The Scottish Presbyterian church is roiling over the ago-old conflict between Christian evangelicals and Christian liberals. The Canadian election is roiling over the conflict between those who favour a woman's right to wear a niqab while swearing the oath of citizenship and those who think she must 'unveil'. The United States government is roiling over the Russian military incursion into Syria and its dropping cruise missiles on what they claim to be 'terrorist cells' which the Americans claim are strongholds of the opponents to President Bashar Al Assad. The European Union is roiling over the tsunami of refugees that are beating the doors down pleading for entry into a life of peaceful fulfilment while fleeing conditions most Europeans would reject as both disgusting and sickening.
The Republican Party is roiling over who is an authentic black man, President Obama or candidate Dr. Ben Carson, and in the process opening historic wounds of racism, classism, and the relation of both to political ideology. The United Nations General Assembly was/is roiling over its apparent impotence in terminating the Syrian conflict, resolving the Ukrainian incursion by Russian-supported militants (are these terrorists too, in Putin's definition?) and the corruption charges against the General Assembly Speaker. North Korea is roiling over its president's hubristic claim that his country is more than ready for war against the United States, rattling sabres of new detonations of nuclear weapons, probably underground. China is roiling over the 70+% of its male population who smoke, the two-thirds of young men who begin to smoke and the projected deaths of at least one third of all smokers in China by 2030. China is also roiling over the smog that blankets some of its cities from industrial carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired energy plants. South Carolina is roiling over the hit imposed by the 1000-year storm that flooded her towns, cities, people and land. The Republicans in the House of Representatives are roiling over the resignation of Speaker John Boehner, and the stepping aside of his perceived successor Kevin McCarthy, leaving them exposed to their own self-sabotage as elected representatives and a political party. The aboriginal community in Canada is roiling over the insulting indifference that hangs over the over 1100 murdered or missing aboriginal women whose deaths are still not accounted for, and for whom there is considerable national resistance to a national public inquiry. Most Canadians are roiling over the racism and the hypocrisy that hangs over our treatment of aboriginal peoples since the date of confederation.
Roiling, in other words, seems to be a condition of contemporary culture. The public is "roiling;" it is "disturbed;" it is "angry;" it is anxious and uncertain.
Public figures, especially those running for political office, take it upon themselves to play "doctor to the soul" of whatever region or constituency they purport to represent. And yet, that "soul" is so assaulted by the language and the actions of the "religious" community. Knowing the "public soul" is such a fraught phrase in terms of its literal meaning, its connotative meaning and the sources of those who offer both diagnoses and prescriptions for its healing.
It was the transcendentalists, Emerson and Thoreau, following upon the heels of the romantics, who argued that everything, every person, every rock and tree and stream constituted the soul. Of course, their "theory" or "philosophy" was anathema to the Christian belief that centred on a biblical narrative of the New Testament that posits a Saviour's birth, ministry, death and resurrection as the model of both discipleship and salvation. It the deity is in everything, then Jesus is another 'container' and recipient and voice and poet and visionary of and for that deity.
And if the institutional Christian church, as the legitimate expression of the story of Jesus, is replete with its own cracks, misgivings, misrepresentations, and even abuses of the deity, then clearly other public institutions could and would have their own ethical, moral and spiritual failures. In fact, it would not be unreasonable to argue that the institutions, per se, are at the root of the many roilings that we read about above.
Institutions, by definition, have a set of parameters to which they must adhere, as well as a history of their own abuses of the people whose stories comprise the 'shoulders' on which the institutions were built. In the deity is within each individual human and every other thing on the planet, then, while that deity could also be ascribed residence within the ecclesial walls, the institution will, by definition and by all other actions, words, stories and beliefs and dogma, comprise a 'less than' complete expression of something which will not fit into any specific words, actions, or beliefs. In fact, as history demonstrates so abundantly and tragically, many of the human expressions of conflict, including murders, and exclusions, and excommunications and most other human aberrations and what are considered crimes, can be traced back to the failure of the institutions to incarnate the deity's essence and example in its own life.
