Browsing From the Pastor's Desk

We Will Choose the Lord

Sep 7, 2018

This week we will see 9/11/2018. It’s been 17 long years since 9/11/01, the day the world changed in so many ways.
Imagine if today there were a tightly contested presidential election, where one of the candidates declined to pursue through the courts a cogent claim to victory, for the good of the country. Would that happen now like it did in 2000?

Today’s high school seniors were born in 2001. They, and those younger, have never known their country not to be at war, never known their country not to be polarized. How does this affect their outlook on life? How will this affect the future of us all? It makes me wonder.

My father’s generation is all but gone now. He grew up during World War I, came of age during the Depression, and served in World War II. My brothers and sister and I all grew up in a victorious, prosperous, confident, proudly religious, and anti-communist USA. We grew up with a progressive, optimistic view of life, the USA, and the world at large. My cousins in Germany grew up in basements because their cities had been bombed into ruins, then came of age as those ruins were transformed back into prosperous cities or outposts of socialist drudgery, depending on which side of the wall you lived. Those west of the wall came to share in our confident, optimistic, and progressive worldview.

But I wonder what it was like for their parents coming of age in the 1930s, as the liberal Weimar Republic of Germany transformed itself into Nazi Germany? It was a confusing and critical time not only for Germany then, but also for all of Europe and the Church as Fascism faced off against Communism. Fascism seemed to be pro-Church but showed its true colors, turning against the Church, when the Church sided with Christ. That wasn’t so clear in 1930 as it was in 1940.

It seems to me we are in a similar time of crisis and confusion now. We are seeing and hearing things I never would have thought possible, things just as shocking as the attack on the World Trade Center in New York, the tallest building in the world, once a symbol of our post-war power and optimism.

The narrative we keep hearing of criminal and rapist immigrants is EXACTLY the same narrative Dr. Goebbels propagated against the Jews in Germany….exactly. The emboldened, public, proud racism today, the self-righteous nationalism all covered with a veneer of Christianity, is truly frightening. The idea that our armed forces or economic might can impose peace, security, or our will on the world is proved delusional. After 16 years, Americans are still being killed in Afghanistan, where the Taliban still controls more of the country than the government we fund and recognize there. The three-sided civil war in Syria is a 21st century version of the Spanish Civil War but is appropriately worse as a human meatgrinder, thanks to more developed weaponry.

The Church is not the power it was in the 1930s. Many in the proud, prosperous West have left real religion for materialism. The abuse scandal has diminished the moral authority of the Church in the eyes of many inside the Church as well as outside. The visible and audible conflict between pro-Pope Francis and anti-Pope Francis factions dilutes the influence the Church does have. But the truth is still the truth, and the truth will set us free.

There is a 1997 movie starring Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves, The Devil’s Advocate. As you might guess, Al Pacino is the Devil. And as the Devil and tempter, he makes a powerful argument for the loyalty of Keanu Reeves. He closes his argument with these words.

“Who, in their right mind...could possibly deny...that the 20th century was entirely mine? All of it! All of it. Mine. I’m peaking. It’s my time now.”

Part of the skill of the Devil is to appear to be doing better than he really is. But I do think he must be pretty happy with the way things are going. He does seem to be getting a lot of people on his side without offering very much in return. The Devil’s bargain is never a good one, and the failure of materialism to produce happiness is producing anger in the disappointed followers of that religion. Who is to blame? Someone must be to blame. Immigrants, of course. Liberals, of course. Conservatives, of course. Blacks, of course. Muslims, of course. Whites, of course. Dems, Reps, anyone but me! Any group but mine.

Jesus makes an argument, too. In Mark’s Gospel, Chapter 8, he says:
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?
What could one give in exchange for his life?
Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation,
the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory.”

That being so and the fleeting present aside, who in their right mind could possibly deny that the real future belongs entirely to God and those who side with Him? Crisis is not necessarily a bad thing. It forces us to choose. "As for me and my house, we will choose the Lord." (Joshua 24:15) What about you?


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