Friday I finished helping with a week-long spiritual formation course and found myself reflecting on the instructor’s explanation of Ignatian spirituality’s concept of “holding things loosely.” He learned this professionally as a church pastor and personally weathering a divorce and as the father of a daughter with a drug addiction.
After a Costco run, I retrieved Wade from the Atlanta airport, returning from a week out of town for work. Then we sat down for our usual evening PBS newscast and learned of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris. A Facebook friend posted that he and his wife had just visited the city two days earlier and found it gay and vibrant.
I wept, as I often do watching the news. I wept for those who lost their lives and the wounded and their loved ones, I wept for Paris and for France and for our world. Like most Westerners, I was oblivious to a pair of terrorist bombings that killed more than 40 innocent children, women and men in Beirut the day before.
On the subsequent newscasts and Saturday’s Democratic presidential candidates debate, no one was “holding things loosely”—everyone had either questions or plans on “what we should do” to prevent such violence.
As usually happens, one idea again emerged in the nonstop commentary, that Islamic moderates had to speak out forcefully to rein in Muslim extremists.
Easy to say, hard to do. I remember oh-too-well how little mainstream denominations in this country said or did to rein in religiously-motivated gay-bashing before LGBT people became respectable, or at least acceptable, in their eyes.
No matter your religion, if your god tells you to kill yourself or others, literally or figuratively, that god is what needs to be eliminated from your mind and your heart.
I once wrote on this blog that the young men being attracted to ISIS were as illiterate about the Qur’an as gay-bashers who quoted the Bible when brutalizing transgender people, gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals.
But last March’s cover story in The Atlantic begs to differ. “What ISIS Really Wants and How to Stop It” by Graeme Wood asserts that the ISIS movement is very well-versed in the Qur’an. Its intent is to bring in an apocalypse, provoking the rest of the world to a violent confrontation and destroying the freedoms that make cities like Paris so gay and vibrant.
German liberation theologian Dorothee Sölle once struck my survivor’s mentality to the core when she spoke on nuclear proliferation during an interfaith luncheon I attended when I lived in Los Angeles. She said that, in a nuclear war, she would rather be among the killed than among the killers. Why should she be provoked to change her non-violent nature?
I have the same beef with capital punishment. I oppose executions partly because they make us all killers. But I am not a pacifist. ISIS and terrorism of any kind must be confronted, if only because it’s usually the most vulnerable who suffer from their actions. Confrontation may have non-violent forms, which would be preferred, but it will require more, I believe—though we should never equate the “more” with the will of God.
In the Ignatian course we viewed the French film Of Gods and Men, the story of a household of Trappist monks ministering to the needs of Muslims in their Algerian village, ultimately slaughtered by fundamentalist revolutionaries that even their Muslim neighbors feared. Warned to leave, they followed a discernment process that led them to the “aha” that this was their home, that this was their calling, to serve this neighborhood materially and medically—and so they stayed, despite their peril. They held their own lives “loosely.”
Jesus too knew the risk of “moving into our neighborhood” to proclaim a spiritual commonwealth, not a caliphate, which welcomes us all equally and voluntarily, a commonwealth of “liberté, égalité, fraternité.”
At the end of the film Casablanca, Rick urges Ilsa to go with her husband to aid him in his vital work of resisting Nazis, despite the great love they had found earlier in Paris. “Ilsa,” he explains, “I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”
“We’ll always have Paris,” he reminds her.
We’ll always have Paris. It will always be gay and vibrant. And it will always risk the crazies who want to diminish its shine and glow, because liberty to be liberty must hold everything loosely.
“Ted Cruz and the Anti-Gay Pastor” by Katherine Stewart
“Finding Peace within the Holy Texts” by David Brooks
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Copyright © 2015 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.