Happiness and Starving People

People starve to death. It’s a thought which haunts me, although I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that it’s not for the reasons you might think. It’s a reality that haunts me every time someone tells me that things have to turn around soon. Or when I want to comfort myself with the idea that eventually spring comes, the sun returns and nothing lasts forever. “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning.” People starve to death. Tell a man or woman who watched their child starve to death that spring comes again each year. And that’s what haunts me – if people starve to death, then there’s no reason to think my in-comparison small problems will ever right themselves.

Yesterday my husband told me about a story he had read about a horrific attack on a little boy in Bangladesh. The boy was terribly maimed and the family had to go into hiding at a military installation due to ongoing threats from the local gang leaders responsible for the attack. My husband said one of the most striking things about the story for him came from the boy’s devastated father. Bangladesh is a poor country and the family lived in a one room tin shack in a slum. And the father told reporters that his family had been happy. They had been happy together and in their little community even though they sometimes didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. Today, money is pouring in from around the world to help the child and his family – there next many meals are guaranteed. But the father told reporters that his family had taken everything from them. And my husband said, “I read that and thought, I want to be like that guy. I want to be able to live in the middle of squalor and with nothing and be happy.” Is that a trade you would make – to live in squalor and extreme insecurity in exchange for happiness? Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I certainly don’t want to romanticize extreme poverty. But why do I – and most all of us – struggle and suffer so intensely while living in homes with kitchens and running water and heat and bathrooms? How can a man whose kids sometimes missed meals say they were happy while I’m in a funk because I’m not sure we’ll be able to give our kids much more than pencils and socks for Christmas?

The temptation is to feel guilty for being unhappy in the midst of such abundance. To try to be more grateful. But I think there’s more to it than that. A while ago I read a comment from Desmond Tutu:

When I first came to this country in ’72, I was quite shaken by the intensity of feeling that African-Americans had. And I said I couldn’t understand: Why are they so bitter? Why are they so angry?

There, in South Africa [under apartheid], they told you, “You’re nothing, and we’re going to treat you like the nothing you are. And don’t ever hope to think that you have a chance of being treated differently.”

Here, you say to them, “You’re equal, and the sky’s the limit.” And they keep bumping their heads against this thing that’s stopping them from reaching out to the stars.

I think that this dynamic accounts for a great deal of suffering among many of us living in affluent parts of the world. We believe that it’s possible for us to have more, do better, be more secure than we are. In fact, it often seems like we’re obliged to do more and have more. We’re fed a steady diet of chatter which says that if you work hard, do the right things, keep your nose clean, life will go well. We live in the land of opportunity. So when things aren’t going well, we tend to want to double down – work harder, do better, find our way out. But when you are convinced that safety, comfort and security are just waiting for you to get it all together, the straight and narrow becomes an anxiety inducing tightrope walk 100 feet up without a net.

My husband and I have been trying to walk that tightrope for a long time now. We’ve been trying to buy into the fiction that all it takes to overcome youthful errors, repeated job losses and multiple failures is to keep going, work harder, be smarter. Fall down 6 times, get up 7. But there’s that little fact which keeps stalking me: people starve to death. If hard work, smarts and determination guaranteed success, people wouldn’t starve to death. That man in Bangladesh knew that people starve to death. He knew he was never going to have anything. And perhaps, having made peace with that reality he was able to do what we, with all our advantages are only rarely able to do: be happy regardless of circumstances.

That’s the real challenge for me (and I suspect you as well). Can I be happy if life never gets better or if it gets worse? The other night while driving my husband home from the bus station, I was praying and wrestling with all of this. God told me, “you have enough.” I know from past experiences and conversations/prayers that by “enough” God means “enough for this instant in time.” If I have a full belly or a meal waiting for me, I have enough. If I have anything – a cave, a house, a coat – to shelter me from the weather, I have enough. If I can get a drink from a faucet or bottle or stream or melted snow, I have enough. (God’s standards about these things are much lower than my own.)

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

But I don’t know how to make this mindset my own. “I’d just like a little comfort. Some security,” I said. That’s reasonable, isn’t it? Only security is an illusion. I know that too.

