Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Monday, March 20, 2006

On the Third Anniversary

The newspapers are reporting that at least 2,315 American military personnel have lost their lives in Iraq in the past three years and we have spent over 250 billion dollars on the unauthorized police action in Iraq. I live 18 miles southwest of center city Philadelphia. After a heavy rain, as reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the City of Philadelphia releases untreated sewerage in the Delaware River, which flow south towards my community. This is a federal crime, but our crime-fighters are not concerned. We are told that untreated sewerage is dumped into the river because we do no have the financial resources to fix the problem. I wonder why!

On the Sunday after 9-11, I had the opportunity to share these words at my church.

Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand. --Mark Twain

This is what bothers me:

We are a community of love whose existence is mandated by God and whose founder has taught us in no unmistakeable terms that not only should we love our neighbors but also our enemies.

This is my prayer: Lord, Teach me how to love my enemies. I pray that our response to this catastrophe not cause more terror.

There has been lots of talk that Muslim fundamentalists have proclaimed a jihad against Satan based on the teachings of the Koran and they have identified Satan with the United States of America. I want to state that if you want to look for the concept of a holy war, do not look in the Koran because you will not find it; but instead look to the Bible. Several of the books of the NT are definitely belligerent: the Book of Revelation, 2 Thessalonians and the 13th chapter of Romans. In Matthew, Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword.”

One author whose name I can not pronounce has called 1st Century Palestine “a seething cauldron.”

There were numerous uprisings that culminated in the war with Rome that led to the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple.

This same author says that Luke used his sources in such a way to portray Jesus as a model for nonviolence. She says that Luke changed the sword passage in Matthew to read as follow: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth. No, I tell you but rather division.

Now, some of my thoughts:

The four gospels tell us that Jesus is captured by the soldiers as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. One of the followers drew his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the High Priest. This image has been used to demonstrate that Jesus and his followers were zealots, religious fanatics planning to resort to arms to overthrow the government. Only the Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus healed the servant of the High Priest. The Lucan Jesus was not only nonviolent, he undid the acts of violence.

I believe Luke told us what really happened and Luke in telling the story was engaged in irenical theology, that he presented his gospel to reconcile differences developing between the followers of Jesus and Judaism. I further believe that the other gospels were written to emphasize the separation between Judaism and Christianity.

In Matthew after the ear is cut off by the unnamed person Jesus says: Put away your sword for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. In Mark, Jesus reminds his captors that they did not need weapons and that they could have apprehended any day of the week as he taught in the Temple. Likewise, in Luke. In John, we are told it was Simon Peter who cut off the right ear. Jesus said in John, “Put your sword into its shealth; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?” Only in the Gospel of Luke does Jesus teach us by his example.

In the OT there are numerous examples of holy war against heathens, so much so that I contend that if you want to understand anti-semeticism and its origin, you have to look at how the OT depicts God’s wrath against the neighbors of the Jews.

One particular telling story of religious fanaticism is the story of Phineas the High Priest. Phineas with his sword killed a couple engaged in sex because one of them was not Jewish. The Maccabees and the religious zealots of the first century looked for a Messiah to be a kind of combined Phineas the High Priest, David the warrior king and Elijah the prophet.

A Lutheran minister in NYC told this story last night (September 15, 2001):

“There's been talk of the city returning to normal. I'm not sure I know quite what "normal" is for New York. But we are definitely not returning to normal. Too much has gone down, literally and figuratively.

But there is a definite sense of people seeking more and more to return to the usual, the ordinary. This is a partly a response to the terrorism. Partly a need for the comfort of the familiar, which we can cling to in the face of tremendous upset. And partly the simple need to get on with life. We still need to walk the dog and get groceries and do the laundry.

One fellow student told how she was on the subway, and for the first time since Tuesday, it was crowded, and there was a little jostling and attitude. She was just married this summer, and her husband was on the streets near the Trade Center on Tuesday. She thought, "What a luxury it is to be impatient, to be able to rush home to your loved one."

Tonight, after I led a worship service at noon, and class from 2-6, Lisa and I went to a candlelight gathering at the Firefighter's Memorial, which happens to be nearby. Afterwards we walked over to Broadway, looking to grab dinner.

Two blocks later we spied the Afghan Kebab House. Its name caught my eye, and I noticed they were open, but the dining room was empty. Other restaurants were packed. An American flag hung in the window, and smaller flags decorated the dining room.

We had a lovely dinner and, as you might guess, excellent service. We also had a conversation with the proprietor. In true New York fashion, it is run by Pakistanis, New Yorkers since the early 80s, and the kitchen is staffed by Mexican and Central Americans.

Due to the restaurant's name, they are currently doing almost no dining room business. His brother's restaurant in midtown is doing almost no business at all, and has been getting hate calls as well. But they decided that they must stay open. Not only to try and earn a living, but to close would seem as if they'd done something wrong. "We love this country, our life is here." It might not need saying, but it had better be said anyway, that he was just as upset at the recent terrorist attacks as any other New Yorker. "My mother was crying all day," he told us.

We talked about some of his experiences of the past days, which involved the same kind of heartsickness and confusion seen all over this city and nation. Yesterday, he got home late, 1 am, and his wife had no milk in the house. "OK, I'll go to Waldbaum's" (supermarket), he said. On the way, he saw a band of 20-30 boys, high school age and up, carrying American flags and cheering, chanting, "patriotic" sentiments. He detoured so he wouldn't have to cross their path. "Why take a chance? Why tempt them?" he asked. It's the same reason he has an "OPEN" sign in the door, but hasn't turned the lights on for his "AFGHAN KEBAB HOUSE" sign. I wonder how long will he feel he must stay in the shadows?

A little historical note: In 1916, the U.S. had a thriving German ethnic culture. In many neighborhoods German was an American tongue. In 1917, after the U.S. entry into WWI, German shops were destroyed, despite the American flags they hung in their windows. German-Americans were beaten and killed in mob violence. Sauerkraut became "Liberty Cabbage," the German language a mark of shame. By the end of the war, German-American culture effectively disappeared from the American mainstream. (Yet as a pseudo-underground, the German-American Bund became a fertile breeding ground for the support of fascism.)

"Those who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it." I pray that our generation will at least make different mistakes.

Please consider patronizing "Arab" and Muslim businesses. You'll be supporting your neighbors in a difficult time - and you'll get great service.”

I don’t think I can top the story told by Rev. Paul Bellan-Boyer.

Copyrighted 2006


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