God We Trust?
29 December 2006
If one believes in God, one also probably believes all wisdom ultimately
finds its source in God. If we take up any strand of beauty and truth and
goodness and follow it, eventually we wend our way out of the labyrinth and
its obscurity and find ourselves standing in the full light of Day.
Call this an article of faith for the moment, but if you grant that, if such
a Being as God exists, surely there would be nothing more excellent than
Him. No idea, no wisdom, no discoverable or created thing could surpass Him.
Nor would anything be unknown to Him Who should be called Wisdom and Truth.
Is it possible for Deity to know something less than Himself, though,
something good, right, true, beautiful, without at the same time willing it
into being? If there is anything in the way of wisdom in the world, God
wills it to be here – He does not oppose it, does not obliterate it utterly
from our reality. Which is to say, in some way, it is connected back to the
Deity who sustains it by His will, His desire, and allows it to be inasmuch
as anything can be said “to be” in this world of flux.
We’ll not broach the question of whether He wills and sustains evil and
stupidity too, except to say, with Plotinus and St. Augustine, that evil is
not a form of being, it is a lack of being, an imperfection in something
that exists. If God sustains evil and stupidity, perhaps it is only because
He is merciful and does not destroy those people and things that are, while
good in themselves, plagued with imperfections of a high degree.
There is a Congressman who wished to take his informal oath of office on
The Holy Koran just as many Christians take it on various versions of
Holy Scriptures that include the New Testament, just as many Jews
take it on The Torah, Mormons on The Book of Mormon, and so
on. And there is another Congressman who whipped and is whipping his
constituency up into a frenzy, pretending that some great wickedness is
being done if a man simply takes his oath on that Sacred Law he cherishes
and which guides him to wish to do the right and avoid the wrong.
Wishing to do right and avoid wrong is a part of human wisdom; being
unashamed of one’s religious convictions (or lack thereof) and conscience is
also a sign of wisdom. Tolerance and appreciation for diversity are virtues
just as surely as courage is; they involve justice and a proper sort of
fairness. Wishing to live in peace with one’s neighbors is certainly a sign
of virtue, respecting others and retraining oneself from being obnoxious,
even to those with whom one disagrees.
Virtue is most certainly a kind of wisdom – perhaps the best sort in the
human world. Ask yourself: Is our Congressman who is so offended by his
Muslim brother’s convictions being virtuous and dignified when he complains
out loud that taking an oath on the Muslim scriptures will lead to the
downfall of the nation?
Which Congressman, the Muslim or the Christian, is closer, it seems, to
wisdom? Whose actions are such as would please the Father of us all?
It may not be utterly as clear for everyone as it is for me, so allow me to
add this question: Which of you would like to stand and claim the Holy
Koran contains absolutely no truth, no beauty, no goodness, and so is
the very opposite of wisdom? In other words, who would like to tell me these
scriptures are absolutely corrupt and beyond redemption, that there is
nothing like decency and honor and gentleness to be learned from the Suras?
Of those who would stand and tell me this, which of you has actually read
The Koran? Have you ever asked a Muslim what he or she believes about
how to live and what to value? And I don’t mean Osama bin Laden; I mean the
family of Islamic faith in your neighborhood.
There have been many, many great people who have walked the Earth who have
been Muslims or influenced by and appreciative of The Koran. The
great Sufi mystic, Rumi comes immediately to mind. Go read his poems – you
will not find a more tolerant, gentle, benevolent soul; he hungered and
thirsted after righteousness and after God Himself. He wanted all people to
do the same, regardless of religion. He wanted nothing different than the
Christ Himself taught: “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy
soul and all thy mind, and love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Jesus, being Jewish of course, was speaking as many good rabbis had before
Wisdom comes from God and leads to God; it is the ladder of Jacob’s dream
with the angels going up and down to Heaven. Wisdom comes into the world out
of the mouths and actions of all people who, knowingly or not, are doing the
will of the Almighty. It doesn’t matter whether they are Christians, Jews,
Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans, . . . ; or even atheists. God knows and
judges realities, not appearances, and these differences in religion (or
lack of religion) are the product of the great varieties of human experience
and culture and philosophy and opinion and time and geography. But inasmuch
as all religions of worth contain wisdom, they receive it of God.
It is not anyone’s place to second-guess why God was so merciful as to grant
His blessings and wisdom to the whole world and not to allow one special
group to hoard it for themselves alone.
Wisdom is not a human product. It comes from God. It demands from us, on our
part, humility, not the persecution of our brothers and sisters who merely
want to say a simple oath on that book of scripture which the Lord Our God
saw fit to give them, even if that book is not ours.