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September 11


Udo W. Middelmann

The Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation

Chalet Les Montaux, CH 1882 Gryon, Switzerland #41 24 498 1656

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 we were starved for news, anxious for our friends and often glued to the TV to learn more about the background for this latest of attacks of terrorists against America, Israel and what remains of Christianity in the West. We also followed the prayer service in New York's Yankee stadium with interest. Clergy from Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities in New York took a stand against those who in the name of Islam had perpetrated such atrocities in pursuit of a war against what we know as the European heritage. The intentions of the attackers were clear and public through letters, notes and traces of their travels in pursuit of receiving the best training for what they had in mind. Their effort to strike at the symbols of American military and commercial power was carried out after careful planning and with religious motivation.

The prayer service united a respectable selection of assimilated Americans. The most American stadium, where the uniquely American game baseball is at home, hosted an American picture of a religious, open, tolerant, multiethnic society. They were Americans first, expressing their religious persuasions within a common American vision.

Earlier efforts of assimilation gave to Roman Catholicism in America a strong coloring from the American experiment. It became in many aspects a dim shadow of its historic past in Rome. The old is much more recognizable in South American Catholicism and in Southern Europe. Likewise Greek and Russian Orthodoxy in America are more like other Protestant denominations than what they still are with their exclusive and nationalistic claims in their motherlands. Yankee stadium showed the wider public that Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism in America have found a way of pursuing their religion with their faithful within the American playground. "E Pluribus Unum" did on that day not refer much to one or any God, but to One America.

After the terrorist attacks it was important to make the point of unity in order to resist the temptation to accuse Muslims per se as members of a hateful religion, a quasi terrorist association. Very few Muslims in our countries would actually be fundamentalist and have terrorist leanings. Assimilation has often watered down the content. In Russia many Muslims see their religion as a distinguishing mark, a national and ethnic identity that marks them as not Russian, not Orthodox, not Communist. And having said that, they take their vodka, against the Muslim prohibition of alcohol, like anybody else.

Such events nurture the impression expressed by the President about Islam being a religion of love and peace. He tries to stem any immediate rise of anger and the need for revenge against the American next door. America has opened the door for all kinds of religions as a matter of personal choice within the bounds of a civil society.

The position against hate and revenge is welcomed in the effort to deny the stage for a war between religions or between members of religious groups. However such efforts overlook three important factors we do well to consider in light of the awakening we hope has come to the average American with the crashing of our own planes, though hijacked, into the WTC and the Pentagon. The horror did not come from abroad, but from within. America has to face the fact that people choose to do real evil in the name of religion in pursuit of their own salvation.

The first is the flaw inherent in an excessive optimism. It tends to look ahead and expect great things without the reservations and wisdom taken from the past. Since the early days of the republic the belief spread that a new continent would be the home of a new kind of people. The crossing of the water to get there would enable people to leave behind the problems of their past affiliation. In this new land would of course make of old people a new creation. This is a failure to recognize that neither geography nor the flow of time improves human beings. More opportunities will include also greater opportunities for evil, the misuse of freedom, greater selfishness and the naive belief that old problems can easily be solved through good intentions. No material advantage, no freedom of opinion or religion, no endless opportunities for all by themselves make people good. Evil is more an expression of human creativity than of insanity.

The second flaw is the belief that the success of the new experiment would be a light and an attraction to everybody else. But when the Jewish text gives as the tenth commandment that you should not covet or envy your neighbor's possessions it recognizes something equally present in the human being. Light can be admired and reached for. It is then an attraction that stimulates us to push for more ourselves. The competition makes me more competent. A better alternative challenges my assumed sufficiency. Seeing something more or better breaks up the belief that what I have is already good enough. All art and science, all business are finally more fruitful when an alternative is imagined as a challenge to the status quo.

