Articles From the February 1995 Unification News
A Reflection on a Passage in 2 Corinthians - Part I
"The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:4)
Perception is built upon belief. Thus, as the apostle Paul wrote, unbelief makes us blind, incapable of perception. Paul wrote in cosmic terms having to do with belief in Christ. In this realm, unbelief allows the god of this world, Satan, to blind us to the image of God. This is in fact the ultimate instance of a common psychological phenomenon, that the way we perceive the world, and even what we perceive in it, is shaped by the beliefs-or prejudices, if you will- which we bring to the world.
Most educated people believe in science, but this is not a great surprise, as modern education is based upon the presupposition of the validity of science, it is not so much as questioned. But have you seen an atom? No; we accept the proof of photographs as interpreted by the scientists. Have researchers found Darwin's "missing link", any missing link? No; but the theory is appealing to many and so many believe in it and believe that traces of such links must exist somewhere. And then there are the results of technologies developed on the basis of the scientific interpretation of reality, from computers to missiles to various fabrics and pills, the ultimate value of which to the human race is not yet entirely clear.
Most people believe in religion, and the less education they have, in general, the more simple their beliefs are likely to be. (The one exception to the rule of "the more education, the less faith" is that of the encounter with the death of a loved one, at which point atheism usually departs for a period of time; the pain of living in a universe desolate of soul is too great for any of us to bear.) Have they seen Jesus? No; they accept the proof of photographs, paintings and stories as interpreted by the religious teachers. Have they seen Noah's ark? No; although there are photographs, and a full-sized replica on display in West Virginia. And then there are the results of the ethical systems developed on the basis of the religious interpretation of reality, from hospitals to holy wars, the ultimate value of which, again, is not entirely clear.
If belief in God opens one up to perceiving the world as the creation of God, with an order, beauty and goodness inherent within it, then disbelief in God rids the world of the same (save for the paltry order, beauty and goodness which the individual mind might be able to impose upon it, an imposition temporary at best, and most effective under the influence of intoxicants).
If perception is built upon belief, then disbelief will prevent certain perceptions, will, in Paul's words, blind our minds to them. That is, if belief in the existence of atoms leads to perceiving the world in ways which open up all kinds of technologies, then disbelief in atoms will close one off to all those technological possibilities. If one believes that all people are enemies of himself, or of his religion or race, then all people will tend to appear that way.
I, who once considered myself free of prejudice, had an interesting and disconcerting experience in this connection a few years ago. In an airplane preceding take-off, a young man took the seat next to mine, and then stood up and left. A few minutes later the flight attendant asked me what the young man looked like; they were worried that he had boarded the plane with a bomb, planted it and then deplaned. I answered, with a fair degree of confidence, he had black hair and a swarthy complexion-he looked middle eastern. Well, they ended up taking me around the plane and we did locate him, trying to hustle a seat in business class. Immediately I recognized him to be the young man who had sat next to me, and his name matched the seat assignments. I kid you not: he was blond-haired and blue-eyed. Belief, mistaken though it was (that all people who carry bombs onto airplanes are from the middle east), had absolutely determined my perception.
Every sane person believes something. Merely to utter a word to another person presupposes belief in the efficacy of language, in the sanity of that person, and in the likelihood of that person's hearing and responding. The question of greater significance is what it is that we believe, and the nature of the world which our beliefs enable us to perceive. The corollary concern is the nature of the possibilities which disbelief may prevent us from perceiving.
Let's consider an archetypal story for starters, the biblical one of the first ancestors. A young man and woman came into existence in a garden, which the scripture profusely describes as a very fine place to be. The condition of their dwelling there, as it turned out, was their belief in God's commandment not to eat of the fruit, for the day they ate of it they would die. Viewing the world from the perspective of that belief, they would have acted upon it, not eating the fruit, and would have remained in the Garden-that is, they would have seen the world as a Garden.
However, they disbelieved and, acting upon disbelief, they ate of the fruit. As a result, their self-perception changed: the notion of "nakedness" came into being for them, as a mark of shame. Further, the world, which had been a Garden, turned into a field of tears, sweat and blood. Did the world objectively change? Were they literally chased from a fertile area into a desert? It is unlikely. Fertile areas do not guarantee peaceful and happy people, nor do wildernesses force people into savagery. Polynesians who live in the most luxuriant of climes indulge in cannibalism; while Christian monks turned the wilderness of Europe into a land of prosperity and civilization. Whether we have wilderness or civilization depends upon the spirit of the people who inhabit the earth. Due to disbelief, Adam and Eve came to see the world as a wilderness.
