“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” – Benjamin Franklin.
Throughout the years and during changing times, this country has endured. While many debate what the significant force behind it may have been, we do know that it has stood as a legacy of ingenuity and a testament to the productivity that can come from a society structured such as ours.
The people of this land are experiencing change in cultural, social, religious and economical trends to one extent or another. Whether it is a business owner, a senior citizen, a college graduate or the single mother trying to maintain a family while coping with inflation, all are being touched by an emerging new world that has quickly become threatening. Many find that the world in which they were raised, included attributes such as values, morality, courtesy, patriotism and more. They have also found that in many instances, these attributes have all but disappeared. Still, in other ways, the more mature citizens in our culture find technological marvels which in their childhood would have seemed a part of science fiction. The shifts in our small "sands of time" have uncovered a world that is new, yet very old.
Despite all the changes we are experiencing in technology, the economy, big business and myriads more that could be enumerated, one thing remains unchanged; it is still people that matter most. Whether it is accepted or exercised on a practical level or not, the truth of the matter persists. In a time when so much emphasis is placed on the political polls, parties and elected politicians, the largest factor, and that which really makes the difference, is our relationship with the people who are in our day-to-day lives. The revolution that elevated this country to its supreme stature would have never been accomplished without the unity of its countrymen. The strength exhibited, was in the ability to act harmoniously with each, stand together and in so doing demonstrate the importance of human relationships during perilous times.
The results of the past year and a half have revealed some of the best in people, but unfortunately in some it has revealed the worst this country has had to offer. Attitudes of not only intolerance, but flagrant hatred has run rampant in varying groups against those who are not "like" them.
It disheartens me to no end seeing those who even profess citizenship to a superior kingdom verbally assault one another regarding an inferior one over which they have no control anyhow. Must we defend a political figure whom we have never met to the detriment of real human interaction? We live at a time where media, in its ever widening forms, has garnered an enormous influence over public opinion and action. As such, it is of crucial consequence that the community of God step forward as a voice of reason, restoration and remediation rather than retaliation.
Regardless of your specific religious or spiritual convictions, there are universal laws that have been written on the hearts of mankind. They are laws which dictate certain guidelines in the ethical treatment of others, in spite of feelings toward them or their beliefs, religion, political persuasions, race or ethnicity. Regardless of public practice and proclamations of hate, loving our neighbor and treating them the way we desire to be treated is not out of style. Touching lives by reaching out to the hurting, or intervening in someone's distressed universe by bringing a little heaven into their hell should not be considered unfashionable!
In our current day of a seemingly advanced society, we find that we are more individualistic than ever. Communication has been taken to unprecedented levels and is available in more diverse ways than ever before in the history of mankind. Unfortunately, as a result, we do not have better relationships as one would hope. Instead, social severance in multiple forms rather than traditional person-to-person exchange has being sprung on humanity. Will the repercussions of a disjointed citizenry in current economic trends take us along the same route as our predecessors in our ability to band together for the justice and salvation of our families or instead result in our undoing?
It must be understood that reform does not start in Washington with political saviors, it starts on Main Street, in our homes. What are we teaching our children? Are we instilling fear into them and a fundamental intolerance for those who may not see the world the same way we/they do? Who are we allowing to radically shape their ideals? What will happen if more difficult times once again set-in in this nation? Will we continue to allow the stake of diversity to be driven into and among our people? Diversity is only a downfall if we let it be; it can equally be a strength. Helping and supporting each other is vital, a truth with which our forefathers, at the inception of this country were well acquainted.
In an email sent to the faculty and student body, President Jeff Carter of Bethany Theological Seminary had a few words of wisdom and encouragement regarding this current political season which I thought were worth noting:
"Every election is historic. For months we have debated and discussed the candidates' views and abilities as well as shared our hopes for our future. It is clear through this election that there are a variety of hopes and expectations from a seemingly diverse electorate. Although we might hope and/or wonder what the future may hold as we enter this transition of power, we do know of our call and God’s presence . . . Romans 12 . . . is a fitting reminder as to how we might continue together in seeking our common good.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Romans 12:9-11."
We have seen devastation and disunity in many areas of this country as well as around the globe. Some of it is publicized, some goes all but unnoticed. No one knows for sure what lies ahead, but amidst the current adversity, and that which may once again present itself, would you rather have your neighbors and countrymen as enemies or allies, as friends or foes? There is much change occurring which will inevitably continue. We should then ask ourselves the question, where will our current course of attitude and influence lead us? How well do we know our neighbors (not necessarily those who live beside you)? How are our relationships?
There are many distractions in our culture that seek to steal our time, attention and devotion. For those who claim to be members of the household of the God of Israel, it is reaffirming and hopeful to remember that our citizenship is part of a different kingdom. Jesus is Lord, hence Caesar is not. While we may rarely endorse the actions of today's “Caesar,” God has not given his people the responsibility to dethrone him, revolt against him nor treat those who have given him their unwavering allegiance with disrespect or in inhumane ways.
President Carter concluded his email with these words,
"Everyone has a place at the table. May we be the unity we seek and may our witness speak of God’s grace, love, and compassion … for all and in all times."
There is hope. There is good everywhere if we choose to see it, and it’s worth persistently pursuing.