The title of this translation of Homer’s Illiad by Robert Graves is the inspiration for today’s post. As a newbie Catholic who has long studied ancient Egypt, I feel compelled today to make my first piece about a true “slaughter of the innocents“: Suicide Bomber Kills 21 and Wounds 79 in Blast Outside of Coptic Church in Alexandria, Egypt. This image from that event now haunts my psyche:
I am angry at this desecration and needless death. Now, as a Christian who loves Egypt, what can I do about it?
I am just a working mom in Southern California, with a lap-top and activist spirit — so in reality, probably not much. But, I thought I would start off exploring the concept of anger and “Just War”, as well as make it a point to pray for Egypt’s Copts during all church services I now attend. Serendipitously, the History Channel just showed “Seven Deadly Sins – Anger” this week (you can watch the episodes free HERE), which has caused me to reflect upon the sin of those seven for which I a probably the most guilty. (MUT Note: I have mixed feelings about The History Channel; sometimes it’s great, sometimes awful).
A few items that captured my attention:
* Troy fell at great cost, in part because of the anger of Achilles, at great cost to both the Greeks and their vanquished foe. Achilles, because he was pissed at Agamemnon for stealing a slave girl, stopped fighting and subsequently caused the war to last a decade. Achilles’ anger was NOT based on reason or justice, and subsequently her harmed himself and his compatriots dreadfully.
* It’s not as if God never got angry. In fact God really got ticked-off at humanity on at least THREE SEPARATE OCCASIONS. (MUT NOTE: I will also note that the Egyptians were not exactly given the kid-glove treatment prior to the Exodus, either).
* Jesus also had moments of extreme righteous anger, too. Here is a nice piece from EWTN reviewing righteous anger: Anger is the passion (emotion) by which a man reacts to evil, real or apparent, and seeks vindication of his rights, that is, justice. By itself the passion is neither moral or immoral, but becomes so by reason or its being ordered or disordered – that is, reasonable according to the circumstances. An ordered anger is directed to a legitimate object, and, with an appropriate degree of vehemence.
* Anger is the deadliest, and in many respects, the most powerful of the “seven deadlies“! Subsequently, it is Satan who is the CEO of that particular sin (though formal lists also note the COO, Amon — whose name is based on that of a leading ancient Egyptian divinity…so no wonder why I struggle with this one!)
Getting back to the tragedy in Alexandria, perhaps the most pertinent point brought up in The History Channel Show is this: Of all religions, it was the Jews and then the Christians that first highlighted the fact that the way you treated fellow humans was as important as how you treated a divinity. Per Matthew 22:37-40 — Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
I used defend “moderate Muslims”. I must admit that over the years, I have developed some real ambivalence (it started with the beheading of a Muslim woman in New York by her Muslim TV executive husband). I see little sustained effort by Islamic religious leaders and laypeople to denounce the terrorists and stem the heinous acts conducted in the name of Islam. One aspect of evaluating “faith actions” I learned from my RCIA class is to “look at the fruits” that are derived from that act. So far, the “fruits” have not been all that savory. Two events add fuel to my ambivalence fire: 1) The Muslim security personnel seem to have been tipped off about the bombing and fled the scene; and, 2) Muslims blamed Israel’s Mossad for targeting the Copts (in case you didn’t know, Mossad is also responsible for killer sharks).
The car explosion that went off in front of Saints Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria killed 21 and injured 96 parishioners who were attending a New Year’s Eve Mass. According to church officials and eyewitnesses, there are many more victims that are still unidentified and whose body parts were strewn all over the street outside the church. The body parts were covered with newspapers until they were brought inside the church after some Muslims started stepping on them and chanting Jihadi chants.
Then, just as my heart begins to harden, the Anchoress reports this: Muslims Protecting Christians with their Bodies (please read the whole thing)
Egypt’s majority Muslim population stuck to its word Thursday night. What had a been a promise of solidarity to the weary Coptic community, was honoured, when thousands of Muslims showed up at Coptic Christmas eve mass services in churches around the country and at candle light vigils held outside.
From the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.
“We either live together, or we die together,” was the sloganeering genius of Mohamed El-Sawy, a Muslim arts tycoon whose cultural centre distributed flyers at churches in Cairo Thursday night, and who has been credited with first floating the “human shield” idea.
Among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular preacher Amr Khaled, the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak, and thousands of citizens who have said they consider the attack one on Egypt as a whole.
“This is not about us and them,” said Dalia Mustafa, a student who attended mass at Virgin Mary Church on Maraashly. “We are one. This was an attack on Egypt as a whole, and I am standing with the Copts because the only way things will change in this country is if we come together.”
Obviously, some Muslims understand the second of the BIG TWO COMMANDMENTS quite well. So, I think it is wise for everyone to take a look at the actions of individuals, and the fruits of those actions, instead of painting everyone of the faith with a big, black brush.
But, what to do with the anger? The Coptic language is derived from the language of ancient Egypt, written in Greek letters. I attended a service at the St. Mary Coptic Church in Cairo, Egypt in 1988 — one of the steps on the road my personal journey to the Catholic Church. Attending that service, listening to the prayers in Coptic Egyptian while witnessing rites steeped in history, was profound. One one of my many business flights in the 1990’s, I had the privilege of talking to a devout Egyptian-American Copt for several hours, who was delighted to talk to another American who was somewhat versed about his church’s history. So, the attacks on the Copts is more personal to me; however, all the attacks on Christians by Muslims in the Middle East is truly disturbing.
I have been reading the “Bad Catholics Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins“. The chapter on “Wrath” is yellow with highlights. In this book comes this quote which I think strikes the right chord: “The Chruch teaches that we must show mercy, except when it enables or encourages others to sin, When we do that, we are complicit in their sin. Often, we must insist on strict justice for ourselves and innocent others.”
So, we Catholics can’t, and shouldn’t, just “roll over” — we must find a way to stop terror killings without becoming an anger-filled agent of Satan, blind to justice at steeped in our own, flawed, version of vengeance. Whatever else, we must do all we can to support the efforts against Islam’s terror leaders — so as not to encourage them to continue breaking God’s laws and spitting on His justice. I think now is also a good time to review the catechism for “Just War.” Here is a snippet:
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.
While keeping the Copts in my prayers, I will also endeavor to find out a site for donating to those Copts, for support and assistance. Please check back for updates.