Tuesday, June 20, 2006



Perhaps I am in no position to raise this question, not being a Christian myself, but isn't the relevent question for Christians to ask not "WWJD?", "What Would Jesus Do?" -- after all Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God and hard to immitate (and he is certainly anyway depicted as being rather inhuman in the NT) -- but "WWYD?" "What Would You Do?", i.e. if the situation were reversed. Isn't that what "do unto others" is about?

This thought occurred to me in connection with the Iraq war when NPR had a soldier pointing out that one challenge in Iraq is that they are a very gun happy culture, so knowing whether someone with a gun actually means you harm is quite a challenge. My first thought was "how are they any different than us then?" (cf. Meaning of Life).

Many have suggested, quite correctly IMHO, that part of our failure in both Iraq and the GWOT is our failure to understand foreign cultures. This is certainly true -- we do fail to understand the diversity that enriches our planet without which life would be dull. Indeed, many of us disdain a theory that explains progress from diversity (evolution) in favor of a theory that has an Enlightenment gloss but is almost medieval in its essentialism (ID). But we also fail to understand our own culture and our common human-ness. We want to understand how and why Iraqis are acting the way they do? Well how would Americans act if foreigners invaded and occupied the US -- even if this invasion were to displace a hated dictatorship? You know the answer? We all at some level do, and that's exactly how the Iraqis are acting.

I find it very odd that those who most supported this war, which corresponds often to those who most wish to consider this country a Christian (or "Judeo-Christian" in order not to alienate too much those neo-cons who like to kiss up to fundies anyway) nation, don't get that chief lesson of the religion they (including many neo-cons who themselves are not Christian but fancy themselves to be Strauss-- who's probably rolling in his grave considering what he would think of the neo-cons --'s philosopher caste, not bound by the mores of the common-folk) wish to impose on this country -- that whenever you do anything, you must ask yourself, not WWJD but WWYD -- what would you do if the shoe where on the other foot.

And this call to empathy is not merely a moral call -- it is a very "realistic" one. If you believe in the wisdom of Sun-tsu, e.g., you realize it is important to "know your enemy". But if we refuse to acknowledge how we would act and that our enemy is just like us, how will we ever know our enemy and overcome him? So, even if we are not Christians, we must still learn to ask WWYD? if we want to win the war on terror, e.g.

Just a final thought -- in my religious tradition there is a saying to the effect of "who is strong? he who makes his enemy into his friend". This is another lesson those of us so keen on presenting a "tough guy" image for our nation should learn and apply to international relations, nu?

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