Sunday, April 08, 2007

War and Faith

War and faith, it seems to me, must always have had a close relationship.

Ironic, since many mainline forms of religion would consider war antithetical to their charters. That being said, for those close to death, there are few more effective salves for the spirit than faith. Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or Pagan--the true diversity of our military is reflected in our expressions of faith.

Our Constitution refutes the assertion that America is an expressly Christian nation. And yet: Christians, particularly Evangelicals , dominate the American military. Not surprising, I suppose, given the way that faith and politics have intertwined in recent years. Faith gives people a story and a role; politics gives us the means to enact that role. Even our films and books portray the end of times arising from political auspices. When the lines between Church and State blur, what else is to be expected?

And so we are told that we are fighting a Culture War.

The running storyline: America, the last bastian of Christian democracy, is locked in a battle-to-the-death with wild-eyed heathens in a distant land. America, they tell us, is in grave danger of being wiped out by dark-skinned foes; foes who want to burn down our churches, bomb our urban centers, brainwash our children, and subjugate our women. They say that unless we take the war to their soil, the hordes will descend upon us like a plague of Old-Testament locusts. So to their soil we take it. And all the while, good men and women die as powerful old men, safe in air-conditioned offices, reap huge profits and tell us the economy has never been better.

The subplot: The Arab world, the cradle of civilization, is locked in a war with pale-skinned occupiers from a distant land. The Muslim world, they tell each other, is in grave danger of being crushed under the jackboots of latter-day Crusaders; sinners and unbelievers who want to tear down the mosques, ransack the local culture, brainwash children with dreams of materialistic excess, and befoul the purity of Muslim women. They say unless all Arabs take up the cause of jihad, the heart of everything Muslim will be gutted and sold to the highest Western bidder. And yet as people leap upon the sword of the American juggernaut, the clerics who sent them there only grow in power.

There, as here, some people believe the hype more than others. Reasoning minds rise above the bloodshed and call for peace. But for those with little or nothing but faith, the perceived Divine call for vengeance is tempting.

Christian. Muslim. Church. State. Theocrat. Theocrat. Are we really so different?

And where is there room in all of this for the Buddhist?

It's not easy being a Buddhist in the military. On my time off, should I want for spiritual counsel, can I count on the local Chaplaincy? Not likely. Try as they might, there are too few in this military who know anything about the Buddhist faith, let alone how to give solace to one. On my time off, the best I can hope for is to find a quiet spot for my altar and a few undisturbed minutes for meditation. Buddha, yes, Dharma, yes, but no Sangha. A faith supported on two pillars cannot stand.

The Buddhist prizes Detachment where others prize Purity; the Buddhist prizes Compassion where others prize Salvation. The Buddhist rejects Suffering where others try--always failing--to reject Sin. Buddhists may not be strangers to War, but we are particular about the wars we choose. So what happens when we find ourselves fighting other faiths' wars?

I cannot detach myself from this. I cannot be at peace amidst this. Christians die, Muslims die; good people on all sides of the fence die. And on both sides, the faithful are sent to slaughter by people in power, who ALWAYS claim to hold the Moral High Ground.

Power as Virtue. War as Faith. I'm standing in the middle of a stampede, motionless.

And the dust is only making it harder to see.


Blogger Jason Christopher Hartley said...

7:56 AM  
Blogger iamcoyote said...

I don't know, Milo, surrounded by war with dust in your eyes, you still seem to see more clearly than many people over here. Nice post!

3:47 PM  
Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 04/09/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anne said...

Even after all this time, it's amazing to see the similarities between Americans and Muslims. The comparison never even occurred to me until we got to Europe. Local Muslim immigrants are greeted by local nationals the same way Americans are-- with a mixture of fear, distain, and indifference.

I just hope we can recognize one another's humanity before it's too late.

7:12 PM  
Blogger cinnabari said...

Nice post.

9:27 PM  
Blogger L. said...

Long time lurker here. Hello.

I`m Catholic, married to a Buddhist, and looking back at my own religion the long way `round, I think that in practice, rejecting suffering and rejecting sin are very often the same. And the concept of "compassion" is very similar to "love" (caritas) for all.

I really like your blog.

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are so special. And please continue to Blog. Perhaps you can always be peaceful..even if all around you is in pieces.

8:42 AM  
Anonymous PFC Average Joe said...

As a Taoist soldier myself, I feel pretty much the same way. I only wish others would come to the same conclusion as yourself.

12:02 AM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

The encroachment of the Jesusistan Dominionists into all areas of Government has been deliberate, and steady, for about 25 years.

There are signs of hope though. It looks like we may finally be awakening to the reality of the situation. Jesusistanis are the flip side of Salafis. They replace the crescent with the cross, but the underlying goals are remarkable similar. The Robertsons, Reeds, and Dobsons of America would quickly create a society that the Taliban would feel right at home in.

Humanity cannot exist where any virulent strain of extremism flourishes.

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Bithday Milo
4-13 Love you-mom

3:29 AM  
Blogger Hayden said...

Sometimes to truly 'see' one needs to look away. Perhaps thats where the dust helps - you seem to 'see' very clearly indeed.

10:02 PM  

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