Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Posted by Emily at 8:05 PM
Thursday, March 17, 2016
“Syria’s history is being written in the blood of her people, and it is happening on our watch.” –David Cameron
“We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women…” and “nothing changes for the Islamic State, as it will continue to pronounce takfir [abandonment of Islam] upon the Jews, the Christians, the pagans, and the apostates …And it will continue to wage war against the Christians until the truce decreed sometime before the Malhamah. Thereafter, the slave markets will commence in Rome by Allah’s power and might.”(9)
|An icon of the 21 Coptic martyrs, |
killed for their faith in 2015
|Iraq's oldest Christian monastery, St. Elijah, before (2011) and after (2014) its destruction by ISIS. |
The monastery had stood in Mosul for over 1,400 years.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
“The Christian cannot simply take for granted the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. In the end all his disciples abandoned him. On the cross he was all alone, surrounded by criminals and the jeering crowds. He had come for the express purpose of bringing peace to the enemies of God. Christians, too, belong not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the midst of enemies. There they find their mission, their work.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
|On Feb. 12, 2015, 20 Coptic Christians were beheaded by ISIS in Libya. A 21st man was a non-Christian from Chad, who, when asked to reject Jesus, reportedly declared, "Their God is my God." The 21 martyrs have been canonized in the Coptic Church.|
When learning about the Holocaust in school, I was always told that it was most horrific act afflicted on humanity. A dark, morbid event that must never happen again. We were learning about it so that it would never happen again. Except there were fifty-plus years between the Holocaust and my classroom, and it had already happened again, several times, from the post-war Sudetan Germans to the Bosniaks on the evening news at the time.
Which gets to today, and ISIS. It’s already pretty well known that ISIS is evil. Its constant use of forced deportation, killing, rape, destruction, and desecration is celebrated in its own media. And now, several years into its campaign, the world is finally building the case that ISIS has (and is) committing genocide on religious minorities. It’s difficult to think of Christianity as a religious minority when it is the largest of the world religions and the state or de facto state religion of so many countries. But in many parts of the world, Christians are a minority and have been for centuries. So like the Yazidis, Jews, Kurds, Shebaks, and even Shia Muslims, Christianity in ISIS-controlled territory faces the threat of elimination. Basically, any non-ISIS group is in danger, but the genocide of one group does not negate the genocide of another. The Nazis were able to kill Jews and Roma. The Turks were able to kill Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks. But I’m going to focus on the Christian genocide because of the report I read, not to malign the other groups facing the same fates. It’s difficult here in the Bible Belt to picture Christians as one of the groups ISIS is silencing. They have no political voice. They have lost their homes and churches. They are losing their families and lives.
The Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians have written a petition to the State Department requesting that the U.S. recognize the current genocides in ISIS territories. The petition includes a report which lists the intention and actions of ISIS to destroy Christians in their region.
The report states:“On February 4, the Knights of Columbus co-authored a letter to Secretary Kerry requesting a meeting to brief him on evidence that established that the situation confronting Christians and other religious minorities constitutes genocides. While there has never been an official response to that letter, we were contacted by senior State Department officials who requested our assistance in making the case that Christians are victims of genocide at the hands of ISIS. Given the specificity of the information requested, our focus in this report is on the situation confronting Christians in areas that are or have been under ISIS control, primarily in Iraq, Syria and Libya. ISIS has also targeted Yazidis and other religious minority groups in a manner consistent with genocide. Thus, our contention is not that Christians should be designated as the sole group facing genocide, but rather, that given the overwhelming evidence and the international consensus on this issue, that the United States government should not exclude Christians from such a finding. Doing so would be contrary to fact.” (6-7)
Once this is proven, it must be acknowledged. And once acknowledged, there must be action to stop it. It has happened again. It is happening again. Despite our hopes and efforts, it will happen again. It is a dark side of humanity, the side that would treat people as obstacles to eliminate. But it is also a dark side of humanity that watches it happen again, from a distance, and says nothing.
Friday, March 11, 2016
On Wednesday nights during the Year of Mercy my parish has adoration and confession. I hadn’t gone the first few weeks, but decided it would be a good practice to go during Lent. Plus, the allure of adoration and incense does eventually break me down. I settled in, said some prayers, read some from a devotional I had brought (which turned out not to be that great), and wound up just sitting silently in Christ’s presence.
It was then that I began to really take in my surroundings. It was crowded; people were continuing to come in. The nave was fuller than it was most early Sunday mornings. It smelled holy (again, sucker for incense). Except for baby gurgles, it was pretty quiet. Several priests were offering confession, so they were stationed around the church: one back in the confessional, one in the side chapel, and one near the statue of St. Joseph (the front right). There weren’t any partitions. It was hard to look toward the front of the church without seeing who was at confession up there. Someone a few pews closer might have been able to make out what was said, but even across the room I could see the priest’s and penitent’s faces.
I was amazed by the people who went to confession during that hour, so publicly, in front of so many. Sure, the rest of us were mostly preoccupied by adoration, but still, the confession was taking place literally right in front of us. In the front of the church, lighting and acoustics are against any hope of privacy.
