Why Are People Choosing to Leave Their Faith?

Last week, Jeremy Runnells, author of The CES Letter chose to resign from the Mormon church to preempt an excommunication for apostasy. I tried reading the CES Letter in its entirety sometime back, tried and failed – it’s long. I did listen to his interview with John Dehlin. To summarize briefly, Jeremy Runnells experienced a crisis of faith triggered by exposure to some difficult, messy parts of Mormon history. A relative referred him to a CES (Church Education System) director to help answer his questions. He wrote a letter detailing all of his questions but never got a response. So, instead, he posted the letter on the web, which subsequently went viral and has been a trigger for others to also leave the church. Because of this, he was threatened with excommunication but instead preemptively resigned.

First of all, was this an inevitable outcome? Did Jeremy Runnells have to leave the church because of the issues he encountered? Here are a couple of my favorite responses to the letter.

First, a Mormon historian wrote this response, entitled What We Should Learn from Jeremy Runnells: Some Thoughts on His Depature From the Church:

Do I think Jeremy is evil? No. I think he began as a sincerely troubled soul who was quickly swept up in the momentum, championed as a hero by the vocal post-Mormon community in podcasts, blogs, and Facebook groups (and who have organized two vigils in his honor). From the brief interactions that we have had, I actually think Jeremy is a pretty decent fellow and I hold no ill will towards him. I feel for him and think that things may have resolved differently had the CES Director he initially wrote to responded kindly, even if he had no satisfactory answers to offer. My hope is that we can all learn from Jeremy’s story. How can we who are intimately familiar with the historical record be of better service to members? How can we be better at disseminating our research to the public, rather than keeping it within an insular community of scholars and academics? The church has taken some bold measures as of recent to improve the instruction in their Seminary and Institutes. As Elder Ballard recently implored, Seminary and Institute educators no longer have a free pass of not answering historical questions. “Gone are the days,” Ballard observed, “when a student asked an honest question and a teacher responded, ‘Don’t worry about it!’”

For those of us who are actively engaged in Mormon history and social media, and still remain actively-engaged in the Mormon faith, we can all do better at sharing our perspective in a sympathetic and charitable manner. We have nothing to be afraid of with the history of the church, but we should be humble in acknowledging that the history is not always flattering. As the church continues to extend its hand towards the refugees of war-torn nations, let us continue to extend our hand towards those who may feel like refugees of the war between apologists and critics.

Critics to the Mormon church have been around since the beginning. I understand the impulse toward such criticism. History is always more messy than the polished shine our history books often portray it to be, more-so when that history comes from the church trying to encourage faith and commitment. Reality is more complex. We’re all human beings dealing with difficulties in a flawed world. Messiness abounds. Joseph Smith, perhaps more than most recognized this. In D&C 93:24, he wrote:

 24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;

Nobody should be afraid to study history, science, anything really. We should all be ready to deal with things as they really are, as they really were and as they really will be. Truth. But this is a difficult, longer than a lifetime pursuit. And it’s also why Jeremy Runnells’ website does Mormonism a disservice.

His letter is basically a survey of every problem ever conjured up about the church. The rub is that its largely accurate, though speculative at times. He drives this point over and over again, asking anyone to correct any errors and he’ll promptly correct them.  I believe he’s sincere in this. The problem though is different. It suffers, desperately, from the lack of proper context, historical and otherwise. It comes from a place of criticism. In large measure as a response to this letter, Brian Whitney is trying to address this lack of context by providing the information in a manner that’s easily consumable by a non-historians. The website is appropriately called  “Mormonism in Context”.  I’m not sure if this website will be helpful for someone who might otherwise leave the church or might push someone out. It still portrays church messiness and makes a lot of the same points found in CES Letter, but he does it from a place of scholarship and fairness and with much more background material in hopes of providing a why with the what. And I think it provides someone with enough information to make sense of the messiness, provide a footing for those who choose, to find a way to deal with it and remain faithful. I recommend it.

But maintaining faith should not require a history degree. My 13 year old daughter, for example, who has yet to show interest in history to this degree, should still be able to find a path toward faithfulness.

To that end, I love Adam Miller’s much different response to the letter in this essay entitled Letter to a CES Student.

You are like this man, the Buddha tells his student. You are suffering and dying. And you can demand answers to all these speculative questions if you like — but if you do, you’ll die before you ever get any answers.