We are all, paradoxically, imbued with a divine quality, and capable of transgressing against that divinity, as well as transgressing against ourselves and perhaps it is only in the individual's divinity that we find the most pure expression of the divine. Hence, it is not so difficult to posit that many of our transgressions are linked to, if not absolutely resulting consequences of, the imprint imposed by the institutions of our culture, including the family, the school, the church, the governments, the military and certainly the business conglomerates.
The purist of expressions of beauty and truth and love, for example, could easily and arguably be expressions of the only divinity, the only deity, known to human beings. And following from that premise, our life patterns could be, arguably, a search to restore our affinity for and our need for such expressions of beauty, truth and love. Of course, we fall short, in our pursuit; and of course we blame others for our failures. And, perhaps, it is not so much individuals who must bear our accusations, but perhaps the institutions themselves that we should be holding accountable. It is not, perhaps, our mothers and fathers, our bosses and teachers, our mentors and partners who share responsibility for our failures, as some would have us believe. Perhaps it is the institutions of all, those inanimate, and imperfect and clearly self-interested and self-aggrandising and morally and ethically 'detached and neutral' things that human beings have erected as monuments to our own hubris, and our tragic need for power and control, that need to bear more of our resentments and our anger and our frustration and our aggression and our "dark side."
However, most of the "roilings" we are confronted with and by today, emerge from conflicts in our extremely limited and capped conceptions of deity, and thereby of beauty, truth and love. We are living in a world whose conceptual framework is limited to the acquisition of money and power. We are living in a world whose metaphysical framework is limited to the definition of "wrong" acts committed and the punishment of those wrong acts by a state whose own conception of the unlimited beauty, truth and love surrounding it is so impaired as to be virtually inconsequential. At the same time, its exaggerated fear of losing control is so out of control that it requires punishments so severe and incompatible with the wrongs committed, that its neurosis is in charge. We have participated in a drastic and tragic reductionism of the meaning the expression and the expectation of the deity, of the divine and of "god" in both capitalized and non-capitalized versions, that we have insulted all expressions of the deity, however we define and conceptualize that entity. And we have agreed to our own complicity in this reduction, so much so that even our churches, whose existence is dependent on a celebration of the divine, have lost most hope of recovering a visceral and credible approximation of God and of the divine and have also lost the language and the experience of the living inspiration and enthusiasm that can and does come from a relationship with the divine, with the deity.
What if, for example, the Scottish church is debating the inconsequential differences between the evangelicals and the liberals, differences which evoke only a benign smile from the deity?
What if, for example, the nuclear threats, and the terrorist threats, and the threats of sexual differences are, to the deity, merely more indications of our lostness in our own hubris, a hubris that requires our tenacious hold to "something absolute" because our fears are in charge, and because have become embedded in our own minutiae of perfection, while losing our perspective on the beauty, truth and love we share in our private lives?
What if our dedication to the institutional definitions of success and meaning, (power and money) demonstrate our obsequiousness to the wrong sources of meaning and purpose for human life, and our simultaneous blindness and deafness to the cries of the really needy and the really suffering among us?
What if our power and control need is subverting our pursuit of human relationships, of art and poetry and music and discussions of the meaning and purpose of life, resulting in our filled emergency rooms, and our over-flowing pubs and parties and Gatsby-esque narcissism, as we chase our idols, and reject our own divinity?
We if, instead of pointing fingers at the other religions, and shooting bullets at those whose beliefs differ from ours, and instead of beheading infidels, we were to stop and reflect on our own potential for the divine, our own expression of the deity, and our potential sharing of the beauty, truth and love that gives life to each person who searches for those expressions of the divine?
What if, for example, our politicians were able to unpack their own fears and their own anxieties, and seek for the "common good" as a path toward a shared expression of beauty, truth and love, rather than pontificating in a charade for power and control, the limits of which pursuit can and will only cause pain and devastation for many?
What if, in our open acknowledgement of the divine, the deity, within, we were finally able and willing to remove the plank in our own eye, that precludes our focussed and shared initiatives in reclaiming the healthy planetary ecosystems that sustain all hope for the survival of life on the planet?
What if....dreams were no longer acceptable, feasible and responsible...
Would we finally have slain the deity within us all?