Mark Twain once said that God invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey. Given the recent behavior of humankind throughout the world, one wonders if God isn’t disappointed in man too.
Like many of the great writer’s aphorisms, this one is both humorous and sad.
Look at what’s happening in the holy city of Jerusalem to understand the sad part; the negative nature of humankind on display. Such a display of hatred and violence must greatly disappoint the Creator, and such behavior makes the possible lighter side of Twain’s comment insignificant.
No doubt God continues to love us; that unconditional love is God’s greatest gift to humankind and well beyond our understanding.
It is especially baffling when we watch, day after day, the killing and rioting at the outskirts of the “holy city.”
On May 14 the United States officially opened its embassy in Jerusalem — breaking years of tradition which saw the U.S. maintain an embassy in Tel Aviv. That decision let the U.S. steer clear of the controversy that most diplomats knew would arise if we appeared to take sides on the issue of who owns Jerusalem. This city that Jesus once entered on the back of a donkey lies at the heart of the conflict between both sides of Abraham’s family — the Israeli’s whose lineage is traced to Isaac, and the Palestinians (and other Arabs) who are the children of Abraham’s other son, Ishmael.
While its embassy remained in Tel Aviv, the U.S. for years attempted to mediate a settlement of disputes between Israel and the Palestinians. Now most of the world sees the U.S. embassy move as tantamount to recognizing Israel as the sole owner of Jerusalem.
But enough diplomatic history. Whether the move was right or wrong can be left to historians and diplomats to decide. But this much we know: this is a holy city, valued greatly by Jews, the followers of Islam and Christians alike. Muslims see Jerusalem as part of Palestine; to Israelis the city is theirs and only theirs.
So when the embassy was moved, all hell broke loose.
On that first day, more than 2,700 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli troops — at least 57 of them were killed, according to the Associated Press. On May 16 during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis noted what was happening and expressed his sadness.
“I am very worried about the intensifying tensions in the Holy Land and the Middle East, and about the spiral of violence that increasingly leads away from the path of peace, dialogue and negotiations,” he said.
He expressed sadness for those killed and injured, and offered prayers for “all who are suffering,” a story by the Catholic News Service said. The pope noted that the fighting at the walls surrounding Jerusalem would never lead to a path to reconciliation for all the parties involved.
“War is called war, violence is called violence,” he said. “I invite all those involved and the international community to renew their commitment so that dialogue, justice and peace may prevail.” He then sent good wishes “to all Muslims at the start of their holy month of Ramadan.”
“May this special time of prayer and fasting help in walking the path of God, which is the path of peace,” he said.
But so far that path appears to be a maze, filled with dead ends and wrong turns. While millions around the world are praying for peace, the violence continues — tanks and machine guns against rocks and slingshots and the occasional missile fired into Israel by the terrorist group Hamas.
It seems never ending, this violence, and it makes the words of a hymn we all know seem melancholy.
People of many denominations, Baptists, Methodists as well as Catholics, have for decades sung “The Holy City,” by Stephen Adams and Frederick Weatherly. And deep in the emotional words and etherial images lies a hopeful stanza:
“I saw the Holy City
Beside the tideless sea.
The light of God was on its streets,
The gates were open wide,
And all who would might enter,
And no one was denied.”
Let us pray that one day those words represent reality. Let us hope our prayers for peace are answered.
Record Editor Emeritus