Sunday, September 11, 2011

Only a Devil Sells Us Against Them: 9/11 and Prophecy


The Practical Buddhist wept today. I don't know why, but images of humans jumping from the flaming towers has never left me.

The terrorists, in Buddhist terms, were making a point using "unskillful means."  Unskillful in the extreme. Like monks immolating themselves during the Vietnam war, or economic or armed aggression by rich nations against poor. Or Hiroshima. Or Alexander or Genghis Khan. The list could fill a library.

We need prophecy.

Don't misunderstand, a prophet in the Judeo-Christian tradition does not tell the future. He or she tells it like it is, here and now, loudly, clearly, and disturbingly.  Prophets upend the status quo and afflict the comfortable. Some are scorned and hounded by the government, like Martin Luther King until his death. Some are simply killed, like Jesus.

One of my personal prophets wrote a powerful song right after 9-11. I'm seeking permission to publish it here   -- the MP3 and the lyric.  One line that arrested me was Only a devil sells Us against Them.   That line captures how the powerful enlist the weak.  They make afraid, then cast themselves as protectors. Kings, presidents, and religions have always done it. Hilter mobilized Germany like that. Pius XII did not prophecy against it. Prophets shake us loose with their art and message. Sometimes the message is rough and raucous, easy to reject. Other times it is relentless and unbending. like that of Ghandi. 

The Practical Buddhist is afraid and wants to feel protected by the rhetoric of Us against Them. The Practical Buddhist must acknowledge and study that fear, but focus on listening to the prophets who are speaking now.  He must evaluate the messages of these prophets in terms of how their messages promote peace, justice, and compassion.


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