Songs of Peace & War

LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION COLUMN FOR

December 1, 2012 by William H. Scarle, Jr.

The season of song is upon us.  Music fills the air at shopping malls and down town areas.  And the music tells us who we are and probably what or who we worship.  In our Western culture much of the music of Christmas is religious.  To be frank, there was a time when all the music of the season was religious.  However, we have learned to worship lesser gods.  Now we sing about winter wonderlands, imaginary characters like reindeer with red noses and snow men who can talk.  We sing about nostalgic family reunions and even sing about singing and the music of bells.  And, of course, there are the songs about getting stuff.  However, it all started with “Joy to the world; the Lord has come.”

Many of our religious songs this season have to do with peace.  They reflect the original angelic message of “Peace on earth, good will to men.”  This longing for peace is part and parcel of our biblical heritage and it is a good thing to reflect upon it in the light of the lack of peace in the Middle East, where the Prince of Peace was born to a Jewish Mother named Miriam.  Philips Brooks wrote his “O Little Town of Bethlehem” while reflecting on a recent journey to Israel.  The second stanza reads; “For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above, While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondrous love.  O morning stars, together Proclaim the holy birth, And praises sing to God the King, And peace to men on earth.”

The second stanza of another Christmas favorite, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” goes as follows.  “Yet with the woes of sin and strife The world has suffered long, Beneath the angel strain have rolled Two thousand years of wrong; And man at war with man, hears not The love song which they bring:  O hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing.”

This longing for peace is not universal in the heart of humanity.  Neither is it a universal element in the religions of the world.  It has been infused into our culture by the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, the Holy Bible which has held so revered a place in the minds and hearts of those who went before us in the Western world.  Of course the Bible did not originate in the so called West.  Its source was Israel.  Both the Prophets and the Apostles were Jews.

Listen to the latest pop song coming out of the Moslem world, recorded by Shadi al-Bourini and Qassem al-Najjar and posted last week on various Palestinian websites.  “Strike a blow at Tel-Aviv.  Strike a blow at Tel-Aviv.  Strike a blow at Tel-Aviv and frighten the Zionists.  The more you build it, the more we will destroy it.  Strike a blow at Tel-Aviv.  We don’t want no truce or bargain.  Explode in the Knesset and terrorize Tel-Aviv.”

There is a vast moral distance between the Christian West and the Islamic world.  The moral anchor of our American culture is surely slipping.  It needs to be reset.  But the recent obscenities of Gaza’s Hamas government sending thousands of rockets into Israel aimed at civilian populations and the advent of the Christmas season displays a vast moral disparity that we need to recognize.  Al Aqsa TV, the official Hamas run television channel, has been airing messages extoling suicide bombing and threatening Israel with increased attacks.  The incessant motto of jihad is reiterated over and over: “We love death more than you love life.”   There is no “peace on earth” here.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at ravscarle@verizon.net).

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