In the early church, confessions were made publicly to the congregation. To sin against God was to damage the community of believers. It’s difficult enough for me to go now, in private, with a screen and seal. But I can see how everyone being that vulnerable and raw would bring the community together and help hold one another accountable. I wonder if the people I saw confessing felt some of that. When you go to confession, you’re at a turning point. You’re reaching out for grace. The weight and stain of sin is peeled away. It’s a glorious, intimate moment. I’ll admit, it would take me being in pretty dire straits to go to confession so openly. I was both baffled and impressed by those that did.
I think that the front-of-the-church confessions were a great representation of the Year of Mercy. It was beneficial to me to watch a sacrament with a bit of detachment. It’s just as beautiful when it happens to someone else. I got to witness something normally tucked privately away. I got to witness that others struggle, too, and I got to witness them being washed in mercy.
Thursday, March 3, 2016
In the last post, I talked about how people understand the world differently and our ideas of what is or can be true are at odds. Why does Mulder believe in aliens but not God, and why does Scully believe (sometimes) in God but not aliens? In an empirical materialist’s mind, both are equality unlikely. There are different philosophical proofs that could weigh the two, and psychoanalytics into why someone believes one over the other. I think it sometimes comes down to cost assessment. Will believing this ruin my good life? Will it improve my bad life? What do I have to sacrifice about myself to pursue this path that I find true? What purpose or obligation comes with believing?
In the same episode I mentioned last time (s3e11 “Revelations”), the priest repeats a line that Scully keeps hearing throughout the investigation: “Sometimes we must come full circle to find the truth.” When she doesn’t say anything, he asks, “Does that surprise you?” She replies, “Mostly it just makes me afraid.” He asks, “Afraid?” She replies, “Afraid that God is speaking, but that no one’s listening.”
How many coincidences were signs that were ignored, either by unbelievers or by believers afraid to demonstrate their belief? Mulder is a true believer, and his life is overrun by his beliefs. He always sees connections. He’s given up the prestige he had to work in a dead-end, basement job. He is shunned by his peers as “spooky.” He has no home life. He puts himself and his family in danger. It’s a total sacrifice, but worth it for the truth, right? Until the truth turns out not to be true, and his faith crumbles. Then it was all a wasted life. Commitment to faith is high risk.
In mid-season 5, Mulder has abandoned his faith in aliens, believing instead that all the alien evidence is diversion for the government conspiracy. That his faith in the lie was used against him. He no longer believes his own memory of events. He believes in nothing, not even himself.
Scully, although skeptical to his beliefs, finds a believing Mulder better than one who believes in nothing. When he asks for her help (s5e14 “The Red and the Black”), she asks why she should. She says, “Five years ago when I met you, you told me your sister had been abducted. By aliens. That that event marked you so deeply that nothing else mattered. I didn’t believe you. But I followed you, on nothing more than your faith that the truth was out there, based not on facts, not on science, but on your memories that your sister had been taken from you.” Why should she take any risk when there isn’t anything, not even faith, for to risk herself? Mulder urges, “If I could prove that I was right, and I what I believed for so long was wrong.” She replies, “Is that what you really want?”
Scully recognizes his dark night of the soul. He wants to believe, but can’t. On the other side, Scully strives to remain skeptical, but experience after experience makes her question her own stance. She returns to church more often, and she continues to believe in messages from God. But she also sees the dark side of believing—a man who’s given up everything, who gullibly chases every rumor, who can’t let go of the past. Why would she want that?
In many ways, we don’t choose to believe. We just do. But at the same time, we do choose. We choose to live in accordance with that belief system. We alter ourselves to align with the truth as we understand it. Regardless of what the belief system, that change, that alteration, that radical upheaval, is usually difficult. So many of us believe, but we choose not live as if we believe. We compartmentalize our beliefs into manageable boxes, certain places and certain times of day. We believe when it makes sense, when it won’t be ridiculed, when it brings comfort. That helps starve off a dark night of the soul, that lingering feeling that all is wrong, all is loss, all is outside of our control. Less risk.
I want to believe. I want to be the kind of believer that lives like I believe. But I don’t. I want to play it safe, hedge my bets, fit in—a myriad of other excuses. I want to believe and also be in control. But I’m not sure that’s how it works.
There was a time that I thought that being comfortable or thinking that you had the answers was a bad form of faith. Then I got comfortable and liked the answers I had. As Mulder says in one episode (s7e9 “Signs and Wonders”), “People think the devil has horns and a tail. They aren’t looking for a man who tells you what you want to hear… Somebody offering you the answers could be a very powerful thing.” Faith isn’t as simple as affirming a creed or answering an altar call; it involves work and risk. James 2:26 says, “For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” While I don’t think works could ever merit salvation, I do think that works demonstrate faith in two ways. First, one can do works without giving assent to the belief, kind of “fake it until you make it.” Second, one can do works because belief is so strong, that it is all-encompassing, spilling out from the intellectual, mystical abstract into a measurable, tangible demonstration.
On a good day, my apathy is brought on by a dark night of the soul. But mostly, it’s brought on by my own insecurities, my own laziness, my own comfort, my own weak faith. I want to believe, but it’s really hard.