Human beings as spiritual beings.
Human Beings as Spiritual Beings
A great part of our difficulty to understand our human existence as spiritual beings stems from the way we were educated at school. How do we study humans? It begins with a chapter on the human body and in advanced classes, a chapter on the brain. Nowhere do we find a mention that there is a spiritual aspect of our existence, let alone mention a spirituality that connects us to God. This is the result of a “secular” education system that separates religion from education.
Religion, for secularism, is a private matter that ought not be discussed in the public realm. Whether God exists or not — well, that is also a matter not to be discussed in a secular education system. While this omission seems to help avoid religious conflict in India by creating secular citizens, we must also be aware that it also creates a deep confusion in students regarding the nature of human beings. It is also possible that such a system, in which children spend a good number of hours each day, for years, creates a deep suspicion within children : “Does a God really exists? If God does, why wasn’t that taught at school? If it was that important, why was it not studied along with other important subjects which were considered essential?” These questions may not be explicit in the minds of the students, but a formation without the mention of God in the public realm also leads to mental atrophy of one’s idea of God, which on the other hand, is said to be taught at Church or Sunday school.
A simple analysis of a child’s daily schedule reveals that God often figures on Sundays when s/he goes to Church. Families that do not have a daily time of prayer in which all members participate together have a role in underexposing the child to God and consequently the idea of humanity as spiritual beings.
Of course, sitting together for prayer as family does not automatically transform them into enlightened beings. Yet, singing of hymns, reading the Bible, perhaps, with the help of a daily devotion book, and praying together for themselves and the world around them has a powerful effect on how a child forms his/her idea regarding what it means to be human. In addition to these, the habit of a personal quiet time, aided by regular teachings through church, Sunday school, vacation Bible schools, camps, retreats, etc. help read life with its spirituality as a vital aspect of our existence. These formative factors, are of course influenced by how one reads the Bible, which is food for another note.
A child that grows up aware of him/herself as a spiritual being experiences life in a tremendously different way. Such children interact with people and with the realities of life in a markedly different way. They respond to the struggles of real issues in a more creative and redemptive manner especially because spirituality reveals the interconnected nature of all human beings (and also all living things!) since everything is created by God. Such a child views the hunger of a child on the street as a problem of one’s own. Such a problem is recognized not just as a problem of poverty but a systemic issue from an economic structure of society that regularly churns out poor people and distances the poor from ever having the hope of a better life. Such a child eventually becomes aware of how he/she is complicit in such a system.
This is where spirituality reveals the need for political interventions. The politics of power, informed by underlying assumptions of the worth of various categories of people, results in unjust practices that ensure the benefits of a socio-economic-cultural system remain with groups of powerful people. Spiritual beings, connected to God through God’s spirit become sensitive to the cries of the suffering, be it people or nature. The concerns of God the Father (and mother) becomes the concern of the children.
Jesus Christ mirrored this nature of human beings. As the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), as fully God and fully man, Jesus reveals God as deeply concerned about the plight of human existence. God taking flesh (John 1:14) in Jesus Christ tells us that the human body is capable of carrying within it the divine presence of God. Jesus also reveals to us that the true nature of human beings is to be connected to the creator God, whom we can call “Father”. Theologians of the Antiochene tradition would tell us that we can participate in the divine nature of God through our body because Jesus Christ is God incarnate in the human body.
This aspect is totally absent in our secular education.