When I was a teenager, I remember reading evangelist Billy Graham’s book, World Aflame. It was recommended to me by a fundamentalist Christian friend. The preacher was troubled because the world seemed to be ablaze with rebellion, threats, and war. The book was published in 1965. There was the Vietnam War. There were also the Civil Rights Movement, the Antiwar Movement and race riots. Graham was also very concerned about global communism. He called it a punishment from God, due to man’s rebellion. But he was silent about the racial struggles during that era. Graham is widely considered by evangelical Christians as a “prophet.” The prophets in the Judeo-Christian tradition are very concerned about social justice. But, to the best of my knowledge, Graham never talked about issues of social justice and rampant racism in the U.S.
Today, the world is burning again. This year started off with the great wildfire in Australia. Now, Minneapolis is also burning. But today’s burning world has nothing to do with Communism. It is primarily due to unfettered corporate greed, environmental degradation, police cruelty and blatant racism. That there can be no peace without justice is a well-known Christian concept. But many evangelical Christians choose to ignore it, treating it as an inconvenient truth.
Buddha delivered a Fire Sermon some 2,500 years ago. But he was impartial and non-partisan, and he got to the core of the problem. What is the world burning with? He said, “(It is burning) with the fire of lust, with the fire of hate, with the fire of delusion. I say it is burning with birth, aging and death, with sorrows, with lamentations, with pains, with griefs, with despairs.”(Adittapariyaya Sutta). Our problems with greed, lust, hate and delusion are universal. It is not a problem of one specific political party or ideology, and no one is exempt. How can we extinguish such fire? It is through the practice of mindfulness and non-attachment.
Essentially, all the problems we face today such as climate change and racial unrest are man-made. It is time that we stop asking help from God and assume personal responsibility. Yes, the world is aflame. But there is no solution of this burning problem until we manage to liberate ourselves from desire, hate and delusion. We need to work on ourselves.