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Soul Mending

By Yvonne Zarowny

08/02/2017

Discerning the Divine in our diversity


 
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing . . . you will know them by their fruits.”
— Matthew 7:15-16
 
“A new commandment I give to you, love one another....”
— John13:34
 
The common Sacred Scriptures of the world’s three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) state that Divine Mystery is beyond human capacity to adequately name or understand. 
 
What if our Divine Beloved so loved us and this Mystery has been in-breaking into all our histories and consciousness since time immemorial? What if, due to our inadequate capacity to comprehend and name the Divine, it is we humans who created the differences while obfuscating common ground? 
 
If so, how are we to discern that of the Divine and that of “false” prophets and gods?
 
I invite you to deeply ponder this.
 
I am a critical educator and practitioner. That means I educate and assist people to gain the skills to read the “signs of their times” for themselves then evaluate their realities according to explicitly stated criterion.
 
If realities are not consistent with their stated values, hopes and dreams, strategies to effectively engage their worlds to bring it more in line are designed and implemented. With this process, our understanding of the realities and the strategies implemented are continually reassessed according to actual outcomes. 
 
This is particularly true if the desired results are not achieved.
 
With this approach, there is no evaluation of something being “good” or “bad” without an explicit statement of criterion for determining what is “good” or “bad,” “of God” or not.
 
It is a non-ideological, non-partisan, non-theoretical approach for unpacking our realities through engagement to achieve explicitly stated goals.
 
This process is a variation of what some of you may remember as the Pastoral Spiral developed in the 1980s by two Jesuits, Joe Holland and Peter Henriot. It was developed to assist parish groups to ferret out and constructively engage social concerns in order to transform them.
 
If the anticipated or desired results are not achieved, then both the initial understanding of the situation and the strategy to address them are re-examined. 
 
For example, if after 17 years of the war on terror, we are still experiencing terrorism and Christians being persecuted, we might want to reconsider our understanding of the root causes of this “social concern” and our strategies for remedying it. 
 
Jesus tells us we are to discern what is of our Divine Beloved by the fruits or realities produced. According to Jesus, we know God is Goodness and Love and we are to love Love/Goodness with all our whole being. 
 
Jesus also commands us to love one another, for the love of our Divine Beloved.
 
The Divine Incarnate in Jesus told us 2000+ years ago, “the Way” is Love. We have an unprecedented number of people at risk of dying of famine in the Horn of Africa; we have perpetual warfare; we have an unprecedented number of refugees forced from their homes; and we are desecrating God’s creation so much we are putting Earth’s capacity to support us at risk. 
 
Does this sound to you as if we are realizing God’s dreams for us as revealed by Jesus?
 
God loves diversity — as is evidenced in our Beloved’s creation — of which we are part.
 
In response to the tragedy of 9/11, in November 2001 members of UNESCO unanimously passed The Universal Declaration of Cultural Diversity as an alternative to the “Clash of Civilization” theory that formed and still forms our response.
 
Originally written by a Muslim scholar, Article 3 states:
 
“Cultural diversity widens the range of options open to everyone; it is one of the roots of development, understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence.”
 
This is consistent with what has been encouraged by our church since the Second Vatican Council and modelled by all popes since, particularly St. John Paul II and now Francis.
 
Why is it not promoted in all Catholic media?
 
Since 1945, Indonesia — the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation-state — has been striving to achieve this. It developed practical strategies as a way of realizing peaceful co-existence in a very multi-cultural, religious, ethnic, linguistic, far flung nation.
 
One strategy was the national motto: “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” meaning “unity in diversity” or literally “many, yet one.” Another was the explicit statement of the five principles identified to form the foundational philosophy of the Indonesian state. 
 
These are called the Pancasila — Sanskrit for “five principles.”
 
First among these principals is that the Divine is ultimately one. Another is social justice. All are consistent with Jesus’ Love Commandment.  
 
I learned this from a member of our social justice team, originally from Indonesia. She gave me a poster: “One Light — Many Lamps.” 
 
It shows God as the One Light and has symbols representing Indonesia’s six major religions including Christianity and Judaism.
 
She educated me about Indonesia in response to my asking her opinion of Stephen Kinzer’s Boston Globe article “Saudi Arabia is Destabilizing the World.” (https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/06/11/saudi-arabia-destabilizing-world)
 
Apparently factions within the Wahhabi absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, a NATO ally, are financing a multi-faceted, persistent campaign to destabilize not only Indonesia but the world.
 
According to Kinzer “By refusing to protest or acknowledge this far-reaching project, we finance our own assassins — and global terror.”
 
Why are we selling billions in weapons and signing huge investment deals with the regime most responsible for exporting terror, religious intolerance and persecuting Christians? Does this make sense to you?
 
Is this consistent with Jesus Love Commandment and his revelation of the Divine’s Will?
 
A re-assessment of our understanding and strategies for addressing “terrorism” and religious intolerance, including the persecution of Christians, is needed NOW!  

A critical educator, writer and engaged citizen living in Qualicum Beach, B.C., Zarowny is also on the leadership team for her parish’s Justice and Life Ministry.