Our previous four Daniels of the Year display at least three common denominators.
First, all of our choices-Ken Starr in 1998, Generation WWJD in 1999, Michael Yerko in 2000, and John Ashcroft last year-have shown courage. For Mr. Yerko of Sudan, or the young people who stood up to murderers at Columbine High School and Fort Worth's Wedgwood Baptist Church in 1999, it was literally courage under fire.
Second, they have all shown determination. Wise men and wise guys from David Broder to David Letterman slandered Mr. Starr and attacked Mr. Ashcroft for refusing to back off and smile about vice and villainy, as if material and spiritual life and death were a contest or a game.
Third, they have all proclaimed God's goodness not only to Christians but also to Washington journalists, or to killers in schools, or in Sudan. Our choice this year, Franklin Graham, similarly proclaims that all of us are created after God's image, although some may choose to deface it. All of us are endowed by our Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
That familiar concept from the Declaration of Independence is directly relevant to the decision President Bush must make about waging war with Iraq. It's crucial to calculate how Iraq's people and ordinary soldiers will respond if a war begins and Saddam Hussein's forces suffer initial defeat. Will Iraqis rally to his defense and make every city a maze of death-dealing booby traps? Or will they celebrate as did Afghans when U.S. forces gave them independence from Taliban oppressors?
The Declaration of Independence offers a hint. "We hold these truths to be self-evident," the document begins. That enumeration of rights is self-evident only because the reality of a Creator is self-evident. "The heavens declare the glory of God," Psalm 19 begins. The sky "day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge." Everyone except those who have fallen for modern anti-God propaganda acknowledges that the world and life on it did not appear merely by time plus chance. Even atheists, deep down, know God exists. It's self-evident.
It's the existence of God-and not any god, but the biblical One-that makes the Declaration's list of rights obvious to all. The God of the Bible has attributes such as omniscience and omnipotence that are His alone, but He also has "communicable" attributes transmitted to man. Since God has life, God endows us with life. Since He is free, we always have the yearning to be free. Since He is joyful, we pursue that as well.
"We" here means not just Americans, but all those created in His image-that's everyone, including those in Boston, Beijing, and Baghdad. Since people in Boston have a variety of opinions, we can expect those in Beijing and Baghdad to have diverse views as well. People beaten down by dictators still want liberty and the right to pursue happiness. That's who we are. It's self-evident.
Not to some journalists. When Saddam Hussein set up his referendum in October, NBC's Keith Miller reported that Saddam was "re-elected to another seven-year term as president in a referendum where he got 100 percent of the vote! The celebrations were genuine." CNN's Nic Robertson quoted with a straight face paeans from Iraqis such as artist Abdul: "To paint for the president for this special day is important. It shows our love to him."
Why did so many reporters propagandize for Saddam? Maybe because he won't let them come back to Baghdad unless they play ball. With Pulitzer Prizes dangling for reporting from Iraq, not many journalists dare to be excluded because of honesty. But an equally likely reason is that, to many of today's reporters, nothing is self-evident. Running (as many surveys have shown) from faith in God, many also have no faith that people in Iraq want the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Maybe the Iraqis like to be bossed around. Maybe they are fundamentally different from Americans.
The Bible says otherwise. We are created in God's image, and God does not have different images for different countries. God loves liberty--He wants voluntary professions of faith, He loves cheerful givers-and so do His creatures, all over the world. Those who persevere in offering truth to those creatures are Daniels indeed.