Lately my Websurfing has taught me more than usual. I survey quite a number of sites every day -- not quite three digits' worth -- including news sites, op-ed sites, and "specialty" sites focused on a specific subject. Just about every day I pick up a tidbit that elicits the reaction "Why have I failed to learn this before?" or "How long has this been going on and why wasn't I told?"
Today's little gem comes from the Silicon Graybeard.It's much too integral to excerpt; please read it before continuing on here.
The events described in that post are at least sixty-seven years distant in time, yet they speak to us of the West in an idiom that approaches sacredness -- the transcendent authority of Holy Writ. Consider the mountains of vilification that have been heaped upon the German people of the World War II years. Then consider how many persons have spoken, seriously or flippantly, about the "warrior's code." What percentage among them would have believed, without extensive substantiation, that a Luftwaffe pilot would have behaved that way toward a wounded American enemy?
Clearly, Franz Steigler was a far better man than those that ruled his nation and had sent him off to war. I have no doubt that he had comrades in arms of equal scruple and military honor. Indeed, in his famous book on the aerial war, The First And The Last, Colonel Adolf Galland writes of informing the fliers in his squadron that they were absolutely forbidden to fire upon a parachutist -- that he would personally shoot down any Luftwaffe plane he caught doing something so dishonorable.
Counterpoised to such moral clarity, Graybeard reminds us about certain of the "warriors" of today:
Most modern mailings of this story end with something like, "This was back in the days when there was honour in being a warrior. They proudly wore uniforms, and they didn't hide behind women and children, nor did they plant bombs amidst innocent crowds. How times have changed.." And this difference in value systems, this willingness to kill innocent bystanders, and the eagerness to wash the world in blood - this is the main difference we face today.
It's those value systems -- those codes -- that are on my mind today.
And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.
But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.
For he that is not against us is on our part.
For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. [Mark 9:38-41]
This snippet of the Gospel According To St. Mark has been cited for many purposes. Most of them are good, but not all.
This morning, a visiting priest celebrated the Mass I attend. He cited the above in support of the thesis that all religions are equally deserving of our respect and toleration, because they all promote the love of God above all other things. He added to that an exhortation that we not be too disturbed at our fellows who leave the Church in search of "a better religion for themselves." He rambled on in that vein for long enough to make me wonder whether he was being paid by the word.
I have never come so close to lifting a priest by his lapels and straining to shake some sense into him.
All religions, Father Whoever? Including the ones that advocate the use of violence against members of other creeds? Islam does that, you know. It's in the Qur'an, so don't bother to argue with me about it. But let's leave that particular "religion" to the side for a moment. Would you have granted your sanction to the aggressive Shinto of World War II Japan, which taught its adherents to seek out ways to die for the glory of the Emperor?
Of course, Father Whoever is not alone in his opinions. But he's presenting them as Christian doctrine, on the strength of the Gospel snippet above. Yet the words of the Redeemer in that snippet are quite clear: "For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward."
Clarity on the subject of what is acceptable in the name of religion -- of what creeds deserve the respect and protection of decent men -- has never been so urgent.
Christianity, like other religions, promulgates two things: amythos, or theology that expresses a relationship among God, Man, and Creation; and an ethos, a code of conduct for Man that expresses God's Will toward us. The mythos is the part that must be accepted or rejected on faith. The ethos proves its superiority, its perfect accord to the laws of Nature, daily, in every interaction between men who strive to conduct themselves by it -- including men who have dismissed the mythos as absurd and incredible.
The Christian ethos is the American ethic. It always has been. It's permeated in all respects by what C.S. Lewis called The Law of General Benevolence, which Christians would more easily recognize as a fusion between the Brazen ("What is hateful to you, do not do unto another" -- Hillel) and Golden ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" -- Jesus of Nazareth) Rules.
The Brazen Rule is the older of the two, of course. Confucius promulgated it five centuries before Hillel and Christ. It's the foundation of peaceful society: the most compact possible expression of our penal law. The Golden Rule, which restates the Second Great Commandment, is the foundation of the Brotherhood of Man: the exhortation to look out for one another's well being, within the constraints of justice, as far as is practical.
When the First Amendment was written to protect (among other things) freedom of religion, the Founders could not conceive of a time when a savage, murderous cult, determined to expel all other religions from the world and establish itself as the sole political authority over all things, would gain a foothold in the United States. To them, religion meant Christianity or Judaism; the ancient, bloodthirsty creeds of the pre-Christian era were long gone, and the creeds of the East had no representatives in America. Thus, they felt no obligation to formulate an intensive definition of what constitutes an acceptable religion for First Amendment purposes.
That was then; this is now.
As bad as our political troubles over Islam have grown, the idea that Christian clerics should attempt to browbeat Christians into granting Islam the respect due a benevolent religion such as Judaism is horrifying beyond words. Such willed blindness toward the nature and prescriptions of the Mohammedan madness is unforgivable. On the personal level, matters are even worse. If Father Whoever really meant what he said this morning, a Catholic parent whose teenage daughter tells him that she's leaving the faith to become a Muslim would be morally obliged to bestow his blessing and encouragement upon his daughter's lunacy.
Liberty's Torch is read by more than Christians, of course. However, I have no doubt that even the atheists and agnostics among my Gentle Readers are aware of the vast ethical gulf that separates Islam from Christianity. And I pray, most sincerely, on my knees with my hands clasped before me, that each and every one of you will remain alert to the perversion of the virtue of tolerance involved in treating Islam as "just one more religion," quite as acceptable as Christianity and Judaism. This is most critical as regards the information and attitudes you transmit to your children, for as The Gospel According To Mark continues:
And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. [Mark 9:42]
That's the Son of God and the Savior of Mankind speaking. Take him seriously.
May God bless and keep you all.