I almost cringe just putting the words ‘religion and patriotism’ in the same line. It has been said that politics make strange bedfellows, and whenever religion and politics attempt to drive the same train there is a train wreck in the future.
We are about to celebrate the founding of the freest nation in the world and as an individual I am involved in and support that celebration. I celebrate the ideals from which this nation sprang. As a spiritual leader I honor the individual for whatever beliefs they may hold about our country at this particular time.
We are an international organization, as most religions are, so to align ourselves with any one country is saying that one country is more moral or more perfect than another. There are different levels of human development, and to judge that one race or nation as more or less developed often leads to an egotistical creation of separation.
On a very personal level I remember being forced to go to church as a young Marine Corps recruit in boot camp and hearing Christian chaplains giving us biblical reasoning to go to war and joyfully kill in the name of God, country and corps. One of the great Zen Buddhist teachers and writers of our time, Thich Nhat Hanh of Vietnam, could not return to his country, not because he was fighting against his leadership; rather because he refused to align himself with the leadership that was hand picked and put in place by our government. He (Thich Nhat Hanh) was, and is, a compassionate man whose mission was to ease suffering for whomever he came across. In the 50s and 60s, and for decades later, those same religious leaders would bring forth biblical readings supporting the total lack of civil rights of individuals and whole groups of people and I, as a relatively moral man, cannot support the idea of humankind being created with inherent inequality.
I believe that when an individual is taught, through whatever religion, to live a spiritual, moral life and that individual makes choices based on that morality then and only then will nations and the world truly prosper. I also believe that choice should be made privately in the polling booth, with all citizens having the opportunity to express their choice without outside interference or pressure.
As an aside I find it interesting in the 20th century when unions brought people together for the good of the working groups they represented they were called communist. When churches came together for the control of groups by biblically proving their inferiority it was called biblical law.
The Rev. Joe Niemiec Jr. began his spiritual quest in 1986 when he walked out of a Houston jail and was struck by the realization that his life was in shambles.
He began his quest for ‘getting back on track’ with 12 step programs, followed by learning and practicing meditation with a local Redding, California, teacher.