Regardless of how your questions get answered, the Buddha tells him, still there is suffering, still there is sickness, still there is aging, still there is worry and distress and fear, still there is death. It is the work of addressing all this in this very world that I teach.

And also

Mormonism cannot bear the weight of itself. If you ask Mormonism to be about Mormonism, the weight of that inward turning and the redoubling of that self-regard will stifle it. Mormonism will collapse under its own weight and you’ll have lost the very thing you had hoped to find.

You can only save Mormonism by losing it. You can only save Mormonism by connecting deeply with what Mormonism is itself aiming at. This is the only way to be faithful to what Mormonism itself is trying to do.

Here Adam Miller changes the subject. Rather than looking at Mormonism, we should be looking at what Mormonism is looking at and then deciding if that’s where we should be looking as well. In other words, Does Mormonism work? And if it works, if it makes our lives better, then the past messiness matter less – though it still matters.

So, why do people leave religion? The real question, perhaps, is why do people choose to stay? Why do Mormons put so much of their time, energy and resources into this church? Are they afraid of the consequences if they choose another path? This is possible and for some likely. Living forever with your family and with God is what is at stake in some people’s minds. If losing your faith has eternal consequences, I can see why so many people feel shunned by their faith community when they start to question. No one wants to be led down a path that leads them toward apostasy. I can relate to this to an extent. For someone prone to anxiety, I’ve held onto Mormonism with this kind of desperation – with a tight fist rather than an open heart. It didn’t work. It was  a far too stressful way to live religion, and more importantly far too selfish. Faith based on self-preservation is no faith at all.

It’s also a faith built on an incredibly fragile foundation. Again Adam Miller in an essay entitled The Body of Christ.

If your life itself depends on the question, then ask a question that is rich enough to cover the whole rich span of that (messy, unfinished, broken, vulnerable) life.

Don’t ask the thin question: “Is the Church true?”

Ask the thick question: “Is this the body of Christ?” Is Christ manifest here? Is this thing alive? Does it bleed?

This is a load-bearing question. This is a question properly fitted, by Christ himself, to address the existential burn that compels its asking.

If a person belongs to Mormonism only because they believe it’s literally true in some hyper specific and narrow sense of the word, exposure to messiness and flaws inherent in every single human being, including Joseph Smith and every leader of the church since, and in the earth-bound institutional church, that’s the kind of faith that can crumble, and perhaps it’s the kind that should.

Another reason someone may leave Mormonism is because it stops working for them. I felt this sadly while listening to John Dehlin’s interview with Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees fame. Tyler Glenn struggled with his sexuality within Mormonism for many years. Finally, he recognized this compartmentalization was causing severe psychic pain, and so he came out as a gay, believing Mormon in Rolling Stone Magazine. However, when the church updated its policy declaring gay couples apostate and disqualifying even their children from baptism, Tyler Glenn felt unwelcome and unwanted in the faith he loved. This led him to explore the critical arguments and in process finding plenty of reasons to lose his faith. Fundamentally, I believe for him the church no longer and possibly never really worked.

So, if you asked me, in general terms, why people lose their faith, I think there are two broad and inter-related reasons why. First, they lose faith in the church’s truth claims perhaps as they encounter information that challenges it. Lacking the means to reconcile the contradictions, ambiguities and difficulties, their faith fails and they fall way. Second, they fail to find ways to make the religion work in their lives. For a variety of reasons, they find pain when they sought solace, community and comfort. Perhaps they had trouble finding a place within the religious community or like me they felt beaten up by the demands of the church rather than comfort and support when we fail to live up to those demands.

But I think there are ways to overcome both challenges and there are good reasons to try. I believe there is something essential to religious faith in many of the same ways I believe literature, math, science and art are essential. I believe religious practice is an essential part of a balanced, meaningful life. When done well, religion makes life easier providing tools to face difficult life challenges within an eternal context. There’s something about being a part of a community of people committed to caring for and watching over you in times of need. And there’s a loss when someone leaves that religious community, both for the person leaving and for the community being left. For some, this departure is necessary and inevitable for healing and safety. I hope those who leave can either someday find a way to return or simply finds an alternative faith community that works better.

I believe religion has answers to questions that can be answered in no other way but we have to ask the right questions and have the proper expectations. I think religious observance can and should work. Faith crisis sometimes does and should lead to faith deconstruction, but can and should lead to a reconstruction toward something better.

