Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Death cults and marginalization

When I was just 13 years old, I started refusing to go to church with my mother and sisters. It was a church I had gone to all my young life. I had prayed hard. A lot. I tried to believe. It was, in my young eyes, just hypocritical. Later, I would come to call it a bizarre cult. I was raised Christian Scientist, following Mary Baker Eddy. The entire experience was due to my great grandmother, at age 16--who was born just five years after Lincoln was shot--being "cured" by Christian Science.

So, outside of that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

All religion in my family was intense and matriarchal. My grandfathers were both Catholic but I set no foot in a Catholic church until great grandfathers and others died. My father was a sketchy Lutheran because his mother was, and I have never once been in a Lutheran church. All that was irrelevant. I was a child in that family so I was a Christian Scientist because my mother, her mother, and her mother were. I had no use for doctors nor of medicine. Prayer would heal me. I was a perfect child of God. I was made in God's image and likeness.


My father let my mother take me to Christian Science church every Sunday. I liked the other kids. I strongly disliked most of the Sunday School teachers. Indeed, they were the ones who made me understand the hypocrisy.

But my father would not countenance the cultlike idiocy that many Christian Scientists practice, eschewing medicine. He made us get our shots and doctors' appointments. He kept it sane. When the notions of Christian Science are followed in any fundamentalist sense, people die needlessly. I would not generally call them a death cult but their reason-free faith produces pain and death that I saw up close and felt personally. They are marginalized by a culture that has enough faith in actual science and enough faith in the separation of church and state to allow this bizarre behavior in all but the most extreme cases, and the law even stays out of those, mostly.

How I wish my father could help out ISIS idiots today. They are like Christian Scientists on some cocktail of meth, crack, big guns, charisma, steroids, and head-banging diminished capacity. They say they want to take the world back to the seventh century and as for the end of the world, bring it on. They are emotional children without capacity for grown-up empathy nor diversity of thought. They literally have a capital punishment in mind and intent for much of the world.
Abu Mohamed al-Adnani said any opportunity to "shed a drop of blood" should be taken

And we do see that, with the stated intent, goals, and territory controlled by ISIS, they do want and intend to kill millions, perhaps billions, of humans. They currently control areas comprising some eight million people. They have taken areas in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and are eyeballing Sicily. Italy wet its pants recently, and for good reason.

So? How can humankind stop this ghastly infestation?

We know violence doesn't work. Indeed, arguably, our violence, however justified by our doctrines, has produced the widespread ISIS terrorheart compassionless rage and urge to return to the glory years of a few centuries ago. So let's imagine that we abjure violence, that we see the necessity of inventing or synthesizing existing methods of engagement that use any and all methods except violence. Rather than the complex war machine with destruction as its practice and threat, what are elements of alternatives?

  • negotiation
  • stop all arms transfers to the region
  • seize assets, including financial assets, of the terrorists and all their people
  • promise no further use of military methods
  • close US military bases in the region
  • arrest and try ISIS personnel, even by abduction if necessary (Simon Wiesenthal model)
  • massive support for nonviolent civil society organizations in the region
  • promote peace education throughout region
  • promote positive development in region
  • promote treaties with all state and nonstate actors in the region to stop all violence
  • empower the UN
  • support interfaith initiatives in the region
  • end import of oil from the region
  • model and support transparency
  • model and support environmental protection
  • model and support indigenous sovereignty
  • accept that the people and powers in the region will redraw their own maps that the European cartographers redrew for them during the age of colonialism and imperialism
  • promote reconciliation
  • promote reparations from countries that have benefitted unfairly from the oil found in the region
  • elect US politicians who are smart doves instead of kneejerk hawks

There are many more professional, developmental, academic, and civil society initiatives that could slow, blunt, stop and reverse the violence in the region. We might still see some sort of caliphate, but it could be contained using nonviolent methods much more surely than the failed and failing attacks back and forth that we see now. Let's stop being a death cult and see if others might notice and follow our lead. Let's reduce ISIS to the joke it should be.


Dora V said...

The alternatives you have mentioned seem simplistically intelligent, and would appear to be easy to implement if everyone involved had the same capacity for wanting the same goal. Unfortunately, the financial needs of those involved are on many levels looking out for themselves, including us. It's all about the money after all, and it doesn't matter at what cost. The vicious cycle just continues to perpetuate the marginalization of the people that are in the way of the extremist individuals that you've mentioned.

Tom H. Hastings said...

You are correct, of course, Dora, and my intention was to simply get it out there. I would add that we need to develop a global treaty outlawing war profiteering. Just as land mines have been outlawed, and biological and chemical weapons and just as international law has helped reduce many other human rights violations, outlawing war profiteering would remove the financial motive you mention.