Posts Tagged ‘Religious wars’

Letter From New York, September 25, 2010

September 25, 2010

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Letter From New York

September 23, 2010

Or, as it seems to me…

Fall is in the air; the leaves have begun changing on the trees that overhang my creek and litter my land.  Soon they will begin to fall and will literally litter my drive, unattended they are daunting and so weekends will begin to be devoted to clearing them away.  I both love and hate the fall.  I embrace the brisk wind and the wild tension between the encroaching winter and the summer that wants to linger, a autumnal ballet of seasonal forces, a lovely, painful dance as the world sinks into winter.

As that dance progresses, the world has been watching the tiny island of Manhattan for two events that occurred there, one following the other.  The first was glamorous – the all important, celebrity studded Fashion Week; the rich, the beautiful, the fashionistas, the models, the mavens all squirreled in and through the tents at Lincoln Center, all sponsored by Mercedes Benz.  The city could barely sustain the excitement of all this elegance, luxury and excitement; every morning the city woke to yet another display of fashion fabulousity.

The second event was the General Session of the United Nations.  World leaders gathered; Obama addressed the General Assembly, hoping to elicit the support of others in the world to buoy up the Mid-East Peace Process.  Every leader comes with an agenda, a shift they would like to see the world take in the way it sees their efforts on the world stage.  Thursday, President Ahmadinejad of Iran, took the podium and used his time to decry the United Nations, the United States, capitalism, Zionists, laud the wonders of nuclear power and declare that the majority of Americans think that 9/11 was orchestrated by the U.S. government.

Delegates from many nations walked out on him.  It was, as the United States spokesperson said:  predictable.  Ahmadinejad has used his annual trips to the UN General Assembly to further distance himself and his country from the rest of the world.  The scariest part of this scenario is that this man runs a country with an army, a pretty big army that has been testing missiles that seem to go farther each time they test them.  The saddest part of all of this is that the Presidency of Iran held by someone more rational could wield a huge influence for good in that desperate part of the world.  Iran is using its influence to stir up anti-Israel feelings all over the world and plays its hand on the world stage with a fistful of wild cards.  No wonder he makes the West crazy.  He hates the West.  Likes our toys, like nuclear power, but doesn’t like what we stand for…

Also in that part of the world is poor Pakistan, ravaged by floods, [have you donated anything to help Pakistan?] being torn apart by religious and political strife, the secular being clawed at by religious fundamentalists with a virtual civil war going on in the north west.  And, oh yes, they have a stockpile of nuclear weapons and they rattle that saber once in awhile.

When I think about these things, I feel great disquiet.  No wonder the fabulousity of Fashion Week is so attractive to so many – it diverts us from the fearsome realities that are just across town as the UN General Session met with frightening men like Ahmadinejad standing up there with all the other world leaders, completely free to rant against the organization hosting him and reminding us that he is running a country that is quite capable of the worst kind of mischief.

There is another Iran, the one that doesn’t want him and who marched in the streets in the spring but we saw what happened to them.  Who will ever forget the pictures of the young girl bleeding to death on the street, an event twittered around the globe.

It is fall, the season that precedes the long winter, a time when the mind roams to all the things that could go bump in the night.  And right now I hear a bump.

Letter From New York Easter Sunday 2009

April 12, 2009

Letter From New York
April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday

It is Easter Weekend. I am at the cottage, and winter will not pull its icicle claws from us – it is unseasonably cold. A fire burns in my Franklin stove. There is a lament in the streets that spring will not really happen. We, here in the Hudson Valley, have been teased by spring yet it will not burst upon us. It is still winter cold.

Tonight, returning from a day of errands, the sunset was of the kind that inspired the Hudson school of painters. Grey clouds were bordered with magenta light and it was magical. Nature isn’t giving us warmth but it is giving us beauty.

It is Easter. It is Passover. These are profound holidays for those who live in the Judeo-Christian tradition. I find myself acknowledging them if no longer quite a part of them. It is now been a long time since I have been a practicing Catholic, which is my heritage. I gave that up a long time ago. I have flirted with a few other faith groups and have never been able to quite settle in comfortably with any of them. I appreciate the Episcopalian tradition; it is a religion that was born out of a need to justify divorce and murder. It should be forgiving. But even there I have never quite found a match.

That he lived – of that I have no doubt. That he changed the world – of that I have no doubt. Today much of the world will celebrate his Resurrection – his return from the dead after a horrific death. Out of this event came one of the greatest religious movements the world has ever seen. Christ died and was resurrected and this man god Jesus has become one of the central pillars of civilization.

Yet I wonder what Jesus would think of the way he has been used over the centuries. This was a man of peace. Granted he was testy with the moneychangers in the temple but he didn’t kill any of them. He was a man of peace and love from all the accounts of his life that have been written, from the sanctioned writings to the Apocryphal Gospels that didn’t make it into the “Bible.” This was a man who forgave and asked people to simply go and sin no more. Yet I am in the middle of a Holy Season and I am brutally aware of how much warfare has occurred due to individuals and nations claiming Jesus Christ as theirs. Empires were built on the concept of “Christianization.” Other wars were fought by other nations justified by their religion. Christianity and almost every other religion have been used to justify war, death, cruelty.

This is not what I think Jesus was expecting when he offered himself up to die on the cross. He was not a person who wanted earthly power and yet many of those who have followed him since then have been focused on having earthly power and used the controlling power of religion to attain it. While Europe was living its Dark Ages, Islam was preserving the best of our past. We would be missing much of Greek and Roman civilization were it not for the Muslims; they preserved and valued what the Christian West rejected – the thoughts of anyone who had come before them.

It seems most religions become seduced by the earthly power that can be derived from controlling souls. As we celebrate Easter and Passover the world is full of examples of religious fury and religious peace. In Italy earthquake survivors celebrate amidst the ruins, an Afghan woman, an official who supported women’s rights, was gunned down in the streets of her town, Pope Benedict XVI calls for world reconciliation, the Real IRA in Belfast is calling for the death of an official because he is working for peace.

“Father, forgive them; they know not what they do,” was said by Christ on the cross. I think now the words were for that moment and all the moments to come when his teachings would be bastardized.