The day Trump picked up the Bible…

It is a time of great sorrow as we confront the reality of racism. Whether it is subtle or overt, as was the case in George Floyd’s murder, it is always destructive and always painful. Many of you would have seen the video clips of the U.S. president brandishing the Bible in front of a church for a photo op, after clearing out peaceful ‘Black Lives Matter’ protestors. Following is what I think President Donald Trump should have said when he picked up that Bible…

“Churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, and other places of worship represent much of society, that seek to foster peace both inwardly and socially. Religious doctrines are useful tools to help us find that peace and to help us reflect it in our actions. This Book is one of those doctrines that embraces the philosophy that we all embody the Spirit of God, and it attests to the fact that our bodies are only temporary coverings of the divinity within it, and that the differences that arise in the body, due to race, environment, and circumstances are all inconsequential. Jesus assured us that the Holy Spirit is installed in all of us – irrespective of outward differences. That the spirit is divided between us, and yet is one, proves that we are all joined in spirit under a loving and protective God. It does more than prove our brotherhood and sisterhood, it proves our oneness. If we could take the time to acknowledge that He who loves us so much abides in each of us, how then could we hurt each other? If we could start seeing ourselves and others for what we are, an embodiment of spirit, of divinity itself, this country and this world could become a haven of peace, joy, equality, equal opportunity, non-violence, and love.

The events around George Floyd’s murder have brought the pain of racism to light and it can no longer be ignored, excused or accepted as the norm. Many white Americans may have learned some poor lessons growing up, where different rules of social ethics applied to different people, but, like many other White Americans, it is time to use discrimination to unlearn these false teachings and undo these false practices. It is time to see people for what they are, their fears, their ambitions, their loves, their preferences, their sadness, their potential, and their spirits. It is time to drop the irrational thinking on which racism is founded and embrace Jesus’ message of love wholeheartedly. Each of us must feel valued in this deeply connected society for us all to find our true worth.

I ask the black community for forgiveness for not actively taking up the cause of social inequalities sooner, and I hope that I can do much more for you, with your help and guidance, through what is left of my term. “

… and I wish he said all of this with the protestors still present. The day Trump picked up the Holy Bible could have been a significant day in the history of the world, but alas, it was only a photo op. My hope is that this failure by a group of police officers and a president, which represents a failure by society, ignites a lasting change in America, here in distant South Africa and the rest of the world. May we be united, as we are in spirit.

By Natasha Subbiah

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Thoughts for Success in an Interfaith Relationship

Most relationships come with challenges, no different is the relationship between people of different religions or different cultures. If we see these challenges as opportunities for self reflection and personal growth then we can greatly and ceaselessly benefit from an interfaith relationship. Through the years I have noted many characteristics that I can change within myself to better serve myself, my interfaith relationship and my interfaith family. I admit that it has taken a long time for me to go through this process of refinement and I must acknowledge that I do have a long way more to go. Here are some thoughts that I keep in mind when facing the added complexities of an interfaith or inter-religious marriage, based on my personal experience.

Do not be competitive, especially on the topics of religion, race or culture. There is no room for competitiveness in love. This is an extremely damaging pastime and will win you no love or respect. Value the role of your partners religion in this world and in your partners life and accord it respect and eventually even love. It may take you some time to come to this place, but after 12 years I have feelings of peace and love for my husband’s chosen form of God and it is indeed a beautiful and natural feeling once you open your heart. This in no way takes away from my love of my own religion since my religion encourages love of all.

Not being competitive includes not speaking down on your partners religion or culture especially when you are not directly asked for a view. If you do have to disagree on a certain philosophy, do so in a respectful manner whilst acknowledging if there are aspects of that philosophy that you do agree with. I admit that I am guilty of being negative about certain aspects of my partners religion. I always abandon such a topic and I always regret it.

You should rather choose to be understanding. Understand that your partner has a different history, different experiences, different affiliations, and different fears stemming from his/her different background. Acknowledge that you may have been very different had you had the same upbringing. Try to understand why things are done the way they are in your partners religion. Try and understand your partners emotions and fears and your partners families emotions and fears based on their belief system, even though at times their fears are unfounded.

