Sunday, January 30, 2005

By Any Other Name

‘I see the Jewish people as a nation with the holy task of establishing a nation of peace, non-violence, and universal brotherhood in Zion. Zion is our ancient homeland from which we were driven several times because of our sin against this holy calling. Our right to exist depends on putting this calling into practice. This means that we can only return to Zion if there is justice and honesty in our relationships with our fellow human beings, with our Arab brothers who live in this land. If we behave with violence, in a spirit of hostility and estrangement and not according to the holy Jewish principle of "what is hateful to you, do not do to others," then we are sinning most grievously and putting ourselves in extreme physical and spiritual danger. That is why I see Jewish-Arab peace as our most important obligation. And I consider the emergency situation today as scandalous and shameful for the people of Israel.’

Natan Hofshi (1889-1980)

This quote from a Jewish immigrant to Israel in the early 20th century, He was saddened when his people chose violence and retribution as a means to create and maintain their new nation and he predicted exactly the repercussions which have come about. He expresses so well the philosophy underlying my own feelings on this subject. Both in regards to Israel and Christians and the distinction between persecution of a people for who they are or what they believe versus justifiable condemnation of those hubristic behaviors which they do in the name of their doctrine or national policy. A bully is a bully by any other name.

The roots of the modern terror campaigns are partly in the way that the State of Israel was created and forced down the throats of those who had lived on the land for millennia. Terrorism worked for the Zionist terrorists who were given into after they wreaked terror on the British occupiers after WWII. And ever since they have had to hang onto their gain by committing untold atrocities against their neighbors. They sowed the wind of terror and are reaping the whirlwind of revenge. Both sides are now caught in an endless cycle of retaliation. Meanwhile they are slaughtering the souls of their children. For this is the result of a child reared in an environment of hate, fear and pain. Violence becomes the only thing they know. I have seen photos and video of Israeli soldiers bulldozing homes as punishment for one member of a family being involved in any act of dissent from shouting out slogans to throwing rocks at tanks on up to participation in acts of violence with bullets and bombs. I have seen video of Israeli soldiers enticing a small crowd of Palestinian children with promises of candy to approach the fence and then shooting dead the first one to reach it. The soldiers are so jaded and steeped in the spirit of revenge they can see no difference between the child of today and the terrorist he may become in the future and they see no connection between their own acts and the creating of the spirit of revenge in these children. This is why so many children are willing to make of themselves a weapon of revenge--many of the suicide bombers are teens or recruited and begin their training in their early teens. Bullying begets bullies.

If being a friend of Israel means condoning this or empowering it then count me out. True friends tell each other the truth even when it is hard to hear. And the truth is they cannot create their safety with bombs and bullets or even fences. Trusting in these is not trusting in God. It is the saddest thing of all that a people who have borne centuries of oppression by others have chosen as their own a policy of oppression. Whether Zionist, Palestinian, Islamist or Christian, whether, American, Israelite, British or Iraqi, when one walks like a bully, talks like a bully, behaves like a bully they are nothing but bullies by whatever name.

This is just as true for those Christians who draw down the wrath of others with their arrogance for the resulting violence against them has nothing to do with being persecuted for the Name of Jesus or for following the path He espoused which was one of humility, gentleness, compassion and love and a complete rejection of violence or vengeance as a means to attain anything, including justice. Jesus said those who live by the sword will die by the sword. The Prince of Peace understood that violence begets only violence; that war generates only war and never peace.

Christian's are going to reap the whirlwind America is sowing in Iraq and this will have nothing whatsoever to do with suffering for the Gospel or the name of Christ or the God they claim. It will not be for the scandal of the Gospel that they suffer but for the scandal of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and of babies with bloody stumps for limbs and small children with nothing but a blister for a face, of little girls covered in the blood of their parents; the scandal of children and their mothers dying of malnutrition because food production and delivery is compromised, of dysentery and other easily preventable disease because we bombed their sanitation and water systems into rubble and prevent cheap medicines and simple medical care from reaching them while our Generals give speeches to large crowds about their god being bigger than the god of their enemy; the scandal of small children being raised up in a war zone, learning fear and despair and hate and revenge while their tender minds and souls are still forming. I have seen the photos and so have billions of Muslims. None of this is making Americans safer here or abroad. None of it is making Christians safer anywhere either because it is being done in the name of the Christian's God. Even I would reject that God if forced to believe that this is what He intends or demands. I choose to believe that God is not a bully by whatever name He/She is called.

