Entering the abyss

Entering the abyss

Every generation has a period of chaos.  It seems to be part of the human condition that a cycle of war and relative peace continues year after year.  Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, each time we seem to forget the horror and destruction of the time before merrily and blithely blundering into conflict that has no good end.  Now it looks as if we are potentially entering the abyss of a protracted war against Iran.

For me, it’s not the horror of war that saddens me most but the seeming inevitability of it.  Each previous war sets up the conditions needed - the violence against civilians, the national hurts and private treasons – to enflame the next.  Like dominoes falling one after another.

Last week the US assassinated Qasem Soleimani, the second most powerful leader in Iran.  Qasem was hardly a saint and was either a terrorist agitator or a national hero depending on whose side you are on.  But either way, if this conflict pans out the way I fear it may,thousands of innocent civilians will die so that Donald Trump and the ayatollah Khomeini can show each other what big men they are!

But then it’s always easier to point the finger at world leaders without recognizing the faults at home.  We may not be bombing each other, but the political debate over Brexit has hardly been filled with generosity and the desire to find a middle ground.  It is only a short step from the hate filled speeches of politicians and leaders to the murder of Jo Cox.  The abusive words of politicians opens up a space for the hate-filled words of far-right white supremacists which opens up a space for violence against those who are seen as a threat.  I’m not suggesting there is a direct cause and effect from one to the other, but that the one is the soil in which the next is allowed to grow.

And there I am again, pointing the finger at politicians and leaders when I should be pointing at myself.

I sit very definitely on one side of the Brexit fence and have been guilty of not being able to understand why people who hold the opposite view can do so.  I am guilty in my own heart of feeling anger at what I perceive as a massive cultural and economic mistake in the making.  In so doing I have entered my own abyss from which I must repent.  Only by doing so can I start the journey towards reconciliation.

Jesus put forgiveness at the heart of his gospel in the Lord’s prayer – forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  Without the offer and acceptance of forgiveness we are doomed to repeat the sins of the past, both individually, as a nation and as a world, and it all starts with me.  Whether Iran and the US enter a war or not, true peace will only break out when the hearts of individuals change.

This February, as we come towards lent and the traditional time of repentance – Ash Wednesday – perhaps reflect on our own part that we play in creating the abyss of this world, repent and seek forgiveness.  It’s the only way out.