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Religion is for the Every Day

I’m not sure I’ve changed more than in the two years I spent in the Alabama area serving a mission for my church. Up to that point, that experience was far and away unlike anything I’ve ever had to do in my life: completely separated from friends and family, given the charge to engage with, mostly devote Christians, of mostly conservative, evangelical protestant traditions. I was sent out very young, very naive, filled with unresolved issues with the charge to preach Christ to an area suffering from a deep legacy of racism, Jim Crow and slavery. Culturally, Alabama had issues far more complicated than anything I was prepared to take on.

And this is true for all Mormon missions, 18, 19, 20 year old kids are sent out to some location around the world, with a very short training period, and then asked to go find people who might respond and be helped by our message. It’s difficult, often unproductive and inefficient, but for me, life-changing.

When I came home from my mission, coming off the plane in Yuma, picked up by my parents, thrust right back in the life I had left. It was jarring, to be honest. I was expecting the world to have changed as much as I did. And it wasn’t like I was on another planet those two years, and in a sense, it was. I was in a bubble. No news, no concerns about money or rent, or food, not really. All of that was taken care of before I left. Money was being sent monthly. All I had to do was focus on one thing, studying, sharing and living the gospel, every single day. And suddenly, I had to face the life I’d left with every unresolved issue still waiting for me two years later.

A couple of days ago, I bought yet another book by Adam Miller, “The Gospel According to David Foster Wallace: Boredom and Addiction in an Age of Distraction”. In the preface, he sets up the point of the book and essentially how he interprets a major theme in David Foster Wallace’s work:

“If you worship (and you do), this moment will come. You’ll pass the point of inversion, the spell of transcendence will break, and with that break, you’ll lose your religion. You’ll give up. You’ll have a mid-life crisis. You’ll get divorced. You’ll wonder what it all means. You’ll stop buying new clothes or going to church or wanting to impress people or reading the Bible or believing in the magic of television. You’ll be sad. This sadness is risky. It’s risky because it threatens to obscure the urgent revelation shining at the heart of your loss: the revelation that the end of worship was, all along, immanence and that, though your head may invent a thousand ways of escaping this world, the point of religion is to return you to it.”

Before I really dig into what I think this is getting at, I want to say how closely this resembles the primary thesis of another book I’ve just finished, The End of the World Plan B. In this book, Charles Shiro Inouye describes two types of turning, one toward God and out of the burning house and another turning, away from God and back into the burning house. The first turning is motivated by a sense of justice, wanting to get the mess of our lives in order. The second turning is motivated by compassion earned as we suffer through immense sorrow as we realize how hopelessly unjust the world and our lives in that world really is.
Cycle

Taking these two books together, the burning house is likely a more dramatic image than it needs to be. When I think back on my experience coming back home to live once again with my parents in Yuma, this returning from the mountain back into the burning house, I think of all of the other similar times this has happened. After a really great honeymoon with my new wife in London, visiting art, listening to concerts, enjoying the city, and then coming back into the clutter and mess of our first apartment together. Or the many times, I’ve been invigorated on a mountain hike and then returning back into the every day doldrums.  And what does a typical day look like? I’m sure you can relate:

1) Every single night, fighting with our kids to get them into bed on time.
2) Trying to make sure our oldest daughter’s blood sugars are high enough to get through the night.
3) Cleaning the same dishes that get dirty every single day.
4) Trying to figure out how to find an electrician we can trust to fix an electrical problem in our house.
5) Trying to find time to buy a new minivan to replace the old one we’ve been driving for far too long.
6) Hoping we’re saving enough money for retirement and our four kid’s college education.
7) Trying to find time to home teach every single month, families that I’m not sure really want us to come visit anyway.
8) Getting to work every single day, doing mostly the same thing, day in and day out.

Yes, I set goals, I get excited. I want to learn a new piece of music on the piano, I want to get into shape, I want to eat better food, I want to read a difficult novel, maybe I want to take on a new home project. What do each of these require?

1)Piano: To really learn the piano, you have to practice, regularly, working through technique and theory that can be tedious, frustrating, mundane and repitious.
2) Exercise: Regular and consistent and difficult.
3) Diet: Grocery shopping for fresh food, cook healthy meals, plan ahead. Junk food is easy and convenient, healthy food isn’t.
4) Hard books: Careful reading, note taking, sticking with it to the end, even if the plot doesn’t get you, even if the novel takes you on tangents you’re not always interested in. Persisting through the boredom anyway.

