Sunday, January 8, 2012

Post #149 - Humility, Anyone? I thought not...

Just as a society should be judged by how it cares for “the least” among its citizens, a nation should be judged by how it deals with the nations that are less powerful than itself. America therefore has plenty of opportunities to showcase our core values, since the entire world is comprised of states weaker and less able to thrive than our own.

Metro. Anthony of Sourozh
Who should make the first move? I am reminded of the story told by Metropolitan Anthony of a parishioner “of some standing” who said that a friend of his had offended somehow, and asked “who should go and make his peace with the other?” Anthony's reply was: "'I cannot answer your question, as I cannot possibly set myself as a judge between you, but one thing is certain to me: the meanest of the two of you will wait for the other to make the move.' The great man said no word, but went forthwith to make his peace with his friend.”

To listen to the debates currently going on as part of the Republican nominating process, one would think that -- apart from Ron Paul -- all the candidates believe in speaking loudly and carrying several big sticks. The repeated refrain is, essentially: America must show them who's boss! -- we must make them pay dearly for their transgressions (even if we don't have hard evidence of them).

To find common ground, to accept the adversary as human and to forgive, does not entail overlooking or forgetting legitimate complaints or past wrongs done us. Indeed, forgiving itself necessarily entails remembering. But which should also acknowledge our own failings and faults.  God calls us each to do both. “Christ upon the Cross has a view of each heart. Christ upon the Cross has a view of each mind. Christ upon the Cross knows the condition of our souls. The passing of centuries does not diminish the power of the Cross.” (from a Holy Week meditation by Fr. Rodney Motorbike, St.George Serbian Orthodox Church, Carmichael, PA, March 2007)

A friend, Fr. John Oliver, has written that many seek to justify violence as a "lesser" evil. "But," Fr. John asks, "why should Christians accede to any type of evil when there is always the alternative of righteousness? Our primary concern as Christians is not to enforce security (even the safety of our family and friends or country); it is not to discipline or punish others; it is not even to deter others from doing evil. Our primary task as Christians is to emulate Christ's obedience to God's command to love our neighbors/enemies, even if in doing so we have to abandon other ideals and sentiments."

Victim and survivors, Bam, Iran, 2003
When you think about it, why would anyone in Iran believe that our leaders (or would-be leaders) have any real concern for them as human beings? Did any of them press for a massive response when the city of Bam was struck by an earthquake a few years ago? In fact, all the United States did was to open a slim window for NGO's to provide humanitarian aid for a few weeks, which was then slammed shut once again. Have any of them advocated allowing individual Iranians to once again study in the United States (which was under the Shah the preferred destination for promising young Iranian scholars -- nearly 26,000 at one point -- and which might change the way our two peoples perceive one another)?

What they hear instead is a steady stream of bellicose public remarks -- threatening economic sanctions that impact poor and middle class Iranians much more than the ruling class, continued military presence on Iran's borders, possible support for an Israeli bombing raid that might kill thousands, and worse.  This from a country that supported Saddam Hussein when it really mattered (in terms of lost and ruined Iranian lives), before we opposed him, supported the Taliban (against the Soviets), before we opposed them, and promised, in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, that we would get rid of our own nuclear weapons, so long as other nations refrained from developing their own (though we wink at nuclear weapons programs in Israel and India).

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