Sunday, December 03, 2017

Spirituality as Resistance: Hope

Advent begins today. It is the time of preparation for the coming of the Savior on Christmas. It is a time of challenge and spiritual growth. In spite of the seemingly bright and cheerful side of the holiday that Hallmark cards often present, the next six weeks are a time of wrestling with important truths about humanity, about God, and about what God has done and is doing for our release from captivity to sin.

Over the past year many of us have been facing a crisis of faith and spirit with many difficult and uncomfortable things happening around us. Last year I wrote a series on the Dark Night of the Soul in the political era we are living in. I followed it up with a series on Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a time even darker than ours. We have made it through another year and the word that has come to describe what many of us are doing is “Resistance.”

It has always been one of the core beliefs of my faith that resistance to the world’s ways is at the heart of the Judeo-Christian ethic. It may also be at the heart of other faiths, but this is the one I know best and am steeped in. Between now and Epiphany Sunday on January 7 I will take one of the traditional themes of the season and relate it to our present day resistance to some difficult and troubling things happening around us. I don't believe we are to withdraw from the world, but rather engage with the world (in, not of the world) with the Word in mind.

1st Sunday of Advent, 
December 3, 2017
Hope as Resistance

All resistance movements have been based in a sense of hope. In recent history we have had the Resistance in France in WW II. Back in the 60s, those who opposed the Vietnam war saw themselves as a resistance movement. Non-violent resistance- has had a long history, with people like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. being the most famous. In the past year a number of different groups like Indivisible have formed as grass-roots actions to overcome the extreme right-wing. Without the hope that they could be successful against evil and wrong, they would not have done what they did.

Let me start by looking at spirituality and how it is Resistance. I am not looking to get into arguments about the existence or nonexistence of “God.” I believe spirituality in general is far broader than that. Each “religious faith” adapts “spirituality” to be part of its own history and understanding of the world. In general, let me define spirituality this way:

We are connected!
  • First, we are connected to something greater than ourselves.
    • Therefore we can’t do it alone (and don’t need to) and
    • Therefore that is a challenge to narrow vision and easy acceptance of many self-centered beliefs and
    • Therefore “Me First” is not an option.
  • Second, we are connected to others interdependently.
    • Therefore we have a responsibility to others as we would want them to have responsibility for us and
    • Therefore we are to do unto others as we would want them to do unto us without exception and
    • Therefore we are to be kind to the “stranger” and “foreigner” in our midst.

Spirituality appears to be an evolved human response as a means of survival. Alone, the individual could not survive. It is in the evolution from nomad to tribe to village and city to nation-states to an interconnected world. This is the basis of Spiritual Resistance. It is standing for the many ways we can experience, live, and share the basic message of our continually evolving interrelationships. This is even more important today when all it could take is two individuals who can push each other- and all of humanity- into a world-ending war.

The survival of humanity depends on our getting along and finding ways to interrelate and accept others. Because we have had such experiences in our lives, because we can discover that in our daily lives, and because it is possible to live that way in new ways, we can have hope. Our hope is believing that we can do something to enhance the options for our survival.

That is heavy! That seems like an impossible task. But when we fell that, we go back to the definitions and calling to spirituality. We are not alone! We are connected and can work at increasing that interconnectedness! It is not- and cannot be- about me alone!
  • The spirituality of hope is to challenge the false hopes we can all fall prey to. 
    • It is resistance to the false hopes presented as variations of “Me First!” 
    • It is resistance to the call to be selfish and ignore those who have less than we do. 
    • It is resistance to myths propagated by many and varied sources in our society and other societies that seek to control rather than heal. 
    • It is resistance to anything that denigrates and kills others in body, mind, or soul. It is resistance to racism, sexism, homophobia, religious bigotry, poverty. 
    • It is resistance to straw men raised by “leaders” who want to consolidate power over others.
  • Hope tells us that life is worth living. 
  • Hope tells us that if we are willing to work together we can get things done. 
  • Hope tells us that the power of “we” is always greater than the powers of “me alone.” 
  • Hope tells us that there are other like-minded people who see the world as we do. 
  • Hope says that each person is a person of value and worth and forgiveness and care is at the heart of what we are to do. 
 We will look at other ways this happens as we journey through Advent. In the Christian tradition Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Savior. It is when we take time in meditation and prayer to hear the words and follow the life of the one we Christians call The Word Become Flesh. We believe that when we watch Jesus and hear his words we are hearing the way of hope for all humanity. That is not meant to mean the exclusive, we Christians are the only ones who have the answer. It is rather from my faith and cultural perspective in a religion that has just as often ignored or turned those words upside down for their own benefit. Jesus has been called the beginning and the end. The Alpha and the Omega. Omega, the symbol of resistance can be seen as the symbol for what Jesus calls humans to do- resist the life-denying calls of the world. There are life-affirming actions and ways of the world. Jesus calls me to uphold them and keep them active.

My description of spirituality above is open to many ways of following a power greater than ourselves. Admittedly my definition is one that is based on my understandings. It comes out of my experiences of nearly 7 decades of living. I can see no other way for me that encompasses the hope, love, joy, and peace of life. I hope others can see these in their own spiritual evolution. Hope as resistance is the first step in a journey into deeper hope. It helps us to cope with what the world often throws at us and others. Resistance is an immunity against fear and hate, death and selfishness.

Focus on hope this week.

Hope can be more than wishful thinking. It is a sense of expectation that something possible is coming. We must be ready to see it when it comes. We need to be focused, not distracted, but turn toward hope and not despair.

Listen to the still small voice of hope when things seem to be falling apart.

Join with others in hope!

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