By George Templeton
Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of the Christian Liberty University, instructed students to carry concealed weapons on campus. Sheriffs say that those who can carry guns should. That way, terrorists will be afraid.
Gun sales have skyrocketed, but will they lead to more violence? The ad in the paper showed a loving heart emblazoned by the words, “guns save lives”. It explained how guns are the linchpin of freedom and liberty in America. It said that it is important to train students in firearms. Many do not know that killing is not tidy. They do not know about the penetrating capability of a 30 caliber full-metal jacketed bullet or the explosive impact of a high-velocity hollow-point. They could become afraid of themselves.
Terrorist massacres intend to harm by provoking fear. They succeed when emotion leads us to underestimate the consequences of our response. Fear leads us to ignore our moral compass and deny sanctuary to refugees of war. They give up their lives and livelihood to flee to an unfamiliar and uncertain future. The have to pass UN and US interviews and screening to prove that they are the best of their broken societies. How likely is it that they will be terrorists?
Mosque bombings confirm that what we fear is what we become. The Chinese have a remedy. It is called Tai Chi. The yin-yang symbol, representing the dynamic juxtaposition of courage and fear, describes it.
Is a Christian’s life more valuable than a Muslim’s? Do you suppose that terrorist sympathizers weep in admiration for suicide bombers as we do for soldiers who die for our country? Courage is bravely performing a selfless act for others. Does Donald Trump’s embrace of torture seem moral? Is his proposal to execute the families of terrorists courageous? Who will kill the baby? Does closing Muslim immigration demonstrate courage?
Ted Cruz said that he opposes legalization and an eventual path to citizenship because immigrants might become Democrats. That takes priority over breaking up families. Would Ted Cruz’s carpet bombing blow Allah away? He emphasizes that the Islamic State is Islamic religion forgetting about geography, history, culture, and politics. Bombs won’t change the hearts of men.
Governor Christy’s bold move to impose a no-fly zone over Syria and shoot down Russian airplanes would lead to lots of boots on the ground. Pat Robertson claimed that Islam is a political system masquerading as a religion, but his God is Republican. Dallas mega-church Pastor Robert Jeffress explains that Muhammad saw no angel. It was the devil leading Muslims to hell. They are “evil”, and we are “good”. The only way we can feel safe is to destroy them. It is not hate speech because it comes from TV and radio religious dogma. It is disingenuous pride about loving the sinner but hating the sin. Did the recent Planned Parenthood assassin, the babies’ warrior, feel that it was O.K. to kill as long as he did not have hate in his heart? Is God on our side, or are we on God’s side?
Lies demonizing American Muslims, claiming without evidence that they engaged in demonstrations celebrating the 9-11 attack, should not be tolerated. We should show empathy for those who are unjustly persecuted because of a few extremists.
What do God and Allah Want?
According to jihad, the will of Allah is not on our side. They fight to make his word superior and his cause victorious. Children are taught to hate and kill. Fundamentalists see the solution as a retreat to the old ways that led to the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
In America we can believe anything we want to, but that does not mean that political religion, in the public square, should be given immunity from debate. Will we start a war because the fallen other is intrinsically evil and born in original sin? Does man have a built-in altruism that responds to emergent reality, recognizing that situations differ? War is worse than terrorism. It hurts the ones we love.
Would divine instruction be enough to save an inexperienced future president, who recognizes that conscience is not profit and power, but proudly inflates his redemption? Instinct and intuition deny a direct line to God, giving a simple solution. Obedience frees believers from responsibility, but there is more to be considered. Politicians use religion as a tool. In its breadth it becomes tenuous enough to argue any view. There is a fine line between fundamentalism, extremism, interpretation, and things that are “made up”.
Marco Rubio would have creationism taught in public schools. Ted Cruz, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, lacks the mathematical sophistication necessary to deny global warming. Ben Carson’s trust that God is in control is not enough. Astronomy does not include the sun and moon stopping at the battle of Jericho. Noah’s Ark can’t explain biological diversity. The flood doesn’t explain geology. A president, who believes without evidence is less likely to be receptive to nuances.
