I love Bill Maher and especially his emphasis of the “imaginary friend” of Christians. I completely get and understand his point. But I think there is a way in which Jesus must be our “imaginary friend” if He is to have any value to us, value other than mere rhetorical, dogmatic escapism. Here is a link to an op-ed in the New York Times yesterday in which Nicholas Kristof used his imagination to apply the teachings of Jesus to the darkness that currently abounds in Washington D.C. I don’t know anything about Kristof’s religious affiliation, and don’t care, but he took the teachings of Jesus and applied them to what is underway in our government and, in doing so, offered a prophetic word to a country that needs one.
“When love begins to sicken and decay
It useth an enforced ceremony.
There are no tricks in plain and simple faith:
But hollow men, like horses hot at hand,
Make gallant show, and promise of their mettle.”
This Shakespearean wisdom from Julius Caesar has gotten a lot of play in my blogs the past year as I witnessed evangelical Christians utilize their canned faith to help elect Donald Trump to the Presidency. But I am such a keen observer of this hypocrisy because I’ve spent most of my life there. And “canned faith,” steeped in the letter of the law, always thrives on the ego’s demand for “strutting and fretting” like the aforementioned “horses hot at hand.”
Plain and simple faith, huh? Conspicuous piety always takes a lot of effort genuine human goodness requires simple presence in life, paying attention to this beautiful world and gazing attentively on the flow of life taking place around you. It is amazing how much life one can miss when he is immersed in the self-imposed illusion of piety.
ADDENDUM–I have diversified this literary effort of mine. In this blog I plan to focus more on poetry and prose. Below you will see two other blogs of mine relevant to spirituality and politics which have lain dormant for most of the past five years. I hope some of you will check them out. However, the boundaries will not be clear as my focus is very broad and my view of life is very eclectic/inclusive/broad-based. Yes, at times too much so!
W. H. Auden’s observation, “We wage the war we are” also applies to human collectives. Carl Jung eloquently described the “collective unconscious,” one example seen often in mob psychology where otherwise law-abiding people can have subterranean demons stirred up to the point of violent behavior. And sociologists and anthropologists…and other social scientists…are adept at delineating how our connection with social groups influences our behavior much more than we ever would like to acknowledge. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt has very interesting recordings on YouTube and TedTalks in which he shows evidence that my “firm conviction” to be a liberal Democrat is not without unconscious motivation just as Conservative Republicans are also driven by similar needs.
Even the species as a whole can be compared to an individual child, still early in development, struggling to integrate fragmented impulses into a working, harmonious whole. Just in my lifetime, with technological advances like computers and the internet, our world is so much “smaller,” so much more a “whole”, and we are so very near, yet so very far, to being able to come much closer to world peace and harmony than ever before. We have the means, but lack the will. And I recently came across someone who pointed out the “coincidence” that terrorism has emerged as a formless (i.e. “stateless”) expression of the violent dimensions of our collective unconscious. Jung would say that our collective unconscious is telling us that all of our accomplishments deriving from our conscious need for structure and organization, are finding their complement in the chaos of violence. It is as if our collective unconscious is reminding us, “Oh yes. Technology and progress is great. But it comes by sublimating repressed violent impulses and these violent impulses need to be given attention.” The goal is to continue to seek meaning and coherence in our world while simultaneously acknowledging and addressing the violent unconscious impulses that are within us all. And this can be done through sublimation such as with religion, literature, art and mythology. But I issue a caveat re religion—“Danger, danger Will Robinson.” For religion can easily become just another form of violence as we see so often today.