But such an alternative can also be resented. The Russian joke has it that Ivan is jealous of his neighbor Boris, who has a goat. When Ivan is given a wish, he wishes his neighbor's goat dead! If I cannot have something you have, you should not have it either. Any egalitarian emphasis in world religions or tribal practices or materialist communist perspectives have always encouraged envy as a tool to destroy unsocial behavior and taught that differences are profoundly evil. The unique is seen as against the collective, the common, the usual. In this mindset an improvement becomes impossible, is resented where it is successfully tried. We are used to this from Marxist societies, but also find it in African tribal customs, traditional village patterns and wherever human beings are not free to be a self even without being selfish.

The uncommon, singular and personal has a place only within the Biblical affirmation of the uniqueness of each human being and the resulting differences in life, priorities and accomplishments. Being equally human in dignity, we will vary tremendously in accomplishment, in abilities and motivations. We measure justice in relation to each person's efforts, not in equal outcome. We take a stand against blaming the more accomplished merely because others feel inferior, threatened or angry. For to follow their line of reasoning only the disappearance of the superior one would suffice to reestablish the common level.

The third flaw in American thought is the assumption that religions are all the same, a private matter for citizens of good will. Born largely out of the Protestant sense of personal conscience and responsibility it is widely assumed that all religions are part of the denominationalism in the American religious landscape. Little further effort is made to know the root of things. We talk in public more about sex than about god. An ocean separated America from the old continents. When people came here they came because they left behind the problems associated with other locations. No need to know Hinduism in India, Islam along a crescent of countries from Indonesia to Nigeria, the influence of Orthodox spirituality in preparing Russians for the rule of Leninism. We should know that reaching the shores of the new continent does not by itself wash off all the thought forms and value systems of the tribes left behind.

The American moral and social and economic landscape has a peaceful effect and dilutes in some measure the intellectual or worldview side of religions. But we need to acknowledge that religions go further than the appearance of various forms of cults, clothes and social patterns. The public is used to human interest stories, personal anecdotes and a multitude of ethnic restaurants, but not to deeply rooted persuasions that vary greatly about God and man, time and purpose, work and women, freedom and responsibility. Only Christians and some Jews are believed to hold solidly anchored convictions. But there is no reason to assume that this, for instance, is not also the case for Muslims, Buddhist and Marxists or our own social scientists.

These flaws are beginning to be uncovered with the sudden confrontation of America with the world of ideas taught and believed in Islam. Muslims are people of flesh and blood, of faith and families, of fears and feelings. They are our neighbors and should be respected, loved and engaged as such. Beyond that there are people in Islamic countries who by force of circumstances affirm one faith and live another, just like in our countries we have a Christian ethic in a broad sense without necessarily any intellectual conviction that the things of God, Christ and the Bible are actually true.

But there is also a tragic ignorance about the basic worldview and history of Islam and other religions, which easily leads to superficial responses and very possibly a future failure of preparedness. The fear of offending individual Muslims must not lead us to disregard Islam, its history and declared worldview. The remonstrations of some do not negate the substance of its teaching, its way of looking at the world.

We have to acknowledge that from a desire to pursue a love of people in our culture we have disregarded the power of their ideas hold over them. It seemed to us implausible, until September 11, that there are also communities, which love ideas so much they actually disregard people and are prepared to murder them in pursuit of their ideas. Jesus gave his life for our redemption. Mohamed took the life of infidels in order to give Islam a broader power base.

Shalom, Salaam and Islam

In the immediate hours and days following the attack every effort was made to separate in our minds the Islamic communities around us as well as Arab countries from the terrorist and their Muslim rhetoric and justifications. A line was drawn between fundamentalists and moderates in order to express the respect for individual persuasions of people in their ethnic, religious and cultural diversity. A godly remnant of Biblical teaching should prevent any harmful response to Muslims living next door or to a Muslim state abroad. Many Muslims have come to us and benefit from the freedoms of a more Christian society. We are not engaged in a religious crusade against Islam or any other religion. Yet such tolerance, respect and openness should not sustain the suggestion that Islam, the religion of Allah by the prophet Mohammed, is a religion of peace. The only peace known in Islam is the one of submission to and believing the things of Islam, or of the death of the unbeliever. Any respect for Muslims comes from a dignity of the human being, who bears the image of the God of the Bible even when he follows other ideas without much reflection, evidence or benefit.

