Wednesday, 11 May 2011

a Moment for Wisdom…


“The Christian Church, as an institution, is the Devil’s response to the life of Jesus.”

Naomi Tutu, daughter of Desmond Tutu (quoting someone else)


Personal Wisdom:

· What do you think the above quote means in your own life?

· Do you see a difference between the lives of our wisdom teachers and the institutions formed in their names?

· Do you believe that the examples of our wisdom teachers requires from you actions different from what “religions” ask of us?

Societal Wisdom:

· America claims to be a “Christian” nation, and has a higher ratio of churches to population than other Western nations. In your opinion, does that translate into appropriate action?

· If you live in societies other than the US: who is your primary wisdom teacher, and what is the primary religious expression of your society? Is your primary religion at odds with your primary wisdom teacher?

a Moment with Sharif…


This quote is pretty potent. (I’ve avoided using it for weeks; decided to bite the bullet today! I do so, intending no offense to my “religious” friends and supporters. The purpose is not to state a “truth” but to stimulate a conversation.)

Naomi and I were panelists at a conference on “Engaging the Other” a few years ago when she delivered the above bombshell. The shock in the room was audible. The next reaction: everyone in the room went diving for pens and pencils, asking her to repeat what she said. (She attributed the quote to someone else – given her illustrious father, I don’t blame her.)

This quote has layers of meaning:

First of all, the same comment can be made of any and all religious expressions. (For example: “Islam as an institution is the Devil’s response to the life of Muhammad”.) Her quote is not “anti-Christian” or even “anti-religion” as much as it is “anti-institutional”.


There is much variance between the exemplary lives of our wisdom teachers and the institutions which sprang up in their wake. I think about the shaven-headed, saffron-robed “Buddhist” monks in Sri Lanka… protesting against peace, staging violent attacks against those who advocated for a non-violent resolution of the conflict between the Government and the Tamil Tigers. Or, consider the “Christians” who donned white robes and lynched human beings – because the color of their skin was dark.

Do you think the Buddha or Jesus would have anything to do with these actions, done in their name?


Perhaps the quote means that ANY institutionalization of our wisdom teachers is fraught with danger. Given the clarity I tried to instill in my book, “Creating a World That Works for All”, perhaps someone 100 years from now will use that as justification for violent conflict. Oh well…




All photos by Sharif Abdullah, unless otherwise noted.


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3 Responses to Wednesday, 11 May 2011

  1. Chuck Willis says:

    A couldn’t wait to hear what you were going to say about this one Sharif! I happen to think it is dead on, just for all the reasons you have articulated.

    Interestingly, each of the six lines that comprise the hexagrams of the I Ching (or Gene Keyes) impart a unique quality to the expression of the characteristics associated with the hexagram (from Human Design teachings of Ra Uru Hu @ The sixth and highest line has the potential of a Universal perspective. However, it’s primary weakness (or Shadow) is Hypocrisy! Our religious institutions (and governments, etc.) have clearly demonstrated this truth!

    The time of intellectualization – of THINKING that we know – and forcing our will upon others has passed. Now is the hour of releasing and allowing; of opening our heart and reaching out in compassion. Inclusivity and unconditional love IS the saving Grace.

    Blessings to All,


  2. Susie says:

    I grew up in a family with a mother who dropped out of the Catholic Church when I was 5. She spent my childhood dragging us with her as she searched for a replacement. What I got was an education that no one religious organization has the whole Truth. In addition, I developed a healthy dislike for organized religion in general. I am a spiritual person and hate what organized religion has done in this world in the name of God. From countless wars, the Inquisition, the daily intolerance towards other human beings to don’t happen to share a certain faith’s religious views, to many other injustices, religion has played a major role in the pain and suffering of human beings on this Earth. The Christian Church has been and continues to be a major player in that pain and suffering. I would personally substitute organized religion for the Christian Church. When I read the quote, my first thought was “nice” with a little chuckle.

    • Susie says:

      I realize organized religion doesn’t work as a direct replacement with Jesus being in the quote. What I meant was that organized religion is the Devil’s response to the life of whomever the religion worships (like you were saying, Sharif, Islam to Muhammad, etc…)

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