IF THEN THE LIGHT IN YOU IS DARKNESS, HOW great the darkness" (Matthew 6:23). The "light" in a man is the man at his best. It is his most clear judgment on matters, when he is presented with an issue, and puts his mind to it, and strives, as far as it is possible with him, to be free and purified of the baser entangling elements that cloud spiritual sight. The "light" in a man is another name for his wisdom-such as it is.
The most terrifying news photo last year had nothing to do with Iraq, or explosions in Turkey, or fires in California. It was a Knight Ridder image that if cut and pasted onto a Mother's Day card would tug at your heartstrings. The woman is smiling, serene, cuddling her daughter and gazing lovingly into her eyes. The daughter, 10-year-old Fatima, looks up adoringly into her mother's face.
The "light" in Amira Abu Hanhan Qaoud-the best wisdom she had on the subject, when putting her mind to it and giving it her best shot, with all the information available to her at the time-told her it was imperative that she take the life of her older daughter, Fatima's sister. The photograph, taken after the murder, is accompanied by a quote from the comely, pigtailed Fatima: "My mother did this because she did not want us to be punished by people.... I love my mother much more now than before."
It wasn't Ms. Qaoud's fault, really. According to the story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, she had offered her teenage daughter the option of suicide, but the child just didn't take it, even though her mother had gone to the trouble of buying the razor blades with which to slit her wrists; so Mommy's hand was forced. The girl had somehow managed to get herself gang-raped by a couple of her brothers, and a pregnancy had ensued, and, well, the neighbors were starting to talk and a few of the relatives were refusing to pay visits to the house. (I am not trying hard enough to see this sensitively from a multicultural perspective.)
So Ms. Qaoud entered into her daughter's room on Jan. 27, 2003, and said, "Tonight you die, Rofayda," while wrapping bags around her daughter's head and slicing her wrists. Any Palestinian woman in the same situation would have done likewise, Ms. Qaoud explained-which may be an exaggeration since as a matter of fact such "honor crimes" happened only about 31 times in 2002 in the West Bank-Gaza Strip area.
You may want explanation at this point. The best I can do is keep doodling with the theme of "light." The Bible notes the two kinds of light in the world: dark light and bright light; giving-it-your-best-shot light and God's light. And if I may risk political incorrectness, Muslim light or Christian light:
"Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment" (Isaiah 50:11).
Indignant cries are heard about religious adventurism in Iraq, how "the Bible is right behind the bombs" nowadays, how Western missionaries are taking advantage of the vacuum created in that war-ravaged land to bring in Christianity, thereby compounding cultural imperialism with religious imperialism. As to that charge, I suppose the uninvited purveyors of Good News will answer as uninvited purveyors of Good News have always answered since Peter: "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge" (Acts 4:19).
For by the clock of history, and God's preordained design, this present age is the Age of Evangelism-and woe to us if we do not hasten it in. Once upon a time "they built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into My mind, that they should do this abomination" (Jeremiah 32:35). Once upon a time, "They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan" (Psalm 106:37-38).
Paul says, "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). Praise God for emissaries who endure the world's scorn in the West Bank and Fertile Crescent, replacing the "torches" of our own kindling that women like Ms. Qaoud stumble by, and the "dark light" of "our best judgment," with the true light that alone brings peace. And even to this day that beacon would be none other than the little star of Bethlehem.