The word Islam has nothing to with the word shalom (Hebrew) or salaam (Arabic) for peace. It means submission to Allah by abolishing your mind, repeating by rote what is told, done and mandated in Islam's teaching. There is no act of the will after reflection and or by personal choice. Submission occurs in community, collectively, at set times. Your mind and conscience as a distinct person are abolished, since Allah is totally transcendent, the mysterious other, the totality of being. The self must loose itself in the divine.

Interestingly the Qu'ran must not, cannot even be translated and therefore does not address you as a thinking being. It must be read and recited in Arabic, the language of Mohamed, regardless of your own language, for any translation involves uncertainties of meaning. You recite, but do not argue with the text for better understanding. Neither does one argue with Allah over evil or moral contradictions in life. One submits all: mind, life, individuality, reason, experience.

Man comes from Allah, the transcendent one, and to him he returns. There is no notion of truly personal existence, or of minds questioning reality. There has been no fall of Adam. Consequently everything is the way it is meant to be from Allah.

Not surprisingly there is no real room for debate, for clarification, for moral distinctions in the real world. There is no notion of continuing creation by man, made in the image of God. Fatalism is the common characteristic of an Islamic mind and life.

Outside are the infidels. They require action. Because God tolerates no life outside himself, no independent person, no questions and no additional creation from the hand of man, the infidel is to be converted or annihilated. Several texts point to this. They are contained in the "sword verses" of the Qu'ran and in the "Sira of the Prophet". They differ from Old Testament mandates to destroy the Canaanites in that Israel was used by God to eradicate murderous inhuman practices among some specifically named tribes. At no time was there a command of a holy war for conquest of land or forced conversion of pagans. Israel was to be a light to the Gentiles, not a sword.

The Qu'ran gives us a number of ‘suras' that teach a different perspective and can easily be appropriated by terrorists or any Muslim with so-called fundamentalist beliefs. I was very much helped to understand this by a friend who has worked for years among Muslims in one of our countries. We find in sura 9:5 a strong mandate for destruction of non-Muslims: "But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay those who join other gods with Allah wherever you find them; besiege them, seize them, lay in wait for them with every kind of ambush (or stratagem)..."

Later sura 9:29 states: "...Make war upon such of those to whom the scriptures have been given as believe not in Allah, or in the last day, and who forbid not what Allah and his apostle have forbidden ...until they pay tribute..."

Concerning the unbelievers sura 47:4 says, "When you encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads, until ye have made a great slaughter among them..." A similar admonition is found in sura 8:39: "And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression. And there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do".

There are the historical references that these and other texts were carried out in the life of Muslim saints. In the 'Sira-t-ul rasul-Allah', and particularly the oldest amongst this genre, the 'Maghazi manuscripts', we find that Muhammad himself is known to have conducted 29 battles and planned 39 others (see Sira Halabiyya, Ibn Kathir's Bidaya Wa Nihaya, and Ibn Hisham's Sira).

The popular assertion that Muhammad, and later the Muslims after him, acted only in self-defense is simply untrue. What was Muhammad defending when he attacked without provocation the Meccans traveling north during the month of peace, at the battle of Badr in 624AD? What was he defending when he threw out of Medina two of the Jewish Kahinan, the Kaynuka, and the Banu al-Nadir families? What was he defending by executing all 800 of the men belonging to the last remaining Jewish Kurayza clan, taking their wives, and children as possessions, so that within five years of his movement to Medina no Jewish families remained within that once proud city?

What reason for defense allowed Muhammad to order a blind disciple named Umair to stab and kill a woman named Asma while she slept suckling her baby? Her crime: she had criticized Muhammad in poetic verse. And Muhammad's response: "Behold a man that hath assisted the Lord and His prophet. Call him not blind, call him rather Umair, the seeing" (Nehls 1987:122).

