Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Can Your Political Views Undermine your Spiritual Growth?

Do you find yourself arguing with the television set, being angered by Facebook political postings, or stupid comments from your friends?  Well consider the following two findings from social research.
1. "Americans cited "hearing about what the government or politicians are doing" as the most frequent daily stressor on their lives, and at a substantially higher rate than the usual annoyances like commuting, chores and general schedule-juggling." (survey conducted by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health and National Public Radio.)
2. "Partisanship “can even undermine our very basic reasoning skills…. [People] who are otherwise very good at math may totally flunk a problem that they would otherwise probably be able to solve, simply because giving the right answer goes against their political beliefs.”" (from Yale law school professor Dan Kahan’s research  paper is called “Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government.”)
Apparently when we harbor fixed political beliefs we do not act rationally when we hear talk from others that goes against what we believe.  We will deny facts that are against our beliefs. The bottom line is that we are easily subject to unnecessary stress if we let ourselves engage in such political drama.

The answer is simple, avoid all forms of such dialogue and you will find you will have a more peaceful and loving life.  You will not be so angry, negative, or offensive to others. For most of us one simple action we can take is to not watch cable news.  These channels play to our fears and stroke our latent political beliefs. They pick stories that will arouse our worst instincts and therefore draw your loyal viewship so they can attract advertisers to sell you products and make more profits. They understand how our minds really work (or don't work) and use this knowledge to make greater profits.

What is the spiritual angle here? Spiritually, when we are aroused by anger and feel stress we are separated from God. The solution our Church Fathers tell us is to become watchful about what we let enter into our heart. Our sinful tendencies come from the thoughts that enter our minds and we choose to engage with them. Once we engage these thoughts we are led to some kind of action. The source of sin is thoughts.

The skill to stop such a chain of events is called watchfulness. This requires a well disciplined mind and God's grace which comes from regular prayer. Whenever we sincerely call on the name of Jesus we have the power to ignore thoughts and instead direct our attention to God and what He wills for us.

The challenge for a life lived according to God's will is developing a life of continual prayer so we will always have God on our mind. We need to be able to at any time stop and say, "Lord have mercy", or to recite the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father..."

Fr Dimitru Staniloae tells us: "Guarding thought... consists of a continual reciting of the name of God in the mind... nothing but a concentrated uninterrupted prayer..."
This is the meaning of Saint Paul's teaching on unceasing prayer.
Pray without ceasing...test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1Thess 5:17, 21,22)  Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer... (Romans 12: 9,12)
I have found that the most powerful way to develop this discipline is by following the practices of the Orthodox Church, especially the practices of the Jesus Prayer and regular fasting.

Make a simple choice. Turn off all the political talk shows and news programs that stimulate your anger and stress about political affairs. Instead take this time to engage in prayer each and every day. Learn about the practice of the Jesus Prayer. Try it for three months, reciting "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner," over and over for twenty minutes each day. Begin to follow the prescribed fasts of the Church, including the Wednesday and Friday fasts, and read the daily Scripture readings that you can have sent to you via email from the Archdiocese Department of Internet Services.

If you do, you will find you will be on a path to spiritual renewal and you will begin to seek for a spiritual father for further guidance.

We are all free to hold whatever political views we choose. That is not the issue being addressed. God loves Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and Independents. We are also free to have whatever religious views we chose. If we claim to be Orthodox Christians, we must be careful not to let our political beliefs override our rational thought process and undermine our peace of mind and heart. We must remain free of anger and stress so we are able to hear God's will and act with His love and our love for our neighbors. Watchfulness, prayer and fasting can help us develop the ideal of continual prayer that Saint Paul asks of us and bring us peace and love.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for this. A very timely and wise reflection. Lord, have mercy.

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  2. Brilliant article, its very difficult to get informative article like this.Very impressive.

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  3. Aye, let us not harm our hearts with nonsense that does not even reflect the history and political thought of our nation in practice.

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