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Catastrophe in Iraq

 |  NCR Today

It’s one of those weekends. Can’t get my mind off Iraq and the decade-long tragedy. We seem to be in or nearing the denouement.  And it’s all quite awful.  Internet news sites and blogs today are filled of gruesome reports and a series of photos showing masked fighters of the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) loading captives onto flatbed trucks and forcing them to lie face-down in a shallow ditch with arms tied behind their backs.  Men with machine guns are then seen standing along side the ditch. The last photos show dead bodies soaked in blood after being shot.

Oh, unfathomable inhumanity.  Unconscionable acts.  These seemingly being carried out -- in the name of God!  It’s so tempting to feel anti-Islamic.  But I then recall my own church’s sordid bloody past.

But this is the 21st century another voice within says. Will moderate Muslims stand up and condemn these atrocities?

Two themes have emerged on Twitter:  The first: Sunnis murdering Shiites. The second: predictable finger pointing. The left blames Neocons and George W. Bush for his war of choice, triggering the sectarian violence.  The right blames Barack Obama for withdrawing too quickly from a “pacified” Iraq.  I side with the former and believe an honest weighing of evidence would find this analysis correct.  

Sunnis killing Shiites today; almost certainly Shiites killing Sunnis tomorrow. The circle of violence is endless and dates back 1300 years to the first Intra-Muslim violence as Muslims killed over early interpretations of the teachings of their prophet. 

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On a smaller scale, but no less visible, is the left-right blame game.  Our own nation’s internal divisions, products of a more cultural and political divide more than religious divide, seem just as mired and just as dualistic.

Do we - in ways we might not be fully willing to admit – pattern the divisions we deplore in the Middle East?  Or can we set another example and rise out of the dualism? Are Christians called to do this? What does it mean to be a peacemaker?

Okay, but, then, is failing to confront evil and openly condemn it also human failing?

I read a little Richard Rohr today, preparing some reflections on the readings for this Trinity Sunday.  It was helpful.

This is a Sunday we celebrate and reflect on Trinitarian Mystery.  It’s a Sunday in which wise homilists keep reflections short.

 Rohr has been publishing books for years, in one way or another coaxing us to move out of dualistic thought and into larger Christian Mystery.  Rohr does not advocate leaving the world. To the contrary, he wants us to bring more to it. We can, he thinks, by living lives freed from the trappings of traditional dualism. Here are a few words from Rohr on the Trinity.

“I think the doctrine of the Trinity is saying …the ‘principle of three’ breaks down all dualistic either-or thinking and sets us on a dynamic course of ongoing experience. Perhaps much of the weakness of the first two thousand years of reflection on the Trinity, and many of our doctrines and dogmas, is that we’ve tried to do it with a logical mind instead of with prayer. The belief in God as a Trinity is saying God is more an active verb than a stable noun. You know it in the flow of life itself.”

There is plenty of darkness in the world. Start with Iraq today.  We also know good people and communities dot maps everywhere. Christians believe goodness and light get the last word.  We wonder when that will be.

Okay. So maybe non-dualistic thinking requires recognizing both that dualistic and non-dualistic elements exist, are part of something larger, and we are called to find something much greater.

At times like these, there are no easy answers.  Maybe recalling this, keeping an eye on the higher angels within us, can avoid us from falling into predictable dualistic thought, which is often quite simplistic thought after all.  Maybe this recognition can become a prayer form.  And maybe that’s something to grasp on to in order to get us through the day.

And maybe we can recall as well, as Rohr encourages us to do, that God remains – even in tragedy - an active verb. 

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July 18-31, 2014

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