Deliver Us From Evil
Including Our Own
If we want to live non-violently, we must learn to be suspicious of ourselves, individually and collectively.
We need to see that there are other perspective which matter, too, and that we inflict harm on others
despite our better motives. It begins with being honest about our dishonesty.
Deliver Us From Evil
by Jay McDaniel
Jesus tells us that we should we wise as serpents but gentle as doves. Other sages have taught the same. Buddhists say that the key virtues in life are wisdom and compassion.
I like the dove side; I don't like to judge people. Part of this is theological, I believe that all people, no matter how malicious, are made in God's image and that, deep down, all people seek the good. They may be confused about what the good is and they may distort it toward selfish ends. They may have had bad luck in the draw of the genes, or bad fortune in their childhood. They may just be mean-spirited. But the good dwells within each person, however dimly, as a beckoning toward wisdom, compassion, and creativity. We process theologians speak of this beckoning as the Initial Aim, the primordial calling, that is always already inside each person. It is God inside us. It is a lure toward wholeness. It is God's breathing.
The Need to be Judgmental
But I know that there is a need for serpent-like wisdom, too.
What is this wisdom? For Whitehead as for Buddhists, it involves the wisdom of understanding that all entities are woven together in a network of inter-becoming; that we love our neighbors as ourselves because our neighbors are part of ourselves; that even the divinity at the heart of the universe -- even the God who breathes within each of us -- is the supreme example, not the supreme exception, to inter-being. In Whitehead's philosophy God is like a Buddhist Bodhisattva, magnified by infinity.
But John Cobb points to another kind of wisdom that is extremely important today, especially among those of us who think of ourselves as "good people" with "good motives" but who benefit, wittingly or unwittingly, from forms of violence committed on our behalf by our government.
There is a need for discrimination, judgment, critique, and suspicion. We need deliverance from our own evil, individual and structural, lest we too easily divide the world into good people and bad people, with us inevitably on the good side.
Evil as Tragedy
I have many friends who steer clear of the idea of judgment. They emphasize being tolerant of all views and even, sometimes, tolerant of all activities. Some of them have been wounded by forms of religion that are far too judgmental about about matters of personal lifestyle, sexuality, and diverse beliefs. These friends -- the ones who are so judgmental about judgment -- do not distinguish between healthy judgment and unhealthy judgment, between loving judgment and hateful judgment. They think that all judgement is bad. Even evil.
But it seems to me that some kinds of judgment are inescapable and for that matter good, because are responding to life's biggest problem: namely violence. I am speaking of violence both inner and outer, verbal and physical, individual and systemic, the manifestations of which are injustice, war, exploitation, and cruelty. I mean against other people and ourselves; against other animals, and against the natural world.
For us process theologians this violence is sinful, not because it is rebellion against an authority on high, but because it causes so much harm in the world. Sin is violence against creation, and even God suffers from it. Accordingly sin calls for repentance: that is, turning around from the ways of war and walking in the ways of peace. This is not easy. There is a line from an Episcopal confession that speaks to this:
We repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf. Forgive, restore, and strengthen us.
The kind of violence most difficult to see is the evil done on our behalf.
So what is evil? I think of it as tragedy. It is not, first and foremost, the act of harming others, but rather the harm itself, from which we and others suffer.
This harm is not something fixed and isolated, like a liquid in a bottle. It is always relational, always dependent on context. What is harmful in one context may not be harmful in another.
In any case the harmful side of evil usually has two two qualities: (1) terrible suffering for which no instrumental good can compensate and (2) missed potential from which people suffer, when they fall short of the goodness they can add to the world. Terrible suffering and missed potential: these are the evils in life. These are the things we battle against and protect others from.
We sin when we are instruments for their occurrence. And as we sin we rightly pray to be delivered from evil, including and perhaps especially our own.
When we ask God to deliver us from evil we are asking God to (1) deliver us from terrible suffering and missed potential, suffered by others, by ourselves, by animals, and by the earth and (2) from actions we undertake or are undertaken on our behalf which lead to them. We sin as individuals, as communities, as cultures, as corporations, and as nations.
Of course some if not much of the harm suffered by humans had no human cause. Consider earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and disease. There is no need to point the finger at human beings and say that they are the causes of tragedy. Even God is not the cause of them. At least this is what we process theologians believe. We believe that there is creativity in the world, which can unfold in ways both beautiful and tragic, violent and peaceful, which is within us and within the whole of nature. For us, God does not control this creativity, like a puppeteer controlling puppets. God lures the creativity toward whatever goodness is possible in the situation at hand. The future is open, even for God.
But we must be honest. Much of the tragedy that occurs in life is itself our own doing, individually and collectively. There is no need to wallow in guilt about it, except as a moment in the process of rehabilitation. But there is a need to repent, to turn around, to begin to live more wisely and compassionately, for the world and for ourselves.
Can God deliver us from it? We process thinkers say yes. We call it creative transformation or, as Monica Coleman puts it, making a way out of no way. But we add that the deliverance requires our active cooperation, consciously or unconsciously. Deliverance is relational; and if we are to be delivered from evil, it helps if we give God a little help.
A first step is to follow the advice of John Cobb. It is to recognize that there are vast numbers of valid perspectives, none with all the truth, and most with some truth. This opening of the mind is a way of opening ourselves to the limitations of our own points of view and to resist the valorizing of our own interests at their expense. It is to avoid self-glamorization.
A second is be honest about our own dishonesty. Never is it easy to be honest in this way; but always it opens up a door for self-transcendence, for moving forward. This transcendence, this moving beyond where we have been to where we can be, is what process theologians call creative transformation. It is God's breathing, gentle like a dove, making space for a more inclusive, more compassionate wisdom.
We must be honest about our government's dishonesty, too. Honest like Amber Lyon. Honest like anyone who has the courage to say "We have been wrong. We have lied to you." That's wisdom, too. Another name for it is confession.
Confession of sins, both individual and corporate, opens a door of the heart into which the spirit of God can enter. Of course even the spirit of God is involved in the confession. As a calling, a beckoning, a breathing with gentleness of its own it had entered the door even before we opened it.
The grace of God's breathing is a lure to confess that in our finite and fragile beauty we so often fall short but also to know that, with God's help and mercy, we can stand up again. There's a strange kind of freedom in confession, a strange kind of joy in repentance. It is an opening into new life that shares in all harm, suffers all burdens, and arrives ever anew, again and again, on the wings of a dove.
Being Honest About Dishonesty
PRAGUE, (SANA)- Ex-CNN reporter Amber Lyon revealed that during her work for the channel she received orders to send false news and exclude some others which the US administration did not favor with the aim to create a public opinion in favor of launching an aggression on Iran and Syria.
Lyon was quoted by the Slovak main news website as saying that the mainstream US media outlets intentionally work to create a propaganda against Iran to garner public opinion's support for a military invasion against it.
She revealed that the scenario used before launching the war on Iraq is being prepared to be repeated where Iran and Syria are now being subject to constant 'demonization'.
The former reporter clarified that the CNN channel manipulates and fabricates news and follows selectiveness when broadcasting news, stressing that the Channel receives money from the U.S. government and other countries' governments in exchange for news content. -- H. Sai
Whitehead on Peace and Justice