Much more could be cited in evidence for Muslim conquest through military expansion, such as over the whole of North Africa, or Spain, France, India, Persia, Syria, Anatolia or the Balkans up until the middle of the 8th century. These countries all had previous civilizations, many of which were more sophisticated than that of the Arabs. They all (outside of France) fell during the conquests of Muslims in the first hundred years. Muslims eradicated the cultures and replaced them with Islam. During many years in later centuries the expanding Ottoman Empire in Turkey was repeatedly repelled, so that much of the rest of Europe was defended against the influence of Islam. Does that not evidence a rather offensive and violent interpretation for Jihad, as against the more popular and politically correct definition of an 'inner struggle or journey' being set forth by our assimilated, more liberal Muslims today?

If in fact Jihad means something more internal than external we wait for the public repudiation of such military conquests of the past, as we have ourselves admitted the error of the Church's crusades to liberate Jerusalem. If Muslims publicly claim their religion is based on peace, then let them publicly repudiate the 'sword verses' found in their holy book, the Qu'ran. They must then also condemn the actions of their prophet, and those of the 'rightly guided Caliphs' (Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali), during whose time most of the conquests of the Byzantine empire occurred, followed by the decimation of the church in North Africa.

There were crusades on both sides. The difference lies in the Jewish and Christian admission that not everything done in the name of God is willed by God. Wrong is possible within the teaching of the Bible. There are good and bad kings, true and false prophets, faithful and unfaithful priests in the real world. Therefore great spiritual and intellectual discernment is necessary at all times. The name of God should not be taken for one's vanity.

But this is precisely the point in which the difference between Christianity and Islam becomes obvious. They are not very similar, but very dissimilar from each other. There may be three monotheistic religions, but Allah is only ONE without diversity, without the practice of love and without a relationship between persons. There is no Trinity in all eternity, and therefore there is no filial relationship between God and Man either. The ONEness of Allah excludes all openness. It leads to determinism finally and the approval of all events in history. There is no life outside of Allah, while Adam could rebel against God; in the Bible people are invited to believe God, to debate his character, to argue with him. But not so with Allah. There is no fall of man in Islam; therefore the question of whether an act is evil never occurs in the same way. Only obedience matters, a return to the ONE, which demands that all the world submit to Allah.

Islam is not a religion of peace, but of conquest. It contains many good words and admonitions, but its view of the world is not favorable to the human being, to the person, to the mind and to respectful relationships. Because ultimately everything is seen as ONE there is no real understanding of love, honor and freedom.

Jews and Christians hold that human beings are of a specific nature, made in the image of the God of the Bible. We have a more accurate definition of life in the real world. In that real world we of course find Muslims and many from other religions, who are very human, think for themselves, love and honor. A distinction must be made between the religious teaching set forth on one hand and the reality of human beings on the other, where our brothers and sisters in Adam and Eve, survivors of Noah's arc, are very much like ourselves. But with all that we should awaken to the need to know and confront the underlying set of ideas, the world view, the way Muslims are told by their Book to look at reality, including the reality of people who differ with them and who don't bow their hearts and minds to Allah. Islam is not, as they claim, a refinement of the Prophetic sayings of Abraham, Moses and Jesus. It is a different and in many ways finally inhuman way of looking at reality. Allah could never be seen as the creator of this very real world inhabited by human beings.

Underlying Causes

We are used to searching for explanations, and many things have been written to explain the terrorist actions of September 11. There is fury, anger and hate behind it. Why do some people hate Americans? What has America done or failed to do to deserve this? Such and other questions arise naturally to people in a culture that expects to have explanations.

Yet surprising is the rapidity with which explanations from 30 years ago surfaced to shed light on the terror in NY and DC: Widespread poverty around the world, Israel's physical and powerful presence in the Near East, America's dominant role through market and military forces and Western moral decadence were called upon to suggest that America in some way deserved it. These are proposals of people who came out of retirement to highjack the terrorists to hold up their old ill-fitting theories. They proposed what the terrorists had never said themselves. BinLaden did not act from compassion for the poor and weak, but for Islam itself as instructed by the Qu'ran. His team expresses the fury of a religious community that sees everything non-Islamic as an attack on Allah. America was to be punished for being on holy Islamic soil, for supporting an embargo on Iraq and for supporting Israel's right to exist on formerly Islamic land.

