The moral arc of the universe bends slowly, slightly, a strand at a time, but it finally strains toward justice. Our opposition to evil persons may bring pain to our own house; the good does not always win, it ultimately wins. How soon good triumphs is directly in line with the stridence of our opposition to evil.
If we oppose evil we serve as a lever on the arc of the universal movement to justice. A lever lifts the weight, intent to push its object forward. There are times a lever finds the friction opposing it so great it must wait for more force to come behind it, but, at the very least, the lever we become accomplishes this; it prevents a reactionary force against change. If our generation accomplishes nothing else, we must at least leave the place the way we found it.
So, we ask ourselves, how did we find the moral arc of our universe pushing forward when we set our shoulder with it? In the past one hundred years (a drop in the ocean of history) free people have twice defeated powers of evil in armed combat; free societies another totalitarian power without total war that would have meant complete destruction; the oldest surviving democracy on the planet forced one supreme leader to resign, impeached another without removing him and, then, somehow, elected a person of color to the highest office in the land and transferred power without violence.
There is hope. The moral arc of the universe trims its path, an inch or so an era; this fellow is made free by that fellow, who, himself, becomes better in the act of liberation. Sometimes only the shadow of the moral arc makes perceptible progress, but a forward leaning shadow is still a promise and a promise might one day be redeemed..
H’im tirtsu, ayn zeh haggadah
If you will it to be so, this is no legend.
The Hebrew Bible, which brings us our Messiah, who brings us our religion, is a history book, from before there were history books. Religion is a matter of history, so, naturally, theologians love history. We cannot have religion without history. We cannot understand our religion unless we know our history. The Perfect Villain of this piece, the Common Man, who is ever and always the Founder of Modern Monotheism, requires us to know our history, the language of our history and the meaning of our ritual.
Do you see? Religion is about history, language and ritual.
The Old Testament religion is about revenge. Adam and Eve; Cain and Abel; God and Sodom; Joseph and his brothers; vengeance stories all and a hundred more. Jesus takes the Old Testament tribal hatreds and turns them inside out, as is the divine intention. All the old revenge disappears under the Sh’ma, Israel, in which a band of refugee shepherds announce that God is, well, God, not a bunch of little gods. God is neither contrary, nor capricious. The descendants of those shepherds, the ones who moved out onto the world stage, have each one done something to push forward this idea; the unity of all happenings Einstein, with his unified field theory: Marx, dragging out the dialectic theory to force economics to be about oneness; Freud, the analytical thinker who demonstrated all persons, both genders, are alike in their urges and repressions, thus, to show, inwardly, we are all the same: the great Jewish thinkers of our history have all marched under the banner Sh’ma, though they would denied its intrinsic religious value.
I do not wish to be considered anti-Semitic, but the religious thinker, Jesus the Christ, is the One whose thinking actually holds up, from his day to ours and into the future. Einstein’s unified theory is under weltering attack from modern physicists. Marx did not account for competitiveness, or greed. Freud thought sex explained everything, while many analysts today think fear of death and uncertainty of what comes next accounts for more psychosis than Oedipus. A good dose of repentance might cure the whole mess.
Jesus got Himself killed teaching all persons, Jews and Gentiles, men and women, should replace the tribal vengeance of the Old Testament with the Oneness of Humankind. God is not God for you and him, but resistant to her and to me. His teachings echo the Sh’ma; the One God is the purveyor of certainty, which comes to us only by faith. Of all the great thinkers to step out of the Sh’ma, alone among the crowd, His teachings hold up.
He is the One who leans against the lever pressed against the moral arc of the universe. He will correct the error.