Yesterday I received a rather negative email in response to my posting a suggestion on a list serve connected to a religious organization that people write to their elected officials about the health care bill pending in the Senate. I sent the email because my contribution to this group is to serve as the designated liaison between a lobbying group that was established by the religious organization and the religious organization. Once of month or so, I highlight issues that are the focus of the lobbying groups email campaigns. The email took me to task for thinking that politics has any place in connection with spiritual practice and therefore the on-line discussion should never be about politics. The person assured me that our political views were different, although I did not actually suggest what people should write; I only said that they should write. I have been pondering this deeply as it is a topic I have thought about, taught about, and wrestled with deeply over the years, especially during the Presidential elections.
As one who believes that body, mind, and community are inseparable from spirit, I am unable to separate political action from spiritual action. I believe that I have a duty to be knowledgeable about the issues challenging society as a whole, to take action within the framework of society to seek the embodiment of my spiritual beliefs (grossly oversimplified, that the rules, commitments, and support networks of society should recognize the light of all beings — human and not — and foster the seeking of that light by all), and to challenge the very framework of the discussion and rules when they obscure the light and its recognition.
One of the reasons for discussion is to explore, to learn, to be challenged, to expand both knowledge and understanding. That can be a hard process. I certainly do not expect people to agree with each other at all times, but that is not the point of discussion. While I think this sort of discussion perfectly appropriate in the context of a spiritual discussion, it might be less welcome where what is being sought is an immediate sense of peace and harmony in the connection of a particular practice. For example, if it is known that family and friends have strong disagreements about “political” issues, it might be disagreeable for digestion and the day to bring up the issues at the Thanksgiving dinner table.