Gods worshipped by the power elite

Photo courtesy of The Whitehouse Archives

These days, it’s practically impossible to become a political leader in North America without declaring devotion to Christianity. This is not as true in Canada as it is in the US, but in America you have no hope of becoming president without being the right type of Christian. Our leaders actions, however, differ greatly from their professed beliefs.

While growing up Catholic, my impression of the Ten Commandments was that they were behaviors to emulate, ideals to live up to. Upon becoming a Zen Buddhist, I was astonished to see that their Ten Precepts were nearly identical to the Commandments. This would become less shocking when I reread the Sermon on the Mount, and realized it could easily be inserted into Zen text.

The difference was that my Zen priest said the Precepts mimic the enlightened person. In other words, a person who has directly seen the inherent Oneness of all things, and integrated that knowledge into everyday life, would automatically follow the Precepts. I doubt the universality of that concept because no one is perfect. People will always have to struggle to live up to the ideal.

Note the similarity between some of The Ten Commandments and The Ten Grave Precepts:

From the Ten Commandments*

  1. You shall not kill 
  2. You shall not commit adultery 
  3. You shall not steal 
  4. You shall not bear false witness 
  5. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife

From The Ten Grave Precepts **

  1. Affirm life; Do not kill
  2. Be giving; Do not steal
  3. Manifest truth; Do not lie
  4. Give generously; Do not be withholding
  5. Honor the body; Do not misuse sexuality

The mystic braches of various religions have this symmetry because they are talking about the same realization attained through chanting, meditation and prayer, but interpret them through different cultures, times and peoples. Mainstream followers typically misinterpret the contemplatives, which is where bickering and war comes in.

Every president since I’ve been alive---certainly George W. Bush and Barack Obama---blatantly ignore at least two of the Ten Commandments: #8: You shall not bear false witness; and especially #5: You shall not kill.

Presidents routinely order the assassination of certain enemies of the state, as we saw with Osama bin Laden recently, and presidents often send troops to war for suspect causes, like Iraq and Vietnam. The same Bible which presidents hold high says:You shall not kill, and doesn’t list any exceptions. And yet, with unreasonable arrogance, leaders create their own exemptions.

It's not just leaders, but soldiers too who shed their own religious convictions. With eyes open it begs the question, "What am I doing here shooting people I don't know?" Soldiers see with their own eyes the difference between what political leaders tell them and what they see when they step off the plane into the wall of incorrigable heat.

When conscientiously objecting to his being draffted into the Viet Nam war, Muhammad Ali said he didn't want to go to another country to shoot other poor people. Ali, one of the greatest boxers to live, fought the big fight when he jeopardized his career and reputation to avoid the draft. It's the fight most people avoid.

I am not a pacifist, and realize there are times---when you and yours are under threat---that you may need to pick up arms. But I don’t profess to follow Commandments or Precepts. You can make intellectual and spiritual arguments that denounce any violence whatsoever, but what would be the spiritual outcome of standing there and doing nothing?

Pulitzer prize-winning former war correspondent Chris Hedges noted, while pinned down in Sarajevo under fire of heavy ordinance, that you reach a point where the lethal consequences of not fighting back force you to act.

It's easy to say you are non-violent and that you'd never do it, but even an avowed pacifist could relate to a situation where she would be forced to protect herself and her loved ones as a last resort.

But our leaders often sign orders for war or assassination when there is no threat of lethal outcomes. Our leaders aren't pinned down and under fire as they sign orders. Rather, they are motivated by political and economic reasons.

We can’t trust an avowed person of any faith who doesn’t respect or follow that faith’s main tenets. Perhaps the actions of our leaders expose the Gods they actually worship: Money and power.


*from catholicbible101.com

**From the Zen Mountain Monastery website - http://www.mro.org/zmm/training/jukai.php

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