Satyagraha, Ahimsa, and A Rule for Motives and Acts

Mahatma Gandhi, that great leader of non-violent resistance, said, “I have discovered in the earliest stages that pursuit of truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one’s opponent but that he must be weaned from error by patience and compassion. For what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent, but on oneself.”

According to Wikipedia “Satyagraha” ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyagraha) means “soul force” or “truth force” and can be loosely translated as “insistence on truth.” “Satyagraha” was a term created and used by Mahatma Gandhi in his non-violent struggle against foreign control of India. “Ahimsa” – the Hindu belief that all living things are connected and that we should treat all life with kindness and non-violence – is fundamental to Satyagraha. Gandhi believed we are all morally interdependent on each other – we depend on each other to do the “right thing” – that it is imperative for us to cultivate what is decent in each other.

Recently, as I was pondering A Rule for Motives and Acts for members of the Christian Science Mother Church, it struck me how similar it is to the idea of “Satyagraha” –

A Rule for Motives and Acts (Article VIII, Section 1 of the Manual for the Mother Church): “Neither animosity nor mere personal attachment should impel the motives or acts of the members of The Mother Church. In Science, divine Love alone governs man; and a Christian Scientists reflects the sweet amenities of Love, in rebuking sin, in true brotherliness, charitableness, and forgiveness. The members of the Church should daily watch and pray to be delivered from all evil, from prophesying, judging, condemning, counseling, influencing, or being influenced erroneously.”

First Readers of the Christian Science branch churches read this rule from the podium the first Sunday of every month. When I’ve served as First Reader in our branch church, and read this rule out loud to the congregation, there’s been a part of me that cringes inside a little. I’m a little embarrassed. A little awkward. And hugely humbled. I mean… well, who am I to be reading this rule to the congregation? I know with certainty that there have been times when I have not lived up to this rule. Have I always been loyal to God, Love, Truth – the Principle of Christian Science – rather than to persons? Have I always had the courage and humility to “rebuke sin” – not in a way that personalizes it – but in the manner of Gandhi, weaning “from error by patience and compassion” and with self-suffering, or – as Mary Baker Eddy puts it – extracting error from mortal mind and pouring in truth “through flood-tides of Love“? Have I always been charitable and forgiving? Have I always refrained from “judging, condemning, counseling, influencing, or being influenced erroneously”?

Yowza.

We don’t have a lot of doctrine, dogma, or creed in the Christian Science church. There are not a whole lot of detailed rules, really, about how we should eat, dress, stand, sit, wear our hair, or address one another, and there are no rules that separate men and women in any way, or create a church class system and hierarchy. We are pretty much free agents when it comes to that stuff – free to follow our own conscience and understanding.

In the textbook for Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes, “The time for thinkers has come. Truth, independent of doctrines and time-honored systems, knocks at the portal of humanity.” A little later she writes, “Our Master (Jesus) taught no mere theory, doctrine, or belief. It was the divine Principle of all real being which he taught and practised. His proof of Christianity was no form or system of religion and worship, but Christian Science, working out the harmony of Life and Love.” Eddy writes, “Surely it is not enough to cleave to barren and desultory dogmas, derived from the traditions of the elders…”

So. Yeah. Which brings us back to A Rule for Motives and Acts. All the other stuff that one sometimes finds in humanly-organized religion – the dress codes, the class system, the distinction between genders, the rules about food – all of that pretty much seems meaningless when put next to the idea that “divine Love alone governs man,” doesn’t it?

Do Christian Scientists have a doctrine at all? Well, there is this: “This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind nor life result in death. The perfect man – governed by God, his perfect Principle – is sinless and eternal.” (from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy)

Perfect Principle and perfect man. Perpetual, uninterrupted joy. Unconditional, unending Love – shining on everyone, without distinction. Endless Life. That’s a goal worthy of our time and energies, yes?

Adventures of the Madcap Christian Scientist

Creeds, doctrines, and human hypotheses do not express Christian Science; much less can they demonstrate it. – Mary Baker Eddy

To seek Truth through belief in a human doctrine is not to understand the infinite. We must not seek the immutable and immortal through the finite, mutable, and mortal, and so depend upon belief instead of demonstration… – Mary Baker Eddy

        The way to extract error from mortal mind is to pour in truth through flood-tides of Love. – Mary Baker Eddy

***

Mahatma Gandhi, that great leader of non-violent resistance, said, “I have discovered in the earliest stages that pursuit of truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one’s opponent but that he must be weaned from error by patience and compassion. For what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine…

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Love Doesn’t Choose Who Not to Love

At a stoplight I find myself
behind a truck with bumper stickers
that make me cringe –
one is for a politician,
another for an organization
I know is corrupt and created
out of greed.
 
I start attaching negative
labels to the driver ahead of me –
and I catch myself mid-thought.
I make a conscious choice –
I will love.
Forever how long I’m behind him
until we part ways –
no, beyond that, too –
I’ll just love.
 
I need some help with this, though.
I go through the files in my head
and pull out Alison Krauss’s version
of “I Will.” That one always helps.
I start singing it – hearing playful
banjo accompaniment as I sing.
My heart lifts –
I am filled with irrepressible joy.
All hate, fear, and cringing melt away
in my heart and all that’s left is light-
hearted good will.
 
The driver turns where I was going
to turn. I follow him. He takes my next
turn, too. I’m still behind, loving.
I follow him around the curves and bends
in the road – singing to him – though he
doesn’t know. One more turn together.
Still singing.
 
