In the coming days before the election, I intend to devote my daily Buddhist meditation practice to sending wishes of goodwill to American voters on both sides of the political spectrum, from far left to far right. May they base their decisions on the principles of compassion, justice, wisdom, and a dedication to the truth.
In Sunday's New York Times there appeared a full-page advertisement purchased by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. In it, the Reverend Graham admonished voters "to cast their ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel." "I urge you to vote," he continued, "for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman."
I want to ask the Reverend Billy Graham which biblical principles he refers to, but I think I already know the answer. They are the principles of the Old Testament, the principles of "thou shalt not," whose angry, vengeful God found it proper to smite the enemies of Israel -- and all those who opposed his will. I want to ask the Reverend why he advocates for those ancient principles, rather than those of the New Testament -- the principles of compassion, mercy, justice for the meek and health for the sick, the principles that drove Jesus to turn over the tables of the money-lenders in the temple? These are the principles out of which I myself would wish Americans to cast their vote.
As regards the "sanctity of life," to which the Reverend Graham refers, I'd refer readers to the excellent op-ed piece by Tom Friedman, also in Sunday's New York Times, in which he points out that, for many of Graham's evangelical persuasion, the "sanctity of life" appears to apply solely to the period between conception and birth. Post-partum, you're on your own to face, perhaps, a hail of bullets from a madman with an unregulated assault weapon or survive, unprotected and unaided, the ravages of poverty or disease. In Buddhist thought, as I understand it, the principle of compassion applies not only to your fellow humans but extends to every living being.
I have been wondering, too, this week, how it must feel to know that you are the recipient of projections from literally billions of your fellow human beings. The Jesus of the New Testament was the recipient of those projections: the adulation of those who found in him their need for compassion and understanding, the hatred of those who saw in him a threat to their old ways of thinking.
Where, I have been wondering -- no comparison intended! -- does President Obama find the strength and wisdom to deflect those billions of projections and maintain his sanity? It must come, I suppose, from the realization that projections have more to say about the sender than the recipient: as readers of The Buddha Diaries know, I try to make it my practice, when I make a conscious effort to examine the judgments that come up, to learn what they have to teach me about myself, not the person about whom I make them. The latter is most frequently merely a mirror for those things I dislike -- or like! -- about myself.
So I send metta to the American voter in the coming days, hoping that those many who hear the voices of evangelists and vote on biblical principles will vote on principles of the New Testament rather than the Old.