“The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

How many people have lost all that they have saved to war, theft, hyper-inflation, political strife? Or even to shady mortgage brokers, medical bills and lost jobs? Helen Keller once said, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.” 401ks, diplomas, mutual funds and a strong work ethic don’t change that.

Finally, I told God, “so I have enough for the moment. And for this day. But what about tomorrow or the day after? How can I live without knowing that there will always be enough?”

“You will always have me. Aren’t I enough for you?”

That’s what I want, really. To be so rooted in God that he will always be enough for me. No matter what the circumstances. Perhaps God will graciously draw me that close in time. But at the moment, I can’t help but wonder if he’s enough for people who starve to death.

21 thoughts on “Happiness and Starving People

  1. We don’t know any starving people. We know about ourselves, that God does give us enough. (We’re supposed to pray for this, remember? Why? So we remember to ‘phone home’ fairly regularly?)

    There’s individual karma and collective karma. When the collective karma is bad, bystanders get hurt. [“Do you think those people the tower fell on were any worse than you people? If you don’t shape up, you’ll all meet the same fate.”] We’re all part of the world that relegates a great many of us to suffering and death; and we don’t get to separate ourselves from the institutions that make that happen. We can’t fix it; I don’t know that there’s anything we can do except not to worship those institutions, neither to support nor to overthrow. (I probably would be cheering and clapping for a social justice revolution; but I wouldn’t hope for too much from that, unless we’d all become different than we are now…) God gives tasks within our limited capabilities (sometimes things we’d never apply for nor hire ourselves to do) and that’s the only way to be actually useful.

    That annoying “Mary & Martha” story, where Martha is working her butt off in the kitchen but Jesus says that Mary, just sitting with him listening and studying, is doing “the one needful thing.” If you are remembering the presence of God (so well as you can) where you go, that’s that “needful thing”; that’s what works to fix things. [And sometimes you need… Well, tonight I’ll probably make banana bread.]

    In the Prodigal Son story… That first unforgivable thing that shocks all the neighbors: By asking his father to give him his share of the property early, let him go his own way with it, that son has effectively told his father “I wish you were dead and out of my way!” That’s what people mean by “security” — that God will give us the means to feel safe without God!

  2. The economic crisis is going to have a lot of people asking, “How much is enough?”

    I don’t think that God “punishes” us for our spiritual infidelities. S/He doesn’t have to, there are always consequences to the choices we make [or don’t make] in life and, since we are “social animals” imbedded in a cultural milieu, we also suffer the consequences of the choices others make [or don’t make].

    Our God is an empowering Parent, not an enabling Parent. Like all good parents there are times when the tough love demands that we just *let go*–“if they won’t listen they gotta feel [the consequences].” And just like all parents, God suffers the affects of the consequences with us, that is where compassion differs from pity. Pity acknowledges the suffering of others; but keeps a safe emotional distance and is degrading, not transforming.

    “The extreme greatness of Christianity lies in the fact that it does not seek a supernatural remedy for suffering, but a supernatural use for it.” – Simone Weil

    “It is an awful truth that suffering can deepen us, give a greater luster to our colors, a higher resonance to our wounds. That is if it doesn’t destroy us, if it doesn’t burn away the optimism and the spirit, the capacity for visions, and the respect for simple yet indispensable things.”–Anne Rice

    Temporal existence is a relative good; Eternal Life is the Absolute Good. The Gospel promises us an Eternal deliverance, temporal deliverances are sometimes things (Read Hebrews 11- the “great faith chapter”).

    One thing that I do believe with certitude is that Grace has the power to draw good out of evil. In the case of our present global socioeconomic/political woes, I think that one of the “goods” will be the end of the “Prosperity/Health and Wealth Gospel” that has been such a persistent heresy in “American Churchianity.”


