Thursday, February 4, 2016

Visiting a Mosque

"Shared Wisdom"
- in my meditation garden -

Yesterday President Obama visited a Mosque in Baltimore to denounce the anti-Muslim bias sparked by the recent political posturing in the election season. During his visit, the President  embraced the Muslim community as part of one American family and he warned  that any attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths.

Of course, as might be expected, this visit to a mosque and the President’s words of welcome and compassion did not at all sit well among some conservative “Christian” politicians and it was soundly rejected by several ultra right-wing Jewish leaders. The president of the Zionist Organization of America claimed: Going to a mosque only encourages radical Muslims to harm Americans.

I’m struck by how readily people demonize those who are different from themselves and this seems most especially true when it comes to different religious beliefs. Hard-core “true believers” almost always cling to the position that they have the right way, the true way and often the only way to “God.”  

I am reminded of some wisdom that Episcopal priest and author, Barbara Brown Taylor once offered:

The supreme challenge is to see God’s image in one that’s not in our image,
for only then can we see past the reflection in the mirror
to the ‘God’ we did not make up.

When I read some of those negative reactions to the President’s visit to the mosque I thought about all those many so-called “Christians” who to this very day promote racial bigotry and preach vile hate-filled sermons against people who are Gay. I also thought about the ultra- Orthodox Jews in Israel who are convinced that “Jews” are the only people who are racially pure enough to have rights and hold property in Israel. Yet, somehow it’s only Muslims who are the bad people who mean to do harm.

The record of history teaches us that religious institutions, in general, are often prone to abuse. In the name of “God” many atrocities have and continue to be committed in all religions.  And yet the fact is that these atrocities have far less to do with religious belief and far more to do with politics and ego.

In some ways, when it comes to religion, I think perhaps we might all do well to become hard-core believers,  because when you get to the very core of belief in most major world religions, we always find one common core wisdom:  all believe that compassion lies at the heart of any road to deeper peace, greater truth, a better world, more light.

In Islam and in Judaism, in Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and in many indigenous religions of Native Peoples, when you sort through all the extraneous teaching, strip away all the layers of historical additions to the basic teaching and filter out the politics, you always and inevitably arrive at one common theme. It’s always all about compassion - this is the common wisdom that we all share at the core.

Anytime I hear “so-called” religious people attack, condemn, judge or do violence against different others, I know they have deviated from the core – that’s why I say maybe we need more genuine hard-core believers.

I love the simple straightforward and plain-spoken way in which author Anne Lamott
summarizes the essence of the various religious traditions:

All wisdom traditions have at their root three basic ideas:
To take care of the poor,
to cultivate a sense of presence or union with a power greater than ourselves
and to soften the heart.

Many people today look at the abuses religious belief has fostered over the ages and call for an abandonment of all religions. I say instead that maybe we need to discover what religious belief is really all about. We need to claim our common core.


  1. 'Soften the heart', beautiful. And that is what compassion does. As a society we are encouraged to build up our self esteem, our sense of who we are, yet as you said this leads to rigid views and an unwillingness to let the ego go. For if this opinion is not who we are then who are we? But if the ego is all that we cling to it is a poor raft for navigating life. Full of defensiveness and fear as we clutch it to our chest. Much better to let it go, to swim with everyone, whoever they are, weightless and with an open heart. But noticing when the ego is at play is hard sometimes. Thanks Paul xxx

    1. I very much appreciate your regular comments here. Your wisdom very much enhances what I have to say.....many thanks!

  2. That's so nice to hear...we are never in a vaccuum in life..all interdependent xxx