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November 20, 2015


Bob MacDonald

You are on that vital question: why do we use our own fear to isolate our inner images of others. The Psalms have eventually made clear to me that our enemy is constructed by us.

The prophets confirm that our economic desires outweigh our social responsibilities. Phrases like Nahum 3:16 make me laugh: You have increased your merchants more than the stars of the heavens. (you could recognize at least that) Cankerworm pillages and flies away. In the meanwhile, here at home in our time, everywhere the poor continue their struggle for fairness in opportunity.

It is the religious who are most at risk. Isaiah 1 is all directed at the chosen people. vs 17: Learn what is good. Search out judgment. Make the embittered happy. Judge orphan. Contend for a widow.

May you get a good hearing with your sermon. Perhaps you will post it...

Jim Gordon

"Our enemy is constructed by us" This is true so far as it lies with me, my relation, past and present to this person. But once we start dealing with human communities it becomes more complicated I think. For example Western powers bombing Isis targets inevitably kill non combatant civilians who are not in any meaningful sense my enemy - but I am implicated in the violent actions that follow from Isis being considered an enemy of Western countries. At the same time Isis represents an ideology powerfully defined by its declarations of enmity, and that enmity is against people Isis fighters have never encountered but whom they intend to kill. Those randomly targeted in Paris were in any not in any meaningful sense people who had constructed the enemy, other than as belonging to a country, culture or world view that differed from that of the perpetrators.

The former Archbishop, Rowan Williams has an interesting lecture on the need to understand Isis. It is worth pondering - http://www.lapidomedia.com/understand-isis-rowan-williams-journalists#.Vk36ev1O5vs.twitter

Part of my response to this is, Yes. To understand the person who sees me as enemy is an imperative of both civilised human relations and for me Christian ethics in obedience to the Gospel. But the very acronym Isis, or the concept Islamic State, are themselves dehumanising abstractions which carry powerful codes of hate and imagined violence followed through to perpetrasted violence. You cannot dialogue with a State, or an idea, but with persons - who, on both sides, must be open at least to encounter, listening, and speaking. I am unaware of any attempts on either side to seek any such encounter. And I wonder if that is due to this hydra headed phenomenon of hatred whose heads include fear, rage, ignorance, enmity, depersonalisation, suffering and hostility to 'the other' who is different from the tribe that hates.

Enmity is not a unilateral state - yes I can refuse to BE an enemy, but I cannot compel another to NOT be my enemy if they have no wish to do so.

Such complexities don;t make for easy sermon preparation and lead to the temptation to think I should preach on something easier tomorrow - like love. Except love, as God's love, takes me to that place where hate and enmity collided with the purpose of God on Calvary, and lost.

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