[lit-ideas] Does the left need a spiritual dimension?

  • From: John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: DemsAbroad@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 11 Feb 2006 09:19:49 +0900

To those who accept Marx's dictum that religion is the opiate of the
masses—a hard drug addiction to be avoided at all costs—the notion
that the left needs to speak to spiritual needs more profound than
economic interest alone will be a proposition very hard to accept. But
perhaps we should be more open-minded. In his new book _The Left Hand
of God: Taking Our Country Back from the Religious Right_, Michael
Lerner writes,

>>People feel a near-desperate desire to reconnect to the sacred, to
find some way to unite their lives with a higher meaning and purpose
and in particular to that aspect of the sacred that is built upon the
loving, kind, and generous energy in the universe that I describe as
the "Left Hand of God."

>>By contrast, the "Right Hand of God," sees the universe as a
fundamentally scary place filled with evil forces. In this view God is
the avenger, the big man in heaven who can be invoked to use violence
to overcome those evil forces, either right now or in some future
ultimate reckoning. Seen through the frame of the Right Hand of God,
the world is filled with constant dangers and the rational way to live
is to dominate and control others before they dominate and control us.

>>It is the search for meaning in a despiritualized world that leads
many people to right-wing religious communities because these groups
seem to be in touch with the sacred dimension of life. Many
secularists imagine that people drawn to the Right are there solely
because of some ethical or psychological malfunction. What they miss
is that there are many very decent Americans who get attracted to the
Religious Right because it is the only voice that they encounter that
is willing to challenge the despiritualization of daily life, to call
for a life that is driven by higher purpose than money, and to provide
actual experiences of supportive community for those whose daily life
is suffused with alienation and spiritual loneliness.<<

I am apostate, a born and bred Lutheran who has lost his father's
faith; but having just attended my father's funeral and listened to
the words of members of his congregation who rose to recount what my
father and mother hand done for them by inviting them to join that
congregation, being generous with time and compassion and the fruits
of a large garden, and friends in time of need as well as celebration,
I can hear what Lerner is saying, and my gut says that he's right.

My mind agrees. What, after all, are we all more hungry for than
confidence that there is more to life than schooling, working,
consuming and dying, that we are part of a community, nation,
conversation that is more than the sum of the hungers that drive us as
individuals. It could be that Aldous Huxley was right when he said
that religion would survive, not so much because people continue to
believe in its dogmas, but instead because to live as if we believed,
in a certain ritual rhythm, as part of a concrete community is far
more satisfying than the untempered lives we lead by ourselves. Be
that as it may. A people with nothing to believe in is no people at
all, a mob of hungry animals each walking alone into darkness. God,
that's a scary thought.

John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd.
55-13-202 Miyagaya, Nishi-ku
Yokohama 220-0006, JAPAN
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