How The First Amendment impedes Our Understanding of The Middle East

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Intolerance breeds injustice. Injustice invariably leads to rebellion and retaliation, and these will lead to escalation on the part of both making reconciliation almost impossible. It would appear that during times of stress, despair and frustration, people become increasingly irrational, and they do things which they never think they are capable of. And so we see hideous brutality perpetrated by the most gentle people.

Once started religious strife has a tendency to go on and on, to become permanent feuds. Today we see such intractable inter-religious wars in Northern Ireland, between Jews and Muslims and Christians in Palestine, Hindus and Muslims in South Asia and in many other places. Attempts to bring about peace have failed again and again. Always the extremist elements invoking past injustices, imagined or real, will succeed in torpedoing the peace efforts and bringing about another bout of hostility.” Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia, addressing the World Evangelical Fellowship on 2001-MAY-4. 4(excerpts)

We live in a country that was founded on the desire for religious freedom. We have carried through, for this reason, the separation of church and state. The Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock came here from the same type of environment that exists in Africa and the Middle East today.

“The separation of church and state is a legal and political principle derived from the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” The phrase “separation of church and state”, which does not appear in the Constitution itself, is generally traced to an 1802 letter by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists, where Jefferson spoke of the combined effect of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. It has since been quoted in several opinions handed down by the United States Supreme Court.”…

“Early immigrants to the American colonies were there motivated largely by the desire to worship freely in their own fashion, particularly after the English Civil War, but also religious wars and disputes in France and Germany.[2] They included a large number of nonconformists such as the Puritans and the Pilgrims, as well as Catholics (in Baltimore). Despite a common background, the groups’ views on broader religious toleration were mixed. While some notable examples such as Roger Williams of Rhode Island and William Penn ensured the protection of religious minorities within their colonies, others such as the Plymouth Colony and Massachusetts Bay Colony had established churches. The Dutch colony of New Netherland had also established the Dutch Reformed Church and outlawed all other worship, although enforcement by the Dutch West India Company in the last years of the colony was sparse. Part of the reason for establishment was financial: the established Church was responsible for poor relief, and dissenting churches would therefore have a significant advantage.” – Wikipedia

Without an understanding of history and what this means, we cannot understand what is happening in Iraq. In actuality, we went to Iraq to defeat Saddam Hussein, operation Iraqi freedom was supposed to free the Iraqis from the oppressive rulership of Saddam. We won that war in 2003. The problem is that we did not, and do not understand the region and what happens to a region when Church equals State. Winning the war was easy what we are unable to win is the peace. Why is it that we cannot with the peace for the Iraqi people?  Why are the conflicts in the Middle East so hard for us to enter into with success?

Imagine that instead of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, as political parties, we had Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Imagine too, that the Christians, are further divided between Roman Catholics and the various groups of Protestants. In this scenario our government is run by the Roman Catholic group of Christians. They declare Catholicism as the ruling religion of the country, banning the practice of any other religions. Now, Texas is predominately Baptist. Texas is an important region because of its oil fields. New York City, which is largely Jewish, is also important because of its financial institutions. The country is under oppressive Catholic rule, many who rebel against being forced to worship in Catholic Churches are being massacred. Now a third party, let’s imagine it is China with an economic stake in the stability of our country, and with no religious leanings, enters our country to free us from the oppressive Catholic rule and manages to defeat the strong-hold of the Catholic government. With the mighty Catholic military disbanded, the other Christian groups, begin to fight for power amongst themselves. At the same time, the Jews and Muslims begin to gather strength in their own states to gain religious control over our country for the sake of their own religions and our country becomes divided into religious territories.

In the midst of all this turmoil created by the dismantling of the strong Catholic Military, China decides to back a Muslim government. Backed by the Chinese military, the Muslim government begins to enter each state and take control. Jews, Baptist, and even Catholics rise up to prevent this from happening – China calls these religious groups, “insurgents” that must be put down. The only way is to cleanse the regions of each group, city by city. Feeling that if our country is taken over by the Chinese backed Muslims it will be the greatest offense against God, Jews, Christians, and Catholics come from all over the world to join in the fight against the Muslim government, seen by many as a puppet regime of the Chinese trying to control the worship of God in the US. The biggest battles are being waged in Texas, where the Baptist, many of them devout Christian Fundamentalists, refuse to allow the rich resources of their state to go to the benefit of the Chinese backed Muslim government. However, violent fighting among all of the religions ensues nationwide as each religion attempts to build a stronghold in a particular state. Money, guns, and ammunition are being smuggled into the country by Protestants, Jews and even Catholics from around the world to support the fight of their particular religion. All of the religious groups are united in their animosity towards China because each group sees that the only peace that China can bring to our country, will cost each religion their faith in God. This scenario is imaginary – only because of the First Amendment to The Constitution.

