“Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” Parents say this to little children when they put an excessive amount of food on their plates. Let’s be real here: I am guilty of doing this, preeminently if chips and salsa are a part of the meal. Or better yet, if chips and Serrano’s bean dip are involved. Flautas with beans and rice. Chips. Salsa. Bean dip.
Seconds of chips and bean dip.
Thirds of chips and bean dip.
Fourths of… well, you get the idea.
Boy oh boy does it look appetizing with the steam rising from the plate. You know what goodness is in store, with the seasoning done just right to give it that mysterious flavor. It is their secret recipe, after all. Then again, too much of a good thing can unsettle your stomach. Then there’s heartburn and regret for having thirds and fourths.
Last week I finished The Troubles: Ireland’s Ordeal and the Search for Peace by Tim Pat Coogan, and I was feeling as though I had eaten third and fourth helpings of the subject. This isn’t a criticism of Coogan’s work; I simply mean to say that the topic of “The Troubles” is wearisome. When I set out on this journey to understand the 25 years of the Irish Troubles, I was caught by surprise at the terrible happenings between the three parties involved: Catholics, Protestants and the British.
In my previous blog post, I listed three possible causes of The Troubles; I’m still in agreement with those causes. Now on the other side of two books about it, I am far from an expert on what happened. I know enough to be dangerous. Still, my digging has excavated two inches deep and a mile wide. Much more excavation is required before I could honestly declare I have a good handle on it. Therefore, allow me to suggest my findings be taken with a grain of salt.
This 25 year period is challenging to discern because of how much there is to digest. The sheer amount of viciousness performed is almost incomprehensible. I learned about this kidnapping, and that murder, and this bombing of a public building, and that bombing of a civilian pub, and this gun fire into innocent people’s homes, and that march that turned violent, and this peaceful march that was attacked, and that paramilitary group harassing, and this paramilitary group assassinating, and that family who was intimidated, and the constant threats, and the innocent who suffered. And as I became aware of all these goings-ons, tears were brought to my eyes. In the course of time, my mind became numb to it. How awful is that?
Revenge was certainly at play and was one of the key factors at prolonging The Troubles. Patrick Keefe is helpful here when he says: “When it came to the Troubles, a phenomenon known as “whataboutery” took hold. Utter the name of Jean McConville and someone would say, What about Bloody Sunday? To which you could say, What about Bloody Friday? To which they could say, What about Pat Finncane? What about the La Mon bombing? What about the Ballymurphy massacre? What about Enniskillen? What about McGurk’s bar? What about. What about. What about.” (Keefe, 394).
It’s maddening. Human suffering, fabricated and prolonged by people. And for what? Many people in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) asked themselves the question: “Was it worth it?” Many concluded it was not.
A Bible passage comes to mind: “17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21).
John Lennon wrote a song “Imagine” in which he imagines how world peace can be brought about:
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us, only sky
Imagine all the people
Livin’ for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Livin’ life in peace
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
But you know the answer to peace on earth? Hint: the answer ain’t found in this song. Sinners are in desperate need of forgiveness from their Creator. Sinners who have been forgiven much are able to forgive much. That’s what the world needs: the Savior of sinners, and His name is Jesus Christ. Here’s one of my treasured verses of Scripture: “15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” (1 Timothy 1:15). Learning about the Troubles has had this effect on me: a deep longing for my heavenly home. If you’re like me, you could use the reminder that Christians are just passing through this world.
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
The Troubles: Ireland’s Ordeal and the Search for Peace by Tim Pat Coogan
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Dear Reader, thank you for reading!
Away I must wander this wandering day,