By Richard Boughton
People are obstinate. There you have it. The encapsulation, in three words, of human behaviour. I reckon it ought to be the first sentence in every psychology textbook.
Take Saddam Hussein, for instance: a poster boy for obstinacy if ever there was one. Here we had a man who preferred to let the world believe he was hiding weapons of mass destruction to simply allowing inspectors to enter his country and reveal that he did not. What was the result of this obstinate behaviour? Well, ultimately he was hung. After being pulled, rat-like, from a hole in the ground, dirty, haggard, pitiful, ruined. Of all possible outcomes, Hussein managed to achieve the very worst.
Ring any bells? Moamer Kadhafi, Hussein’s mulish compatriot and contender for the throne, refused to heed voice of his people and was last week pried from a grimy drainage ditch, beaten, shot and killed.
Do the obstinate learn from these examples? Of course not. Otherwise they should cease to be obstinate (and thereby disprove my theory). But in fact there are more candidates waiting eagerly in the wings – in Syria, in Yemen, in Iran and elsewhere – granting awareness of recent events not so much as a nod, as if they will somehow do right this time around. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not logical. But I guess that’s my point. People are obstinate. We are made that way. Hard-wired, helpless, doomed.
Take the Christians in Bogor, for example. The Christians in Bogor? You mean those from the Yasmin church who persist in holding services on the sidewalk outside the building from which they’ve been barred? Those who stubbornly wait for the obstinate mayor of the town to obey an order from the highest court to desist in prohibiting them their service in that place? Yep, those are the ones.
We are inclined to rebel against that which seems unfair, to throw out the chest, to lift the proud fist, to proclaim our cause to be right and holy. We don’t like being pushed around, and by God we’re not going to budge an inch.
But hold on a sec. Did not the Lord himself point out that foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head? What’s all this fuss then about one street and one block in Bogor? What, other than obstinate pride? Let’s think it through. Where is the Church? On this block alone? In this building alone? Does it reside in a legal document, or is it written in the deed to this particular tract of land?
“Where is your kingdom?” Pilate demanded of Jesus.
“My kingdom is not of this world,” he answered.
Where is it, then?
“Where two or three are gathered in my name.”
No mention of a building there, or a temple, or a church, but only of human fellowship.
Do I excuse the Muslim hardliners and their curious, senseless coveting of this same patch of Earth? Not at all. One thing about obstinacy is that it is equally available to every race, religion and creed.
“We want this church building to be gone next week,” Ahmad Iman, head of the hardliners, said. “If it still stands, we will bring it down.”
Really? Is it that important? Is the foundational coherence of your beliefs so weak that you must fear and dispel a few Jesus freaks? Or are you merely offended by the presence of this sort of infidel trailer trash in your neighbourhood?
Oh well, that’s okay. There are people in America who feel the same way about black folks. They’re called the Ku Klux Klan. They wear white robes with pointy hoods and shout things like “God is great” and “nigger, go home.” Sound familiar?
We who are not Muslims do not know the Muslim scripture, nor do the Muslims know the Christian. If they did, they would know that Christianity has from its beginning thrived on persecution.
Do you want that church to go away? Try ignoring it. At the very least peace may be had, and no one need be harmed.
Ah, but that would be less than obstinate, wouldn’t it?
Richard can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.