The importance of the individual - on both sides of the bombs
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
A recent essay in this newspaper reminds us that every soldier is a unique and valuable individual. After relating the brief homecoming of her infantryman son, the writer concludes: "Think about the unique individuals who wear those look-alike uniforms - their goodness and goofiness, their complexity and their courage. Think about all we as a country lose when even one of them falls" (July 25).
We all as a world should think about the fact that within every soldier's uniform is an individual to be honored and cherished. Sincere valuing of each citizen who wears a uniform and each citizen who doesn't is sometimes said to be what characterizes a nation as civilized.
What about beyond the deeper, darker "uniform" of a misguided mentality that would set off a terrorist bomb? Is there still a worthy individual there to be discerned? It is hard to see that. But if we could ask this question directly of God, perhaps the answer would come back in the words of Jesus: "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?" (Luke 12:6).
Most of us are glad to know we are not "forgotten before God," even when we stray from doing what we know to be right. In those words of Jesus, though, one almost feels God, like a mother longing for her children to make right choices, yearning to persuade those pulled by temptation to pause, pray, and resist the temptation. But does God really see temptation and the consequences of conceding to it? No.
Human thinking, when lost in moral blindness, has to awaken - the awakening is sometimes jarring - to the evil thoughts it is tempted by, and it has to act on that awakening through remorse, repentance, and reformation. It can best do this through recognizing a boundless, divine Mother-love that sees no such scenario.
Praying more deeply in times of my own straying from the wiser course - facing temptations much less extreme than terrorism - I have come to understand that God knows (and governs) me and all, as His obediently loving offspring in a spiritual universe of His creating. In such a spiritual creation there are no bombers and no victims.
Prayer to yield to this God's-eye view of the universe might not come easily, especially in the face of atrocities. Such prayer, though, can help change the thinking of those who would otherwise make tragic choices. At the point of a person's choice to bomb or not to bomb, another's prayerful recognition of God who knows and allows no evil to govern His children supports people in reaching for and gaining a higher view of themselves. Then, rather than clothing themselves in the false mentality that would kill and be killed, they can don the true mentality that chooses and promotes life for one and all.
In short, such prayer can support an individual in glimpsing and being the one God has created him or her to be rather than succumbing to a mesmerized mass mentality. To pray this way is to see the impulse to kill and be killed as separate from an individual's spiritual selfhood and to see the powerlessness of that impulse to overcome or undermine God, and to reach and misguide God's creation, whose life is eternal goodness.
This is true for troops fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan, for bomb victims in Iraq, London, Turkey, and Egypt, and for the innocent Brazilian who lost his life after being mistaken for a suicide bomber by the police in London.
Despite the grieving understandably associated with these deaths, each precious, individual life carries on unabated - though beyond our present view - as the forever valued idea of immortal Life, God. No one's life, ultimately, is trapped in a mortal body or lost out of it, but is spiritual and eternal, free from death and destruction. Each individuality lives on forever.
Nor can an individuality be permanently trapped in the confines of a mentality that would see deadly destruction as either political liberation or personal salvation.
Somewhere, people tempted by such a delusion need our heartfelt prayers to know that their God-given, spiritual individuality can, and will, rise to outsmart such thoughts of terror.