In Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters, Max von Sydow's character comments that if Christ were around today, he'd never stop throwing up. We are crafting a world that is both godless and too full of religious dogma simultaneously. Anyone who reads science fiction knows that it's like the collision of matter and anti-matter. Total destruction. Nothingness.
The horrifying events in Libya and Cairo, the apparent cause for these events, the responses by the presidential campaigns, and even Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's comments about American foreign policy provide enough material for a semester course on the meaning of religion, let alone a column, so just a few thoughts.
Christ -- Some people revere him as divine, others not. Either way, his teachings are the most important in history. Max von Sydow is on target in pointing out that Christ would be the last one to understand the kinds of things that have, and continue to be, done in his name.
Terry Jones -- This is a pastor? The most frightening thing is that many who profess to find him detestable have similar feelings about Islam, but know that it would look bad to articulate them in a country that was founded on the idea of people having religious freedom, or no religion at all.
Mitt Romney (or, another screw-up by his inept campaign people that slipped by him while he was in an exhausted state) -- An American ambassador is dead. Though I'm unhappy with the Obama administration, this alone, the politicization of this kind of tragedy, confirms for me as an independent (but former Republican) that I will not be voting for Romney. But that's not all. Romney expressed indignation at the failure of the Democrats to include God in their platform. He emphasized that he would never walk away from God. This received cheers from his audience. Whose god? Mainstream Christians ridicule his. The population is between five and fifteen percent atheist, meaning at least 30 million people, and those are just the ones willing to admit it. I guess the Constitution doesn't apply to them. I would like to think that if He's up there, all he cares about is what kind of person you are, and maybe even how you conduct your foreign policy.
President Obama -- I wish the White House hadn't responded to Romney's comment - it was too contemptible. But that's how things are in the 24-hour world. In any case, this was yet another example of how the administration's feckless foreign policy gets us into places where we have no business being. And let's not forget the pathetic pandering to those constituents who might think that the Democrats aren't religious enough.
The Islamic World -- Anyone who has studied Islam and really understands it knows that its principles are a direct derivation of Judeo-Christian teachings. What has caused more extreme Islamic leaders to take unfortunate turns is a warrior culture in segments of Islamic society that grew up in the so-called golden era of Islamic dominance in large parts of the world. This was no different from Christian attitudes that led to the Crusades, Hundred Years War, Thirty Years War, popes with armies, etc. Unfortunately, parts of the Middle East have not advanced beyond such thinking and into the modern world. Lack of education and economic opportunity is a major part of this, and provides the backdrop for the ease with which Islamic demagogues can whip up restless populations. Aside from Christ, I don't think this is what Mohammed had in mind, either. We seriously need to rethink how closely we engage these situations. As individuals, we would think nothing of moving our families if our neighborhoods turned dangerous. We should extend no less protection to our foreign service, particularly when there is no clear advantage in engagement.
Israel -- Talk about pressing the envelope until the seams split. For years, Israel has insisted that it can take care of itself. Baloney. Without government and private American funding as well as military cooperation, Israel would be hard-pressed at best. We have not forced a solution of the Palestinian problem, and this has become the perpetual black eye of American foreign policy. Talk to anyone in the Middle East about anything, and they point to the shiner. But it's more complex than that. There are those in the United States who would cut Israel adrift because it is a political liability. But then, there are those who feel that Israel equals Jews, and, as such, isn't worth worrying about (or worse), while there are others who are committed to Israel's survival either because they are Jewish, or because they're Evangelicals who tie Israel to biblical prophecy. The religious overtones make reasoned dialogue even more difficult than it already is, and submerges the straightforward issue of creating peace through meaningful negotiation that would produce benefits for both sides.
Is all this God's fault? Of course not. But somehow, the creatures He created (or who evolved on their own) have re-entered the Tower of Babel, and have no idea of, or interest in, what they're trying to say to each other. When people don't love each other, they don't love God either, regardless of how much they pray or profess that love. God must be on vacation. He couldn't possibly be responsible for the shape of the planet.
Bye. I'm going to take my turn throwing up.