Sunday, January 28, 2007

Unto Others

Recent news reports indicate that the Bush administration seems intent on waging war on a plethora of fronts. While the November elections were viewed by most as a repudiation of the Bush warmongering policies, the man and his minions are intent in sending more human fodder into the fray. There have been indications in the past few weeks that Iran is next in line and the war on American citizens, in regards to the continuing evisceration of civil rights, continues unabated.

While I personally doubt this is tied to fundamentalist Christian values, this is the image the [P]resident continues to project. It's a war of good versus evil, we're told, the righteous against the unrighteous.

Yet, for all this blather of upholding universal Christian principle and doctrine, it seems to this observer that Dubya and company are very selective in which supposedly Christian doctrine they see fit to abide by.

According to Mark 12:28-31,
And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
The latter commandment has been referred to as the Ethic of Reciprocity. Similar language can be found in most every religion and philosophy. It can be summed up by the notion of treating others as you would want them to treat you.

Consequently, if we apply this maxim to the Bush policy of preemptive war, then it should follow that the United States invades other nations because we want other nations to invade us!

But before I lay too much of the burden at the feet of the Bushites, it must be recognized that, for most Christians, this idea of treating others as we each would like to be treated only seems to concern people like us or people we approve of. If a person or group is on our "shit list", then all deals are off and we can treat such people any damn way we want.

If one looks at the annals of history, this conditional "love thy neighbor" precept is easily apparent. You can start with the "Great Crusades", wind your way to the slavery question in the US and land in today's world of vain attempts to outlaw homosexuality. In each instance, the Christian hordes only seem able to muster love and acceptance for people who look as they do, worship as they do, believe as they do and love as they do.

The ambiguity of the Christian Bible allows this kind of behavior. While the commandments of reciprocity seem very straight forward, there is enough verbiage throughout the canon that any person can turn any phrase on its head without much effort. As but one example, while many hold Jesus to be be a man of peace, there are just as many who believe that Jesus sanctions war.

While philosophical Taoists have no sacred texts, we do have historical works that we refer to. The most prominent text is the Tao Te Ching. (It's not sacred because we acknowledge it was written by people -- it represents human, not Godly, thought).

While the Christian Bible is often vague, the Tao Te Ching is most often clear. Its author, Lao Tzu, doesn't beat around the "bush". Here's the Taoist version of the principle of reciprocity:
The sage has no mind of his own.
He is aware of the needs of others.

I am good to people who are good.
I am also good to people who are not good.
Because virtue is goodness.
I have faith in people who are faithful.
I also have faith in people who are not faithful.
Because virtue is faithfulness.

The sage is shy and humble -- to the world he seems confusing.
Others look to him and listen.
He behaves like a little child.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. With no exceptions.

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