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The Christian version is the familiar one and widely believed in. A recent poll found that while only 36% of Americans believe that the Bible is literally true as handed down by God, over 55% believe that the apocalyptic scenario pictured in the Book of Revelations is likely to be taking place in the Middle East. This irrational interpretation of current events can be explained by several factors.
One of the bitterest complaints against both sides in the Iraq war is that religion has been a prime cause. When Pres. Bush proclaimed that the war on terror represented a clash of civilizations, he implicitly meant Christianity versus Islam, a view reinforced by his further claim that he was guided by God in his decision-making. No one supposes that a universal God spoke to him. It was specifically a Christian God. Even Judeo-Christian would be a stretch. The Bush administration came into office hard on the heels of a massive push by Pres. Clinton to bring about a Mideast peace accord, an effort that was dropped immediately as the incoming president more or less cut Israel loose.
If the pundits and pollsters are right, the American public has tuned out the Iraq War. It’s become a foregone conclusion that the conflict will grind on until at least Jan. 2009 when a new president takes office. The anti-war movement has been completely blocked, and grass-roots efforts against the war have become more or less futile. In realistic terms war remains a stubbornly unchanging policy controlled by the right wing. Does that mean that the rest of us — the vast majority who oppose the war — are left without options?
I think it’s possible to leapfrog beyond Iraq to consider the prospects for peace in the future. There is more hope on the horizon than people realize. Certain trends in the present could well become much stronger in the near future.
Since 9/11 there has been a pervasive sense of anxiety in the world, and at the same time a search for spiritual answers. Is violence an aspect of human nature that can be cured, or are we caught in an endless cycle of violence that will never end? One of the most optimistic answers to that dilemma came from Buddha more than two thousand years ago. In the light of what he taught, I wanted to post my thoughts about the Buddhist solution and what it means for you and me as we seek to live in a troubling world.
It feels discomfiting and eerie to have plunged so deeply into the realm of the shadow, which is what happened last week. In mythic and psychological terms, the “shadow” is a place of darkness in each of us — and in society as a whole — where we hide feelings we are too weak or afraid to face. The news this week was almost a catalog of the shadow’s contents: sexual humiliation for Eliot Spitzer, panic and financial ruin for Bear Stearns, dread of death in the Atlanta tornado and the crane collapse in midtown New York City. Beneath the surface of each event, unconscious turmoil magnifies their meaning. They are shared events, and thanks to the mass media, they are felt in ever widening circles. Whole parts of the world, like China and the Middle East, feel ominous.