Signs of Hope and Progress
We should try to keep in mind that there have been and are great signs of hope and progress, despite all the signs of hypocrisy, bigotry, greed, corruption, conflict, division and violence which have caused so much despair and decline in the human condition in our nation and world, and still plague us.
We can have faith that ultimately the real truth will prevail over falsehoods, good will overcome evil that masquerades as good, and love will overcome hate. And there have been and are many signs that this inevitable phenomenon has been and is taking place, even though their is still very strong and fierce resistance against it by those who love the status quo that keeps making them richer and richer.
One of the most recent signs of progress is the message Pope Francis has delivered to the world by way of his "bully pulpit." His message has reminded people of the core, universal message of Jesus of Nazareth, and Francis' June 2015 encyclical is a crucial and important part of his message which reflects the message that has been delivered by the author of this site.
Francis’ encyclical is called "Praised Be," a title based on an ancient song attributed to Saint Francis, and this encyclical addressed the world. But the thing is, while its main focus has been considered to be climate change, its 184 pages call for other reforms, including significant reform of the banking system. It states in Section IV:
“Today, in view of the common good, there is urgent need for politics and economics to enter into a frank dialogue in the service of life, especially human life. Saving banks at any cost, making the public pay the price, forgoing a firm commitment to reviewing and reforming the entire system, only reaffirms the absolute power of a financial system, a power which has no future and will only give rise to new crises after a slow, costly and only apparent recovery. The financial crisis of 2007-08 provided an opportunity to develop a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and new ways of regulating speculative financial practices and virtual wealth. But the response to the crisis did not include rethinking the outdated criteria which continue to rule the world. . . . A strategy for real change calls for rethinking processes in their entirety, for it is not enough to include a few superficial ecological considerations while failing to question the logic which underlies present-day culture.”
His statement about the economic and banking system is a continuation of his advocacy for the poor and the least of our brethren. For if one is to advocate for the average people and the poor, one also has to expose and rebuke the forces of greed and self interest that exploit and oppress others in order to gain personal wealth and power, because it is those forces that have made the world as it is.
Francis' message is a refreshing sign, because we haven't had many recently. Of course, there were signs of progress with the "Arab Spring," during which the some of the people in the Mid-East were willing to overcome their fear and stand up in the streets to be counted in their opposition to the despotism of dictatorial, oppressive governments. And it was a sign of great hope and progress that they at least tried to do it peacefully, and only in self-defense did some of them fight back against brutal, violent, deadly suppression.
Ironically, the same thing happened in America with the "Occupy" movement, albeit with less violence, because most Americans realize the errors and failures of Reaganism and Reaganomics but have learned the lessons of the 1960s and 1970s. We know that that era was marked by police violence against demonstrators and protesters, and we know that police forces have increasingly become even more militarized since Ronald Reagan's Comprehensive Crime Control Act gave police and the justice system all the power they need to crush dissent and protest.
However, that was not the only problem the "Occupy" movement in America had, because it not only lacked leadership and an effective strategy. It didn't have a chance after it was maligned by corporate commercial media even in democratic cities, and it was coopted in many cities by infiltrating thugs that were hired to clash with police and make the movement look bad. But later on in this article you can see a video of the best side of the Occupy movement.
That movement began because it was inspired by the victory of Barack Obama in 2008, which showed that at least 52 percent of the 43 percent of eligible voters who bothered to vote understood that significant change is needed after 30 years of Reaganism and its "Gospel of Prosperity" that has made the wealthiest few incredibly richer while the rest of us have become steadily worse off.
Many of those who voted for Obama realized that Reaganism obviously favors the wealthiest few at the expense of everyone else. And, even though President Obama has been so thwarted by obstructive, offensive, deceptive opposition from right-wing Republicans, Libertarians and the so-called "Tea Party" that he has been unable to establish any serious reforms and has had to settle for very weak attempts at health care reform and financial reform, which do not solve the basic problems.
Still, the "Occupy" movement was one of the signs that the progressive movement is still alive and well, and willing to voice its discontent. It just hasn't yet figured out how to regroup and establish effective tactics.
