News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: What It Means To Kill People

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What It Means To Kill People

I have written somewhat obliquely of Simone Weil's essay on the Iliad. In this essay, she charts the dynamics of war. These include the ultimate and irrevocable process that turns human beings into objects. This means, for example, that the victim is simply an object to be destroyed because in the minds of the warrior the enemy is less than human. At the same time, the warrior him/herself becomes less than human. They lose that human quality of empathy that usually marks the response to the pain and suffering of others.

A decent review of this process, as US soldiers are now enduring is given at Psyche, Science, and Society. Quoting Chris Hedges, the snippet ends:

Prophets are not those who speak of piety and duty from pulpits-there are few people in pulpits worth listening to. The prophets are the battered wrecks of men and women who return from Iraq and find the courage to speak the halting words we do not want to hear, words that we must hear and digest in order to know ourselves. These veterans, the ones who dare to tell the truth, have seen and tasted how war plunges us into barbarity, perversion, pain and an unchecked orgy of death. And it is their testimonies, if we take the time to listen, which alone can save us.
How many Xtians are voicing these sentiments, I wonder? How many of them have really understood the Jewish prophets and Jesus' sayings about forgiveness and love? Their chocolate Bible, it seems, is only laced with bitter hatred for those who don't think, act, and look like them. And they are always at a loss to remember the words that Jesus added to the commandment to love your neighbor--he includes the enemy as well.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more [than others]? do not even the publicans so?
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. [Mat 5:43 - 48]
Many people think this appeal to perfection is absurd and outlandish. They say that it's impossible. But that is indeed the message of Jesus. To do, say, and believe the impossible. If you don't accept Jesus then it's fine. But if you do, then you should at least recognize that every time you say a word that leads to more hatred for the enemy you are not doing what He says you should. It is really that simple.

It seems to me that it's not easy for those who wish to impose their own understanding based on fear and despair in place of the unconditional demand for love and peace that Jesus says God wants.

No comments: