Let Us Usher in the Kingdom

Chapter Fourteen

If your faith is true, you yearn for a better world and dedicate your actions to that purpose. You want to purify and perfect yourself so that, at a minimum, you do no harm to others. That is not easy. One way to fulfill this goal is to remember that Jesus assured us that we are the light to the world. This worthy goal may also be achieved by "Seeing the God in others" and treating them "with great respect and love," as Gurumayi teaches. If you are a Ba'hai, then you believe:

Now is the time to cheer and refresh the downcast through the invigorating breeze of love and fellowship, and the living waters of friendliness and charity.
They who are the beloved of God, in whatever place they gather and whomsoever they meet, must evince, in their attitude toward God, and in the manner of their celebration of His praise and glory, such humility and submissiveness that every atom of the dust beneath their feet may attest the depth of their devotion.(1)

If you are part of the New Age, you also believe in the importance of love and service to people and this planet.

Faith breeds enormous optimism about what is possible through the power of God and of love. Yet it also demands realism, and any honest assessment of the world finds it falling far short of the ideal. This creates great opportunities for the faithful, who are committed to God's kingdom and who permit God to work through them.

It is important for each of us to serve God -- or at least the greatest good. I know each of us takes this responsibility seriously and that each of us serves God as we see fit. Yet, a fair appraisal of our society is that there is something seriously lacking in our human relationships. Let each of us consider our role in healing those relationships.

Our most serious problems are spiritual, and not material. Yet our world is so material that it thinks of these problems in material terms. We speak of food for the hungry, prisons to deter violence, interdicting drugs, taking away guns, improving housing, increasing job opportunities, and improving education. These are all important, but they do not address the deep human emptiness that hangs like a pall over our cities.

We are a nation divided. The well-off do little that is lasting and personal to heal their cities. They send money, food, clothing and toys. They may help to give out food. They may even help to run summer camps for the needy, for a week or two. But few create a lasting relationship with people in need. Most of the time when we speak of solving city problems, our minds turn to "programs" and to people's material needs.

It is my conviction that, motivated by love and by sheer survival instinct, we can learn to resolve problems in the worst urban areas, where:

The principal characteristics of this "problem" are that we, as a nation, have given up. I know, from my difficulty in effectively addressing the spiritual problems of my own son, even though enormous emotional and material resources were expended, that the beginning of knowledge about this problem is to admit the depths of our own ignorance. Then we need silence and prayer, by ourselves and with others (and without judging the source of their spiritual strength) in order to plumb the depths of the human soul and devise mutual solutions.

I suggest a spiritual process to clarify our national objectives. Management specialists will recognize this process as similar to a technique used in Total Quality Management. We must become committed to improving the quality of life for all our people. We must develop a shared, widely-supported vision that will mobilize our enormous spiritual resources behind that goal.

I have in mind a process in which we form intense spiritual study-groups of about 40 people. The groups should represent different interests ("victims," neighborhood residents who have succeeded, social workers and teachers, charity volunteers, spiritual leaders, concerned but distanced middle-class people, wealthy people, corporate managers). These people should be supported so that they will be a new, more important kind of Grand Jury. They will spend over a month in common living quarters, devoting all their time to mutually addressing and solving this one problem. The conferees -- acting as representatives for all of us -- would devise a new national vision that could mobilize private volunteers, charities, and government.

These groups of conferees would issue in-depth reports on how the process worked and how the nation could support their conclusions. Videotapes of their deliberations would be published so we could share the process. My vision is that these groups would meet in different parts of the country, perhaps five of them at first, producing results through their own separate processes. There could then be a follow-up effort to mold a common solution from the efforts of all the groups. If the process is imperfect, we could devise improved ways to conduct the process and we could keep on plugging until it works.

I do not know the outcome of this process, but I have some guesses. First, I think the disparate participants will experience a profound sense of love from their common effort and that they will form lasting bonds. Second, they will find that no combination of separate "programs" (jobs, housing, food, education, medicine, police) will produce a result unless it helps the community to redefine itself spiritually.

The urban problem is community-wide, which impedes progress through individual spiritual conversions. That is why Alcoholics Anonymous strongly suggests that alcoholics leave the culture that supports their alcoholism. It is why a recent group of black youth from Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York City reported strong initial results from time spent with a Kibbutz in Israel. It is why a foundation was successful in taking black youth from Baltimore and educating them in Kenya. It also is why the results may have dissipated when the youth returned to their community.

I have been moved by transformational workshops, which produce enormous short-term changes in people. For these changes to last, however, people must do continuing spiritual work or they quickly slide back into old patterns. However, if a whole community were in a workshop, then social forces might help all the participants to continue their work.

I want to acknowledge that Arnold Mindell has been holding Worldwork or Citywork programs that prove the feasibility of the process I am outlining. His workshops bring many people together in the hot spots of our nation. He has done his work in Compton, California and in Watts, California; also in Miami and New York City. He also plans to work in Washington, D.C..

Each of the Mindell workshops brings a diverse group of people together. Instead of burying the sources of conflict, these workshops allow the conflict to be expressed. In two-and-one half days, the participants in these workshops have achieved a higher level of love and understanding. They have come to appreciate the importance of diversity and of conflict. Therefore, these workshops have the potential of developing lasting lines of communication that could help to achieve lasting solutions.

What I am proposing is building on this idea through longer-lasting workshops, commissioned to develop a common vision and a workable national course of action. I, of course, cannot know whether this will work; but I am tremendously optimistic that God will visit these groups and steer them in the right direction. They will develop love and understanding by braving the conflict existing in them. They will rise to a higher level of love and constructive action because of their commitment to one another and to a better world.

What do you think? Can we do this dance together? Can you improve on my vision? Will you join me in this exciting project to mount a successful revolution based on love and understanding?

1. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, The Glad Tidings of Baha'u'llah, George Ronald, Oxford (1949) at p. 76.

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