This weekend I’ve been going through magazines that have stacked up the past few years in a desire to get them to the recycle bin. One of those mags is the March-April 2005 edition of Utne.
In an article titled “God Alert: Karen Armstrong Wants to Warn the World of a Looming Religious Storm” author Michael Valpy reflects an interview he had with Armstrong regarding religious fundamentalism. One quote from Armstrong especially caught my attention.
“Compassion is the key to religion, the key to spirituality. … It is the litmus test of religiosity in all the major world religions. It is the key to the experience of what we call God–that when you dethrone yourself from the center of your world and put another there, you achieve extasis, you go beyond yourself.”
Valpy then said Armstrong quoted the Buddha, who said, “First, live in a compassionate way, and then you will know.”
I really did not grow up being taught that compassion is the key to my religion–Christian of the Southern Baptist variety–but I do think this is right if you genuinely seek to follow Christ. And the good thing about compassion is that it inoculates you against the hideous effects of religious fundamentalism, which Jesus battled and which Southern Baptists followed.
But in saying that, maybe I’m not being compassionate toward Southern Baptists. Compassion, in seems, is not an easy thing.