Pastor Emeritus Raymond Davis Jr., Greater Corinthian Church of the Christ, Kansas City, Mo.: Authority is the issue no matter how we may define higher powers. We all have a basic common sense of elected officials that are higher powers operating in human governments. This is God-ordained authority, and we shouldn’t pretend they aren’t there.
There are human figures of higher powers that encourage us to be good citizens, acting in accordance with our being a free responsible people. We are subject to federal, state and local government. We are not in an uncertain state of mind about our responsibility to pay taxes. Jesus’ declaration was, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)
This understanding of “higher power” gives us all common ground. “Let every soul (person) be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.” (Romans 13:1-2)
Governmental powers and human figures of authority derive their powers from the consent of the people. But there are tyrants running tyrannical regimes and dictatorships. Thank God we are not of the Syrian circumstance, or even any others of abusive intent.
Power of compassion
Lama Chuck Stanford, Rime Buddhist Center & Monastery, Kansas City: We all know people who are perfectly moral people, who lead meaningful lives but do not believe in a higher power. So, it is obvious that belief in a higher power alone is not necessary to being a good person.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama said: “The essence of all religions is love, compassion and tolerance. These qualities are necessities, not luxuries, in fact the very survival of our planet is dependent upon them. When you are motivated by kindness and compassion, your particular type of religious faith is unimportant. What is important is living your life in a loving and compassionate way.”
Even those who may not believe in a higher power can have a sense of something larger than themselves. At night when we look up at the stars and see the vastness of the universe we may feel something larger than ourselves. When we open our hearts and allow ourselves to feel that sense of wonder, awe and mystery we are connecting with something larger than ourselves.
From the Buddhist perspective the thing that is larger than ourselves is that vast interconnectedness of everything in the universe. When we can actually feel this interconnectedness then we can see there is no difference between “self” and “other.” When we are able to drop such dualities then we naturally want to help our fellow beings. This kind of universal compassion and loving-kindness then becomes a “higher power.”