Thursday, August 21, 2014

Life and Death

A few weeks back I visited a Parish for the first time. A lovely New England Church epitomizing church going in August: doors were open, fans were positioned just so, and there were a smattering of people. The few kids were wriggling every which way. The pews filled to about 30 (in a place that holds 15 times that). The Rector was on a month-long holiday, and a long retired priest navigated the service with the help of lots of bits of paper. As the organist banged out the hymns, I seemed to be a soloist as there was no choir and the other folks didn't even open the book. At the time for the sermon, the substitute priest came to the center of the sanctuary – quasi-Oprah style - and didn't take the pulpit. Oh Jeez, I thought, a wanderer! Despite my initial judgments, that homily has stuck with me. Weeks later the question that he posed has so resonated with me that it must be shared.

Why must we kill each other? That’s the question.  What is the point of life? That existential question has kept philosophers, priests, rabbi’s and many others occupied for millennia. But it’s not the question that we can do much about. This question about why we kill each other is one we should be able to address.

In international affairs today we can look to Israeli’s and Palestinians lobbing missiles  at each other, with a death toll in the thousands. Syria’s been killing its own people for years – with 700 tribal members being slaughtered this week (8/17/14). Many African countries have been locked in civil wars and strife for generations. In the Congo the bloodiest part of the war hasn’t abated much. In Ukraine dozens were killed this week (8/19/14) in the shelling of a Russian convoy of humanitarian supplies. Iraqi’s various religious factions are solving their differences violently – and the U.S. is helping with bombs and personnel. In Afghanistan fighting is stronger than ever. Then of course there’s President Obama’s kill list, which continues to expand.

For the past two weeks in the U.S. Ferguson, MO has been the focal point as the city erupted in violence over the killing of a young black man by a white police officer. Chicago had 82 shootings and 14 fatalities this past July 4th. Schools have become battlefields – so much so that this week the Compton Schools in California have authorized assault rifles for school police.

This litany of examples is depressing, largely from the past 6 weeks – July to mid-August 2014. A longer look would yield so many more examples, it’d be hard to comprehend. Conflict is not going to go away. There will be groups wanting power and control that others have – and will use force to change it. This has been happening since the caveman. Killing is a very effective method of achieving the result. I'm not so naiive to think that will change wholesale, but the underlying philosophy does deserve to be challenged, because somehow it has become acceptable to kill each other to get our way.

What if we as a people, as a species, decided that killing wasn’t right. That life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were more than words declaring independence. What if we solved our conflicts in another way? What if we just decided not to kill each other?

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