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The Conflict between Soul and Body

The world is in deep turmoil – just read the headlines. The war between Israel and Hamas is nearing its fifth month with about 28,000 dead mostly on the Palestinian side, from the unabated bombing by Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not giving an inch unless all the hostages are released before the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. Netanyahu has also listened to his far-right national security adviser to limit access to the holy site for Palestinians.

The next headline is Russia’s imprisoned opposition leader Alexie Navalny who was killed while imprisoned in a penal colony in Siberia. This is on top of the changing landscapes in Ukraine where the Russian military continues to bomb and kill civilian populations. Another headline is the humanitarian crisis in Sudan brought about by months of fighting between two warring groups vying for supremacy.

There are other smaller headlines involving scores of deaths from conflicts involving madmen, some of them professing strongly held religious beliefs, yet their actions betray natural laws for human conduct. Men have come up with reasons why killing is legit as a form of retribution or just war, rendering the biblical allusion to an “eye for an eye” in Leviticus as a permitted act of retribution.

The thing about men’s rage is that it is ego driven and does not always follow the principle of equitable justice. Countries with more powerful armies and weaponries tend to dictate the terms of war regardless of world opinion. The Hamas-Israel and Russia-Ukraine wars have religious overtones and their leaders have used religion to justify invasion and violence.

Can a man truly entertain a world view that he is a defender of Christianity and yet violates the very Christian edict of “thou shall not kill” or that “judgement is God’s domain?” It does appear that these leaders have taken the law into their hands to render judgement on life and liberty of other human beings. If Jesus Christ is alive today trying to referee these warring factions, he will probably be nailed to the cross again and killed.

It appears that these leaders are going through a crisis of the mind where the body and soul are not working in harmony to support each other’s strength. The soul knows what is good, right, or just and is primed to follow or pursue what is dictated. Yet the untamed body with its animal instinct can clash with what is ethical and moral. Plato, a Greek philosopher was spot on when he shared his concept of “self” that our true self is the intellect that drives the soul separate from the body.

Radhanath Swami, an American Hindu guru theorized that “if our mind is in conflict, not balanced with our body and with the needs of the soul, then there is disunity in our life. Only if we have unity within ourselves, we can create unity in the world around us.” In simple terms, a person whose mind is in conflict is a person having mental issues. How can a leader of a country create unity that he himself doesn’t have?

Frankly, these leaders have lost their moral compasses and allowed the body to dominate their decision-making process. Societal pressures, personal ambitions and motivations create an artificial need or desire to fill an internal hole in their psyche. Russia’s Vladimir Putin pine for the glory days of the USSR and convinced himself that he can revive such desire by invading the former republics. Putin, however, recognizes the immorality of his desire so he enlists the imprimatur and blessing of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to add a moral dimension to the invasion of Ukraine.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces jail time for corruption and wants to muzzle the country’s highest court. The people of Israel, however, would not countenance Netanyahu’s naked ambition, pouring to the streets of Tel Aviv to side with the highest court in preserving the independence of the country’s judicial system. So, he aligned himself with ultra-conservative Jews and religious Zionists, and formed a radical new government that in essence, gave him absolute power in seeing to it that the Palestine people are driven out of Israel.

Aristotle, another Greek philosopher believed in the inseparability of body and soul. Meaning, if a person wants to love somebody, both the soul and the body act in tandem. For example, if Netanyahu truly loves his country, then his body provides the motion to affect such desire. Stated differently, Netanyahu does not have second thoughts about leveling Gaza regardless of the attendant deaths with imprecise bombings.

Aristotle, however, provided a caveat that reasoning is independent from the body unless reasoning requires imagination, which is the domain of the soul, then reasoning requires the body participation. The Bible tends to agree with Aristotle’s theory about the inseparability of body and soul (our natural way of living) and the alchemy of the independent spirit.

For centuries disciples of Jesus have spoken of the “three enemies of the soul” – the world, the flesh, and the devil. The greatest enemy to human souls is the self-righteous spirit (versus God’s or the Holy Spirit) which makes men look to themselves for salvation. Putin and Netanyahu’s body and soul conflict are metaphors of their moral struggle to stay in power at all costs by pursuing their own self-righteousness even if it inflicts evil things in the process.

Both men have served in the military and presumably were bound by ethical precepts during their service in defense of their homelands with honor and dignity. In the process, however, they became part of the state’s killing apparat. Their perspectives have clearly evolved for the worse once they themselves became leaders of their respective countries. For political survival, they dug deep to their past military spirit. Lord Acton said it, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Pope Francis became the voice of reason when he called for peace between Israel and Palestinians and for the conflict to be resolved “through sincere and preserving dialogue between the parties, sustained by strong political will and the support of the international community.” He reaffirmed the Vatican’s position for a “two-state solution.”

The pope similarly pleaded for peace between Ukraine and Russia. Pope Francis criticized Russia’s strike on civilians and infrastructure as “vile, unacceptable and cannot be justified in any way.” Well, the war is now in its second year and the end to the war is nowhere in sight. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who rose from obscurity to become Ukraine’s Knight in a Golden armor and is admired for his valiant effort to stand up to an evil man, will need more firepower.

Clearly, these wars will continue despite principled intervention and alignment of powerful entities. These wicked leaders are addicted to power and no amount of moralizing will stop them from pursuing their addictions, much less seek redemption. Redemption, according to St. Augustine requires repentance and coming to faith in Christ. These men are mentally far gone.


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