It’s regular, day in and day out, the same thing over and over again.

In her book, “Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life”,  Margaret Kim Peterson puts it this way:

“Housework is akin to these natural and human rhythms of the day, the week, the year. We fix lunch because it is lunch-time. We wash the clothes or the windows because it is Monday or because it is sunny. We pack away coats and boots and get out of shorts and sleeveless shirts because winter is over and summer is coming. As we engage with the litany of everyday life, we engage with life itself, with our fellow human beings, with the world in which God has set us all, and thus with God himself.”

In my day job it’s no different. I spend big chunks of my time at work, in front of a  monitor, developing software. There’s been some fairly recent innovations on the way software gets developed that I think is relevant here. We come up with big, transcendent ideas for something we want to build, architect the software down into size-able chunks, and then organize a set of Scrum teams to build the software. But we just don’t build it. We organize our time into two week sprints and try to make small, demo-able improvements toward our larger goal. The day-to-day activity of building software is often a bit like housework. It’s redundant, often tedious, sometimes difficult.

I stare at the screen; think deeply about the problem; work through a low-level design; write the code in a way that solves the problem elegantly enough to be easy to read, maintain and extend; build appropriate re-runnable unit tests; think of all the possible ways the software might break; try to find new ways to break it; fix and re-test; deliver, demo and then start again.

I think this is just life. Life is hard, it’s boring, it’s mundane, it’s filled with distraction. But this is the hard work that’s required toward real-authentic moments of transcendence. This is how we get out of the burning house toward the top of the mountain. And when we reach the top, its what we must do all over again. Go back into the world and re-engage with boredom and repetition and climb up that mountain all over again.

This is also what religion is about.

To be honest, it’s taken me far too long to understand this. Like most people, I hate doing my taxes, I hate paying my bills, I hate cleaning toilets, I hate cooking, I hate shopping. It’s hard, it’s boring. And like most people, I love feeling connected, uplifted and inspired.

And in our modern day, it is possible to get cheap inspiration without having to endure the boredom, the work and the difficulty. But there’s also a price. I discovered this very young. You can feel a sense of connection and inspiration. It comes to us streaming through a screen, on our computer, television set or in a movie theater. I’ve always loved movies. It can be transportative, a distraction from boredom. I’ve often been inspired, I’ve seen a lot of really great movies in my life.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.The  internet has amplified these possibilities. It offers a chance at transcendence and a fix against bored one and makes this ever-present and in our pocket.

In Adam Miller’s book, the subtitle is “Boredom and Addiction in the Age of Distraction”. The antidote I think is in what I just described. Being in the world, fully and completely in it, and not of it. I think being in the world means being present, really living in it, fully engaged, even though it’s mostly boring, repetitive and mundane.

This is my challenge as a Christian, as a Mormon. I can do better.

 

Maybe I Should Just Stop Boycotting Stuff

In my nature, I have what I believe is likely a universal impulse to recoil at injustice. As a kid, my parents had a subscription to the Reader’s Digest and this became my first window into the broader world. The magazine would at times publish a piece of injustice and I would feel this anger and anguish and an intense desire to do something about it, a desire to make the world more just. This was an early memory, but there have been so many more since. As I’ve grown and read more and have become more aware, I would encounter injustice nearly everywhere I looked, all around me. I’ve felt this almost constant feeling of an impossibly fallen and broken world and a feeling of having very little power to do anything about it.

But what’s worse is to find injustice in the organizations I belong to, or the businesses whose products I consume. When I discover this, I feel this guilt by association, I feel complicit in the injustice. To solve this, at times I’ve tried to boycott. Maybe if I could stop the consumption and convince others to also stop, perhaps that would be enough to get these organizations to change. At the very least, perhaps I can feel more at peace.

My attempts at boycotts have been spotty and uneven, and eventually I would lose interest. Some examples, I’ve tried to stop eating non-free-ranged chicken after learning of the deplorable conditions, abuse, and steroids in factory farms. We have not enrolled our son in football and I’ve stopped watching the NFL because of concussions. I’ve wanted to completely boycott the NCAA tournament because I feel the players our exploited, spending hours practicing and playing in games, bringing millions of dollars into their schools, but receiving no compensation for their sacrifice. I almost didn’t vote in the last presidential election because Obama’s unjust use of drones in the war on terror and Mitt Romney’s position that Obama wasn’t going far enough. Recently, I learned about how poorly NBA cheerleaders are treated and how little they get paid and thought seriously about quitting the NBA as well.

