Saturday, July 26, 2014


The key to the relationship between religion and war is the concept of territory.  All religions grow out of a local ecology -- the interacting forces that dictate the economy and therefore the strategies of survival.  If the strategies are successful, the population will expand until it hits limits, sometimes geological and sometimes other people.  If the confrontation is with other unified people, the ecological solutions might be developing a new survival strategy, infiltrating the other people in a symbiotic of trade, or going to war.  War displaces whole populations, making their survival problematic.

In the beginning humans passed innocently through the world, like any other animal, depending on their wits, strategies, or maybe what some call “confrontation hunting,” which depended on a group taking on a big animal like a mammoth with only spears.  

An eBook

In an ebook called “Hunting - Philosophy for Everyone: In Search of the Wild Life” which can be partly read by Googling (a form of hunting), a writer distinguishes between “distant confrontation hunting” which means throwing weapons from a distance, and “close confrontation” which he describes in close detail, claiming that the woolly fur of the mammoth offered handholds so that one hunter could “rodeo” as a distraction while the others drove their sturdy spears into the innards of the beast.  Early humans, who came out of Africa later than Neanderthals, used throwing -- Neanderthals used grappling.  Hunting skills become war skills.

Today we have two even more separated strategies:  REALLY distant hunting, like bombs and missiles which are indiscriminate, or personal representative diplomacy, which offers possible scenarios and consequences by people facing each other across tables.  Then game theory is in play.  When I look at the Netflix movie suggestions, I see very few stories that are not about these various struggles for territory.  In fact, the futuristic dystopias use the loss of habitat, both the structures and functions that supported complex life and the raw land full of plants and animals.  All gone.  In small ways, we do this in cities all the time, tearing down neighborhoods and replacing them.  Sometimes we wall off our territory.

In fact, now that people would rather be “spiritual” than institutional, the church buildings that once seemed to offer sanctuary, continuity and inspiration have become problems.  When we turn to secular life, what happens to the sacred?   The ceremonies of “de-sacralizing” buildings are not much of a solution, but Catholic canon law provides for it. 

Canon 1222 §1 If a church cannot in any way be used for divine worship and there is no possibility of its being restored, the diocesan Bishop may allow it to be used for some secular but not unbecoming purpose.

§2 Where other grave reasons suggest that a particular church should no longer be used for divine worship, the diocesan Bishop may allow it to be used for a secular but not unbecoming purpose. Before doing so, he must consult the council of priests; he must also have the consent of those who could lawfully claim rights over that church, and be sure that the good of souls would not be harmed by the transfer.
Here is a paragraph from the CLSA New Commentary for canon 1212:


If a sacred place is to be given over permanently for profane uses, the competent ordinary should first issue a decree in writing, directed to the person responsible for the sacred place, stating that the place in question is no longer a sacred place and has by the decree lost its dedication or blessing. The issuance of the decree is subject ot the rules for individual administrative acts and individual decrees (cc. 35-47, 48-58), and recourse may be taken against it if a person, physical or juridic, is aggrieved by it. Although a sacred place also loses its dedication or blessing when in fact it has been permanently given over for secular purposes, this is not a legal option for omitting a decree but simply a provision of law in case a decree is not issued. A decree should be issued because it recognizes the authority of the ordinary who had the competence to establish the sacred place, it leaves no uncertainty about the status of the place, and it allows the possibility of recourse.

When the Unitarians left the Unitarian church in Helena, I do not know whether there was a ceremony of deconsecration, but there was a legal provision that it had to be used for a purpose in keeping with the principles of the denomination.  It has been a library and is now a theatre, which are good uses that no one disapproves.  Secular but idealistic.

When a territory is legal rather than sacred it will be recorded according to the laws of the state.  In the case of Valier, one possibility for addressing our infrastructure dilemma -- which is that the people living inside the boundary of the town are taxed to pay for the amenities enjoyed freely by the whole service area in the form of businesses, the school, the library, the churches and so on -- is to disband the town, dissolve the boundaries -- a secular version of deconsecration.  The problem with that is that county officials are not likely to be very protective and the interests of the town might simply dissolve. 

The new Valier Catholic Church

The most concrete vestige of the Belgian origins of Valier is the church that still stands east of the town at the foot of "Belgian Hill" where the communication relays are.  So far as I know, that church has never been deconsecrated though the congregation moved to the church in town.  The cemetery is still visited and neighbors will come to investigate idle visits.

That’s an immediate example.  There are ecological examples like the NW spotted owls in timber who displace the barred owls which then come back to displace spotted owls, or possibly merge.  There are scorched earth human industrial examples like the wheat fields around Valier that have eliminated microbiota, root networks, whole species -- replacing them not just with rows of genetically altered wheat but also saturating the earth with poisons.  And installing tall windmills that change air currents, shake the earth, and throw off microwaves we can’t even detect.  Yet.  We have declared war on ourselves, with little success since the population doesn’t diminish -- merely suffers.  A new microwave tower has been installed just outside Valier that will solve the problem of the service shadow cast by the Cargill-built elevators because it is taller.  More, taller, straighter, replicated. 

It could be a relief to resort to “close confrontation war” to claim back our territory of prairie and buffalo -- or even the open range.   But it’s not possible so in our frustration we quarrel with each other.  One cannot bomb a stubble field in any useful way.  There is no way to war.  We’ve got to use words on paper, faces across tables.  That means education and creating coalitions -- not depending on separatism.  If we look at the older millennial history of this land, it is daunting -- a story of a people whose land was taken from them. 

The Thirty Years War in Belgium

If we look at the history of the Belgian people we see war.  At first the usual scatter of kingdoms, divided among various allegiances, including ownership by the Roman Catholic church, then separating by languages into loyalty to Netherlands, France, and Luxemborg, and finally, after the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) and the earlier Eighty Years' War (1568-1648), becoming a nation in the modern sense in 1830.  This is little more than twenty-five years AFTER Lewis and Clark came through and twenty years BEFORE the prairie tribes signed the first big treaty.

Today Brussels, Belgium, is the headquarters of NATO and the European Union, which it supported.  But Belgium has its dark side of early industrial development and failure to achieve real unity, partly because of language differences which always means different assumptions about the nature and goal of human beings.  The darkest side of all was in the Belgian Congo where many of the contemporary ghastly practices of mutilation, slavery, and oppression were brought to the local people by King Leopold.  The demoralizing scandal resulting from knowledge of this broke just before WWI, about the time that Cargill bought the 7 Block Ranch.  

It was the irrigation project that created Lake Francis as a holding reservoir that also caused the development of the town of Valier, beginning with the big boom that was dam and canal construction.  The town was incorporated in 1910, more than a century ago.  Now we are pressed to renew the aging infrastructure and come to terms with legal neglect of water allocation with the Blackfeet tribe.  So should we do “close confrontation” or “distant confrontation”?  Or just run?  But to where? For some of us, this is our sacred place.  Our holy land.

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