Wednesday, September 3, 2008
12:06:10 AM EDT
Every act of terrorism is an act of revenge.
What we really need,
if we are going to survive,
is a War On Vengeance.
DB - The Vagabond
I saw a conversation with a woman who ostentatiously displayed a cross around her neck and proclaimsd that she was a Christian, very religious and believed in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, Her questioner asked if she understood that an eye for an eye was an old testament ethic, Mosaic law, which Moses later abated, that historians point out it was an improvement over the common practice of visiting ten fold revenge on wrong doers, and that it was totally refuted in the New Testament. She said she never heard that.
I though: My God. It's bad news for Christianity. and all religions as a matter of fact, when people can go about announcing their faith, even to the point of displaying symbols of it, congregating, worshipping and fellowshiping, without knowing the principles their religion is based on.
All the world's great religions inveigh against vengeance, and yet most people, most religious people, seem to think they have a divine right to exact revenge on those who have hurt them and do it under the benign euphemisms of "settling the score," "creating a level playing field" and "gaining closure." But there is no closure. Vengeance creates wars and keeps them going.
Some will say that if you let someone get away with something without punishing them, they will do it again. Preventing them from doing it again is not the same as visiting pain and torment on them for doing it the first time. Our prisons are full of people many of whom are 2nd and 3rd offenders. The punishment has not deterred them.
Wanting to take revenge on someone and actually doing it are different things, but they are allied. A first major step toward an ethical life is to recognize that the desire is just as bad as the act. Christianity stresses the idea that even the motivation to do something should be aligned with the principle of love for one's neighbor and forgiveness of one's enemies. So do Judaism and Islam. I've read their books.
How on earth can those for whom revenge is a way of life be convinced of it's erroneousness when it seems endemic to the human passions? How to convince people to turn from a superficial reading of their sacred texts and hasty interpretations of them that do nothing more than justify the behavior of their own mortal personalities? How to convince people to stop missing the point?
Some folks think I am atheistic or irreligious. People have tried very hard to convince me to became part of their own religious persuasion, one way or another. A man stopped his car, ran over to me, handed me a religious leaflet, got back in his car and drove off. I once got a letter from a listener saying that he was very concerned for my immortal soul. No explanation was given. Someone, whose thinking isn't any clearer than mine, is always trying to correct my thinking. My answer is that even though I can recognize in myself the motivation to "get even," my faith and sense of humor have transformed my nature to the point where there is nothing in me that cannot forgive those who have done me wrong. Those who have not yet reached that point may laugh at the idea, but it is a true, tested and measurable condition,
"Let there be peace in the world, and let it begin with me."