Why Legislators Don’t Stand Behind Their Own Convictions

I haven’t written a lot about our current political situation. In the past I tried to speak in terms of higher values with the hopes that readers would search their hearts and make good political choices rather than tell them what they are supposed to believe or how to vote. But I feel the world getting increasingly dangerous and refraining from comment doesn’t seem the appropriate thing right now.

In spite of what I just wrote, I am not going to tell you who I plan to vote for or which party most aligns with in my beliefs. Rather, I want to talk about consciousness. I believe that how people view their world depends upon their level of consciousness.

In 2019, I read 6 books by worldwide teacher of the Way to Enlightenment, David Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. It may seem a bit obsessive for me to indulge this way, but Hawkins answered for me a question that was gnawing at me: Why is it that people have such a hard time with change even when change could mean greater happiness? When I asked the question, I had in mind a couple of friends whose thinking was clogging them. I remember talking to one of them and it would sound to me like she perfectly understood and agreed with what I was saying. Then I would talk to her a couple of days later and I found her thinking hadn’t changed at all. I was baffled.

The cornerstone of Hawkin’s teaching is his Scale of Consciousness. He created a grid and assigned a numerical value to the way people look at the world and thus how they interact with it. People with a higher level of consciousness basically know themselves better and have the capacity to monitor their own thoughts and behaviors. Those at a lower lever lack this self-awareness and tend to buy into their thoughts as though they are true. They have a lesser control over their behaviors because they tend to react to whatever happens around them. A person with lower consciousness may not know why they do what they do. If they do something they or others perceive as wrong, they will get defensive, blame others, and try to justify their actions rather than acknowledge their error and learn from it.

My only hesitancy about Hawkin’s chart is that in the past, whenever I dealt with charts about one’s maturity or level of spirituality, I always put myself at the top. Needless to say, my Higher Power had to do some serious correcting on that. This time, however, I came to the levels with greater self-awareness and with it humility and a higher capacity for honesty.

I don’t want to explain the whole of Hawkin’s teachings, but I do want to focus on one aspect, the number value of the different levels. A creature at the lowest level, (probably a mosquito) would be 0. The highest would be pure enlightenment which he numbers 700-1000. Only Jesus is attributed to have attained the level 1000. I won’t argue with that. Each level is given certain charactersics which he puts under four different categories: God-view, Self-view, Emotion, and Process. I will discuss only the first category here. How people view God which effects how they view everything including themselves and the world.

At the lower levels, people tend to view God as vindictive, condemning, punitive, vengeful or indifferent. When people view God this way, they tend to be full of guilt and shame, apathy, hatred, fear and anger. Those at higher levels of consciousness tend to imagine God in a much more favorable light. They would use words like permitting, inspiring, merciful, wise, and loving. They tend to have a more positive view of themselves and others, and are more willing to make sacrifices for the good of others. They tend to use their reason and wisdom to solve problems while not always thinking they are right, so they tend to show more respect for others points of view.

Those at the lower levels tend to drain to world of energy. Those at the higher levels tend to add energy to the world.

What most interested me is the one I was looking for when I was first drawn to Hawkins, and that is the key or quality that shifts a person from the lower levels to the higher. I found that the quality is Courage. Many of you are familiar with the Serenity Prayer. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the COURAGE to change the things I can.”

Watching the political landscape, I am struck by the lack of courage among people in office. This absolutely baffles me because it seems to me that it would take a lot of courage to run for office in the first place. But over the past several years, I have watched legislators cower under their party’s leadership, voting with them even when it would seem their values are in conflict. I ask myself, “Is being in office such a fabulous thing that you can’t imaging life without it?” That is what an alcoholic says when you suggest he should give up alcohol to save his marriage and his job.

People who operate out of a lower consciousness tend to be hateful, antagonistic, demanding, blaming, and full of fear. They have a desire for more of whatever they think will make them happy and then carry around a false pride because of what they have. They fear what might happen to them if they choose to do something other than what their tribe demands.