    “If knowing answers to life’s questions is absolutely necessary to you, then forget the journey. You will never make it, for this is a journey of unknowables –of unanswered questions, enigmas, incomprehensibles, and most of all, things unfair.” — Madame Jeanne Guyon

    We are the first civilisation to treat monetary accumulation as an absolute goal, and it has obscured the whole of our discourse about shared well-being, or the “common good.” ~Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. The materialism of affluent Christian countries appears to contradict the claims of Jesus Christ that says it’s not possible to worship both Mammon and God at the same time. –Mahatma Gandhi “It is almost impossible to keep the idols of our own culture from influencing us, whether we want it to happen or not. This is certainly true when it comes to the so-called American dream. We need our eyes opened!We need to be called out! “ —Darrin Patrick, founding pastor, The Journey, St. Louis

    “God uses an absolutely shocking analogy to bring us to our senses. He tell us we are guilty of *adultery.* What? Yes. When we practice soul idolatry by running to things other than God to meet our needs, we betray our one true Lover…. This is betrayal. This is *adultery.* … Unless we sense God’s *ravishing* of us — we will fail to submit to Him and life will be futile.” ~Dee Brestin

    http://inamirrordimly.com/2012/12/07/why-i-stopped-asking-god-for-peace/ Why I Stopped Asking God for Peace In my long litany of “Gimme! Gimme!” prayers, I’ve regularly asked God for peace. It makes sense, right? We live in a crazy, violent, confusing world with plenty of hard days. Who doesn’t want some peace? I sure do. I used to ask for it all of the time. I have since stopped. Why? Peace is the result of God’s presence and activity in our lives. To pray for peace without God’s presence turns the results of God’s work into a god. I turned peace into something I wanted without God. “Just send the peace in God, and I’ll catch ya later? Kthnxbi.” We can ask God for comfort, hope, and love, but if we aren’t asking God to show up in a real, experiential way, we’ll just confuse these end results with the presence of God. Following Jesus Doesn’t Guarantee Peace Taking this one step further (and you can take it even further in my book Hazardous), following Jesus and experiencing his presence may leave us unsettled or disturbed for a season. That discontent or aching we feel in our spirits may well be the sign that we’re drawing near to Jesus and his desires. A holy discontent or disturbance could signal that we’re very much on the right track. In other words, the absence of peace may be OK, especially if Jesus is present. That isn’t to say that we’ll never find peace as followers of Jesus. It’s just that following Jesus is sometimes uncomfortable and disruptive. There is peace and joy in his presence for certain, but certain seasons of our lives may leave us scratching our heads, wondering what exactly is going on. While our poor choices could sometimes lead to these struggles, it’s just as likely that Jesus is leading us in a new direction. He’s changing our desires and bringing us to a new place of peace and contentment in him. We just have to get there first.

  3. We Americans make so much of our right to the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is deeply rooted in pleasure. The Gospel promises us joy, not happiness:

    On joy as an experience distinct from pleasure: “Joy is a different thing, because its focus exists outside the self–delight in something external, not satisfaction of some inner craving.”–Mary Karr

    To suffer is to have anything—great or small—otherwise than as you wish or will or want it to be. If your self-will is powerful and untamed, you will “suffer” horribly when you miss a train or run out of cigarettes: if your self-will is wholly conformed to the will of God, as manifested in the circumstances of the moment, you can undergo extremes of physical pain without “suffering” at all. Hence the joy of the martyrs: hence the serenity of an agonizing but saintly death-bed. –Christopher Derrick, That Strange Divine Sea

    One can try to recreate the world, to build in its stead another world in which its most unbearable features are eliminated and replaced by others that are in conformity with one’s own wishes. But whoever, in desperate defiance, sets out upon this path to happiness will, as a rule, obtain nothing. Reality is too strong for him. He becomes a madman who, for the most part, finds no one to help him in carrying through his delusion.–Sigmund Freud

    Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies?–Erich Fromm, Psychoanalyst

    “Trust life, and it will teach you, in joy and sorrow, all you need to know.” -James Baldwin (1924-1987)

    If I live in a world that has no meaning beyond my own biography, my own personal pains and joys, I will experience an emptiness that always threatens to render even my most joyous moments “meaningless.” Only through participation in a universe whose ultimate meaning is larger than my own life and life span can this psycho-spiritual problem be resolved.
    –Jeremy Taylor, “Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill”

    “There is no true joy in a life lived closed up in the little shell of the self. When you take one step to reach out to people, when you meet with others and share their thoughts and sufferings, infinite compassion and wisdom well up within your heart. Your life is transformed.” ~D. Ikeda

    On happiness:

