Friday, December 21, 2007

The Good Samaritan

Here's an Xmas piece from the second year of earthfamilyalpha



Rarely do the followers of religions actually follow their teachings.

The practicalities of the world... war, greed, self defense, national pride, require us to lay down the teachings as we cavalierly embrace the mundane aspects of the belief system.

This piece by Wendell Berry says it very well.

It was sent to me by a friend.

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Any observer would have to say that Christianity is fashionable at present in the United States. This might be a good thing, except that the observer, observing more closely, would have to conclude that, to the extent that Christianity is fashionable, it is loosely fashionable. It seems to have remarkably little to do with the things that Jesus Christ actually taught.
Especially among Christians in positions of great wealth and power, the idea of reading the Gospels and keeping Jesus' commandments as stated therein has been replaced by a curious process of logic.

According to this process, people first declare themselves to be followers of Christ, and then they assume that whatever they say or do merits the adjective "Christian." (For don't we know that everybody named Rose smells like a rose?)

This process appears to have been dominant among Christian heads of state ever since Christianity became politically respectable. From this accommodation has proceeded a monstrous history of Christian violence.

War after war has been prosecuted by bloodthirsty Christians, and to the profit of greedy Christians, as if Christ had never been born and the Gospels never written.

I may have missed something, but I know of no Christian nation and no Christian leader from whose conduct the teachings of Christ could be inferred.

One cannot be aware both of the history of Christian war and of the contents of the Gospels without feeling that something is amiss. One may feel that, in the name of honesty, Christians ought either to quit fighting or quit calling themselves Christians. One way to see how far belligerent Christians have strayed from the words of Christ is to make a list of the Gospel passages in which Christ addresses explicitly the issues of human strife, forgiveness, compassion, and peacemaking.

They have justified their disobedience on the grounds of the impracticality of obedience, though we have little proof of the practicality of disobedience, and precious few examples of obedience.

The implication invariably has been that for a few feckless worshippers of God to obey Christ's commandments may be all right, but in practical matters such as war and preparation for war we will obey Caesar.

The Christian followers of Caesar have thus committed themselves to an absurdity that they can neither resolve nor escape: the proposition that war can be made to serve peace; that you can make friends for love by hating and killing the enemies of love. This has never succeeded, and its failure is never acknowledged, which is a further absurdity.

The world's survival, so far, of this absurdity is explainable by the relative smallness, until recently, of the scale of war, and by the relative controllability, until now, of the most destructive weaponry.

But now the scales of practicality have come to be differently weighted. The official terrorism of the Cold War and the doctrine of "mutual assured destruction" have already made us familiar with the ultimate absurdity: that we (or some other "we" equally devout and patriotic) may have to destroy the world in order to defend ourselves.

To the surprise of some, no doubt, it is possible to look upon such an eventuality as impractical.

To avoid it, we are going to need a better recourse than Caesar's.

If we ever should become sane enough to reject total destruction as a means of victory, then, as my friend Wes Jackson once said to me, our evolutionary biologists will have to reckon how we could have received the best instruction for our survival two thousand years before it was most desperately needed.

Christ told us how to survive when He answered the question, Who is my neighbor?

In the tenth chapter of Luke, He tells the story of a Samaritan who cared for a Jew who had been badly wounded by thieves. As we know from the preceding chapter, in which the Disciples suggest in effect the firebombing of a Samaritan village, the Samaritans and the Jews were enemies.

To modernize the story, then, and so to understand Christ's answer, we may substitute any other pair of enemies: fundamentalist Christian and fundamentalist Muslim, Palestinian and Israeli, captor and prisoner.

The answer: Your neighbor is any sufferer who needs your help."

If humankind is to walk through this coming time,

with compassion and grace,

we will need for the followers of our great teachers,

to actually follow them.

And to be as good as the Samaritan.





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5 Comments:

Anonymous Daniela Zini said...

THE OTHER IS ME

The Other is me and Arthur Rimbaud’s “Je est un Autre” (letter to Paul Demeny, May 15, 1871) are sides of the same coin.

Marguerite Yourcenar says:

“I do not see the writer as more solitary than Others. Look at my house: there is a continual coming and going of people, as if the house were breathing. It is only in rare periods that I feel alone, and even then, not completely.”

