Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fat Chance

I recently spent some time with my brother and nephew fishing and, like most fishermen, discussing the ways of the world. We spoke of the way America’s thought was twisted into acceptance of a war against a nation that had nothing to do with 9-11. We spoke of the enormous price we have exacted from the people of Iraq – at least 200,000 Iraqis dead and 2 to 3 million displaced in retribution for the 3,000 Americans who died that day. We spoke of the continuing civilian deaths in Pakistan and Afghanistan where we have yet to extract retribution from those who did perpetrate 9-11. To say nothing of the financial, spiritual and mortal price the American people and military are still paying.
My nephew observed that if we were truly a Christian nation we could not wage war at all, much less inflict such damage on other nations in the name of national retribution. “Nor,” my brother said, “could the Muslims.” They’re right.
Fundamentalists might quote an eye for an eye, but that is not Christian. It’s an Old Testament reference belonging to the descendants of Father Abraham long before Christ. Even if it could apply to Christianity, it called for equal retribution, not unbalanced vengeance. Christ himself called for the abolition of the old laws. (Christ's new commands, (John 13:34f), are [1 Love God and [2 love your neighbor.)
Muslim fundamentalists might point to the Koranic saw advocating death to infidels - no more a valid imprecation today than eye for an eye - but they ignore Mohammed’s letter to the orthodox church in Constantinople advocating peace between Muslims and Christians.
The fact is that both warlike references belong to by-gone days, and the truth is that the irrationality of our attack on Iraq in response to 9-11 provided more fuel for fanatics wanting to embrace Jihad than anything we could have done short of bombing Mecca. We would be far better off if we had practiced the restraint the Pennsylvania Amish showed after the killings at their school. Their refusal to seek vengeance was a Christian lesson for us all from which we could grow both politically and spiritually.
Instead we are caught in a mesh of circular reasoning that leaves no one in the right and everyone in great danger. The saddest fact, as my nephew pointed out, is that both sides are disobeying the basic tenets of their own religions.
Mohammed saw the Christ as a great prophet. Jesus, being first, couldn’t speak to Mohammed’s beliefs, but both preached the same message - peace through loving generosity to others – and both suffered the ultimate degradation of their message into twisted reasons for war.
The only hope for mankind in that crazy scenario is for enough people to join King and Gandhi in the belief that each of us must be living examples of the change we want to see in the world. Either religion truly practiced could do that, but will they?
Fat chance.

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