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195 11 COUNTERING RELIGIOUS, MORAL, AND POLITICAL HATE-­ PREACHING A Culture of Mercy and Freedom against the Barbarism of Hate Michael Welker After the horrors of the Nazi dictatorship, countless murders of innocent people, and two devastating world wars, Germany tried to regain trust and recognition among the peoples of the world by establishing itself as “Rechtsstaat” and “Sozialstaat,” a state of law and a welfare state. This was a good move, deeply rooted in the value systems of ancient oriental cultures and, later, in both the Jewish and the Christian biblical law and moral traditions. It is the intrinsic connection of justice, mercy, and freedom that has to be emphasized here. This connection of justice, mercy, and freedom exhibits deep religious and moral logics and transformative powers. It has been formative for the Western ethos and has become one of the most important impulses in the positive shaping of societies, freedom-­ loving civil societies, and their ethos in the West. 1. Discerning and Strengthening the Spirit of Justice, Mercy, Love, and Freedom As early as around 2400 BCE, the Sumerian emperor Urukagina claims to have “established freedom” and to have “protected the orphans and the widows” in Lagash,1 one of the oldest cities of the Ancient Near East, northwest of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. The protection of the weak in general, and of widows and orphans in particular , and the establishment of freedom go hand in hand. The king thus 196 Michael Welker not only sets a great example of mercy, compassion, and care, nor does he only promise to provide relief for people in situations of poverty and need. He also offers relief for the strong and the healthy with respect to their fear for their beloved ones should they themselves die or become in other ways helpless in the future. In addition, he comforts their souls at least to some degree and recursively wins their loyalty and trust. All this contributes to generating a climate of freedom, solidarity, and harmony. Thus the establishment of freedom through the protection of the orphans and widows does not simply mean feeding the poor and the hungry so that they and their environments remain somehow satisfied and silent. Rather, the establishment of freedom happens when a good spirit—­ a spirit of trust and hope, a spirit of philanthropy and care—­ is evoked and promoted. Memories and imaginations, attitudes and practices are shaped by the example of the emperor. A network of memories, imaginations, attitudes, and practices constitutes a spirit and is recursively sustained and animated by this spirit. Impressed by Aristotelian and related thought and metaphysics, Western cultures associated spirit with self-­ referential reflexivity and rationality. Other traditions of thought regarded the spirit just as a numinous, vague, and fleeting power. The interconnection of reliable care for the helpless and the weak and the generation of societal freedom challenges us to focus on another type of spirit, a spirit which was and has been an enormous shaping power in Mesopotamian and Western religion, culture, ethos, and history. This spirit cannot adequately be grasped by bipolar relations, be they simple notions of reflexivity or interpersonal communication. It is very well expressed by the biblical notion of the “outpouring of the Spirit,” namely the beneficial constitution of a polyphonic constellation , of a network of interdependent, mutually strengthening relations.2 This impressive spiritual power was already grasped and expressed in important ancient Mesopotamian law codes. In the laws of Ur-­ Nammu, king of Ur, the oldest existing law code from around 2100 BCE, the special protection of orphans, widows, and the poor is already proclaimed in the prologue.3 The Codex Hammurabi , the emblem of Mesopotamian civilization, established in the eighteenth century BCE, is the most important legal compendium of the Ancient Near East, even of antiquity in general. The prologue says that Prince Hammurabi, “who feared God,” is elected “to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land . . . so that the strong should not harm the weak.” And the epilogue repeats that this law code is put on COUNTERING HATE-PREACHING 197 the memorial stone so “that the strong might not injure the weak, in order to protect the widows and orphans.”4 Protecting the Weak and the Mercy Laws The topic of the protection of the weak and of the widows and orphans in particular becomes a most important and normatively shaping topic in the biblical traditions, the holy scriptures of both Judaism and Christianity. God...


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