On Second Comings

I cannot call myself a Christian, most of all because I am agnostic and cannot attribute to Jesus of Nazareth the status of "god". The specific parts of the New Testament (and other suppressed/ignored chronicles of his life and times) which seem to quote his own words directly certainly qualify him in my mind as a man of great wisdom, love, and common sense. This was a man of humility, but at the same time a man of confidence. He was, I believe, an essential human being. It is sad that the ugly, vindictive writings of Paul and John, often in direct conflict with the words and spirit of Jesus, have replaced those of Jesus in "christian" dogma. I live in the bladder (definitely not the heart) of the "Bible Belt". Sometimes I wake up very early in the morning and switch on one of the syndicated preachers (they're on most channels at 3:30 or 4:00 am). They read and teach on a bunch of scriptures, but rarely do they touch on the Sermon on the Mount or Jesus' other preaching on love, compassion, or humility.

I believe that there have been other humans of equal "godliness". Ghandi was one. Maybe Bill Moyers is another. Maybe your neighbor is one. I could name a bunch . . . Kathy Kelly, the Berrigans, John Lennon. I know this . . . that to elevate a courageous, humble, wise, and loving human being to "God" is to deny the potential of the human spirit.

There have been many "Second Comings". I hope there will be more. Jesus rose out of a Palestine occupied by the űber-mighty Roman Empire. Others may rise from the miasmic morass that western "civilization" has wrought on the world.

But one has already come. He was executed, as Jesus was, for telling the truth, for being courageous, for trying to inspire the poor, the disenfranchised, the meek to fill their hearts with each other in peace.

That man was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I believe that as a man he was equal to Jesus of Nazareth. This is a clip from a speech he gave over forty years ago:
This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:

Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.

*I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

Number one: End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.

Number two: Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.

Three: Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.

Four: Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government.

Five: *Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.
The test for men like these is that they are timeless. I have come to believe that "eternal life" is something concrete - that the spirit of such people lights the soul of other humans and expands our spirits immeasurably. You noticed, I hope, that you only need to substitute "Iraq" and "Iraqis" for "Vietnam" and "Vietnamese".

This post in celebrating of all that Martin and Coretta King brought us as gifts. We owe it not only to them, but to the entire human race, to grow their spirit and works immeasurably. Don't wait for Christ to come again. He's already here. Part of him is in you, as is a part of Martin.

Post Script: I was saddened today by the news that my friend Peter Eichenberger was seriously injured in a bicycle accident on January 25th. He is recuperating after brain surgery at Wake Medical Center in Raleigh, NC. Go here to read his latest piece on the grass-roots relief effort in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward; here is a box in the "Indy Weekly" that encourages you to send your best wishes and hope for full recovery.

Be well, Peter.

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