So, America is still mired in divisive, polarizing partisan political conflict and the suffering of the vast majority of the people continues and worsens. The partisan political economic system perpetuates the partisan conflict and division. And, as has been so shamefully demonstrated since Obama has been in office, the deceptive obstructionist tactics used by right-wing partisan extremists has prevented any meaningful or lasting changes that we need.
Partisan politics is as deceptive and dirty as ever, if not more deceptive and dirtier, which is no doubt why 100 Million eligible American voters did not even bother to vote in 2008, and the same thing happened in 2012. Most people are probably disgusted with partisan politics and cannot endorse even the lesser of the two evils that divide us. (And yes, as the article on Partisan Politics discusses, Democrats can be called the lesser of two evils because they too benefit from the status quo, cozy up to the bankers and Wall Street executives, and are unwilling to tackle the real problems.)
Nevertheless, President Obama’s victory is a definite sign of hope and progress, because he at least is one of the least offensive politicians and he at least pays token lip service to serving the interests of the working poor, the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the hungry and the homeless --- even though little has been done to actually reform the system and dispel the myths that keep the people divided and down. However, Obama's victory at least shows that most Americans can now look beyond the color of a man’s skin and see his character, and they recognize how unfair and inequitable the American political economic system is.
Furthermore, there have been many other signs of hope and progress. Many things are getting better, and everything will get better in due time, as soon as enough people get the message, understand the lessons of history and see the accurate vision of our future and destiny.
The fact is that science and technology are making great strides in discovering how we can enhance and improve our lives and improve our environment in a myriad of ways, and when our government truly represents all the people, and has the political will, we will see much greater improvements.
It’s but a matter of time before that happens, because increasing numbers of people are realizing that they must stand up and speak up to give voice to the humanitarian Spirit of truth. We must do that in order to counter the selfish and corrupting spirit of greed, the ugly spirit of racial and cultural bigotry and prejudice, the arrogant spirit of hegemonic nationalism, religious bigotry, and the self-righteous spirit of partisanship -- all of which have created terrible conflict, division, violence, death, destruction and suffering in our world.
In due time it will be politically incorrect and socially unacceptable for anyone to claim that their religion or nationality or race or culture is superior to all others. Our diversity will be appreciated and celebrated. Mutual respect, equality, freedom and pluralism will be the natural order, and unity, cooperation and collaboration will be the common theme of human interaction and dialogue.
Progress In Interfaith Dialogue
Significant signs of hope and progress have been that mainstream progressive religious leaders finally began to speak up after nearly three decades of remaining silent while bigoted, hypocritical, aggressive right-wing conservative religious leaders who masquerade as Christians used their pulpits for partisan political grandstanding.
Progressive Christians were in part responsible for the victory of Democrats in the 2006 mid-term election and the 2008 presidential election, and that was a positive sign of truth winning over falsehoods. However, since Barack Obama's victory in 2008 they have been ignored while the commercial news media has instead covered the aggressive, hypocritical, offensive right-wing political leaders who make a show of being religious. Therefore, we are still plagued by those who fight change, reform and progress, while deceptively claiming that they want to "stop socialism" and restore "patriotic and religious values," as they parrot the themes of Reaganism.
Nevertheless, there were signs of hope and progress long since forgotten or ignored or denied by the forces of greed and self-interest, and perhaps three of the most significant were as follows:
1. In 1776, the seed of Jeffersonian Democracy was planted, along with the seed of religious freedom and freedom from Theocracy. (Unfortunately, the Tree of Liberty has not yet matured and we don't have real democracy, and we do not yet have real religious freedom or freedom from theocratic politicians who want to rule in the name of religion. Nevertheless, we can follow the lead and the actual intent of the Founding Fathers, when we gather the courage to do so.)
2. In the 1930s President Franklin D. Roosevelt fought and won a significant victory over the wealthy forces of greed and self-interest, and he put in place many reforms, regulations, wage and price controls and "New Deal" programs for the American people which enabled the Middle class to grow large and great. (Unfortunately, Reaganism has nearly wiped out Roosevelt's legacy, and still threatens to destroy all the New Deal programs).
