Friday, July 08, 2005

 

The Opposite of Dialog

Osama spoke to us in London. He spoke the ancient, familiar language of hate, death and destruction.

He wants no dialog with us, no conversation, no discourse. In his mind and the minds of his followers, they know enough about us. They understand us well enough.

He speaks the language of arrogant, angry self-righteousness, of piety and rigid adherence to a narrow, simple-minded view of his faith. A language we hear too often in our own country.

The Hebrew Bible, what we used to call the "Old Testament," contains stories of the slaughter of innocents. Stories in which our spiritual ancestors killed every man, woman, child and animal in a village. But even in ancient times, they had the law of Moses, "Thou shalt not murder."

Jesus taught that we should love one another as we love ourselves. We Christians (as least some of us) struggle with the morals of war. But even those who believe in just war reject the killing of innocents as a violation of moral law. This has been our understanding for over a thousand years.

Surely our faith is strong enough, the truth is powerful enough, to prosper in the face of challenges. Surely we are smart enough to grow even as we seek more knowledge, better understanding, and a more sophisticated philosophy.

A narrow, restricted, and unexamined faith leads to dividing the world into saints (people like us) and sinners (people we disagree with). Viewing the world in these black and white terms leads quickly to self-righteousness. What we too often fail to understand that angry, self-righteous contempt for others leads to the path of hatred. Leads to the path of violence. Leads to Osama's path.

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