They Pinned Notes to the Trees

by on October 6th, 2011

Current Events news often offers lots of stories and ideas we can write about to offer our opinion or even ask if there is a spiritual element. At times we receive funny and interesting responses. Several years ago, when I was pastoring a small church in Lombard, IL we had a weekly column in the area newspaper. In one of them Joy and I wrote on the age of, what we call, the “cry baby boomers.” A generation that seems to view itself as victims and cries that they are being picked on. The day the column appeared a woman who read it called and left a message which started out something like, “don’t know how old you are but why do all of you old people keep picking on us?” and then she went on to describe how I had further victimized her with the article. As Joy and listened to the message, Joy smiled and said, “She is just proving our point.” I called her and we talked for a bit. She was surprised to discover that I was actually a little younger than she was and she chuckled when I pointed out that her call was an example of what we had been saying.

The political season can offer even more interesting issues to comment about. Navigating through the question of what words can be used, with what groups and by who can be a sticky wicket at times. The Republican presidential wannabes were publically dressed down by President Obama for not instantly renouncing 2 folks in the audience of a recent debate who booed a question about policy that had been posed by a gay soldier. The same president was silent about Roseanne Barr calling to Behead Bankers, Rich Who Won’t Give Up Wealth. Is disagreeing with the new Federal policy of glorifying same sex acts in the U. S Military really worse than holding on to wealth which one has earned or inherited? Is it more due a lack of clarity and a lashing out on emotionally charged issues?

Then there is the new “scandal” that Rick Perry’s family leased a property for hunting which had a rock on that displayed a politically unacceptable racial pejorative. How long it remained there before the Perry family covered it up is still a bit up in the air. One of the more interesting aspects of this occurred on The View as the women discussed whether or not the “N-Word” can be used and if so who can use it. I don’t watch the show but the two video clips supplied by the Huffington Post in Barbara Walters’ Use Of N-Word Leads To Tense Discussion With Sherri Shepherd (VIDEO) are enlightening. Sherri was offended when Barbara Walters used it but was fine when Whoopi Goldberg repeatedly and with gusto used the word. Sherri continually insisted that they said it differently. The only actual difference the viewer could discern was the color of the skin of the one using the word. Whoopi also observed that the term does not carry the same meaning to younger people as it does to the more mature. Her point is well taken. To a generation where black and white literally was black and white, the term had a derisive, condescending meaning. Whether you agreed or not, people knew which side they were on. There was a clarity to their convictions which seems to be lacking today.

Recent news has been covering the Occupy Wall Street protests. While watching interviews of the protesters I was struck by the shear disconnection from any actual purpose for protesting. It was reminiscent of the song “Whatever it is, I’m Against it,” in the Groucho Marx film, “Horse Feathers”:

[Groucho]
I don’t know what they have to say,
It makes no difference anyway,
Whatever it is, I’m against it.
No matter what it is or who commenced it,
I’m against it.

Your proposition may be good,
But let’s have one thing understood,
Whatever it is, I’m against it.
And even when you’ve changed it or condensed it,
I’m against it.

I’m opposed to it,
On general principle, I’m opposed to it.

[chorus] He’s opposed to it.
In fact, indeed, that he’s opposed to it!

[Groucho]
For months before my son was born,
I used to yell from night to morn,
Whatever it is, I’m against it.
And I’ve kept yelling since I first commenced it,
I’m against it!

Nearly all who were interviewed about why they were there responded, “I don’t know.” It just seemed important. One young man who had been there for 2 weeks said he didn’t know what they were protesting but that this is the first time he has had faith in humanity. What does that mean? I have no idea and suspect he doesn’t either.

Joy and I also just watched a film on United Airlines Flight 93. One of the passengers was in the midst of reading a book about the Civil War and one of the comments he made to his wife had to do with the dedication of the soldiers on both sides. He was struck as he read about the Battle of Gettysburg. They knew with fair certainty that as they walked into battle they would not come out alive and they spent time writing notes to their loved ones and then “pinned them to the trees”

There is no doubt that the Civil War was a terrible time in our nation’s history but there was clarity of purpose on both sides. For the South, it was about state’s rights. For the North it was about human rights. Should blacks be viewed at the property of whites or should they have the same constitutional rights as whites? Most who fought for the South were not slave owners nor did they want to be. They were simply convinced that the Federal Government had no right to meddle in the affairs of individual states beyond what the 18 enumerated powers of the Constitution stated and the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld. The army of the North was fighting to prevent the dissolution of the nation and the freedom of all humans in the nation. Both sides were fully convinced of their position and whether you agree with their positions or not, they had clarity of purpose and a willingness to sacrifice, even their lives.

Being somewhat of Civil War buffs, Joy and I have had the privilege of visiting many of the battle sites, most of which have museums. There are wonderful letters in each of them from soldiers on both sides. The common themes in each of them are, I am trusting my life to God, I love you my wife, kiss my children, I am in this battle for the honor of our state/nation. They were letters and notes of personal sacrifice for the benefit of others. This is polar opposite to the views of Roseanne Barr, President Obama and the protesters on Wall Street who are calling for others to sacrifice for them and their personal comfort.

In many ways, the church of today is in the same situation as the culture. Many are unsure of why the Church exists. They attend because something seems to be happening and it gives them, as the young man interviewed said, at Occupy Wall Street, faith in humanity for the first time. I am not saying that all churches have this problem and some pastors are working hard against the tide of self -centered faith. Unfortunately, for the most part those who attend the market driven, “seeker sensitive” and emerging left leaning churches are remarkably disconnected from any biblical purpose.

A call for a clear and articulated separation needs to be made by church leaders along the lines of Joshua 24:15:

If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

This same clearly defined commitment motivated the first century believers as well and many of them were martyred because they held fast and refused to renounce their commitment. Like the Civil War soldiers, their purpose was not only bigger than themselves but was clearly defined and understood. Will we commit to and serve the One True God or something else which is less demanding and more self serving?

One response to “They Pinned Notes to the Trees ”

  1. Jonathan Miles says:

    One of your best blogs Don.

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