I once thought the object of the devil was to persuade people to choose evil. I now know that makes no sense. The purpose of the devil is to confuse. “Woe to those who call evil good and goodness evil.” Or as George Lucas said it, “evil people do not know they are evil.” What is good? What is not good? This is the confusion of the world. The people of the world will destroy one another over arguments of which side is good or right. The Church fights “heresy” because it is confusion about doctrine. Even the definition of heresy changes with the times.
The problem is that we do not require the existence of the devil to cause this kind of confusion. The church of the 4th century was afraid of confusion so much that armies of head-cracking monks came with the bishops and priests to Nicaea to settle on whether or not the Word was co-eternal with God the Father. To modern eyes this looks like fighting over the definition of infinity or googolplex. For the most part it looks like more and more people could care less about it. The Islamist reformation in the Muslim world is following the pattern of the Reformation in the Christian world. People violently disputing the nature of the religion is the order of the day. And I mean violently literally.
We really do not need to believe in God or practice a religion for the insanity to catch hold. Marxist doctrine has many schools of thought. I wonder about the fate of a democratic socialist in Viet Nam or Cuba where Marxist-Leninism holds sway. And please do not forget the various schools of Trotskyism whose one virtue is that none has never been tried. Would a radical capitalism be any more rational? Given the insanity of the world and the state of Somalia I doubt it very much.
So with God, the devil, religion, or the lack thereof the world is still insane. What to do? What to do?
Perhaps Ecclesiastes is helpful when he tells us to “revere God and keep the commandments” as humanity’s whole duty. In other words, ignore the insanity of the world.
There must be more involved. Like the old preacher of Jerusalem, I have looked at all kinds of different ideas and practices for helping cure the world’s ills. Instead of eating my bread and drinking my wine and laboring at whatever my hands find to do, I believe the prophetic call to loving-kindness or to simply love is the best we can do to overcome evil and the world’s insanity. It may be argued that I can take this attitude in a world without needing God or religion. Yet, such an argument rings hollow if the best we can have in the world is good feeling, justice, and rationality. These terms are slippery in their definition.
Orthodox Christianity (Eastern, Catholic, Anglican, or Mainline Protestant) provides the framework we need in order to practice love in truth and health to combat the insanity of the world. No I am not disparaging other religions. Christianity – the Gospel of Jesus Christ – is often described as “love in action.” The world is insane because the devil’s job to confuse and cause fear. “Perfect love casts out fear.” We should find the love that brings us healing in the world.
Do you pray?
Yeah. Me too.
I understand. We are told daily prayer is important. C.S. Lewis’ bureaucratic demon Screwtape said we were being tempted to forget praying. So he meant it is very important. After all, we say “give us this day our daily bread.”
Uh. Say that again?
Vain repetitions? I know what you mean. But, Thomas Jefferson our unorthodox founding father said repetition is the key to learning.
No. I don’t think he prayed much.
No. I am not saying we are teaching the Divinity anything.
No. I am not attempting to claim prayer teaches me anything about God.
I often think if prayer is to be part of a conversation with the divine and the beloved community then when we pray patterned or standard prayers we are learning in our repetitions the teachings of the beloved community and about who we are within it and in connection to the Divine One.
You are correct. The repetition is not in vain then. So, then the prayer in my voice is being heard by the ears that most need them.
The Lord’s Prayer calls for the name of God to be “hallowed.” Throughout the world of sin the name of God is blasphemed to some extent or other. Christians in our pattern prayer would do the opposite of blaspheme. God’s name would be declared sanctified – made holy – in how it was to be used. We could use the holy name of God in unholy ways. It does not change the fact that the name is holy in and of itself. Blasphemy is the ultimate surrender to unreality. To declare what is holy to be just the opposite and that which is unholy to be its opposite is to be lost.
Recent events and my study of Leonardo Boff’s book on The Lord’s Prayer: The Prayer of Integral Liberation, has helped me understand that the second creation story of Genesis begins with disobedience (sin) and leads to a prohibition of the sin of murder as retribution. It is this same story that tells us all life is given by God’s breath (spirit). The first story of creation declares all humankind to be made in the Divine image. These two statements when combined give us the idea we call “the sanctity of life.” Murder (and its attending violence) would then be an act of blasphemy against the image and breath of God. Attempting to destroy both of these becomes a perfectly established blasphemy.
Blasphemy takes many forms. Deliberate blasphemy as is done in religious satire offends against the Divine. And so is, as has happened today in Paris, the murder of those persons in the name of God. In fact, the act of murder would be worse given the above mentioned considerations. All sin is opposition to the divine will to some degree. Some actions are worse than others. Our responses to evil actions vary. We may disapprove of the acts of blasphemers who use the press or other media to convey their messages. Yet, if their safety, life, and health were in danger, it would be wrong stand by doing nothing because of our disapproval. We would by inaction deny the goodness of God. Our prayers should go out to those who would ridicule our praying.
Being truly human – possessing the divine image and the breath of God – does not allow us to seek heaven on earth by exercising vengeance on evil actions taken by evil people. We must seek justice and peace for all concerned. We too are sinners.