3. In the 1960s many great spiritual teachers were quite effective in spreading the word that there are many core universal truths common to all religions. And, in that respect, the spiritual teachers of the 1960s were renewing the efforts of many wise people back in the 1700s. After all, many of the Founding Fathers of America and many European and American poets, philosophers, and writers had begun advancing that knowledge, and in the 1960s those efforts were renewed by many conscientious, caring people.
But, even more traditional religious leaders also started to try to do the right thing as well.
For example, throughout his papacy, Catholic Pope John Paul II preached a message of peace, hope and the bringing together of all religions. He established a dialogue of friendship and understanding between Christian denominations, and non-Christians. He tried to bring reconciliation between all religions, visiting and praying with many, and even preaching in a Lutheran church. He was the first Pope to visit a Synagogue, and he established diplomatic relations between Israel and the Vatican. In Assisi, Italy, he held prayers for peace, inviting spiritual leaders from 12 of the world's major religions.
For the first time in history, leaders from all the major religions assembled in one place, bringing Jews, Buddhists, Shintoists, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Unitarians, traditional African, and Native American religions. They all prayed for peace, and the Dahli Lama even placed a statue of Buddha on the altar. Pope John Paul II stated that they were all praying to the same God for the same purpose, and that their spiritual energy was bringing about a new climate of peace. Catholic-Muslim dialogue also expanded under John Paul the II's leadership, and he tried to create a bond between Christianity and Islam.
In 1969, the World Council of Churches gathered with Christians and Muslims, setting the stage for future dialogue. A Christian-Muslim Seminar was held in Tripoli in 1976, as well as open dialogue engaged through the Royal Academy for Islamic Civilization Research. Pope John Paul II addressed Catholics in Turkey and said, "I wonder if it is now urgent, precisely today when Christians and Muslims have entered a new period of history, to recognize and develop the spiritual bonds that unite us."
Pope John Paul II also sought a relationship with Islam. In 1994 the Vatican published a document titled "Recognize the Spiritual Bonds Which Unite Us," directed towards Muslims and Catholics alike. John Paul II was the first Pope to enter a Muslim place of worship, visiting the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria. He also visited Morocco at the invitation of some of its religious leaders, and in May of 1999, he kissed the Qur’ran. At a later rally with thousands of Muslim youth in attendance, he said, "we believe in the same God, the one God, the living God" (which, by the way, is exactly what the prophet Muhammad said and wrote in the Qur’an).
Pope John Paul II also began the much-needed Catholic process of apology and making amends for the church's mistakes throughout its history, and he began trying to do the right thing. And he made some significant progress. even though it was not nearly enough.
John Paul’s successor, Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI, tried to follow the precedents set John Paul. Benedict has openly called for further Muslim-Christian dialogue. He became the second pontiff to visit a mosque, and the ongoing Catholic dialogue throughout the years has been aimed towards contributing to world peace.
And now the new Pope Francis, while not yet showing an inclination to follow that Interfaith path, has at least been extremely courageous in denouncing unbridled greed, unchecked capitalism, and all manner of evils that plague us. In doing that, he has significantly deviated from the traditional practice of priests, bishops, cardinals and popes who have courted and flattered the wealthy who rule. And we can hope that Pope Francis also works toward Interfaith dialogue and understanding.
Despite the Deceptive Enemies of Progress, Progressives Persist
Unfortunately, theocratic "conservative fundamentalists" who claim to be Jews or Christians or Muslims do not approve of Interfaith Dialogue and cooperation. They think that only they know God. They think they are absolutely "right" and that anyone who disagrees is wrong. They are proud and even militant zealots who use their religion for the wrong reasons, to gain and abuse power and influence, and to pit their followers against other people.
That must be said because while the proper practice of religion unites people, the improper use of religion divides us and produces conflict. False shepherds and false prophets use isolated religious scriptures to justify their hate, and they divide and alienate their blind flocks. That is a symptom of what’s wrong with certain religious groups today.
