The Terrible Meek: Religion and Revolution in Cross-Cultural Perspective

The Terrible Meek: Religion and Revolution in Cross-Cultural Perspective

The Terrible Meek: Religion and Revolution in Cross-Cultural Perspective

The Terrible Meek: Religion and Revolution in Cross-Cultural Perspective

Excerpt

LONNIE D. KLIEVER

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Matthew 5:5

The popular and the pious imaginations have long regarded meekness as an essential if not definitive attribute of the religious life. Divine beatitude rests on those who surrender the powers of earth to the powers of heaven, on those who endure the sorrows of this life for the joys of the life to come. Moreover, this widespread understanding is reinforced by conventional though not entirely accurate views of both Eastern and Western religions. The Orient's metaphysical monism produces religions of mystical renunciation. A fixed cosmic order is mirrored in a static social order. Individuals are compelled to submit themselves uncritically to this one great all-embracing Sacred Reality. By accepting their social place and observing the cosmic law, the religious may eventually achieve a complete spiritual identity with the Sacred Order. The Occident's theological dualism, by contrast, produces religions of moral obedience. A personal God stands over against the universe that he creates and completes. Individuals are required to surrender themselves whole-heartedly to this one all-knowing and all-powerful Sovereign Lord. By learning God's ways and by fulfilling God's will, the religious are promised an everlasting personal relationship with a loving God. Thus, for either broad approach to the religious life, conventional wisdom declares that only the meek inherit the cherished legacy of perfect peace and eternal life.

Of course, Karl Marx (1818-83) turned this conventional wisdom into a philosophical axiom and moral indictment of all re-

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