Humans are complex beings. As I think about myself on Hawkin’s scale, I know I am inconsistent and sometimes lose my bearings. I still drag around character defects that I’ve had for years. But I do know this: I see life from a higher place than I did in the past. I watch the interactions among my fellow Americans and Hawkin’s levels of consciousness seems to explain an awful lot to me. It doesn’t necessarily tell me what to do, however. I have chosen to just keep growing and share my insights wherever they may be useful. If I can help one person to rise above their own fears and anger, I feel I have shifted the world just a little bit.

The Story of Jesus and the Story of Us

Reading Richard Rohr’s book this morning, I find him addressing the very thing I did in my last blog, “Thoughts About Jesus”, April 13.  I would like to share with  you what he writes:

Insisting on a literal belief in the virgin birth of Jesus is very good theological symbolism, but unless it translates into a spirituality of interior poverty, readiness to conceive, and human vulnerability, it is largely a “mere lesson memorized” as Isaiah puts it (29:13). It “saves” no one. Likewise, an intellectual belief that Jesus rose from the dead is a good start, but until you are struck by the realization that the crucified and the risen Jesus is a parable about the journey of all humans, and even the universe, it is a rather harmless – if not harmful – believe that will leave you and the world largely unchanged.

I don’t like to debate with others about the literalness of the scriptures. I don’t believe that whether a person believes that the words and stories written in the bible are historically true doesn’t matter. On the other hand, how they apply or don’t apply the message behind the words and stories does matter. For example, Jesus taught us to love our enemies. Imagine, if you will, if everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus actually loved their neighbor. “Though shalt not kill”. Jesus even held back the sword of a disciple who tried to save him from arrest. Look where that led!

Imagine such a world! Unless the words and stories of the scriptures are seen as eternally true, their historical truth doesn’t have much value.

 

Rohr and the Universal Christ

It often happens that my book club will select a book that I have already read and I get to read it again. This time it is The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr. Rohr is a “globally recognized ecumenical teacher whose work is grounded in Christian mysticism.” I have read many of his books and follow his meditation reflection daily.

My understanding of Jesus has changed over the years. Much of this is maturity, I suppose, but also reading the works of mystics like Rohr. A rather startling statement Rohr makes in this book is that “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name. He says that as long as Christian’s have such a narrow view of Jesus, they are missing the most important aspect of Jesus’ message. He came to reveal not who he is but to show us who we are.

For a period of my life, I worshiped with a Quaker community. I could fill this page with reasons I have so much respect for them but the one thing that stands out for me is the belief that there is “that of God” in everyone. Rohr’s explanation of what “Christ” means to Jesus and to us, I believe, is this truth: we all possess or are composed of something of God. The story of Creation in Genesis 1 says that God breathed his OWN SPIRIT into his human creation. I believe that that which animates us is indeed God within.

I was taught as a child that God is everywhere but somehow I also was taught that there were gaps in where God is…namely, in those who were not yet saved. I no longer believe that. God is within all, just as Genesis says and the Quakers believe.

Rohr says that this presence of God within each of us has a name and that name is Christ. Christ dwells within each of us guiding us into loving thought and action. Christ is God acting in us, loving with God’s love.

Years ago I had an experience that I would like to share here. In my thirties, I was very interested in Jewish thought. I studied the Old Testament and read book after book about the history of the Jewish people and about their beautiful traditions. This is the time when our family began celebrating the Passover in our home. One time I was reading a book about the Holocaust, about the incarceration and extermination of the Jews including children. I can still remember where I was, sitting alone in my bed reading. The room was dark but for a lamp and the white pages of the book. Suddenly I could see the children being corralled into the ovens. I was stunned and tears began to flow so profusely that I was gasping. I cried out to God, “How could you let this happen?” Suddenly an awareness came to me, as though God were speaking to me. I realized the tears I was shedding were God’s tears. He was sharing with me his own pain. I believe that this was my first real experience of the Christ within and every time I find myself full of compassion, this continues to be so.

