Sunday, February 5, 2006

Talk about missing the point

Wow.  I was so excited by Bono's speech, I just had to share it with some people.  One of the people I chose to share it with is my best friend, who is Jewish.  This guy and I have been friends for about 20 years now and literally talk about six days a week.  But, we have a pretty deep divide when it comes to our faiths- which is a very important part of my life.  So, I look for opportunities to share common ground with him.  I thought the Bono speech was one of those opportunities.  I didn't see much in the speech that a reasonable person could object to.  It was about charity (sedakah in Hebrew), justice, equality all the things that my friend and I do share as common values.  But, guess what, my friend found something there to criticize and it just another revelation to me of just how human nature really is and why we have the deep divides between the races, religions, nations, etc.  It saddened me.   

I sent the link to my friend yesterday.  When I spoke with my friend earlier today about the speech, he acknowledged that it as "pretty good". But, he said that when Bono quoted Torah (the Old Testament to most Christians), he showed his ignorance.  I was a bit taken aback by this comment. But, my friend went on to explain that Bono really didn't understand the passage in Leviticus that he quoted- possibly a fair comment.  We didn't go into that point further.  But, more interestingly, that when Bono quoted Jesus quoting Isaiah, this should have been given credit as a Jewish concept rather than a Christian concept.  My friend limits Christian teachings to the New Testament.  I tried to explain to him (for the 1,000th time) that Christianity is based on Judaism and we see it as inseparable from Judaism.  It's difficult (impossible) to draw a line between Christianity and the Jewish scriptures.  But, his possessiveness of the Jewish scriptures will not allow him to see this.  This is an on-going debate between us and one we've learned to let go after just a few volleys. So, this passed quickly and we moved on to his next criticism of Bono's speech.  That was concerning the American drug companies not giving up their patent rights and helping AIDS patients with low-cost or free drugs.  My friend's problem with this part of the speech was not so much what Bono said.  It was what Bono didn't say.  My friend pointed out that the vast majority of the poor countries' economies go to the Arabs to buy oil and no one critcizes the Arabs for not giving back to the poor countries.  Now, to say my friend is a Zionist is probably an understatement. But, how he got from Bono asking for America to do more to help millions of people who are dying needlessly from curable diseases to anything to do with Arabs surprised even me.  But, then I recalled something I read this morning that brough the whole thing together for me.  I was doing some research on Amazon about Bono's book and reading through the reviews.  When I'm considering a book, I like to read the negative reviews because they've saved me a lot of money over the years.  This review started with:

Yes, this work covers alot of things about Bono. Certain aspects of his so-called 'activism' intrigue me, however. He makes a point of concerning himself with the struggle for human rights worldwide but, to my knowledge, not once has he ever mentioned the plight of the Palestinian people and their racist suppression by a gangster state like Israel.

To be fair, I haven't read the book and I haven't followed Bono extensively.  But, I also found it strange that this reviewer was criticizing Bono for what he hadn't said more than for what Bono had said.   When my friend did the same thing this afternoon, it reinforced something I have been noticing more and more lately.  People see things through filters that can grossly distort our perception of reality.  We all wear them.  There are no purely objective people. The most objective people are those who realize they are wearing filters.  But, this guy criticizes Bono for not mentioning the plight of the Palestinians; while my Zionist friend criticizes him for not mentioning the Arabs lack of compassion. 

Summing up my rant, my friend continued to tell me he got most of the way through the speech then turned it off.   He also made a comment about when we give food aid to the people in Africa, it hurts the farmers.  He didn't have a solution to this problem.  It was just thrown out there as a comment.  If this was a guy who wasn't interested in world events, world politics or chartity, I'd just shrug it off as someone who would rather keep his head in the sand.  There are tons of them out there.  But, my friend takes involvement with world events to a whole new level.  The guy spends more time on blogs, websites, calling people who write Op-Ed pieces, lobbying and stuff like that than any other 100 people I know, combined. I tried moving the conversation to the issues of equality, justice and compassion.  I said "OK, the issue is complex.  But, the bigger issue is Bono is trying to call attention to our lack of focus on the problem and our lack of (equal) concern for human lives."  But, it seems my friend missed this in the speech because he was concerned with making sure Judaism got the proper credit for passages in Isaiah and that Bono didn't make a comment about his favorite political issue (the Arab/Israeli conflict).

I was once again disappointed that I tried to share something that I thought was about as ecumenical and beautiful a speech as someone could make and I got a lukewarm response, at best.  My friend just couldn't hear the message because of the messenger.   The same as the guy with the review of Bono's book and all of the Christians who don't like Bono because he swears, he smokes, he drinks and he's a rock star.

Then, I thought about Jesus.  He came and talked about peace, love, compassion, justice (which means setting wrong things right- not revenge).  And, we killed Him as a rebel and a heretic.  Talk about missing the point!


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