|We have met the enemy and he is|
I am stunned over the events in Orlando. Ironically at the very moment the calamity was unfolding, I had been sitting at my computer writing the previous posting in which I wrote that I need to see that Islam—like the other religions, great and small of our world—produces people of wide vision, great tolerance, peace builders and reconcilers and not fall into the trap that only Christian trees bear good fruit. And now, of course, the blogosphere is replete, once again, with anti-Muslim slogans that would indiscriminately slap the brush of hatred and violence over the hundreds of millions who find in their religion the roots of compassion, reconciliation, and human betterment.
“Christians” in Nigeria or Uganda can attack and burn a hall where gay men and women gather to socialize and Pope Francis or the Archbishop of Canterbury, much less you or me, aren’t given the burden of blame for the violence. Indeed some of the same blogs that are now targeting Islam as the ideological tinder that was behind the Orlando violence themselves are filled with hate speech for LGBT persons, claiming that they only have reaped what they have sown. If all Muslims are to be blamed for the violence of the Orlando attack, then we Christians, in fact, share in the responsibility as well for the judgments we make about those whom we judge to be sinners. But the problem is much wider than religion gone toxic.
We need to stand back and see how responsibility for the violence in our world lies as our own doorsteps. We live in a culture saturated in violence. Whether it is Game of Thrones or Independence Day: Resurgence or even Bluebloods we lace our entertainment with violence and death. No one dare take on the NRA and its political agenda funded by the gun industry to prevent at all costs a rational system of legislation to keep automatic and semi-automatic weapons out of the hands of those who lack the responsibility to protect a peaceful citizenry. Of course we are a society that condones babies being ripped from the bellies of their mothers by the abortion industry—it is all part of a wild and savage cultural imagination in which black lives do not matter, blue lives do not matter, and in fact no life really matters. The Pope tells us that Capital Punishment is State-sanctioned murder but we close our ears. Kids are taken to gun ranges rather than golf driving ranges. We are drunk with violence and while we may profess to be Christian and sing our Sunday hymns, our real religion is blood. This is not the kingdom that Jesus of Nazareth came to reveal to us. This is not the Divine ratio for the Incarnation. This is a fraudulent and inauthentic Christianity and we will be fraudulent and inauthentic Christians until we reject the language, vocabulary, syntax and culture of Death that runs through our society. Before we dare demonize others we need to take a long hard look at the demons in our own hearts. Like the first Christians who thoroughly rejected the violence of the Graeco-Roman world with its lion and gladiator shows, with its State-sponsored cruelty, with its contempt for the lives of others and indeed for its own citizens, we must turn our back on this culture of death and construct an alternative world.
One of the etymologies often given for the word “Devil” is that it is derived from the Greek διαβολος via the Latin diabolus and the French diable. διαβολος itself is constructed of two words, to force and apart. The devil is the one who divides us. Divides us from God; divides us from one another. We need to see that whatever divides us, in our imagination, from others: Muslim, Gay, Immigrant, whatever—is the work of the evil One. In the Mind of God every human person is his son or his daughter and his plan is to bring us together—in Christ, we Christians believe—into a conscious sharing of his Divine Nature. This culture of unification must be our alternative to the Culture of violence and death which is eating out our world from within like the most vicious cancer.
Earlier today, in looking up an article on Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, I found a reference to the Chemin Neuf Community. It was founded by Jesuit Father Laurent Fabre in 1973—at the very end of the Paul VI/Vatican II papacy of hope before so much of our Catholic Church descended into the retreat from Vatican II in the protection of the more recent tragically ambiguous papacies of his successors but one. The Chemin Neuf (Literally New Road) is an authentically Catholic (i.e. canonically recognized) movement. It was give official recognition by Cardinal Alexandre Renard, archbishop of Lyon, in 1984 and later given the canonical status as a Public Association of the Faithful by Cardinal Albert Decourtray, Archbishop of the same See and Primate of France. While canonically Catholic, it welcomes and includes members of a wide variety of Christian churches from the Evangelical and Charismatic to the Orthodox Churches of the East who wish to work together, hand in hand, to spread the Gospel. To spread the Gospel: not to provide apologetics as to why we are right and everyone else is wrong, but to announce the Εωαγγελιον, The Good News of Jesus Christ, a message that calls our human family to reconciliation, peace, and unity. The community, which follows Ignatian Spirituality, has an extensive outreach to families, including those who have been divorced and remarried. It has provided a welcome experience of Christian community to many who have found that sense of community in Christ, to be lacking in more traditional Church structures.
It is a different approach but then it is time for new and different approaches. Our self-imposed diversities are from the evil One. They lead only to death and Christ is Lord of Life. After Orlando I am more convinced than ever that the future requires people of any and all religious beliefs to work together in mutual respect with all people of good will in taking responsibility for making our world better.