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Why Did God Cross the Road?
Published on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
Why Did God Cross the Road?
by Rabbi Dennis G. Shulman
 

At the end of August, I traveled to Crawford, Texas, where I was invited by Cindy Sheehan to participate in an interfaith service. As I was driving toward the large tent that had become the heart and the womb of the antiwar movement in this country--just a few feet from the entrance to George Bushís ranch vacation retreat--to lead prayers for peace and for the souls of those of our children who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, I passed a group of pro-Bush, pro-war demonstrators.

They held signs proclaiming their righteousness, how they had God on their side, and that those who support Cindy Sheehan are evil. They stood, yelling slogans to the passing traffic, in the dark shadow cast by a makeshift monument inscribed with the words of the Ten Commandments.

Across the road from these angry protesters, hundreds of people--the grieving parents, the Marines and other veterans who recently returned from the Middle East feeling duped, betrayed and abandoned, the men and women who were profoundly disturbed by what their nation was doing in their name--sat in silence, awaiting the bells that were about to be rung in memoriam.

Across the road from these angry protesters who had encircled the Ten Commandments, was Camp Casey.

As I came into the camp that day, I remembered a story I had heard many times before about Abraham Lincoln.

On March 4, 1865, less than two months before he was assassinated, in his second inaugural address to the nation, our wise president recognized that both sides, both the North and the South, were praying that the same God was on their side.

Later, Lincoln directly reprimanded his fellow Northerners for this prayer.

Lincoln suggested, instead, that he and his compatriots should be praying that they were on Godís side.

As I walked toward the interfaith service, having spent the previous day sweating with, and listening to the other people who had made the pilgrimage to Camp Casey, I strongly believed that we here, standing with Cindy and the other Gold Star families, on this side of the road, were on Godís side.

We were on Godís side when we demanded that our president and our beloved country wage war only when there is a clear and compelling reason for it, and only as a last resort.

We were on Godís side when our hearts were sickened by all the killing, so much killing, in our name, of Iraqis, also of course, human beings in the divine image.

We were on Godís side when we demanded an explanation, a real explanation, an explanation that finally makes sense, for why so many of our nationís sons and daughters, so many of a generation, have been killed or horribly and irreparably maimed.

Standing at the microphone that Sunday morning, reciting the ancient prayer of mourning and consolation, surrounded by the parents who wept for their children, I knew that day that God had crossed the road.

Dennis Shulman is a rabbi and a clinical psychologist-psychoanalyst. He is on the Kollel faculty of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (the Reform seminary in New York City). In August, Rabbi Dr. Shulman was one of the leaders of an interfaith service at Cindy Sheehan’s Camp Casey. His most recent book is “The Genius of Genesis: A Psychoanalyst and Rabbi Examines the First Book of the Bible.” Email to: Shulman@DennisShulman.com.

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