We have had four hundred years of desire and practice in the separation of church and state. We have had four hundred years of living side by side with so many religions that we forget the world before. We think of ourselves as a nation and its people, not of a religious faith and the affront to God of any other faith existing in the same territory.

The “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia was the Orthodox Christian Serbians “cleansing” the country of Muslims. The conflicts in Israel are not Arab vs. Israeli, they stem from the fact that Israel was established as and needs to remain a Jewish State. If the Palestinians, mostly Muslim and Christian were granted the same rights under the law as Jews, which would of course include full voting rights, Israel would soon cease to be a Jewish State, in effect, it would cease to be Israel. In India, the religious and political battle over rulership of the country was between the Hindus and the Muslims, it was only resolved by the formation of the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”.

Religion has no borders. Shiite Muslims will fight from all over the world with and for the Shiite Muslims in Iraq, Sunni’s will fight from all over the world with and for the Sunni Muslims in Iraq. The people of the United States are here because they have chosen to live or remain after birth in a country where one is first an American Citizen and then a Catholic, Baptist, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian or Jew. Because of the separation of church and state that we enjoy, loyalty to the country does not require loyalty to a particular form of worship. This is our Democracy. It is the Democracy, envisioned by our Constitution, which can only survive in a nation where there is an explicit separation of Church and State. Today there are 56 religious based “conflicts” including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand, Uganda, Chechnya, the Philippines, Kurdistan, Nigeria, Sudan, the Middle East and Kosovo. The Problem with our intervention in any religious conflict, the problem with any outside intervention in any religious conflict is that whatever group we back, we are backing a religion. In removing one religion from power and replacing it with the only alternative, another religion, we simply buy a temporary cease fire. Soon enough the worshipers of the defeated faith, feeling repressed, afraid, and more determined than ever to fight in the name of God, will gather support from the unlimited well of followers devoted to their faith, and God and rise up, and continue the battle. It is not a battle that is won or lost on earth but in Heaven. It is not a battle for a place on earth but for a place in Heaven. If they lose their place on land by fighting and sacrificing their lives in the name of God, they guarantee their place in Heaven.

We have won the war in Iraq that we set out to win. We cannot win the peace, because we are fighting a battle over borders, and they are fighting a battle over love, honor and devotion to God. Where Church, Temple, Mosque, or Ashram, equals State, we can only make things worse.

If there is any lesson that we should learn from this, it is that what prevents us from becoming them, what prevents the United States from becoming Iraq, Serbia, or any of the other nations embroiled in religious wars, is the First Amendment. Those who would like to see it abolished, or even relaxed should pay close attention to what is happening in Africa, Asia and the middle east because the First Amendment is all that separates us from them.

The Bible Story of Joseph and the journey of the Soul


The story of Joseph is a story of the journey of the soul. It seems that this is a soul that has gained wisdom through other lifetimes, and is able to maintain its connection with God throughout its trials on earth. Therefore, it is safe to say that this is the story of an old soul and its journey through the senses and desires of the physical body and the earth plane. In the Bible story of Joseph we see the story of the soul. Joseph has a dream:

5. And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. 6. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: 7. for, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves came round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. 8. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? Or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. 9. And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it to his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed yet a dream: and, behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars made obeisance to me. 10. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren; and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? And his brethren envied him; but his father kept the saying in mind.

Here, we see Joseph, as a soul, envisioning the time when he will become the master over his sense represented by the sheaths of corn, and finally over his fate, as described by the Sun, Mon and eleven Stars. Jacob – here representing the higher self, the connection with God, hears the goal of the soul and keeps note of it, knowing that it is seeking to return – to rise above the body. Most likely, this story represents a soul which has had many lives already and facing the return home.

