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Barbara Walking in the Valley
A weekly column for those who live and walk in Silicon Valley

by Barbara Dahlgren

Unconditional Love?
Column for the week of January 27 - February 2, 2002

20 year-old Abdul Hamid, the name John Walker Lindh prefers to go by, considers himself a "jihadi" which means fighter of Holy Wars. He grew up in a somewhat affluent environment in the San Francisco area. An Islam convert at age 16, he studied it at a San Franciscan mosque. After taking a high school equivalency test he went overseas to learn Arabic in Yemen. He continued his studies in Pakistan and then moved on to Afghanistan. The rest is history, as they say, because he was among the Taliban troops captured after a failed prison uprising in a northern Afghan city. Now he is back in the U.S. getting ready to face a media frenzied trial for conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, providing material support to our enemies, and engaging in prohibited transactions with the Taliban. He seems to have crammed quite a bit of living into those scant 20 years.

It's true that our nation is imperfect. Day to day life here is riddled with inequities, injustices and inhumanities but nothing - NOTHING - compared to what other countries experience. Ours is the country others fight to come to and many time lose their lives trying to get here. Therefore it is hard for me to imagine that someone born and bred here could actually fight against us.

It reminds me of a short story I read in school by E.E. Hale called The Man Without a Country, about Philip Nolan, a Naval officer in the 1800's who was a protégé of Aaron Burr. In the aftermath of the Richmond treason trials he called out "Damned the United States. I wish I may never hear of the United States again." He got his wish for he was sentenced to live on a ship. His superiors were instructed to never let him see the U.S. or have his homeland mentioned to him again. For 50 years he sailed the seas until he died aboard the U.S. Corvette Levant on May 11, 1863. He was a lonely, miserable man. At his death he requested that a headstone be put on a grave near his home in the U.S. but his request was denied. *

But John Walker Lindh's requests are being met. He's back in the U.S. and ready to be tried in a court of law that only the freedoms of this country could provide for him. Freedoms he chose to reject when he fought with the Taliban but will be glad to partake of now that it suits his purpose. Momma and Poppa Lindh were in the news declaring their unconditional love for their son and proclaiming his innocence. And I quote, "John loves America. John is innocent of these charges."

Just what is unconditional love? Many think it means support, agreement, and proclaiming the innocence of a loved one even when you know otherwise. Not so! Like we used to teach our children: "We always love you but that doesn't mean we always love what you do!" Let's face it, there's a kind of love you get when you're good and there's a kind of love you get when you're bad. There's even "tough love!" But it's all love and it can all be unconditional.

Then there's another kind of love people give when someone they love has done wrong but they choose to ignore it or say, "He is innocent." That's blind love. Blind love says, "That's okay. Even if what you've done is wrong, it's okay!" Well, guess what? It's not okay and it doesn't mean you don't love someone to let him know it.

The kind of love God gives to us is the perfect example of unconditional love. He knows what we've done and loves us anyway. He can separate the person from the action. He can hate the action but love the person. But never does He say what we've done is "okay" when it's not. Never does He say we are innocent when we are not. And He knows what love is all about because HE IS LOVE! (1 John 4:8)

*As a foot note:
The Man Without a Country was published in 1863. It was such a realistic account that many thought it was a true story. Even now, people who read it not knowing it is fiction, insist it actually happened.

©January 2002

Be sure to visit this page every week to read the next edition of Walking in the Valley. You can write to the author at bydahlgren@aol.com.



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