Today's "First Things" entry was about 'God on Trial". The usual questions about suffering, innocence, and a personal Almighty God. How men can bear anything as long as they believe that there is "purpose".
This article is really written to Christians, because it assumes that the person still believes that there is 1.)original sin 2.)the Jews were God's chosen people 3.)God has a purpose in suffering...he acts in history, if not in the "now", then in the future 4.) and that God spoke in/through texts. Such assumptions do not speak to the agnostic or atheistic rationalist, because it appeals to faith.
Suffering happens as a consequence of others choices that impinge upon our life as well as, just "life" itself. There are no reasons for some things. Friends do not bring suffering into their friend's life, but seek to bless and identify with it. Scripture says that Jesus calls us "no longer servants" but friends. Friends bear with you and are there for you in suffering. Friends do not seek to "test" you, as "First Things" claimed that God does. Friends remove obstacles in your way and help lift your burdens.
Foes, on the other hand, judge you as "a Jew", or other derogatory labels. While labels serve to help us understand where an individual "commits" or how an individual "understands", it should not be used to describe individuals, themselves. Individuals may identify with a group, but are much more than the group. Prejuidice is blindness to the commonality of humanity's "needs".
Fables, or myths, help groups to define themselves, or help the group to maintain certain values that are meaningful. These myths are not true in the historical sense, necessarily, but help give vision to a people. Myths can "grow up" around a historical figure, which is what transpired around the historical Jesus, Buddha, or the Pope or any other authority .
The ideals that America stands for: equality, liberty, justice for all people, are values that include every people group. We believe in the individual and the individual's right to choose his own way of life. American values "ideally" respect all people and their "way of life". American history has not realized the "all" in its history, but has grown in its embrace of all. But, the quandary lies in "traditional cultures", where the individual is not valued, but only the 'tradition". The individual only exists as the tradition defines him/her and conformity is mandated 'under law". These cultures are oppressive regimes under tribal 'elders" that terrorize anyone challenging its views. Not only religious or traditional cultures are challenging today, but political oppression is also a challenge to America.
We Americans have challenges today with those who would undertake to undermine our values of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" and it is done in the name of God or in the name of the "common good". Americans are open and somewhat naive about the world and life, because of our freedom to puruse our own lives. This very "freedom" has bred ambivalence on the part of many Americans about the larger world. Even our major news networks inform us of our own "news", while for the most part, leaving us in ignorance as to the rest of the world. While these are drawbacks to our "maturity", our values have been ones that others have jealously desired by those who do not have our freedoms. Many have come to our shores to seek the freedoms, that we so often take for granted. Our immigration policy must allow those "others" the equality, liberty, and justice that we Americans enjoy all the time. While embracing others into our country, we should not negate the need to qualify citizens in regards to loyalty to our culture's values of tolerance. Tolerance cannot embrace the intolerant, whether in religious or political ideologies. If we do, we are doing so at the demise of our society at large.