Perhaps it's fitting that our entrance into this world is through a wound.
A woman is a vessel for pouring blood. She pours blood on to the ground every month.
When you arrived, she poured even more than that. Blood, and water, and you.
And that's just the beginning.
In his lyrics, Billy Joel captured the neverending trauma and grief on this planet.
We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it
Who are the innocent? There is no place in the mists of history where the thread of culpability ends. We can't blame anyone. There is no original sinner at whose feet we can lay the anguish of the world.
Jesus of Nazareth is fashioned as an innocent and this innocence is crucified.
We have a wounded God.
Do you know what that's like?
I know you know. You're here on the planet. We are the innocent and the guilty. We are the crucified and the crucifiers.
(And if you didn't get it, we are God and we are wounded.)
There is always a reason we extend injury to other beings: our ignorance, our weakness, our right(eousness), our protection, our justice. We must not allow Raif Badawi to molest us any longer.
We are encompassed in jahiliyyah (forgetting). I have always been bewilderingly moved by the name of this primary corruption. We forgot. What did we forget? (If I knew, I'd tell you.)
The only path leading out from the veil of jahiliyyah is jihad. The struggle. The birth.
Birth is a very painful passage. There is no other kind of birth.
And like a seed that struggles up through the soil into being, into bearing the fruit that it carries, so the final flower of jihad is jannah.
We walk through all of these. From jahiliyyah through jihad to jannah.
~ ~ ~ ~
"All the people upon the face of the land were shedding blood, and there was none to restrain them . . . they did march forth from the shedding of blood to the shedding of blood." These were the scenes that Ether witnessed (Book of Mormon). The wars continued until the last two men faced each other. The two still fought until the last one cut off the head of the second-to-the-last. Then the last man claimed his prize. He was all by himself with no one to harm him and no one to take from him. He claimed the land that was anointed with the unburied dead bodies of all the people he wanted to forget. He was safe. He was justified. He was the king. He was the king of the dead.
More than a thousand years later, Mormon (Book of Mormon) wrote about his people. "And it is impossible for the tongue to describe, or for man to write a perfect description of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people . . . every heart was hardened, so that they delighted in the shedding of blood continually." And Mormon's son Moroni continued, "The whole face of this land is one continual round of murder and bloodshed; and no one knoweth the end of the war."
Another thousand years or so, and here we are again. Our headlines sound a similar refrain.
Do you want to know how the story ends? I'm going to tell you how the story ends. There's no question.
We will forgive one another.
From sheer exhaustion, if for no other reason.
All the harm that has been done has to be forgiven. There is no other way. At some end of the world in the indeterminate future, those who remain are going to witness the results of the holocausts, the results of the story of history, and then they (or we) are going to look at each other and raise their hands and say, "We won't do this anymore. We just won't." They (or we) will lay down our stories, our pasts, banish those stories to oblivion where they can explode elsewhere than our hearts and our bodies and our community.
So we will forgive. The only question is when and how much. Because however much there is, is how much we will forgive.
These days I am hearing the terms radical mercy and radical forgiveness. I like these phrases. How merciful can the human soul be? There is no limit to mercy. Ar-Rahman ar-Raheem (al-Fatihah, Quran). Infinitely Compassionate and Merciful. Which is the name of God. The beginning and the end of islam.
If there is more to forgive, then there is more for mercy. Radical mercy and forgiveness don't ask questions about what to forgive. It is to become that merciful one, who can witness every story there is--both of the crucifiers and the crucified, the offended and the offender--and only forgive. It's not a small journey to become that one.
My example is Immaculee Ilibagiza. And Vicky Ruvulo. Arno Michaelis. Nelson Mandela. There are many beautiful stories such as these.
~ ~ ~ ~
He is not beautiful or attractive
He is despised and rejected
He is a man of sorrows and familiar with pain
We hide our faces from him
He is insignificant to us
He has borne our griefs
He carried our sorrows
Yet we thought that he was punished by God
We thought that his troubles came from his own actions
But his wounds were from our transgressions
He was bruised for our iniquities
He was oppressed
Brought to slaughter
Taken away to unjust trial
He is cut off from the land of the living
But did anyone protest?
He suffers because of our transgression
(Isaiah, Old Testament)
Who does this profound poetry describe?
