The people of the Middle East are suffering again as militarists on all sides, and cheerleading journalists, send forth missiles, bombs and endless words of self-justification for yet another pointless round of violence between Israel and her neighbors," writes Rabbi Michael Lerner. This most recent episode of irrationality "evokes tears of sadness, incredulity at the lack of empathy on all sides, anger at how little anyone seems to have learned from the past, and moments of despair as we once again see the religious and democratic ideals subordinated to the cynical realism of militarism."
Rabbi Lerner’s, "anger at how little anyone seems to have learned from the past", cries out for explanation. If we are unable to learn from our past, is there something in the way we remember our past that hides from us the key to our education? What rationale, or what screen is laid over our minds and souls that keep us "ignorant" and so binds us to reacting in the same violent ways and reaping the same violent consequences?
It’s complex. And there are few survey sticks. But, could it be that the screen is "history" itself? When we write, for example, our "history" of a war, we automatically invest it with meaning. But that meaning is itself a screen, a veil. Why? Because inevitably our story of why and how the war was fought will be couched in primarily moral and "politico-religious" justifications. (If you don’t’ think that war is always "religious" go back and read the text of any "war-speech" by any President, Prime Minister or Chancellor.) These justifications of course provides our violence with an aura of respectability. For without this "aura" how can we have any sense of moral superiority with respect to our use of violence?
The interesting thing is how this aura of respectability is breaking down on all sides and how, because of this, for the first time, apocalyptic or "limitless" violence threatens our existence. And I don’t mean that our existence is threatened merely because we have the means to blow up the world. I mean that any restraint religion once had to bestow meaning and so sacrilize and sanction our violence, all violence, is almost exhausted. The Gospel has undermined sacred violence (another name for myth). The "myth" however, again, because of the gospel, no longer hides from us the humanity of the victims of violence and war. And this is why it is so amazing, not to mention paradoxical, to hear the last vestiges of Christian myth-making, Christian sacrilizing of war, by someone like Dr. Charles Stanley.
I’ll attempt to conclude this thought in tomorrow’s post…