I'm a G-d fearing Jew.
I still write G-d with a hyphen because in Hebrew School they taught us that if a page with "G-d" written on it ended up in the trash bin, we would risk no dishonor.
I think about everything I do in terms of where I might end up, figuring if there is a place to end up in and if I do something good in life, I get a check mark; if not, I get an x, and my final destination is determined accordingly.
It's a confusing outlook, I know, but a hedge because no one really knows a damn thing about G-d in the real sense of how He/She operates. We pray. We ask for guidance, wisdom and forgiveness. We atone for sins. We dedicate ourselves to family, goodness and charity. But whom are we really talking to? We hope it's G-d.
But we don't really know.
I only bring this up because in the last few days I've watched two mesmerizing events on my laptop. One was Glenn Beck's speech in Washington; the other was an extraordinary video of a small Taliban commando unit, shot last Fall by a Norwegian journalist who was granted access to their activities by its leader, a young man named Dawran Safi.
The settings couldn't have been more disparate - Beck, standing at a lectern in front of the Lincoln Memorial; Dawran, hiding out in an Afghan mountain fortress, from where he ordered his troops to machine-gun passing American convoys. He had his two small children with him.
What linked these impossibly different events was the role G-d played in their unfolding. Beck implored Americans to turn back to G-d to restore honor to the country. The implication - to me, anyway -- was that G-d would then do the right thing and protect us as a nation.
Dawran and his men imbued their attacks on the American troops with reverence to Allah, as if carrying out their mission would protect them and earn them future credits for their allegiance.
G-d, Allah, Supreme Being, the Creator: these are all one and the same, right? Why would G-d be any nicer to Americans for revering him than to Taliban snipers for doing the same? Dawran was no less certain that he was serving G-d than Beck was.
It all kind of made me wonder what the hell G-d really wants, if He/She wants anything at all.
Much of what I know of Islamic fundamentalists comes what I read and see in news accounts. I'm not sure their reverence for G-d or Allah has done much for them, at least here on earth. They haven't built much, they don't seem to eat well and they don't have a lot of material goods, apart from machine guns and grenade launchers.
And they're probably still a ways off from their goal of turning the world into a Caliphate, ruled by Sharia Law.
So I see this as a lesson for the Glenn Becks of our country. G-d is going to do what G-d is going to do -- or not -- so far as I can tell. I'm good with quiet, respectful prayer. I love my religion and what it teaches me about living a life of honesty, good deeds and high aspiration.
I know that was part of Beck's message, and that's fine as far as it goes. But I'd hate to think that we Americans are relying on reverence for G-d as a quid pro quo that's going to keep us safe or restore some honor that Beck thinks we've misplaced.
Fear G-d, sure. Respect G-d, that's good with me. But I'm not sure He/She has an answer to wars, a bad economy, high unemployment and a lousy real estate market no matter how much we pray. We'd better take care of those things ourselves -- or risk the consequences.
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