While some people, like Marguerite Yourcenar, think that “class does not count, culture counts very little”, Others do not tolerate difference and close themselves into their Universe.
Our Society knows great uneasiness due to a forgotten element.
The forgotten great value of TOLERANCE.
Unfortunately, it is not yet universal because the capacity to tolerate is not innate in humans. Our ancestors were aware of this, so much so that they ceaselessly fought to acquire the foundations of a coexistence among humans, so different and yet united.
Indeed, INTOLERANCE inevitably brings on exclusion of a man, a social class, a race, an ethnic group. But let us not allow ourselves to hide behind fatalism. Each of us can take away a stone from the wall of exclusion. Given that talking about this scourge is a way of recognizing its presence, we can find the remedies. In particular for the examples close to home, like homeless people we ignore out of habit, or from whom we look away in shame.
Well: be shameful!
But do not stay indifferent.
Dare to look at the problem in order to find in our hearts the solutions.
Do not turn away from the more distant examples, either, like the ethnic war which flows from incomprehension among peoples.
Be honest with ourselves and get interested.
Stop closing ourselves behind our PRIDE.
As Gustave Flaubert says:

“Le comble de l’ORGUEIL c’est de se mépriser soi-même.”
“The height of PRIDE is to disdain oneself.”

And indeed, indifference and pride push us to disdain OTHERS.
We end by forgetting RESPECT.
This respect is the foundation of TOLERANCE.
We must know to respect each person’s IDEAS.

I wish a Merry Christmas to All You believers and non-believers, may You enjoy these Holidays in Happiness and Health with Your Loved ones.

Daniela Zini
www.webalice.it/zini.daniela

5:21 AM  
Blogger Charlie Loving said...

This rings quite true to me.

The Kingdom of God Is Within You is the non-fiction magnum opus of Leo Tolstoy and was first published in Germany in 1894, after being banned in his home country of Russia. [1]It is the culmination of thirty years of Tolstoy's Christian thinking, and lays out a new organization for society based on a literal Christian interpretation. Such an argument supposes that when Christ says to turn the other cheek, he means exactly that, and is not bounded by any complicated sophistries or esoteric meanings. This reasoning leads to the following question:
"How can you kill people, when it is written in God's commandment: 'Thou shalt not murder'?"

– Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is within You

If, on the one hand, you believe that Christ meant what he said literally, this means that Christ foresaw a society based on love and tolerance, one that is completely incompatible with war and all violence. If, on the other hand, you believe that Christ did not mean what he said literally, then war and violence are acceptable, Christian forms of defense.
Tolstoy takes the viewpoint that "Thou shalt not murder", and that therefore all governments who wage war are directly affronting the Christian principles that should guide all life.
The title of the book is taken from Luke 17:21. In the book Tolstoy speaks of the principle of nonresistance when confronted by violence, as taught by Jesus
Tolstoy sought to separate Orthodox Russian Christianity, which was merged with the state, from what he believed was the true message of Jesus Christ, as contained in the Gospels, specifically the Sermon on the Mount.
Tolstoy presented excerpts from magazines and newspapers relating various personal experiences, and gave keen insight into the history of nonresistance as being professed by a minority of believers from the very foundation of Christianity. In particular, he confronts those who argue that such a change to a non-violent society would be disastrous with the following recourse:
"That this social order with its pauperism, famines, prisons, gallows, armies, and wars is necessary to society; that still greater disaster would ensue if this organization were destroyed; all this is said only by those who profit by this organization, while those who suffer from it – and they are ten times as numerous – think and say quite the contrary."

– Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is within You

Tolstoy recounted challenges by people of all classes that his views on nonresistance were wrong, but argued that no matter how the challengers tried to attack the doctrine, its essence could not be overcome. He advocated non-violence as a solution to nationalist woes and as a means for seeing the hypocrisy of the church. In reading Jesus' words in the Gospels, Tolstoy notes that the modern church is a heretic creation:
"Nowhere nor in anything, except in the assertion of the Church, can we find that God or Christ founded anything like what churchmen understand by the Church."

– Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is within You

These words had profound influence on Mahatma Gandhi, who later used these ideas to stage a revolution in colonial India.

7:35 AM  
Blogger OZ said...

thanks for the thoughtful comments DZ and CL.

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Daniela Zini said...

I want to thank You for Your Hospitality.
I will certainly come back!
Congratulations to all of You.
Peace and Goodness!
D

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

amen.

11:54 AM  

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