I’ve been trying for days to write a blog under my original mandate: religion and how it serves both to bond and to separate us. I had lots of things planned to fill in some background about the origins of the Christian tradition as it became legitimized under Constantine (Edict of Milan, 313 CE). I wanted to write about some of the interesting variations of Christianity that were trampled by Athanasius (296ish to 373 CE) – like Arianism, named for its leader Arius (250ish to 336 CE) and the even more interesting theological debate a generation later between Augustine (354-430) and Pelagius (360-418). But maybe another time…
As I was getting my facts together to write, the shootings in San Bernardino happened. I became totally engrossed by the tragic events that left 14 people dead and 22 wounded (of course, that number applies only to those physically wounded by the event). I watched CNN and read the New York Times incessantly as new information was released, and I tried to make sense of it all. But you can’t make sense of something that is senseless – no matter how hard you try. I became traumatized and incapable of writing even a simple sentence.
So today is my first attempt to ‘get back on the horse,’ so to speak.
But how does one go on from here: especially when the horror of such atrocities is added to previous recent horrors (Paris, etc.)? How can one deal with persons or groups who cannot or will not listen to reason? As politicians scrambled to react ‘appropriately’ to this latest act of terror, except for Donald Trump of course, I experienced a serious lapse of hope in our collective future.
Killing over religious differences is not new – religious wars go back almost as far as human history. When one religion thinks it has the ‘truth,’ the one and only religious truth, there is no room for authentic acceptance of others who disagree. It’s a matter of simple logic: if there is only one truth and I have it, then, if you disagree with me, your view about truth must be wrong. But this is too simple.
There are many nuances regarding religions that are left unexplored by those who kill in its name. Not only is it arrogant for any one group to claim a monopoly on religious truth, it is irreverent as well (hubris being one of the deadly sins). Evolving as we have over the past hundreds of thousands of years (with a possibility of further evolution for hundreds of thousands more), how can any of us think that, if there is a God, we know exactly what that means? That there are so many different expressions of God (from diverse religions over a broad span of history) suggests to me that ‘God’ must be more creative than our primitive brains and limited imaginations can comprehend. In fact, the more we claim to know about God, the more our ignorance about the divine is revealed.
Human beings (of all races and religions) share 99.9% of our DNA! This makes us, in essence, a human family. Perhaps if we could absorb this reality more fully, we might come to view killing each other as a form of domestic violence. Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, radicalization, or some other thing blurring our vision, one thing remains: killing fellow members of our human family is wrong, and doing it in the name of God - well, that’s downright inhuman. A God who would demand or even condone such an action is unworthy of the name.