Out of hibernation came the old theories about the injustice of unequal economics, unequal power and about unequal societies. Resentment and envy grow easily when any effort to recognize unequal worldviews, opposing systems of work and property, a better focus in education and law, a greater respect for men and women is suppressed.

We are prepared to admit guilt in ourselves, because none of us is wholly innocent. The Bible has shaped our thinking so that we can imagine being wrong. When the Cardinal of New York admonishes us to examine our conscience he strikes a bell that needs to be rung. That is soundly Biblical. Paul asks us to do that before coming to the table of the Lord, lest we live to our own condemnation. We are capable of evil, even by neglect. We also have a desire that things would be right. We would not be stumbling blocks. We want others to love us.

So the call to search one's soul or mind is appropriate and needed. But many more voices attribute guilt and accuse for general reasons, for reasons of state and society at large. This is no searching of conscience, but a list of accusations.

A) America is accused for supporting Israel and not having an even-handed approach to the Palestinian Question. A knowledge and sense of history are helpful to know that the Palestinian question is actually a question of the right for a Jewish state. Palestinians have always denied that, even though their claim for a state of their own is not based on precedent. There has never been a Palestinian state before. Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Qu'ran. The displaced ‘Palestinians' left in 1948 under the promises of Arab states to soon drive Israel into the sea. They failed to do that in four wars since then. Neither did Arafat let them be integrated in existing Arab states, except for those who ran away and sought to do so by themselves. Thousands have been kept in refugee camps since 1948. It is a policy that they should not make a new life, but be kept for political ends to claim the land given to Israel in 1948 by the UN in the then British mandate area. Until there is a whole-hearted acceptance of the Jewish State by its neighbors there will not be peace in the Middle East.

That is a long way off, since state-sponsored and Islam-motivated terrorism is a long-standing practice, in which the question over territory is only a minor one. It has its roots in Israel being a Western, not Islamic, society: free, open, inventive and productive, with a gutsy approach to life born from its Jewish Biblical roots, now surrounded by Islamic nations, whose social realities are constantly challenged by a more successful neighbor.

Terror also comes from Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Iran. They have all trained terrorists not only against Israel, but also Germany, France, Ireland and Italy. The opposition is rooted in a religious conflict between two societies, two views of work, law, men and women, over authority and participation, over education and many other factors that make up life. The one is rooted in an Islamic view, the other in a more Biblical one.

To the Muslim, unless he is influenced by more liberal Muslim schools like the University of Cairo (and then under attack by his own brethren), our whole approach to life, to human responsibility, to nature and science, to sexuality and individuality, to technology and to the intellect is finally blasphemous, a rebellion against Allah, evil and unnatural. We see Man with a mandate to think, act and have dominion. In the belief of the transcendence of Allah there is nothing outside, distinct from or free of God. When the Jew and Christian argues with the status quo in a fallen world, when he demands water in the desert, the Muslim is taught to accept what he finds as determined by Allah and therefore good. He will not make the desert bloom. The Jew or Christian who makes the efforts and succeeds must be fought.

Israel is the immediate ‘casus belli'. But the whole Western way of life is a horror to the true Muslim: our democracy, our technology, our public life, our art even. To them we are evil in all things already. When you add to this the idea that no land once under Islam can be lost again to the infidel you can see why only the eradication of Israel will bring peace in that area. War will be carried forward. Real justice in the Near East cannot be achieved until Israel is admitted in that corner of geography. For that Islam may have to change and review its human rights, law and intellectual record. It has failed in these areas to do justice to the human reality to its people under its own influence.

Genuine human reality is only possible as an assertion from both the Bible and the nature of human beings. Here alone true dignity is given to the person, who is made in the image of the God of the Bible on the level of the mind, the soul, of being God's child, having the eternal Son of God, the Christ, become human.