Understanding this is why I cannot condone nor support our own nation's current engagement in a war on terror. And why it is especially difficult to understand the massive numbers of Christian's who support it. Bush is choosing the tools of evil to fight evil just as Israel has been doing for over half a century. So his claim to be doing this in the name of God or democracy, of freedom or peace, of safety or justice is completely bogus and does nothing but besmirch the names of these ideals and the very name of the God he claims to obey. For, if this is obedience to his god then his god is not my god for this god is a bully by any other name.

My measure for recognizing the work of God in the actions of others is in the Golden Rule, the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 25, Galatians' list of the Fruits of the Spirit and the verse in Ephesians which says Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God in Christ hath forgiven you. Any policy or doctrine that attempts to justify anything else is not of the God of Jesus who is the God of Love, Mercy, Grace, Justice, Peace and Salvation.

I take seriously the injunction 'by their fruits you shall know them'. There is nothing of the Fruits of the Spirit or the example of Jesus in the actions of our government today and this makes a lie of their claim to be acting in the name of God. And thus by my lights, all those Christians who support these policies and make a show of patriotism are guilty of idolatry. One can not serve two masters.
By the same token, I believe that all those issues so many Christians keep on the national agenda are misguided. Especially the pledge of allegiance. Once again the attempt to swear loyalty to two masters and to get away with it by conflating God with the Nation. They are not one and the same. As for attempts to mount plaques or engravings of the ten commandments: putting your trust in a list of rules is not putting your trust in God.

The whole revolutionary meaning of the Gospel was that, when the Spirit of Love inhabits your heart your behaviors naturally flow from that love and the rules are extraneous. Thus the prophets spoke of God's word written on men's hearts. The attempt to impose rules from without short circuits the direct line between the heart of God and the heart of His child, it always forces an individual to choose between two masters. And it is very very confusing when the human masters claim to be acting in the name of God.

But of course I understand that as long as we are human souls inhabiting mortal bodies we will always fall short of the perfection of the Spirit. That is where the principles of humility and forgiveness are so important. True justice is rooted in these and not in punishment or revenge. Because once any individual comes to a true understanding of their own weaknesses, their own inability to gain perfection by the power of their own will, they will find it impossible to stand in judgment of others or to be the instrument of the coercion of others. Once one understands by the examining of one's own soul that all behaviors which are not born out of Love (all the other fruits of the Spirit ore subsumed in this one) are born out of it's absence where fear and pain become the seeds of hate and despair. And once that is understood, it is easily seen that all sin is rooted in fear and pain experienced in the absence of love. And thus it follows that the response of anyone whose heart is ruled by Love to any sin in self or others must be rooted in compassion. The roots of compassion are in the experience of acknowledging that the fear and pain of another is the same as the experience of one's own fear and pain. Also known as empathy, this is the love that bonds souls into community.

None of this means that one must condone the sin, but that it is the very height of arrogance to condemn the sinner, or to take vengeance on them. Arrogance because it is willful unwillingness to see that 'there but for the Grace of God go I'. This is as much true for the acts of the terrorists on 9/11 as for the wounding acts of gossip born of a sense of superiority and the acts of rudeness and incivility born of impatience.

1 tell me a story:

Anonymous,  7/27/2012 10:49 AM  

You are not right completely. The more true story, I believe, is far more complex, and included fear (from both sides), hate, arrogance, and even stupidity, as Natan Hofhsi (whom you quotes here) said. Terrorism was conducted by both Arabs against Jews, and Jews against Arabs.

If you can read this article on Nathan Hofshi (or google-translate it to English), you may find some important thoughts:

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