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Archive for the ‘Religion In America’ tag

Humility, Chutzpah and Democracy in America: 5 Habits of the Heart

By Parker J Palmer
From Huffington Post

“The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up — ever — trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?” –Terry Tempest Williams, “The Open Space of Democracy”

Prophets aren’t always crones or old geezers. When Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States in the early 1830s, he was only 27 years old. But after spending a year among us, the young French intellectual returned home to write the classic Democracy in America. In it he predicted that this democracy’s future would depend heavily on the “habits of the heart” its citizens developed, habits that form a vital part of democracy’s infrastructure.

Today, as habits of the heart like demonizing those who disagree with us, or tripping out on the fantasy that “I made it on my own and I don’t owe anyone anything,” unravel the fabric of our civic community, Tocqueville has proven prophetic once again.

For Tocqueville, as for Terry Tempest Williams, “heart” meant much more than feelings. The word comes from the Latin cor. It points to the core of the self where all of our ways of knowing converge — intellectual, emotional, sensory, intuitive, imaginative, experiential, relational and bodily, among others.

Tocqueville believed that America’s religious communities would be critical in forming our habits of the heart, for better or for worse. As a Christian, I don’t need to be schooled on the “worse” that religion is capable of doing to democracy. When it comes to the political toxicity of some forms of Christianity, Holden Caulfield got it right in “The Catcher in the Rye” when he uttered those famous words, “old Jesus probably would’ve puked if He could see it.”

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Dharmic Seva and Vivekananda: The Catalyst to Building Pluralistic Communities

by Anju Bhargava from Huffington Post

The Dharmic American community has an immense, untapped potential to serve at home and abroad. Dharmic Seva can become a catalyst to strengthening and building pluralistic communities. Our ancient expression, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (The Whole World is One Family) is a key principle driving Hindu American Seva Charities (HASC) as we prepare for the first historic briefing at the White House, followed by the conference at Georgetown University.

The theme of the event is “Energizing Dharmic Seva (Service): Impacting Change in America and Abroad,” and is designed to inspire all toward community service. We will explore ways to further strengthen America through service and honor those within our community who have served, are serving and will serve. We have an impressive slate of speakers coming to share their perspectives.

As we started our journey to impact change and encourage new service ideas, HASC sponsored a widespread civic and service participation essay contest to develop service plans. The winners of the contest will be recognized by HASC at the White House briefing on the 29th. With their Seva Plan we expect our participants to become change makers as they become part of expanding the ongoing seva movement. They will play a role in America valuing the talents of its diverse faiths, its pluralistic multicultural communities, the New Americans. As a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in our report we recommended and are now implementing interfaith cooperation and community service as an important way to build understanding between different communities and contribute to the common good.

We asked our community to tell us: What role does your dharma (religion/faith/spirituality) play in civic engagement, social justice and development issues? How do you propose to establish and expand seva (service) on campus, places of worship, yoga centers, in towns, cities or rural areas (for example through “seva centers” or virtual hubs)? What other ways will you grow the faith and/or interfaith seva movement? What is the change you want to see in yourself and in your communities by doing selfless service?

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