Islam’s perspective on political development begins with the spiritual concept of the community of believers (the umma), their individual responsibility to community and to God. With this, other faith groups are not in dispute concerning their own spiritual communities.

In turn, the spiritual community of believers takes precedence over institutional structure within the Christian community. It is understood that the Holy Spirit– God’s breath and power– is upon all followers of Jesus and joins them together. The Passover Feast was Jesus’ last meal, emphasizing the scapegoat motif. Followers of Jesus ritually partake of that communal feast, and despite the Reformation of some 500 years ago that led to institutional splits, believers are still spiritually united in communion and identify with one another.

In antiquity it was the responsibility of the community to hand out justice. The five centuries up to now slowly evolved as there were attempts to put Godly principles into play politically, but the respective faith institutions became private personal affairs of conscience. The Holy Roman Empire had finally lost its grip.

The political Islamic perspective is that it is the responsibility of the state as the organizer of the community to promote and facilitate ethical behaviour prescribed in the Quran. It is a moral mission and activist posture to build with a divine role in the world.1

It has been said the Western perspective is that “political development is inversely related to religion in politics because secularism is a fundamental criterion of political development.”2 Mackenzie King might have disagreed. King started out longing to put an end to class conflict with a growing idea that the union of “religion, politics, and education” would best deliver reform. Ramsay Cook wrote that in the late nineteenth century King, shunning laissez-faire orthodoxy, had blended Calvinism [indicating the hand to the plow and not quitting?] and social reform producing a ‘religious liberalism.’ King’s aim for the Kingdom of God on earth ironically saw the development of the secular city.3 Industrialization and urbanization brought the end of many of the old ways of life and livelihood.

Cultures organize themselves with mores and routines; at a sophisticated level, we have political-civil society expressed by John Locke (1632-1704) as a tool for interpreting political behaviour, affected by beliefs, social forces, material traits of a social group. National identity might be associated with tribal, or clan structures or sects, carrying a collective awareness of a common history. Historically we have been limited by affectations of distinctive language and culture, and seeing differences in spiritualities instead of discovering similarities once weeding through dialects and customs. We need common identifiers in a transient world. Everyone needs to know at their core that they are a vital part of the community or we become as lost ships at sea.

1. Esposito, John L., ed. (1980). Islam and Development: Religion and Sociopolitical Change. Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, pp. 3,4.

2. Ibid, p. 3.

3. Wardhaugh, Robert A., (2000). Mackenzie King and the Prairie West. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, p.9.; George Ramsay Cook (1985). The Regenerators: Social Criticism in Late Victorian English Canada, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, p. 169.

I don’t know about you, but today I am fed up to the eyeballs about how our news and internet are being taken over by ISIS snuff videos and the reporting of same. It is enough to get my juices going and to wake me up, whereas parts of me have been sleeping. I am sure we have all fallen into that malaise. It has also resolved me to become bolder in terms of life applications of spirituality. The days of being raised that we (mostly Christians) are not to talk about religion and politics are long gone by absolute necessity.

We may think it happened after 9/11 and 7/7, but really what we are in the face of right now is unfinished business since the break up of the Ottoman Empire and the venting of the collective Arabic spleen, and others. World War One (the Great War) has little been talked about as my parents’ generation produced volumes of movies and documentaries of World War Two.

Ed Husain, who wrote “The Islamist,” made two points about rejecting the Jewish and Christian faiths when he was in a space of personal spiritual crisis, having left violent Islamism behind. He rejected Judaism out of hand because it was “race” based. It ignores the universal truths the Hebrew tribe early identified and uniquely expressed in legal logic language to clearly delineate our human relationship with the Creator. Sammy Davis Junior, may he rest in peace, would soundly disagree with Ed.

Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) for personal and communal transformation honours the atonement message’s deep psychological wisdom. During its ten days of repentance that extend from the first day of the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah (Yom Hazikaron–the Day of Remembrance) to Yom Kippur,  humanity through the Jewish faith tradition is encouraged to look at what we have done and what we have become in the past year. We are called to participate in an individual and collective reassessment of our lives and to reaffirm through prayer the possibilities of our lives individually and in community. Repentance (teshuvah) requires considerable detail exactly what we shall do differently in our lives while taking stock of what things will likely throw us off or undermine our resolve. Make concrete workable action plans based on our deepest and most searching self scrutiny.

