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Friday, 24 October 2014

And There is No Peace

"At that time King Hazael of Aram went up, fought against Gath, and took it. But when Hazael set his face to go up against Jerusalem, King Jehoash of Judah took all the votive gifts that Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, and Ahaziah, his ancestors, the kings of Judah, had dedicated, as well as his own votive gifts, all the gold that was found in the treasuries of the house of the Lord and of the king’s house, and sent these to King Hazael of Aram. Then Hazael withdrew from Jerusalem."

The Book of Kings has quite a resemblance to modern matters - bloodthirsty men claiming to rule in the name of God, kinglets running amok around the Middle East and King Jehoash playing the part of the Iraqi army.

Thomas Hardy was scathing about the way Religion looks forward to peace, while the opposite happens:

"After 2,000 years of mass
We've got as far as poison-gas."

But the Great War was about nationalism. And the scientific modernism Hardy lived gave us tanks and Hiroshima. Then atheist politics gave us Stalin's purges and the Chinese Cultural Revolution and Year Zero.

Then just a quarter of a century ago, Francis Fukuyama promised us that liberal democracy would bring us the End of History.

Yeah, that went well. Between Russian nationalism and radical islamism, we've got far more history than we can deal with. Whenever anybody tells you they've got a brilliant plan for how everything's going to be good from now on - check whether that person's philosophy is balanced like a bus on an Alpine peak.

And so we come full-circle, with Putin cast as Nebuchadnezzar and al-Baghdadi playing Hazael.

There's a special psalm for thoughts like these. As I sit in my comfortable Home Counties conservatory, watching the leaves on the Virginia Creeper glow red under an autumn sky, maybe it's not for me just now.

But for those where there's no hope; those fighting bravely in a hopeless cause, doomed to be forgotten; they're very powerful words. And they're brave, honest, shocking words to have been written in a book of religion, when everything is supposed to turn out nice again in the end. It's Psalm 88.

Ready? Here's the last bit. 

"Lord, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me?
I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted.
Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off.
They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together.
Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness."

It ends there.

1 comment :

  1. One of my favourites (the psalm) - in the middle of some not particularly fun times it helped to know that there was somebody in the darkness with me (or at least who had been there too).

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