Issues that Cloud and Issues that Clear
Fundamentalism: It is a sad reality that common sense is abandoned when extremism captures spiritual, political and economic arenas. The results can be very dangerous and highly unpredictable. The concept of a Chosen People is less important than the question, "Chosen for what?" We don't believe that God favors any tribe, culture, religion or country. When a tribe, culture, religion or country asserts otherwise, violence inevitably follows.
Patriotism: This can be tricky. Pride of country is an important organizing factor, important for survival of the country, and important to the citizen who sees value and worth in what his country stands for and is doing. It is not unpatriotic to point out false steps and failures of leaders of the country. You are blessed if you live in a country where this is possible. Remember Samuel Johnson’s wise observation, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." In times of crises, citizens are often pressured to yield precious liberties that were hard won. A leader who would insist upon this is a potential tyrant. The passion of patriotism should be cautiously awarded.
Hubris: One of the most fascinating and important things to watch is how the United States, the world's only surviving superpower, spends its influence and treasure. Currently we have declared war against "terrorism," a symptom of the real enemy, "the causes of terrorism." The demonstrated threat to people and property must be met, but a strategy of only fighting the symptoms would certainly cause a thinking patient to seek a second opinion and to change physicians if a proper treatment strategy is not adopted. Hubris, (excessive pride; arrogance) comes from the Greek, violence. With all the unsolved problems in the U.S., the thought of a Pax Americana must really be frightening to the rest of the thinking world.
Weapons of Mass Destruction: In the phylum of weapons of mass destruction there are two distinct classes. The first of these classes springs from the technology of weapon development. It is an obscene oxymoron that as civilization advances, weapons of mass destruction become both more horrible and widespread.
Sadly, the best case scenario may be that only after the tragic use of weapons of mass destruction, and following years of tortuous negotiations, treaties will be reached that completely eliminate the technological class of nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological weapons of mass destruction.
What will remain is the second class of weapons. This is a human condition – hopelessness. It is the most insidious, dangerous and pervasive of all weapons of mass destruction. It has infected millions and is spreading. It is a double-edged weapon. While it has killed legions by disease and starvation, it has also spanned cohorts of fanatics fueled by hate and revenge, and ready to become personal, individual weapons of mass destruction.
The problem is extraordinarily complex and its solution will be difficult. Global leadership endowed with great wisdom and courage will be required. Simply stated, we will be asking the status quo to behave with more compassion and generosity than usually is the norm of those in power. An early and essential step will be to convince the status quo that it is in their best interest to be compassionate and generous. After that, the work can begin.
The United States has an opportunity to become a moral leader in this undertaking. Any president announcing a strategy to reduce to a minimum the degree of hopelessness in the world and then assembles a global coalition to do the job, would certainly merit the high degree of support he would receive.
The Calculus of War and Peace: The most powerful symbol of war is the flag-draped coffin of the fallen warrior. For every fallen warrior there are 4 to 20 civilian graves. What is an appropriate symbol for them? Perhaps a vial of tears mixed with blood of the innocent should be given to every Head of State as a paperweight for the next set of War Plans, and an irreducible weight on the conscience of every decision maker of peace and war
Responding to Threat --- Responding to Opportunity: When a new threat hazards a country, the needful response may be bundled with undertakings that exceed the needs of the time. Some leaders may use the cry of "Nation in peril," to advance agendas that would not be supported on their own merits. A threat to democracy in the United States as great as any external threat that can be envisioned is when the Congress rolls over and fails to assert its Constitutional responsibilities in times of crises. Every threat carries seeds of opportunity. The most obvious of these is the opportunity to determine why did the threat develop, and then to address these fundamental issues. It is witless to talk about fighting open-ended wars. It takes more intelligence and courage to respond to the needs of sustainable peace
Prayer: We pray daily for all the leaders of the world, leaders in every area. Our prayer is for God to illuminate, vibrate and give a voice to the seeds of peace that is Her gift to every soul. Our prayer is that these leaders will recognize and honor these seeds and nurture them into full fruitfulness in their own lives, in the lives of their families, and in all areas of leadership and followship. We live on a planet of choice. What we choose seals out fate. We choose peace because it is the foundation of survival and provides the opportunity for civilization to flower.
Forgiveness: If you cannot forgive you are destined to carry the burden of hate and fear forever. That load can be so great that there may be little capacity left to love, hope and live.
Dignity and Human Rights: The wisdom of civilization is articulated in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: All humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights. The consequences of dignity and human rights denied are frightfully predictable. At some point the oppressed will convulse. When that happens there are no limits to the measures selected to discharge the endured pain and honed hatred. Cycles of revenge driven atrocities become the norm in a sickening parade of death and destruction. Leaders become hostages to events that reflect the darkest side of their cultures. If outside intervention is going to be successful, it must fearlessly identify the oppressor and address that issue.
Sacred Literature: Its beauty and power is unquestioned. The potential for its abuse is undeniable. We rejoice over the broad elements of consensus that are life affirming and that mark a path of ethical conduct that could shepherd in an era of sustainable peace.
Hurt not others with that which pains yourself. Udana-Varga
What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow men. That is the entire Law;
all the rest is commentary.
No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which
he desires for himself.
Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 13
Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.
Confucius, five centuries before Christ
And one of our obscure favorites:
One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird
should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.
Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)
Spirituality and Religion: All religions are to some degree exclusionist. When that degree includes statements and actions that attempt to deny the right of other religions and their adherents to exist, conflict follows. While this is dangerous, it is not hopeless. No religion has a monopoly on extremism, and no religion is incapable of being reformed to exist in comity with other religions of the world, to express through its followers the spiritual wholesomeness of love and respect, and to liberate the full genius of all its adherents in service of humanity. The role of education toward this end is as obvious as it is important.