“When you love something, you grant it soul, you see its soul, and you let its soul touch yours. …In fact, until you can appreciate and even delight in the soul of other things…I doubt if you have discovered your own soul either.” – Richard Rohr
The ideas of “interdependence,” “interconnectivity,” and “interrelatedness” are words that are emphasized when talking about social or emotional health, but probably are not emphasized enough when it comes to political, racial, economic, and environmental health. One biblical theme that appears throughout its pages is the notion of loving others to the same degree that you (presumably) love yourself. Yet, we are all guilty of “othering”; for example, we often regard people of certain political affiliations, certain skin tones, certain net worths, or certain beliefs about the non-human inhabitants of this planet as so different from us that they are not worthy of being loved to the same degree that we love ourselves.
Denial of the Soul
When we regard “the other” as unworthy of our love, we are essentially denying that other a soul. This is very heinous because in denying a soul, we also deny a connection to God. When we decide that some living thing isn’t connected to God, then we feel as if that living thing has no rights and has no place among us. When someone or something has no rights and has no place among us, then we can hate them, disregard them, hurt them, incarcerate them, impose segregation on them, engineer an economic system that intentionally disadvantages them, redraw school districts to make sure their schools don’t receive adequate resources, rig voting districts to ensure that their votes are divided whereas ours our united, deny them entry into our country, withdraw aid to their country, sponsor dictatorships as long as those dictators are friendly to us, and strip natural resources without any thought of what their absence will do in the short-term or the long-term.
Throughout the millennia, many politicians, prophets, pastors, and generals have chosen to emphasize what makes us different from the other, how their way of life conflicts with ours, why our beliefs deserve to dominate their beliefs, why we should have certain resources more than others, and why the ends justify the means. Yet, there are a few leaders who have chosen to emphasize the love that Christ-followers claim to imitate. Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., whose 50th anniversary of being assassinated is April 4, once stated, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
Part of the Greater Whole
King also stated, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality [emphasis mine].” *Both King quotes are from https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2017/01/16/martin-luther-king-jr-quotes/.* Racism didn’t cease to exist with the white, educated liberalism of the 60s and 70s, nor did it disappear with President Obama’s double election into the White House. Wars didn’t stop with the end of World War II. Genocides didn’t end with the Holocaust. Environmental degradation didn’t quit with the formation of the national parks. Poverty wasn’t eliminated by Social Security, welfare, and President Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”
The Zulu concept of ubuntu has many shades of meaning, but one of them is “I am because we are.” *https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_philosophy*. Unless I regard myself (and my God) as part of a larger whole, I am prone to do violence upon “the other.” To quote one of my favorite Disney songs, “Colors of the Wind,” from the film Pocahontas,
You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew
And we are all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends.
(Lyrics found on https://www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/classicdisney/colorsofthewind.htm)