Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Thursday, February 4th, 2016.

Dust and Ashes, Egos and Religion

Democratic Party, Sanders and Clinton

The two Dem candidates were asked spiritual/religious questions yesterday, and IMO their answers spoke volumes about how they see themselves and their campaigns.

This is from a CNN town hall meeting last night, a question asked by Rabbi Jonathan Spira-Savett, of Temple Beth Abraham in Nashua, NH:

Rabbi Simcha Bunim taught that every person has to have two pockets, and in each pocket they have to carry a different note. And the note in one pocket says the universe was created for me. And in the other pocket the note says I am just dust and ashes.

I want you to take a moment and think about what you would tell us about your two pockets. How do you cultivate the ego, the ego that we all know you must have—a person must have to be the leader of the free world—and also the humility to recognize that we know that you can’t be expected to be wise about all the things that the president has to be responsible for?

This is a great question. It comes close to being a koan. And may I say it’s so refreshing to glimpse a bit of mature spirituality in mass media.

Anyway, Clinton’s answer — which you can read in the CNN transcript — focused on her desire to be of service, and on the relationships she has with clergy. Here is part of it:

I have friends who are rabbis who send me notes, give me readings that are going to be discussed in services. So I really appreciate all that incoming.

And the final thing I would say, because again, it’s not anything I’ve ever talked about this much publicly, everybody knows I — I have lived a very public life for the last 25 or so years. And so I’ve had to be in public dealing with some very difficult issues and personal issues, political, public issues. And I read a, um, a treatment of the prodigal son parable by the Jesuit Henri Nouwen, who I think is a magnificent writer of spiritual and theological concerns. And I — I read that parable and there was a line in it that became just a lifeline for me. And it basically is practice the discipline of gratitude.

So regardless of how hard the days are, how difficult the decisions are, be grateful. Be grateful for being a human being, being part of the universe. Be grateful for your limitations. Know that you have to reach out to have more people be with you, to support you, to advise you, listen to your critics, answer the questions.

But at the end, be grateful. Practice the discipline of gratitude. And that has helped me enormously.

This is an excellent answer. It reveals more genuine spirituality than all of the Bible-thumpers in the GOP put together.

And here’s a question aimed at Bernie Sanders:

COOPER: You know, I want to follow up, because Jason also mentioned faith, which is something you’ve spoken a little bit about. You’re Jewish, but you’ve said that you’re not actively involved with organized religion.

What do you say to a voter out there who says — and that who sees faith as a guiding principle in their lives, and wants it to be a guiding principle for this country?

SANDERS: It’s a guiding principle in my life, absolutely, it is. You know, everybody practices religion in a different way. To me, I would not be here tonight, I would not be running for president of the United States if I did not have very strong religious and spiritual feelings.

I believe that, as a human being, the pain that one person feels, if we have children who are hungry in America, if we have elderly people who can’t afford their prescription drugs, you know what, that impacts you, that impacts me.

And I worry very much about a society where some people spiritually say, it doesn’t matter to me, I got it, I don’t care about other people.

So my spirituality is that we are all in this together and that when children go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, it impacts me. That’s my very strong spiritual feeling.

I would have liked Sanders to respond to the rabbi’s question also, but this was good, too.

Both candidates stressed concern for the well-being of others as a religious motivation for running for President, which to me reveals a more sincere and mature level of spirituality than the nonsense spewing from the likes of Ted Cruz about how God wants him to be President in order to make America the country God wants it to be. If the great host of dead Christian theologians going back to Augustine — indeed, maybe Paul as well — could rise up and speak, they would denounce such presumption. Probably most of the rabbis would, too.

Clinton also spoke to how religion strengthens her and helps her keep going. And that’s fine, in the Christian tradition. Sanders, however, didn’t speak about himself as much as about the great interconnection of human beings.  What happens to one, happens to all of us. This is closer to a Buddhist perspective.

I read a few days ago that a big difference in the two campaigns is that Clinton tends to emphasize her resume and how she is battle-tested and ready to do the job. Sanders rarely refers to himself at all, and instead speaks of the problems we face and change he wants to see.

And if there were some way to combine those two qualities, boy howdy, would that be a great candidate.

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