Friday, December 16, 2005

Perspectives: Adam's Apple

Over at the BBC they've been talking about what might be the biggest trial of the last century. A feared and notorious dictator has been captured and now stands trial before his own people. Or is it that one of many such characters created in a middle-eastern culture has been kidnapped by evil, rich western rulers, handed over to his enemies and it's all painted as a romantic victory? Whatever the case, the public are letting loose with their opinions as to whether Saddam will receive a fair trial or not and the righteous indignation flows. It struck me that asking a bunch of random people whether they believed Saddam was going to get a fair trial was a very strange thing indeed. How should they know? Ah but that it is the question isn't it? I'd like to address that very thing but be warned my next example might touch a raw nerve.

Not too long ago there a big court case all over the media. Michael Jackson was in court again facing another set of some of the worst crimes in society - the abuse and perversion of children. Everyone was talking about it and everyone had their opinion as Jackson, with his strange face and dark glasses moved with his entourage and took the stand. Many times of those weeks I heard the cry, "That man is a disgusting pervert! I can't stand him, he makes my skin crawl." Well, soon enough the verdict came out as innocent on all counts and no sooner was the declaration made than I began to hear in abundance, "There's another victory for the rich elite - money can get you off anything."


As I hear everyone around me starting to spout though, there's one question that I want to ask them. "How do you know?"

I heard it said, "Michael is guilty." "Michael is a pervert." I wanted to ask, "Really?" "You were there?" "Did you see him?" "Do you know him?"

Not to defend Michael, it's quite possible he is a pervert, but the question I think everyone needs to ask themselves is, "What do I really know about any of this?" Do people consider what it is they're saying? They stand there and condemn a man of some awful crimes, they spit on him and cover his name with filth and they do it all based upon what? Nothing they really know, just what they've heard. It makes me sad.

What is it that drives us with hate and disgust to condemn a man we've never met, of crimes we don't know he committed? How is it we even have interest in offering an opinion on something so far removed? It can only be because we think we do know, and we think it is our role to look upon these things and offer judgment.

Taking it now to Genesis, Adam was a man who believed two things - that through an apple one could come to know all things, and, that it was his place to know such things and take a place of judgment. He was wrong on both counts.

So are we.

I believe that what we have here is a phenomenon of the modern media combined with good old human nature...or should that be bad old? For the first time even in history we have a way in which we can never leave our home town, or even our houses, yet have a window into the rest of the world. We can sit in front of these tiny screens viewing the world with a seemingly god-like aloofness and we get fed information about anything and everything. It is Adam's dream; a real way to receive the all encompassing knowledge of good and evil. At least, we think it is.

Here in this world of satellites and mass media communication we have an apple which seems to promise great knowledge. Its eye is on every corner of the world and we can share its view. We think therefore that it can tell us everything we need to know, give us a full perspective and that we need its view. Then when we get there, thinking we know it all, we then think we can offer judgment upon those things.

However, just as the apple did not give Adam what he thought it would I think we need to realise that the same is true with the media. We think the media gives us a full perspective - it does not. It does not give us the view that we think it does and in fact we cannot have the grasp upon things that we think we have or that we would like. God did not design Adam to know everything and to be able to judge all things from afar, that was His realm. Nothing has changed since, even with the invention of the internet. No, God designed us to work with what we have in front us and to walk with Him by faith. We do not need the media as much as we think we do, what we need is God and more faith in Him.

Yes, the media has its uses, but I think there is a big problem with the media leading us to walk far more by our eyes than by faith. We think that if offers us that which we so naturally desire - to be able to see beyond today, with a range and perspective that allows us to control our world. Yet that thought is a deception. What is the lesson in the fall of Adam? I think it has less to do with fruit and more to do with the truth that full knowledge and judgment belong only to God.

This isn't a rant condemning the 'sinister media and its evil ways'. My concern isn't the people behind the media or whether the news is right or wrong in any given case. What the media offers us is knowledge, bits and pieces here and there. What we need to learn is to judge rightly what knowledge it does offer and then to decided what we are going to do with that knowledge. We need to know that we can't control what the media gives us, but we can control what we do with the media.

The truth is that we are, in most of these matters, simple observers with a limited view. That's it. We don't see all that is going and we never will. We would like to be able to be in control of everything - to ensure that Saddam has a fair trial, or to ensure that everything is clean and tidy and clinical - we want God's view of the garden instead of Man's. Yet what we have to realise is that we are not God and never will be. The world is a messy place but in our western, scientific, sterilised culture we begin to forget that. We come up with our great ideas and principles and think that we can fix it all but, the history of the world suggests otherwise. What Adam had to learn is that there are certain things that belong to God and certain things that were given to him. His job was to tend the garden. To look after his wife and family. To take care of those things around him and walk and talk faithfully with his God. The wisdom here is to realise that there is only One who is in control and only One who truly sees everything. He sees the hearts of men, truth is His domain and nothing escapes Him.

Saddam may get a fair trial despite what we think about the judges and bias and US administration. He might not. The reality is we'll probably never know but it's not our role to do so. If you really care what is going on, pray, and then turn to those who are really your concern. Pour as much as you can into that which God has given you and that which is beyond today and beyond your borders is in the hands of your God.

And with the media, the simple message is, be careful.