Half a Beautiful Message
By Ruben Rivera
Easter Day, 8 April 2012
The following story was inspired by actual historical events on earth. See, American Christianity: A Case Approach, R. C. White, Jr., L. B. Weeks, & Garth M. Rosell, eds. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986) 71-3.
Long ago, scientists from earth made some of the most important discoveries in all of human history. The first was a new technology that allowed us to see greater distances into the universe than any technology before it, by several orders of magnitude. The second, emerging from the first, was a new technology that allowed us to travel those distances as quickly as anything imagined in the annals of science fiction. The first led to the discovery of another world, many light years away, with intelligent life, though not nearly as advanced as ours. The second allowed us to travel there in only one month (earth time) and to encounter those intelligent beings.
The results of the encounter were mixed at best. Many from earth saw this new world only as an opportunity for self-enrichment from the vast and (to them) criminally undeveloped land and resources. These were the earth colonizers, and they caused great wars with the indigenous, whom earthers called the Indi, both they and the planet, being fully aware (but none the wiser for it) of the connection to the ancient European discovery and conquest of the indigenous peoples of the Americas of earth. Like their earther counterparts, the Indi fought back fiercely to protect their lands and ways of life, but in the end were brutally defeated.
Others saw this new world as something they had to harmonize with their long held religious creeds, which saw earthers as the greatest divine consequence in the universe. Who then were these extra-earthers? Why did God not so much as mention the Indi in the holy earth writings? Indi religions, if religions they were, made no mention of God's message of salvation as delivered to earth in the religion known as Christianity, and it was concluded that the Indi were therefore in the most dire need of it. These were the earth missionaries. And most (but not all of them) brought to the Indi only half of God's beautiful message.
Many years after the conquest, several Indi clans had been removed from their traditional lands and sequestered together on what was then thought to be an out-of-the-way and insignificant stretch of land that the earthers called the Indi Domains. Outside of the Domains the Indi could not travel, settle, hunt, or so much as gather wood for a fire, under penalty of fine, imprisonment or death, according to earther laws that the Indi were allowed no input in making. However, inside the Domains earthers traveled, settled, hunted and gathered wood in violation of their own treaties, violations that became more frequent when metals and minerals rare on earth were discovered in abundance in the Domains. So new wars broke out as the Indi sought to protect what little remained of their land and ways.
Into this crucible of conquest, duplicity, confusion and outrage came a young and zealous earther from the Earth-First Missionary Society. A great council was held in which the EFMS missionary shared with the Indi what to him was the most beautiful message in the universe:
--That the Indi had all their history been ignorant of the one and only true God of the universe.
--That they lived in a state of "sin" that had offended God and had broken their relationship to God, and that in this state of sin they would be damned forever after they died.
--Despite this, however, God (who the missionary described as the quintessence of love and mercy) had revealed "himself" to earthers long ago and delivered to them the most beautiful message of salvation.
--That if the Indi believed in the earther message and accepted this God and his act of mercy, their sins would be removed, their personal relationship to God would be restored, and after they died they would live forever in heaven, an incomparably beautiful place where all the saved peoples of the universe would live in peace, with no more hatred, lies, greed, theft, illness, hunger or wars.
--That the sole purpose of the earther was to bring this beautiful message to the Indi and to see them saved and restored in right relation to the one God of the universe.
Now, all the clans of the Indi Domains had gathered at the council to hear the words of the earther. Afterward, they deliberated for a long time to consider what they had heard and to give an answer to the earther, for he had indicated that he would not leave the Domains until he had received an answer from them, yes or no. The clans chose as their common voice, Sun Lance, so named because an earther general had given her a weapon that fired laser blasts. The weapon was of course empty when the general gave it to her, but it was still useful as a spear, and even more as a symbol of her wisdom and leadership. Sun Lance stood up in the middle of the great assembly and spoke.
"Earther, the clans of the Domains are happy to speak with one as straight-talking and as earnest as yourself. We have listened carefully to everything you have said, and have given serious consideration to what you have called the 'Beautiful Message of the One Way.' But we are all agreed that we must decline your message. We do not want to seem ungrateful, nor unreasonable, so I have been authorized to give you three reasons for our refusal.
"First, if your God is the only God of the universe and is the God of supreme love and mercy, then we are troubled. Why did the loving God of the universe reveal the truth only to his earther children -- and even there, only to one small remote clan in a world of earthers -- while for eons leaving his Indi children in ignorance, an ignorance with great cost, for all who have died on Indi are, if what you say is true, in 'hell,' a place of eternal torment from which no redemption is possible. In truth, God, as you earthers present God, is very confusing in this respect. As things stand, this is not a God that we could find it in our hearts to love.
"Second, the earther 'Beautiful Message' is more confusing still. For you say that there is only one God and only one way to know God. But can you please explain to us which one way you are referring to? For we have come into contact with many religious earthers all claiming that theirs is the 'Beautiful Message of the One Way,' even as they disagree about it. We have seen them speak evil of each other and their respective messages, and have even seen them come to blows. Indeed, we have heard that you earthers have had great wars over this Beautiful Message of the One Way. Therefore, since it is clear that you earthers do not agree, how can you expect us to choose? In choosing your 'one way,' will we not then become the enemy of your enemies? And if some of the clans in the Domains accept one version of the 'one way,' and other clans except another, and other clans still another, will we not then become divided and fight among ourselves over things we cannot even see, even as you fight among yourselves?
"Third and finally, we refuse your message because it is only half beautiful. We have no doubt that you earthers think it uniquely and flawlessly beautiful, since you travel great distances and spend your lives and enormous resources, and use coercion and even violence devoted to persuading others to join you in accepting it, or in defending it from the questions and ways of non-believers. We also do not doubt that you believe yourselves to have been contacted by the one God and that the God of love and mercy has restored you to God. But if this is true, why are you not restored to one another, you who claim to believe the beautiful message, let alone to us? You earthers quarrel and fight among each other as much as you do with we who are from Indi.
"This then is what we have decided. Many earthers have entered into the Domains in violation of your own laws. They take lands without our approval, extract what they believe is valuable without any recompense to us, find habitation without concern to making us homeless, hunt nearly to extinction the animals of the forests without concern for our hunger, claim the best water without so much as offering us a sip.
"Therefore, we want you earthers to preach to your own fellow earthers who surround us. If we see that your message causes them to stop lying to us and stop stealing our lands that you yourselves promised would be ours forever, 'as long as the seas brine and the stars shine,' in the words of your many earther treaties. If they give their sons and daughters to be married to our sons and daughters, so that they then treat us like their own family, concerned for our welfare, peace and justice as much as their own. Then will your half a beautiful message turn into a whole beautiful message. If your half a beautiful message of restored relation to God becomes proven in restored relations to others, then come again and we will listen to what you have to say.
"You earthers have come to us with only half a beautiful message. This cannot be the mistake of the God of the universe but your own. Go back to earth and find the other half. Then come back to us and you will be most welcome."