I’ve got more than enough grist for my writing mill these days. We’ve got our hometown university squelching freedom of the press. A few weeks ago, Representative Don Hill lost his heath committee assignment when House Speaker Ray Merrick, in a fit of pique, pulled the rug out from under him. Our city commissioners are inching ever closer to giving the Emporia Pavilions developers what they covet, at taxpayer expense.
That’s a lot of grist, to be sure, but, it’s all been overshadowed by Paris… ISIS…and the Syrian refugee crisis! Good Lord. The more I think about it, the more I feel like my head is going to explode!
In the wake of the Paris attacks, columnist Peggy Noonan spoke for many of us when she said she didn’t feel surprised as she watched it unfold. Then she admitted she couldn’t conjure up much of a response. She didn’t feel anger. Her feeling was one of gravity, as if she was seeing that “something huge and terrible had shifted and come closer.” Asked what those of us who aren’t “blinkered by status” thought about the attacks and the state of the world, she concluded, rightly, that we now believe “this isn’t going to stop.”
The barbarians are inching their way toward the gates. It’s not our collective imaginations. Like Peggy Noonan, many of us feel the shifting. And, worse yet, our leaders don’t seem to have a clue. It’s no wonder we feel so helpless, like thirsty wildebeest at a watering hole full of hungry crocodiles.
Things are so bad that even some of what we once viewed as cherished and safe is under attack. In a National Review op-ed, Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote about a recent episode of ABC’s “Scandal.” The heroine of the piece was getting an abortion. As the “procedure” begins, the strains of the hymn “Silent Night” play in the background. What was ABC trying to tell us? “Happy holidays, everyone?”
But, the producers weren’t done. As the “procedure” began in earnest, the heroine’s father droned on in the background and we got the real point of what ABC was forcing down our throats - “Family is a burden . . . a pressure point, soft tissue, an illness, an antidote to greatness. You think you’re better off with people who rely on you, depend on you, but you’re wrong, because you will inevitably end up needing them, which makes you weak, pliable. Family doesn’t complete you. It destroys you.”
Salon and Huffington Post called it “daring” and “brave.” Planned Parenthood applauded it.
So, while we have barbarians pressing the gates from the outside, we have some who are already inside.
Saturday morning as I was walking around the track at the Rec Center my frustration boiled over. I decided to take it all out on God. “Is all this evil escaping your eye, Lord?” “I can see it…why can’t you?” I wanted to scream, like Habakkuk of old – “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? – Or cry out to you, “Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?”
I spent most of Sunday fighting off the despair. I tried my best to hide it from Nancy and Karen, our young guest from Colombia. Nancy left early in the afternoon to prepare for her part in the “Harvest Home” choral concert at Sacred Heart. Karen and I got there about a half hour before the concert began. I waited in silence, hoping something would calm my anxious soul.
The concert began with the words, “Praise His name. Sing with the tambourine and harp.” Then, as one song of praise followed another, I felt something else shift within me. The despair gradually gave way to an overwhelming sense of gratitude and anticipation. My eyes began to glisten with tears, tokens of my thanks to God. My catharsis was completed as I breathed in the words of Steven Paulus’s “Pilgrim’s Hymn” –
“Even with the darkness sealing us in
We breathed Thy name,
And through all the days to follow so fast,
We trust in Thee;
Endless Thy grace, O endless Thy grace,
Beyond all mortal dream.”
As I listened I would occasionally look around at my neighbors, many of whom I don’t know. Yet, I sensed we all had something in common. We were seeking hope and solace during this dark time. We found it, thanks to the various choirs, accompanists, and Jake Narverud, the conductor.
I’ve now come full circle. The darkness may be descending, but, in the end, I still know that the light will prevail. There was a first advent in the midst of darkness two thousand years ago. There will be a second at a time of God’s own choosing. The crooked places will be made straight and the valleys will be exalted. For that, I am truly thankful.