Sunday, April 5, 2009

A meditation on violence, death, and loss

This Lent has seen too many friends and friends-of-friends die, as reported by James at TTLS, MadPriest, Lisa, and others. While some of these have been the passing of the old, there have been more than a few losses of young folks in their prime.

Tragic as any death may be, there has also been a spate of violent deaths that gives me pause. Counterlight reflects on the run of gun violence in the US with over 30 people killed in mass shootings of one form or another over the last week, some of them children. The reason for it is unclear (in at least two cases the killer himself died.)

And, in an example of how fundamentalism can contribute to violence, News from Iraq
Two gay men were killed in Baghdad's Sadr City slum, a local official said on Saturday, and police said they had found the bodies of four more after clerics urged a crackdown on a perceived spread of homosexuality.....

Sermons condemning homosexuality were read at the last two Friday prayer gatherings in Sadr City, a sprawling Baghdad slum of some 2 million people.
Too many deaths. And in the comments to this post, Ann tells us of Aaron, a young man savagely beaten in Denver for the sin of being gay and hanging by a thread; let us hope that he does not add to this number.

Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, wrote Dr Donne, and on this day, I feel diminished, and so very, very tired of the antagonism and the battles and the arguments that pass for discourse and cheap points scored at the cost of another. I am longing for some peace and security, with a fleeting hope that we can find what unites us, rather than constantly dividing into the "Us" and "Them". Gay vs Straight. Blue vs Red. Christian vs. Atheist.

Instead, I feel much the same grimness expressed by Matthew Arnold in Dover Beach . This poem is speaking to me these days far too much, with the noise and stink of those armies far too close.
The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.


Ann said...

Pray for Aaron - who hangs between life and death from a gay bashing in Denver. He just walked out onto the sidewalk and some men set on him with bats and fists. He is in ICU with bleeding brain. Pray for his family whose grandmother died this week as well.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Dear beloved Aaron, I´m so sorry they got you...the haters are everywhere and it´s not your fault that they do the unthinkable.

I´m lighting candles in Central America tonight for your comfort, peace and healing and the same for your loved ones.

Ann said...

Thanks Leonardo -- he needs the heavy duty prayers this time as do his parents.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Prayers ascending for Aaron!

JCF said...

This Lent has seen too many friends and friends-of-friends die

...which is why I particularly feel for you, IT.

For many of us, whose "Sea of Faith" is replenished like the rain, Easter and its promise of resurrection is less than a week away.

I know, IT, that you don't "believe" (in as much as "belief" is worth anything---as you know from my smackdown by Mister Kennedy, you know I don't think it counts for very much! ;-p).

But when I hear you in the . . . funk you seem to be in, I just wish you would try the "fake it till you make it" approach. Y'know, act as if Jesus, Ian, the dead in Binghamton, SSM in California, and EVERY good thing in creation were going to be RAISED. For just a *second* lay down the mantle of The Scientist (demanding understanding)and, behaviorally, make the proverbial "leap o'".

Well, that's my Holy Week prayer for you, {{{IT}}}

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the kind thoughts, JCF. I don't think I can "fake it" quite as you suggest, though it would be nice to do so.

But fortunately I have BP to hold on to (although as usual i won't see much of her during Holy Week!) while the ignorant armies rage on....


Erp said...

Hold tight and take comfort in Vermont and DC and think how much the hierarchs who deny you and BP have been thwarted this week. May their hearts change as they see the fruit is mostly love and life.

The violence is bad and I fear will get worst. The despair, the distress, the isolation. Some Christians have good ideas about bringing in the outcasts, the sick, the prisoners. Yet others... I saw one website which explained the parable of the sheep and the goats by stating that the sick, imprisoned, unclothed that the sheep had helped weren't just any sick, imprisoned, or naked people but only ministers of the gospel who happened to be sick, imprisoned, unclothed. Then there is Aquinas who talks about one of the pleasures of heaven being seeing the torture of the damned. Yet Kenny over in Rector's Rambling posts "The Judas Tree" by Ruth Etchells and the Victorian poet, Robert Buchanan, wrote The Ballad of Judas Iscariot both of which consider that Judas is/will be saved. I wonder how most Christians think of this?