Jews and Muslims for Justice
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
Thomas Jefferson was the most insistent and profound of all the Founders on the need to separate Church from State while at the same time providing the freedom for public life to be infused with awareness and love of God. During his campaign for the presidency, his enemies tried to brand him as an atheist because he did not believe in the trinity, but it is amazing that people can pervert history to support this view even today. The strategy of these secular fundamentalists is based on the motto that whoever can rewrite the past can control the future.
The challenge is to provide freedom for enlightened religion based on love of God while assuring that organized exclusivist religion does not produce organized exclusivist politics and vice versa. If either one controls the other or if they work in tandem then the founding vision of America will be in jeopardy, as it is right now.
Some people say that one can be a visionary and a good person without being formally affiliated with a religion. I would go them one better. I believe that often people who call themselves atheists are merely asserting to themselves that they reject the superficial anthropomorphic ideas of religious fundamentalists. They reject any troglodite ideas about God (troglodites were the first creatures with hard shells to crawl out of the primordial ooze) precisely because they believe in God, necessarily without a name, in a profound way that is inherent in human nature. They can be the most profound visionaries and moral people precisely because they reject the superficial nonsense that they have been told constititutes religion.
This lack of mutual understanding among “religious” people is universal in all formal religions, but only because the followers of prophets rarely understand their essential teachings. The Wahhabis don’t know how to deal with such verses of the Qur’an as wa najmu wa al shejaru yasujdan, “and the stars and the trees bow down (to God)” In other places the Qur’an says that all of creation knows the ultimate because it comes from there, “but in ways you do not understand.”
In Christianity, Meister Eckhart, who succeeded Thomas Aquinas in the chair of theology at the University of Paris and was perhaps the greatest of the medieval Christian theologians, explained it in a thoroughly Islamic way by identifying three levels of reality. We live at the level of existence, the Trinity is at the level of Being, and God is Beyond Being. This means that the “Father,” ‘Son”, and Holy Spirit” refer to the three principal attributes of God, namely, power, compassion, and wisdom. Only superficial understanding would objectify any or all of these three as the ultimate (and, of course, more than one can not be ultimate). The Qur’an mentions 96 additional ones, but ranks these three at the top. Of course, Meister Eckhart was excommunicated by the renegade Avignon pope, and the principal advocate of this tripartite level of reality today, Hans Kung, has been forbidden to teach at any Catholic university. Sad.
Self-styled atheists may have whole stacks of chips on their shoulders, but only because of their deeper awareness of what is beyond human limitations on God. If they would pursue their inherent insights a little further they would shed these chips and be more compassionate toward those Jews, Christians, and Muslims who have not been granted their level of understanding and who therefore seek refuge in what are essentially manmade religions.
The so-called “mystics” have been saying this over and over for thousands of years. We used to have to remain underground in order to survive, but the state of the world is now so grave that some of these dear souls, clearly still the minority, are beginning to speak up.
The higher the knowledge, the greater is the responsibility to seek justice. The Jews and Muslims have always been called like no other entire peoples to seek justice. If they do not, who will?
The responsibility has never been greater than at the present moment for America and Israel to cooperate in becoming models for humanity, as envisioned by their founding spiritual leaders, among whom I would place Rebbe Abraham Izaac Kook at the top among Jews and George Washington among Christians.
The meaning of America was enshrined in the Preamble to the American Constitution, which set forth five purposes of the great American experiment in self-governance. The first is justice, and the last, because it is a product of the first, is freedom.
Few people know, and it could never be taught in American schools today, that George Washington rose before sunrise every day to spend an hour in contemplation and reading of scripture and that every afternoon he spent half an hour in private prayer even if to do so he had to interrupt a cabinet meeting. Nowadays he would be called an extremist, but only because his vision warned him against the dangers ahead in translating the mission of America into reality. America was created with a divine mission (even though to say so makes one an extremist). Our task is to pursue our founding vision, because if America does not who will?