Before the tragic attack on the World Trade Center, I had a grudging respect for the Muslim faithful. They seemed the most spiritual and religiously conservative group on the planet, untouched by the Western immorality and atheism. There was the accusation that was only because of the lack of educational opportunities, but even those who went to Western and U.S. schools went back home without losing religious convictions. There was something about Islam that a person who had their own strong faith convictions had to admire.
When the infamous 9-11 attack happened, there was hope that citizens of the United States could learn something about themselves out of the deadly chaos. Perhaps the Christian nation as a whole would re-evaluate the moral direction it had taken. They would take notice of Muslims and look within to question how they had lost their spiritual way. Certainly they could contrast the strength of conviction and moral cohesion of such a large group of people and come away determined to change. For one brief week it seemed possible.
That illusion was quickly shattered. It didn’t take very long for people to continue going about their business like always. Each generation seeming more intent than the next to rid themselves of religious and moral guidance. Meanwhile, the extremist Islamist leaders ended up sharing the anti-Christian, anti-Israel, and anti-United States stances of Western liberals. That wasn’t a surprise, but how they played off each other was. They ended up doing the your enemy is my enemy dance. The terrorists came off not as moral crusaders, but political despots eager for attention with the blood of the dead. Still, the question stands how Muslims remain faithful stalwarts in such large numbers while Christianity, and Mormonism included, continues to stumble. Continue reading →
My wife says I have a naturally skeptical personality, sometimes to the point of pessimism. I have probably passed up being a millionaire many times by refusing to take serious any network marketing scheme. And come to think of it, I’ve probably let many a conspiracy run amok due to my refusal to believe in conspiracies unless there is, ahem, some sort of evidence worth mentioning.
So maybe this is why I can relate to C.S. Lewis’ character, Puddleglum. Puddleglum is a wet blanket who is skeptical of just about everything. He’s as much a joy to read as he is joyless.
One day, while reading C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair I came across a passage that caused me to have one of those religious moments; you know, one of those rare moments where a truth that you are pretty sure you already knew suddenly gains clarity it never had before. I wish to share that moment with everyone:
I used to love to watch President Hinckley in action with the press. Whenever he fielded a really difficult question, he would answer simply and directly, and then follow with a cheerful, “Isn’t it wonderful?” His sharp mind and guileless manner always won over his detractors. He was absolutely disarming in his warm, clear and plain witness of what was true.
Perhaps the thing that stays with me the most is his hopeful declaration: “Isn’t it wonderful?” With these three words he expressed faith, hope and charity all at once. It makes me think of the account of Dutch sisters Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom, who were imprisoned in a concentration camp by the Nazis for their role in protecting Jews during the Holocaust. Their barracks were the most detested by the prisoners, because of the infestation of fleas. Through it all, Betsie urged Corrie to follow the Lord’s counsel to give gratitude in all things. Corrie was a good soldier through most of what they had to endure, but could not reconcile how the Lord’s love was manifest in such a meaningless pestilence as the fleas.
Much later Corrie came to know that the reason that the Bible they huddled over for clandestine prayer meetings in their barracks was never found–nor much less, the prayer meetings themselves–was because the guards themselves were loath to enter into the barracks where the fleas were such a problem. The very fleas were a gift from God–a gift that allowed them to share hope and faith with so many others who were without a reason to live.
Isn’t it wonderful?
The very things that seem to try our patience, our faith, our endurance, our good will–these, not least of all, are the things that represent the Lord’s abundant kindness to us. We all know this, in hindsight. Would that, like Betsie, like President Hinckley, we could see with the eyes of faith and praise God for the fleas.
If faith is like an eye (Alma 32:40), then it’s a way of seeing, not a way of getting by without seeing at all.
By Jeffrey Thayne
We often talk about faith as the absence of sight. For example, we are taught that “if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen,” and “faith is things which are hoped for and not seen.” We often visualize faith as taking a step into the unknown, or trusting that which we cannot see. This conception of faith is partly true. However, for a moment, I would like to explore faith as a way of seeing, not just the absence of sight. It is sight enlivened by the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ.
I was listening to Mike Resnick’s excellent story called “Article of Faith.” It’s a story about a robot employee working for a minister in a church. The minister uses the robot to help improve his sermons and the robot comes to believe he has a soul and needs to worship God. But the minister can’t allow the robot to worship with his congregation for two reasons. First, no one believes robots have souls. Second, his congregation is prejudice against robots who keep stealing their jobs. We eventually learn that the second is the real reason.
The story is well done, if predictable. As the story on Escape Pod came to an end, the ‘host’ came on with some final thoughts. He says that he’s an atheist, but he’s certain that if there was a God that God would never be in favor of being in any way exclusive in their worship. (Hint hint) How could anyone believe that some old book written ages ago is completely accurate about what God is like? It’s like trying to stare at the Grand Canyon where you just can’t possibly take it all in with a photograph.