Roosevelt reads from a Dutch family Bible before his inauguration in 1933
(Image by U.S. Embassy The Hague) Permission Details DMCA
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself..." President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural address, March 4, 1933
The Real World
Many people believe that we live in a dog-eat-dog world, in which power and the possession of it is the only thing that matters. Even my wife tends in that direction. Religiously and philosophically she's been taught to be an "eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" kind of girl. And this difference between us has led to a significant level of discord. But those of us who believe in a world where people are essentially good are not a bunch of wild-eyed, gullible optimists: that is unless you believe that Jesus, Buddha, Confucius, and others of their ilk were all impractical idealists.
The Forces of Light
I have to admit at the outset that I was raised a fire-and-brimstone Southern Baptist. This means, at least doctrinally, that you believe in the devil and the power of evil.
However, my first pastor and the one I imprinted on was a Southern Baptist minister, the Reverend Leon C. Jones. He introduced me to the complexities of Biblical history, including the fact that the New Testament was written in Greek and then retranslated into Latin and English.
He taught me that the essence of the teaching of Jesus was the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. So, for me at least, the Baptist faith contained both a belief in the good in people and the evil in people.
Because of him, at the tender age of 17, I launched into a five-year study of the world's religions. Interestingly, in these studies I came upon the Chinese sage Confucius. He was born in the year 552 B.C. and died in the year 479 B.C. around the age of 73. Many of our modern ideas about how society and government should operate find their roots in his philosophy. James Legge in his book entitled Confucius wrote:
It may excite surprise, and probably incredulity, to state that the golden rule of our Savior, "Do unto others as you would that they do unto you," which Mr. Locke designates as "the most unshaken rule of morality, and foundation of all virtue" had been inculcated by Confucius, almost in the same words, four centuries before." [i]
Indeed, Jesus, Mohammed, Krishna, Lao-Tse, Confucius, Plato, Pythagoras, Sankara, and many other of the world's great religious and philosophical leaders all agree on this point. Are they all wild-eyed impractical idealists?
During this five-year sojourn I had the great good fortune to spend some time with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He gained quite a bit of fame as the "guru" to the Beatles rock group and as the founder of Transcendental Meditation. He was a modern saint and in my time one who was alive and breathing: a person you could talk to.