As we enter the Advent Season and attempt some moments of normality (“normalcy” was a new term coined by then-Presidential candidate Warren G. Harding in 1920), I offer the following reflections on current events:
- Wikileaks is not a crusade for righteousness, but one more group of arrogant elitists with an agenda. They are happy to expose any and every national leader, but will not reveal the names of their supporters or the Bilderberg Group of globalists. What they are doing is part amusing, historically interesting but ultimately concerning to all who value some measure of confidentiality.
- The new Congress will be on a short leash and the expectations are high. If the current “deficit panel” can only recommend changes that save $200 billion, we will continue to drift toward economic oblivion. The cure for our current disease is real movement toward a genuinely balanced budget.
- The number of waivers for Obama Care may end up exceeding the number of people assisted! Major unions are bailing and support is only found among the hard-core Left and the uninsured. There has to be a better way.
- The 2012 race is already interesting. Their are only two questions: Will Hillary or another Democrat make a serious run at Obama? Will the Republicans find a charismatic and electable leader who can offer an alternative to the mushy middle the party elite seems to gravitate toward every four years?
- “Bring him [her] home.” This needs to be our theme for the brave women and men in the military. Let’s bring them home with dignity, remain a presence against Middle Eastern terrorism and forge a new future in foreign policy. No more bowing to national leaders. No more apologizing for our history. Warts and all, America is still an exceptional place, especially since we confront our problems and work on them!
- Israel should suspend settlement building. But the future of any peace accord with teeth in it rests on the moral integrity of Palestinian leaders who will unequivocally acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and initiate full diplomatic exchanges and recognition. If the West Bank is returned (the Oslo Accords) and Israel’s security concerns are addressed, there is hope. The PA must give up the demand for a “right of return” for all the descendants of the 1948 conflict. There is only safety for Israel if she is a majority Jewish State.
- Positive changes in the America begin with each one of us choosing ethical, gracious, hospitable and wise pathways that secure for our neighbors the opportunities and rights we desire for ourselves.
Let’s find a million families devoted to God, family and community. We do not want a communist or fascist state, but a free people enjoying the fruits of their faith and hard work and learning to live with their deepest differences as well as finding common cause against injustice, poverty and hopelessness.
I am still an optimist, because there are enough people who can make daily choices to turn this nation in a new direction.
Somewhere in-between the cynicism of fatalists and the Pollyanna sentiments of too many greeting cards is the sentiment of gratefulness. Let’s strip away the cliches of “an attitude of gratitude” and the moronic, “it’s all good” and choose to be grateful for the abundance of blessings that most of us take for granted.
Before sharing these simple sentences, it is wise to affirm that all of us have pain and unanswered questions. Whether we are poor or rich, an outsider or insider, a minority or majority member, we all “walk with a limp.” (This is a reference to the Israelite patriarch Jacob, who had a dramatic encounter with God, received great blessings and a name change to Israel…and came away with a disability.) Death, disease, distress and disaster seem ever-present, impacting us directly as victims or indirectly as caregivers, donors or neighbors.
As a Christian, I believe that our world is simultaneously full of dignity and depravity. We live longing for completeness and enduring unspeakable agonies. We see the glory of God is the macro- and micro-cosmos and the effects of the cosmic tear in unexplainable events. We see humankind capable of creating sublime beauty and sulfuric evils. We long for justice, love, beauty and spiritual connection and often find cruelty, hatred, scarred landscapes and narcissism run amok. I also believe that in the person of Jesus we see the better world to come. In Jesus’ life we hear words of grace and see works of goodness that bring the future into the present. In Jesus’ death he identifies with our deserved and undeserved suffering, offering forgiveness and experiencing the alienation of unanswered questions. All my “Whys?” to God are collected in his piercing Aramaic exclamation of, “Lama?” In Jesus’ resurrection I see a portent of my future: body and spirit renewed, with continuity and contrast with the present cosmos and my community.
Whether my readers share all these sentiments or not, here is why I am grateful:
- I took a shower today. A third of our world could not.
- I ate well today. Millions hope for such abundance.
- My wife and children are happy, healthy and they love me. My parents and in-laws love and care about us. (I am the richest person in the world)
- I get to spend most of my time doing what I love.
- I get to meet interesting people from around the world. They hear and see with different ears and eyes and it helps me expand my horizons.
- I am in the company of good books, while many wait to open their first Bible.
- This past weekend I went to Belize to serve and now I write these words from the USA. Millions will never leave their ghettos or hamlets.
- I have choices – almost too many – about everything from breakfast cereal to soap, while millions hope to eat well and bathe this week.