Focus on common ground instead of the sometimes superficial differences between your religions. The most important thing is that you both are likely to share common values which you have each inherited from your respective, religions, cultures and families. As I learn more about my husband’s religion, which at face value seems quite different, I find more and more in common with my own religion. Do not be tempted to constantly bring up those things that are different between your religions, these are the things which usually have no tangible impact on your physical lives.

Be supportive in your partners practice of his/her religion. Remember that there are many damaging pastimes in the alluring material world and praying to God (regardless of which name or form or lack thereof, you may choose to worship) is usually not one of them. Indeed focusing on spiritual practices and charity activities can add deep and lasting joy, peace and mental fortitude to your partners life; and can help ward off mental agitations and diseases such as depression. Be sure that, in a loving relationship, you can never be truly happy if your partner is not happy and fulfilled. Never underestimate the value of peace as a prerequisite for happiness. Spiritual practices are a significant tool for acquiring peace. Allow your partner to dip in to this inexhaustible stream of joy without him/her having to contend with your hesitancy or negativity first.

Do not speak or act in anger. When angry, take some time out to try and understand your partners words or actions better and then respond from a calmer footing. In anger we often say things that we don’t fully mean and this can cause untold and often irreparable damage. If we do act or speak in a hurtful way, apologise sincerely.

Do not be egotistical. Often we prevent ourselves from loving fully, we prevent ourselves from compromising on superficial things and we prevent ourselves from choosing to live in full joy because of our pride. For example, we stalled our wedding for over a year because we couldn’t agree on how to do it. My ego was definitely in the way. Eventually I gave in on most accounts, having a very small religious ceremony of my husband’s faith and then a larger “universal” or non-faith-specific reception. It ended up being a very loving affair but we hardly think back on that one day because we are so busy enjoying our marriage and our family. The wedding was not that important after all. I am sure I would have so much less love now had I chosen my ego over my love. However, this does not mean that we must not each insist on respect.

All of life’s relationships challenge us to be better, challenge us to drop our boundaries and expand our horizons, challenge us to live fully in love in thought word and deed. Use your interfaith relationship to find your truly wonderful True Self.

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Sending universal love to my interfaith family.

Fear or Faith

In my study of religious philosophy I have come across two fundamental emotions or values from which all other emotions or values originate. The first may not surprise you, it is “love”, the root emotion to most positive feelings such as empathy, compassion, duty, non-violence, patriotism, faith etc. The other  opposing emotion is “fear”, from which most negative emotions or values are spun, such as jealousy, anger, frustration, competitiveness etc.

When testing these fundamental emotions whilst observing religious people over social media and news platforms, most religious people who are newsworthy or who are prompted to speak out openly seem to be driven by one of these base emotions. Most of us will probably be motivated by a mix of these two emotions, but leaning heavily towards one side produces two very different kind of religious aspirants within the very same religion.  This has become exceedingly apparent in the times of the Trump presidency. There is the kind of Christian that is seemingly motivated by fear, whose fears are manifest as racism and religious intolerance, the irrational need to own guns and invest more in defence and security, including an expensive border wall. On the other hand, there are the Trump detractor Christians, who, driven by love, insist on protecting the victims of war regardless of their religious inclination or race, who would rather invest money in humanitarian causes than defence. These Christians, like the great Mother Teresa, driven by love, are able to see Jesus in all.

Every major religion produces many different kinds of followers, depending, I would say, on their motivating feelings and their intentions. These differences in motivation produce very different world views and naturally very different outcomes.

We can say that religion is the cause of most major conflicts in the world today. I am convinced that religion, by itself, is not the problem; but rather, it is the motivating emotions behind each person’s chosen religion (regardless of what that religion is) that is the problem. If we were to live in a world where the religious were motivated by true, divine, unconditional, unprejudiced, boundless love; then our world would flourish and we would usher in the Golden Age that many of us await.

I am often able to relate more to my husband who is of a different religion to me, than others of my own religion. This is because the variation within religious groups dictate that the traditional means of dividing and judging people based on religion is actually very ineffective. We should rather be judged on how much of love we have in our hearts; and since this is impractical with our limited senses, maybe we should leave the judging and the grouping to God.