Just as we part ways – my thoughts
reaching out to him – full of joy and love –
I realize I can extend this song
to the politician, too.
Because Love doesn’t choose
who not to love.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell
love-hath-made

The Shutdown Is Not Working for Us

Dear Republican Senators:
The Government shutdown is not working for us. You are not serving the best interests of the people who elected you to represent them.

The bill that the House of Representatives recently passed is the exact same bill you passed, unanimously, only a month ago. There is no good reason not to pass it again. Please stop holding the American people hostage. Pass the bill, get the government working again, PAY THE GOVERNMENT WORKERS AND STOP TREATING THEM LIKE FREE LABOR (give them a raise while you’re at it – Lord knows they’ve earned it), and THEN talk about The Wall with the Democrats.

You all know there are better ways of protecting our borders than a wall. You all know about the technology we have available to us in the 21st century to protect our borders (and if you don’t know about this technology, perhaps now is the time to get acquainted with it) – technology that would make a wall obsolete.

If McConnell won’t do the right thing, then it is time for you to remove him as your majority leader, and get on with fixing this mess.

Sincerely,
Karen Molenaar Terrell

And Give You a Mug of Chamomile Tea

I read your comment on a friend’s wall
and got all fired up about it all.
“Most rational people feel as I do,”
said you.. “If you were rational, you would, too.
Don’t criticize him. Shut up. Be quiet.”
And in my thoughts you started a riot.
 
But… but… if Love leads us to warn
when our nation’s battered and torn
by moneyed men in their positions of power
and we cover our ears and eyes and cower
and say nothing – aren’t we abandoning our duty
to our country, our God, our own humanity?
 
When you tell others to be quiet, I feel wary –
people telling others to shut up is kind of scary –
when you say “most” and make a generalization
I see bias, I see no logic, I worry for our nation.
So I wrote a response to your weird comment

I clicked on “post” and published my own vent.

And then, curious, I went to your timeline
I wanted to see your face, to see what kind
of person would write those thoughts –
wondering if you were living in some kind of box.
And my mouth fell open when I saw what I saw –
a sweet face, a sweet smile, a white-haired grandma!

My heart felt a tug –
I wanted to give you a hug
and give you a mug
of chamomile tea.
I wonder when you’ll see.

– Karen Molenaar Terrell

First-Hand Experience

I recently posted on my Facebook wall a blog post by John Pavlovitz titled The Extinction of the White Male Dinosaur.  In the post, Pavlovitz writes: “In the coming days, the Tweets will become more erratic, the legislative assaults grow more transparently desperate, the hate crimes more brazen, the sermons grow more alarmist and incendiary. These Jurassic, soon-to-be-amber-trapped relics, will act is if the very sky above them is falling, because in very real ways, it is. They will thrash and spit and bellow, in an effort to buy themselves a few more days and a bit more power and another Federal judge or two, but they cannot stave off their inevitable disappearance, as progress and civilization and time swallow them up.”

As you might imagine, the post got a reaction from my Facebook friends. One of my friends asked, “Where does all the venom towards white males come from?”

To which I replied, “I love white males. My father is one. My brothers. My husband. My sons. This blog post (by Pavlovitz) was, in fact, written by a white male. It wasn’t written as an attack on white males, but as an observation of the death of white male privilege. Which I have never liked so much.”

Another friend (a white male) commented, “Please stop spreading the hate.”  He wrote: “One of the biggest problems today is the media. Try turning your television off. Try NOT believing everything you read on social media. Try to have a nice day!”

Here is my response to that comment and other comments like that one:
I don’t generally watch TV news – it’s too upsetting to me – sometimes I’ll watch PBS because they’re not loaded with commercials selling pharmaceuticals and they don’t show the graphic images of death that you see over and over again, replaying on the other networks. I generally get my news from print articles.

Here’s a question for those who ask me to stop sharing my thoughts: If my dad had posted the Pavlovitz blog post would anyone have told him to “stop spreading hate”? I’m guessing not. And I think that is an example, right there, of white male privilege. Dad calls himself a “lifelong Democrat” – his immigrant Dutch father was, in fact, a socialist. Both Dad and Mom were proud to vote for Barack Obama – and celebrated big-time when he won. No one has ever tried to censor Dad’s words or asked him to stop sharing his thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

The blog post by John Pavlovitz that I posted above isn’t about hating anyone. It’s about celebrating the end of a system – an archaic “dinosaur” of a system – that has kept women and minorities underpaid and underemployed – and has kept them from sharing in the power enjoyed by white males in this country for centuries.

I don’t hate Mitch McConnell. I don’t even hate Trump. But I hate the system that put them in power, and has allowed them to tromp all over other people’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And I don’t need to watch the news to know about white male privilege. My life-long experiences as a female, and my job working with mostly minority students,  have given me first-hand experience with this.

 

 

 

 

It is Time for Him to Resign

I’m not one of those folks who has a need to see our current President led away in chains and locked up – I don’t have a need for anyone to suffer – but I really hope that this man will resign soon so our nation can begin the process of recovery and healing from the injuries he and his administration have inflicted on us. Our environment has been trashed. Literally. Children have been separated from their parents – and some have died. Hate crimes against minorities have increased. Federal employees have been thrown aside like they don’t matter. Our economy is going down the toilet. We are in trouble here.