Who’s to Blame?

Lots of anxiety going on in our country today. It started in March with what turned out to be COVID-19. Most schools, churches, restaurants, hotels, department stores, barber shops, beauty salons, and other establishments were shut down. Many are just now reopening.

World Health Organization reports that more than six million people worldwide have become infected and 370,000 of them have died. In the United States 1.7 million confirmed cases have been reported and more than 100,000 people have died.

Who’s to blame for this pandemic? Lab workers in Wuhan, China? The Chinese Communist regime for withholding warnings? The World Health Organization for not acting more quickly and definitively? The President’s task force? Pharmaceutical companies for not waving a magic wand and coming up with a vaccine? Yesterday? People who laughed at social distancing?

Then, just as light began to appear at the end of that tunnel, another oncoming train appeared. On May 25, George Floyd, an African-American man, was suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill and lost his life in a neighborhood south of downtown Minneapolis, Minn.

Mr. Floyd was arrested, handcuffed, and pinned to the ground by police officers. One of them unrelentingly pressed his knee against Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Mr. Floyd was unresponsive when paramedics arrived and later was pronounced dead.

There’s little if any doubt that the officer in question is at fault. He has been charged with second degree murder. The other three officers on the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting that murder. Any or all of the four could spend many years in prison.

Community response initially included peaceful protests demanding justice for Mr. Floyd’s death. Along with those pleas for justice, protesters also decried racism, undeniably a sin.

Incredibly, those protests attracted or catalyzed rampant riots in Minneapolis and other cities across the nation. Some rioters appear to have been imported and paid to participate.

Rioters shattered windows, looted stores, vandalized buildings, torched police vehicles, dismantled and emptied ATMs, defaced churches and national monuments with graffiti, and tried to attack the White House, exhibiting violent and vitriolic behavior. At least 40 cities have imposed curfews. National Guard has been activated in 15 states and Washington, D.C.

Who’s to blame? Racially biased and discriminatory law enforcement officers? Policemen who arrested Mr. Floyd and whose actions led to his death? Rampant racism embedded in our country’s culture? Rioters who burned, robbed, damaged, destroyed, pilfered, and plundered small Mom and Pop establishments along with Big Box stores? Parents of the perpetrators of violence? Municipal, county, state, and national politicians? The U.S. President for insensitive or inflammatory remarks? His critics and opponents who want him defeated? All the above?

Who’s to blame? I’d start with Satan: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Pet. 5:8. What we’re seeing these day is absolutely demonic!

And I’d quickly add mankind’s sinful flesh. In the Old Testament, the Lord said: “… the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Gen. 8:21.

The devil and our sinful, evil flesh, working together, are at the root of both racism and rioting. In this case, the same culprits have resulted in the loss of a man’s life and have turned peaceful protest against racism into stealing, looting, torching, and destroying.

What’s the cure? Spiritual, parental, legal, moral, and behavioral reformation? Yes. But not easily accomplished. Many moving parts.

Two highly respected Black leaders have modeled helpful thoughts about responding to the sin of racism in a peaceful, non-violent manner:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was described this way: “Never burned one building. Never robbed one store. Never destroyed one town. Changed the world.”

And Dr. Ben Carson said: “We, the American people, are not each other’s enemies. The enemies are those people behind the curtain jerking everybody’s chains and trying to divide us up by age, by race, by income. Peaceful protests of unfair practices are good and are part of what makes America a strong nation. But senseless destructive violence must be recognized and resisted.”

Additionally, a heretofore unknown man named Rodney Floyd, George Floyd’s own brother, said: “I’m asking for peace the same way my brother would ask if he could see the situation, if he was here. Peace. Peaceful protests. It is the best option we have to bring justice.”

I obviously concur with Holy Scripture and couldn’t agree more strongly with these three men.

Lord, have mercy and help us live in peace in this troubled world, regardless of who’s to blame.

Why?

Why?

Lots of things in life make me wonder why they happen. Some are fairly frivolous, like these:

  • Why cars worth tens of thousands of dollars are in the driveway and useless junk is in the garage.
  • Why banks leave vault doors open and then chain the pens to the counter.
  • Why the man or woman who invests all our money is called a broker.
  • Why people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet coke.
  • Why the time of day with the slowest traffic is called rush hour.
  • Why you never see the headline Psychic Wins Lottery.
  • Why doctors and attorneys call what they do practice.
  • Why the needle for lethal injections is sterilized.
  • Why Noah didn’t swat those two mosquitoes.
  • Why there is no mouse-flavored cat food.
  • Why abbreviated is such a long word.
  • Why sheep don’t shrink when it rains.

Much more significantly, I wonder about exponentially more important matters:

  • Why a man cheats on his wife.
  • Why a woman cheats on her husband.
  • Why so many children in the world go to bed hungry.
  • Why young people, especially infants and children, die prematurely.
  • Why little children get cancer or any other debilitating or deadly disease.
  • Why deranged people kill innocent bystanders by shooting or suicidal bombing.
  • Why miscarriages occur in the life of a woman who wants deeply to become a mother.
  • Why hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes occur, causing destruction, death, and devastation.
  • Why God doesn’t intervene in our lives and intercept all suffering, disease, and natural disasters.

My Sunday school teacher taught me the answer to these questions. It’s simple. All the bad stuff that happens is the result of sin. I learned that at the seminary as well.

I get it that a specific person dies because of his or her sin. But does sin cause natural disasters? Is that the way God chooses to punish mankind for sin? I don’t like that answer. And why does one person’s sin have to take the life of another person or of many people who really are innocent bystanders? I know the answer in my head. It’s just hard for my heart to make sense of it.

