Many people contend that religion and politics don't mix. Wrong! Just take a look at the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the first story in the Old Testament after the creation narrative. Since the Old Testament is a document of religious significance for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, it should be of special interest to a wide sector of our population.
Whether one interprets this story literally or metaphorically, a standard of behavior emerges that has been expected of all segments of humankind, including politicians, since the very beginning of creation. Let's take a brief look at this particular story, found in Genesis 3:1-24.
Just prior to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, when Adam is yet alone, the "Lord God" (or whatever name you may choose to use) is portrayed as telling Adam that he is welcome to eat of any fruit of the garden except the fruit of one particular tree. Adam, in the meantime, after Eve comes to life and joins him in the garden, shares with her that the fruit of one particular tree should not be eaten. But the serpent convinces Eve that it is all right to eat it, and she tries it and finds it to be quite tasty. So she talks Adam into sampling the same fruit.
At this point in the story, the "Lord God" appears on the scene asking some very pointed questions about what has happened. Adam immediately blames Eve for his eating of the forbidden fruit. When Eve is asked about her role in this incident, she immediately resorts to blaming the serpent for what she has done; the serpent, after all, was the original instigator for what both Adam and Eve have done.
And what is the Lord God's reaction to all of this? He (she, or it, if you prefer) holds all three of them responsible for their respective actions and does not allow any of them to blame one of the others. In other words, from the very beginning of human existence, every one of us -- including you and me -- is responsible for what he or she does, and blaming someone else is not acceptable. Actions have consequences that cannot be shuffled onto others.
Today is seems as if we all blame others for the problems we face. The media loves focusing on this problem, especially at it pertains to political gridlock. But blaming others doesn't stop with politics. It seems to be an epidemic that encompasses all areas of our lives: in our homes, at work, at school, on the playground, among members of athletic teams, on school boards, in contract negotiations and so forth.
Recently, for example, I attended a meeting of the governing board of the housing development I live in. For one thing, we focused on the costs of deferred and current maintenance for our houses. Very quickly the discussion deteriorated into pointing fingers at who is to blame for our problems instead of how to make sure they don't happen again. How quick we are to blame others rather than to focus on solutions!
Just last week a major baking company said it was going out of business, resulting in some 18,500 people being put out of work. Management blames the labor union and vice versa.
In the political arena, we are all aware of the fiscal cliff our country faces at the end of December. This past week we have heard and seen news conferences where the Democrats blame the Republicans for not already having solved the problem, and vice versa. And on the international scene, Hamas blames Israel, and Israel blames Hamas, for the escalating tensions between the two. And on and on the examples could go.
It was a breath of fresh air for a highly respected General of the Army to resign while blaming no one other than himself for the mess he was in. It is a national tragedy for the career of a public hero to end in this way, but General Petraeus deserves very high marks for how he has handled the matter.
There is no question about it: God had it right that day in the Garden of Eden. Now, all of us need to get it right! Let's stop playing this crazy blame game the entire world seems to be engaged in and focus on finding solutions.