Shadowland

We look, we see, we observe images flashing, ever flashing before us. Time continues, images pass, this is our context. “Reality,” we say, for this is all we see. “Truth,” we say, for this is all we know. Shadows, all.
Up is down, right is left, wrong is correct. Orwell has his day. When all we know is shadow, unrecognized perhaps, all that we understand develops as distortion. When we point and say, “freedom-questioners,” it is the distorted shadow we choose to see passing along the wall – torturers, real. We don’t know the truth. Worse yet, we willfully turn away from the real because we like the shadows so. We are in darkness, and the light is not within us. If we say, “Do unto others whatever is necessary to make us feel safe,” who are we, really?
How can those who claim Christ justify the use of torture? When what we believe we are as a people turns to be only a shadowy distortion of the Christian Life, then what? It isn’t even just a pale image of the real dancing before us, but a further distortion of the shadow of the real as we are chained to the deleterious influence of a culture that is moving ever more steadily away from the principles of Christ, which is not and has never been Christian in reality. Do we turn to freedom or do we stay chained? Too often, we willfully choose to imbibe the misshapen dark shadows and call them… good, call them real, call them of God.
If we are to ever turn to leave the cave that is the distorted life, we must realize the need to leave behind much of what we have been enculturated to accept as a given and what we have become, inwardly. We hear cries, “America is a Christian nation…” I don’t know what to do with that statement when related to a justification of torture, unless I face that fact that too many of us want deception, want dark shadows because for some warped reason they feel “right” and “safe.”
We must be re-formed out of the corruption of our individual and common souls. Our understanding of our imagined faith in this time and within this cultural context has been left wanting, and it has resulted in a deficient faith. We see the result in a people who believe themselves to be good, god-fearing, and patriotic claiming that treatment of other people, enemy terrorists they may be, in ways that if turned upon these god-fearing people would be deplored by them as horrific and unjust, but this distorted faith has brought them to a point of willfully condoning torture. The question is not, “What have we become,” but asking whether there will be a turning from the distortion by realizing that this is what we have made of ourselves. God help us.
Update, from The Daily Dish by Andrew Sullivan:
The Abuse of Religion:
I’m going to read the full Senate report this weekend but I am struck by one footnote a reader directed me to. It’s a memo related to the torture of Qahtani in Gitmo, written January 17, 2003, and documented that he had been “forced to pray to an idol shrine.” One recalls similar abuse of religious freedom at Abu Ghraib, which the Senate report unequivocally blames on official policy at the highest levels:

One Muslim inmate was allegedly forced to eat pork, had liquor forced down his throat and told to thank Jesus that he was alive. He recounted in broken English:
”They stripped me naked, they asked me, ‘Do you pray to Allah?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ They said ‘F – – – you’ and ‘F – – – him.’ ” Later, this inmate recounts: ”Someone else asked me, ‘Do you believe in anything?’ I said to him, ‘I believe in Allah.’ So he said, ‘But I believe in torture and I will torture you.’ ”

This from an administration more deeply committed to public Christianity than any other in recent times; and from a military one of whose commanders had publicly pronounced:
“We’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian … and the enemy is a guy named Satan.”

The future looks like the past…

“The future is around all of us, and it looks very much like the past.” – Mother Superior Sheeana, at the founding of the Orthodox School on Synchrony
[From: Sandworms of Dune, by Brian Herbert & Kevin Johnson; pg. 539.]
In the context of the book, the above is a positive statement. Again, in my mind, it brings up aspects of our present culture that work contrary to our future well-being. One of those aspects is a generation’s disposition to believe that the past is bad or a least a negative. I keep coming back to this 2,009 year-old thing we call Christianity. The past is full of horrific atrocities and glorious accomplishments, but all that humanity has been through over these past millennia within the Christian experience presents to us today, from that which has survived and still speaks, a wisdom that we need to pay attention to.
In my context, with our gasping attempts to save this Church we flail around with the same attitudinal mistakes that led us to this place. We think that in our modern and sophisticated age we can create with our own new thoughts in our own way the solutions for a new dawn, a new order, a Utopian vision of our own making. We fail to realize that the Tradition provides us with what we need as a solid foundation upon which to build, because within the lived experiences of people over thousands of years is wisdom. That which speaks to the deepest part of us remains, survives, and calls out deep to deep despite our tendency to look upon past understanding and experience as pedestrian, antiquated, primitive, unenlightened, and not up to the challenges of 21st. century existence. What has survived for 2,000 years will survive another 2,000 years. Technology changes (and I’m glad of that), but the human “heart” remains the same.
Our challenge is to see the wisdom in and understand the ancient-future process of steady re-formation within ourselves as we give ourselves to this faith, die to ourselves and live to the life God sustains. How do we do it in this time, within this culture, recognizing that our lives are of an ancient-future dynamic – we receive from ages of ages and pass onto world without end.