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The Mind’s Greatest Disease: “For” and “Against”

obama-boehnerI came across this saying and I’ve been thinking about it this afternoon. It was spoken by Sent-ts’an, Buddhist, around c. 700 C.E.

“If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between ‘for’ and ‘against’ is the mind’s worst disease.”

Political leaders are always seeking, are they not, to create a kind of “us” and “them” world?…those who are “for” us and those who are “against” us.

Religious groups tend to do this, too, don’t they? Why else do you suppose there so many denominations within Christianity alone? It seems to me that it isn’t just because people tend to see things differently, though that explains it in part. Rather, there’s something in all of us that finds comfort in hanging with those like us as opposed to those not like us. So, there’s “us” and then, there’s “them.” There’s what we’re “for” and what we’re “against.”

The “mind’s worst disease.” Dis…ease.

On one occasion, the disciples of Jesus were debating among themselves about which of them would be the greatest.

Coincidentally, that debate is still going on. In Congress. In congregations. In you. In me.

Jesus took a little child into his arms and said, “Whoever welcomes this child…welcomes me…the one who is least among you is the greatest” (Luke 9:46-50).

The least among us is the greatest? Oh, come now, you can’t really be serious?

Do you ever get the feeling that much of the political rhetoric over guns, gun control, gun laws…over the budget…over who’s court the ball is now in…which side is right…who’s for what…who’s against what…why our group is in favor of this and opposed to that…

…Do you ever get the feeling that so much of the religious rhetoric that people like, yes, even I, engage in regularly…that we are too often more interested in making others “wrong” by making ourselves “right?” That all the differences we pretend are so earthshaking, even bearing some kind of eternal significance, are really not all that earthshaking after all, and certainly anything but eternal?

And then, just about the time I get ready to pontificate some more about what I believe and how certain I am that my (our) beliefs are more right than your beliefs and that, if you’re not with me (us) then you must be against me (us)…

Jesus picks up a little child, looks at all my posturing and pontificating, as I, and, well, you, too, jockey for to make our point, maneuver to the place of prominence, even pre-eminence among our “us” so that “we” might hold on to our place of superiority over them, the “others”…and, just then, Jesus cuts through the madness, picks up this little child and says, “the greatest among you is the least.”

Already the debate across the US over guns has clouded our vision of the least among us in Newtown…Anytown. Hasn’t it?

If you read the scriptural text, you cannot miss the irony of what happens next in this little Lukan narrative.

The disciple John says, “But Master, we saw someone driving out demons in your name and so we tried to stop him because he isn’t ONE OF US” (Luke 9:50).

A world of “us” and “them” – those “for” us and those “against” us…the “mind’s worst disease”…a world defined more by what we “us’s” believe and what we “us’s” don’t believe…what those “them’s” are “for” and what those “them’s” are “against.”

Isn’t it THIS kind of world that needs to STOP?

And, of course, the disciples missed the Master’s message entirely!

That, too, still happens.

John, speaking for the others, objected…”But, Master, what about us? They’re not one of US!”

“Us” and “Them” – “For” and “Against” The “mind’s greatest disease.”

Could this be our nation’s greatest disease?

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