Let there be peace, or not.

At home, when my wife or children used to occasionally get into a tiff with someone, and wanted to use me as a sounding board, I would listen to their grievances, and then ask, “who wants to resolve that conflict the most?” That’s the person who will make peace first.

I wonder if this idea will fly on the world stage. Taking perhaps the most bitter dispute I can think of as an example of how this would work–the Israeli Palestinian conflict–here are my questions to each side for a peaceful resolution:

1. Are you willing to create and implement a win-win solution, at least in principle? It may not be possible but is it your goal?

2. Are you willing to concentrate on how things are now, in the present, and seek a solution that works for both parties now?

3. Are you willing to ask for forgiveness for wrongs you have committed and are you willing to forgive wrongs done to you?

4. Are you willing to sincerely question your own motives, assumptions and beliefs, and submit to correction when you are wrong?

5. Are you willing to first agree on general principles that will govern your solution, rather than fighting over particulars?

6. If you cannot say “yes” to all the previous questions, are you willing to agree to disagree on some points while finding others that you both agree on?

7. If all of the foregoing fails, then who has the biggest guns and the most willingness to use them? Because that is the next step.

So when you hear the words “peace process” don’t be terribly surprised when it blows up.

 

Social justice? Darwin vs. Jesus

Let’s first visit with Charles Darwin, writing in The Descent of Man, as he gave his approval for the idea that”the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated” among “savages,” and disapproved of how civilized men “build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick, “with the result that “the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind.” Then, comparing man to livestock (which is still a big step up from amoebas) Darwin added, “no one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.” Darwin especially disliked how “the reckless, degraded, and often vicious members of society, tend to increase at a quicker rate than the provident and generally virtuous members.”

Then there is Jesus Christ, in the book of Matthew 25:34-40. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Those crusaders for social justice follow whom?

Just saying….

Comfort in helplessness

March 11, 2016. I had just started a new job, and was at home beginning to cook dinner, feeling really optimistic. Suddenly, my legs started to shake, and I felt as if I was turning to water. My immediate thought was, “I’m having a stroke.” I managed to grab my cellphone from the kitchen table just before I fell helplessly to the floor. Somehow I managed to call 911, and as I lay there paralyzed, with 2 cats nudging me (probably thinking “does this mean we won’t get fed tonight?”), I was hoping I had left the front door unlocked, so the first responders wouldn’t have to bust it in.

My entire left side was paralyzed, and I was barely conscious for the first couple of days. After a night in the emergency room I was transferred to an intensive care unit. Unfortunately, this unit was anything but. The staff kept closing my door, and I had no call button, and I couldn’t move or even throw anything at the door to get someone’s attention, so I lay there for what seemed like hours, yelling help when I was in pain.

In my fear and helplessness I regressed to 4th grade, when I got so much comfort from my teacher reading the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul…..” When first I heard those words I didn’t even know what they meant. I was a Jewish kid whose parents never mentioned the Bible. This was in a public elementary school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I didn’t even know I was supposed to be offended by the words of the Bible. I only knew I was comforted. Those same words comforted me in my fear and helplessness more than 60 years later.

 

What’s wrong with hating?

These days, if you disagree with someone’s orthodoxy, you can get called a “hater”, as if there was something wrong with hating. I imagine a dialogue that goes something like this, between me and a person I will call the hate labeler:

Me: I believe that since God ordained and created marriage, it is not subject to human re-definition as the union of two people of the same sex.

H.L.: That’s hate speech, you must be a homophobe.

Me: I suppose here is where I am expected defend myself, or deny I hate, or insist that I am not phobic. I won’t do any of that. I do hate it when someone tries to tamper with God’s definitions. What’s wrong with hating?

H.L.: Hating is wrong.  Anything that tramples on someone’s self worth is wrong and bad.

Me: Wrong and bad according to whom? Why should I care about someone’s self worth? What standard are you appealing to if you value people’s feelings about themselves?

H.L: I am appealing to the intrinsic value and dignity of all human beings. The Declaration of Independence states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”

Me: Hold the fort, are you appealing to the Declaration itself, or to the Creator? That Creator who not only endows human rights but also defines marriage, and has a long list of things He hates, may have an issue with your accusation of hate speech. Maybe you should appeal to Darwin instead.

Why do I suggest appealing to Charles Darwin? I am assuming, here, that most “hate labelers” hold to a Darwinian view of human origins, or none at all. In such cases, what would be their basis for believing in the worth of a human being?

So the next time you get called a hater you should reframe the dialogue. Check out my March 14 post on social justice.

Religion of peace?

Is there any such thing? Of what value would such a religion be? Peace between whom? Under what conditions? Does claiming that your religion is one of peace make you, or the deity you worship, righteous? Let’s define some terms. What is a religion? My operational definition is: A system of doctrines about and methods of worshipping a deity, controlling power or God. While there is more to it, that definition will get us started.

I know the most about 4 major religions–Christianity, Judaism, Islam and secular materialism–and little about Hinduism, Buddhism or others, so I will confine myself to speaking about those 4. All 4 have scriptures (though the scripture of secular materialism is not published as such but is more pervasive than the other scriptures, at least in modern nations that feature advertising). The scriptures all have lots of passages that, if taken out of context, can appear to promote both peace and war, kindness and brutality, and the unregenerate human heart can unselfconsciously make a preferred meaning out of anything. As Isaiah 64:6 says, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”

Therefore, I am not going to select quotes from scriptures to promote a particular view. What I will do is ask hard questions, like those above. What is peace? Is it merely the absence of explicit conflict? Since the human mind and heart are polluted with selfishness, wishful thinking, anger and other detritus of our thwarted desires or innate sinfulness or painful experiences (depending upon your theory of human evil), the absence of explicit conflict may be no more than a covering of ash on coals that are about to flare up again.

Why even value peace? Why not promote war and conflict? I value peace because my Lord Jesus Christ, when dying a most hideous death for the sake of those who hated Him, while being ridiculed and reviled, even though He had the power to destroy His tormentors, instead called to His father in heaven, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Why do you value peace?

True peace between human beings requires actions that clean the heart: admitting guilt and asking for forgiveness for wrongs we have committed, forgiving wrongs that have been committed against us, putting the welfare of others before our own desires. How does your religion help? What kind of example does your religion, in the person of the deity you worship, give you? Can your worship clean your heart? Jesus did so at the cross. In the words of the song My Worth Is Not In What I Own, “my value fixed my ransom paid, at the cross.” Listen to it here. getty worth

I am a curmudgeon, sort of….

The Webster-Merriam definition of a curmudgeon is “a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man.” I’m not sure I meet that definition, since I am only 70 years old, not the least bit ill-tempered and the only crustiness I have is in my nose. Nevertheless, I did choose this title, so that readers can approach with an expectation of being offended by my musings to some degree.

Since I am 70, and recovering from a stroke, I walk funny and my balance is off, all of which give an appearance of harmlessness. Appearances can be deceiving though, because I am actually a very dangerous person. Dangerous in what way? I have no desire for popularity or agreement, little tolerance for wishful thinking or self-pity, and simply cannot be offended or cowed by either insults or accusations! So beware readers, I am coming at you with 6 barrels (think “minigun” rather than shotgun).