I have often thought about the first casualty in any war. Sometimes they are identified, but sometimes not. At the first musket shot that found it’s mark. The first artillery burst that scattered shrapnel into the first body. The first soldier to fall. The very beginning of the first battle of any war, there has always been a first to die.
When boys and men have gone off to war, there is usually a sense of excitement and visions of victory and at least “doing my part”, but when the first casualty happened, suddenly everything changed. This is for keeps. That first death came as the reminder that we are in something that is no longer exciting, but deadly. That first one served the rest by being the messenger that you can be killed here, and your family will never see you alive again. There are always many more to fall, but there is that first one that seems to be forgotten by all except the family and those who trained and lived with him.
Today is Memorial Day. Though all veterans appreciate being recognized, this day is only for those who died in service to the country. We are glad not to be in that group, but let’s keep the proper perspective. Today I’m thinking of the first ones to join that group along the way.
It is easy for us to want some magical solution to all problems, or even one problem at a time. It is also easy to come up with a sentence or two to convince others we have the solution. Yet, this is what we have before us constantly, unless we check out altogether and pay no attention to our roller-coaster of an election cycle. (These are people who should not vote anyway, but that’s for another time.)
On the other hand, we should not take as the answer to our problems an evasive, “It’s complicated.” This insults our intelligence and is saying we wouldn’t get it even if it is explained. I would like to try to understand anyway, and feel it is an obligation to me for those asking for my vote to help me understand the complicated mechanizisms of our government.
A curt, “Trust me” won’t do either. How can I trust someone who I do not know, and who has no record of doing the things I believe need to be done to better our existence? At least, I would like some assurance that he or she would stay out of my business unless we are attacked by a foreign power. No, there is no one answer for our challenges as a whole, nor any given problem. There is one source, however for us to look for guidance and focus: Jesus Christ is the solution for our most pressing problem, sin. He alone can solve that severe problem, and then we can act accordingly in everything else.
We have fallen in line with the technology, and have nearly abandoned things like cursive writing and reading good books and articles. It’s as simple as that. We are captives. We text from upstairs to downstairs, not wanting to make the trip. Instead of walking 50 steps down the hall to talk to a colleague, we email them and wait for the reply.
What do we do about this problem (and I believe it is a problem)? First, we put down the device and find a good book. If we don’t have one, we should buy one. There are many classics and solid essays that can feed us rather than demand things from us. We could use our ability to think and contemplate instead of racing across catchy phrases and hearing one-sentence slogans.
Second, we could create time for these better things. While recognizing the pace of our world is often unavoidably fast, we also must schedule (on our calendars if necessary) time to reflect and consider our lives and those around us. We can increase our vocabulary by spending time with well-written material.
Finally, we can seek truth instead of subjective feelings and emotions of the moment. We can tap into our sense of right and wrong and leave our small corner of the world better than when we found it. We need guidance, but we must be willing to accept it when it finds us.
I have met with people over the years who have a problem with God, and his power to intervene. It’s not that they doubt his ability to intervene or the power necessary to change things in the world, but the fact that he doesn’t always intervene. That he chooses to allow innocents to be harmed or killed is beyond their ability to comprehend and their sense of justice to allow.
The problem with this view is more basic than we may like to admit. It is one that, once learned, we can see that there is something in evil that we can and need to learn. The initial question, “Why does God allow evil things to happen” is precisely the point. People who ask such questions immediately put the blame on God for things humans do to each other. So, the question could more accurately be, “Why does not God intervene in our free will to keep us from destroying each other?” This is more to the point of our question. The answer is at once the key: we do evil because God allows us to. He allows us to so we will know it our fault that we do so. If we can then accept responsibility for evil we do, then we can turn to God to help us avoid the tendencies to do harm, and understand his wonderful plan to redeem us from ourselves and save our victims.
The idea that man can somehow perfect himself is folly and when it enters into government can be a long string of experiments looking to find that one program that will fix all. There is no such fix because all the so-called solutions involve people to administer them. Once people are involved (as they always are) rather than a solution, we have the same problem. Oftentimes the initial problem is worse. We simply have a hard time admitting we are the problem. The solution is outside us and beyond us. This is why any civilization that does not acknowledge that is doomed to spiral into the same hole that many governments and nations have already done. As the comic strip character Pogo is often quoted: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
When running on roads with hills, I look ahead at the next hill. From where I am, it looks as if it rises straight up and would be impossible to climb, much less run, to the top. They all look that way from a distance.
Yet, when I get closer, the ground seems to flatten out and the angle of the hill changes. From a sharp upward angle, there is now a flatter view. (Do you feel a sermon coming on?)
From a distance, nothing looks easy. As we get closer, our perspective changes and things often look easer and more manageable. This is why we should spend less time in the future than in the present. Let’s keep our eye on today and remember not only are our own hills flatter, but a future date when we go into the voting booth may not be as bad as it seems now.I don’t have to understand it, I just know the principle is true.
The negative side of politics is its lack of trustworthiness. Politics itself is not bad. It involves a process through which we derive a structure and stability for our individual freedom. However, when politics goes bad, It tends to go really bad. It becomes a rough schoolyard game.
I have lately seen people who I thought I knew well enough and trusted to stick to principles seem to go the other direction. They do explain that they have reasons that are pragmatice in order to keep the “other side” from winning. I agree that I don’t want the other side to win, but what happened to the original principles along the way? I suppose being disappointed by people should not be anything new for any of us, but it would help to find a few trustworthy people who would rather lose than give up principles.
That seems to be the current view. Whatever it takes to win is what we will do, regardless of how well we sleep at night, or what our children think of us twenty years from now. There’s something wrong with that picture. When we throw away our character, we lose the key to being able to govern as we were meant to. The games will continue, and we will likely bring an end to what we thought was the greatest political experiment in the world.