B) The accusation from poverty among the people in Islamic countries is also hardly justified. The wealth and life style of the rulers is grotesque: the toys and games, the gold, the palaces and the useless trinkets, the waste financed by oil revenues is only protected by the absence of democratic reviews: no free press, no multiple political parties, no educated public debate, no competing institutions to sharpen the individual's participation. Islam as a religion has not encouraged the free exercise of the mind in the market. Islam as politics has not sought the development of its people. Muslims with a desire for freedom have largely gone elsewhere. The wealth of Saudi princes, the palaces of Sadam Hussein, the parties of the Sheiks are not available in any form to the common person.


C) Western decadence, immorality and money are cited as reasons for the battle against America. The WTC is seen as an idol, the true focus of America's life. When I first heard this during a lecture in Moscow I saw a can of Pepsi on a student's desk and asked whether she could not also have chosen a local brew. Markets consist of supply and demand, of sellers and buyers. The reason McDonald's popularity is its popularity. There is no compulsion, force or monopoly. The poor showing of American cars on the world market shows power and failing depend on merit against competition.

Decadence and immorality are real, but do not require a government program. They always result from personal choices. No one has to follow, approve or admire them. We give people freedom even to choose poorly, to sin and to make fools of themselves. We prefer to give people a choice, not an imposed solution. Two reasons may be given for that. The first is that this is the way God treats us. Adam was asked not to, but allowed to walk away from God. When the rich young ruler did not want to follow Christ, Jesus looked at him and loved him. He did not force him to comply.

The second reason is that when an alternative exists beyond one enforced option we are faced with decisions. We prefer confusion between alternatives than one view, possibly a wrong one, imposed by an authority. In fact, neither the ‘many' nor the ‘one' protect us against wrong conclusions, beliefs or choices. The ‘many' at least remind us of the need for discernment, responsibility and maturity. The ‘one' truth imposed may or may not be true. It demands no evaluation, only blind obedience.

It is difficult for a Muslim to see the present decadence as wild men gone foolish and not as an expression of Christianity. For to him all of life is under Allah. He will resolve the conflict through the death of the infidel. In contrast to this the Jew and Christian sees also a life over against God. A distinction is drawn between God and Caesar in the despised and suffering servant, in the pleading prophets and in the Christ, who was crucified by unbelieving Jews and Romans. The Messiah alone will win the war at his return. No identification between what happens and the will of God is therefore part of the Biblical view. Only extreme Calvinists hold a quasi-Islamic view here. But then their view stands in contrast to the Biblical account.

D) The Pentagon is seen as a symbol of military oppression, of an imperialism of power in America. Again this is more an argument from envy than from history or reason. It is based on the assumption that military power is only used for war and not also to protect peace from evil men. Even military neutrality has to be defended militarily.

There are problems with ideas of ultimate protection by military means. But our experience has been that might did not make right, but protected right when the military was under legitimate control. There has not been a loss of freedom due to military presence in our countries. Hiroshima was not an act of inhumanity, but a decision to risk thousands of lives in order to save a million. NATO's power dismantled a mighty Soviet army without a victim. It stopped the genocide by Serbian religious nationalism. It freed Kuwait from Iraq's plunder. The military tried to pacify Somalia and be a buffer between Lebanese Maronites and Muslims. It is a reality of power as support behind a chosen worldview about Man, life and work, for better and for worse.

The discussion of what worldview is protected is the more important matter. The power of the state is then an expression of the public will, of moral values, of priorities. Human beings in a fallen world with sinful hearts do not function very well without a real power to enforce order, to set the boundaries and to stem evil with the sword wherever necessary. The righteous man has nothing to fear from the sword of good government.

