i am a nerd and i watch religion & ethics newsweekly on pbs every weekend. last weekend, bob abernethy interviewed dr. peter ochs, professor of modern judaic studies at the university of virginia and dr. mehdi aminrazavi, a muslim and professor of philosophy and religion at the university of mary washington. here’s the part of the discussion that interested me:
ABERNETHY: How, in this situation with Israel and Hezbollah — how do they see each other? Do they see each other as enemies?
Dr. AMINRAZAVI: The demonization process is very much true, unfortunately. Yes, they do.
Dr. OCHS: I would put it this way, Bob. When I defend myself justifiably against a murderer and, God forbid, have to kill him, that may be justified but I get reduced by that. I get harder and colder. I think both these peoples are being damaged by defending themselves.
ABERNETHY: Well, you’re not suggesting that they not defend themselves?
Dr. OCHS: No. I’m suggesting that it isn’t either/or. We need third parties to enter the environment. Not those two – third parties to enter the environment and change the conditions.
Dr. AMINRAZAVI: There’s a price you pay for self-defense, and there’s a process of dehumanization that goes with that, and that does damage to your soul, as it were. And this is where a third party would be very effective.
Dr. OCHS: Which means ethics isn’t enough.
ABERNETHY: And the third party is Jews, Muslims and Christians?
Dr. AMINRAZAVI: Christians, precisely, precisely. I think the Christian church can play a major, major role, as opposed to taking sides, which some
Dr. OCHS: I’m glad you say that. I agree fully. The church, other than taking sides, can help Muslims and Jews return to the God they share.
in the situation in the middle east, reconciliation is absolutely necessary, the sooner the better. people are dying. children are dying. homes and cities destroyed. the onslaught is relentless. the longer it goes on, the worse it gets. a third party is needed.
what about in smaller situations? is reconciliation always relevant, particularly if both parties are exponentially better off without each other? what is the definition of reconciliation? i’m wrestling with this issue right now and i find this discussion of the dehumanizing effects of self-defense interesting because in recent conflicts i’ve described my own experience as profoundly human. i have chosen to ask God to sit with me when i’m feeling difficult things rather than trying to fight my emotions or rationalize them away. it has led to an marked increase in my trust in God and my ability to open up to other people.
i recently had a dream about reconciling with someone and my touchingly optimistic roommate immediately associated my apparent sub-conscious desire for reconciliation with the fact that i must obviously care. i was quick to remind her that people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder often dream of their attackers and it has nothing to do with care and much more to do with impact.
i agree that we have to return to the God we share. i know that we all carry God’s image and that God’s work is diminished when we are divided. where does one draw the line at throwing oneself in front of a bus? when there has been relational conflict, how does one know when to reach out and when to keep defenses up?