Course Meets World Commentary Greg Mackie

On this page, I will post short commentaries relating A Course in Miracles to a topic "in the news." Here's how it works: I will present material drawn from the world's media—a newspaper article, a blog, an Internet discussion, etc. (with a link to the original source). Then, I will discuss the relationship I see between it and A Course in Miracles. For example, I might show how it echoes things said in the Course, or contrast what it says with the Course's view of the same topic. The goal is to bring a Course perspective to topics being discussed in the larger world.

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  • The Uncommon Goodness of Greg Mortenson I just read a remarkable and inspiring book called Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time. This book tells the story of Greg Mortenson, a mountain climber whose failed attempt to climb K2 led to the discovery of his life's mission: building schools, especially for girls, in the impoverished villages in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan that gave rise to the Taliban. To me, Mortenson's story demonstrates the immense power of dedication to the goal of serving others. I believe he is a shining example of the kind of person — a person of uncommon goodness — that A Course in Miracles wants us to become.
  • Denial Makes the World Go Round Everyone steeped in the culture of self-help and recovery knows that denial is not "a river in Egypt," but a destructive means of keeping our addictions in place. However, a recent article in the New York Times presents a more benign view: While too much denial can be destructive, some degree of denial is essential to maintaining friendly human relationships. Is denial, then, a good or a bad thing? A Course in Miracles would agree that denial holds together human relationships as we know them, but in its view this is not a good thing, for human relationships as we know them are not as friendly as we think. Their real nature is obscured by layers of denial far more pervasive and destructive than we suspect, layers that keep us in misery. Fortunately, we can peel away these layers of denial, and when we do, we can discover the joy of truly loving relationships.
  • Thoughts Can Be Our Best Friends It is common in alternative spiritual circles to glorify the emotions at the expense of the mind. "Get out of your head and into your heart," as the saying goes. In many versions of this view, raw emotion is primary; pure feeling, which exists prior to and independent of discursive thought, is where the action is. Thoughts, on the other hand, are secondary artificial constructs that distance us from that raw emotion. Spiritual growth, then, comes primarily from setting aside the artificiality of thought entirely, so we can get back in touch with our unadulterated feelings. But is this really true? Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard suggests that from the perspective of both Buddhism and recent brain research, there is no raw emotion independent of thought. Emotions are inseparable from thoughts, and therefore a powerful pathway to spiritual growth is to cultivate the right thoughts. A Course in Miracles would wholeheartedly agree.
  • What a Difference a Few Words Make The recently discovered Gospel of Judas (a third-century gospel that no one believes was actually authored by him) caused quite a buzz when it was released by the National Geographic Society in 2006. Most of the publicity centered around this gospel's apparent reversal of the traditional view of Judas: He was not a villain but a hero. He did not betray Jesus; rather, he handed Jesus over to the authorities because Jesus asked him to, and this act of obedience was rewarded with entry into the Kingdom of Heaven and a position above all of the other disciples. However, April D. DeConick, a professor of biblical studies at Rice University, claims that this entire picture is due to mistranslation; in fact, she says, this gospel presents Judas not as a hero, but as a demon. I am no scholar of ancient languages, so I have no idea who is right here. But to me, this entire debate underscores just what a profound difference the interpretation of a few words in a scripture can make, be it the Gospel of Judas or A Course in Miracles.
  • The Power of Unconditional Forgiveness I recently saw a great question posed on the religious dialogue website On Faith: "How can we forgive our enemies? Should we, even if they have committed atrocities?" Well-known religious writer John Shelby Spong gives what I think is an amazing answer, especially in a world where forgiveness is usually tied to the requirement of repentance or apology on the part of the wrongdoer: "Desmond Tutu's great insight was that there are no conditions on forgiveness. The 'even if' part of this question means that the questioner is not talking about forgiveness." He goes on to describe how the power of unconditional forgiveness-the kind of forgiveness A Course in Miracles teaches-transformed the entire nation of South Africa in a way that can only be described as miraculous.
  • God Has the Last Word On the excellent PBS television show Bill Moyers Journal, I recently saw a fascinating interview with James Cone, an African American scholar, minister, and theologian who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. The interview covers a variety of topics, but one thread woven throughout it really struck me. Again and again, Cone comes back to a powerful and liberating idea that he draws from the experience of blacks in America: Because God is Love and He created us as eternal spirits, we have the power to overcome even the worst that life can throw at us. No matter how horrific things look—even when the body is enslaved or destroyed by the powers that seem to have the last word in this world—hope is always justified, because it is God Who really has the last word. While Cone would undoubtedly disagree with A Course in Miracles on a number of points, I see many Course-like elements in his central message.
  • The Curse of Specialness This article was originally written in 2007, when the Boston Red Sox won their second World Series in four years. This was an amazing turnaround for a team that until 2004 had not won a championship in eighty-six years (though they plummeted to last place this year). As a Red Sox fan and a student of A Course in Miracles, witnessing their recent run of success gave me an opportunity to reflect on how sports fandom is a great window into the nature of specialness.
  • The Jesus of History: the Source of the Course? A Course in Miracles claims that Jesus is its author, but how can we really know this is so? There's no way it could ever be proven one way or the other, but one way to at least evaluate the plausibility of the Course's claim is to compare the Jesus of the Course to the historical Jesus revealed by modern scholarship. I've been reading a fascinating book by Jesus scholar John Kloppenborg Verbin, entitled Excavating Q: The History and Setting of the Sayings Gospel. In it, Kloppenborg Verbin examines what many scholars believe is the earliest extant layer of the Jesus tradition: a "sayings gospel" embedded within Matthew and Luke which scholars call "Q." And strikingly, the Jesus of the earliest layer of Q as Kloppenborg describes it looks much like the Jesus of the Course.
  • Love and Kindness Must Win Over Everything I've followed with great interest reports on what has been called the "Saffron Revolution" in Myanmar (Burma). In a country that has been ruled by repressive military governments since 1962, tens of thousands of Buddhist monks have been peacefully demonstrating against the current regime, standing up for an alternative vision powerfully expressed in a banner some of them carried: "Love and kindness must win over everything." This has led me to reflect anew on something that I've pondered many times over the years: Is sociopolitical activism of this nature in accord with the principles of A Course in Miracles?
  • Release Instead of Bind, for Thus Are You Made Free Crime is a hot-button issue in our society. How should we regard people who commit crimes, and how should we deal with them when we apprehend them? A common answer is the get-tough-on-crime, law-and-order approach: "These people are the scum of the earth—lock them up and throw away the key!" That, we are told, is the only thing that will keep us safe from all the monsters out there. However, more and more people are coming to realize that another answer is not only possible but actually far more effective: We can see these people as human beings with inherent worth, and help them discover that worth so they can return to civil society. Our safety lies not in condemnation but rehabilitation. PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly recently profiled Pat Nolan, a man who has taken a transformative journey from the former to the latter view—a view very much in line with A Course in Miracles.

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