Friday, January 22, 2016

Learning Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as Ways of Living

Reflecting on the state of America at the end of 2001, Wendell Berry rightly pointed out one way of sticking to the difficult path that leads to life (Matthew 7:14):
We must not again allow public emotion or the public media to caricature our enemies. If our enemies are now to be some nations of Islam, then we should undertake to know those enemies. Our schools should begin to teach the histories, cultures, arts, and languages of the Islamic nations. And our leaders should have the humility and the wisdom to ask the reasons some of those people have for hating us (In the Presence of Fear, The Orion Society, 2001, p. 8).

Let us briefly recall our global context: Olympianity, the religion of power, is the world’s dominant religion. To a greater or lesser degree, all societies and cultures in our world are Olympian. Furthermore, every individual in the world has two personalities: an Olympian and a Christian one. Because all societies and cultures are Olympian, the Olympian personality of almost every person is stronger than their Christian one almost all the time.
This general description applies specifically to American society and culture and to the Olympian personality of all Americans. Americans are not exceptional in this way. Society, culture, and personalities in America are all structured in terms of the six false, destructive, yet conventional gods of Olympianity. We will understand this more clearly as we reflect on Wendell’s comments.
We must not again allow public emotion or the public media to caricature our enemies. Let us recognize, right away, that a tight correlation exists between public media and public emotion. Let us also clarify that, in this instance, the term public media refers primarily to conventional mass media of communication.
These conventional mass media are controlled by a shrinking number of individuals. Through the media they control, these few individuals wield enormous power over the rest of us. Their media reach billions of us across our world simultaneously, constantly, and intensely. The goal is not to inform but to conform. Powerful individuals want the billions subjected to their media to act, remain passive, or pay no attention. They therefore use their media to agitate, tranquilize, or distract us as they wish and to the degree they wish. These rulers use their media to strengthen the Olympian personalities of billions of us around the world in conformity to their own Olympian wills as they, in turn, are bribed and bullied by the Olympian gods whose minions they are.
So, when those who control the conventional mass media want us to get agitated and demand action from our selected leaders, they caricature our enemies. The truth, as we know, frees us to love and leads to fullness of life. In contrast, it is power, based on falsehood, that leaves us indifferent to others and leads to death and destruction. Caricature is a form of falsehood. Media masters use it to justify indifference toward others and their subsequent destruction.
If our enemies are now to be some nations of Islam…We would benefit from putting this statement into historical context. Let us take, for example, our fabled land of Olympia (Western Europe, Southwest Asia, and North Africa) since the founding of Islam in AD 622. During these last 1400 years, there have been Olympian, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim societies enjoying domestic tranquility and peaceful relations with one another. There have been times when Olympians, Jews, Christians, and Muslims warred against their co-religionists: English soldiers killing German ones, Zealots killing Sadducees, Catholics killing Protestants, and Sunni killing Shia. There have been times, of course, when Olympians, Jews, Christians, and Muslims busied themselves killing one another. There have even been times when Christians, for example, have teamed up with Muslims to kill other Christians.
Our schools should begin to teach the histories, cultures, arts, and languages of the Islamic nations. As people called by Jesus to live as faithful witnesses to him, we want to strengthen our Christian personalities, our churches as Christian communities, and our interconnectedness with other Christian churches, groups, and individuals to form an alternative Christian society. One important way we may do this as churches is by starting our own schools.
One way our schools could be Christian, rather than conventionally Olympian, would be to learn the many varieties of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We could learn about them as ways of living rather than simply memorizing information about them.
With this done, we would not be fooled by caricatures about them. Even more, we could then point out these falsehoods to our Olympian neighbors who, like us, also have Christian personalities. By doing so, we might reduce the death and destruction that follows falsehood enthusiastically pursued.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.