by Ares Demertzis (May 2009)
It was evening, the prelude to that dreaded, protracted obscurity of seemingly endless night. The sky was handsomely streaked with crimson and indigo, amber and violet, vermilion and fuchsia, reproducing those alluring, decorative colors of autumn that celebrate incipient death. To the east, a snow capped Mount Lebanon thrust a silvery, humped silhouette into the darkening cerulean sky. Orange city lights flickered reluctantly to life along the Corniche, which fell abruptly into the wine dark sea of the Mediterranean. Frothing waves crashed against the promontory, spraying a scent of primeval iodine and salt.
A crescent moon was temporarily suspended beside the tenebrous, foreboding silhouette of a mosque´s minaret; the comforting serenity of twilight shattered by a muezzin calling faithful Muslims to prayer with his melodious, mesmerizing chant, the adhan.
They were sitting at a small outdoor café. Two men. One wizened and heavily bearded, dressed in the traditional black robes of an Eastern Rite Christian cleric; the other, clothed in white, was an ethereal young man, also bearded.
“Priest,” the younger man said, continuing their conversation, “you are blaspheming.”
“I am encouraged to hear this word being uttered by a professed unbeliever.”
“I shall always be, until the end of time, antagonistic to ordered and controlled religion, but with an abiding faith in something greater than myself of which I am a part.”
“And to your mind, I am blaspheming.” It was not a question.
“I chose that specific word with care, in order to communicate my thoughts in a religious context that would be most familiar to you. Blasphemy is what I consider to be the contravention of Nature; that Cosmic Force which you refer to as your anthropomorphic God, the Creator of the Universe.”
The priest sucked on his nargileh, exhaling a cloud of aromatic smoke that veiled his features without comment.
“I accuse you of blasphemy, Priest, because you have taken it upon yourself to disobey the very essence of the Laws of Nature; to insolently disparage, and capriciously deny its most basic doctrine. You have imposed the aberrant concept of the inviolability of life that Creation itself disallows. Since time immemorial, species have been created and extinguished; Nature is indifferent to suffering. Conflict is the cynosure of creation, emerging in Scripture with the murder by an envious Cain of his brother Abel; “Timshel” the Lord God said to Cain, promising that he could, or would, overcome this sin. Life is a struggle between prey and predator; the goal is survival. Life always takes precedence. Why, even seemingly immobile, passive vegetation is aggressively murderous, strangling one the other to stay alive. A silent, ceaseless war waged day after day, night after night, with no mercy. Plants do not cringe at the death and destruction that surrounds them.”
“Jesus said Thou shalt do no murder, Mathew 19:18.”
"Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.
“You are confused. That is the Hebrew Yahweh. We fashioned a new Covenant with a forgiving, tolerant God through Jesus Christ. “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you,” Luke 6:27.”
“Priest, if we take this concept of non-violence to the flawlessly logical, albeit most extreme and ridiculous conclusion of the Jainists, it disintegrates into caricature. The Jain avoid injuring even the air by wearing a mask over their mouth, they gently sweep away insects before them as they walk, and elect to die through voluntary starvation rather than cause pain to what would be their nourishment. Perhaps I am the appropriate one to question the unquestionable: Can it be that the Christ was mistaken? After all, there is much contradiction to be found in the writing of the New Testament.”
“Now it is you who are blaspheming.”
“What if I were to tell you that there is intractable evil in the world that can only be overcome with violence? Allah, who is considered a merciful and compassionate Deity in the Holy Book of Islam insists that Muslims have a right, no, more than that, a perpetual duty to murder and enslave the whole of mankind that will not submit to them.”
Out of the shadow cast by the mosque, a figure unexpectedly appeared, casually approaching their table. The man was smiling with calm satisfaction; overly dressed for such a balmy evening, with only a gentle breeze gusting inland from the cool waters of the sea beyond.
The young man leaned across the table and whispered. “That man is an assassin. He has come to take your life. He has been indoctrinated to believe the perverse and shameless falsehood that as a reward for tonight´s savage carnage he will be welcomed to Allah´s bosom in Janat, surrounded by seventy two virgins and twenty eight pubescent boys who will attend to his permanent erection.” He placed a revolver on the table, sliding it toward the priest.
The priest glanced at the approaching figure; his gaze turned and rested briefly on the revolver, then he faced the young man.
“Verily I say unto you, all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith so ever they shall blaspheme.”
“Does this God of yours condone suicide?”
“Alahu Akbar!” The Bedouin conjurer ecstatically shouted the compulsory invocation.
When the authorities were recovering the scattered limbs, shredded flesh, bone fragments, brain tissue, hair, mangled footwear and shredded garments, someone found a small, portable tape recorder covered with blood. Pushing the play button, a conversation could be heard. After the thunderous explosion, the young man´s voice remarkably continued tranquilly addressing the priest in an archaic idiom which no one understood. He said:
“Your flock is committing suicide, Priest. Not a self-inflicted suicide, but a suicide nonetheless, through meekness; the turning of the other cheek.”
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