Is there no spiritual solution, can there by no effective and impacting spiritual response to the events in our world today? Whether it's the breakdown of the cease fire in Syria or the rioting, burning, pillaging and looting in the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina, or the openly public testing of rockets and nuclear weapons by North Korea, everywhere we look today we find death, anger, suffering, threats, agitation, deep and bitter unrest and unending turmoil.
How is the human race to take care of itself? Can we not even find a way to simply get along with each other? Are our differences so great that we cannot resolve them except by killing? And where is the spiritual leadership in all of this?
The Charlotte protests arose following the shooting of a black man, Keith Lamont Scott, by police. The chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, Kerr Putney, said Mr. Scott was approached while sitting in his vehicle in an apartment complex. Police were there to serve a warrant on another individual, but saw Mr. Scott in the vehicle, allegedly holding a handgun. Chief Putney told reporters that police repeatedly told Mr. Scott to put the gun down, but Mr. Scott did not obey the order. That is when he was shot, the police chief, who is also black, said. The officer who shot Mr. Scott is white, and Mr. Scott's death caused the city to erupt into racial protests and violence.
The problem, of course, is that this is not an isolated incident. Nor is the unrelenting death and suffering in Syria. Nor is the sword-rattling by North Korea. The whole planet seems to be losing its bearings, and no one -- not one national leader, not one global religious or spiritual figure -- has so far stepped forward with an appeal or a response that appears capable of touching people's hearts sufficiently to drive an effort forward that could bring to an end an entire species' apparent headlong fall into self-destruction.
I wrote about this in the days after 9-11 in 2001 -- and what I wrote then is every bit as relevant today, and could just as easily be applied to the events and circumstances making headlines in this moment. These events cause every thinking person to stop their daily lives, whatever is going on in them, and to ponder deeply the larger questions of life.
We search again for not only the meaning of life, but the purpose of our individual and collective experience as we have created it--and we look earnestly for ways in which we might recreate ourselves anew as a human species, so that we may end at last the cycle of violence which has marred our history.
The hour has brought us much sorrow, yet behind the sorrow, if we look closely and long, we will see opportunity. It is the opportunity for us to take a new path, to show the world a new way, to demonstrate at the highest level our most extraordinary thought about Who We Really Are--as a people, as a nation, and as a human family.
The whole human race is invited now is look to see what it is we truly wish to experience on this planet. Then we are invited to be the source of that for each other.
If we wish to experience peace, we are invited to provide peace for each other. If we wish to know that we are safe, we are invited to create safety for each other. If we wish to better understand seemingly incomprehensible things, we are invited to help each other to better understand. If we wish to heal our own sadness or anger, we are invited to heal the sadness or anger in each other. If we wish to have justice done, we are invited to act justly with each other.
The world is waiting now. It is anxiously awaiting the morrow, not knowing what may come. Its people are looking for guidance, for help, for courage, for strength, for understanding, and for assurance at this hour. Most of all, they are looking for love.
The words to that familiar song were never, ever more meaningful than they are today:
What the world needs now is love, sweet love. That's the only thing that there's just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love. No, not just for some, but for everyone.
This is the moment of your ministry. This could be the time of your greatest teaching. What you teach at this time, through your every word and action, will remain as indelible lessons in the hearts and minds of those whose lives you touch, both now, and for years to come.
We will set the course for tomorrow, today. At this hour. In this moment.
There is much we can do, but there is one thing we cannot do. We cannot continue to co-create our lives together on this planet as we have in the past. Yet we will continue to do so if we focus our energy on pinpointing where blame falls, rather than where cause lies, in the unhappiest of our experiences.
Unless we take this time to look at the cause of our wounds, we will never heal. Instead, we will forever live in fear of retribution from those within the human family who feel aggrieved--and, likewise, we will forever seek retribution for them.
To me the cause is clear. The majority of the world's people have not learned the most basic human lessons. They have not remembered the most basic human truths. They have not understood the most basic spiritual wisdom. In short, most people have not been listening to God, and because they have not, they do ungodly things.
The message of God is clear. No matter what the religion, no matter what the culture, no matter what the spiritual or indigenous tradition, the bottom line is identical: we are all one.
The Bible, which is only one of humanity's many sources of spiritual teaching, carries this message throughout, in both the Old Testament and the New.
(Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? Malachi 2:10... so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Romans 12:5...Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body...1 Corinthians 10:17)
This is a message the human race has largely ignored.
Our religion, our politics, our economics, our education, our whole way of life is based on the idea that we are not one, but that we are separate from each other. We are thus willing to inflict all manner of injury upon each other. We would never do this if we thought that we were actually inflicting injury upon ourselves, yet this injury inevitably does fall upon ourselves--for like begets like, and negativity only breeds negativity.
Our history has proven this. Still, there seems to be one thing for which many human beings will give up anything. They will give up peace, love, happiness, joy, prosperity, romance, excitement, serenity, everything--even their own heath--for this one thing: Being right.
But even if we are right, what is spirituality's recommended course of action? What do the greatest spiritual teachers of all time, each in their own way, tell us at times such as these? It is something that many of us cannot (or do not wish to) hear.
...I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you, (Matthew 5:44)
Can this be sound advice?
If we could love even those who have attacked us, and seek to understand why they have done so, what would be the final result? Yet if we meet negativity with negativity, rage with rage, attack with attack, what then will be the outcome?
It is easy at times like this to fall into rage--and even to mistake it for justice. Yet rage never produces authentic justice. Indeed, it inevitably creates injustice--for someone. That is because rage is anger that has been repressed, and, when released, it is always misdirected.
Anger itself is not inappropriate. Anger is a natural human response, and can even be a blessing, if it leads to change. Yet as we feel our anger and express, there is one thing about which we should make no mistake. The human race has the power to annihilate itself. We can end life as we know it on this planet in one afternoon.
In the early days of our civilization, we were able to inflict hurt upon each other using sticks and rocks and primitive weapons. Then, as our technology grew, we could destroy a village, or a town, or a major city, or even an entire nation. Yet now it is possible for us to destroy our whole world, and do it so fast that nothing can stop the process once it has begun.
Is that the process we wish to begin? This is the question we must answer.
In searching for our answer, I hope that each of us will have our own conversation with God, for only the grandest wisdom and the grandest truth can address the greatest problems, and we are now facing the greatest problems and the greatest challenges in the history of our species.
It should be no surprise that we are doing so. It is not as if we have not seen this coming. Spiritual, political, and philosophical writers for the past 50 years have predicted it. So long as we continue to treat each other as we have in the past, they have said, the circumstance we face in the present will continue to present itself in the future.
We must change ourselves. We must change the beliefs upon which our behaviors are based. We must create a different reality, build a new society. And we must do so not with political truths or with economic truths, and not with cultural truths or even the remembered truths of our ancestors--for the sins of the fathers are being visited upon the sons. We must do so with new spiritual truths. We must preach a new gospel, its healing message summarized in two sentences:
We are all one.
Ours is not a better way, ours is merely another way.
This 15-word message, delivered from every lectern and pulpit, from every rostrum and platform, could change everything overnight. I challenge every priest, every minister, every rabbi and religious cleric to preach this. I challenge every political party spokesperson and the head of every national government to declare it.
And I challenge all of us, right now, to become spiritual activists. If we want the beauty of the world and not its ugliness to be experienced by our children and our children's children, we must choose to be at cause in the matter.