The Perverted Liturgies of Hamas
Decolonising our souls
Torture as a Perverted Liturgy
* Warning: some images in this post might be disturbing
** I have been greatly disturbed by the events of October 7th. This article is not a geopolitical diagnosis. It is instead an attempt at a theological reading and understanding of what might be manifesting in our world.
On October 7th, hell opened up over Israel. The most horrific and dreadful things a human being can physically do to another were manifest—the largest slaughter of Jewish people in a single day since the holocaust took place.
The adjectives used to describe what was done to over 1,500 innocent civilians have a demonic telos to them. To try to describe rape, baking babies alive in ovens, removing parents’ eyes in front of their children, and beheading adults and infants is to not only run out of words but arrive at a satanic terminus. This was hell on earth and proof of the doctrine of evil, as the ruler of the Kingdom of the Air (Ephesians 2:2) recapitulated the holocaust.
The malignant desecration and mass torture of human beings can be understood as a perverted liturgy, i.e. a disciplined ritual and process enacted upon human bodies to incarnate a social and spiritual reality. Hamas terrorists performed - acted out - their religious and political beliefs to instantiate a social, physical, institutional and spiritual reality that is a hell on earth. In other words, they were saying, we will show you who really has ultimate power and ownership of life by what we do to your bodies, in torturing, humiliating, mutilating, and kidnapping you.
And since October 7th, Hamas have made clear with public statements, as confessions of their ideological and religious beliefs, that they are compelled to continue repeating their perversions until every Jew is eliminated from existence.
The beliefs and ideology ensouled in Hamas terrorists cause them to act out who they really are. The world they imagine, the soteriology and doctrine of salvation they desire, requires the atoning sacrifice of others for communion with their God.
The Manifestation of Possession
And this demonic liturgy of Hamas, enacted as their literal act of worship, ripples and reverberates around the world. Their acts are so seismic that our own ideological commitments are shaken to the surface in a kind of global spiritual liquefaction. The mephistophelian events of the 7th of October unmask and reveal all the other Faustian pacts with who and what has ownership of our souls.
For we are all possessed by something for the imagination and investments of life. The only issue is what possesses us. The things incarnated within our souls must respond to events like October 7th with reflexive acts as moments of counter-worship.
Silence…Something took hold of ordinary people, making them unable to speak out. Just as ordinary people are often silent in history when the most awful things are manifest before them. Organisations, institutions and individuals usually quick to signal solidarity with the oppressed and victims fell silent on the 7th of October. For some, there was a considered silence, but for others, a kind of via negativa virtue signalling seems to have made them mute.
Celebration...Those who immediately took to the streets and social media with glee, delight and joy, creating new perverted liturgical worship symbols from Hamas paragliders. Then, later, some tore down posters of kidnapped people and babies and added to the desecration of innocents with graffiti.
Worship...Those explicitly praying in public, either to their God or out of the ideological analogue that is their religion—shouting words in public as confessions/worship of how more acts of violence should further establish their religion/ideology's rule and reign.
Revenge and retaliation...A sovereign state does what all sovereign states do in the face of existential threats to their existence: trying the impossible. To protect itself from the perils it has created unintentionally or deliberately. Attempting to root out evil, with the collateral extinguishing and decimation of yet more innocent lives.
Compassion...Then, those desperately reaching for something better and different as a counter.
Worship as decolonisation and repossession
The events of October 7th are an opportunity to consider and notice what has hold of and possession of our souls, i.e. anything that has colonised our interiors.
For many Christians, especially in the West, consumer culture has reduced their ecclesiology - their relationship to the body of Christ - to a solipsistic and isolated reality. Church is something to go to when there isn't something else to do. Or it is a place to get something to help to fund and support other realities away from the body of Christ. Here, salvation is inward and private, with the church as a social and support group. Such sacralised narcism has its own perverted liturgy of commitments of time, energy and money.
Then we see writ large on our news and social media other ideologies with demands of belonging that take hold of bodies, minds and souls in the most awful totalising ways. Christianity has, in the past, had such manifestations and is still prone to them. More will emerge as counters to the public acts of perverted liturgies by religions, ideologies, and states.
Yet Christianity was and is supposed to be something radically different. A counter reality to other religions, ideologies and states -not at home in the world and freed from secular, consumer and all ideological rhythms. The Christian is called to be incorporated into the body of Christ, the Church, where the Church is not a political space, nor is it a 'no' space, but the only true 'third space'. It is constituted as all other social realities are by imagined practices. But where the story for its imagination of human nature and purpose are radically different.
No Communion without Sacrifice
An elemental biblical truth is that in a world gone wrong, there is no communion without sacrifice.
Bishop Barron, This Is My Body: A Call to Eucharistic Revival
There really is no atonement, 'at-one-ment', without sacrifice. Ideologies and religions require the brutal sacrifice of others to appease their Gods. In consumer culture, Jesus is sacrificed for us with nothing for us to pay the price for. For real followers of Jesus, we are the sacrifice, laying our lives on the altar as we participate with him in the offering of his life for others.
For the Christian, the body of Christ is our metaphor for life and living in all its dimensions. But it is more than a mere symbol. As followers of Christ, we are invited to participate with Christ, to recapitulate and relive the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. To take part in the eternal act by which Jesus entered the sanctuary by his blood, returning with forgiveness from the Father. We don't just benefit from the cross of Christ; we are called to share in it.
Christ crucified, dismembered, tortured and torn apart is a concrete reality as much as all other ways of living, where its concreteness is;
…something that when you bump into it, puts you in contact with a Divine Reality.
Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, OSB.
And what might we bump into for someone incorporated into Christ, whose soul is possessed by Him and decolonised from the world?
Someone who calls out evil, who is vulnerable and naked, not needing paramilitary clothing nor national flags of any kind. Someone who speaks out for those with no voice, at risk of their own lives. Someone who offers forgiveness and reconciliation.
For these are their acts of worship that dare to declare that the cross of Christ is where all suffering, evil and pain are gathered up and remedied.
This moment in our world is not going away; there is no neutral space to wait things out.
BTW, The Swastikas are coming.