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Adam Neiman Headshot

Watch Out What You Pray For

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Ask and ye shall receive, as the good book says. The fine print on that promise is "watch out what you pray for -- you just might get it." The Christian right prayed for the end of the world. Sure enough, they got the end of their world. They prayed for a savior -- and got one in spades. Lo and behold, the better half of America is now down on their knees praying this skinny black guy named Barack Hussein Obama is going to save their butts and their IRAs too.

Welcome to the rapture. Some of us prayed for it. All of us paid for it. For the disengaged it was a Peggy Lee moment -- "Is that all there is?" For the Christian right it was an Obamanation, a moment for gnashing of teeth and a sure sign the anti-Christ had arrived. But for those of us who kept the faith, who have been on this long march since King and Kennedy were shot it in '68, it was the end of 40 years in the wilderness. And for the young who joined the march along the way, especially the millennials, the long promised future they would inhabit and own was finally here. What could be more rapturous than that?

Obama knew perfectly well what he was working with when he called them the Joshua generation. You don't have to "believe" in the Bible to acknowledge its profound power as the meta-narrative of Western civilization. Consciously or unconsciously, so many people have organized their personal narratives around the Torah and its sequels, the Gospels and the Koran, for so long that it creates an irresistible current that one can disregard only by denial. If you want to swim the current you need to know and respect this mighty river, whatever you choose to believe.

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Now, before they entered the promised land Moses told the children of Israel they faced a choice like the twin peaks of Ebal and Gerizim before them. Blessing or curse, life or death. Along with that pairing he might have added another -- epic tragedy or divine comedy. Epic tragedy is about death and more death. Divine comedy, life and more life. That's a choice we each make in our own lives. Collectively we make that choice for our communities and our world. We have passed through two thousand years of epic tragedy and like all Greek tragedies, it came in three parts; the fall of Rome, the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment, which ended in Western Civilization's darkest hour at Auschwitz. We've just now witnessed the close of an outrageously screwball satyr play that followed this tragic trilogy; sort of Coen Brothers crossed with Mel Brooks, a dark comedy and catharsis. Time to get back to work and begin the first chapter of a new story, finally. Will the dominant narrative be a divine comedy, with life and more life for all of our children? Or another absurd and bloody tragedy? The choice is ours.

Nowhere in the world does the right choice appear more essential or less probable than at the epicenter of all the murderous holy madness, Israel and Palestine, the holy land. This is the Gordian knot of global geopolitics, the spot where all these narrative threads originate, converge and conflict. To casual observers, an undifferentiated reality horror-show that refuses to be cancelled. In fact it is a highly differentiated reality horror-show that cannot end until this Gordian death knot is unravelled, until all the conflicting plot lines can be separated and validated--if only for a moment--then knit back together into a crazy, beautiful fabric of life. And precisely because of the peculiarities of the Islamic world view and the primal role of the Jewish sense of black humor at the very heart of the narrative, the probability of suddenly twisting this plot from absurd tragedy to dark but divine comedy is much greater than it seems. Since my money is short and the odds so long, I'll bet on peace in the Middle East. More on just how & why in my next post, after the Iranian elections.

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