Let's consider a second realm of belief, that made in response to the claims of Christianity for Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Belief in these claims opens one to the expectation of the resurrection of the dead to eternal life. Disbelief in this claim closes one off to this possibility; the disbeliever cannot see the world from the perspective of this reality. The golden light of resurrection does not shine.
Of course, every religion has its golden light of resurrection in some form or other: nirvana, paradise, heaven. There is something more pertinent to be pointed out in the belief system of Christianity: participation in the Kingdom of God, in which all humankind is united as one family. That is, Christianity presents a vision of humankind as one family, a realm of cosmopolitan love. Jesus' teachings were non- discriminatory; "Go and teach all the nations." Christianity, for all its major shortcomings, has maintained this ideal of the Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man. No religion, save perhaps Islam, which emerged after Christ, enabled the believer to see the world as one family, as relatives, as children of the same parents.
It is in this sense that the Divine Principle calls Christianity the central religion: "What makes Christianity different from other religions is that its purpose is to restore the one great world family which God had intended at the creation. . . . This signifies that Christianity is the central religion that will accomplish the purpose of God's providence of restoration." (p. 123; cf. p. 441) Thus, belief in Christianity opens one to the perception of all people as one's brothers and sisters, which is a pre-condition of world peace and love. Without this Christian-rooted belief, where would one ground one's perception of humankind as a whole?
Well, Marx and Lenin taught it. Communism is based upon belief in the universal proletariat, the workers of the world. However, the Marxist terms of this vision are not viable anymore; they have many flaws fatal to man and beast. The communists did not see the world finally as one family, as it turned out, but as one factory.
Okay, okay, Coca-Cola teaches it, so does MTV, David Letterman, Bill and Hillary and the Jesse's J. and H. and I'm sure O.J. Simpson subscribes to it whole-heartedly. Can these people sustain this vision? No; they are subscribers, not publishers. Their subscriptions were paid for by somebody else, and they have no idea for how long.
And, yes, the Pope of Rome teaches it, and the Archbishop of Canterbury and all the new wave of American Evangelical stars teach it. Will this sustain the world for much longer? No, according to the Divine Principle, the day of New Testament faith is past; the New Testament Age is over. The sun and moon are losing their light and the stars are falling from heaven. The ax has been laid to the root. New wineskins are needed for new wine.
What do we do with this pronouncement, given during the century in which, objectively speaking, institutional Christianity has gained as powerful a worldwide presence as it ever has had? I would point out that Christian thought-serious discussion in Christian terms of God, sin and salvation, the church, the spirit and flesh, the atonement and the second coming-as if these things really matter-is not to be found. Since the end of World War 2, what we find to have emerged are factional theologies, based upon the concerns of those who identify themselves over-against others (blacks, whites, latinos, the poor, women, homosexuals), those who thus do not in actuality see humankind as a whole. At best, current theological discussion addresses the application of Christian values to contemporary moral and ethical dilemmas. Meritorious, but one is not saved by merit, and these trends seem to me a sign of a dying system of ideas, striving to find the resources within itself to solve the problems of the society which came into being out of its own womb. The Roman church could not solve the problems of medieval church/society because that society was produced by the church itself.
I am reminded of the time of the Protestant Reformation. The best and brightest of the Catholic Church agreed that a reformation of morality and practice was long overdue, and that someone jolly well should do something, and decrees were passed and books weighty, clever and wise were written, but all were skirting the issue until an anxiety-ridden priest who could not find peace with God struck at the root of the belief system itself.
The best and brightest of Luther's time were doing meritorious works for the sake of the world-in the terms the world accepted and applauded, and the best and brightest of Jesus' time were doing the same, but when the ax struck the root, the world fell to pieces because it was those very terms which were the problem. The ax was not a literal ax; it was literal words, and literal life living out those words. The tongue is a sword, said the apostle James; and the Lord, it is written in Revelation, will slay them with the sword of his mouth. The time will come, Jesus said, when I will bring you into all the truth. The truth will judge the world, in very realistic terms.
It will turn out that someone is right; that God is working through someone to teach us how to live, and those who do not recognize that, it follows as day follows the night, will not find life. The Divine Principle claims that we are in that time today, and its author claims that the Divine Principle itself is part of this new expression of truth.
to be continued
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