In scapegoat imagery, the unblemished lamb on behalf of sins was a visceral contract rite to move the participant to accept letting go of guilt, accepting restoration of relationship. The altar was sanctified. The mechanism requires that we accept that the past errors of our lives need not stick to us as we embrace this living imagery of an internal transformative work.  The cross that Jesus  died on was a stumbling stone to the Jewish community in First Century.

So, the sensible reasoning goes, how can the vile criminal’s cross be sanctified to lay claim that the Lamb of God was sacrificed on the cross so everyone on the planet for all time can embrace this basic truth? This is where the drama in the last days and hours before the death of Jesus of Nazareth becomes essential for the imagery to have cohesive effect. In the end, the chief priests handed him over to Pilate whose form of execution was crucifixion, thus for this instance, sanctifying the cross Jesus died on. That was then.

Constantine, in the Fourth Century, foisted a belief system and made the followers of the way of the way, truth, and the life into dogmatists and doctrinaires including the new stumbling block of the doctrine of the Trinity, Ed Husain’s second pet peeve. Shall be  addressed in another blog.

Yom Kippur resources: Michael Lerner (1994). Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation. HarperPerennial, New York, NY.

God’s dream is to not be alone, but to have humanity as a partner in the drama of continuous creation. By whatever we do, by every act we carry out, we either advance or obstruct the drama of redemption.

Abraham Joshua Heschel

You shall have hard and difficult times in the world, however, be of good cheer. The way, the truth and the life has overcome the world that closes in around you.

I often say that I wouldn’t wish my life on a dog, but neither would I trade it for the world. My life has been a mix of Greek tragedy and Comic opera. However, when I reflect on these trials and what kind of person I would be and what level of wisdom and understanding I would have without them, I find these pressures the most precious of gifts. How do I find light in the darkness?

Take a lump of coal and call it solid sunshine. Long before humanity roamed the earth the planet was covered with vast forests. These floors in a hot, steamy atmosphere stored within itself the radiant sunshine which shone year in and year out. Forests decay over time and sank into soft marshy earth, and other forests grew up over them. These in their turn sank to make room for still more forests. As the centuries rolled by, the forests underwent a great change which gradually turned into what seemed a whole. We can call it solid sunshine.

This solid sunshine, when lit, gives off light and heat energy–energetic power at our fingertips. Further pressed down and shaken up it becomes a clear beautiful diamond that dances with the rays of the sun.

What is pressing you down and shaking you up? Where is the opportunity to become more focused/pressed down? What tools do you have to navigate through the rough and tumble and beating down of your daily life?

Ahh, to guide the journey so in the end our diamond be spotless without imperfections! We certainly cannot accomplish that on our own.

What way do you follow? Is it difficult to walk in another’s shoes? You are making the pressing down a burden instead of a joy. Even saying, “Tell me more about that” takes you out of yourself and places you at a place of opportunity to understand another’s needs. Or do you disrespect people by cutting  other people off? The way of loving responsibility  is not door-mat love but is skillfull, mindful and deliberate. Love even when it is not convenient. Love even when you have to make an extra selfless effort.

Does truth, does reality, do facts press you down? What circumstances, what past is heavy on your back bending you down so you cannot look up? Truth is not sentimental. The Gita tells us this when the blue god Krishna told Arjuna to fight back against his warring cousin. He had to slay the sentimentality within that was causing indecision. Do not overlook faults but spotlight them for inner-world change which will spill out into changes in the outer world. Mercy gives us the strength to face truth and make necessary changes, to make the hard decisions. Mercy keeps us from being alone.

How do you live your life? This ties into the way and truth. With the way and truth maturing you, you are equiped to enter into life relationships in a deeper commitment basked in loving intent, not selfish gain.

We are all pressed down and shaken. Choose life. Choose truth. Choose the way. You will find sunshine stored inside you from trails and tribulation and you will have quality energy to share and to spare.

 Every time you think of coal energy, diamonds and harnessing the rays of the sun, remember the creative energy power locked within you being pressed down into greater and greater quality and thank God for your trials and tribulations. Each time you see a piece of coal, a diamond or sunshine or even our electric sunshine remember the sunshine, the radient power within you waiting to be unleashed to brighten all whom you meet. Brighten dark, sagging gloomy spots and cheer them for this solid sunshine is always with you. Let the Holy Spirit unleash it. J. 16.33.

The sequel:

Janet Wiebe