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October 12, 2010

Conflicting Values? Spiritual Guidance vs. Political Activism

I've been troubled for some time about the conflict between my political activism and my chosen spiritual leader. I tried to write an op-ed based on this tension for the WaPo America's Next Great Pundit contest. I didn't make the top 50, so I'm publishing it here.

As this round of peace negotiations unravels, the U.S. government should cut off military aid to Israel until it conforms with international law. Financial and political support from our country is the only reason Israel's forty-three year occupation of Palestine continues.

My spirituality is the bedrock of my political belief in the power of diplomacy and the importance of citizen engagement in the political process. I first learned in Hebrew School that it is my responsibility to heal the world; and like many of my generation I took that commandment to its logical conclusion – viewing myself as an unfettered agent of change, rather than a victim of anti-Semitism.

During a recent political discussion at temple, I was informed that there's no chance for peace until the U.S. and Israel cut off Hezbollah and Hamas from their primary funders in Iran. Therefore, I shouldn't be surprised, or scared, that a war against Iran will happen in the next year. According to the rabbi, the only way to get peace is through war.

Why attend a religious institution that espouses political beliefs so far from my own? I've been searching for a coherent spiritual tradition my entire life. Neither my explorations of alternative religions, nor my childhood at a conservative synagogue prepared me for the awesome power of a leader with an encyclopedic knowledge of philosophy, psychology, and religion. On my way to accepting my rabbi's Neo-Hasidic, Kabbalistic teachings, I've expanded my understanding of Plato, Freud, and even the origins of Islam.

I will never agree with him that "we are at war with an intractable enemy who has declared war on us." Nevertheless, I will continue to seek his guidance on moral and spiritual issues. And I will continue working to expand the place of ordinary citizens in global affairs, from the inclusion of women in conflict resolution per the mandate of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, to the abolition of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, to international recognition of two states in pre-1967 borders in the Middle East.

Posted by cj at October 12, 2010 10:15 PM


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