I believe in people. I believe that in every person there is a divine spark of decency, goodness, and wisdom that they have a choice to foster or ignore.
As a Latter Day Saint, I believe that not only is every person I encounter quite literally a child of God and an inheritor of divine talents and goodness, but further that each person I encounter made a conscious choice in the premortal world to follow the "choice, responsibility, and growth" plan championed by our Savior, Jesus Christ and not the "security, slavery, and stagnation" plan of Satan. Indeed, that is our doctrine.
Consequently, I try not to oppose any specific person or group of people but rather to fight against sin, deceitful propaganda, and misguided philosophy. I think it is vital to remember to 'hate the sin, not the sinner.'
In war, hatred is often unleashed against people instead of the underlying problems. Worse yet, aggression in war (as opposed to just and defensive war) requires dehumanizing entire groups of people in order to unite the aggressive nation and allow soldiers to ignore their divine sense of 'right and wrong' as they carry out orders.
Indeed, I keep hearing from otherwise sensible people about the need to punish and bomb whole nations in the Arab world as if there are not innocent people in the way of these supposedly "precautionary bombings". Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought it was terrorism to kill innocent people in order to send "a message." Quite frankly I cannot condone terrorist tactics no matter who is conducting them.
I hear people say that those lives [the 'collateral damage' at Iraqi checkpoints, or in mistaken bombings in Afghanistan, or in a potential "pre-emption" in Iran] are worthless simply because the people are a certain religion or – just as thoughtlessly – because they haven't shown 'the sense to rise up against their own government'. The latter really riles me because how many Americans are willing to stand up against their own government when it behaves unwisely or immorally?
When people cite hateful newspaper articles and even State-sponsored propaganda in some of these countries, I marvel that we overlook our own inaccurate propaganda about the Muslim nations and our own hateful newspaper articles and media. How can we forget that President Bush pronounced four entire cultures as part of a so-called "Axis of Evil" not so many years ago. I don't know about you, but when somebody calls my whole country "Evil" it bothers me even if there are certain people, elements, [and even official State actions] in my country that I would agree are clearly immoral.
That kind of belligerent propaganda dehumanizes people. It allows atrocities to be committed. It is exactly the opposite of what brings peace or how Christ taught that we should behave.
The apostle Paul says - when talking about the need for the "whole armour of God" - that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
Paul knew well. He was at one time the infamous "Saul" – a frighteningly successful fanatic in his persecution of what he considered blasphemy: the new Christian religion. But instead of opposing "Saul" (the person), the Savior countered the incorrect principles Saul had accepted – opening for Saul a chance at redemption and the opportunity to put considerable talent to better use. I'd like to see more Saul-to-Paul experiences all over the world. Our current political culture will certainly not accomplish that.
One of my main reasons for this blog is to do my small part to counter what I see as a major de-emphasis on the 'worth of souls' as people get caught up in the fear, excitement, and rhetoric of war. The rhetoric is really what I meant to address when I sat down to write this but I'll get to that in my next post.
There are most certainly dangerous people in this world mis-using their freedoms. But they can't be clearly defined by the arbitrary conveniences of ethnicities and national boundaries – and any campaign using those designations to justify violent engagement and conquest should be opposed by good people everywhere.
Any time one group of people starts believing they've forever cornered the market on 'civilization' and 'righteousness' to the denigration, exclusion, and exploitation of 'other' groups of people then they are ripe for God's wrath, not His blessings. Perhaps more so than any time in our history, our current foreign policy is extraordinarily condescending, prideful, and dismissive of other cultures and peoples.
The United States was founded on legally recognizing the divine value of each individual, the right of each nation to sovereignty, and the general application of the Christian "golden rule". Much of what the United States is pursuing today (both at home and abroad) is totally at odds with these bedrock principles; I believe we ignore 'the worth of souls' at our peril.