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Excerpt from A Language Older Than Words

Past vs Present Atrocities (p. 94)

From chapter "Claims to Virtue"

How does this come about? How is it that Jesus was a fair feminist for his day—treating women with a deference remarkable for his immersion in a deeply patriarchal culture—yet the religion that bears his name shows no such respect? How is it that pagans, Jews, Muslims, heretical Christians, Indians, Africans, Polynesians, Asians, women, men, children, salmon, forests, have been murdered by the millions in the name of a man who said that people should love their neighbors and love their enemies?

At least part of the answer is that the words of Jesus are ultimately irrelevant to the course of historical Christianity. Far more important to this course are deeply hidden urges that grope not only for expression but also for sufficient pretext to allow fulfillment without acknowledgment, and hence without accountability.

Few people would be senseless enough to believe that my father beat my sister because she found dead puppies in the swimming pool, or for any reason other than those emanating from my father’s damaged psyche. He blamed it on the dead puppies simply to confuse us all, himself especially, and to drown out the horrific experience of beating his own child.

Few would be ignorant enough to believe Hitler’s justifications for murdering millions of people in Europe and Africa. We can see—probably more easily than he—through and beyond his words to his intent, made deathly clear in the showers at Treblinka and on the stone cold killing fields of the Soviet Union.

By the same token, it isn’t difficult to honestly evaluate the insanity and hatred that characterized the witch trials, that conceptualized, then created a suitable political, social, philosophical, and theological context for the torture and murder of women because they were alleged to “do marvelous things with regard to male organs.”

How then do we so blind ourselves to the same impulses that surround us today, that are central to, and propel our culture? Do you think today’s destruction of the salmon is so much less than last century’s destruction of the passenger pigeon? Do you think the enslavement of 150,000,000 children is so much less than the race-based slavery of not-so-long-ago? Is the ongoing genocide of indigenous peoples so much less than the Final Solution, so much less than Manifest Destiny? It is safe to speak of Hider because he is dead, and because you and I were not there to participate. My father is safely out of my life. None of this emerged in the midst of the beatings.

This fear and hatred of life, shape shifter that it is, stays always one step ahead of our discernment, slipping each time we nearly understand it to faster, more efficient ways to control and then destroy the objects of our hatred, and with them ultimately ourselves.

The patriarchal family gives rise to a patriarchal God, who can be internalized to wield Fatherly control even when the father is absent. When threats wear thin the patriarchal God sends a Son to prove His love. My father always knew exactly how far to push with violence before relenting to confuse with signs of affection, and to get us to agree that our suffering, compared to his own, was nothing. So, too, with Christianity. And now what? Christianity— by now entirely divorced from the teachings of its nominal founder—inevitably gives way to science, an infinitely stronger tool to control and destroy not only humans but the entire planet.

Those who wish to destroy will do so. It really is that simple. Remove the words, and the acts are there. Beatings, rapes, enslavement, sanctified murders in autos-da-fé, or industrialized death-dealing with Zyklon B, chainsaws, driftnets, mink coats, time cards, clocks, protein drinks, satellite surveillance systems, and the soul-murder of lives wasted in quiet desperation.

In the beginning is the urge. In the people who would destroy it is always there. Like poisoned water, it is heavy; like poisoned water, it is ungraspable; like poisoned water, it always seeks for cracks to seep through, to exploit, to wear away, to open; like poisoned water it emerges, and when the vessel breaks, as so often it does, like poisoned water it comes out raging its mantra of death.