Leave God out of it

Apr 13th, 2011 | By | Category: International

The world seemed simpler back in the 1970s – there was the West (that was us, the good guys); there was the Communist bloc (the bad guys) and there was the ‘Third World’ (where there were good guys and bad guys).  Of course, it was not like that all, it just seemed like that to a teenager who read the Daily Mail.

Religion in those times was something for people from the fringes; it was something from the past.  For someone brought up in a secular tradition, it seemed odd that pop groups I liked would occasionally wander into the realms of religion.  American soul bands had a particular propensity for becoming religious.  The Chi-Lites who usually sang about much more carnal matters had a song called ‘€œThere will never be any peace’. The lyrics of which go:

€œThere will never be any peace
Until God is seated at the conference table
There will never be any peace
Until God is seated at the conference table (He’s at the conference table)

Men are runnin’ from land to land
Tryin’ to make things all right
Holding meeting after meeting
Constantly reaching
For what they maybe thinking is right

Everybody has a plan
Ain’t that just a man
People can’t you understand
We gotta tell ‘€˜em

There will never be any peace
Until God is seated at the conference table (He’s at the conference table)
There will never be any peace
Until God is seated at the conference table (He’s at the conference table)

But when only the dark
Has come to night
Tell me whose to blame
And what’s his name

You can point your finger
But you gotta remember
What was done
Was done by a man
So we gotta tell ’em

There will never be any peace
Until God is seated at the conference table (He’s at the conference table)
There will never be any peace
Until God is seated at the conference table (He’s at the conference table)

Back in the ’70s, the lyric could be dismissed as reflecting the Gospel tradition from which soul music derived.  The guys with the big haircuts didn’t seem particularly godly in other matters.  Four decades later, though, God has come back into international politics, but whose God should be at the conference table?

Which God is the authentic voice? The God of the Tea Party in the United States or the God of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran? The God of the Israeli Defence Forces or the God of Hamas? The God of Irish Republicanism, which hasn’t gone away, or the God of Ulster Loyalism, where the drums are still beating? God who is on my side or God who is on your side?

From a traditional Christian viewpoint: given the frailty of our human nature, given our very incomplete understanding of God, given our innate sinfulness and desire to have things our own way, maybe it is better that we acknowledge that God is beyond all of us and not to attempt to co-opt him to our cause.

Maybe we should leave God away from the conference table.

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