The brothers, here representing the senses and the desire nature of the body betray Joseph take his coat and throw him into a pit in the wilderness, the pit representing the body where at first , the soul cannot see its way to God through the Maya. The fact that there is no water probably tells us that there is no way for wisdom to flow to the soul at this point:

22. And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood; cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but lay no hand upon him: that he might deliver him out of their hand, to restore him to his father. 23. And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stripped Joseph of his coat, the coat of many colors that was on him; 24. and they took him, and cast him into the pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.

Later, the brothers sold Joseph to a passing caravan – he is sold into slavery. So here we see Joseph given by the senses over to one of the desires of the body – greed.

What profit is it if we slay our brother and conceal his blood? 27. Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother, our flesh. And his brethren hearkened unto him. And there passed by Midianites, merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.

Yet, despite the desire of the senses to break Joseph, God is within him, he is aware of his goal – he is a light within, one that glows without. And because of the light that is steadily growing, the soul continues to maintain his direction. Then, as happens to all souls – Joseph is tempted by the wife of his master. As the soul is always tempted by the desires of the body. Although Joseph does not fall to the temptation – he is then tested further by being punished anyway. He is thrown into jail. Here we see that this soul, cannot be tempted by glitter, nor can he be tempted by adversity. Because of his unwillingness to succumb to the tests of the physical – the greatest of desires and temptations do not stand in his way.

Ultimately, Joseph interprets a dream for Pharaoh. He tells Pharaoh that his dreams state that there will be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Because of this interpretation of the dreams, Pharaoh makes Joseph the final authority in all that happens in the kingdom. Here, Joseph is expressing the wisdom of an advanced soul. He expresses the fact that there are cycles of abundance and cycles of loss in life on earth. If one is not greedy during cycles of abundance one will have enough during cycles of loss. This is very much a statement of the middle way. Pharaoh, representing the higher self, sees that the soul cannot again be affected by what happens in the environment. The soul is prepared for the end of the journey, with its connection to God intact. It has been declared that the senses and the destiny will be under the rule of the soul, and the battle for the soul – has been won by the higher self.

When his brothers come to him in need of food for their families and for their father, he was generous to them. Here the soul ruled person, being ruled by the principal of love is generous and benevolent to all, regardless of what others might have done to him. The soul, is advanced enough to understand that nothing happens that is not determined by God, and so all is good.
Genesis 50:15-21
15. And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, It may be that Joseph will hate us, and will fully requite us all the evil which we did unto him. 16. And they sent a message unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,
17. So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the transgression of thy brethren, and their sin, for that they did unto thee evil. And now, we pray thee, forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. 18. And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we are thy servants. 19. And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20. And as for you, ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

The soul goes from the pit, to slavery, to temptation, to adversity, to clear perception, and finally to mastery and home. This is only one of the many stories in the bible, which give us such light as to the meaning of life from the perspective of the soul’s journey. When we are ready to understand the scriptures, all scriptures as guides to life at all stages, we will truly see how they are all great master teachers. We see this repeated again when Jesus having received the Christ enters into the wilderness (the descent of the soul into flesh) and faces the temptations of Satan. This is the path of all souls that come into incarnation. It is the facing of the tests, the tests of temptation, and the tests of adversity, to ultimately overcome them all and free the true self that lies within.

The Suffering of Mother Teresa Was Religious not Spiritual

“It is not enough for us to say: ‘I love God,’ but I also have to love my neighbor. St. John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don’t love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is not true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.” – Mother Teresa

I am familiar with love and with pain; and when I have felt pain, while loving, the pain was never caused by the act of loving, it was caused by the actions of the ones I loved. To me, it is like a hose – the faucet is turned on, the hose fills up and the water pours out. And so the process is like this, one’s being is filled with love – so filled that it must be released out towards another being, towards God, or even towards nature itself. Still, it is a filling up of the heart and soul with love and so long as that love is being released, the vessel is being constantly filled. Being filled with love leaves no room for pain. I recall a story that Wayne Dyer told about a woman with a disabled daughter, totally bedridden for many years, and for all of those years the mother lovingly stayed by her side, changing her diaper, feeding her, loving her. She did this without it hurting, other than perhaps the empathy that she felt for her daughter. After being moved by the enormous suffering of Mother Teresa I went back over the things that she had said, and I cannot imagine an instance where love hurts.

