Sunday, November 21, 2010

Papal bull, misogynist fatwas, holy sh_t

Oh my name it is nothin'
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I's taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that land that I live in
Has God on its side.
--With God on our side, Bob Dylan (also quoted below)

Some say that religion is the cornerstone of nonviolence. It is the foundation of nonviolence for some--I think of Dorothy Day, the Berrigan brothers, Thich Nhat Hahn, Aung San Suu Kyi, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Mohandas Gandhi, Abraham Heschel, John Woolman and others--but religion is used to justify and even promote violence. It's in the DNA of many nations, certainly including the US.

Oh the history books tell it
They tell it so well
The cavalries charged
The Indians fell
The cavalries charged
The Indians died
Oh the country was young
With God on its side.
Preachers tried to convert the natives, who had been doing wonderfully without Christianity, or at least the retributive, proselytizing-at-gunpoint variety so often used by second wave missionaries. Then the troops arrived and the conversions were mandatory, or Natives were driven from their lands, extirpated by ethnic cleansing and all to save their souls. Once we understand that any nonbeliever is really a nonhuman, we can kill them as an act of mercy.

There were plenty of good Christians who must have been confused once in a while as they pondered those verses in which Jesus seemed to actually say something about the topic and always chose nonviolence. He healed rather than murdered and he never carried a weapon. Let's repeat that: He never carried a weapon. Wouldn't that be refreshing in our gun-worshiping culture? He had no knife in the age of the blade. He had nonviolence.

Oh the Spanish-American
War had its day
And the Civil War too
Was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes
I's made to memorize
With guns in their hands
And God on their side.

Bless the troops, grant us victory, tell us how to propitiate You. This is the god of war we worship, the same gods the Romans worshiped and the same false gods that Jesus came to challenge. They're baaaaaaack...wherever warriors seek victory and protection for their violence. And with victory comes the triumphalist certitude of the reality and superiority of our god. Not much was said about that after the Vietnamese threw us out of their godless communist country--presumably their victory was rebuke for our lack of frenzied faith.

Oh the First World War, boys
It closed out its fate
The reason for fighting
I never got straight
But I learned to accept it
Accept it with pride
For you don't count the dead
When God's on your side.

The bending of history toward a religious justification for violence or for dehumanization of the enemy is harder in the first stages of war, before many atrocities harden hearts and make that objectification easy. Indeed, in the first Christmas season of World War I the shared Christian holiday nearly unraveled the reasons for war as German and English troops sang together across the No Man's Land, the zone of free fire between them. They were corrupted by that common spirit so profoundly that they emerged and played soccer together. This produced terror in high places--what if that real spirit of Jesus were allowed to spread? Troops were reprimanded and redeployed to other areas, breaking connections with the enemy. The common person's spirit of love for each other was quashed. It was back to the business of war as usual, with the blessings of the chaplains. Nine million died.

When the Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side.

The Germans always had god on their side, and chose the members of another religion as the impure ones to sacrifice on that altar of that god. The Germans and indeed the rest of Europe became far less religious after WWII. They began to realize the costs of allowing themselves to be so manipulated by religion that they would attempt genocide based on faith was a truly twisted belief system. If anything, however, they became more spiritual even as they became less religious.

I've learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war starts
It's them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side.

Russophobia was the real religion of my generation. We lived in terror at some level, with the knowledge that the implacable, inexorable Red Army was patient enough to wait until the opportunity came, when our guard was down, and then they would march in, slaughtering those of us who survived their missiles. There was zero hint that they were nothing but a transitory threat, a system that lasted 70 years--not even a geological blink of the eye--for fear of which we were prepared to extinguish civilization on Earth.

But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we're forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God's on your side.

In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

So now as I'm leavin'
I'm weary as Hell
The confusion I'm feelin'
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God's on our side
He'll stop the next war.

Meanwhile, in a bid to stay relevant, the pope just decreed that good gay Catholic prostitutes can use condoms. Presumably, little children can use them as balloons too. And the imams are ruling left and right that women who satirize religion for oppressing them should hang. Other women who have affairs should be stoned. And women who are gang-raped should be stoned and hung, presumably. Fatuous fatwas specializing in misogyny. That should teach them.

Satan comes in many forms. I'd suggest that when religion justifies violence, that is satanic. Nothing can defeat the violence except nonviolence. Nothing can wipe out our enemies except making them our friends. An appeal to God is an appeal to love, not hate. Any prayer for military victory is an oath to the devil. This is the season of the Prince of Peace and he never carried any weapon except love and healing. A truly spiritual person is a disarmed person.

1 comment:

Andy said...

It's good to see you use Dylan's song -- I used it in a final essay for a graduate seminar on foreign relations in 1995. Also, my older son was originally moved by this song in a Rock 'n' Roll museum that had this as one of Dylan's songs in a display about him. Of all the things in the museum, this is the one he came home talking about.