And this goes further, nobody is free from it. Historical heroes like Thomas Jefferson repeatedly raped one of his slaves, or Christopher Columbus, guilty of genocide. And then I begin to dig into the messy history of my own church and realize how even those called to lead it struggled to lead just lives. The church’s legacy of polygamy is filled with stories of hardship, misogyny and injustice. The horrific Massacre of Mountain Meadows lead by local Mormon leaders in southern Utah. These are just two examples, but there are many more. Quite simply, you can find weakness and mistakes and examples of painful injustice everywhere and in everyone. We are all inflicted by it.

I just finished the book, The End of the World, Plan B: A Guide of the Future, and it’s been a healing balm to my soul. He speaks directly to my impulse to attempt to find peace through isolation and recognizes the sorrow we experience when we are unable.

To the extent that our identity is bound up with groups that are large and beyond our ability to control—families, tribes, communities, classes, religious or political organizations, corporations, nations—our impulse might very well be to withdraw from them all, or, perhaps, to reform them. But in the former case, our institutions continue their unjust practices with or without our consent; in the latter situation, they consistently resist our attempts to improve them since any one person’s influence has its limits.

Inouye, Charles Shiro (2016-02-08). The End of the World, Plan B: A Guide for the Future (Kindle Locations 750-752). Greg Kofford Books. Kindle Edition..

Perhaps, I need to sit still, take a deep breadth, find peace and practice compassion. I think we need to recognize injustice when we see it, really accept and feel sorrow because of it, and continue on and through it anyway.

If I never want to bump into injustice, I’d need to boycott everything and everyone, and still I would have to face the unjust life I also live. So, maybe I won’t quit the NBA, or the NCAA tournament. Maybe I’ll keep eating chicken, and I’ll keep attending church and pay my tithes, and I’ll keep voting for Democrats, going to work and shopping on the internet. But I’ll also point out examples of injustice when I see them, and feel sorrow for those hurt by it and compassion for all involved. I’m a long way from any of this, but perhaps this is a better response than fake boycotts?

Mistakes I Made as a Teen that I Hope My Children Don’t

My daughter is 13 years old and will be starting some of her pretty formative years that could affect the rest of her life. And she has a very similar personality to mine, tentative, painfully shy, and smart (if I do say so myself). Her situation is much different than mine, different family, different city, different cultural dynamics at play but I can already see some of the same challenges I faced affecting her. But I won’t use this post to talk about her, rather I’ll talk about me.What mistakes did I make that I hope she doesn’t.

Find Your Own Path… Socially

I spent a lot of time wanting to belong to the cool kids, obsessing over the pretty girls, wanting to do what the cool guys were doing. I authentically enjoyed sports, especially basketball. I’m thankful for the years I’ve played it. But I obsessed about sports for all the wrong reasons. I saw it as my path into the cool crowd. The cool kids were athletes. The athletes were dating the pretty girls. I thought that athletics could be my ticket to, well, these sorts of relationships.

First of all, which was pretty dumb. Understandably, if I was an amazing athlete it would have led to some pretty serious social capital. But if that’s all I had, I doubt it would have been enough. Second of all, I wasn’t an amazing athlete. I was too small, too slow, too weak naturally to ever really make it. I practiced, especially basketball, a lot. Dribbling the basketball everywhere I went, spending time in the gym on a shot that never really came. But I was shy remember, and timid. I didn’t spend nearly enough time on the playground, playing the game with kids bigger and better than me. When I did, I was too shy and timid to really take it to them.

And I did have friends, really great friends. That should have been enough.

My daughter’s social situation is different. She’s had friends since childhood, some are blossoming socially in ways my daughter isn’t. She can appreciate their friendships and make friends with other people as well. There will always be someone who needs a friend.

Use My High School Years to Experiment

There’s really nothing like being in high school. You grow and mature and develop physically, emotionally and mentally very quickly. A teenager’s capacity can be actually quite high. Many kids have the potential to accomplish more than many adults. But they have not yet been released into adulthood. They don’t (or shouldn’t) have to support a family or to even pay a mortgage.

