Politics: Week 2
Hope and Humility
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
At a time when our politics may seem bleak and hopeless, poet, peacemaker, minister, and scholar John Philip Newell offers us both encouragement and challenge:
We live in a moment of grace. Through the hedges of our divisions we are beginning to glimpse again the beauty of life’s oneness. We are beginning to hear, in a way that humanity has never heard before, the essential harmony that lies at the heart of the universe. And we are beginning to understand, amidst the horror and suffering of our divisions, that we will be well to the extent that we move back into relationship with one another, whether as individuals and families or as nations and species. . . .
[Newell reminds us of the Holocaust and how Germany, under Hitler’s command, murdered millions of Jews in Poland.] The German nation was not alone in this. Some of our worst inhumanities as nations, including Britain and America, have been perpetrated on foreign soil and kept at a distance, as if to hide from our own soul the sacrilege of what we are doing. . . . Something in our collective psyche has pretended that the families of another land are not as sacred as the sons and daughters of our own. . . .
Think of the hubris of our lives. Think of our individual arrogance, the way we pursue our own well-being at the neglect and even expense of [others]. . . . Think of the hubris of our nationhood, pretending that we could look after the safety of our homeland by ignoring and even violating the sovereignty of other lands. Think of the hubris of our religion, raising ourselves up over other wisdom traditions and even trying to force our ways on them. Think of the hubris of the human species, pretending that we could look after our own health while exploiting and endangering the life of other species. . . .
[This] is opposite to the way of Jesus, who taught the strength of humility, of being close to the humus, close to the Ground from which we and all things come. The humblest, says Jesus, are “the greatest” (Matthew 18:4). Not that following Jesus’ path of humility is straightforward. Constantly there is tension—the tension of discerning how to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, how to honor the heart of another nation as we honor our own homeland, how to revere the truths of another wisdom tradition as we cherish our own inheritance, how to protect the life of other species as we guard the sanctity of our own life-form. Jesus knew such tension. He was tempted to use his wisdom and his power of presence to serve himself, to lift himself up over others. But to the tempter, he says, “Away with you, Satan!” (Matthew 4:10). Away with the falseness of believing that I can love myself and demean others.
John Philip Newell, A New Harmony: The Spirit, the Earth, and the Human Soul (Jossey-Bass: 2011), 58, 83-84.