"America is not a static reality resulting from the efforts of the founding fathers, but it is a living reality that evolves and develops and improves to protect its diversity time and again. The America I believe in is not defined by one person in the White House no matter how powerful he might be, instead it is a beautiful story narrated by millions coming from different races, faiths, and backgrounds. The America I believe in is no different from our faith systems asking us to protect not only ourselves but all those who believe in its many freedoms. This is why I find solace in a spirituality that helps us heal and understand the deeper motivations for others’ actions and guides us to react in compassionate ways.
When God tells us to love the stranger for we were strangers too in the land of Egypt (Old Testament) or love the enemy and pray for the one who persecute us (NT) or be a source of mercy to all His creation whether human, animal, or environment (Qur'an), it is God’s way of telling us that there is a purpose to every being and a reason for each occurrence and we all have a role to play in this divine process. This election is not the end of the world but a small event in the larger scheme of things. Sometime we do not understand the processes that we are a part of, but we still have to play our part of spreading God’s love to others around us.
My faith tells me that life means change. Every day should be better than yesterday and the spiritual state of the heart should be better than before. If we do not change, we are dead inwardly. If we do not make progress, we are dead outwardly. Faith about growth inwardly and progress outwardly.
Even anger can be a teacher. Our anger over the election results can be a reminder that winning is not always success and losing is not always failure. It is all about progress and there is a lot of room for that, now more than ever before."
Dear Sophia Said A Process Appreciation of your Vision
Dear Sophia Said,
Thank you so much. We process philosophers and theologians living in America believe in the same America. We believe that the world we live in is not fixed or static; it is a world of becoming, of process. But sometimes we forget this. We wrongly think of America as already-defined; but you remind us that, in truth, it is still being defined. You remind us that we ourselves – along with you and many, many others – are part of the defining process.
In this election season, as we try to practice democracy, we, like you, want to keep this dynamism in mind and also, again like you, bring our spiritual minds to the practice. We want to play our role in spreading divine love to our nation and, for that matter, to the world. Our goal is to help create beloved communities that are creative, compassionate, participatory, inclusive, diverse, humane to animals, good for the earth, and spiritually satisfying -- with no one left behind. For us as for you, creative platforms for interfaith friendships is one way of doing this.
We want to practice democracy, not by imposing a worldview on people, but by listening to them, caring for them, and, in the words of Maya Angelou, inviting their voices to enter our ears.
Along with you, we are not interested only in the voices that agree with us or that tell us what we want to hear. Yes, we enjoy the fellowship of being among like-minded friends. We have our bonded communities: our mosques, synagogues, churches, and political parties.
But we are also interested in hearing the voices, and knowing the people, who are different from us and whose outlook on life may be in tension with our own. We believe that as we truly hear their voices, knowing what it is like to walk in their shoes, and knowing what pains and burdens they carry in their hearts, we ourselves can be changed for the good, because our hearts have grown wider and our constructive actions can be wiser.
Admittedly, this kind of listening does not come easily. How often we listen with closed ears, hearing only our own agendas. For the sake of more openness we need quiet minds and inner strength. We need a contemplative side to life. We need a deeper source, a higher power, a wider love. We need a God who, in the language of the Qur'an, is closer to us than our own breathing even as far beyond any of our mental constructs.
You say that there is “a reason for each occurrence and we all have a role to play in this divine process.” We agree completely that we have a role to play in this divine process. We believe that you and other kind hearts are playing this role.
When you say "a reason for each occurrence," there may be a difference with us, which is fine. If you mean that everything that happens is willed by God, we can’t agree. We think that many things happen that are neither willed nor controlled by God. We think the events of 9-11 for example, and also the events of anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish hatred, are not willed by God. For us, in some ways, the future is not-yet-decided, not even by God.
But if you mean that once something happens it cannot be changed, and that God can help us create purposes, and then live from purposes, out of even the worst of circumstances, we agree. For us, and perhaps for you too, God is a spirit of creative transformation at work in the world, and our job is to cooperate with that spirit, letting it inform our lives and actions. In the language of Islam, our job is to be vicegerents: agents of God’s love and carriers of God’s attributes.
One of God’s attributes, we believe, is deep listening. We see the spirit of listening in your interfaith work and your work in the mosque. You say that interfaith is not simply diversity but rather the spirit of pluralism. And so it is with democracy. You remind us that a living America is an ongoing experiment in democracy and that each of us can invite other voices into our ears, moving past the we-they divides that so threaten our nation.
May your work and that of the many you work with be in service to an America, indeed a world, whose oneness is enriched and enlivened by a manyness that widens us all.
Jay McDaniel Center for Process Spirituality (Arkansas)