Holy Week, Politics, Ethics, and The Other Side… A few thoughts
Let me begin by wishing those of you who celebrate them a Happy Passover and a Happy Easter.
In reflection of this Holy Week, my cousin Bill, who at one point was studying to be a priest, but is now happily married and with a beautiful large family, sent me an email this morning with an article about forgiveness and introspection during this special holy week. It was a great article that talked about the importance of forgiving others and forgiving oneself in order to live a healthy and good life. At least, that’s what I got out of it.
And as I marinated in the sentiments of this article, I began to think about the world we live in now and how important this spirit of forgiveness is to what is going on around us.
A week ago, I wrote a blog post entitled Duplicity, Hypocrisy, and Mean-Spiritedness… The New Spirit of American Politics inspired by the recent heightened lack of civility in political discourse, not just from politicians, but from everyday Americans. These everyday Americans include good people on the left, who see themselves as humanists, and good people on the right, many of whom see themselves as devoutly religious.
Eight-and-a-half years ago our world changed, there was a paradigm shift in how we, as a country, saw ourselves and our sense of security and also in how we saw others who violated that security. We live in a world now plagued by wars and terrorism between groups of people who see themselves wronged by the other side, but not many of us are interested in finding out why one group’s heroes or freedom-fighters are another group’s terrorists or oppressors.
Perhaps both our domestic and international political dealings with each other might benefit from some interest in really listening to what the other side has to say, even if we don’t agree with it, or in making some attempt to understand why the other side believes what they believe, or in finding out what motivates the other side to do what they do. This inability or lack of interest to communicate with the other side, whoever they may be, is further exacerbated by the lack of respect and civility, and by the blatant hatred and demonization of the other side.
It seems that religious passions, or inflamed and manipulated religious passions by those with their own agenda, seem to be, quite often, at the heart of this deafness and insensitivity to the other side. We are right and they are wrong. This is white and that is black. We have God on our side and they don’t. Why listen to anyone else when you know you are right? Well, unless you are God, perhaps there exists the remotest possibility that you might not be right, or that there might be some gray areas to explore, or that perhaps God is not on your side. Instead, to paraphrase President Abraham Lincoln, we should pray and hope that we are on God’s side, on the right side.
The article my cousin sent me via email for this Holy Week talks about the importance of forgiving others and oneself, which has at its core the one guiding principle by which I live my life: the ethics of reciprocity. We all know this ethical principle more commonly as the Golden Rule, along with its photo-negative, the Silver Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and its counterpart “Do not do to others what you would not want done to you.” And, in a purely logical argument, you need both.
No one religion can take ownership for this guiding principle, we find it in the Torah and the Bible; we find it in ancient times in China, India, Egypt, Greece and elsewhere; we find it in Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and other religious beliefs; we find it in the words of philosophers, like Confucius and Socrates, and we find it in the words of civil rights leaders, like Frederick Douglass and Gandhi. The ethics of reciprocity is a humanist belief, which is at the heart of all that is good in religion and in a religious or spiritual life.
This Holy Week, during this time of war, I would like to focus on all that makes us more alike than different and on all that unites us rather than separates us. The message of forgiveness really resonates with individual and global implications at this time. I think we might have a better world and a healthier life if we all remember that.
Martie Hevia (c) 2010 – All Rights Reserved