E) Emotions are a poor guide to reasoned analysis. They will express themselves in rage and envy, in feelings and suggestions. In response to the terror inflicted on an open, trusting and largely generous society we should awaken to the need for a more realistic analysis. Facts, reason and passionate concern to understand the mindset and worldviews of others will require much more of us than we have been willing to give it. Where we have assumed that society and beliefs can be changed by trade, economic growth and global relations to become more free and realistic we have not paid enough attention, in my view, to the power of ideas, of words and actions. We have assumed that all people are not only created equal, but that all their views, values and intentions are also equally beneficial to fulfill people's personal desires. A slap on the back, shared music, global access to films and food do not lead to an agreement in the way people look at the real world through the lenses of their own political and religious glasses.


At What Price? To one thing certainly our eyes have been opened by the ease with which the terrorist were able to fly American planes in their targets. Security was lax. We learnt that security agents are on a very low salary, the turnover among them in Boston was 200% per annum and the lowest bidder received the contracts from airport authorities.

Such decisions made on the basis of only economic considerations abound in our society. And now we have paid for it dearly. When we decide that whatever the market requires is right we fall into such traps. For we neglect other components of value, of human relationships, of moral and spiritual and intellectual considerations.

I was raised in a home where we were always told that we were not rich enough to by cheaply. Mother meant, that we could not only decide over the price of a commodity. The quality also mattered, as did a certain timeless appeal independent from rapid changes in fashions. This principle applies in a host of situations, which we fail to reflect on in our market-oriented mindset. When alone the price decides we will walk about like fools.

It is not always beneficial to offer entry-level jobs with minimum wages to anyone willing to take them. Too many are drawn by the first lure of money and hardly move beyond the job, since they have never received more than rudimentary training in other things that make up a life. Likewise it is not good investment to build roads with an insufficient and shallow foundation from a low bid. These roads will need to be redone a few years later at twice the cost.

Debby has for years lamented the fact that so many families round us in the NY area paid their maids, au-pairs and household help so little, "whatever the market demanded". The most precious possession of a family, their children, were left most of the day with women who earned no more than $150 a week, often spoke only poor English, were separated from their own families "on the islands" and were poorly housed. Children need to be spoken to, be loved and cared for. They receive nothing of that when the prams are positioned to have the children face each other, while the guardians carry on in their own way with maids from other families in the park.

How much love is there when we spend as little on the children's care as on one dinner for four in a fancy restaurant on a weekly basis? Should an appointment at the hairdresser cost as much as a week's attention to your children? Sure, the market sets those prices, but is that our only consideration? Are not our values askew when we do not reflect on such relationships between wages and service? How will this neglect affect this generation of children?

For six years we attended an evangelical church just outside New York. We heard all kind of good things about spiritual growth, personal relationships, bonding in home Bible study groups and accepting the grace of God. We never once heard any application of scriptural content to the questions this all raises. There was no link between the truth of life and life itself. Nothing ever related to moral responsibilities of the believers in his cultural context, in education, in politics, society and in employment.

By that I mean that Biblical studies could and should continue reform an immoral practice of paying exorbitant salaries to heads of companies. The difference in salaries and benefits between employees and managers is often grotesque. Is there a reason, outside of what the market demands and tolerates, why e.g. CEOs of airline companies make millions while the companies lay off thousands of employees and request government subsidies as well? What is a justified salary should not only be decided on market conditions. The stretch between high and lows is as large or larger in the US than in many decadent Third World countries. In many cases it is possible only because it is possible, not because it is right.

This is not a matter of economic necessity. Other countries do very well with an equal standard of living to the US without such differences. We may pay more for our coffee, but then get all of it in the cup and not half of it in the saucer. We all can enjoy it in a more pleasant setting, for which we are also willing to pay. Waiters overall are better trained. Checkout clerks actually know what they sell and where it is in the store. More is at stake than mere economics. In all of life moral, cultural and questions of accountability also play a part. They are more difficult to deal with, but without that effort we tend to actually harm ourselves. For we turn human beings then into players in the market alone, competing always in all things with each other and without any awareness of the whole of society. The value of a person, the loyalty to others and teamwork are then increasingly determined by salary, by market conditions and by short-term personal interests.

A society values the services of the person who checks my bags before I board an airplane as little as it is willing to pay him. I must not be surprised that it will be done by an

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