By David Hegg
Perhaps I am overstating the case, but it sure seems like we are in the throes of a once-in-our-lifetime convergence of disasters. First, I’ll give you my view of this convergence and the havoc it continues to bring down on us. Then, I’ll ask you this question: What are you going to do about it?
First the pandemic hit. In a matter of weeks COVID-19 brought on a new level of fear and confusion even as it devastated us economically, frustrated and angered us emotionally, changed the very rhythms of our lives practically, and contributed to the deaths of more than 200,000 of our fellow citizens.
Then the racial unrest happened, erupting in response to the deaths of Black Americans, out of which has come both meaningful, peaceful protests as well as unrestrained violence in our streets epitomized by the burning of buildings, the looting of businesses, and most tragically, an all-out assault on our law enforcement officers.
Now, the news is filled with reports of extreme weather thrashing our southern coastal communities. For only the second time in history, the National Hurricane Center has run out of names for the storm systems and has started using the Greek alphabet to distinguish them. On the West Coast, this season’s wildfires are unusually destructive. They are bigger, more dangerous and more frequent than in years past. For weeks we’ve been quite hesitant to go outside as the smoke obscured the sky and made the very air we breathe dangerous to our health.
Add to that the constant and caustic drip, drip, drip of political speech as we run up to the November elections. We’ve been deluged with a flood of bold-faced deceit, intentional inaccuracies, slander, defamation, and downright mean-spirited name-calling, the likes of which this nation has never seen, much less allowed and applauded. And if that isn’t enough, the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg — an honorable justice on the Supreme Court regardless of how you assess her views — has opened a new front in the political war that rages in every corner of our nation.
As children we pledged allegiance to the flag or the United States of America, and to the nation for which it stands. We were taught that we were one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Yet, today we are so divided. And we can hardly say that, as a people, we are “under God,” for that would be a lie. We have replaced God and his truth with the false wisdom of post-modernity, and the result has been a depth of fragmentation in our society never before seen or even imagined in America. And time fails me to opine on the whole matter of liberty in this season of over-regulation, or the matter of equal justice under the law. All that to say, we’ve been run over by what some are calling the “horror movie that is 2020.”
But the more important question is, “What are we going to do about it?” I think there are only three responses. First, you could give free rein to your anger, your cynicism, your frustration over rights being infringed, and decide everyone you meet is the enemy, responsible either for hurting or not helping the situation, and just generally become another source of frustration and despair to everyone around you. You could just become part of the problem.
Or second, you could decide to resign from society, refuse to know what’s going on, eat too much, drink too much, binge-watch reruns, and dream about selling everything and moving to Idaho.
Or third – and best – you can face the myriad challenges around us as a mature, knowledgeable, reasonable, self-restrained, compassionate, useful, helpful partner in our mutual adventure called American democracy and wear a smile as you go about your business.
Gang, we don’t need any more well-meaning folks telling us what’s wrong. We get it. Decades of self-centered living have hatched chickens that have come home to roost and left their droppings everywhere. But the real question is whether you and I are going to roll up our sleeves and face each day with a positive determination not to be overwhelmed with the negative. Simply put, we need more good people to think maturely, be incredibly discerning and wise, and most of all, live useful lives while resisting the constant temptation to use current circumstances as an excuse for childish thinking and tantrums.
Of course, those of you who read this little column regularly know I believe following the model of Jesus Christ is the best strategy for living, loving and leading your life well. That is, to live in a way that builds up rather than tears down, that cleans up more messes than you make, and overall faces each day with the steadfast knowledge that you are loved and can be a better kind of human as you admit your brokenness, forsake your selfishness, and entrust your life by faith to Jesus.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my hands and launder my mask because there’s always a chance that COVID rascal has somehow found a home on my computer. BTW, any truth to the rumor the virus can be transmitted via the Internet?
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.