An example of that has been the rise of the "Religious Right" to political power in America. They were able to do that because Ronald Reagan gladly welcomed their support. In fact, Reagan welcomed right-wing televangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson into the White House, and since they were instrumental in getting him elected, they gained the political power to start undermining the progress in interfaith cooperation that had been made in the 1960s and 1970s.
Then, during the reign of George W. Bush, the American "Christian Right" continued to simply ignore our religious freedom, continued to tear down Jefferson’s "wall of separation between church and state," and kept trying to run roughshod over the rights of those with differing beliefs and faiths.
Then, in February 2010, in reaction against President Barack Obama, certain leaders of the "Religious Right" made a big push to publicized their "Manhattan Declaration," a manifesto released in late 2009 by about 150 right-wing conservative leaders who masquerade as Christians.
Violating the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Manhattan Declaration document advocates defiance of any laws of the land that do not agree with their "religious" beliefs. New York Times religion reporter Laurie Goodstein described it as "an effort to rejuvenate the political alliance of conservative Protestant evangelicals that dominated the religious debate during the administration of President George W. Bush."
Some of the declaration's signers warned of the "grave threat from the anti-family/anti-religious radicals who control the White House and Congress." Their intent is clearly to establish a supposed religious theocracy in direct defiance of the intent of the Founding Fathers (see the articles on Ignored American History, and Quotes From the Founding Fathers Regarding Religion).
These hypocrites and bigots not only label Democrats like Obama "unpatriotic," they stoop so low as to claim he is leading the United States into an era of "Nazi-like tyranny and despotism." It was utter deception and misleading right-wing propaganda, reminiscent of the tactics of Joseph McCarthy and the "Red Scare" when McCarthysim was practiced in the 1950s.
Unfortunately, during the last 30 years the hypocrisy and bigotry of proud and militant religious zealots in America has damaged and worsened the relationship between Jews, Christians and Muslims. But, despite the so-called "holy wars," good people from all faiths still faithfully persist in trying to promote harmony, unity and peace.
The United Nations and the European Union have participated and sponsored interfaith meetings, taking up the theme of religious pluralism and equality. In 2000, the United Nations held its first ever Millennium World Peace Summit. It brought together thousands of the world's preeminent religious and spiritual leaders. This was the first time such an event had taken place through the UN. A new declaration of peace created the beginning of an era of collaboration between religions. A Council of Religious and Spiritual Leaders was also established at this summit, which later led to some high-level international interfaith dialogue.
Increasing numbers of people are beginning to believe that in order to achieve a world where there is no conflict or wars, there will have to be a dialogue between and reconciliation of all faiths. Even the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, in spite of his being a Jewish Zionist, once called for the creation of a world council whose representatives are from all major religions. While addressing the International Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace in March of 2006, he stated that bringing religious groups together to communicate in peace could "bring a bridge between religions."Let's hope that continues.
In June of 2006, the European Union held a high-profile series of interfaith meetings. It was attended by Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist leaders, including the Dahli Lama, as well as some influential European politicians.
Knowing that the late Pope John Paul II had sought to draw representatives of all religions into a greater mutual spiritual understanding and a respect of shared values and beliefs, his successor Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Turkey and openly called for further Muslim-Christian dialogue, preaching respect for the differences between both faiths, and emphasizing what they have in common. He became the second pontiff to visit a mosque, and such dialogue has been aimed towards contributing to world peace. Let us hope Pope Francis continues to do that.
The Dahli Lama, who preaches a message of peace and unity, believes that peace can only be achieved through world, political, and spiritual unity. The World Council of Churches has stated that the practices and concepts from other religions must be introduced into the Christian faith in order to create greater understanding and dialogue.
Additionally, several books have been written to point out that there are remarkable similarities in the life and deeds of the Christ and the Buddha. If you are interested in those similarities, please read Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings, by Marcus Borg et al, or Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers, by Thich Nhat Hanh, or one of the many other books on the subject. There are also many other good books that point out the similarities and compatibilities of all religions, because they were all in fact derived and inspired by One Source, the Divine Spirit of Truth.
