To be more conscious is to be more connected to our direct experience by living life as it is, instead of as a cacophony of thoughts. Behaviors such as looking past the homeless, justifying systemic racism, and using prisons as social holding tanks are all signs of unconsciousness.
In the same ways that Jesus focused on helping the poor and least powerful and commanded his followers to love others, wouldn’t it naturally follow for Christian churches to be leading voices for helping the disadvantaged? Unfortunately, results from Pew Research on attitudes about aid for the poor have shown that as people become more religious, they are more likely to believe that aid to the poor does more harm than good. The difference is remarkable. Of those who strongly believe in God (with Evangelical Protestants and Mormons among the top), 69% think aid does more harm than good versus 6% of atheists who feel that way.
To some degree, this belief can be explained by the strong alliance between right-wing Evangelicals and right-wing Republicans in the United States. Still, it remains odd for leaders who claim to be Jesus followers to be so different from Jesus (and to instead be much more like the Pharisees were portrayed in the New Testament). Through a spiritual lens, wasn’t the biblical miracle of the five loaves and two fish in the New Testament not that Jesus turned a small amount of food into a surplus, but rather that 5,000 people were no longer hungry? The contemplative yet action-oriented life of Jesus was strongly defined by his personal service to the poor, sick, and least powerful, and his simultaneous opposition to the selfishness of the rich and powerful.
Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to love God and to love one another. Jesus’ love produced actions that helped suffering people where they lived. In the second chapter of the Book of James, there are important verses for Christians and Christian churches to ponder:
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself is dead if it is not accompanied by action. […] As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.(59)
For Christian churches to become more conscious, what if the focus shifted toward what Jesus prioritized as most important: love, connection, and service? No one can solve every problem and help every person, but everyone can do something to help someone, and everyone can live with a greater spirit of compassion and kindness. With greater compassion and kindness, and greater relevance, perhaps Christian churches can become more conscious and begin to grow again.
59. James 2:14–17,26, NKJV