The knowledge of good and evil, and politics

Apart from some too long posts on social media walls that don’t limit length and a collection of 140 character mini rants, I didn’t engage in any thoughtful writing for two months.

Don Hutchinson

There were certainly thoughts and concepts over those months, but I found myself holding back while I wrestled with my own knowledge of good and evil, and politics.

Uncharacteristically, I openly backed a leader and party in the federal election. Those who know me would be surprised that our front lawn even brandished a sign supporting a local candidate. There likely isn’t a party, leader or candidate with whom I would find myself in full agreement. So, my decision was based on a track record of promises kept and campaign promises made with which I did agree.

For months I was reading and watching “post-election news” in both mainstream media and social media. It gave every appearance of a still-fighting-the-campaign frenzy with reports and remarks focused on what might be considered “low hanging fruit.”

That low hanging fruit tempted me to join in, take a bite and have a write. The Prime Minister, various premiers and mayors were announcing some dreadful decisions, as well as kicking off some desirable initiatives. But, plucking at a yay or nay opinion on those announcements reminded me of the old story from a garden, about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Choosing low hanging fruit isn’t always the best, or the best for you in the long run.

There was another tree spoken of in that ancient garden. A tree that, if chosen, would bring life.

The options of that long ago moment in time are akin to the options of today. If the choice to be made permits eating from only one of the trees, which one?

There’s no point pretending to be wiser or better than Adam or Eve. We have the benefit of hindsight. And still, when confronted with these options we have at times chosen as they did, knowledge instead of life. There is much we, each and all, can learn from their experience, and our own.

Are we inclined to desire and share acquired knowledge or facilitate personal growth and the enhancement of life together? When we reflect on making similar choices in the past, which brought greater joy and fulfillment? And, in the long run?

When Jesus told us to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” he not only knew about the two trees in the garden, he was the living embodiment of choice between the two. Jesus lived his earthly life sharing the practical message of what it means for us and our world to choose life. When he rendered unto Caesar to the point of submitting himself to the adjudication of the Roman governor of Judaea and Samaria, Pontius Pilate, it didn’t look at first like he was choosing life. But in the long run it became evident that he had.

When the apostle and citizen Paul wrote to the Church at Rome that “every person be subject to the governing authorities” he was living and writing to others who were living under the same imperial structure that had “subjected” Jesus, and many of his followers, to death (Romans 13:1-7).

When the apostle Peter likewise noted the importance to Christian witness of being “subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him” he was doing so as one who was citizen of a conquered nation, a people who longed for the freedom of self-government (1 Peter 2:13-17).

Living in a contemporary democracy, the challenge to submit can hardly be considered as difficult as it was for those in the early Church; but, the way of life in Christ challenges us to such submission. Submission to government authorities is something I’ll develop further in the coming weeks. But, for the moment, the confronting choice seems between sharing insight or personal opinion – knowledge – on electoral and policy decisions or learning lessons from Scripture on living life together in a 21st century pluralist democracy, which lessons may have impact on electoral and policy decisions yet to be made.

I enjoyed seven and a half years of working with the team at The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. One of the reasons was because of a shared commitment to assess proposals for public policy and presentations to the courts based on the Word of Life, the Bible. Did the proposal or presentation fit with time tested and proven biblical principles for human flourishing, the common good? That is, did it offer words of life?

Because The EFC’s proposals and presentations focused on the common good of all citizens they have informed, and often influenced, the decisions of governing authorities and human institutions of various stripes and shades for decades; provided the recipients were willing to be tolerant of the religious foundation for the soundness of the public policy presented.

The Bible is the book in which we discover that God inspired human authors to mediate his message into language that could be understood “in earth as it was in heaven,” the book that has been subsequently translated into thousands of languages so that it might be understood in the contemporary world as it was in the ancient world. Similarly, our life giving task in engaging with the world around us is to facilitate communication of the principles of Scripture in language suitable for application as public policy for the contemporary common good.

If all the world’s a stage, Adam and Eve had an audience of One. The One remains. As Jesus, Paul and Peter remind us, the audience has expanded; and, we no longer live in the perfect garden. The consequences of a poor choice by Adam and Eve afflict us still; as, no doubt, do our own. We might not choose right every time, but, we know the results of choosing life are of demonstrably greater benefit.

Choosing what gives life over acquiring or expressing an opinion based on that which is tempting, and often speculatively experimental, may prove, for all of us, to be a step away from the pursuit of the knowledge of good and evil and a step toward pursuit of our common good in life together.