There is a tension between critical thinking and religion. Doubt could lead to eternal damnation. Would a loving creator doom billions simply because they don’t “just believe”? When religion merges with politics, “works” seem to matter. Should one’s world-view come from church authority or by observing?
The anti-authoritarian Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, revealed God’s bewildering instruction: “If a woman who is fit for marriage has a husband who is not … she should say to her husband … You are unable to fulfill your conjugal duty toward me; in the sight of God there is no real marriage between us. Grant me the privilege of contracting a secret marriage with your brother or closest relative, and you retain the title of husband”.
All of God’s messages are personal, not to a government constrained to punishment, revenge, and publicizing individual acts of altruism. Does the Golden Rule apply only in the individual case? If you accept help aren’t you lazy, and addicted?
The ancient Greeks laid the foundation for how thinking can discriminate between what is true or false. Logic proceeds from correct premises. History shows that it becomes difficult when the unconstrained supernatural is involved.
The emperor Constantine called the Council of Nica in 325 C. E. to resolve theological controversy that had grown to the point of threatening the stability of the State. It was agreed that Jesus was divine, but exactly in what sense? The answer was beyond human understanding. It said that the son of God always was, and forever would be identical with God almighty and the Holy Spirit. They were different, but absolutely the same and not nuances of anything else. Without that, monotheism would have been violated and the “ultimate” necessary for the spread of Christianity would have been lost. The Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and Western Culture would not have come.
Rome would not take responsibility. The Jews were held accountable by religion merged with the power of the State. They were charged with killing God. It is a serious offense. It immediately separated “us” from “them”. Jews were estranged from God and eternally doomed to Hell, so they were not allowed to build synagogues or even repair them.
Traditional Catholic interpretations, until recently, justified anti-Semitism. Fast forward 1600 years and the Jews would become Hitler’s scapegoat. His concentration camps would kill millions of them. It was not until 2011 that Pope Benedict exonerated the Jews.
Was history predetermined or predisposed? Some claim they are in God’s book of the saved elect, written before the beginning of time. Grace alone predetermines their fate, but predestination conflicts with free will. There is a tension between omniscience, omnipotence, and man’s choice. That everything is predetermined except sin seems unlikely. It needs some give. But faith entails acts when religion is mixed with politics. It cannot be private or irresponsible. It requires wisdom.
Plato felt that wisdom comes from rejecting imperfect representations. Wisdom embraces immaterial, perfect, unchanging ideas like the geometrical circle.
A preacher explained that wisdom is given only by God. Worldly wisdom is Satanic. The concept is parallel to the second century Gnostic myth that Wisdom was a divine being who gave birth to imperfect, malformed, ignorant, and sometimes evil worldly gods. Others held that divine attributes, called hypostases by scholars, were characteristics of God that could exist apart from him.
The dictionary defines wisdom as knowledge and learning including practical judgment, insight, and common sense. But meaning is more than definition. Blaise Pascal reminded us that “the heart has its reasons which reason does not know.”
In 1952 Richard Wetherill, a business management specialist, formulated creation’s law of absolute right, stating that right action gets right results. Wrong results show that the natural law of behavior was violated. All we have to do is obey creation’s plan of life with rational and honest responses to whatever happens. If right action then right results.
Right results can be argued to prove right action. At its root, it is ambiguous and self-referential. Is right true, just, expedient, or optimum? We could think that the right results were because of the right action though there could be other explanations. Business leaders often point out that their success came after many failures. They kept trying. Were the failures wrong or partly correct steps in a successive approximation that finally hit the target? We have the opportunity to learn, but when we don’t, it just comes back worse than before.
We are all caught up in it in one way or another. We can imagine the disorder of history as a jagged circle enclosing progress. Because history is not always right, the perimeter meanders above and below its arc. Over time, it develops like a saw blade with ever finer teeth. It converges on the truth that it surrounds. Because of its noisy fine structure, the perimeter can grow forever without limit, even though it will always enclose a finite reality. Our lives are like that trajectory. Though our understanding grows, our perception of the truth is never complete.