Via Neflix streaming I am engrossed in episodes of the BBC series MI-5, subtitled “spooks.” It’s an intelligent alternative to, say, 24. The acting is superb, the characters interesting, and the writing brilliant. That’s what the Brits like to say—brilliant. The series began in 2002 and is still going, I think, although I’m just now finishing up season 3.
While England lacked its own 9/11, it has suffered numerous bombings and serious threats, placing the country on a state of high alert, clearly manifest in the telecasts. The real MI-5 has had its hands full trying to foil would-be attacks, much as our FBI-cum-Homeland Security apparatus does here. England has an awful lot of CCTVs, too.
I’ve just watched a couple of episodes dealing with Muslim terrorist bombings and close calls. The BBC, in a nod to equal opportunity, engages Christian fundamentalists in similar attacks.
Indeed, there are true believers in nearly every sect bent on a holy war to settle things once and for all. I’m appalled by such extremism and the rationalization of violence in furtherance of a greater cause. (To be sure, MI-5 carries out the same calculus, at least on TV, with the agency’s head instructing a subordinate to “kill him,” on more than one occasion.) One reason for my revulsion is that I am generally a peaceful man, eschewing physical violence and abhorring state-sponsored murder—capital punishment. I don’t care much for war, either.
Moreover, I simply cannot fathom the primacy of religious beliefs in savage behavior. MI-5 will have a Muslim cleric tell an ardent follower to bomb the hell out of a train station and himself to boot. It’s all in a good cause, you see, because the martyred follower is promised celestial virgins, or some such crap. So the Muslims run around saying “Allah” while killing innocents. “Death to infidels.”
Christianity, of course, is no stranger to these attitudes. A very nasty bunch down through the ages: the Crusades, Protestants against Catholics, Catholics purging other Catholics, and so on.
Nearly every religion can be called upon to sacrifice, murder, maim, or imprison others or their own. There are few exceptions that come to mind, perhaps the Amish or the Quakers. But Nixon was a Quaker, so what the hell.
I was baptized and raised in the Roman Catholic church. Through my childhood I was a dutiful member, confessing my sins and then taking holy communion. (It’s really, I mean really, the body and blood of Christ Jesus. Okay.) One good thing about being an adult Catholic is that you could drink, unlike, say, the Mormons and the Muslims. I’ve witnessed a few drunken priests in my day. Heck, you can even drink wine during Mass.
The church has come in for a lot of deserving heat of late. It seems that far too many young men enter the seminary so that they can later fool around with boys, permanently damaging their pubescent psyches.
Nor is the church hierarchy timid in issuing directives to the faithful, although I’ve yet to hear “death to infidels.” In addition to the biblical commandments, there’s a seemingly endless list of don’t dos.
But my biggest disappointment in the Vatican and its direct reports (cardinals and bishops) is their failure, if they’re even wont to try, to loudly and publicly condemn wars and violence. Hell, they even have priests in the barracks. Yes, there is the just war doctrine. That is, it’s okay to slaughter provided you follow the rules.
Here’s what I’d like to see from Rome, although I certainly won’t hold my breath. It would be in the form of a proclamation, something like this:
Henceforth, it shall be a grave mortal sin to kill another human being, regardless of circumstances!
There are an awful lot of Catholics in the military and in public office promoting the use of force and the stealing of precious resources from the Rest of Us. I have in mind Eisenhower’s speech wherein he said: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
Why couldn’t those words emanate from the mouth of the Pope?
In the final analysis, however, John Lennon said it best: “Imagine no religion.”