A paradox...

The poet, Alicia Ostriker, put it like this in, "The Story of Joshua."

We reach the promised land
Forty years later
The original ones who were slaves
Have died

The young are seasoned soldiers
There is wealth enough for everyone and God
Here at our side, the people
Are mad with excitement.
Here is what to do, to take
This land away from the inhabitant:
Burn their villages and cities
Kill their men
Kill their women
Consume the people utterly.
God says: is that clear?
I give you the land, but
You must murder for it.
You will be a nation
Like other nations,
Your hands are going to be stained like theirs
Your innocence annihilated.
Keep listening, Joshua.
Only to you among the nations
Do I also give knowledge
The secret
Knowledge that you are doing evil
Only to you the commandment:
Love ye therefore the stranger, for you were
Strangers in the land of Egypt, a pillar
Of fire to light your passage
Through the blank desert of history forever.
This is the agreement.
Is it entirely
Clear, Joshua,
Said the Lord.
I said it was. He then commanded me
To destroy Jericho.

(Based on Joshua 6: 2-25)

At the same time - at the same damned time - Greg Mortenson stumbles through Pakistan building schools (mostly for girls) and spreading hope, spiritual cooperation and genuine good will. He says, "everywhere I go I find there are good people. We fail to appreciate the fact that we can be optimists. We’re very pessimistic now. Americans need to form bridges and have relationships with the moderate Muslim majority who are our greatest allies there. And I also hear Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders all saying, “God is on our side.” Actually, God is on the side of the widow and the orphan and the refugee. But most of all we need to take care and have compassion and love those who need that the most."

Then that incorrigible Irish poet, Patrick Kavanaugh, has to have his say:

I saw Christ today
At a street corner stand
In the rags of a beggar he stood
He held ballads in his hand

He was crying out "Two a penny
Will anyone buy
The finest ballads ever made
From the stuff of joy"

But the blind and deaf went past
Knowing only there
An uncouth ballad seller
With tail-matted hair

And I whom men call fool
His ballads bought
Found him who the pieties
Have vainly sought

The mystical Jewish Buddhist, Stephen Mitchell, too, in his commentary on Job: After crying out to the One who is Holy about his suffering and pain - after pouring out his heart in grief and confusion - "Job's response is awe. He can barely speak. He puts his had over his mouth, appalled at his own ignorance... The Voice (of God) now, in a series of gruff, most ironical questions, begins to speak explicitly about god and evil. Do you really want this moral sense of yours projected onto the universe? Do you want a god who is only a larger version of a righteous judge, rewarding those who don't realize that virtue is its own reward and throwing the wicked into a physical hell? If that's the kind of justice you're looking for, you'll h ave to create it yourself because that is not my kind of justice..." And Job becomes quiet - surrenders, actually - but not in defeat or depression but in a "wholehearted giving-up of self... the ultimate act of generosity and poverty... He has faced evil, has looked straight into its face and through it into a vast wonder and love."

Joan Chisttister says: She who is centered in the Tao can go where she wishes, without danger. She perceives the universal harmony, even amid great pain, because she has found peace in her heart. And my boys keep playing, "Please, please, get up off your knees..." and that is the only thing that makes sense to me as we live into this paradox. Get up off your knees... leave your small vision of the Holy behind... see the one filled with beauty right here... and love them with all your heart.


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