Monday, February 4, 2008
Killing for God
Today's paper continues the accounts of man-made death in various parts of the world, and violence mainly over belief systems, the tragic loss of lives over how groups interpret the spiritual side of existence. It's been going on for centuries with today's availability of weapons causing death more quickly and making it possible to amass more bodies with the single push of a button on a cell phone.
Last year I went to a performance of Mendelssohn's "Elijah" and the text, thousands of years old, consisted of a lot of smiting and destroying of those who worshipped their own gods. In those days, God spoke directly to his favorites and commanded them to punish (kill) whole groups of people. (This might explain Bush's conviction that he acts on instructions from the Almighty.)
I have to admit that the Old Testament was not taught to us in Catholic schools at that time. In fact we were discouraged from reading the Bible at all, for fear that we might misinterpret it.(In high school a bunch of us discovered the "dirty" parts in Leveitcus, but didn't share that with the nuns.) I took a course in the Bible a number of years ago and found it to be a rather confusing group of narratives about ancient people who seemed to enjoy doing the exact opposite of whatever God told them to do, thus bringing about their deaths by fire and flood and salt.
At any rate, at the time I heard "Elijah," there had just been some horrible bomb blast in Iraq which had killed dozens of innocent people, Darfur was bleeding, we were still killing and being killed in Iraq and I was struck by the fact that nothing had changed for thousands of years. This is hardly world shattering news. I thought of all the wars fought over religion over the centuries. (The Spanish Civil War was going on when I was in grade school and the nuns told us may have to die for our faith and if you weren't willing to do that, if called upon, you would surely end up in hell. That was the first crack in MY belief system.)
What is it about the human race that impels us toward destruction of innocent others whose religious beliefs differ from ours? I realize that this very question is simplistic and human interactions and motivations are much more complex than this, but it does concern me.