I am a man in his sixties, mostly of Danish, Norman French, and English ancestry. I enjoy a glass a wine. I drink too much coffee. I have a particular affection for the human form in art and otherwise. In many ways, I am a sensualist.
I am also an active member of the Jesus movement. I understand my spiritual tradition to be well-rooted in and watered by Judaism. I recognize Islam as a closely-related tradition — in some ways the original protestants — who have preserved and extended a web of spiritual notions gradually excluded by the post-Constantinian Church.
I am especially taken by the Koran’s characterization of the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist. For me it is entirely coherent with Gospel accounts… and much more extensive.
On Tuesday I sent and received several Rohatsu greetings, celebrating the anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment.
I understand Ultimate Reality — what I sometimes call God — to be radically open to constant flux. Reality is predisposed to freedom and creativity. Randomness is one necessary aspect of this freedom. Chaos is how we may characterize our experience of reality.
I also perceive that deeply woven into our universal context are strange attractors quite adept at maintaining certain boundaries. In most ways, the behavior of Ultimate Reality is precisely unpredictable, but in many other ways: discoverable, dependable, and — while beyond proofs positive — potentially (and innately) self-restrained. God is reasonable, Aquinas thought he had proven.
To some all of this makes me an infidel (and for others, dangerously religious). I honor the material world. I am religiously syncretic. I perceive God to be self-restraining. The God of Spinoza? Heretic.
To the extent that I actively quote Tanakh, Gospel, Talmud, Koran, Hadith, Sutra, Newton, Einstein, Heisenberg, and Bohr in arguing these perceptions, I am demonstrably Satanic. A Tempter. An Impediment. A Spiritual Rebel.
I am not being ironic. I understand and — at a certain level — even empathize with the critique.
They crave certainty. They perceive rather specific guarantees. They preach and try to practice a strict formula that they are convinced can unfold into universal peace and happiness. If only humanity would submit to this discipline, a holy justice, equality, and love would be experienced by all.
In my stubborn rebellion I not only condemn myself, but I endanger thousands of others. I am perpetuating the pain of sin and separation. Eliminating me would speed the reconciliation of humanity to its true calling.
Earlier this year ISIS was quite explicit in one of their English-language publications (Dabiq) regarding this separation of sheep from goats, wheat from chaff, good from evil. They paraphrased Osama bin Laden (who drew on George W. Bush): “The world today is divided into two camps. Bush spoke the truth when he said, ‘either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.’ Meaning either you are with the crusade or you are with Islam.”
Today those associated with Raqqa perceive too many Muslims (the vast majority) reside in what they call a “grey zone”, a shadowland between the light of certain truth and the darkness of ambiguity that I personify. Too many modern Muslims share some of my corrupt predilections. They must be motivated to turn from darkness and toward the light.
One of the best ways to achieve this is for darkness to expel them. Again in Dabiq — published to be read by English-speaking Muslims — they wrote,
The Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices, they either apostatize and adopt the kufri [infidel] religion propagated by Bush, Obama, Blair, Cameron, Sarkozy, and Hollande in the name of Islam so as to live amongst the kuffar [infidels] without hardship, or they perform hijrah [emigrate] to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens… Muslims in the crusader countries will find themselves driven to abandon their homes for a place to live in the Khilafah, as the crusaders increase persecution against Muslims living in Western lands so as to force them into a tolerable sect of apostasy in the name of ‘Islam’ before forcing them into blatant Christianity and democracy.
The coordinated attack on Paris was well-timed, intentionally or not, to influence the French regional elections. Sunday the first phase produced an outcome very satisfying to Raqqa. The anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim National Front Party garnered more votes (28%) than the Socialists (23%) or conservative Les Republicains (27%).
The leaders of ISIS pray to a Power that they are certain can make Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump servants of His purpose: to eliminate the grey, clarify black from white, fulfill their vision of division and certainty.
This is a self-interested warping of reality. In my experience the mixing of dark and light, night and day, is not grey. At dawn and twilight what I most often see is pink to crimson, saffron to gold, and cerulean to ebony. This morning there was a crescent moon rising to meet the bright planet named for a once-upon goddess of love.
These places between light and darkness are beautiful. I welcome sharing them with anyone who is ready to look east in the morning or west in the evening. I understand how this makes me the enemy of ISIS and others committed to certainty. In this recognition, I am even more motivated to enjoy — and defend — these in-between places. Those who have been excluded or expelled are especially welcome. Given your experience with extremists, your insight is especially needed.