Toward Greater Faith in Things That Last, and Toward More Far-Reaching Understanding . . .
For better or worse, I’m more a watcher of politics in the last half-dozen years than in any other period of my life. I am persuaded that this watching has done very little, if anything, for my life or for the lives of others, but it is what it is. Political stuff will be what it will be, too.
This morning, not having any idea it would be a Friday for deeper pondering, I was reading more of Philip Yancey’s 1995 thoughts in his book Finding God in Unexpected Places. And I was again struck by the prevalence of politics- and religion-related assumptions by Americans, and by professing Christians … yea, by most humans. We need to be careful with high-sounding assumptions of the present, drawing instead from something less time-bound. Hear Yancey’s quotation of Shakespeare and his one-sentence commentary punch:
In Richard III, a hired assassin trembles before his assignment, fearing “Not to kill him, having a warrant, but to be damned for killing him, from the which no warrant can defend me.” And in Henry VI, the Earl of Warwick prays, ” . . . ere my knee rise from the earth’s cold face, I throw my hands, my eyes, my heart to Thee, Thou setter -up and plucker-down of kings.” Our leaders could use a dose of such humility.
It’s been quite a while since I felt a U.S. president exhibited much humility. Perhaps Clinton, when he called in a team of spiritual advisers after the Monica Lewinsky affair? (Or maybe that was mere posturing — who can say?) My fading sense of Pres. Reagan was that he had at least a few humble bones. Both parties’ candidates these days would do well to show some humility along the way.
Yancey also speaks of lasting purpose and belief in the hereafter:
In one of the great ironies of history, Islam has co-opted the word martyr. Early Christians prevailed over Rome because they opted for eternal rewards instead of mere physical survival. The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. Nowadays you hear very little talk in the west about eternal rewards and much talk about techniques to keep death at bay. . . .
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” Jesus cautioned. And again, “It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Could Islam have more of a “biblical” sense (albeit skewed) of the eternal reign of deity than does popular Christianity? The Islamic “Fanatical Fringe” (thanks, Mr. Yancey) possesses an inexplicable willingness to die, leaving this temporary world, while we in the West persistently place our eggs in the ephemeral world’s basket. Despite my abhorrence of (and, yes, fear of) Muslim extremism, I can admire absolute devotion to a cause — to what some Muslims hold as the over-arching raison d’etre. They are willing to lose their physical lives for a religion they believe lasts longer.
To be continued . . .