I wrote this about four years ago on a different blog while I was living in Japan. I'm now reading another book by the same author, but wrestling with the same things. I would like to say that my spelling, grammar, and logic improved in the past four years...but they haven't. Here's the post:
A Pagan Greek Ethos Continued
I am in the computer lab at school and I do not have the book with me, so I will have to do most of this from memory. I fear that a good night's rest did not make me more articulate. Here goes.
Cahill writes about Greek Culture and how it effected Western Civilization. He uses Homer's poems The Iliad and The Odyssey as a frame work to make his observations. He spends the first portion of the book writing about The Greek Warrior. He toys around with another historian's ideas about war. I fail to remember his name at the moment, but it is more important that America's Vice President quotes this historian a lot.
This influential historian writes that America should not let its Judeo-Christian roots constrain it anymore. He says that War is inevitable and that we should further our country's interests even at the cost of others...through military conquest. That is the pagan Greek ethos and a scary thought. Cahill does not subscribe to it. He critiques militarism in the context of Greek conquest and our current war on terror.
He uses the Greeks as a starting point because they of course are not the first to engage in military conquest, but they were influential on people like Alexander the great. Cahill suggests that militarism might be at the end of its effectiveness. In the days of Greece, the bigger forces always won. That paradigm usually proved true down through history, with few exceptions (Vietnam, Little Big Horn, Thermopile).
Cahill says that disaster lurks in every shadow. He boldly suggests that the war on terrorism should not be fought only with military might. He thinks the old problem of having an enemy requires a new solution. But I wonder if this 'new solution' is really new.
Isn't that what Paul was teaching in the Christian testament? Doesn't this idea seem familiar? Of course we should have a military, and of course we must stand up to oppression, but how easily we forget that our battle is not of this world. Our first struggle is not with "flesh and blood." Our first battle is spiritual in nature. Cahill's idea shouldn't have seemed so revolutionary to me, but it did.
Cahill also goes to great lengths to praise Homer for his generous portrayal of the Spartans-the sworn enemies of the Greeks- in his poem. We usually objectify our 'enemies' until they are just that...rotting corpses. Christ teaches a different way to think about who the enemy is.
America will always have enemies. People will always have enemies. I will always have enemies, but I am "under strict orders" to pray for people that make my life difficult. Anyone who claims to follow Jesus needs to go to their knees and pray good things on the people that make life difficult for them. Now more than ever, Christ followers need to step up in this area.
"How do you dismantle an atomic bomb? With love mate, with love."