is actually being true to a divine plan, then we are less likely to be bothered by the emotional violence we're committing. We convince ourselves that we are doing God's will by opposing, rejecting, or trying to assimilate the "Other." We now not only feel superior to the Other, we also have the added pride of doing so for the sake of a Higher Power!

Obviously, such an attitude will create resistance and resentment. There has to be a better way!

The better way is to accept our own sacred value and innate dignity. If we can truly accept who we are, then we have no need to condemn, belittle, or reject others. Religion then ceases to be an "insurance" card protecting us from after life torments, and it stops being a status symbol to be used against those who are non-religious or who are differently religious. Religion is one of the ways that we find community, express hope, and celebrate life; and we're free to allow others to find community, express hope, and celebrate life in whatever way is meaningful to them.

The salvation (wholeness, sense of security, feeling truly "OK") we are looking for isn't to be found in being "right" (while believing everyone who disagrees with us is "wrong"). Salvation is trusting our sacred value. Once we can see the innate holiness within ourselves, the divine presence some might say, then we can see that same holiness in others…in ALL others. Our job isn't to convert others, but to awaken to our own divine potential. When we truly trust our divine potential, we are far more likely to trust the divine potential in others. This is how we can love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22.39; Leviticus 19.18).

Rev. Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div.
Sunshine Cathedral

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