8/2/09

How can we end religious terrorism and achieve the peace of God?

In the course "War and Peace in Judaism, Christianity and Islam" we surveyed some of the ways that religions have intersected with war and peace in recent history. We shifted our focus to a more interpretive framework called the "Logic of Religious Violence." We  entered into the minds of those who perpetrate acts of violence in the name of religion. Then we stepped back and analyzed what we observed.

Now we come to the point where we look back and ask, how can we achieve peace through religion.

We recalled the five scenarios for solving the problem of religious terror and violence that Juergensmeyer discussed:
1. the forceful eradication of the terrorists
2. "cracking down" -- one step back from wiping them out
3. violence wins
4. separation of religion from politics
5. secular authorities embrace moral values, including those associated with religion.
Upon further review, these are scenarios mostly for managing the problem and not entirely for resolving it.

Classically most religions speak frequently of the quest for peace and the promise of future peace and the end to violence.
Isaiah 11:6 -- And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
Yet, all of the promises of peace in religious discourse remain rhetorical and theoretical until implemented.

Two further readings help us examine the mechanisms in religion that can further peace and resolve conflict.

We refer to the essay: Is Religion the Problem? Mark Juergensmeyer, University of California, Santa Barbara. Levinson lecturers, Center on Religion and Democracy, Univ. of Virginia, November 7, 2003; published in Hedgehog Review 6:1 Spring 2004. [http://repositories.cdlib.org/gis/21/]

One of the main points Juergensmeyer makes is that beyond contributing to conflict, aspects of religion can defuse violence.
For one thing religion personalizes the conflict. It provides personal rewards— religious merit, redemption, the promise of heavenly luxuries—to those who struggle in conflicts that otherwise have only social benefits. It also provides vehicles of social mobilization that embrace vast numbers of supporters who otherwise would not be mobilized around social or political issues. In many cases, it provides an organizational network of local churches, mosques, temples, and religious associations into which patterns of leadership and support may be tapped. It gives the legitimacy of moral justification for political encounter. Even more important, it provides justification for violence that challenges the state’s monopoly on morally-sanctioned killing. Using Max Weber’s dictum that the state’s authority is always rooted in the social approval of the state to enforce its power through the use of bloodshed—in police authority, punishment, and armed defense—religion is the only other entity that can give moral sanction for violence and is therefore inherently at least potentially revolutionary.

Religion also provides the image of cosmic war, which adds further complications...

On a theoretical level, one can appreciate the long line of theorists from Émile Durkheim and Sigmund Freud up to and including such contemporary thinkers as the literary theorist René Girard. Theirs is a line of reasoning that sees religion as the cultural tool for defusing violence within a social community. They see the symbols and rituals of religion as essential in symbolically acting out violence as a way of displacing real acts of violence in the world. If this position has any utility at all—and I think that it does—what the world needs now is more ritual and symbol, not less of it.

In a curious way, then, the solution to religious violence is not more violence but more religion. That is, the solution to our current moment of religious violence may involve an understanding of religion that is not parochial and defensive, but expansive and tolerant in the manner advocated by virtually all religious scriptures and authorities. Beyond particular religions, moreover, there is a broad sense of the moral and spiritual unity of the family of humanity that can be dimly heard in the background even in the discordant moments of the 21st century’s clashes of religion. It is good to be assured that there are religious resources for peace to be tapped, even as we know that religion provides the ammunition for some of our generation’s most lethal acts. Though religion can be a problematic partner in confrontation it also holds the potential of providing a higher vision of human interaction than is portrayed in the bloody encounters of the present.
We refer last to the excerpt from Gandhi's Way: A Handbook of Conflict Resolution by Mark Juergensmeyer. [http://www.thinkingpeace.com/Lib/lib042.html]

The main approach that Juergensmeyer discusses is the employment of doctrines to remove conflicts and bring peace.
FIGHTING A GANDHIAN FIGHT

In my opinion, the beauty and efficacy of satyagraha are so great and the doctrine so simple that it can be preached even to children.

The basic idea of Gandhi's approach to fighting is to redirect the focus of a fight from persons to principles. Gandhi called it satyagraha, "grasping onto principles," or "truth force."

He assumed that behind any struggle lies another clash, a deeper one: a confrontation between two views that are each in some measure true. Every fight, to Gandhi, was on some level a fight between differing "angles of vision" illuminating the same truth.

This means that most of the ways that you and I fight simply miss the point. We either grapple with the person who represents a position or else try to accommodate that person, without struggling with the position itself. That, to Gandhi's mind, leaves the real conflict unresolved. It simmers in the background, ready to boil over on another occasion. [original post in 2006]

3 comments:

Bryce said...

For those interested, Shalom Carmy's essay on Gandhi was very good:
Flowing Upstream:
Reflections on Studying
Gandhi at Yeshiva

John D. Enright said...

To bryce:

Check your computer's clock. Your comment is time-stamped "11/28/2006."

bryce said...

Yup, that's when I wrote it.