THE BLOG
07/24/2010 08:40 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Stoning Sekinah: The Perversion of the Other

"To love" means to desire the other as the subject of a desire - Jacques Lacan

Our world is filled with symbols. We have the golden arches, a symbol of overpriced greasy food that attracts millions to their tables. We have the symbol of the American flag, a symbol of hope, equality, and religious freedom. At the root of all of these symbols is a message, a deeper myth that we are invited into.

We are all wrapped up in it whether we realize it or not. In fact, commercials work because we still sing them long after they have left our television screens. You can tell a lot about a society by its symbols, the visible and invisible ones. You can tell what it values and doesn't value. And quite possibly where that society is heading.

We choose our symbols everyday: what we wear, how we speak, the places we shop, the name brands we buy. We now have a choice. We either deny those symbols exist and choose irresponsibility as the new flag to wave our allegiance to, or we stand together and deny that human life is simply something we can purchase on television. Human life is a holy thing.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman who might be unjustly stoned, is becoming a symbol -- not just a symbol of Islam or a symbol for non-aggressive solidarity, but also a symbol that will be informed by how we respond or our inaction. She could become a symbol of our willingness to stand by and let a human life be snuffed out due to archaic methods of justified killing.

This has nothing to do with a religious system anymore. It has to do with humanity realizing that another human is worth saving. In the Christian scriptures there is a story about a Samaritan saving a Jew, to make the long story short, the Jews (then) hated the Samaritan and the Samaritan saved the Jew's life. I am sure you get the point: compassion isn't about who's who, but how we respond to the person in need.

In the original story the Samaritan would have been a Jew. Jesus was flipping the story on its head, he was also challenging the cultural maxim of helping those who are just like you. He was telling his listeners that they have much to learn about from the other. Compassion can teach us and transform us to be better people. Compassion nullifies any labels and reminds us that we are all brothers and sisters. In this new story Jesus empowers us with the opportunity to radically estrange ourselves from the stories of old. To see the danger in being informed by the history before us. Jesus in this new story is re-writing their history and saying we too can do the same.

I know religion is a taboo subject, but there is one theme that runs through the veins of almost any belief system: the belief that life is holy. That all life, regardless of belief system or lifestyle, has the opportunity to breath, to experience life. I think religion at its best can help inform us how to be better people: how to love our neighbor as ourselves, how to let our enemies love us, how to better be people who are consumed by love rather than by theology.In fact, if we become so immersed in our theology that we neglect the "other" then our theology has truly failed us.

If we choose to do nothing than we have already chosen the symbol that will linger long after we are all gone. If we do nothing we deify neglect and worship at its altar. Sekinah is a much bigger symbol than herself. She leads us into the realization that there are many who are in need around us as well as globally.

If we turn a deaf hear to Sakineh or anyone in need then our theology, no matter how well informed, has endorsed a real life horror story, where we might not have "pulled the trigger" but because of anemic belief system and dogmatic allegiance to it have stood by and allowed it happen.

Like Edmund Burke once said: "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men [and women] to do nothing". If we do nothing then we subconsciously agree that we think we are powerless to do something.

Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan said that we desire the Other, the object outside of us. Whether it is God or a person in need is determined by what you believe. In the Progressive Christian movement there are some who believe that God and the person in need are the same. Jesus once shared that when we meet the needy Other on the street its as if we are encountering the Divine. Buddhism, Islam, Hunduism and many other religions have much to say on the subject of compassion as well. It is extremely visceral.

We no longer have the luxury to create battle lines over belief system. Love is the Other in this context. Sakineh is in the path of the Other. Sakineh has a family, is alive, is part of the global community, we have a responsibility to her. If we don't respond we are saying she is expendable. If Love is the Other, the object of our desire, and Sakineh is on the path towards this object, then she becomes the very object we desire. Her life is our desire. Not her death. The chance for her to experience that life is our desire.

We must do something.*

This is a call to allow love to have the last word. This isn't about homogeneous belief systems, or one world orders. It is a call to those who believe that compassion can have the last word, that we are responsible as people who believe in what we believe in to not simply be informed by what we believe, but live out what we believe. But what happens if we don't do anything? What happens if we don't change this situation, or any situation for that matter?

Well then, we would need a new theology.

Also we become people who support the perversion of the Other. We then willingly become the people with lazy trigger fingers who have found a way to subconsciously allow atrocious acts to happen. If we believe love has the last word, than we cannot be a people who help pervert the Other. This is a great moment for religion, not as it was, but as it could be to stand up and help a person in need. If we do not, it will be like we cast the first stone.

I am usually against America going in to other countries; we usually need to keep our nose out of other people's business. I think those countries that have influence should use it for positive in this circumstance, as humanity trying to sustain humanity. This is more than politics, this issue is even more than religious belief system, this is a moment where we as a global community will make decisions that tell each other and those who have yet to be born what we believe or symbols should be. It doesn't really matter whether your clothing symbol is GAP or Wal-Mart, right now, none of that matters, what will your symbol be in response to this dehumanizing situation? Choose your symbol.

*contact me if we can find viable ways to respond to this.