Rohr says that this Christ within always seeks connection and communion, never separation or division. I think of this as I watch the events of the world unfold, as I listen to the rhetoric of religious people and of politicians. The idea that God seeks unity and communion has become a measuring stick for me to discern that which is of God and that which is of the darkness. Sometimes I forget and get caught up in negativity. Just like anyone else, I want to find someone to blame for the pain in the world. This is when remembering becomes so important. Didn’t Jesus share the essence of his own mission, the reason he came to preach to the people of Israel? He said he came that all may be one just as the Father and he were one.

Peace Pilgrim Speaks

The title of my blog is “My Thoughts on Peace”and Peace Pilgrim is one of my peace-making heroes. I want to share these words with you today which if found tucked in my journal in 2002:

On predictions about the futures, she wrote: “Dwell only on the good things you want to see happen…through thought you create your inner conditions and help to create the conditions around you. We are all helping to make a great decision…the darkest hour is just before the dawn…everything out of harmony is on the way out. The darkness we see is disintegration of out-of-harmony things…eventually God will prevail…it is only how soon that is up to us.”

“Leftists are those who want to push social change faster than can it can naturally go. Rightists are those who want to keep things as they are or turn back the hands of the clock. Both believe in the false philosophy that the end justifies the means…the war philosophy. I believe that the means you use will determine the end you receive. This is the peace philosophy.”

“There is a magic formula for resolving conflicts. It is this: Have as your objective the resolving of the conflict – not the gaining of advantage.”

“Be concerned that you do not offend – not that you are not offended.”

“If you fear nothing and expect good, good will come.”

Let’s Look Together at White Privilege – 17

As I come to the end of this thoughtful and honest contemplation on the issue of racism, I realize that author Robin DiAngelo has moved to a very deep level. It seems to me that whenever I struggle with an issue, I eventually go there.

I just deleted the next three paragraphs. I don’t think I can put into words what is stirring in me as I come to the end of DiAngelo’s book. Even she, in her last chapter, talks about her own continued struggle to be free of what she calls white frigility. Understanding and teaching about racism has been her life’s work and seems to have sent her into deep soul searching. If racism causes people to know themselves better, to understand our common humanity, it is a useful tool. But our job is not to create problems that others may grow. Our job is to work inside ourselves to become more fully the loving persons we were created to be.

This has been a difficult journey for me, especially bringing closure. Since I started, Covid 19 has worn on our family and the political situation has gotten worse as we come closer to the election. There were days when I wanted and needed to blog about something else. Sometimes, writing my truth was difficult and I struggled with just how honest I should be.

I am grateful to those of you who joined in on the conversation. I appreciated your honesty and insight. A couple of you sent me articles that I hope to comment on in later blogs.

Thanks.

 

Let’s Look Together at White Privilege – 16

In  her ninth chapter, “White Fragility in Action”, Robin DiAngelo lists feelings white people experience when it is pointed out to them that something they said or did is racist. She also lists behaviors, claims they typically make that will tend to exempt them personally and finally, assumptions. DiAngelo has been presenting the facts about racism to white audiences for years and I would guess she has seen and heard everything. I am going to mention just a couple of ideas that I relate to here, as we might if you and I were participating in a book club discussion.

If I were at a workshop on racism and the leader suggested that something I said was racist, I would feel singled out, first of all. I consider myself a pretty open and educated person when it comes to race, so I guess I would also feel humiliated. I would get defensive and try to figure out if this person was right or if she was mislabeling me. I might even agree with her that my words were racist but inside myself I would probably think, “I am not really racist. That was just a slip of the tongue.”

Typical behaviors of those feeling attacked or accused might be withdrawal, denying, or focusing on intentions. I think I would probably withdraw or cover-up. I might go overboard a bit in trying to sound more open. I wouldn’t likely say, “Wow, that stung!” I am capable of  being honest but usually, honesty with myself comes after the fact.