I wish I would have been part of the chess team or fiddled with computers or been part of a debate team or canvased for a politician. I had other interests and definitely other, better skills besides sports. I was shy, but I could have leveraged some of natural skills to overcome my shyness sooner. I loved politics at a young age, I would have benefited from a debate time or a writing club. Yuma wasn’t a mecca of opportunity, but there were opportunities at school I could have done more to leverage.

My kids are in sports, but more for, stay well-rounded, get physical fitness, kind of reasons. Thanks to my piano-playing wife, they are all heavily involved in music. I want my kids to use high school to try a number of different things, find their interest and leverage the guts out of the resources to go as far as possible pursuing them.

With interests come like-minded friends which could also solve the social problems above.

Don’t Worry about Serious Dating Until College

I didn’t date, at all, in high school. That was a mistake. But I really wanted to date seriously in high school. I dreamed about having a serious girlfriend. I had crushes. That was also a mistake. High school is a time to develop social skills, it’s not a time to lock in exclusive relationships. High school is a time to figure yourself out, try different things, develop skills. It’s the time when your body is finally starting to develop into maturity, when we are preparing to become men and women, but do not yet have the responsibilities of an adult. It’s prime time to crank up our passions another notch. To try out for the orchestra or the swim team or the debate team. It’s not a time to waste hours of your time with a single member of the opposite gender.

 

I don’t think I missed anything by not dating exclusively and probably avoided a lot of painful pitfalls. I did miss something by not having regular more casual, eventful casual outings with friends of both genders. I had female friends, those were good. I should have spent more time with them, girls and boys, in groups, having fun. I didn’t go to prom. I regret that. I should have, with a girl I was comfortable with, attending as a group with other friends. I should have had fun.

I took these events too seriously. I wasn’t ready for the pressure I put on myself. I hope my daughter finds friends that she’s comfortable with, boys and girls. I hope none of them are especially cool – very few high school kids really are. They are all, mostly awkward and insecure trying to figure out life like everybody else. I hope they just feel comfortable enough to have fun with each other. Lower the stakes. High school is not the time for big decisions. It’s a time to have fun, to grow, to develop, to try new things, to discover talents.

Go Easy on Yourself, Take Risks and Learn Resiliency

This is a difficult lesson, but I’m inspired by a session I had recently with  Christian Moore about resiliency. At school, I did not want to fail. I stressed over every answer, fretted over every exam. A big part of my identity was wrapped up in getting a grade. But that was the easy part. I tended to pull back in other ways, far too often. I want my daughter to just try. Put herself out there. Offer an answer, ask a question even if the its a wrong answer or a bad question. The more they try, the more they’ll fail, the more they’ll learn to keep trying and to pick themselves up each time.

Stay in Your Lane and Appreciate The Lane Your In

This world takes all kinds. At certain times and in different contexts, we’ll all be leaders and followers, the star and the supporting cast. We need our introverts and our extroverts, our naturally born liberals and conservatives. Our religious zealots and our secular humanists. We need all of us. I hope my kids can find their lanes, know who they are, their strengths and weaknesses. Appreciate their place in the world, appreciate the relationships they have, nurture those.

It’s maybe a lot to ask. Much of this takes maturity and a lot of stumbling. But hopefully I can do my part to make more of this more likely. I’m in the middle of a really beautiful book right now, The End of the World, Plan B. There’s a section where he re-interprets the prophesy in Isaiah:

 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.

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The author points to this prophecy as a new kind of peace. We’re not all meant to be lions, or oxen, or sheep. We, each of us, are individuals, with individual gifts and perspectives. To achieve real peace in this world, we need to learn to love and appreciate and make peace with our differences. I think the first way to do that, is to make peace with ourselves, our gives, our perspectives. To appreciate what we have and who we are. Once we do that, we can then fit into the larger community.

A third type of peace flows from compassion. It manifests itself as an appreciation of difference. Is there a clearer, simpler definition than this? Peace is a cultivated appreciation of the ways we are different. You and I are not alike. But precisely because we are not, we contribute to each other’s well being.

The fulness of the Plan B paradigm, which requires us to push through sorrow to discover compassion, eventually brings us to this third kind of peace. Beyond the reflex for retreat and isolation, beyond the demand for uniformity, beyond the call for justice, comes an expanded capacity to appreciate difference, including the ways each of us is different from all others. This third type of peace is revolutionary without being violent. It is ancient without being old. It is new without being modern.

This is what I want for myself, of course. But I hope my children can find this kind of peace much quicker, much faster than I’m able to, as I’m still working on it.