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Is there an answer to Religious Terrorism?
by Rev. Richard S. Kirby, PhD, Sept 5, 1998
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This statement was delivered by Rev. Richard S. Kirby, PhD., International Chairperson of the World Network of Religious Futurists on August 21, 1998, a day following U.S. military strikes on alleged terrorists operations in Afghanistan and Sudan. Responses from various WNRF colleagues follow.

I write these words on behalf of my colleagues, scholars in the future of religion and society.

We regard the trajectory of the evolution of religion as towards peace among nations. For we see God as the supreme Compassioner, the source of Love, Harmony, Peace and Hope.

There is a consensus of scholars who study the future of civilization, whether from the fields of science, technology, ethics or spirituality. It is to believe that all nations are fundamentally aligned toward God, or the Transcendent. Therefore all nations are fundamentally oriented towards mutual service, trade, help and healing.

World religions are not powerless at a time like this. They can take strenuous steps to mobilize the peace-making energies of all their adherents. They can empower the real healing of nations.

We therefore invite all religious leaders world-wide, at this time, to make a special effort to do the following:

1. to pray for peace among all nations, and

2. to call upon religionists everywhere to work--from the grassroots level to the palaces of religious dignitaries--to heal the dreadful divisions between nations which underlie our present mortal strife.

Our scholars are experts in the 'new'; we know that God can 'do a new thing.' We invite religious, political and military leaders to do likewise, and make of this crisis in international affairs an occasion of breakthrough in international relations.

We do not offer a method, we offer a hope, and we offer the fruits of our scholarship: the knowledge that God is calling the people of God, the people of earth, to harmony and healing. And we testify that what God calls, He empowers.

So, we invite the people of America to take the lead in being apostles of peace, of intelligent and compassionate harmony between nations. We call upon every congregation, temple or mosque to immediately appoint an Officer for Peace.

Our members are visioners, and our vision today is of a great new era of prayer, and an era of divine worship which liberates for the governors of America the energies of the divine Spirit.

Let us worship God.

What about Alternatives to War and Violence?

Dr. G. Parker Rossman, WNRF Associate for Global Education and author of Emerging Worldwide Electronic University (Praeger, 1993) wrote on August 22nd:

Richard, this peace project is fine and timely. But, it says nothing about alternatives to war and violence, for example in the current dealing with terrorists, the failure of sanctions in Serbia and Iraq, etc.

What can be done to imagine new kinds of policing, and nonviolent miliary projects as in Sweden. There once was, I am told, a top to bottom study at the Pentagon of nonviolent alternatives. It was finally abandoned. Why?

My source says that there has not been the creative thinking in the larger intellectual community to provide workable ideas (which now could be simulated and tried out without risk in peace gaming.)

Also they have done peace gaming, on the side, at the Navy War College, again without support. There are army groups working on peace projects in Holland various countries, and they might be having more success if they dealt with the new kind of war (terrorism). They say that the generals always prepare for the last war, not the next one.

Evidently peacemakers also need to hear Peter Drucker who says that all institutions (including war? governance? peacemaking?) are to ge drastically changed by information technology, (IT) but not until we pay more attention to the 'I' rather than the 'T', that is to concepts and designs. The place to work online is in the virtual conferences of the US Institute of Peace which was established to be the West Point to train peacemakers.

Could the Root Problem be National Rage?

On August 22nd, Dr. Richard Kirby replied:

Thank you, Parker. This is wise, helpful and informative. However, I want to throw out an idea to our circle of theologians of peace statesmanship.

Isn't it true that one reason why peace-gaming and alternatives to war and violence are ignored is of the appetite/need of humanity for indolgence of violent instincts, vengeance, rage, etc.? [cf. Freud, Civilization and its Discontents.] Therefore, I suggest we bring some psychoanalysts from various traditions into a national dialogue about national and other forms of Rage. Freudians Jungians, post-Jungians, Adlerians, etc. have different insights to offer.

The psychoanalytic approach to national life has precedent: Norman O. Brown in Life against Death, Erich Fromm in Man Against Himself, maybe also H. Marcuse in One-Dimensional Man, etc. Then there is the revolutionary tradition, typified by Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth.

