August 16, 2006

Gluttons For Our Doom

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And now someone's on the telephone, desperate in his pain
Someone's on the bathroom floor doing her cocaine
Someone's got his finger on the button in some room
No one can convince me we aren't gluttons for our doom

Indigo Girls
“Prince of Darkness”

"Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum.” (If you want peace, prepare for war.)

Epitoma Rei Militaris

Are we like the hapless Argonauts lured by the Sirens’ sweet song to batter our ship of safety on the rocks of ruin? Is war Man’s natural state? Are we doomed to self destruction? War has been the subject of innumerable philosophical, anthropological and ethical discussions and there are as many motives for war as there are types. It is one of the human activities common across all cultures.

Most things in our culture, from politics and philosophy through architecture and medicine are flavored by our Greek heritage. In a very palpable sense we are all Greek. One feature of this heritage is what Victor Davis Hansen calls, “The Western Way of War.” Hansen argues that the Greeks of the fifth century B.C. developed phalanx warfare, where men fought face to face on even terrain on a chosen day, as a way to keep the necessity for war in check. This short and brutal, but effective head-on clash between armed men of all ages was dedicated to the same end result as democratic government--an unequivocal, instant resolution to dispute. War was seen as a necessary evil. In the West we have now moved from the Greek phalanx, through Clausewitz’s total war to mutually assured destruction. Sadly, we now have the capability to truly end all wars.

Here in America, a country blessed above all others, we built and maintained our world power status as much by force of arms as by our commitment to our Republic. Our might made right. Recently, and I think wrongly, we have changed from a nation largely forced into war to a nation seeking war. The argument is that we are preserving, or more recently, perpetuating our way of life. Because we were raised here we understand and enjoy the benefits of democracy. In many parts of the world, by trying to convince others we are right, we become branded as immoral imperialists. Our foes interpret our wanting to spread democracy as a thinly veiled lust for power and influence. We have made as many enemies as friends.

Even internally many of us struggle with the urge to self destruct. I have experienced it in my own life, the inability to stop my own headlong rush to ruin. After having burned myself many times I learned to fear the flame. Finally, I discovered how to put this restless, potentially destructive energy to good use.

Why such an overpowering, ongoing need to destroy ourselves and each other? The current cease fire between the Israelis and Hezbollah is just that, a temporary cessation of hostilities. The core differences have not been resolved, only exacerbated by a month of open warfare. The animosity, the grudges and the memories remain. War will return.

Is there a real alternative to this madness? John Hagee, who calls himself a man of God, is earnestly looking for the apocalypse, convinced he has read and discerned the mind of God. Hagee believes that recent events in the Middle East are necessary precursors to the apocalypse. Instead of working for peace he is fanning the flame to a conflagration.

We must resist this temptation to believe we have all the answers and to withdraw within our faith communities to let the world pass by, believing we cannot make a difference. We must continue to speak up for those without a voice. When faced with a world at war we must respond with the call for peace. When threatened with a weapon, we must offer an open hand. When hated, we must love. We must put aside our base desires for revenge, for balancing the scale with an eye for an eye.
As a friend who is an Episcopal priest said in a recent sermon,

“The deeper reality is that no matter how out of control life may seem to get, it is never beyond the power of God. Anything that happens in our lives, in our world, is not beyond the power of God’s love as revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ.”

Love conquers all because it will not stay down.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Instead of working for peace he is fanning the flame to a conflagration."

As if!

As if God's will would need our if God's will would be if we God's will would be contrary to the Gospel as lived and taught by Jesus.