Thursday, April 19, 2007

How Long, Oh Lord?

Revelation 22:1-2 (Contemporary English Version)

“The angel showed me a river that was crystal clear, and its waters gave life. The river came from the throne where God and the Lamb were seated. Then it flowed down the middle of the city's main street. On each side of the river are trees that grow a different kind of fruit each month of the year. The fruit gives life, and the leaves are used as medicine to heal the nations.”

This is truly an age of terror for America. The rage and hate in the air are palpable. It’s apparent on our highways as we commute to and from work. It’s apparent on our airwaves and it’s becoming more and more pervasive in our neighborhoods. The smallest perceived slights all too often bring new terms to our lexicon; hence we now have road rage and drive-by’s and father-son sniper teams and gangsta’ rap and shock jocks to deal with as part of our daily lives. Less than ten years ago our schools appeared to be safe. They appeared to be institutions of learning and life, but now our collective memories are filled with names like Columbine, Pearl, Mississippi, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and now Blacksburg, Virginia. So, in this age of terror it’s twelve lives cut short here and thirty-two there. It’s innocent children caught in the crossfire of rival gangs. It’s classrooms bathed in blood.

Of all the frightening components to this arc that has joined one century to another, the most terrifying of all is the power the individual has gained to randomly inflict pain and misery on the many. Some of these individuals have grown up living lives privilege, like Osama bin Laden. Some lived their formative years in America’s suburban cul de sacs. Some spring up from families trying to claim their part in the American dream. They hold one thing in common – rage. It may spring from a real or perceived slight or from a desire to rid the world of infidels. The rationale for the evil is almost always expressed in a crude fatwa or a rambling manifesto.

In the aftermath of the evil we’re trying to make sense of it, but few answers come, and those offered don’t seem to help much. I find no solace in hearing that this latest iteration of evil was just an isolated act, nor do I find any comfort in our feeble attempts to analyze the minds of the killers. The acts are becoming less isolated and more and more commonplace. The actors have acted out their gruesome thoughts and that’s that. I doubt we’ll ever really know why. It’s all so incomprehensible and those upon whom the evil is being inflicted seem so powerless to stop it.

And so in the end we all will find our ways to go on with our lives until the next random act of terror paralyzes us all once again. The cycle of mourning and explanations will follow just as surely. The purveyors of hate will crawl out of the woodwork and picket the mourners. The philosophical lines will be drawn, left versus right. Laws will be enacted; politicians will make promises. Little will change, though. The foundational issues, the issues of the heart which trigger these evil deeds, will remain every bit as constant. As the prophet said, it’s the heart that is deceitful, desperately wicked, and un-knowable.

Yesterday afternoon I spent an hour or so attending a service organization luncheon at Emporia State University. As I approached the Memorial Union I noticed a group of senior citizens gathered at the entrance. I’m not sure why they were there. Some may have been visitors. Some may have been grand-parents of students. Others might have been professors. There were also students scurrying from one place to another, trying to make a class in economics or English composition perhaps, or just making their way to meet a friend at an appointed place. Some looked sullen and downcast. Could a poor result on an exam have triggered that? Some looked joyful. A fellowship or a scholarship offered, possibly? Some appeared to be contemplative. Most appeared to be hurried. I couldn’t tell the good from the bad or the chaff from the wheat. How could one? How could one sort out the ticking time bomb from angel of mercy? There’s no way to tell at first glance.

Our local newspaper asked a day or so whether or not something like the tragic events of Monday could happen here in the Heartland. Most agreed that it probably couldn’t. After all, Emporia is too nice a town and Emporians are too decent a people. I hope and pray that’s true, but I can’t help but think that Blacksburg, Virginia is a nice town and its people are eminently decent too. They didn’t deserve or expect what happened, but it did.
Holy Writ says encourages us not to fear the terror by night nor the arrow that flies by day. I know it’s wise advice, but I find myself still asking the age-old question. “How long, Oh Lord, how long.” At a time when the brutish things seem to command the world’s stage and attention, when the good seems so elusive, I find myself longing for citizenship in that city nestled by the clear, crystal waters. I long for healing and restoration and the time when peace and harmony will be the order of the day. That day will come; I’m certain of that. But, in the light of the events of the past few days it seems so far off.

