Monday, July 31, 2006

Tragedy in Qana

The images and reports are heartbreaking. Bodies of dead children and their caregivers lined up on the ground, awaiting further handling in accordance with whatever protocols govern treatment of the dead. Of course the photographers and reporters are there. We are long past the day when grief and tragedy were considered private. We live in a time when every anguished cry, every tear is more than just an expression of pain and suffering. Every sob, every roll of the eyes, every shaking head becomes a political statement, heavy with symbolism as it captures in a moment all the justification we need to continue hurting one another. Those not already dead go through the stages of grief as they mourn for those who are, coming quickly to a final stage which allows an expression of corrosive vengeance. The dynamic is the same on all sides of any conflict.

Rather than sifting through the morning news today looking for something catchy to blog, I drilled into some of my referrals. A frequent Google hit for my blog is from readers looking for information about the Bruderhoff. This is not the time to go into that story, but I came to a articulate piece by Johann Christoph Arnold that says what I want to say this morning.

Terrorism can never be overcome with violence. For every terrorist that we kill, one hundred others will come to the forefront. The Cold War...was not won militarily; it was won through God’s intervention in history, with the peaceful fall of the Berlin Wall. Earlier, America fought communism with only one result: we produced more and more communists, which is why President Eisenhower used the phrase the “domino theory” to describe the collapse of one country after another to Soviet dominance. We will have similar results with Bush’s plan. Through using violence, we will do nothing else but produce more terrorists who will wreak devastation on the next generation. We can never export true democracy. It has to be given from within a nation.

There must be a better way to protect our nation and the lives of all people who long for peace. In these last years, despite the endless religious talk that goes in Washington, we have become a heathen nation that completely disregards the dignity of human life and the integrity of other peoples on the planet.

There is a different message that has to spread if we truly long for this freedom and democracy. This is the message of peace and non-violence, which respects all nations and all people from Damascus to Tehran, and from Kyoto to Darfur.

If we want peace, let’s remember that Jesus is the Prince of Peace who told us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. This is the most powerful weapon to combat all terror.

Brother Arnold seems in recent times to have become something of a Luddite regarding the dangers of the internet. I know exactly what he is talking about because it is only through a serious exercise of the will that I myself have been able to control unhealthy predelictions while surfing. The dangers presented here are no less life-threatening than those of alcohol, gambling or any other of the temptations of the world that can scar, even destroy our humanity. And before the reader jumps to the conclusion that I refer just to pornography, let me quickly add that there is a pornography of the spirit that is every bit as addictive and damaging -- an atavistic (there's that word again) impulse that feeds our appetite for violence and revenge, a very mortal and human need to justify collective sins that take the form of war, euthanasia, capital punishment, abortion and the rest of the ways by which we degrade and justify the taking of human life. There are plenty of websites, many on the blogrolls of the most respected names of the blog-world, whose principle grist is meant to keep the fires of revenge burning hot, typically in the guise of patriotism or religion. I read a few myself, but only by way of keeping up with that they themselves would call "tracking an enemy."

Here is Arnold from another source.
Technology is our Achilles heel, which in the end will be worse than any weapon of mass destruction. It will destroy us from within. This frightening trend can only be reversed if more and more citizens listen to their consciences and say, "Enough is enough." Technology puts the "I" in the center and ignores the fact that life is only worth living if "I" depend on my neighbor.

The classics were once an integral part of education. Just about every student read writers such as Aristotle, Novalis, Shakespeare and Dickens. Now, in schools in which every child has access to a computer, children are not even being taught the basic skills of life, such as how to express their thoughts and feelings in writing.

The website "MySpace" alone receives more hits than Google and AOL together. It has 90 billion visitors and about 4l million young users. On the outside it looks beautiful. It supplies anything children should want, giving them the false illusion that they are having community and fellowship with others all over the globe. Yet it does nothing but isolate children and put them emotionally out of touch with reality.

We are infatuated with the ability the Internet gives us. To be able to obtain everything that is available with the click of the mouse gives us power and makes us feel invincible. We also feel that the Internet is the solution to all of our emotional and spiritual problems. For every emotional disorder there is a self-help website or a group blog.

In 1843, Karl Marx said "religion is the opium of the people." Today the Internet is the drug that cures all ills. But we forget too quickly the old saying that "not everything that glitters is gold." The Internet has become our god, our idol, which we now worship instead of God. Yet we have never been lonelier or more isolated from other human beings.

What use is it to have all the possessions the world offers right in my living room if it separates me from other people? The essence of community is being systematically destroyed. If in any culture the minds and hearts of the children and youth have been captured, the war is already won. We are succumbing to the same temptation that Satan put before Jesus: Worship me, and the whole world and its glory will be yours. It is this temptation that Jesus rejected by pointing Satan to the Scriptures.

The greatest challenge of education, the greatest challenge to parents and teachers, is not to teach our children reading, writing and arithmetic, which are important, but to see that they do not become spiritually dull.

So what has this to do with the tragedy in Qana?

Perhaps nothing. Perhaps everything. In many ways this event represents another critical moment in history as it unfolds every morning. We are presented with yet another chance to make informed decisions. But as we make those decisions let us not forget that we are not alone in the world. For every resolution we make to wipe terrorism from the face of the earth by killing its every advocate, know that none of the lives we claim is unattached to others we would rather not kill. The father may be guilty but his child remains innocent. The brother is a monster but his sibling is a saint. The collaborator is poisonous but her family may be unaware of her diabolical secret life. And how will these "innocent" family members react to the loss of their loved ones? How might anyone react? What, after all, is the common human response to the death of a family member? Or even a neighbor or friend?

No need to insult the reader by attempting to answer such questions. There are known, effective techniques for transforming opinions, but killing close family members is not on that list.

I am not writing to take sides. When I speak of the impact of the death of loved ones on innocent survivor my mind also reels with stories of ordinary people whose lives have been claimed by launching those primitive but destructive relics of the last World War, katyusha rockets. People in restaurants, busses or wedding receptions killed or injured by suicide bombers. are every bit as affected as the man I heard this morning on the radio. Having lost his wife and children in the Qana tragedy he said defiantly to the reporter that he was going to return to his house tonight, and his support and encouragement of Hezbollah forces was stronger than ever before.

His response is nothing but human.
Overcoming our suffering calls for a super-human response.
I can't think of anything more to add.

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