Riots in Sydney, Part 2

September 20, 2012

in Some Things to Think About

I have had a number of comments on my post Anger and Mercy, about the recent riots in Sydney concerning the blasphemous (to Muslims) YouTube video. I wrote specifcally to Christians about how I believed they ought to react. I can now see that my answer requires a bit more background.

First of all, what’s interesting is that many people have an equally negative impression of Christians in general as they do of Muslims. They quote history about things like the Inquisition, etc, which are all accurate, as far as they go. But such events are not the whole story about Christianity or Christians, by a long shot. So one of my appeals is not to generalise about Muslims or Christians or Liberals or Conservatives because it doesn’t help.

Secondly, many people have an implicit theory about history (of which they are largely unaware) that goes like this: “Christians and Muslims today are the same as they were hundreds of years ago. Religion is the problem and we’d all be better off without it.” I would like to make clear what my theory of history is, for both my Christian and non-Christian readers. One of the points I’m making to Christians is that they need to understand their larger role in history as peace-bringers. I don’t mean to exclude non-Christians from this, of course, but the language I used in my blog about Anger and Mercy was Christian langauge.

My theory of history (which I learned from a Jesuit named Bernard Lonergan) is that history has three main streams, all of which are going on simultaneously: Progress, Decline, and Recovery. Very basically (and this doesn’t do justice to Lonergan’s thinking) Progress is human goodness creating a better world; Decline is human evil creating a world that tends toward chaos; and Recovery is God acting to transform human hearts, human relationships and through us the world. While I don’t expect non-Christians to see historical reality like this, in my blog I was speaking explicitly to Christians about their role in the Recovery stream in history. Basically, Christians believe that God is acting through us to bring peace and love into the world, transforming the results of the other two streams flowing forward in history.

My appeal was to Christians to be merciful to Muslims. Of course the historical reality (Decline) also consists of evil like 9/11, and the violence over the YouTube video.  9/11 makes all of us angry and the YouTube video makes Muslims angry. The political and social responses to these are in the hands of certain people like the military or police, who may also be Christians. My appeal to these Christians (and non-Christians as well) is to keep the ideal of mercy in mind as they deal with the reality of evil and Decline. My personal experience is that both the police and military, in Australia and the USA are sensitive about such things, by and large. So my plea is to all Christians (and, for that matter, every human person) is to be part of bringing peace into the world through mercy, which begets love, and not anger, which begets more hatred.

© 2012, James Harlow Brown. All rights reserved.

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