The Courage to Imagine…

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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

How I Learned to Stop Judging

Posted by jeromefaraday on September 27, 2010

I used to be a very judgmental person. It started as a child when I felt that my religious persuasion was infinitely superior to that of my friends. This tendency has sadly reasserted itself throughout my life in regards to religious matters and other things. Take note: one can be judgmental and fundamentalist about any topic, not just religion.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with making truth claims. A religion or any other movement has to be true to itself. On the other hand, there is a reason why Jesus (and other teachers) emphasized the importance of non-judgment.

For one, we don’t know the heart of the other person. We like to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt when addressing our flaws, but often fail to do so in others. For example, we may see our addictions as a result of a good person undergoing genuine struggle while judging another person as morally suspect for a similar condition.

Second, I’ve come to realize the value of freedom. Since intellectual and moral truths are often considered subjective the freedom of others to be stupid, misguided, or just plain wrong in my mind, also allows me to be stupid, misguided, or just plain wrong in theirs.

Finally, I’ve realized that the Truth wins in the end. In a real marketplace of ideas, the truth will prevail through honest, non-violent means (e.g. see the message of Jesus and Gandhi). The application of force to convince others of truth in the end only weakens the claims of any system. God will prevail, whether in this life or the next. While we have an obligation to speak the truth, it’s not our place to condemn peaceful people or take away their liberty.

I consider my ability to refrain from condemning others as a huge step in my spiritual growth. It’s allowed me to put more trust in God and also to look at my own failings instead of dwelling on those of other people all the time. It’s also (when combined with empathy) allowed me to see the good in others and help them change.

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Two Negative Institutions (That Really Don’t Have to Be) Part 2

Posted by jeromefaraday on September 17, 2010

Continued from Part 1

[N.B- This essay is strongly informed by Dr. David Hawkins‘ wonderful book “Power vs. Force.” Long story short (although you should read the long story), power and powerful people transform the world, while force (e.g. violence, intimidation, fear, anger, etc.) corrupts, but never really changes anything in the long run.]

The next institution I want to look at is education. Education is, for a small number of kids, a very positive experience. Those children who can sit still, stay focused, and say the right words to their teachers generally thrive in the US education system. For the rest, the system can be downright hellish, even if they have genuine academic talents. Once again, I believe the issue comes down to power vs. force and our educational system is based almost entirely on force.

The majority of teachers (I was one) don’t understand children and don’t want to understand them. Before anyone objects, pay careful attention to my words. I didn’t say they hate kids or want to see them fail. They just don’t understand them. Since they can’t empathize with the kids and motivate them from that empathy (it is possible; I did it and some really good teachers do it daily), they have to resort to force. And, sadly, the punishments are often petty and punitive rather than geared towards future learning. One example is making kids copy pages from the dictionary when they act up. It doesn’t take much to figure out that such a punishment imposed on developing minds, especially from the wrong person in the wrong way, will make a kid hate words. Well, imagine that on a bigger level. A child feels that school and learning are punitive because that is what they are taught by teachers. Then, they stop wanting to learn or associate it with being a loser.

Most teachers are not vindictive, nasty people. I’ve met a couple, but they’re rare. Most teachers are just stuck in the rut known as modern education and don’t have the imagination or will to act differently. If a teacher gets a reputation for being ‘too nice’ to the kids or ‘too friendly,’ then it could be the end of his or her career. We as an American society have set up an expectation of kids and teachers locking heads and both student and teacher seem willing to propagate this foolish viewpoint.

The net result is that the few students who are persuaded by the power of an average teacher, i.e. the ‘good kids’ who play by the rules, succeed. The kids who don’t play by the rules of the modern school (i.e. the ‘bad kids’) are disciplined by force and often remain in trouble with the institution their whole lives (or drugged up on psychotropic meds). The majority of teachers and administrators aren’t powerful enough to reach them, so they punish them.

