Soul Care: Questions of Inevitability and Possibility 4/10/20
What is inevitable, and what is possible? Those are larger questions, and/or assumptions, around which we form our ideas about how the world might be run. Is war inevitable? Is a world without war possible? Today I pick up the question of war itself.
So it has come to this: we are asking ourselves how the world might be run. Underlying that is something of an assumption that change might be good, that the way it is now being run leaves something to be desired.
This is a very old question, actually, and if COVID-19 is focusing our attention now, it could do worse than focus our attention on how the world should be run.
I tend to look in two directions for input on that, not claiming these to be comprehensive, but sensible places to start. First, to that significant (maybe we can agree) figure of history, Jesus. And second, to a piece of human experience, the success and failure of WWII.
Looking first at Jesus, he named himself “the human one” or “Son of Man,” as his most common self description. He identified himself as one of us, a human being. So let’s start out by doing what he did, identifying him with ourselves and ourselves with him, rather than jumping to mystical, metaphysical or spiritual religious confessions about how he was all different, greater, bigger and better than poor little you and me.
The words Jesus used to express his message and mission succinctly were “the kingdom of God.” Kingdom in his day and place meant “way to run the world.” Kingdom meant hierarchical organization of the world around kings and kingdoms. But Jesus threw in a modifier to kingdom, and it was “God.” Kingdom of God.
God—that’s a big one! For starters I’ll tell you if I believe in God after you tell me who God is. Seriously, that’s only fair, and it will go some ways to level the playing field of our discussion if we both take some responsibility for defining the words we use.
I think of Jesus as spending his life showing what God—or if you prefer, Everything That Really Matters—is like. All of that in relation to how to run the world, which he called “the kingdom of God.”
He told “parables of the kingdom” and in one of them he said the kingdom of God is like a small seed which grows into a big tree. The idea which he lived and practiced most consistently was love, caring for one’s fellow humans. It was understood and practiced by few, small like a seed, in his time, and has remained pretty small ever since. But it has the potential to become big, if we were to choose it as our way of running the world. And it is just that, a choice which we could make in face of multiple other ways of trying to run the world, of which we see plenty right now.
The second direction I look for ways to run the world is human experience…what have we tried, how did it go?
And this comes less as a question to history than a question to you as an interpreter of history—and the future. Maybe Jesus doesn’t speak to you. This is about how you speak to yourself and to others in your little circle of influence.
I submitted the following question last evening to David Swanson on the World Beyond War conversation, but of course there was not time for all the questions, and mine did not come up. Here it is:
David, do you think that the people of Germany were so depraved that they would have continued their support of Hitler if even half of the human lives and physical resources spent on World War II had been shipped to Europe to right the wrongs written into the Treaty of Versailles settlement of World War I?
Of course, the question about the Germans is beside the point now. But it’s the question we ask about any group of human beings which your government or mine might tell us is worthy of being visited with a “just war” today or tomorrow. Are they so depraved…? And in asking it, do not fail to assume that “they” are asking if “we” are so depraved….
Finally, ask yourself, are the people who answer “yes” to this question pessimists or optimists? Or using other language, more hopeless or hopeful about the future of humanity?
To watch David Swanson of World Beyond War shred the argument that war is inevitable and speak other truths strange to American ears, see the video of the webinar Tuesday evening: https://worldbeyondwar.org/video-of-webinar-david-swanson-on-ending-war/
John K. Stoner
This email text and previous ones are on the blog at www.1040forpeace.org.