We have all seen it before. Sports athletes praying to God for success prior to the big game – actually for any game – embracing the belief that God will decide the outcome. After the successful play or the eventual victory the competitor gives thanks to God for being chosen the victor – believing God answered his or her prayers over the others. Clearly God has chosen sides, preferring the striped uniform to the checkered one or vise versa. Surely I jest … right?
Some of us on a daily, weekly, yearly or other sporadic basis sit in our respective pews of temples, mosques, synagogues, churches and the like and are often witness to another request we make of God – to defeat our enemies. Not the gridiron variety, nor our business competitor, not even our own internal enemy (which may be the most important “enemy” to conquer). However in the case of our liturgy – regardless in which pew we find ourselves, defeating the enemy is entreated by the clergy to whom we have come to rely on for many aspects of and guidance in life. Enemy comes from the Greek word echtrhos denoting two warring groups engaged in military confrontation – they are the enemy – we are us – the good guys. I wonder if that demarcation point from within the three monotheistic religions is perfectly clear to God or not?
Is it safe to hypothesize that as we ask God to defeat our enemy, are they on the other side not asking the same of the same God? We (us) are they and they are we (us). Confused? Who does He favour to win the “big game on the battlefield?” What is God to do? Is God confused? How can He choose sides when we are all his children? But more pragmatically, why can’t our religious leaders and pulpit presenters not see this dilemma for God and cease to play into the rhetoric before the faithful? It is disturbing for us to say the least and I would surmise for God too when one of one of our own behaves in repulsive or even murderous fashion in the name of God towards that so-called enemy. Of late, we are beginning to sense this pickle from within our own communities. It is a case of parochially conflicted worship of God, as elements from within are actually praying to the same God and from the same pew with vastly different interpretations of the message. One part of “our side” desires an outcome through prayers that is anathema to our own belief systems, and this now puts us in conflict with those from within the “us” camp. To put it another way – there are elements from the “us” side indirectly perhaps, instigating the radicalized and or mentally disturbed – resulting in tragic outcomes. This is not hypothetical – tragically it is reality.
“Enemy” – this word is uttered incessantly from within our houses of worship and I for one believe that of all places, the word enemy does not belong in a house of worship – not in any of them. What does it do to us when we hear something, I will call it negative, repeated over and over again? What does it do to our essence and our souls to hear such negative messages? As parents, we know not to call a child bad, but that he or she is exhibiting an undesirable behaviour that is bad – the child is not the adjective. In synagogue the other day a rabbi eloquently spoke of not labeling an individual as disabled but as having a particular disability. It was a beautiful point made. But the term enemy I know is more problematic. It is time however to begin the conversation – to remove the word “enemy” from our liturgy and our lexicon. We are all human beings, we are not labels and we inhabit this place called earth together. One person at a time can have an impact and we can change – first ourselves and then others in our circle.
Is God confused? I bet He is. What can you and I do about it?