When foes ask God for help

Elise T. Chisolm

January 22, 1991|By Elise T. Chisolm

WHOSE SIDE is God on anyway?

And how will we know, especially in wartime?

I'm kneeling in prayer at my own church. We've finished the prayers for the people, including a prayer for our president and other elected officials, and then a prayer for peace.

Many people are praying for peace in the Persian Gulf. From the Middle East through Europe to small-town America, prayers go out on wings of hope.

I have a sudden stabbing thought.

At this moment, Saddam Hussein and his followers on the other side of the world are praying too.

Some of their prayers, I suspect, are asking God to obliterate the Americans and all the forces that are against Hussein. Remember that interview with CBS in which Saddam said, ''God is on our side, and Satan is on the side of the United States?''

What an irony. So whose side is God on? Is God ubiquitous? Is their God our God? Is there one God for all people, an omniscient God? What on earth is God doing about all these people who are nagging him to death?

In a recent letter to Dear Abby, a Deist asked the same thing: ''Whose side is God on?'' And then he wondered, ''Can religion be taught without bigotry?''

He writes: ''During WW II while in the 3rd Army in Germany, I removed a belt buckle from the uniform of a dead soldier. An inscription read: ''Gott Mit Uns'' (God is with us).

The writer postulates: ''As long as the true believer is taught that he is in any way superior to the non-believer, he is well on his way to becoming a qualified bigot, a religious fanatic, or member of one of those many hate groups that have been spawned by such teachings through the ages.''

While the questioner has a point, his hypothesis is invalidated by the fact that not all religions teach bigotry.

Sure, I'd like to know how God handles all the different prayers. And I like to think that God listens to all, bigots, fanatics and Deists.

The Rev. Frank M. Sweeney, a chaplain at Charlestown Retirement Community in Baltimore, a place where many residents have lived through many wars, says, ''I don't think God has to sort out. We always tend to ask him to bail us out. What he has really done is given us the resources and the mechanisms to find a solution. That's his gift to us.''

Sweeney adds, ''God stands by us as an enabler of the human process.''

So we still pray today that God finds peace among those he created, and he listens to all petitions; that he knows the difference between benevolence and wickedness.

And as we plunge into this conflict, we reach out for the anchor; that he is there for all of us.

In discussing the potential of the crisis,a Sun Thanksgiving editorial exclaimed in the last line: ''It is a time for prayer.''

How right. This is a time for immediate praying.

Hurry.

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