Religion and the Middle East

Middle East and Religion

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With each passing day I have rewritten this letter, moving from joyful personal and Temple news to a deepening concern about the conflict in the Middle East.

By the time this email reaches you, I'm sure circumstances will have changed yet again. But I'm not optimistic that they will have changed for the better. You're probably having the same conversations I've been having -- wondering how bad things will get and what the solutions might be.

To find a solution, you need to understand the origin of the problem, and that is no easy matter--history both ancient and modern, land, money, and poverty, egotism and the hunger for power, and of course religion and fundamentalism. Where does one start?

Believing that one person can make a difference, I've been very involved with the Network of Spiritual Progressives lately, serving on the Clergy and National Advisory Boards and speaking frequently with the organization's founder, Rabbi Michael Lerner. The other day we were talking about the contents of an ad to be run in major newspapers, calling for peace. I joked to Michael that this war is what happens when God doesn't get laid, and Michael laughed, saying that I should put that in an ad in the NY Times. Some people would be offended, some would laugh, but how many would really understand the sorrowful truth behind the humor?

God is alone, and so are we. The world is out of balance. In the beginning, the Bible says that: "We created humanity in our image, man and woman we created them." WE in OUR image. In the beginning there was God *and* Goddess, El as God is referred to early in the Bible, *and* Asherah as the Canaanites (Uritic) *and* the early Israelites both called their Mother Goddess. In the beginning, there was unity, there was balance, and there was love. But over the years that balance, the essential wholeness that is divine love was lost.

It seems to me, that is the real but hidden force driving this world-threatening dispute. That is the source of the wound at the center of Western Civilization. It is a wound that grew out of three compounding cosmologies where "we" became "He"--a solitary, often angry, punishing and absent Father God, a wound shared by all three religions--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. When God exists without Goddess, masculine without feminine, when the world exists without the presence of the Sacred, humanity without divinity, confusion, pain and violence are the consequences. When religions justify killing because they have the "One True Way," they have no way at all. They are no longer religions; they are nothing but depraved politics.

When we cannot see the Divine in one another, we give ourselves license to kill. Were we to recognize the Divine in one another, we would be empowered to love. Sounds like utopia, especially given the current conditions. Is there time to bring about such a radical shift in perceptions, in culture, in religions? I don't know. But I know that we must act as if it is possible--because the Divine comes into the world through each and every one of us.

With that realization comes profound responsibility: we have no choice but to respond from the full measure, power and beauty of this truth. Understanding the core origins of the current explosion of fear and fundamentalism, violence and suffering is the starting point to finding the genuine, long-term solutions that everyone instinctually knows are vital. But it's not enough to analyze intellectually, or respond emotionally. We must counter the bloody politics of fundamentalism with the spirituality of immanent divinity. And we must restore balance with a contribution of feminine energy, moving around the full circle--from idea to courage and determination, then to compassion and love, and finally to hard work in cultivating the seeds of a new vision, honoring God *and* Goddess.

This path always returns us to the center of that circle, the point where heaven and earth are one. The place where and the moment when humanity and Divinity recognize one another, where *you* stand, seeing clearly, responding courageously, feeling deeply, and acting purposefully. The center is where you can look at yourself, and the Other, and declare from your heart "You are God/dess."

One person can make a difference. I hope you continue to thrive and grow. And in this time of violence perversely justified by false religiosity, I also hope that you will join us in cultivating a new spiritual reality to heal a wounded world.

Peace, love and blessings,
Phyllis Curott

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© Phyllis Curott
Original Publish Date: ARA Quarterly 2006