November 14, 2014

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

In today’s landscape, we simply can’t be children of a lesser God

Cynthia DewesCan you imagine being a serf in medieval Europe? You had to work hard from dawn to dusk, you had poor food and shelter, if any, and zero sanitation. Your personal life was iffy, and justice was a concept beyond your understanding, not to mention your power to attain it.

Or how about living in some tribal area of Africa or South America, or some remote place where your duties and possibilities were rigidly determined before you were even born? Or in India and other parts of Asia where caste or rank or class managed your entire life?

Nor do I need to ponder what it was and is to be a woman in certain cultures. Women in these places are simply breeding machines, sex objects and providers of food and other comforts. They have no status, political or otherwise, and certainly command no respect as human beings.

It’s no wonder, then, that when ideas, like “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul” came on the scene, people grabbed them up. Enlightenment spread like wildfire because people were tired of being treated like animals. Revolutions occurred, and self-determination was paramount.

Modern nations were created partly because they espoused these ideals. They included, most prominently, the United States and European countries. Today there are others modeled upon them.

Despite what we consider a general advance of civilization leading to a world which values personal freedom, civic and personal responsibility, and concern for the common good, the evils of the old order persist. Factions bent on enslaving individuals and societies in every way still exist. We know they are gaining power in the Middle East and elsewhere, using the incentive of religion.

Religious threats are powerful, as radical Muslims and even some Christians believe. The threat of damnation by an angry God is very scary, especially among ignorant people whose faith is often based on superstition and fear. The idea of a loving God who forgives all and wants only the best for us is unimaginable to such people. After all, no human would behave too nobly, so why would God?

Still, unlike the attitude in radical religion, we know that forgiveness is something we, too, must practice. Only God is the judge. Only God can determine the guilt of anyone or their actions. Our job is to fight the evil in every possible way we can without passing judgment. And it ain’t easy.

The parents of the young man from Indiana whom terrorists have destined to behead certainly know this. But out of respect for their son’s ideals and knowledge of what is right, they’ve chosen to forgive the terrorist captors publicly. How hard that must be. None of us in the modern age can probably even imagine the horror of martyrdom.

We must urge our government to do everything short of mass destruction to fight the terrorists who are trying to destroy civilization. Certainly, our country has not been blameless in creating the world’s problems. But now we can take responsibility to keep informed, to dialogue and learn what is truly happing beyond our immediate area.

Mostly, as always, we can pray that God will change our hearts and those of the evildoers. We can pray for the will and the strength to persevere in pursuit of the good and to forgive. We’re made in the image of God, and we should give it a try. In the end, God will not be mocked.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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