- I can go to the YMCA and improve my health.
- I live in a country where we can argue about our deepest differences in politics and religion and still be neighbors.
- I voted two weeks ago and I am pleased with some results and displeased with others. I greeted the poll workers, thanked them for their hard work and commented that it is a privilege to vote without fear. Democrat, Green Party, Independent or Republican – we get to participate.
- In the past few days I had the joy of helping several people. To be a part of someone’s blessing is the greatest blessing of all.
My list keeps growing as I write. Some are simple things, like a shower. Others are more esoteric, like the company of books. I challenge all of us to write our own “grateful list” and allow our hearts to swell with humble thanks.
I will enjoy a feast next week in the company of my family. But the feast has started today as I ponder my place in life and recognize God’s blessings and the wonderful people who enrich my life.
On November 3, all the newly-elected and the survivors of the recent political battles must wake up from the parties and realize a sobering fact: the way forward for America is hard. The difficulties have been exacerbated by Obama’s policies, but neither he nor one political party are responsible for our current state. Our challenges have been a century in the making, with the last forty years accelerating trends of prior generations.
The new Congress and President must confront
- Runaway federal expansion and spending – but where will the cuts be made?
- Stasis in Afghanistan and Iraq – but when do our troops return and who is in power in each nation?
- A psychologically-scarred electorate who intuitively know that government largess must decrease even while a large percentage depend upon it for their livelihood.
- How to rebuild our infrastructure.
- Ways to keep all types of jobs in the USA and still be a competitor in a global economy.
- A Constitutional re-balancing – more power to the states and the people – but this means more accountability from state capitals and from each person.
- How to transform a “warfare and welfare” nation into a “workfare” land once again. We cannot have federal guns and butter with ever-increasing deficits forever. We can have a strong defense and trim military spending. We can make sure the needy get help – and do it more efficiently and kindly.
- Allowing some states to go bankrupt and restructure – strong but necessary medicine.
The above list is a partial one and represents the easiest issues. The real challenges are much deeper and will require courage, deft communication and integrity beyond the norm. Here is another list that unveils the full picture. Our class of 2011 must call for
- A new era of moral and spiritual responsibility. Fathers need to father. Mothers need to mother. Parents need to send their children to school ready to learn. Even the working poor can put a bowl of oatmeal in a child’s stomach, wash behind the ears and give her or him a hug.
- Local responsibility for welfare. Those who need help of all kinds need to receive it, but with personal care and efficient administration. We DO need basic guidelines from Washington; however, care needs to be as local as possible. The goal of welfare is not jobs for middle-class government workers – it is helping those in need.
- An end to racism once and for all. Pride in heritage and identity is good, but the politics of anger and bitterness only fuel tensions. Red and Yellow, Black and White – we are all precious in God’s sight. If this is true, we need to hear more about love than about “hate” crimes. All crime is wrong, regardless of perceived ethnic issues.
- A new way forward on private and public morality. It is nonsense to say, “You cannot legislate morality.” All legislation IS moral – we pass laws and ordinances that reflect principles and values we affirm as part of our social compact. It is possible to protect traditional marriage and give alternative family arrangements legal status. It is possible to allow private adult activity while not forcing public schools students to be subject to radical ideologies.
- Citizenship must mean something again. Why do my friends from Europe face years of hassle and thousands in lawyer fees to procure legal status while millions of “undocumented” workers await some form of amnesty and brazenly set up consular offices in public schools? We need to welcome everyone – legally. We need to confront Mexico for her corruption and subversion. We need to confront our addictions and greed.
- Israel must be protected from her enemies while a new peace treaty with a peaceful Palestine is negotiated. Iran must be confronted and not allowed to go nuclear under her current regime.
- American “exceptionalism” must be reaffirmed, without arrogance or obeisance to foreign leaders. Our exceptionalism is found in our Constitutional principles – and in our continual self-corrections to live up to them! We must not be proud of our colonial and imperial history. But we can take pride in our heritage of religious freedom, economic opportunity and gradual alignment with the Founder’s vision. We must not try to reify some halcyon days that never were. However, we can learn from the sacrifices of generations who laid the foundation for unprecedented prosperity and opportunity.
The morning after…will the new leaders actually arrest spending and make the tough decisions? Will President Obama learn how to compromise? Will “we the people” decide to “love our neighbor as ourselves” and stop calling on the mysterious “someone” to “do something”?
Positive change is possible, but only with a new “great and general awakening” of faith hope and love. In the end, the future begins with our own decisions today.