All of us were horrified last week by the London attacks. And before that it was Manchester. And then there were the recent bombings in Kabul and the killings in Iran. The problem of terrorism seems to worsen each week, doesn’t it?
And every time terror strikes, our leaders say the same thing. They assure us that they’ll finally solve the problem – but always in the same way: more bombings. So right now we’re dropping bombs on weddings, funerals, and civilian neighborhoods in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and who knows where else?
The problem is: the bombings seem not to be working at all. And you know what Einstein said about doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. It’s the very definition of insanity
But there is another way. You might call it Trinitarian.
Of course, what I’m talking about is diplomacy and dialog based on shared humanity. It involves listening to the other and making accommodations. It entails compromise, and working from the premise that there’s more that unites us with al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorists than what divides us. That’s true, because we’re all human beings.
People of faith – both Christians and Muslims – should see that. Their faith perspective even tells them that we’re all children of God.
In fact, that’s the message of today’s liturgy of the word on this Trinity Sunday with its emphasis on unity in plurality.
The Trinitarian doctrine tells us that what unifies all of reality – including God – is the divine nature we all share. It makes the many – all of reality – one. In the mystical words of today’s gospel, that shared divine nature (the Holy Spirit dwelling within each of us) makes us all God’s only Son – his only daughter. That is: we though many are, in reality, one. Paul’s favorite image for that unity was the human body. It has many parts, but it’s a single entity. In a sense, there is really only one of us here.
Jesus explained what that means in practice:
- We are to love our neighbors as ourselves (i.e. because they are us!)
- That includes loving the least among us, because they are Jesus himself
- For the same reason, we are to love even our enemies.
The problem is that those of us who pretend to follow Jesus confine such faith claims to the personal realm. But that’s not what Jesus did at all. He made no distinction between the personal and political. No good Jew could!
However, you might object: how can anyone dialog with insane people like al-Qaeda and the other terrorists? (Btw: do you think the “terrorists” might be asking the same question about us?)
The answer is, of course, that Washington’s been conversing with these people for years. Remember, the U.S. created al-Qaeda in the 1980s when they were the Mujahedeen. Our leaders had no trouble talking with them then. It was at that point that Washington formed them to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan.
And the United States did more than dialog with them, it actually armed and funded them. It even identified their cause with the cause of Allah. In 1979, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, gave the Mujahedeen $3 billion. He told them “Your cause is right, and God is on your side. Your fight will prevail.” He pointed to Afghanistan, “That land over there is yours. You’ll go back to it one day.”
The point is these people can once again be dialog partners. But to do so, their identity as children of God – as our brothers and sisters – must be recognized. They share a common humanity with all of us. They have legitimate grievances – not the least of which is that U.S. aggression has killed more than a million of them over the last 16 years – in countries that never attacked the United States.
What would it mean to recognize al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS as organizations composed of human beings like us? Each of them has ideas, hopes, and dreams. They are people like us with families like ours – with grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, children, and grandchildren. What if we saw them as such? What if we recognized them as desperate people under attack, with homes they cherish every bit as much as we cherish our own? They are patriotic and as confused and angry as we might be if we were suddenly and inexplicably attacked by inscrutable people located more than 7000 miles away.
So what if, instead of continuing with their current insane unvarying response to terrorism, our mad bombers in D.C.:
- Reduced the U.S. military budget by 50% as a gesture of good will
- Affirmed their intention to invest the billions now used in war to rebuild the countries that have been under attack for decades – their schools, hospitals, homes and mosques.
- In order to remove a major cause of Mid=Eastern conflict, announced their intention to immediately prioritize conversion of our economies to 100% renewable energy sources by 2025
- Demanded that Israel obey U.N. Resolution 242 and withdraw from the occupied territories belonging to the Palestinians – thus removing, by all accounts, a major cause of Islamic terrorism
- Summoned an international Peace conference to resolve outstanding differences between ISIS and Western alliances
- Were required by law to finance any future wars by a special war tax to be voted on by plebiscite?
Measures like those would not only restore a token of sanity to combatting terrorism; they’d save lives and money. And they’d restore the good will the United States once enjoyed in the world.
They are the measures would-be followers of Jesus should be advancing instead of quietly going along with business as usual. Otherwise, what good is our faith? How is it Trinitarian? How does it affirm in any meaningful way, life’s fundamental unity in the face of its apparent plurality?