Monday, November 9, 2009

Marcus J. Borg - "Politics of Compassion"

If you are part of Western culture, then you are probably most familiar to images of Godde that support the patriarchy, i.e. the "Heavenly Kingdom" or that Godde's only parental quality is like that of a "Father." But according to Marcus J. Borg, in his book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, this was not always so. In fact, Jesus refers to God as a "womb:"

And to complete the imitatio dei, to "be compassionate as God is compassionate" is to be like a womb as God is like a womb. It is to feel as God feels and to act as God acts: in a lifegiving and nourishing way. "To be compassionate" is what is meant elsewhere in the New Testament by the somewhat more abstract command "to love." According to Jesus, compassion is to be the central quality of a life faithful to God the compassionate one (49).

Later, Borg states that Jesus is promoting a new subversive way to live, "the politics of compassion," (49) and he demonstrated that in having a '"discipleship of equals" embodying "the egalitarian praxis" of Jesus' vision (82). According to Borg:

Indeed, his words, "call no man on earth your father, for you have one Father, who is in heaven" may very well be directed against the patriarchal family, which as the primary social unit in that world was a microcosm of a hierarchical system. If so, this is a fascinating instance of Jesus using the image of God as Father in a way that subverted patriarchy.

But in at least the American society, we think of compassion as an individual act. We are taught to support politicians or ideologies that are not compassionate in order to get what we want. We are taught that compassion is a private action, but according to Borg, Jesus did not, contrary to popular opinion ("Render to Caesar what is Caesar's" for instance).

This book has inspired me to think about my own political viewpoints recently. I used to be strongly libertarian. My parents are independent, with Republican leanings and I have been told all my life that Democrats have "nice" ideals, but that they are too naive.

I am not saying that I am leaning more towards becoming a democrat now, but I am taking the idea that politician and that politics should have compassion as a core value much more seriously. Hell, I might even be a communist or a socialist!

There is no pressure for me to come up with all the political answers any time soon, but one thing I do know: it is increasingly becoming more difficult for me to support any candidate, as punishment, intolerance, and negativity are more popular ideals to promote than ones of compassion, tolerance, and love. And while I of course know that there are no perfect people, I am looking for the whole package! I do not believe that one can have a horrible moral life and be a great politician. I just don't!

Most likely, I am going to become fiercely independent. Too many people in too many parties only set high bars for themseles politically and not spiritually or morally, and no, when I say "moral," I am not talking about "family values," unless those family values include a call to inclusiveness. I am not "naive," but I do have high standards. Won't you join me?

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