I listened with amazement today as the news of the Northern Ireland police ombudsman report filtered out onto the mid day news.
It told a story of the troubles, and of a Irish Republican Army bombing squad who may have been led by a Roman Catholic Priest. And of the stories told of that same priest driving a car containing a nail bomb, leaving it outside a shop where an 8 year old girl was cleaning windows, and walking away.
The girl died, along with 8 others in the small village of Claudy.
It was an open secret who had done the deed, and the role played by Father James Chesney.
What the report made clear was what everyone suspected- a deal had been done between the Catholic primate, the government and the police to get Chesney out of Northern Ireland into Donegal, where he died a few years later, after travelling into Northern Ireland weekly.
Murky, disturbing and upsetting as this story is, it has to be seen in context- a time when civil war was a real possibility in the province, and placing a Catholic Priest on trial would have been political dynamite.
What is disturbing to those of us who are Christians is how a PRIEST could carry out such acts of violence and destruction.
And how a church that could produce such evil as well as so much good.
But I suppose it has always been this way. People who use religion to load guns and sharpen knives…
And we fool ourselves that terrorism belongs to a different religion, not to ours…
We read our Old Testament and focus on all those stories of slaugter- like this one-
Now is the time to kill
There is a time for all things under heaven
(Many things I don’t understand)
A time to kill Amalekites
To slay them every one
Man and child- each mother’s son
Don’t stop until they’re gone
And while their blood runs bright and red
Kill their livestock too
For I the Lord want genocide
Even at the zoo
And so God’s people ran amok
They murder and they slaughter
But when King Agag was in the bag
They don’t kill him like they oughta
And they kept the finest sheep and lambs
To kill them just seemed curious
But the Lord our God (being omnipotent)
Saw all, and was furious
King Saul pleaded innocence
And offered sacrifice
But God required obedience full
In part would not suffice
And a king who thought above his station
Had no place in a holy nation
There is no room for free will
For now is the time
(1st Samuel chapter 15)