The editorial in the Fiji Post yesterday had a look at one line in the 'charter' with reference to religion and it turns out that it's rather about New Age ideas about God so there is a contradiction already with the Constitution and freedom of belief. We can either take the writer as being very pernicky or as an observant person who sees the intrusion of New Age religion into the Charter which is rather odd.
A problem with the first dot-point14-Aug-2008
THE logic and language of the draft People’s Charter is not as clear-cut as it might be.
Take, for example, the opening section, ‘Foundation for the common good based on our shared values, vision and principles’. The third dot-point in this un-numbered list of ideals says this: ‘We recognise the freedom of our various communities to follow their beliefs as enshrined in our Constitution’.
This is most laudable and we understand the word ‘beliefs’ here to include religious beliefs. Yet the opening, first dot-point in this same list says this: ‘We believe in God as a higher power that is in every human and in all of nature and creation’.
Put in this order, there is no consistency here between being free to have divergent religious (and even no-religious) beliefs and the opening declaration of the draft charter which commits us all to not merely (1) believing in God, but (2) believing further and more specifically that God ‘is in every human and in all of nature and creation’.
Is God in all of nature and creation – and more importantly in what sense does the draft charter mean?
As it is, this so-called ‘foundation’ is a wonderful statement if one is a panentheist, but many in Fiji are not and unfortunately it violates a fundamental premiss of the Christian religion which rejects pantheism (all is God) and its more accepted variant, panentheism (God is in all), as characterised in the starting point of the People’s Charter.
That is to say, Christians do not and never have held to the idea that God is ‘in’ his creation in any material, or physico-spiritual, or metaphysical sense. When Christians say God is ‘in’ anyone or anything they may mean ‘in’ symbolically, metaphorically, and following the Biblical idea, they primarily mean God being ‘in’ a relationship as Creator and Redeemer with creation.
That is how Biblical references to God (and Christ and the Holy Spirit) being ‘in’ us and ‘in’ the world should be understood. The Jewish idea of God (whence derive our Christian ideas) never entailed a God who is in our genes. Or micro-organically pumping around in our bloodstream.
Christians do not subscribe to the Eastern (Hindu or Buddhist) idea that God is actually, physically in his creation like blood is in our toes. Neither is God ‘in’ us in the manner that our minds, for example, literally turn blue when we think of the colour ‘blue’. Nor is God in us in the sense that a ghost may be said to be in the machinery of matter.
The problem then is that a significant number of Christians in the nation will already be excluded from sharing the draft charter’s vision of a ‘common good’ if God, therefore, is ‘in’ us and ‘in all of nature and creation’ in the bald way stated in the first dot-point of the People’s Charter. For them, we are us and God is God.
For Christians, belief or faith ‘in’ God means entering into a relationship, a mystical union with God, but this in no way means our various beings are intermingled or mixed up like some digitised Hollywood special-effect.
A marriage between a man and a woman may similarly be described as a union of one ‘in’ the other, and as two ‘becoming one’, but this does not and never can mean the separate beings literally dissolving into the other in some corpuscular way. It is not co-literal singleness in the sense implied by being ‘in’ each other.
Perhaps with reference to these issues, the debate that must accompany the re-draft of the draft People’s Charter should clarify what it means by the word ‘in’ in its first dot-point. That way we can continue to work with the document and consent to the good it elsewhere expresses without getting tangled in its awkwardness or missing the value in what its deeper intent is.
[TOMORROW: The second dot-point]