Thursday, November 5, 2015
The enterprise of creating our enemies
"Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all." -Edmond Burke
There are two aspects of Christian thought when considering forgiveness, and it has caused much consternation throughout history. The first is what is written in the Bible, and the second is the reality of a human mind.
First in Matthew 5:44, -"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;"
And then the unforgivable sin....
“I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven. That sin will be held against you forever.” — Mark 3:28-29 (CEV) Beyond forgiveness forever, and ever...
Now, I'm not here to define or interpret these ideas, just to point them out. These thoughts are indeed Christian, and not of the Talmud, the Koran, or the Old Testament, and yet I struggle to understand them in my own mind and heart. Only the New Testament speaks of Love in a selfless way, and yet we have a threat from God.
After years of reading all of these works can one conclude that there is a difference between revenge and justice, and the difference is as profound as war and peace. A God of wrath and vengeance, and a God of Love, do not seem compatible. A Christian, for instance, who exclaims their Love of God in one breath, and fear in another, seems very confused indeed, even in the midst of slavery of their own spirit. They will quote the Old Testament to justify their intentions, as if they were spoken by Jesus.
It can't be denied that war has been a constant companion to every one of these religions, and yet few question why. If we all pray to the same God, why is there such a difference in perception? Why is there so much hate, and so little Love?
So the question is this...
How can you create an unforgiving enemy in the mind of men? Seems, according to the teachings of Christ, that anything we do to each other can be forgiven. Love one another, forgive one another, is at the very heart of Christianity, but is that possible in every situation? Are some things beyond forgiveness, as found in the heart of God in Mark?
When we compare the atrocities of a far-away war, with mayhem close to home, is seems the latter will take precedence. If something has the potential to affect your family personally, you will take much more of a notice. So easy to judge others without empathy, when you are safe and sound.
And yes, there is one unforgivable sin in the mind of man, and it is so horrendous, so profound, that we would actually rearrange both our mind and life, with a reality undeniably and forever altered. It could never be forgotten, nor could it be forgiven: It is the intentional death of a child by the hand of another. I'm not talking about an accident, but a planned, premeditated, calculated murder. Revenge killing, without a thought for innocence, killing for effect, to achieve an agenda, or to promote and instill shock, awe, and fear, and justifying the act as a casualty of war...
Of everything we could face on this beautiful earth, no matter what religion, race, or country of origin, if someone kills your child out of hate and malice, forgiveness is impossible. So profound is the thought of this, the mere suggestion is unthinkable, even the consideration of a veiled threat is virtually intolerable, and a parent will attempt to bend even eternity to prevent it. And yet, at this very moment in time, whole nations, whole religions, whole races think that everything they are is coming to an end. What is the greatest motivation in the face of fear? Protect their children.
Heaven forbid the reality of it, but in the dark of night, while you thought safe in your beds, your home is bombed and your children are killed... What then? Well, your book of life would close, and another would open, and from that moment on your existence would have a new direction, a singular purpose, to bring those who did this deed to task. Is a Christian beyond the scope of this scenario? No, because he too is only human.
What happens if, in your anguish and grief, in the very epicenter of that horror, you cannot find the person who did such a thing? Who pulled the lever, pushed the button, or squeezed the trigger? What if you could not find the person who made the decision to bomb you?
What toggle triggered you to scream in horror, trying to get them to breathe again? What element of sanity can save you and your future as you run and stumble sobbing without direction, holding their lifeless bodies in your arms? What solace could you ever find, what justification could you ever exact as you looked into that black void of sky with blinding tears, and a broken heart? What happens to your soul, you mind, your character, as their blood coagulates down your night clothes, and their bodies grow cold and stiff? What happens to your spirit as your wife finds you there, unable to let go? What happens when you look into your child's face together? What do you do, what do you think, as the dirt is piled over their graves, and you walk home to the rubble of your home, and your dreams?
You would look to exact revenge on the group who supported it, the race, the religion, or even a philosophy, and hatred would be your guiding force, tit for tat. You would become, for all intent and purpose, totally insane, and you could never be put whole again. You no longer, and could never again consider or define what is right and wrong, good and bad, and would relive that moment for the rest your life, like an endless loop. And this is why Christians, Muslims, and Jews have persecuted each other for thousands of years.
Sam Keen, the author of Fire in the Belly and Faces of the Enemy, is what I consider the most important philosopher of our time. Only in a poem could such a profound idea be expressed, as we are again dehumanizing enemies for the power elite, war for the sake of a war machine that must be fed. Truth is so very hard to swallow, in a world screaming in fear.
How to Create an Enemy by Sam Keen
Start with an empty canvas
Sketch in broad outline the forms of
men, women, and children.
Dip into the unconsciousness well of your own
with a wide brush and
strain the strangers with the sinister hue
of the shadow.
Trace onto the face of the enemy the greed,
hatred, carelessness you dare not claim as
Obscure the sweet individuality of each face.
Erase all hints of the myriad loves, hopes,
fears that play through the kaleidoscope of
every infinite heart.
Twist the smile until it forms the downward
arc of cruelty.
Strip flesh from bone until only the
abstract skeleton of death remains.
Exaggerate each feature until man is
metamorphasized into beast, vermin, insect.
Fill in the background with malignant
figures from ancient nightmares – devils,
demons, myrmidons of evil.
When your icon of the enemy is complete
you will be able to kill without guilt,
slaughter without shame.
The thing you destroy will have become
merely an enemy of God, an impediment
to the sacred dialectic of history.
"Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names." -John F. Kennedy