I read a recent article reporting on tweets published by Boston University professor Saidi Grundy. Grundy, a newly-hired assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at the school located on the Charles River, tweeted that in her view:
“White masculinity isn’t a problem for america’s colleges, white masculinity is THE problem for america’s colleges.”
I believe if professor Grundy and I were to meet, she would not find me a threat to her achieving great things in this world. I write that at the risk of appearing self-serving, because I am a middle-aged, white, heterosexual, married man with two children. Even though Grundy has labeled people like me as “the problem,” her comments do not evoke anger, but instead they give me pause for concern. They are not merely a swipe at white people, they are a warning sign of just how divided our culture has become and the distinct vacuum of voices that are calling for unity.
I blame much of the division in our society on God. Or, rather how we have made God less important to our human experience and our journey through life, or lives, if you believe in reincarnation.
Steve McSwain, a self-described Counselor to Congregations in an opinion piece he wrote for the Huffington Post referenced a study by the Hartford Institute of Religion Research that found more than 40% of Americans claim they go to church weekly, but in fact less than 20% are actually in a pew. Fewer people in church may be a symptom that something is “wrong,” but I am also sensitive to the notions that not everyone is a “joiner” or is comfortable with organized religion. After all, God is everywhere and one does not need to attend a physical structure – a church, temple or mosque – to find Him.
If the reduction in people congregating in holy places does not concern you, then the fact that fewer Americans believe in God’s existence should. A Harris poll in December 2013 discovered that although a strong majority of U.S. adults, at 74%, believe in God, that number is down from 82%, which stood fairly steady in 2005, 2007 and 2009. That is a rapid and steep decline in the number of believers in America.
More recently, on May 12, 2015, the Pew Research Center published their study America’s Changing Religious Landscape, based on a survey of 35,000 Americans. Pew found that in 2014, the number of people identifying as Christians has fallen to 70.8%, a steep drop from 78.4% only seven years earlier. Membership in non-Christian faiths increased a modest 1.2%, while the ranks of the unaffiliated, which include atheists, agnostics and “nothing in particular” grew by 6.7% during the same period.
Filling the Spaces Between Us
The spiritual physics of the matter are such that as God has retreated from society, something else has come in to fill the spaces between us, namely separatism.
Instead of leaders in education, politics, business, science and religion emphasizing unity, they teach and preach that it is what makes us different that makes us special.
Instead of communicating that we should tolerate our differences and seek unity through virtue, we are being taught that it is the differences themselves that make us who we are. This is a dangerous teaching.
We see separatism all along the political and cultural spectrum. We see separatism in identity politics to create ever new special classes of people who are told they are victims and need protection of the law, even for emotional micro-offenses. We see separatism when fearful whites look at brown people as invaders and black people as merely athletes, rioters or the products of fatherless families. We see separatism when political extremists smear the other side as having evil intent and employ divisive wedge issues as standard political fare. This atomization of society into ever-smaller and more specialized interest groups prevents us from achieving not just national unity, but spiritual unity with each other and with God.
Union. That is what Abraham Lincoln sought to save when he went to war against the Confederacy. The greatest threat to America does not come from China, Russia, al-Qaeda, ISIS, drug cartels or other external enemies, but instead is the threat of our own social and political disintegration.
Grundy’s comments are a warning sign, because she is a leader in education, someone who has been elevated to a position of influence. Based on her communications on social media, she is emphasizing the differences in Americans and lumping all white men into one group. There is a name for that, and it is called prejudice.
But worse than simple bias, is that separatist teachings and opinions are rooted in illusion and spiritual ignorance, because under God there is no distinction on the basis of race, sex or nationality. Our souls are created in the image of our mutual Creator, and our bodies are merely vehicles used by the soul to experience the world and for creative expression. Each physical body is occupied by a spark of consciousness seeking to find its way home, and it is our common divine origin and destiny that makes us equal.
In the last century, black and white church leaders emphasized the essential truth of One Humanity, one human family with a common, divine ancestry. If we are all God’s children and created equal as our Founders recognized, then how can we justify the unequal treatment of fellow brothers and sisters? Their message of unity was instrumental in advancing the nation towards a more perfect union. Black and white clergy worked together to put an end to the Jim Crow south. The Pew Research Report noted previously also reported that Christianity in America is becoming more ethnically diverse, as the number of non-white Christians increased to 34% in 2014, up from 29% in 2007.
Despite the sad fact that many white churches at the time used cultural interpretations of religion to justify racial separation and prevent interracial marriages, others with a more inclusive consciousness taught the simple truth that God has never been quoted on record as saying that any particular race is better than another. Closer study reveals that the unity of the human race is the foundational message of nearly all divinely inspired teachings.
Another spiritual truth lost in the retreat of God from the culture is that although we are all born into this world imperfect, it is our task to strive to achieve perfection and live, think and act like the spark of divinity that is our essential self. Striving to achieve perfection, one step at a time, is the task God gave each individual. When someone is consciously on this path of internal discipline, we see him or her develop a more virtuous character and express ever greater creativity, joy and beauty, which in turn creates prosperity.
The fruits of self-discipline – generosity, honesty, justice, humility, nobility, joy, tolerance, intelligence, wisdom and striving – are not black, white, brown or yellow racial attributes. These are universal values prized in all societies, because they are reflections, faint as they may be, of God’s nature. Even thoughtful non-believers know a good thing when they see it, and many atheists value the universal values.
For all His Love, God gave humanity free will, which means the way He comes into the world is through humanity, you and me.
If God is in retreat, then it is our doing, and if He is to return, then it is up to us to prepare the way by giving Him the fertile ground of a virtuous nature needed to grow the seeds His wisdom.
That is an individual responsibility, as we must secure our own salvation by doing the hard work, for you cannot do it for me no more than I can do it for you, and government most certainly cannot bestow it upon anyone.
Thomas Jefferson knew that governing a nation of free men and women presented its own challenges. Freed from the yoke of an authoritarian monarch, imperfect people would have to become their own kings and queens. People would have to learn to govern themselves, and Jefferson took great interest in the teachings of Jesus as one moral code that every American could use to discipline his or her character. He went so far as to create his own version of the Bible, one that emphasized the teachings of Jesus, but that was sanitized of the supernatural and miracles. Perhaps Jefferson did this with the foresight that removing religious dogma and supernatural phenomena would help Jesus’ inspired words and ideas spread to citizens of other faiths or even atheists?
America has become more ethnically diverse since its formation, making today a very good time to recall that America is a nation founded on an idea – not a racial preference. Even if the Founders were a bunch of old, white, landowning men, some of which were slave owners, we have to remember that they were opposing other white Europeans holding very different ideas on government and the source of human rights. America is not a racial enterprise and the promise of e plurbis unum – out of many, one – remains at the core of both American civilization and spiritual purpose. Even though we may look different to each other, in God’s eyes we are all very much the same.
More separatism in the form of racism, reverse discrimination, victimization, fear and teaching that it is our differences that make us special are not the ideas that will move us forward in this century. Instead, recognizing our common divine heritage and celebrating what makes us the same spiritually is the best way to form a more perfect union.
Oh, I almost forgot. What does this all have to do with the Beatles? I am reminded of the song Come Together, in which the chorus is “Come together, right now, over me.” I believe that is what God is asking us to do right now – develop a more virtuous nature and come together in reasoned principle, the will to good and the unity of One Humanity. With that said, I would hazard a guess that His favorite Fab Four tune is probably All You Need is Love.
Yeah, God is definitely a Beatle’s fan.