DiAngelo listed many of the claims people make in her previous chapters and I have addressed these. I am in a different place today than I was years ago. I know that I am privileged, I know that my experience with people of different races is limited. I am not likely to make any claims to being considered non-racist. I am likely to work on my behaviors as I go about my life. I shared in a past blog my decision to fight my fears when walking in a primarily black neighborhood. I can’t do much about my feelings but can do something about my behaviors.

DiAngelo has a long list of assumptions behind reactions. The one that stands out for me is, “Racism is a conscious bias. I have none, so I am not a racist.” I have been dealing with the idea of biases for years. It is an important concept for a writer. I am convinced that there is no such thing as being unbiased. Bias, to me is simply how you look at a problem. What part of the elephant are you looking at? Bias has a lot to do with what we were taught and what we experienced as children. We usually hold on to our biases until some new truth comes along and pokes a hole in our bias. This is happening for me right now in regards to racism. I hope that it will keep happening throughout my life. It is the life of a learner.

Let’s Look Together at White Privilege – 15

DiAngelo, in chapter 8, “The Result: White Fragility”, extends her discussion on how whites will get defensive when it is pointed out to them that they are using discriminatory language or action. It felt a little redundant to me as she shared more stories.

I am part of a spiritual path that nudges me to look deeply at my own behaviors and attitudes. The phrase, “It is all about me” is one I and my friends will use, usually joking about ourselves, when we realize that we are making someone else’s pain be about us, as though we are victims. The thing is, once you face this tendency in yourself to make everything about you, it begins to loosen its grip.

This is exactly what DiAngelo is promoting when she says that white reluctance to take a look at their racist behaviors stops progress in its tracks. It stops one  individual from progressing, but it also stops dialogue between people of different races and social change that reflects equality and justice for all. Have you ever tried to talk to someone about how they’d hurt you and been dismissed as being oversensitive? I have. I came to the conclusion that talking to this person is like talking to a brick wall. So, what is left is to deal with one’s own hurt and resentments with no satisfaction and no solution. It is crippling to a relationship. In the case of racism in a white dominated society, the problem is that one is not alone with their feelings. For the black community, parents watch their brothers and sister and children suffer discrimination and live in fear daily. Small, innocent children get to grow up with this. Imagine the woundedness to their little souls.

I have seen the videos of George Floyd taken from police body-cams and the phones of bystanders. The man was terrified. He had every reason to believe from the moment he was singled out by the police that he was about to die. His panic as they tried to get him into the police car was absolutely understandable. It seemed to me like a man being pushed to the edge of a cliff and being asked to submit to the people who were pushing him. I can also imagine that white people watching might say, “Why didn’t he just do what they wanted him to do? This wouldn’t have happened if he’d only done what he was told.” That is white privilege! We don’t have to be afraid when police officers pull us over or stop us for questioning, other than getting a ticket or being arrested. But odds are really high that for whites that death is not likely imminent. White Privilege – the privilege of not having to be afraid.

But now DiAngelo is talking about White Fragility. This is the stop-gap. When whites put themselves into the role as victim, there is no need for change. The person of color becomes the bully because they made me feel bad when I am a good person. What they, the black people, have been experience is not the issue…the attack against me is the issue.

Just a couple of interesting pieces from this chapter that I want to mention:

  1. “More than half of whites – 55% – survey sat that, generally speaking, they believe there is discrimination against white people in America today. Notable, however, is that though a majority of whites in the poll say discrimination against them exists, a much smaller percentage say they have actually experienced it.” (Sounds like those who claim immigrants are taking their jobs but have not actually had their jobs taken away by an immigrant.)
  2. In situations in which the author was called upon as a consultant, she was cautioned that employees who had been to diversity training workshops had experienced trauma and she was cautioned to “proceed slowly and to be careful”. (Would you call this PTSD?) She adds that by employing terms that connote physical abuse, whites tap into the classic story that people of color (particularly African Americans) are dangerous and violent. Thus not only is there no progress, but stereotypes are being reinforced and the situation is made worse.