Education should ultimately impart wisdom and the role of teachers isn’t just to dish out facts, but to mentor, influence, and mold. Yet, most of us can count on one hand the number of teachers who have done just that in our many years of formal education.

Why is education so punitive and negative for so many? I think it’s because the educational establishment has created a self-perpetuating system that promotes those values. People who don’t believe in them are often weeded out at the college level or in the first couple of years before union protection. Or, they burn out from frustration at a system that leaves so many children left behind. I should add too that government mandates often give an enthusiastic, caring teacher very little flexibility to pursue greatness or impart it to his or her students.

From a law of attraction standpoint it’s clear that the educational system is mired in negativity, fear, and low expectations.

Thus, educational reform shouldn’t just be about re-arranging or revamping a few aspects of the system, but may need to scrap the whole system itself. It sounds harsh, but education is essentially the same as it was 150 years ago (a bunch of kids in a room or rooms, sitting quietly (supposedly) learning from one person at the front). We need to rethink the entire system and rebuild a new institution that motivates kids and moves them in areas of need for society that also align with their passions.

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Two Negative Institutions (That Really Don’t Have to Be) Part 1

Posted by jeromefaraday on September 16, 2010

[N.B- This essay is strongly informed by Dr. David Hawkins‘ wonderful book “Power vs. Force.” Long story short (although you should read the long story), power and powerful people transform the world, while force (e.g. violence, intimidation, fear, anger, etc.) corrupts, but never really changes anything in the long run.]

I’m going to stick to religion and education, although honestly I’m sure many others would qualify. Some institutions (business, etc.) we may expect to be negative, but religion and education are forces which try to provide very positive outcomes (personal fulfillment, wisdom, etc.). Yet, for many people religion and education are oppressive forces in their lives. Where is the disconnect between mission and outcome?

First, I’ll tackle religion. In practical terms, religion here means Western religion, primarily Christianity. It’s not to exclude or generalize, just that’s my experience and probably the experience for most of the blog’s readers.

For many people their concept of religion is a bunch of commandments, sins, perceived intolerance, and lots and lots of guilt. For others, however, religion is enlightening, joyful, transforming, and compels them to charity. Which is it? Both. In fact, you can see both elements in every religion of the world. What corrupts religion and turns it oppressive? I would argue the use of force.

Jesus knew that not everyone would accept him. He also knew that his power was strong enough to bring people into his movement. In other words, he didn’t need to force people in through violence, strong arm tactics, etc. The witness of his followers to this message brought hundreds of thousands to the Christian Faith in the early Church. The first Christians generally taught non-violence, change from one’s sinful ways, a strong sense of community, and a radical counter-culturalism. This message appealed to many and attracted many.

However, when Christianity became legal and eventually the state religion, a major change occurred. Everyone had to be Christian, including those who weren’t so inclined. Foreign tribes conquered by the Romans had to convert too, often by the sword. The powerful message of Jesus was diluted through the application of force. This process has happened with most of the world’s religions (except for Islam in which force came quickly when Mohammed’s army attacked Mecca).

The thing is, religion doesn’t have to use force to achieve its goals. In fact, at this point in history, thanks to widespread freedom of religion (at least in the West), the powerful message of religion can flourish. So, why isn’t it? Probably because most religious leaders don’t know how to operate in an environment of power. Even the concept of Christendom, where all are culturally Christian, is a form of force, albeit a largely benign one. Most Christian leaders still think it’s 1955 and everyone will conform naturally to Christian morality and belief.

I’m not one of those spiritual but not religious people. I am religious and don’t see it as conflicting with a ‘new thought’ worldview. Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller are proof the marriage is possible. However, the negative aspects of religion like force, control, and abuse, are not compatible. Of course, they’re not compatible with the tenets of any major world religion either. Basically, religious leaders and institutions need to do a better job of living up to their own ideals and they can do this by letting go of force and using the power of their founders.

Part 2 coming tomorrow

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