But theory has to end sometime and the rage be addressed - and healed - directly. Also, to paraphrase Aquinas, when we are deprived of God, we will settle for demonic energies.

Reverse that and we see the Eastern Orthodox Chuch offering its notion of the World as Sacrament [Schmemann.] So, the issue is not primarily war but rage. How can national rage be healed? Perhaps by the provision of forgiveness, of justice, by love, by God's Spirit. So our task is to be channels of divine intelligence and healing in the world of international relations.

Curbing the Fire of Rage

On August 25th, WNRF voice of wisdom, James Wellesley-Wesley wrote:

Richard, in reference to your response to Parker. Whether personal or collective, rage needs expression - relief is gained by externalising the inner fires. On the personal scale this may be achieved by combining with others in large scale collective violence (we go to war, on whatever pretext seems to US to justify such action, claiming that God is with us of course) - the incidence of personal mental unwellness lessening under such circumstances.

If this is not possible we may indulge in any manner of local violence - riots, acts of terrorism etc. If we are too well behaved to let off steam in this manner, we may fall physically ill (initially fevers, skin troubles, and breakages; later, more deep-seated traumas). If we are too healthy and cannot break down physically, or are prevented from doing so by medical means, then we may break down psychologically.

Such conditions are subject to all manner of ' cure ' by technicians who focus on eradicating the symptoms - thereby claiming to have stopped it, so it must be better, whatever ' it ' was. Healing, however, is another skill altogether that involves re-establishing the relationship that has broken down in giving rise to the dis-ease. Practitioners of this art are go-betweens - priests, healers, mediators, etc., who are the servants of Life as such. That much abused four letter word ' Love ' is fundamentally at issue here.

Rage being associated with fire, the metaphor for its quenching is that of fire drill in general, there being three main means - 1. to remove the flammable material; 2. to smother it; 3. to cool it.

Should all else fail, then to contain it and let it burn itself out without it spreading further. But such means do not address the underlying cause that generated the fire originally. I suggest that fire is generated by friction, which in turn is caused by tension - the tension of relationship in depth, which is inherent to Life itself.

So prevention of fire (rage) must lie in the willingness to suffer the tension of relationship (as most vividly illustrated by the Christian image of the Christ on the Cross) rather than to allow the energy that is contained in relationship constructively, to escape such relationship destructively - following utterance of that famous expression" my patience is exhausted " (i.e. my willingness to suffer any further is exhausted) with resort to whatever weapons are available........ fist, knobkerry, kalashnikov, car bomb, guided (maybe) missile, atomic device ......... you name it!

As always, I leave it to you as to what you do with the above. I should really sleep on it before sending it out, but as I may not be able to get back to it immediately on awakening .......... here goes!

This from Zurich; next stopover on the way - Vienna........ Best, James.

We need a Theology of Statesmanship

On August 25th, Dr. Richard Kirby wrapped up this thread:

Let us be very clear, brothers:

What is needed is action at the level of statesmanship - or as Dick Spady says, civilization building. With the resources we have in the wisdom and talent of you four [among others in our circle] we can begin to think through our [inter-faith] theology of contemporary statesmanship.

There is much to do, opportunities ahead.

A great poet often writes no poetry without thinking through his esthetic, his theory of poetry: examples are Gerard Manley Hopkins, Matthew Arnold, A.E.Housman. Statesmen [and this is our calling as a group] need a thorough understanding of the statesman's task, whether he be Tutu or Mandela, Mother Teresa or Madeline Albright.

We have something to offer the world here, even if it is 'only' a vision. Without a vision, indeed, the people perish.

Yet statesmanship is not for everyone. Some have it naturally, some are called to it, some aspire to it. A few persevere - as with most things. One thing is clear: reflection on the ancient traditions of Western and Eastern political philosophy [Plato and Aristotle, Lao-Tzu, Confucius and Mencius] alert us to the exquisite difficulties of 'steering the ship of state'.

But the world religions - our friends, our forge, our field - offer great vitality and inspiration for the political philosophy of international affairs for the 21st century. So I invite your thoughts on this presently almost non-existent subject, a practical theology of contemporary statesmanship. Let's begin, brothers. There's a hurting world out there.

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