When I think of the people affected by Harvey, Irma, Maria, the Mexico City earthquake, and a deranged sniper’s bullets from an automatic machine gun in Las Vegas, not to mention countless other previous manifestations of the result of sin, I simply shake my head, dry my tears, and say, “Satan, be gone! Leave us alone! Get out of here!”

My prayer is that the Lord will have mercy. And my trust is in the promise of God never to leave us or forsake us. (Deut. 31:6)

Whose Sin is the Greatest?

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Recent events in Charlottesville and other scenes of destruction and death have produced in our country conflict and division about the rightness or wrongness of harmful actions and of any response thereto. No rational person I know approves of willfully hurting or harming a human being. Yet there are some on both sides who justify their side’s violent behavior in Charlottesville.

Can anyone in his or her right mind condone extreme ideology that leads to violence, whether in the form of vicious demonstration, vitriolic protest, or, even worse, suicide bombing or driving a vehicle into a crowd, in Charlottesville or Barcelona, that results in injury or death of innocent bystanders?

The actions of racists, Neo-Nazis, anti-Semitists, white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan, ISIS, and similar groups should be unequivocally condemned. The same condemnation is due any person or group who behaves violently for any reason other than genuine self-defense.

One related and causative issue that has developed into a highly emotional one is the endeavor to remove statues of Confederate heroes from the American landscape. The presenting reason is that these heroes condoned, endorsed, and practiced slavery and therefore their statues should be demolished or at least moved to a museum, out of sight of the majority of residents and tourists.

That begs a question. Where does one draw the line when determining whose statue to remove from public view, whose name to remove from a school building or street sign, and whose reputation to downgrade from hero to scoundrel on the basis of positions held or decisions implemented that now taint their historic heroic actions?

Is condoning and practicing the sin of racism in the form of slavery the only offense worthy of statue removal, school or street name change? What about other sins? Some United States presidents have had numerous extramarital affairs and children sired out of wedlock. Some were also involved in bribery, kickbacks, tax evasion, espionage, and gun-running scandals, to name a few less than godly activities.

So, whose sin is the greatest? The man who made his living on the backs of the slaves he owned or the man who found his pleasure in the bodies of the women he seduced?

Question: If statues of heroes are removed because they were racist, why we would not also remove any form of adulation of U.S. presidents who have committed adultery or any other grievous sin? Do we rename our nation’s capital because George Washington owned 317 slaves at the time of his death, even though he freed them through his will upon Martha’s death?

Whose sin is the greatest? Rom. 3:23 says: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And Jesus says: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” John 8:7.

‘Tis the Season …

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Credit: darkchyle via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

… to be jolly? That’s the way the song goes. In reality, lots of people are anything but jolly before, during or after Christmas. There are numerous reasons:

  1. Christmas preparation has many moving parts. Getting everything done creates tension.
  2. Christmas presents can be quite costly. Charging purchases is easy. Then the bill arrives.
  3. Christmas gatherings can be stressful. Family members don’t always play well together.
  4. Christmas interrupts the routine. People who normally go to school or to work are likely to be home, at the same time, for several days. That can be wonderful. Or not.
  5. Christmas reminds us of our childhood. If it was happy, memories are sweet. If it wasn’t, memories may likely be painful.
  6. Christmas for folks who are single, widowed or divorced is often spent alone. Being jolly is generally a team sport.
  7. Christmas is hard for families who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Grief is neither quickly nor easily conquered.
  8. Christmas exacerbates concern for the future, especially for those facing illness, surgery or other health issues, emotional turmoil or financial challenges.
  9. Christmas is tough for families living with abuse, addiction or missing family members.
  10. Christmas for most of us means food, usually lots of it. Girth expansion often results.
  11. Christmas brings to mind citizens of third world countries who don’t have that food problem. Why? Because they have no food. We seem not to know what to do about that.
  12. Christmas creates chaos. Lots of decisions need to be made. The kitchen is a wreck after the meal. The family room is a cluttered mess after presents have been opened.

Having said all that, I hasten to add that Christmas is a wonderful time of the year! While many reasons not to be jolly are listed above, there are others that produce the pure joy of the season.

Next week’s article will be: “Reasons to be Joyful at Christmas!” If you have some to suggest, send them to me before next Monday, December 21, and I’ll try to work them in. Be concise, please.

In the meantime, in these last days of Advent remember these words of the hymn writer, whether you’re experiencing jolly times or not:

“The advent of our King, our prayers must now employ,
And we must hymns of welcome sing, in strains of holy joy.”

“All glory to the Son, Who comes to set us free,
With Father, Spirit, ever one, through all eternity!”

A Blessed Advent to you and yours!

Light in Darkness

Lighthouse 1The captain of the ship looked into the dark night and saw faint lights in the distance. Immediately he told his signalman to send a message: “Alter your course 10 degrees south.”

Promptly a return message was received: “Alter your course 10 degrees north.”

The captain was angered! His command had been ignored! So he sent a second message: “Alter your course 10 degrees south—I am the captain!” Soon another message was received: “Alter your course 10 degrees north—I am a seaman third class.”

Immediately the captain sent a third message, knowing the fear it would evoke: “Alter your course 10 degrees south—I am a battleship!” Then came the reply: “Alter your course 10 degrees north—I am a lighthouse!”

There are plenty of voices shouting at us through the fog. We need the clear and solid voice of a lighthouse in our lives – someone with the right advice about where to go and how to get there.

Terry Pratchett in Reaper Man said, “Light thinks it travels faster than anything, but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds darkness has always gotten there first, waiting for it.”

William Shakespeare said in The Merchant of Venice, “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

John the Baptist came to “go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, to give light to those who sit in darkness.” (Luke 1:76-79)

Jesus said to his disciples and to us: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16)

In this world of darkness, let your light shine, reflecting the source of our life and light—Jesus!