DISHEARTENED AT EASTER?
We are fast approaching Easter Day, 2011. Christians throughout the world are making plans to celebrate God's cosmic act in the person of Jesus Christ. The Easter faith is exemplified in the message that divine love conquers death and has fundamentally transformed all creation. What good news! Yet I must admit to you that, as I survey the mess our world is in, I find myself increasingly depressed, disgusted, and disappointed. Is there a disconnect somewhere in my psyche?
I had finished exercising at the Y a few days ago, and a gentleman even older than I sat down across from me. He is an attorney too, but with a background in criminal law. He's a hardened realist, who's accustomed to weighing facts carefully and with a critical eye. He expressed deep concern to me concerning the nation's debt that now exceeds fourteen trillion dollars. He wondered aloud what will happen if and when "Medicaid is severely cut and those in Watts and Harlem can no longer count on government largess."
A sobering concern! Yet the United States of America will either drastically cut its spending, or its economy will be driven off a steep cliff. One or the other will occur. If spending is curtailed to the extent it must be for the country to survive as we've known it, the welfare state, with its filthy excesses, will end. I suspect that, either way, the result will be civil unrest, violence, and bloodshed.
Already the far left is gearing up for all-out war. In Tea Party rallies this past weekend in various American cities, such as Madison, Boston, and Portland, the ghosts of Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin were fully evident in counter-protests. Shouting down speakers with noisy obscenities continues to be a common ploy. You can see below that even the flag in one such city was desecrated. I am amazed that Tea Party participants remained relatively calm and level-headed in the face of such brazen provocation.
As I took note of the counter-protests, my mind was flooded with painful memories. In the 1960s and 70s, I witnessed the same kind of nonsense, primarily from college students during the Vietnam era, who protested the war as misbegotten. The country was in social and political turmoil then too.
There is a big difference, however, between what happened then and what is happening now. The Vietnam war was genuinely questionable. Many of those who supported it were less than enthusiastic. It was popularly viewed as a civil war, in which this country had no business intruding. Politicians, like George H. W. Bush, who publicly supported the war, privately saw to it that his son, George W., remained safe and secure stateside. Doubt and cynicism therefore prevailed throughout the populace. The troops eventually returned home, and the war was lost. The radical left, personified by Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, pumped their fists in triumph.
The issue before us with the national debt is not one of moral doubt. It is as close to black and white, no pun intended, as we've come since the time of slavery. Both sides are entrenched. But either the country will cut spending and restore its economy, and those who pay taxes and contribute to American life in positive ways will prevail, or the other half of the population, the effete academics, political pimps, and drones who support the nanny state, will have their way. Nietzsche, I'm afraid, was right: the group with the more aggressive and assertive will-to-power will dominate.
I hope that I'm mistaken, but I suspect that the issue before us is not one that will be resolved peacefully. It's the kind of fundamental philosophical divide over which even thoughtful people war with one another. To put it another way: two paradigms oppose each other. The first touts a sovereign and independent nation, free and self-sufficient, with a small, non-intrusive national government. The second is of a Third World country, socially and politically oppressed, with a colossal and authoritarian government, to which citizens look for satisfaction of most their needs. In a nutshell, the conflict may be described as one between Jefferson and Soros.
I have been studying the political sermons preached in this country between 1730 and 1805. Many of them highlight the idea that there is a direct correlation between virtue and freedom. As a people become morally degenerate, liberty begins to slip away from them. The clergy during America's founding understood this truth and so emphasized the vital importance of an enlightened, vigilant, and virtuous citizenry.
America is not to be identified as the Kingdom of God, but neither is the freedom that our citizenry enjoys a spiritual irrelevancy, which may be cavalierly dismissed as having little or nothing to do with the human spirit and its relationship to God. No, our culture has been profoundly influenced by Christian thought and practice. The Easter faith is the essence of Christianity and has changed hearts and lives among us for years. The central message of this faith is that God has not abandoned us, that He has achieved a victory through Christ of vast and dramatic proportion. This faith quickens a people to virtue. It is not a bad tonic.
The question, for Christians, is no longer whether we human beings are redeemable. The question is whether we will accept redemption as the gift it is and live out an Easter faith which sustains the continuation of a virtuous way of life.
Sure, I am disenchanted, yet I still rejoice in the possibilities of love, which are replete in the being of God. I am now, and always have been, in awe of Easter.
April 21, 2011