    “Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” –Helen Keller

    Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.
    –Rabbi Hyman Judah Schachtel (1907-1990)

    Happiness is not what makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy.
    – David Steindl-Rast

    No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness. –Mary Wollstonecraft

    All the joy the world contains
    Has come through wishing happiness for others;
    All the misery the world contains
    Has come through wanting pleasure for oneself.
    –Shantideva, Buddhist mystic

    Indeed, man wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible. ~Saint Augustine

    I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion, and elimination of ignorance, selfishness, and greed. –Dalai Lama, 1989 Nobel Peace-Prize Speech

    1. I’ve heard this idea that happiness is about pleasure before and I utterly disagree. I think happiness is having a sense of well-being. Contentment, if you will. Happiness is something to enJOY. Joy has always seemed to me to be happiness with some excitement thrown in.

      1. If you define happiness as contentment then we are in agreement and our difference is merely one of semantics, not substance.

      2. BTW, I am content within myself; but not self-satisfied. I guess that makes me happy; but not complacently smug? Is there a smug, complacent happiness? Is it possible to think too much? just walk away, walk away . . . .

      3. There’s also the ancient Greek proverb: “Count no man happy until his death.” Not in the sense of “enjoying pleasure”, if we take this use of the word — but being “fortunate”, “lucky.” Dead folks got no worries, while the rest of us — aren’t happy except so far as we feel genuine trust in God.

        “Sense of well-being” == “getting lots of points on our personal Criteria For Feeling Okay tests”? “Enjoying pleasure” being a prime example…

        I ran into this when I was trying to write a go program; it needed some way to decide whethet it would be “happy” with a potential future position, whether that position would be desirable (what the computer science teachers called “an evaluation function.”) So, I was thinking about putting in a subroutine that would let it add points to its own ‘happiness’ function — a way to stimulate its little virtual “pleasure center”.

        And the point of that — It would give a program more flexibility, more of a chance to learn from “experience” how to recognize what was truly good for it — and it would also give it the potential to fudge, to make itself “happy” without really improving its situation…

  4. Wow…laid in bed last night arguing (with myself) over this exact topic…kept praying and kept hearing “My grace is sufficient for thee”…I guess you don’t know that God is all that you need until God is all that you have…

  5. It is such a paradox, God gives us everything we have and makes us everything we are but we need to realize that nothing we have and nothing we are is what makes us valued and the standard by which we will be measured has nothing to do with our looks or intelligence or how well-connected we are.
    Yet we are here for a reason and God seems to see fit not to tell us by what measure we are being judged but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is nothing like what standard we are being evaluated by other people in this earthly life.
    I have gone through what we are not but what we are is His and Whose we are is how we get our identity, our strength, and out value.
    This is so simple but I forget and distracted and need to learn this lesson over and over and over again.

    1. I would say that being “judged” doesn’t quite convey the way God is treating us. We aren’t being “tested” or “fulfiling the requirements” for anything.

      There are developments that have to happen in us before happiness is actually possible. “If anyone is not as he should be, the blessings of Heaven do not go with him, and nothing furthers him.” [The Ching]

      But as far as God’s love of us applies, it works much in the spirit of a bratty-looking poster I saw once: “I love him — not because he is good — but because he is my little child.”

    2. Are you familiar with the following Bonhoeffer Poem:

      Who Am I?

      Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “Who Am I” just one month before he was executed. This is an English translation of the famous text:

      Who am I? They often tell me I would step from my cell’s confinement calmly, cheerfully, firmly, like a squire from his country-house.

      Who am I? They often tell me I would talk to my warden freely and friendly and clearly, as though it were mine to command.

      Who am I? They also tell me I would bear the days of misfortune equably, smilingly, proudly, like one accustomed to win.

      Am I then really all that which other men tell of, or am I only what I know of myself, restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage, struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds, thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness, trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation, tossing in expectation of great events, powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, faint and ready to say farewell to it all.

