See the wise and wicked ones, who feed upon life's sacred fire. That's a lyric from a song by Gordon Lightfoot that tries to interpret the struggle going on in the heart of Miguel de Cervantes' mythical hero, Don Quixote. Goodness separates him from the world, even as he understands that wickedness has the same source, writes Ron Rolheiser.
And there's perplexing irony in this, both the wise and wicked, saints and sinners, feed off the same, sacred source. The same energy the fuels the dedicated selflessness of the saint who dies for the poor fires the irresponsible acting-out of the movie star who proudly boasts of thousands of sexual conquests.
Both feed off the same energy, which, in the end, is sacred. Godliness in this world is just used for very different purposes. But it's easy to misinterpret this.
For example, one of the major criticisms made of religion and the churches is that they too frequently use God to justify every kind of war and violence. We commonly see terrible violence being fueled by faith and religion, as is the case with extreme Islam today.
But Christianity is hardly exempt. In the crusades and the inquisition we have our own history of violence in God's name and there is more violence than we have the courage to admit still being done today by Christians who draw both their motivation and their energy from their faith.
We can protest that, in these cases, the energy is misguided, perverted, or usurped for self-interest, but the point remains the same. It's still sacred energy, even if it is being perverted.
John Lennon (Imagine) famously suggested that we would move more easily towards love and peace if religion were eliminated ("Nothing to kill or die, and no religion too").
There's a dangerous naiveté in that, but he's right in saying that the sacred energy found in religion often works against peace and love in this world. Misguided religious zealots also feed upon life's sacred fire.
FULL STORY Feeding off life's sacred fire (Ron Rolheiser)