Jared Loughner is the one who shot all those people in Tuscon, AZ but some of the responsibility is ours.
I realize that that’s quite a statement to make, but I mean it.
Political pundits have been playing the blame game about how “the people on the other side” have been contributing to the highly vitriolic, vicious, and volatile political climate in the United States. And I am certain that they are correct in their analysis that this highly charged and polarized ethos may well have contributed to Loughner’s acting as he did. It seems to me, however, that is only part of the story—some responsibility goes to us.
When I say “us” I specifically mean those of us who participate in intentional spiritual practices and communities. I write as a Christian, specifically as a progressive, contemplative, United Methodist, Christian with Quakerish tendencies. Put me down on record as saying that we Christians have dropped the ball.
Christians have good news to tell and love to share. At our best, we offer a mightily needed cup of life giving water to a thirsty and hurting world. We have the gift of reminding people of who and Whose they are – loved, forgiven, and accepted children of God. At our best we love everyone unconditionally and we place the needs of others ahead of our own. We love our neighbor as ourselves. We love our enemies, forgive when we’ve been wronged, practice nonviolence, and strive for reconciliation. At our best, we foster transformed lives that are inspired to spread that transformation to others — exponentially creating what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the Beloved Community.” To the extent that we have failed to share the good news and unconditional love that we know and are fed by, we have failed Jared and the people of Tuscon. We failed big time.
But Christians aren’t the only ones who dropped the ball. The Jewish and Muslim communities failed them. So did the Buddhists and yogis.
Buddhism teaches that suffering stems from our attachments to ideas, relationships, and things in this world. Buddhism teaches that there is an 8-fold path to end suffering. Buddhism teaches a sensible “middle way” and it teaches nonviolence and compassion. Where were the Buddhists in Jared’s life?
Yoga means “to yolk together/union” and it helps unite us with our highest selves, with the highest selves in others, and with all that is. Yoga teaches inner peace, self-acceptance, and provides ways to improve health, relieve stress, and reduce tension. Yoga fosters opportunities for people to shift from old patterns and habits (physical and emotional) that aren’t serving them –- and toward new ones that do. Yoga helps people attain balance between their masculine and their feminine. It helps us be tender and vulnerable, and to extend our energy and power out into the world in constructive ways, while maintaining a gentle, three-fold victorious breath. Yoga provides techniques to help us hold things loosely and to increase our ability to be intimate and truly present with others. Yoga teaches us to become flexible on and off the mat. Where were the yogis in Jared’s life?
Here’s the deal. Those of us in the spiritual and healing communities have something good to offer the world. But we aren’t offering it –- at least not as fully as we could be doing. Too often, Americans approach our spirituality from an individualistic perspective, “What can I get out of this?” “How can my life be better?” “How can I attain enlightenment?” “How can I get to Heaven?”… And we totally miss out on how we can be a blessing to others.
Apparently, the person who lived across from the Loughler’s home in Tuscon was the neighbor who was the closest (had the most relation) to them in that whole neighborhood. They lived across from each other for years, and yet, he didn’t know their last name. If any of the people who lived in that neighborhood were Christians, or Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, or yogis, how were any of them truly neighbor to them?
I invite us to ponder something. If you know that something is good. Wouldn’t you want others to know about it too? I have a sister who loves telling people about the awesomeness of her Kirby vacuum cleaner and how nifty and wonderful it is. My father, a recently retired professor, delights in telling high school seniors about how wonderful Macalester College is and lauding the virtues of a quality liberal arts education. Again, if you know something is good, don’t you want others to know about it too?
If you answered yes to that question, then how much more wouldn’t you want to spread the word about something that’s changed your life? If you know that something has made a profound, transforming, and life-giving difference in your life, don’t you want others to know about it too?
So you’re a Christian. So you’re a Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, or Yogi, bully for you. But it ain’t worth a hill of beans unless you’re sharing about how your life has been transformed by your practice to folks who might be blessed and inspired to hear about it. Humans are social creatures and so is our salvation. The era of a “private faith” or a “private practice” has passed.
I’m calling-out the entire spiritual community.
If you’ve got a saving personal relationship with Jesus, or if you’ve attained enlightenment, or if you’ve got a fantastic yoga practice and perfect yoga toes, it doesn’t mean squat unless you’re sharing the truth that you know with others. What I just said applies to everyone. However, if you’re in the position to be a teacher or preacher in your tradition, and if you’re charging people for your services and never offering them for free then you’re not much of a teacher/preacher. You might be a good businessperson, you might be a successful entrepreneur, but you’re not a real rabbi, pastor, imam, guru, or yogi.
The campus ministry where I work offers free yoga classes and centering prayer sessions to CU-Boulder and Naropa University students. We offer these as a gift to those campuses to help lower the stress levels at those institutions and to perhaps help prevent another tragedy like what happened at Virgina Tech a few years ago. But I’m calling myself out too. I hereby pledge to share God’s love with as many people as I can and share about my faith (in non-icky ways) to people who might be lost, lonely, or hurting in life. I’ve recently written a book (Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity) that will be out soon. I pledge to give away copies of it – and not just try to cover my costs by selling them.
So… Spiritual Community, ball in your court.
“May those who have ears to hear, listen and those with eyes to see, see.”
An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. Martin Luther King, Jr.
p.s. this applies to massage therapists, Rolfers, Reiki masters, cranial sacral therapists, counselors, psychologists, social workers, life coaches…the whole lot of you.