Saturday, April 02, 2011


People are complicated... and sometimes incredibly frustrating. And ideas are never inert, powerless mental constructs - they always have energy and capacity and incredible power. Sometimes that power is measured and predictable, but often it is erratic, even crazy. If humanity has learned anything over these past 5000 or so years of recorded history, we should know that we need to respect the power of ideas, even ideas that are offensive to us - maybe ESPECIALLY ideas that are offensive to us. Ideas can be deadly.

I'm thinking about the news these last few days of riots in northern Afghanistan that have resulted in the deaths - gruesome deaths by the sounds of it - of a number (perhaps as many as 20!) of United Nations staff, allegedly in protest over the burning of a Quran in the United States. Some could certainly argue that the actions of this one person led to quite predictable results. In fact, this same person was dissuaded from his plan to publicly burn a Quran last September by people who could see where that would lead. They maybe couldn't know exactly where anger would flare up, but they knew it would happen and that it would be potentially catastrophic. And can this pastor and those who followed his lead really feel no remorse for the deadly backlash that his actions provoked!?

Sometimes I think we westerners are completely naive to the fact that the very things we celebrate and flaunt - our "freedoms" to do and be and say and think whatever we please and to do so without regard for anyone else - our "rights" - are inherently and deeply and corrosively offensive to much of the rest of the world. And I'm not just talking about people of other faiths, other ethnicities, other cultures. I think the sad truth is that these attitudes are offensive and disrespectful to people of good conscience everywhere. We are, I would suggest, part (whether we like it or not) of a cultural and economic and political empire that is imploding through the worst kind of social and moral and ethical decay. Those are strong words, I know. But I am ashamed of both the perception and the reality of our me-first, self-centred, individualistic, materialist, consumer-driven society. And I'm not just pointing fingers at "others". I'm ashamed of myself for the degree to which I've allowed my own conscience to be seared by those same attitudes. Enough is enough.

I am more determined than ever to live intentionally - to think creatively and critically about the things going on around me and to humbly stand for what is right and good and true. To live simply, justly and faithfully.

And I will refuse to give into the cynicism of our times. There IS goodness and beauty in the world and even in ourselves. Each one of us - from whatever tribe or nation or language or gender - who strives to live in harmony with God, self, others and the physical world is part of the redemptive vision.

Ideas can lead to hatred and conflict and destruction, but they can also be instruments of peace, justice, hope and love. Let us choose our allegiances to ideas carefully!

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