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Monday, December 19, 2005

What to Pray For

Again, to another of Youssef's comments in "Still Serious":

I am in agreement with Youssef and with Islam, regarding the shamefulness of licentious conduct. Laws are made and enforced to protect the public good, and rebellion against public norms has to be dealt with meaningfully, to ensure the survival of a society.

My point, in "I Sing of Thee" was on this issue -- a faith is not to be confused with a culture. That Arab society is characterized by a unity of government and religion, means its law must be, primarily, religious. This is the same as with Moses and the Israelites. But not with Christianity, despite the Papacy -- a system which placed more meaning on tradition than scripture, in my opinion. I was so sure that I wasn't clear in my meaning, in a note to Youssef on this, that I wrote I Sing of Thee to clarify it in my own mind.

We must be true to what we believe. Every major society has dealt harshly with sexual transgressions. But again, the law Jesus brought, the Constitution of his future government, is found in the famous Sermon on the Mount. And there we find nowhere a commandment for us to execute homosexuals.

Likewise with the horror of honor killings. I wasn't fair, in seeming to lump this cultural phenomenon into the normative body of Islam. It is true that this horror goes on, and is not properly dealt with. If those who killed their daughters were dealt with as harshly as homosexuals were, it would be closer to justice. But it's not hard to find links reporting a mass protest in Jordan (see here or here or here) AGAINST removing protections for those who COMMITTED honor killing crimes. Is Islam to be blamed for this? I think not -- but Moslems are to be blamed. Where the culture is Moslem, Islam does have responsibility -- it's that idea of the oneness of religion and government. In America we have separation of church and state -- and for any problems this may possibly have caused, it has the benefit that Christianity cannot be held responsible for the excesses of American culture.

Sometimes, I feel myself caught up in a point, and forget the issue. That's what I did in my note to Youssef on this matter. What's the really important thing? Obedience to God, not whose society is better. And here, it boils down to -- which god?

Youssef referred to the American bias toward Israel. As I say, I don't want to get into specifics on this. But generally, I don't suppose there's much difference in the Moslem bias against Israel. I don't get that, at all. But others don't get how I could be for Israel. Understand, in being for the Jews, I'm not against the Moslems. I only bring the issue up to demonstrate that it's the same with differing religious perspectives in general.

Romans 9:13 reminds us that God said, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (we might say "spurned," as Esau spurned his birthright). Why are some favored and others spurned? In Esau's case, he made his own destiny, earning disfavor by showing disfavor. Shameful conduct earns disfavor. Why are whole cultures, whole races given over to disfavor -- if it be so? I can't say. But Nineveh repented to Jonah's angry plea, and the Assyrians were as vile a group as ever there were -- stacking severed heads as high as the treetops, in their conquests.

There is a most beautiful song, "Amazing Grace," which could melt a heart of stone. The man who wrote it had been a slave trader. A slave trader. Vile, vile, vile. And yet a wretch like him, who was so lost, was found, and saved. Amazing grace, where the blind are made to see. And Esau, who did not see the worth of his birthright, could have been made to see. Even the ungracious preaching of Jonah brought revival. Amazing grace. That's why I'm Christian.

There is no debate, here. We are not arguing. We converse, cordially, and enjoy the exchange. And we may and will get caught up in some digression, as I did, with homosexuals and with honor killings. But the bedrock I stand on is the love that Jesus shows for me. Everything else is sinking sand, shifting and swallowing and suffocating.

I was afloat in the shipwreck of the world, gasping in the icy waters, circled by sharks, numb with despair and not even knowing it -- a living dead man, treading water above the abyss. And along comes Jesus in a lifeboat, and he says, "Here, son, take my hand." And I'm too far and too weak and I cannot endure and I sink. And Jesus lowers himself into the water, and reaches down still lower, and grabs me and pulls me up and heaves me into the boat, and I am safe. But the sharks take him. Thank you, Jesus.

Everything else is nothing. So what, what, anyone who reads this, what is the thing to pray for?

J

2 comments:

Vandy said...

what to pray for?

That all men would come to the knowledge of the saving grace of God, for then will this wretched flesh be transformed.

Jack H said...

And it only took nine months to get the correct answer. Ah, patience.


J