January 31, 2008

Smoke on the Horizon

I have looked out many windows. I have stood a top many mountains. I have heard the call of many birds. Today I looked out a window, and beheld something I will never forget.

In the land between two rivers in the dessert, a great oasis of life and fertility has existed since this land was young. These places have had many names, especially the city I am in today. ‘Baghdad’ is a Persian word. My friend tells me it means either the jungle or the garden that ‘is given’. If it is in fact "the garden that is given" (implicitly by God) you could make a reasonable argument that to a Persian, Baghdad means ‘Garden of Eden’.

It makes sense when you think about it. This whole area is the lush garden or jungle between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Such a large oasis in the relatively arid land of the Arabian peninsula would surely have been thought of as a gift from God.

I had this conversation with my friend atop a tower in Baghdad. My Iraqi friend was sad in his quiet accepted way. He told me of the ancient world, and the shame of war that has come to it. We talked about the state of this great planet, given by God unto man. God's creation, this beautiful and mystical land is God's greatest revelation to us. And so I come to my sorrow today.

I have looked out many windows. I have stood a top many mountains. Today I heard the distant call of a raven and when I looked out my window I saw smoke... smoke rising from the Trees of Eden.

Shine Forth the Light

January 2, 2008

God’s Advocate: Of Faith in Politics

I recently took part in a Facebook political poll asking “what role should a president’s faith play in the decisions he or she makes in office.” 64% of those polled said that it should not play any role whatsoever. While my first instinct as a zealous defender of our secular republic was to agree with the majority, I ultimately did not vote that way.

The question is based on a deceptive word; ‘faith’ does not appropriately refer to the religion a particular person ascribes themselves to. Dan Brown defined faith as “The acceptance of that which you imagine to be true.” Put a little less dramatically, faith is the psycho/spiritual construct with which we face the world. It is our belief, based on a distilling of all our experience in search of Truth.

With that definition it seems obvious that a president would have nothing but his faith by which to make decisions. If the solution to a problem is scientifically obvious, i.e. there is no other option, it will not fall to the president to make such a decision. When the matter requires subtlety, however, we turn it over to the duly elected representative of executive will of the people.

So if we can agree that a president’s faith will be the determining variable in how he or she will act on behalf of the people; it seems only logical that it be the determining factor in why we vote for the president. For example: the President of the United States should have a sense of moral justice that is simply beyond reproach. How would it be then if it was to emerge that a candidate agreed with a court ruling that allowed a child to be imprisoned because its father did not live long enough to be punished for a crime he committed. Such a position (which I admit is absurd) would seriously undermine the people’s confidence in the candidate’s faith (i.e. their world view).

How then should a candidate that calls themselves ‘Christian’ be judged? The defining characteristic of many Christian churches holds that the Creator of the universe, contrary to all conventions of moral justice, condemned all sons and daughters of man, for the sins of one man. As if this were not a perverse enough portrayal of the Almighty, a Christian candidate would also believe that a moral transgression could be paid for by another as if murder was a debt that could be paid by a rich friend. This type of logic, if brought to its extreme would allow a parent to compel its child to serve a criminal sentence imposed on the parent. After all the time tested law: ‘an eye for an eye’, doesn’t specify whose eye.

Now that said, it should be accompanied by a concession that most clear thinking Christians (if only sub-consciously) disagree with most of the obsolete and psychologically destructive dogma. I only raise the point of the double standard to illustrate the danger that comes when we as a society begin to ignore, for fear, the spiritual reality of our lives. Our open-mindedness is our greatest hope to, in our lifetime; understand the nature of the Almighty’s Creation. Our country dismisses too quickly, that which it does not understand. This is an act of supreme arrogance, and in our quest to know ourselves and our Creator, is the height of folly.