Ironically, there are very misguided, misinformed and malicious leaders of the right-wing conservative Christian Right in America who think all this is an attempt to create a "One World Religion" and a "New World Order." They have been spreading false prophecy and claiming that all this positive and progressive action to achieve peace and reconciliation is somehow ominous and "evil." But they have been grossly misled by false interpretations of prophecies, and by the false doctrines and dogma of men.
Just as Jesus of Nazareth predicted, hypocritical false prophets judge and condemn their enemies, pray for the ears of men, and claim to do wonderful works in the name of God, when they in fact "work iniquity" and do wrong, knowing not what they do. They are under the delusion that they serve God, even though they actually betray God and instead serve Mammon.
From the popular uprising in Tiananmen Square in China to the Arab Spring in the Mid-East to the Occupy movement in America, people all over the world are demanding peace, freedom and justice. For the people want freedom from tyranny, freedom from oppressive rule, and freedom from inequitable and unfair rule by a wealthy few who have become increasingly greedy and corrupt with the idea they are entitled to rule and have most of the power, wealth and domain in the world.
That idea of “meritorious” or inherited entitlement has been used throughout history to justify monarchs and rulers. A few of America’s Founding Fathers even thought the U.S.A. should be a “Meritocracy,” like the banker Alexander Hamilton who led the Hamiltonian Federalists. They believed that the wealthiest people were the most deserving of political power merely because they managed to become very wealthy.
Such gross, self-serving error and flawed judgment ignored the fact that having great wealth is not necessarily an indicator of virtue. In fact, it can be an indicator of greed, exploitation, and inequity. That is why Thomas Jefferson and James Madison led progressives against them, exposing them as “Royalists,” and it is why in 1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt saved America by fighting and exposing the greedy who he called “Economic Royalists.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, like President Thomas Jefferson, understood that the people must have equal rights and the equal opportunity to live up to their full potential. They realized that government must provide quality public education to ensure an educated citizenry. And it must also promote the general welfare in order to ensure domestic tranquility.
Now many Americans are realizing the wisdom of Jefferson and Roosevelt, and realize the error of the modern Federalists, the Reaganites.
In due time, the vast majority of Americans will realize the need to protest and demonstrate their resentment of the inequitable political economic system that America has been increasingly infected with during the last 32 years.
It will be a populist political movement, and and Interfaith movement, and there are many besides the All Faiths Coalition for Peace, Freedom and Justice. For example, The Charter for Compassion is doing wonderful work.
We all must do our part, and remember that we can create and maintain a true Democracy only when we have an educated and involved citizenry. For when good people remain silent, greedy and agressive people reign, and they are inclined to become corrupt. So we must take part, and do our part.
The Fulfillment of World Prophecies
When real prophecy is fulfilled there will be no “ruling class,” and there will be no single world religion. There will be a family of religions, and a family of nations, all equal. And the largest or most powerful will no longer rule, and military might will no longer be mightier than the truth that unites us.
Those who claim to serve God in the name of Judaism or Christianity or Islam and have been fighting very hard to try to establish their brand of religion as the one dominant world religion will be exposed as the hypocrites that they are.
That is what was foreseen and prophesied by many genuine prophets, who foresaw that these hypocrites and false prophets would be fighting for dominant and exclusive power in the name of God. That is why we’ve been going through such a terrible tribulation, which was also prophesied and foreseen. But, when real prophecy is fulfilled, there will actually be a family of religions, and a family of nations ... all honoring the values of mutual respect, equality, fairness, cooperation and collaboration, and thereby creating peace in the world.
All the positive things that are going on show great signs of hope and progress toward that. And as you may know, there are many other signs that more and more people are realizing the need for religious understanding, reconciliation and equality.
What we need now is more good people speaking up, not only to express what is good in the world, and how we should treat each other, but also to say very clearly that people should avoid and reject leaders who claim to serve God but do not acknowledge this message from God.
We the people can change our nation and world in nonviolent ways, and in a unifying spirit of goodwill and peace, but we must get serious about exposing and denouncing falsehoods and wrong-doing. Truth will prevail over falsehoods, but only when we make it so. (And to find out why and how, please read the articles on the menu to the left.)