How threatening is religion? To a government, to a status quo, to a lifestyle? Is Barack Obama’s Protestantism threatening? What about Mitt Romney’s Mormonism? It’s a fascinating question we’ve been addressing in Major World Religions. Lately we’ve been talking about the “threatening” power of Confucianism. How could Confucius’ legacy endure for so long, and then be considered a threat in the twentieth century? Why was the voice of Confucius, alive and well for two thousand years, considered something to be silenced? Why is Confucianism making a comeback in China today? In fact, such a comeback that it was highlighted in the 2008 Olympics in China, among other things?
Since religions can pose a threat to people, it’s fascinating to see within various traditions and organizations who are the people with voice and vote, and who are those with neither. Within my tradition, the Presbyterian Church (USA), we use Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised 11th edition to clarify who gets voice and vote. It’s frustrating to go to a meeting where you have voice, but no vote, but far more difficult to attend a meeting where you have neither: voice nor vote.
Recently a fourteen-year-old boy held students in my community in a classroom at gunpoint. It’s harrowing to think of how it all could have gone down. The student held people hostage, fired shots into the ceiling, had weapons capable of great destruction with him. He’s charged with 16 felonies, including three counts of armed violence, a Class X felony, he also faces weapons charges for allegedly bringing three handguns, a hatchet and two knives to school. Fortunately for everyone, the child was restrained by a brave teacher, and the teenagers at the school got out without being physically harmed. Harrowing is the word I’d use to describe it. Horrific works too. The child wanted to be heard, it seems. He did not have the voice he wanted, and taking guns into a classroom was a way he thought he would get voice. Did he feel it took that, going into a classroom armed and dangerous, before someone would hear him out? It’s frightening to consider.
And, in life? Both voice and vote matter, people feeling they have both the power of voice, and the power of vote, the power to voice concerns and the power to affect change in whatever way possible. Look around. Who in your community has voice and vote, and who does not? I attended a workshop yesterday which used materials from Stephen Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything which has this quote by Covey,
“You can’t talk yourself out of a problem you’ve behaved yourself into.”
Talking and voice, in this case, is not enough.
It’s election season, so we’re mindful of voting. But voice? Progressive Christian communities do well when we pay attention to the voiceless in our communities, for surely these are those Jesus took note of: children, women, orphans, lepers, prostitutes, the poor, the lame, the blind, the disabled. No one was out of Jesus’ purview really. He took note of people, because he certainly paid attention to those in power as well. They were not out of his line of sight.
Read the news. Whose voice is considered a threat? Whose vote is pursued? Who is posing a threat? In what way (s)? Does religion have anything to do with it?
With news of anti-Japanese protests in China this week amidst territorial disputes, I close with a quote from Haruki Murakami’s Jerusalem Prize acceptance speech. His father was a part-time Buddhist priest. Murakami said:
We are all human beings, individuals transcending nationality and race and religion, fragile eggs faced with a solid wall called The System. To all appearances, we have no hope of winning. The wall is too high, too strong – and too cold. If we have any hope of victory at all, it will have to come from our believing in the utter uniqueness and irreplaceability of our own and others’ souls and from the warmth we gain by joining souls together.
Poster from the Anti-Lin, Anti-Confucius Campaign started by Mao Zedong and his wife, Jiang Qing (leader of the Gang of Four), from 1973 until 1976 and the end of the Cultural Revolution. The campaign produced Maoist interpretations of Chinese history.