Saturday, September 15, 2012
The Two-edged Sword
In the annals of human history, the invention of the sword is surely a turning point; it's importance ranks right up at the top of the list, along with the first use of that most laudable invention of all, the wheel.
I suppose the first application of a sharpened implement was used by prehistoric humans for gathering and preparing food. But I'm sure it wasn't long before some irate or jealous neanderthal discovered its advantageous wielding for more nefarious purposes, such as murder or maiming.
If you're not into the neanderthal explanation, think of this bipolar principle of homo sapiens behavior in terms of Cain and Abel.
Love it or hate it, this sharp implement has been used for many millennia to advance the various purposes of our species, and its power has much to do with our ascendancy over the lesser species of the animal kingdom.
In human relations, the damned thing has been swung forever, by men, to inflict injury, pain, destruction, and death, on other men. On the other hand, the same weapon has long been applied by the nobler ones among us to defend the weak and the innocent against such atrocities, thus administering a thing that we call justice.
In the ascent of human ethics and society, "the sword" became, over time, something more than an implement or a weapon. It became an idea, a two-edged concept. On one edge of the sword is crime cruel atrocity; on the other is justice and defense.
Looking at history, we see undeniable evidence for the frequent use of both edges of "the sword", the good side and the bad.
It reflects the dual nature of Man. On one side we are rotten to the core; on the other we are redeemed, and noble.
The sword has been used for thousand of years to enforce and extend various religious movements and agendas.
Very controversial in the ancient history of the Middle East is the use of the sword by Joshua and his Israeli tribes to subdue the Canaanites, on behalf of J'…h. Several thousand years later, Mohammed swept across the middle east crescent with his band of conquering Muslims, asserting righteousness with the sword in the name of Allah.
That little skirmish is still at center of all our international politics here on planet earth.
Jewish tradition proclaims that Moses gave us Law, so that men could live with each other having at least some semblance of societal order; since that strategy wasn't exactly working out as planned, Mohammed came along thousands of years later, to enforce the correction needed to establish righteousness upon the earth.
Neither of these has worked as effectively, to quell the belligerent manipulations of mankind, as their founders might have intended.
In the midst of these two sword-swinging religious traditions, and between them historically, there came Jesus, who grew up in a town called Nazareth, which is somewhere between Damascus and Jerusalem. This Jesus, whom I regard as Messiah, and deliverer of mankind from its evil nature, did not wield the sword, as Joshua and Mohammed had done. Instead, he laid the weapon thing down and preached peace and forgiveness, which is considered foolish and naive in this present arrangement of the world. But in the kingdom of God, which is our fortunate destiny as earth-dwellers, his good news receives more favorable reception.
When his right-hand-man, Peter, drew the sword in retaliation against the oppressive, arrestive Roman sword, Jesus instructed Peter to put the thing away. Their were higher principles at work in those events than the impetuous power of the sword could impose.
This Jesus is the one about whom I wrote a song in 1979, when the Iranian revolutionaries took our embassy and hostages in Teheran. About ten years ago, some friends of mine gathered in our hometown, Boone, North Carolina, USA, to help me in recording it. I hope you have a few minutes to give it a listen and consider the message therein.