Who doesn't it describe? These are our news headlines! For some of us, this is our daily lives! This is a description of those who have borne our sins; and the sins of others that we have borne. The wounded innocent--the Christ. These words hold up a mirror of responsibility toward each of us. Are we the governors? the priests? the centurions? We are the ones who have made the judgment and carried out the sentence on our brothers and sisters. We are the ones with nails in our hands and feet.
Simply being in connection with other human beings leaves open the possibility of being hurt by their sins and hurting them by ours. The only way the connection can continue is if we rise from that cross, that tomb.
For they know not what they do.
_ _ _ _
Jesus and Mahdi are coming. Everyone's personal Jesus and Mahdi are coming--the Jesus or Mahdi that is in the image we make of them. The Jesus or Mahdi that is going to smackdown everyone we aren't powerful enough yet to kill or imprison or punish ourselves. Our own personal list of destruction; our list of persons that we would destroy off the earth. Our returning Jesus and Mahdi have read that list in our pocket, in our heart, and they are on the job! Soon . . .
Stop it already.
If we have a heart that is made to see and name an enemy, then it doesn't matter how many people we kill or punish, we will thereafter continue to look for another to fill the space. The only way to truly destroy an enemy is to turn him into your brother.
In some religious paradigms, repentance has come to mean a project of self-improvement. We have to become better, put our mistakes behind us. Obey the rules. Sanctification.
But this is not the ancient repentance. Teshuva. The Return. Reconciliation. Putting us back together in community. Whatever you did, just don't leave. Come back.
There is no 'us' and 'them'. There is only us.
The God of heaven looked upon the . . . people, and he wept.
Enoch saw that and said, "How is it that you are weeping, since you are holy and eternal? If man could number the particles of the earth, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations. Yet you are here and your heart is here. You are just, merciful, and kind forever. Mercy shall go before thy face and have no end. How can you weep?"
God replied, "Look at your brothers. I created them. I gave them knowledge. I gave them choices. And I enjoined them that they should love one another. But watch them. They are without affection and they hate their own blood. So why shouldn't I weep and everyone with me?"
Then Enoch also heard the Earth cry, "Wo is me, the mother of men. I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest and be cleansed of the filthiness that has gone forth out of me?"
(The Book of Moses, The Pearl of Great Price)
This is not a world of getting into heaven by repenting. This is a world of forgiving, which is the ancient repentance (teshuva). As soon as we forgive, we arrive in heaven. "I [will] not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands." (Isaiah, Old Testament) The jahiliyyah of separation and bloodshed. The jannah of reconciliation and life.
Is Christ coming? The risen Christ that will bring an era of peace?
Well, are you?
Christ is coming as soon as you want and as soon as you will. Show up, that is.
We are already in the garden of jannah and this is what we have done to it--its rivers running with blood. Allah already opened the door and let us in and gave us our companions. The garden is here but our hearts have yet to arrive to where we can see what we have. We are killing our companions. Carrying out their sentences.
_ _ _ _
There is another kind of forgetting.
I saw a new heaven and a new earth. God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. There shall be no more death. There shall be no more sorrow nor crying. There shall be no more pain. For the former things are passed away. (Revelation, New Testament)
The former things like bloodshed and separation. We've done that for thousands of years. Do we really need to do more? A new earth. Not the old kind where we kill each other.
Some people hope to be ushered into a heaven where some people are left behind or destroyed. This is understandable because we don't feel safe yet.
But we cannot become safe by continuing in the spirit of murder--by deciding who are the humans it is appropriate to judge, kill, leave behind, punish, subject, oppress, and forget. The spirit of Cain who could not keep his brother.
My heaven is all of YOU. I cannot be missing any of you! If I am missing one of you, then a piece of my heaven is missing.
The day shall come that the earth shall rest. I shall prepare a Holy City. [Then we will meet together] and receive [our brothers] into our hearts. We will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks [in the most ecstatic of embraces]. We will kiss each other!
(The Book of Moses, The Pearl of Great Price)
Jannah. The Home of Peace.
When our mothers gave birth to us, after we rended her, and all that blood and pain poured out of her, we don't say that we're sorry. She doesn't ask for it. There's nothing to forgive.
After her wound of birth, what is the very next thing that happens?
She puts us in her arms.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
"Maybe all we really get--is one another." Ichabod Crane