On the question of evil and suffering
The place to begin when considering how to respond to violence and injustice is to recognize that continuous life is not the intention for human life in the earth. …What more is there?
How do we enter into the experience of abundant life, to be able to realize all that the Creative Spirit has designed us to be? What choices can we make that will enable us to experience the fullness of being human, to become all that we can be?
Evil occurs when power is abused by other humans. Suffering results from the presence of evil as well as from the consequences of diseases, illnesses, accidents, and natural disasters that break without warning into our reality. All of us must find a way to manage these disruptions. Diseases, illnesses, accidents, and natural disasters occur as mysterious incidents that remind us of our vulnerability and that we are guests in the transforming earth. Evil is produced by a choice to mistreat someone.
During my recent experience in Iraq several engagements created for me a clearer perspective on the nature and process of living in relationship with others. I affirm my discovery that the principle of ‘behaving toward others in the way that I desire them to behave toward me’ is the ultimate goal for fashioning relationship—a trustworthy guide for choosing responses. No matter what the circumstance, no matter what appears to be in jeopardy, this single principle may be applied with confidence that the result will lead me into life that is fulfilling and thus will provide the most complete adventure of human being that is possible for me in the earth.
Yet I have come upon a new recognition of what makes this process work. Before, I believed that in some mysterious way this pattern of nurturing relationship would serve to engage the spirit in the nature of other humans and prompt them to consider, urge them to adopt this same behavioral standard. Thus because of this ‘witness’ the hunan community would always be moving away from increasing the presence of evil and toward an increased respectfulness between individuals and groups. Eventually all interpersonal dynamics would reflect this principle in all human relationships for all members of the human family, thereby ‘overcoming evil with good.’ While this may still be a dynamic within interpersonal relationships, I no longer believe that this objective is the reason for someone to persistently choose this practice. Eliminating evil is simply not a reliable consequence of the choice.
Because of my recent encounters with various persons in differing echelons of power–some in places of great influence and others with little or no voice in the process of determining what actions will be taken–I have a more developed understanding of the role that ‘behaving toward others in the way that I desire them to behave toward me’ performs. The purpose for choosing this pattern does not depend on the response of others. In actuality there may be little or no change in the behavior of others because I and others may choose to apply this principle. I have not seen any indication that this kind of transformation is taking place.
Attitudes about using power do not vary much across the spectrum of human existence. Those who have power use it for advancing the goals and values of themselves and their group. Those without power complain that the power of others is abused because some persons are favored and others are disadvantaged by choices made. Yet the desire for power is equally present–power either to maintain the prevailing practices or power to change prevailing practices. It seems impossible for some individuals—most individuals–to move beyond this paradigm. Accessing power appears to be the driving motivation for the choices that people make, regardless of their circumstance. Making the transition to simply behaving toward others in the way that one desires others to behave toward them is a foreign concept, one that makes no sense in the practical engagements of life.
And even in the choice to treat others in the way I desire that they treat me, power is required to make this transition away from seeking either to hold on to power or to acquire power. And having a vision of harmony within the human family in itself is not entirely sufficient to generate this power. The power to make this change is not a power validated outside the self. It is an internal potential. This power is available to the individual from within their spirit and heart, from a place beyond and deeper than the vision of mutual respectfulness among all persons in the earth. The power to make this choice can only be realized and actuated by a belief that there is a purpose for the creation, that the presence of others requires that I relate to them, and by adopting the principle of ‘behaving toward others in a way that I desire them to behave toward me,’ I am honoring this purpose. In this choice it is impossible for one to do evil, and personal suffering may be a result. Yet suffering in the earth is inevitable; it reminds us that we are vulnerable and guests in the transforming earth.
To choose to be a part of this transformation is the most courageous act possible for the human.
Who is a Conscientious Objector?
When people hear the designation “Conscientious Objector” most of them think of someone who refuses to participate in the violence required by military service. Yet the distinction of being a CO applies to many others, not only persons who refuse to enter into or remain in a military component but also individuals who choose not to work for an institution or business that perpetuates violence in any fashion as well as those who work to find ways either to avoid paying or to divert their federal income taxes away from the revenue pool that pays for war. The company of COs actually comprises a much larger population than most people realize, composed of individuals from every sector of the world community.