“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” – C. S. Lewis
If you’ve seen the delightful movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you’ll surely remember Toula’s father, played by Michael Constantine, touting Windex as the panacea of all panaceas. It’s a cute motif, invoked with brilliant comedic timing at the very end when Toula’s new husband Ian, played by John Corbett, tells her that he banished a pimple by putting Windex on it. Toula’s bridesmaids had labored over her with all manner of things to hide the zit that had appeared overnight, just before her wedding.
Panaceas! Cures for what ails you no matter what it is! How many have been promoted to us? The old phrase “snake oil” (and its salesmen) make plain the skepticism most folks have toward such claims. And let there be no mistake about it: skepticism is the appropriate attitude to take toward panaceas, no matter how widely or loudly touted. As the late P. J. O’Rourke wrote, “Show me the logic and the lab equipment.”
Panaceas come in several varieties. We have innumerable examples of the sort proposed for bodily ailments, of course. Then there are the political panaceas, put forth as the solution to every sort of “problem” or transient dissatisfaction. Economic panaceas? There’s socialism, fascism, mercantilism, Georgism, Keynesianism, corporatism, and more I refuse to tabulate lest this piece grow swollen with terms virtually no one understands any longer. And of course there are panaceas suggested for the sort of tribalism, particularism, separatism, and so on that are currently fragmenting our society. The celebrated Man in the Street looks upon all such things with a smirk, and he’s right to do so.
Funny how seldom any promoter of such things admits to fallibility, isn’t it? But I digress.
The matter of importance before us is not what could solve everyone’s problems. It’s what could solve your problems. Isn’t it, Gentle Reader? Wouldn’t your ears prick up upon hearing a plausible approach to your particular basket of woes? I know mine would.
But skepticism remains the first-order prescription. If someone were to come to you with an unguent he swears will clear up your miseries specifically – only $9.95 per pint bottle; get yours while supplies last! – wouldn’t you want to read the fine print? The “return unused portion for a full refund” guarantee or lack thereof? I’d whip out my reading glasses first thing.
Thus it must be. Yet the value of opening with skepticism in defense of one’s integument and one’s wallet cannot and does not eliminate the possibility that this time around…it’s for real.
It was a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling.
[Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance]
Approximately two millennia ago, the following exchange occurred between an itinerant preacher and his detractors:
But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Ignore the setting. Ignore the players’ motivations. Ignore the reference to God, if you must! Concentrate on the Second Great Commandment. Can you come up with a categorical imperative – you have studied Kant, haven’t you? – that would do more to quiet the turmoil that roils our nation and our world?
Love is, of course, an overloaded word. It has more meanings than Carter has Little Liver Pills. The Jews of First-Century Judea overloaded it, too. That’s part of the problem with contemporary understandings of the Great Commandments. But reflecting on how people who sincerely love one another treat one another can clear it up.
All meanings of love, regardless of object or context, include not to mistreat the beloved. Mistreatment gives the lie to a claim of love. This is the case even when the beloved is an inanimate object. If you “love” cherry pie – I do – you won’t deliberately pour kerosene on it, or trample it before eating it. If you “love” the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, you won’t adulterate it by playing the television over it.
That was the itinerant preacher’s prescription for social harmony.
Believe it or not, I began this screed while thinking about the Middle East, specifically the carnage currently occurring in Israel. As I wrote yesterday, the pattern of Islamic aggression has a long history and cannot be wished away:
- Initiate hostilities;
- Kill indiscriminately and take hostages;
- Cry “Peace! Peace! We are for peace!”
- Blame their victims for “escalating;”
- Rally “international opinion” behind a cease-fire.
And the makers and shapers of “international opinion,” being cowards in terror of their own nations’ Islamic fractions, go along with it.
It “should” be “obvious” that Muslims, who openly disavow the Law of General Benevolence, don’t wish non-Muslims well. They want us conquered and subjugated. Their creed permanently excludes “peaceful coexistence” with other creeds. It also permanently excludes accepting political structures that aren’t thoroughly Islamic. Any “truce” to which they agree is because they’re on the defensive, being pummeled unmercifully, and need a break to rest and rearm.
Don’t take my word for it. It’s in the Koran, in the various ahadith, and is imbedded in the Islamic attitude toward everything non-Islamic: what they call the Dar al-Harb, the “House of War.” You can find it for yourself.
Muslim hatred for the Jews is as virulent as it is because of all the peoples of the Middle East, the Jews are the most successful. They took an arid wasteland and made it bloom. They did it without natural resources that are plentiful in other lands. Their success, when contrasted with the savagery and poverty of the surrounding Islamic nations, presents an unbearable humiliation to the Islamic states. And for that reason, Israel can never be truly at peace with its neighbors, no matter how ardently Israelis might wish it so.
Of course, you can find any number of commentators who’ll defame Israel as “an apartheid state,” and the Israelis as “oppressors.” Funny how those “oppressed” Muslims have a substantial representation in the Knesset. Funny how the “refugees” in Gaza and the West Bank get nearly all the supports of life from Israel, on the sole condition that they not attack Israel or Israelis. And funny how after 75 years, those “refugees” haven’t been able to raise their own lot as the Jews of Israel have raised theirs.
There are a couple of Jew-haters who occasionally comment here. They try their damnedest to defame Israel’s attempts to defend itself against the ceaseless aggressions against it. I rather wish they’d grow up, but for some that’s too steep a gravity well to climb out of. They simply must have a Devil figure – the real one won’t satisfy them – and the Jews, one might say, are the “traditional” ones.
It’s all of a piece. Either you learn to love your neighbor as yourself, or you remain an immature, perpetually whining victim. That a billion-plus persons worldwide seem unable to grasp the thing constitutes a tragedy for which I have no words, only a label. But once again, I digress.
To close, have a few links, just suggested reading:
- BLM cheers HAMAS’s slaughters.
- Congreesional Democrat flies Palestinian flag.
- Ilhan Omar accuses Israel of war crimes.
- HAMAS and Fatah’s objectives.
- HAMAS wants UN help.
- Some Jew-hating Protestants!
- Anti-Semites Coming Out Of Hiding!
And reflect on the Second Great Commandment. Might it not cure a few of your personal ills? And how much does it ask of you, really?