Saturday, October 14, 2006

World With A View

[This is a speech I presented for my Toastmasters International group Thursday, October 12, 2006. It's one of my better speeches, so I figured I'd catalog it here. It uses the material from one of my previous posts, Enjoy! - Graffy]

Two months is too little. They let him go. They had no // Sudden healing. To think that providence would // Take a child from his mother while she prays // Is appalling. ...

Christian recording artist Natalie Grant recently re-recorded the song "Held". As I heard it played over the airwaves the first time, I must admit, my first reaction was to change the station. Why? Because I just don't care for mushy songs. But these lyrics grabbed my attention and they brought to the forefront of my mind one question and one question only: Why? Why would God take a child from his mother while she fervently prays to Him for his life? (The song is based on a true story, after all.)

But I'm not really interested in dealing with that question, here. Rather, I'd like to explore why anyone would ask that question in the first place. Better yet, how do we understand the things that hapen in our lives, the good and the evil?

Before we can really explore this idea, I must first point out that everyone has a worldview. What is a worldview? Simply, a worldview is a set of beliefs we use to interpret reality. That said, someone might object (if only for the sake of argument) and say, "Wait a minute! I don't have a worldview. I don't interpret reality!"

Yet if this is true, then they obviously don't interpret reality because they believe reality is not meant to be interpreted - it has no meaning. The things which happen to us are meaningless, purposeless and random - life has no point. Such a worldview is known as nihilism - nothing matters. It is a very dangerous and irresponsible wordldview, but it is a worldview nonetheless.

That said, we can know that everyone has a world view. George Bush has a worldview. Osama Bin Laden has a worldview. Everyone here is well-acquainted with both these men's worldviews to know that they are very, very different. In fact, no matter what you may think of our President, I hope I can get at least a grudging agreement here that George Bush's worldview is a morally better one than Osama Bin Laden's.

That brings me to my next point. Not only does everyone have a worldview, but we can judge between worldviews as one being better or worse than another. Of course, when I say this, I'm likely to offend someone's very American pluralistic sensibility. They may raise an objection saying,

"Wait a minute! Don't go judging me. What's true for you is true for you. What's true for me is true for me. I don't judge you and you don't judge me. And besides, can't we all just get along?"

Such an objection, although well-intentioned, implies the idea that all worldviews are equally valid. But if we were to hold to that viewpiont, then we have to include everyone's worldview. In essence, this is saying that Billy Graham's worldview is no better than Adolf Hitler's - they're only different. I'd really like to find someone we could count as sane who would honestly believe that Adolf Hitler's worldview was just as valid as Billy Graham's.

Thus, if everyone has a worldview, and some worldviews are inherently better than others, then we are implying that some worldviews are right and others are wrong. Some are good and others are bad. Yet the moment we assert any one thing is right or good and another is wrong or bad, we are appealing to a greater truth which we use to tell the difference between them. This then, is central to my speech, so please listen carefully:

There is an objective truth which defines reality as we know it (repeat 1x)

Let me close with a comparison to illustrate my point. To do so, I must compare three major world religions, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity, and I will not compare them all favorably. Please understand it is not my wish to denigrate the beliefs of the adherents of any one religion below those of another - I am not speaking about the beliefs of any relgious adherent. I am merely comparing what these religions as institutions teach to their adherents.

Let us return to our mother grieving the loss of her two-month-old son in my introduction. Let us assume this mother is a Buddhist. What worldview does Buddhism teach?

Buddhism teaches the law of karma. That is, through the concept of reincarnation, the sins of one's past life are paid for in their next life. Eventually, through a series of lives, the Buddhist believer can purify themselves, and, having finally lived a perfect life, can attain to Nirvana, where Buddha himself is supposed to reside. Yet there is no guarantee that the faithful will ever reach Nirvana. It is possible that they would spend eternity living each life paying for sins of the last. Thus, Karma is a negative doctrine of unforgiveness and condemnation.

Therefore, if Buddhism is the objective truth which defines reality as we know it, then our Buddhist mother should be greatly comforted to know that her son died because of sins he committed in a previous life and she herself is suffering his loss because of sins she committed in a previous life.

Suppose, then, that our mother is a Muslim. What worldview does Islam teach? Islam teaches that God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. But, he's not personal - not knowable. Additionally, in Islam, both good and evil come directly from God. There is never a question of God's will. It is merely, "whatever Allah wills."

Therefore, if Islam is the objective truth which defines reality as we know it, then our Muslim mother should be greatly comforted to know that although Allah knows about her pain, He does not care. And what's more, He caused it.

Finally, let us assume our mother is a Christian. If Christianity is the objective truth which defines reality as we know it, then our Christian mother should be greatly comforted to know that God knows about her loss. He did not want her son to die, He did not cause her son's death, and He is not punishing her for any sin she may have committed by letting him die and not answering her prayers.

He even grieves with her over her loss. He knows her pain. He lost a Son once too, you know. And she should also be comforted to know that God never promised to protect anyone from the pains of a sinful world. Rather, as a the song says,

"the promise was, when everything fell, we'd be held."

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