The act of giving does not hurt either. Again, giving is a gesture from the heart. What does hurt is when we do not give from our hearts but we give because we feel we must. In doing this, we are not giving in essence we are taking from ourselves. Another quote from Mother Teresa which stood out to me was this:

“I try to give to the poor people for love what the rich could get for money. No, I wouldn’t touch a leper for a thousand pounds; yet I willingly cure him for the love of God.”

 

I was never much on placing importance on the death of Jesus, but I was deeply inspired by his life. I don’t believe that the value of a life should be overshadowed by the manner of death. After all, no matter how you cut it, living takes a lot more work than dying, and living an exemplary life, at any time, trumps an exemplary death. I read a bumper sticker the other day that really brought the point home, it said, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you are car.” In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus’ followers asked him, basically, how to get to Heaven, a question he never seemed to answer to the satisfaction of the questioner.

[6]. His disciples asked and said to him: “Do you want us to fast? How shall we pray, how shall we give alms, what rules concerning eating shall we follow?” Jesus says: “Tell no lie, and whatever you hate, do not do: for all these things are manifest to the face of heaven; nothing hidden will fail to be revealed and nothing disguised will fail before long to be made public!”

When I was young, I was given the impression that I was not really capable of amounting to anything in the world. So, when I became successful in my own business I bought many very expensive things, jewelry, art – things that said I had made it. These were my trophies that I told myself I would never let go of, they proved my ability to succeed. But as my life would have it, my health caused me to leave my business and it reached a point in my life that to keep a roof over the heads of my children, I would have to sell my trophies. They were the only proof that I had left. While I was struggling with this I read a book on the Kabala and it said that we should gather everything that we believe that we can live without in order to give it away, but then, after we have gathered everything that we feel we can manage without we should then double it and give it away. The essence of it was that only the ego attaches to things, only the ego benefits from things, and not the soul. This allowed me to ‘give’ those things for the good of my family without pain, because I knew that in doing so I was purging my ego. My husband, feeling badly for the sacrifice that I had made promised to replace all that I had given, but I did not want them back, giving it opened my heart and freed my ego, I felt gratitude and joy.

Using the parable of the seeds as an example, the things that we do so that God will know our love for Him, are the seeds that fall by the wayside. They are a lie, the heart is not in the action itself. For Mother Teresa to see a leper and feel to herself that she wouldn’t touch him for a thousand pounds, says that in the depth of her heart she does not see Jesus in that leper. The act of curing that leper is an act of doing what you should do, like fasting or going to church, but it is not heartfelt and so the heart derives no joy from the act, in fact, it causes pain because of the feeling of uselessness of the sacrifice. To sacrifice is to make sacred, but only the heart can make sacred.

In Mother Teresa’s youth she was filled with an ecstatic love for Jesus and for the work that he did in his life. She was filled with the spirit of Christianity, but the church robbed her of that. The church robbed her of the loving Jesus, the joyous Jesus, the Jesus free of ego attachments and laws, filled only with the desire to Love, teach and heal his brothers. The church forced her to believe that only through suffering could she find the love of Jesus, only through suffering would she feel the love of Jesus, and worst of all, that only through teaching the value of suffering to others could she save their souls for Jesus. The teachings of the church were in direct contradiction to the yearnings of her heart, and because she believed the church to be the appointed messenger of God, she deafened her heart to its cries, and dedicated herself to the work, but without the spirit in the work, without the love in the work, she was empty and alone, not seeing God and not feeling his Love. She loved Jesus, but she could not feel his love because she was indoctrinated only towards his suffering. There are many Saints who are marked by their “Dark Night Of The Soul”, but each one emerged with a greater sense of mysticism and spirituality and a far lesser sense of righteousness of religious doctrine.

She gave her life to the God that she loved, but she was denied the fullness of His love in her heart, not by God but by the church that taught not the beauty and joy of love, but only the vows of suffering. I feel that it is a crime for her suffering to be used by atheists as proof that there is no God, but I believe equally that it is a crime for the church to use her suffering as an example of the natural path of a true Christian.