      Who am I? This or the other? Am I one person today, and tomorrow another? Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling? Or is something within me still like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

      Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

      Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

  6. Once again, Rebecca, you express the lessons that God is also teaching me. For the past year or so, I’ve been looking for a job. My husband is leaving the Navy in early 2014, and we’ll need stability for the transition. Yet every time I fill out a job application, my spirit feels uneasy. I feel like God keeps saying, “No. This isn’t the direction I’m taking you.” In all this time, I’ve only had one interview. I can’t even get staffing agencies to call me back. I’ve got a kitchen and a bathroom that could really use some remodeling (as in circa 1965) and no clothes to even wear to a job. And in this time of limited finances, God is calling me to give more to the needy. So I’m doing more to trust God and feeling a greater measure of peace and fulfillment. But it’s not easy by any stretch. My husband is not a believer and he has certain expectations for what I will do. And God hasn’t quite shown me what his plans are. Sometimes, the situation feels outright maddening.

    1. April – I am right there with you. In so many ways. This fall I finally got so tired of fighting to try and do more and better and never succeeding. I decided that all that was left was to just trust God. It feels like letting go of the rope your hanging off the side of a cliff by. I’m just waiting for the splat at the end. Ah well – God is good. He told me so.

    2. I remember, as a relatively new convert, expressing my frustration to one of the pastors of not knowing what “God’s Will” was for my life when so many others seemed so certain of His Will for them. Gary opened his bible and read, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4

      So, as long as we are walking by faith we are in God’s Will. Perhaps he leaves the details up to us and just asks us to “bloom where we are planted.” That is one of the perks of making the Gospel our primary passion in life. It leaves so many options open and does not narrow our lives down to a few “spiritual” vocations.

      “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” –Susan B. Anthony

      1. Very true. I’ve definitely been learning to bloom where planted. I’ve been doing more to embrace my role at home and focusing more on my writing. I’ll keep looking for jobs, just because that’s what I should be doing. But I’ll leave the details to God.

  7. I found this book review online. It looks promising:


    Book Review
    By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

    The Five Things We Cannot Change . . .
    and the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them
    David Richo
    Shambhala 06/06 Paperback $12.95
    ISBN: 1590303083

    Let’s cut right to the chase: the five givens that we all have to deal with in this world are:
    1. Everything changes and ends.
    2. Things do not always go according to plan.
    3. Life is not fair.
    4. Pain is part of life.
    5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.
    But our active and aggressive egos are terrified by these facts of life and will do anything to get around them.
    Tapping into his 30 years as a therapist, pastoral counselor, and self-help author (How to Be an Adult in Relationships), David Richo urges us to see that these givens must be embraced gratefully and used to draw out the best in us. For example, although everything changes and ends, renewal and resurrection are always surprising us with new possibilities. Instead of letting pain defeat us, we can use it to develop courage and compassion for the suffering of others.
    Richo hits the mark with his commentary on the ego’s continual campaigns to control others. He suggests a relentless spiritual campaign against this behavior using the five A’s — acceptance, attention, appreciation, affection and allowing. He describes a spiritual practice for use in any predicament: Hold both hands out, cupped, palms upward, and imagine them holding two opposites. Feel the light and equal weight of both, since your hands are empty. Then say, for example, “I can serenely hold both my need for relationship and my not having one right now.”
    We also loved Richo’s characterization of the imperial ego’s encrustations as FACE — Fear, Anger, Control, Entitlement. No wonder he defines enlightenment as “lightening ourselves of the heavy wardrobe of ego.” These ideas and spiritual practices are gateways to contentment.

    1. You know, I learned a long time ago that the Hebrew method of meditation going back to ancient times was to hold two seemingly conflicting ideas in their head at the same time until the truth, connection and dependence on each other became clear. I think that this willingness to use this both/and method of understanding rather than just picking sides is exactly God chose Abraham and the Hebrew people as his own. It seems to not be a very common thing to be willing to do even now. But it’s actually the way that I have meditated for a very long time. I find it to be extremely effective in gaining understanding and being able to weed out what is true from what is false.