4 comments:

Jim Baxter said...

opened before in all societies and communities. They are apparently characteristic of the approaching Last Days before the Lord comes.

It is a consequent predominant point-of-view that is more and more sought and accepted by the worldly crowd and their ruling need and appetite for carnal-ego pleasure, and the hiding place of personal responsibility - and individual value.

Unless and until we get back to basics that are not man-made, and that are accurately realistic, these happenings will increase and signal themselves well into the future. Oncoming generations won't have a clue if present generations do not convey their potent value and reliability.

Collectivism is worse and more than a poitical concept. It includes secular politics, racism, generation gaps, women-men, business criteria, and more.

Any time we define human value-by-a -group - including nonvalue - we are inaccurate to a great degree, and setting in motion the kinds of sad results evident at VaTech.

Unless and until we deal with fellow humans as individuals rather than as member of a group we canexpect more of the same.

We each need to teach by example the validation of every individual with whom we come in contact. That's not too hard. Each one is worthy, whether you perceive it or not. Can't have an influence? Oh, yes you can and do! Masses are verbal plural convenient forms - not |Reality! There are only individuals.

Determine that changing a part changes the whole. Your part. Be real.

God bless.

vincit veritas
semper fidelis

Rue-Mur said...

True, but "that city nestled by the clear, crystal waters" is a work in progress; and as 'advanced' as we think we are, we have much to do to even complete the first building. In 3 or 4 million years we have not come very far. Indeed, one might characterize our progress of late as 'two steps forward and one step back' (or visa versa). Those old enough to have experienced the 'good', 'old', 'Cold War', pre-Vietnam War days might say they were better than those of the late 1960's, and since. That since the Chicago Democratic Convention riots and the massive Peace Demonstrations, things have really gotten very bad in the 'Good Ol' U.S.of A.'; that "individualism" or "me-ism", and "socialism", and yes even "communism", and "gay-ism", and "Islamism", and "atheism", etc., etc., etc., have undermined every aspect of "Western Civilization". Well, hell, nothing lasts forever. Right? Always wondered what it was that made Rome fall; guess I'm going to see it up close and personal.
But, on the slim chance that there's more than 10 good men left in this here country, maybe we'll be spared and given the inspiration and wisdom and strength to cast off our wicked ways, and rebuild in the Judeo-Christian tradition that has served us so well in the past. (I'd invite the Muslims in to our little 'love-in' but, frankly, I think they'd just as soon cut off my head to get their hands of 29 virgins in the afterlife --wherever the hell that is.)

Phil Dillon, Prairie Apologist said...

Rue-Mur

My longing goes deeper than any type of city that we can build, as much as I would like to see a society built on good will and harmony and as much as I want to do my part to create that harmony.

The city I'm looking for is the same one Abraham looked for thousands of years ago, the city whose builder and Maker is God. It's the same city Ezekiel saw with a stream running through it, with the water of healing and harmony flowing from En Gedi to the sea.

In a world where the random acts of kindness we read about on car bumpers are all too random and the evil deeds of the hateful seem more noteworthy than the good, I find myself longing more and more for the day when the wrong will be made right.

Rue-Mur said...

Phil

Ditto!

I have a feeling you and I aren't going to see that city. I have a feeling that, like Abraham and Ezekeil, you and I --and everyone else on this planet for the next several thousand years-- are going to have to wait a while. That to the cavemen and cavewomen and cavekids of this century, the road is going to be difficult, and bloody, and deadly. It's a crying shame, but there it is; unless we can reason and communicate with those who think their 'One' is better than our 'One', millions --and perhaps billions-- will die. It's stupid; it's insane; it's a sin; but, it's human too. As Tiny Tim would say, "God bless us everyone!"