Thursday, January 28, 2016
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
[Excerpt from a letter to a clergy friend. I don't think he would mind my sharing this part.]
Opinions among Christians vary, for sure, but it seems not to me that Buddhism contradicts the teachings of Jesus. On the other hand, who really understands Christianity or Buddhism? Some Christians are concerned about any path that does not confirm the primacy of the Bible or affirm a personal relationship with Jesus as the literally resurrected son of God. Others are more comfortable code-switching, and embrace zen as an accessory to prayer, to touch Christ with our inmost being and transcend our egocentric "selfing." Also, as I have observed the Christian world in America, Christ as king dominates the view of Christ as light. One stresses obedience, the other true liberation.
You see again my Quaker as well as my zen leaning.
There is this, from Thomas Merton:
But Christ Himself is in us as unknown and unseen. We follow Him, we find Him and then He must vanish and we must go along without Him at our side. Why? Because He is even closer than that. He is ourself.
Some find this repugnant, even blasphemous, while others clap their hands and say, Yes! That is what it is like! What He is like, while I dwell in this body.
In any case, even with all this stated, zen practice or consideration of the Buddha's words do not preclude belief in God. You state, with understated elegance, the necessity to realize the promise of the Kingdom here, while we are here. Similarly, zen is about realizing the awakening of which Buddha spoke, in this lifetime - not in some rebirth or Pure Land but in the world of muck and sorrow (but also of laughter and music).
Sometimes when I speak with Christians I even juxtapose salvation with the Bodhisattva vow. Bodhisattvas are beings who could be reborn in the Pure Land or heaven or not at all, but choose to remain within this world until all beings (or all being to take a wider view) are liberated. In light of my vow, I have presented the problem of salvation: why should I not remain among the suffering? My point is ultimately similar to yours: how do we live and uphold one another here?
Monday, January 25, 2016
Memes like the one above are becoming more common with the rise in popularity of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running for the Democratic Party's nomination for president. The senator has embraced the term "democratic socialism" to describe his politics.
With Trump calling Sanders a "communist" (which Sanders certainly is not), supporters of Hillary Clinton raising the prospect of campaign ads tying Sanders to images of the hammer and sickle (i.e. red baiting), TV host Lawrence O'Donnell frequently identifying himself as a socialist yet never critiquing capitalism, and memes like this equating socialism with capitalist public sector programs (many of which are "safety nets" to mitigate the social damage of capitalism), I find myself wanting to nitpick.
Those are all things that socialists would support, pretty much, and so do liberals - but liberalism and socialism are not synonyms. As someone who identifies as a socialist, not a liberal, I would like to see more precise language in social media conversations about what we would like to see, what we don't want, and our questions about how to make good things happen, to "begin the world over again," as Thomas Paine put it. (Note: Paine was not a socialist, I'm just quoting his famous phrase.)
Unlike liberals, socialists are people who want society to move beyond capitalism to something based on communal ownership and egalitarian benefit (although visions of what the society would look like and what role democracy would play in it vary widely). So yes, all of these programs are things socialists support (although they would also take an interest in how these programs are funded and who is in charge of them), as do liberals, but liberals - who believe the capitalist system should simply be managed better and made a bit more fair if possible - are having a different conversation than socialists. And many liberals despise socialists.
As a socialist, I consider Bernie Sanders more of a liberal, albeit one who is not hostile to socialism.