      1. “The test of first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

        “…paradox arises not from intransigent incongruity in the nature of reality, …but from man’s far too rigid and unyielding habits of thought and from the character of his language, which in turn result from his reluctance to accept unconventional implications of new experience.”–Harold K. Schilling

        It is the duty of the human understanding to understand that there are things which it cannot understand, and what those things are. Human understanding has vulgarly occupied itself with nothing but understanding, but if it would only take the trouble to understand itself at the same time it would simply have to posit the paradox. –Soren Kierkegaard

        “One of the essential paradoxes of Advent: that while we wait for God, we are with God all along, that while we need to be reassured of God’s arrival, or the arrival of our homecoming, we are already at home. While we wait, we have to trust, to have faith, but it is God’s grace that gives us that faith. As with all spiritual knowledge, two things are true, and equally true, at once. The mind can’t grasp paradox; it is the knowledge of the soul.” ~Michelle Blake

        That is the Eastern way of thinking–paradoxical or non-dualistic. We sometimes forget that Christianity is originally a Middle Eastern Religion. Eastern thought is also holistic (Big Picture/Story) rather than reductionistic (little picture/story). In the East the individual gets lost. In the West the community gets lost. Easterners have difficulty seeing the trees for the forest. Westerners often can’t see the forest for the trees.

        In Judaism it was possible simultaneously to ascribe change of purpose to God and to declare that God did not change, without resolving the paradox; for the immutability of God was seen as the trustworthiness of covenanted relation to his people in the concrete history of his judgment and mercy, rather than as a primarily ontological category. –Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition—Vol. 1.

        “Ken Wilber says that he believes the function of religion is to grease the wheels of history so that we can move toward non-dual consciousness, or what I would call the contemplative mind. Quite simply, we are supposed to move toward love. Mature religion’s function is to make us
        capable of compassion, mercy, forgiveness, nonviolence, and care for others. When religion is not creating people who can reconcile things, heal things, and absorb contradictions—then religion isn’t doing its job.
        When we stopped teaching the contemplative mind in a systematic way about 400 to 500 years ago, we lost the capacity to deal with paradox, inconsistency, and human imperfection. Instead, it became “winners take all” and losers lose all. Despite all our universities and churches in Western Christianity, we learned to choose one side over the other and if possible, exclude, punish, or even kill the other side. That’s dualistic thinking at its worst; and it’s the normal mind that has taken over our world. It creates very angry and often, violent people. Peace and happiness are no longer possible, because there is always a crusade to be waged and won. That is ego at work and surely not soul.” ~Richard Rohr

        Rene Decartes gave dualism its philosophical formulation; but it was around long before that. The Protestant Reformers thought dualistically. That is why they radically opposed Grace to nature rather than recognizing the synergistic relationship and the Bible to Tradition, which resulted in the loss of the Christian wisdom Tradition (Patristics). Every other Religious Tradition, including Catholicism and Easthern Orthdoxy has a wisdom Tradition that has evolved over time as the people continued to draw deeper meaning from, their Scriptures. The Scriptures are actually the primary source document and the writings of the Early Church Fathers and the Saints are the secondary source documents for the Christian Religion.

        “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide.
        Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.” –Jaroslav Pelikan

        By confusing Tradition with traditionalism and opposing it to Scripture, Protestantism lost the means of evolving with the times. That is why conservatives are so often overwhelmed by contemporary socioeconomic/political challenges. The have no idea of what to do between the first and second coming of Christ, except be guided by rigid legal concepts. They have turned their faith into the same dead legalism that the Reformation opposed in 16th century Catholicism.


        And teaches us to say yes
        And allows us to be both-and
        And keeps us from either-or
        And teaches us to be patient and long suffering
        And is willing to wait for insight and integration
        And keeps us from dualistic thinking
        And does not divide the field of the moment
        And helps us to live in the always imperfect now
        And keeps us inclusive and compassionate toward everything
        And demands that our contemplation become action
        And insists that our action is also contemplative
        And heals our racism, our sexism, heterosexism, and our classism
        And keeps us from the false choice of liberal or conservative
        And allows us to critique both sides of things
        And allows us to enjoy both sides of things
        And is far beyond any one nation or political party
        And helps us face and accept our own dark side
        And allows us to ask for forgiveness and to apologize
        And is the mystery of paradox in all things
        And is the way of mercy
        And makes daily, practical love possible
        And does not trust love if it is not also justice
        And does not trust justice if it is not also love
        And is far beyond my religion versus your religion
        And allows us to be both distinct and yet united
        And is the very Mystery of Trinity
        ~Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

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