I woke early this morning and found this essay I wrote about six years ago for the Spiritual Activism course in my Human Ecology program at Strathclyde; we were asked to write a justification for enrolling in the course. No answers to the questions have presented themselves but the narrative still unfolds.
I am the product of a place, a people, a culture and the religious thought that bind these together. This idea was easily established in my thinking; however, it has taken some time to unravel the meaning of it. I’ve felt, at times, part of some grand American Destiny; but that destiny, parsed out, does not ﬁt nicely back together again. Indeed, though Americans speak often about the core history of our nation, there is little practical evidence of this history playing itself out in daily life. The perception of common aims; the meaning of place and community; the content and concept of culture; the course and character of these societal supports are now subtly altered (e.g. our “Founding Fathers” were mostly men of the Enlightenment; strangely, they have become paragons of religious piety and defenders of The Faith).
There is a rising tide of religious fervour (note that differentiate between this and spirituality); the tidal image may be cliché, however it is apt. The sea may fall endlessly upon a stable shore without damage; the sand and rock repel or absorb what may come. However, nothing can buﬀer a tsunami; waters rush in and set everything adrift. Ironically, those who push this fervour onward assert it will have the opposite eﬀect; the [insert religion or ideology] Nation they propose will stabilise and maintain the social and spiritual order of the world. Of course, this is not isolated in any one country; there are ideologues everywhere proposing their version of reality over others. It's just a question of who has the most power (or a lever wedged in that critical place to shift the world).
There is nothing extraordinary when men (and, yes, mostly men) use religion to further political aims or gain power; nothing happens today that is shocking or novel. What marks this new wave of fervour is the totality of its impact; there may be no solid land beyond the shore it falls upon. As no economic or environmental issue is now truly local, neither are matters of faith and belief. Nor are faith and belief separate from economic or environmental issues; they are a continuum.
I’m seeking a vocabulary of reason to speak in a language that is not necessarily based on rationality. I am ﬂuent in the faithful lingo, my accent will, no doubt, betray me. I have no designs to pull down the foundations of organised religion or feed resentment in myself or others. It is not my place to deter anyone from this or any other faith; as someone who was once imbedded, I know an attempt by outside inﬂuence would be nearly futile. It’s not an attack on the spiritual I'd propose; it is a return to genuine spirituality.
What role an individual may play in this, I do not know. Perhaps one may help add reason where there has only been a thrilling cloud of fervour. Perhaps no one person may deter the tides. I do know there is great and fearful power in the spiritual; if used with grace, it may begin to heal the problems we face as a species. If used unwisely, it will be the undoing of us all.