Netroots Nation 2013
if we wait for spring
to bring renewal
we will die
if we wait for wars to end
we may not end our own
if we wait for peace to come
we may find no peace
while we are waiting
only in a spring
that cannot wait
for its season
is there love enough
- DJ Rix
This appeared on the cover of this year's interfaith service at Netroots Nation with a photo by Blue Jessamine that I am unable to get over here. The service consisted of readings contributed by kossacks and others I asked, edited and organized by me into a structure suggested by the contributions themselves. You can read the whole thing below the orange squiggle.
I – Being Here
We will take a moment of silence to focus our thoughts. Those who like may contemplate an ancient Greek proverb contributed by NormAl1792:
A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.
II – Being Together
I would like to ask that you to take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our country.
AZ state Rep. Juan Mendez, via Amanda Knief
Interfaith meetings like the one at NN are very important to those of us whose approaches to social justice and peace are rooted in the religious framework of our lives – a framework which is often in great peace and harmony with the progressive social justice goals of those in our community who do not identify as people of faith at all.
I certainly don't believe that religious morality (pick a religion) is better than secular morality, or that secular reasons for fighting for social justice are superior for religious reasons for doing so. But I do believe that those of us on the religious left have a particular point of view – be it an Abrahamic faith or not – which shines when those of us with different backgrounds start to talk together and meet together and especially when it invites our sisters and brothers who profess no faith at all to join us where our commitment to peace and social justice intersect.
Living in harmony with other human beings is difficult, and sometimes feels as though it is impossible. Traditional Indian people prior to the European invasion knew that for the individual to survive there must be a group. While individual freedom was highly esteemed, there was a recognition that decisions had to be made based on the common welfare. Although many decisions dealt with immediate needs, future survival had to be considered. With most decisions the community considered: How will this impact the seventh generation?
Adam and Eve is such a primitive and in some ways a silly story. But the rabbis saw this story as teaching us that we are all descendants from Adam and Eve and therefore we are all brothers and sisters, and it behooves us to love each and every human being on this planet as our brother or sister, for every human being on this planet is our brother or sister. This is the essence of my religious beliefs.
Navy Vet Terp
III – Being In The World
Native American peoples did not use a word such as “religion,” but, as you have read, every part of their world had a sacred connection or religious meaning. Their ideas of religion were everything to them. They believed the world should have balance, harmony, cooperation, and respect within the community and between people and the rest of nature.
Cherokee myths and legends taught the lessons and practices necessary to maintain natural balance, harmony, and health.
I would like to add love. I was taught to accept and to love others. Acceptance and Love do so much for the human Spirit.
Paganism says that we are part of the natural world. We are not set apart from it, But our consciousness and intelligence is not to be used to use the world, but to interact with it in a way that is good for all involved. We have a responsibility to the world, since we have power over it.
I am Jewish, and care for the earth is part of our beliefs. For example, we are told to let our fields lie fallow every seven years to let the soil revive, which turns out to be good science as well. (We are also told not to profit from what grows on its own during that year, but to leave it for the poor.)
Living in harmony with the environment was easier for animists: everything was seen as having a soul, as being a living person, and thus the same courtesies afforded to humans applied to the environment. When thinking about the environment — about the plant people, the animal people, the water people, and so on — the human people had to consider the common welfare. This was the common welfare of the human people and the other people.
In dealing with the environment, traditional Indian leaders had to be able to listen. They studied the plant people, the animal people, the stone people, and all of the other things around them. As with their dealings with humans, the leaders did not impose their wills upon these other people. Their decisions were based on observation and knowledge — today, we would call this science. People in a position of leadership required humility, an awareness that they did not fully understand everything, and a realization that they must continue to learn from the other people in the world.
The Gods did not write any books. Human beings did that about their experiences with the Gods. Some of them are quite good, some are terrible, but they are all human creations.
The Gods left us as their only Scripture, this earth, this biosystem, this Universe itself. As such, we are part of this gift, we rely on this gift, and we must treat it with respect. When we pollute our water, we blaspheme against Scripture, not when we swear, even in the name of the Gods.
This sacred gift mandates, our continued life mandates, reverence and care for our earth, our Scripture.
"Humans wrote the Bible, God wrote the world."
Catherine Faber, via Batya the Toon
IV – Science: Learning the World
One thing I realized over twenty years ago – and I suppose it's the closest thing I have to a religion – is that the smart thing to do and the right thing to do are always the same thing. From that, I have come to believe that God is closely related to – if not the same as – reason and intelligence tempered by compassion. A popular paraphrase of something the Buddha said sums it up for me:
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.
