Holy cognitive dissonance Batman!

Via Roger Wolsey
on Dec 22, 2010
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While I was stopped with my motorcycle at an intersection in Boulder today, I noticed the rear bumper of car that was next to me.   If you’ve ever been to Boulder, you’ll know that this isn’t an unusual occurrence.

There are probably more bumper-stickers per automobile here than in most cities in the U.S.  Most of them are from a liberal perspective.  What struck me was the particular stickers that were plastered to the back of that car.  There were three.  One  said “Palin-McCain.”   One said, “NoBama.”  The other said, “Namaste.

Did your jaw just drop like mine did?

Namaste is a word that is often uttered in the many yoga studios in this town.   It’s a Sanskirt word that is used by the Hindu people of India when they greet each other.  It is not a casual term.  It’s a sign of respect that essentially means, “I bow to you.”  It’s sometimes been said that it means, “that which is divine in me, greets that which is divine in you.”  The base word namaha literally interprets as “na ma” (not mine).  Hence, it carries a deep spiritual significance of negating or reducing one’s ego in the presence of another.

I’ve never thought of Republicans as being much into yoga or Hinduism, let alone “reducing their ego in the presence of others.”  Ms. Palin has all but said that the “real Americans” are those who are Christian, support our wars, and who vote Republican.”  That sort of excluding and judgmental attitude is utterly foreign to yoga and Hinduism as I understand them.  (It’s also foreign to my understanding of Christianity and patriotism).

My first reaction was to think to myself, “What the hell gives that turkey the right to have those stickers next to each other?!  Does she even know what the hell Namaste means?!  Is she really that clueless?!”

But then…  it dawned on me, I was being given a lesson in my own tendency to be judgmental and exclusive.

When a Catholic priest says the Mass, it isn’t about him.  His parishoners can think he’s a total nit-wit who can’t preach his way out of a wet paper bag and is wrong about everything.  But when their priest says the words of Institution, it’s not about him.  The words have a power all their own.  And a grace that transcends human differences enters in.

I think that perhaps similarly, that driver’s expression of Namaste conveys a reverential grace and meaning that transcends the person saying it.  It’s not about her and me.

Even if she doesn’t share that perspective, even if she’d rather that I be a Palin supporter if I am to be her friend, her expression of Namaste humbled me and caused me to surrender my biases and opinions and to honor something far greater than either of us.

When the light turned green, I bowed to the driver of that source of my consternation and growth.

It seems to me that it is just this sort of ordinary inter-section moment that is what our nation needs at this time.  This past election year was the most polarizing, ugly, and divisive one that many of us have ever experienced.  We’re a people who have drawn lines in the sand and we’re well on our way toward dehumanizing each other.

Metaphorically, perhaps the best Christmas gift that we can give to each other is bumper-sticker displays that challenge our biases and cause us to ponder, reflect, and grow.

I have a car too, maybe I’ll put on three stickers of my own: “Save the Whales,”  “Tree-huggers for Obama,“  “Jesus loves you.”

Merry Christmas America,



Roger has a new book that will be available within the next 2-3 weeks: Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity.


About Roger Wolsey

Roger Wolsey is a free-spirited GenX-er who thinks and feels a lot about God and Jesus. He’s a progressive Christian who identifies with people who consider themselves as being “spiritual but not religious.” He came of age during the “Minneapolis sound” era and enjoyed seeing The Replacements, The Jayhawks, Husker Du, The Wallets, Trip Shakespeare, Prince, and Soul Asylum in concert—leading to strong musical influences to his theology. He earned his Masters of Divinity degree at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO. Roger is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and he currently serves as the director of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at C.U. in Boulder, CO. He was married for ten years, divorced in 2005 and now co-parents a delightful 10-year old son. Roger loves live music, hosting house concerts, rock-climbing, yoga, centering prayer, trail-running with his dog Kingdom, dancing, camping, riding his motorcycle, blogging, and playing his trumpet in ska bands and music projects. He's recently written a book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity


9 Responses to “Holy cognitive dissonance Batman!”

  1. yogiclarebear says:

    Well said Roger. It made me think of all the "ownage" that is popping up with Yoga and other religious/spiritual stuff. Who "owns" Namaste?

  2. paul says:

    How about one that says, "Jesus loves Democrats"

  3. tamingauthor says:

    A little Christmas video I produced with the help of Thunder, a wolf you may have seen on True Blood.

  4. Roger Wolsey says:

    Paul, Thanks for commenting! Well, even though that would be true, some might construe it as implying that therefore Jesus doesn't love Republicans. So, such a sticker, at least by itself, would end up being more divisive and polarizing than what I'm trying to promote. Now one that says, "Jesus loves everyone – even Republicans" might work. ; )

  5. dan says:

    The sentiment of this article is great, but it seems the author has never heard of the BJP, which is in no way a new phenomenon, nor is discrimination new amongst hindus. And of course, NObama is anti-war; he is a “centrist”, appointed Vilsack, and considers certain wars “good”. One needn’t suspend discernment in the name of being less judgmental (knives are tools or weapons etc).
    Also, namas-te literally (not just essentially) means “I bow to you”, and is the namas of namo namah of many devotionals (final ‘s’ in sanskrit is pronounced “ha” or “o” depending on its phonetic circumstance). It is from the root nam, which means ‘to bow’, and is also seen in praṇam and namaskar. I like na-ma=not-mine but this is a folk-etymology (nothing wrong with them!). ‘te’ means ‘to you’, just as gaṇapataye/ramāya/durgāyai mean ‘to Gaṇapati’/’to Rama’/’to Durgā’. Pardon the grammar!

  6. Roger Wolsey says:

    Dan. Thanks for appreciating the sentiment. Nope, I've never heard of the BJP. I am of course aware that the Hindu caste system is highly discriminatory and I'm also aware that certain Hindu groups have been less then welcoming toward Muslims and Christians, even to the point of violence. I'm guessing that the "BJP" is such a group?

    For me, the essence of a word trumps it's literalness, but in this case, the point is moot.

    Namaste and Merry Christmas!

  7. Lena.FM says:

    This is lovely. And so funny. Happy Holidays!

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