Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 25, 2014

Another strategic narrative

Filed under: Catastrophes — by Philip J. Palin on December 25, 2014

Greek Opening of Gospel of John

God looms large in homeland security, though we seldom say so.

Arguments over God — the nature of reality, what is right and wrong, and prospects for atonement — precipitate acts of terror.

Acts of God — Force Majeure — are subjects of ongoing strategic engagement.

Recently I was in discussion with a long-time peace officer, together we were trying to make sense of a treacherous situation.  He has a PhD.  We both are proud children of the Enlightenment.  Each of us accustomed to practically engaging problems.  Yet we decided that, at least for the moment, we must leave this particular problem to prayer. And, he confessed, to tears.

God is a metaphor for a mystery that absolutely transcends all human categories of thought, even the categories of being and non-being. (Joseph Campbell)

What Campbell perceives as metaphorical many have encountered as palpably physical, emerging from the encounter transformed.  This is typically an experience difficult to articulate.  But it becomes their very source of being.

From this source some are motivated to frenetic external action, others to placid mindfulness. Either seeming extreme to those outside the experience.

In all the great spiritual traditions we are also warned of our shared tendency toward error and corruption. We pollute direct experience with self-serving explanations or — even worse — confuse our finite understanding as encompassing the infinite.

God is being-itself.  After this has been said nothing else can be said about God as God which is not symbolic. (Paul Tillich)

In my particular tradition this is a day dense with symbolism.  It is our story that God has become human, infinite becoming finite, author and character are now as one.  In this synthesis many encounter a compelling metaphor for living authentically.

Our metaphor is replete with injustice, suffering, torture, and agonizing death. Also friendship, feasting, forgiveness, extravagant gifts and considerable drinking of wine. The master-metaphor is reinforced with a crowded collection of metaphorical set-pieces, most of which suggest tension and conflict as furrows from which love may flower.

Within this intricate system of metaphor, allegory and parable there are plenty of contradictions, but also intriguing coherence. Reasonable expectations are consistently overturned. There is unrelenting delight in words that surprise, shattering settled understanding, and seducing any having ears to radically re-imagine human possibility. It is a reality — close-at-hand, in-our-face — in which paradox is beautifully persistent, creatively prolific, and profoundly powerful.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and lived among us. (The Gospel of John)

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1 Comment »

Comment by Michael Brady

December 25, 2014 @ 10:49 am


Thank you for your thoughtful take on a rich mythopoetic narrative that has shaped – for better and worse – Western civilization.

Merry Christmas!


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