The Bahá'í teachings stress the fundamental harmony of science and religion. This view derives from the belief that truth (or reality) is one. For if truth is indeed one, it is not possible for something to be scientifically false and religiously true.
'Abdu'l-Baha affirmed that religion and science are, in fact, complementary:
Religion and science are the two wings upon which man's intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone! Should a man try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other hand, with the wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into the despairing slough of materialism.
When I see a bird outside, I think of many things. While I know that, ultimately, God put the forces into play that made that bird, I also appreciate the billions of years it took to create the bird that evolved from dinosaurs. It is a survivor.
Nature, Science, God/religion – in the end it doesn't matter whether we think these three can exist together in complete agreement on some basic level, or if we believe in one at the expense of the others. It isn't Reality we define by our judgments and beliefs, but ourselves.
At one point in my life I was engaged and beginning to look into infertility treatments. I remember thinking “Since I believe in evolution, how could I reconcile that belief with my obvious wish to counter nature's decision that I not have children?” This was quite a moral conflict for me. It's not just religious beliefs that lead to moral quandaries.
For me, science only gives me a greater reverence for the mythic and poetic truths of my faith. Science shows me pictures of branching bronchial tubes in the lungs, which look uncannily like t he branching up and outward of the maple tree outside my window. Veins anastamose like braided river channels on the back of my hands. Science does not fight with my religion. In many ways, the science is the prose, the faith the poetry, and that is a comfortable balance for me.
Numenism is a giant multi-level, multi-dimensional theory of existence - as our knowledge grows that theory adapts to accept the new data. Numenism functions as a framework for incorporating new advances in knowledge and awareness of the universe without overwhelming us or causing us to turtle up. Some of our more treasured founding theories have been validated by recent scientific research. One instance where science validated a Numenist belief is that of senses. Numenists are taught that we have more than 5 senses, and we've identified an additional 8 senses that we can teach others to also use through meditation, exercises, and conscious use. Modern science has, without any input from us, also identified the same additional 8 senses and named them. We love science.
V – Remembering
Music – “Vocalise” by Sergei Rachmaninoff
“Now I can move on with my walk with God.
Aloha all and God bless
This was posted on the Facebook page of a new FB friend about ten days ago. He had been struggling with a question of his own faith and had asked for some advice from the several thousand friends he had on FB. His friends included staff at McMurdo Station in Antarctica to me, the little goat farmer in Oregon. He was an old school surfer born and raised in Hawaii and from the pictures he posted of old surfers and the days of his youth, he was the real deal.
Several days after getting advice that he could live with and posting this message above, he died suddenly. Wow. That's all I can say. Wow. And Mahalo, Les. Walk with God.
Please take this time to think of those in your life who have died during the past year. Feel free to tell us their names and/or something about them if you like.
[A number of participants gave names of loved ones who died during the past year. Among others, Scotty Decker was remembered.]
VI – Moving Forward
In this country – in this room – we may be divided by issues of faith, ideology, or values. But this is also a room where, as my Secular Humanist tradition stresses, by the very fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences. We share the same spectrum of potential for care, for compassion, for fear, for joy, for love.
Carl Sagan once wrote, “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” There is, in the political process, much to bear. In this room, let us cherish and celebrate our shared humanness, our shared capacity for reason and compassion, our shared love for the people of our country, for our Constitution, for our democracy — and let us root our policymaking process in these values that are relevant to all Americans regardless of religious belief or nonbelief. In gratitude and in love, in reason and in compassion, let us work together for a better America.
State Rep. Juan Mendez, via Amanda Knief
The role of the leaders—sometimes called “chiefs” by non-Indians—was not to impose their will upon the people, but to listen respectfully to all and to summarize the comments. Being a leader required humility, an ability to listen, and good oratory skills. Good oratory was expected to bring the people together, not to separate, segregate, or alienate them. Leaders chose their words carefully, fully understanding that words are living things and will continue to have impact long after they are first spoken.
Living a good life, one free from sickness and conflict, requires that one strive to maintain social and spiritual harmony and balance.
Societies are made up of people, and like individuals, societies must also maintain harmony if they are to provide a good life for the people. Social harmony and balance is necessary among the people and this allows them to work and live together.
“Walk gladly across the earth answering that of God in each man you meet”
Walking joyfully across the earth is how we must begin. To be joyful is not to be blind to suffering, to pain, to the evil that we may encounter. Rather, it is to embrace the entire world, believing that in answering that of God we empower others to use that of God in themselves to heal themselves and heal the world.