|by Tom Bohache|
|An Abundance of Life
Well, how is 2005 shaping up? I guess it depends on one's perspective and where one lives. We here at the Delaware shore have had a couple of early snows, but nothing compared to the Midwest. We've had rain, but just a sprinkle when measured against the deluge in California my father has been describing to me by phone. We may not have had our every comfort seen to, but folks affected by the tsunami can only imagine having our blissful conditions. So I guess one's spin on how the year is progressing is relative, isn't it? And that seems to be business as usual, spiritually speaking.
Spiritual people of all times and places have either seen the glass as half-empty or half-full. Eastern religions seem to take this more in stride than those of the west, however. The great monotheistic faiths are rooted in beliefs that can become rather narrow when pushed to their extreme: There is only one God. He/She/It can have only one chosen people. Everyone else is beyond the reach of God's love. There is only a certain amount of God-given prosperity to go around. The "haves" and the "have mores" are blessed; all others are damned. You get the idea.
Such principles are rooted in an "abundance vs. scarcity" mentality that is often fed by religion and its scriptures. Jewish feminist writer Regina M. Schwartz puts it like this:
When everything is in short supply, it must all be competed forland, prosperity, power, favor, even identity itself. In many biblical narratives, the one God is not imagined as infinitely giving, but as strangely withholding. Everyone does not receive divine blessings. Some are cursedwith dearth and with deathas though there were a cosmic shortage of prosperity. And it is here, in this tragic principle of scarcity, that I find the biblical legacy to culture so troubling.... Scarcity is encoded in the Bible as a principle of Oneness (one land, one people, one nation), and in monotheistic thinking (one Deity), it becomes a demand of exclusive allegiance that threatens with the violence of exclusion. (The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism, 1997; p. 3)
Perhaps that legacy is still at work in our world today. Those who are in positions of power in our country, fed by their fundamentalist faith, seem to see the world in terms of either/or. There is only one correct type of government, only one way of being "free," only one way of being patriotic, only one way of being faithful to God, only one way to be joined in lifetime partnership, etc.
But wise people throughout time have seen a better way. The Hebrew prophet Isaiah in the fourth century b.c.e. declared that all people are welcome in the Divine's sight: "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples, says God, who gathers the outcasts" (Isaiah 56:8). Half a millennium later, Jesus encouraged those who followed him not to worry about their lives, about food or drink or material possessions, assuring them that in God's Reign there is enough for all (Matthew 6:25-30). Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, almost two thousand years later still, told the oppressed of their time that there would be freedom from colonialism and racism, for that was the Divine will. Buddhists teach that when we are mindful of our surroundings and appreciate every small thing we have, then we will be able to see the big picture, and our mindfulness will become wedded to the Divine Mindfulness that is the All (Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ, 1995, pp. 14-16). I wonder how our country and our world would change if we were to empower this sort of mindfulness, viewing life through the lens of abundance rather than lack. The Buddhist monk, assured of the universe's constancy, always has a full rice-bowl; the crowds around Jesus, convinced of the universal law of giving and receiving, shared what they had and everyone was fed; the Hebrews in the wilderness had plenty of water and bread because they believed that it could be so.
As we progress further into a new year, why don't we see our piece of the world through other people's eyes? How about appreciating our abundance, instead of lamenting our lack? How about striving to make the world better for every living thing? When we do, we will make a differencemaybe not fast enough for us in our human impatience, but all in synchronicity with the Divine Mind. So be it! Amen! Blessed Be!
The Rev. Tom Bohache, Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Rehoboth, is a speaker, teacher, and writer on the intersection of sexuality and spirituality. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 1 February 11, 2005