According to Graham, God, being a gentleman, politely backed off and left us to our own devices when we ended prayer in public schools and began teaching our teenagers about safe sex, among other sins.
No one should be offended by a poor woman's ignorance. But her notions seem spiritually erroneous: Believing, for example, that the being of all-powerful love and compassion would disfavor a nation because it tries to protect its teenagers against a fatal disease.
Indeed, there are certainly spiritual truths for which our human assertions are but approximations. Regardless of Graham's statements, if we look at the mystical traditions of any religion, which is where they tend to agree, God is:
· Universal love
· Always available to the open human being who is willing to give up ego
· Never punishing -- this we do to ourselves
· For all, regardless of race, creed or color
· The result of a path that can be followed by effort on our part, that effort being the giving up of the ego, sometimes called the small self or the little I
· With us during our successes and during our mistakes
· Power beyond and different from our material ideas of power, good and evil
· The true reality, while much of what we think we see is actually transparent
· Energy and presence that can be felt -- in fact, is to be felt by human beings
· A conveyance of holiness to all: rocks, trees, animals and us
· The center and essence of where we come from and what we are
· A center of stillness and silence from our own thoughts
Recognizing that we are connected in oneness, that we are not the small self and that much of our truth is the ego's attempt at control through opinion or much worse are the difficult recognitions. But we make these truths obscure to ourselves through our own words and actions. In America, for example, we want to investigate, get to the bottom of things, find out what's wrong, think of a solution and get everyone to go our way.
The tricky part is that there are too many valid ways for different people. These are the ways of small things -- of human nature and its expressions. Beyond our merely human nature is what we seek, that oneness which is the absolute, the knowledge and the truth. Rules that approximate this oneness tend to be along the lines of "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you," or "Thou shall not kill."
It is hard for us to live by such rules, because they do tend to imply the absolute, applying to all people and all behavior. Despite such apparent universal applicability, our human nature decides when we are justified in killing or when others are obviously less holy than ourselves.
This type of decision occurs in the face of obvious and clear moral precepts. At any given time, the best that can be said is collectively we are rather spiritually inept. Each individual, however, can work toward spiritual realization.
This does not involve forcing moral opinions on others in the name of God. People who do this, in general, are those to watch out for. I am reminded of some New Age folks at a party one night. I was explaining the wonders of modern surgery that I had read about. A pediatric surgeon can open a small intestinal blockage in a newborn infant, who would otherwise die from starvation without the operation.
"Oh," my New Age friends exclaimed in shock, "that's messing with the child's karma!"
I pointed out that perhaps the baby's "karma" included being born into an age that had good surgeons. I was then denied a refill on my Mu 16 rejuvenating tea.
Then again, this entire discussion sounds suspiciously similar to the "Teenagers should remain celibate and refrain from using condoms" argument. Indeed we should not cut into a baby's abdomen unless there is a justifiable outcome. Certainly, an unmarried 17, 18, 19, 20-to-25-year-old should not engage in improper sex, whatever that is, but would certainly be improper if willfully unsafe, putting either partners at risk of severe illness.
The New Age community often has a problem in its moral stance due to a lack of fundamentalism; instead, anything goes. On the other hand, fundamentalism often suffers from a lack of attention to the New Age -- there is a valid diversity in worship and cultural behavior along with new collective and individual responsibilities.
In reality, the application of either religious or "karmic" rules to others when they're not hurting anyone is bone-headed, regardless of from which camp or what rule.
This is exactly what happens with most zealots, however. They can be guilty of chastising, ridiculing or doing worse in the name of God or ultimate truth. Certain fundamentalists, in resisting modernity, are particularly vulnerable to developing destructive attitudes and actions. The issue then rapidly becomes, what are we going to do with the people who know God's plan as it applies to us?
In Ann Graham's case, the answer is easy: Laugh at her. In the case of the New Ager who thought the baby should not have the operation, try not to cry.
Other zealous individuals are not so easy to handle. The men who committed suicide, taking more than 3,000 innocent victims with them into the unknown, believed they knew God's plan and on Sept. 11, would be rewarded in paradise.
Our lack of adherence to their interpretation of God's rules left us vulnerable to their decision to kill. The Golden Rule has now been convoluted: They did to us what they apparently hoped we would not do to them.
Of course, we need rules to run our societies, as well as to deal with terrorism. How well these rules approximate fair rules for all is a matter of constant soul-searching and work.
The faults of our enemies and of ourselves, as well as the reasons for human dysfunction, can be described by terms opposite to those of mysticism listed above: Hate, greed, wrath, racism, spiritual negligence, a belief in the material as pre-eminent, a belief that our humanness and human interpretations are ultimate, seeing nature as dead or as exclusively there for our use alone, an inordinate attention to the mostly meaningless chatter in our own minds, divisiveness and war.
Spiritually rich, we come together in our love of each other, our surroundings and even something higher. Spiritually poor, we huddle together in our disdain.