Showing posts with label terrorism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label terrorism. Show all posts

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fighting Words

Page from a Gutenberg Bible (1454)
This week I stopped at the downtown public library and saw an exhibition of rare religious texts. With permission, I photographed some of the treasures they had on display. The images you see here are presented in the order of the document’s dating, oldest first.

Witness to the Generations

I meditated on these centuries-old relics for quite a while, considering the many human lifetimes that have passed since the words were pressed and penned onto their pages. Even back then, the sources of those words were already ancient. Most of the books were Bibles, their text copied or translated from a succession of painstakingly hand-copied manuscripts whose original sources have been almost entirely lost in antiquity.

Two columns of clean, bold type stared out at me from the page of a Gutenberg Bible, 558 years after the ink went dry. So much history has passed since then, so many generations born into lives that were “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (Thomas Hobbes, 1651). The black and red of the letters seemed not to have faded at all, unlike the colors of whoever pressed the type onto the page in Mainz, Germany–and his child, and that child, and so on. At least twenty generations of lives blooming and fading: a succession of pink-faced infancy transforming into the gray of old age and death, or worse, a dark red death on the endless battlefields of crusade and conquest.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hate = Blood

You've seen the news reports: McCain/Palin rallies are getting increasingly ugly.

"Terrorist!"
"Treason!"
"Kill him!"

There will always be whackos and haters at rallies. Speakers have a responsibility to encourage calm. Unless, of course, they are hoping for unrest.

This topic has a Laestadian connection, by the way, for those readers who prefer we keep to that topic on this blog. Laestadius was accused of hate-mongering after the riots of Kautokeino, where his followers took quite literally his words that the saloonkeeper was an agent of the devil. They killed him. Laestadius denied any connection but toned down his sermons.

Will McCain do likewise before blood is shed?

Against his previous promises and the advice of many Republican advisors (some now jumping ship), he and Palin are stoking the fires of fear and hatred. 100% of their TV ads are negative. Character assassination is now their priority, dominating their speeches. Hateful comments are not contradicted from the podium, but actually affirmed.

How dare they? Knowing the tinderbox we sit on as a nation? If blood spills, it is on their hands.

Back in June, I had my own scary encounter with a hater: the phlebotomist drawing my blood for a routine test. A young, heavily made-up woman, she took exception to the logo on my t-shirt and spent several painful minutes lambasting Obama while digging around in my arm with a needle. When I complained that it hurt, she went to work on the other arm, continuing her racist tirade. I was so appalled that I could barely speak.

This is Seattle, after all, the city of "nice." I tried some banter to lighten things up . . . but she was dead serious, and even after she withdrew the needle, more than a little frightening. On my way out the door, I called out loudly enough for the Pakistani family in the waiting room to hear:

"Get used to having a black president, miss, 'cuz it's going to happen." That cheered me up.

And it is going to happen, if Obama can survive.

(Above is a photo of a man arrested yesterday for terrorist threats. He said he needed to vote to "keep the ni**er out of office," and that he had weapons at home. Heaven help us.)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Understanding Religious Violence

In light of the recent suicide bombings in Iraq last week, I found this essay on the roots of religious motivated violence extremely relevant and timely. As part of the Trinity Round table on faith and violence convened at Trinity Church Wall Street (the church right across the street from where the World Trade Center used to stand), the author's provocative thesis is that religious terrorists are motivated by the same things that motivate ordinary religious folks, with a twist.

Here are some excepts, with a link to the full article below:

Understanding Religious Violence, by James W. Jones


What makes [religious violence] happen is the conjunction of nearly universal spiritual motivations – the desire for union with God, the desire for purification and transformation, the need for religious community, the need for meaning and purpose--with a certain psychological structure, the need to dichotomize the world into the all-good and the all-evil. Also, there is a specific theology that you find in the writings of religiously motivated terrorists across the spectrum, and it is the view of God as wrathful and punitive and demanding of blood sacrifice. It's the conjunction of those powerful spiritual motivations with that psychological constellation that is a precursor to religiously motivated terrorism.

What's unique to fanatical religions is not the desire for union with God, or the desire for spiritual transformation; it's the linkage of that desire for spiritual union and purification with violence, especially the violence of sacrificial killing, blood sacrifice, or apocalyptic purification. It’s the linkage of these virtually universal and powerful desires with the themes of blood sacrifice and purification through violence, that turns spiritual longing into terrorist action.


Laestadianism shares a number of the features Jones writes about. Laestadians certainly divide the world into good and evil. Why aren't there Laestadian terrorists? Maybe because Laestadianism doesn't play up God's desire for blood as much as other fundamentalist forms of Christianity do. Or maybe it's because Laestadianism seems to lack an apocalyptic emphasis. Certainly I have heard individual Laestadians vent righteous indignation / violent talk against groups they perceived to be especially evil, such as abortionists and homosexuals. Yet I've never heard violence advocated from the pulpit or officially wished for in any way.

-ttg