(Sort-of-random thoughts on the anniversary of infamy and conspiracy theories and high-powered cold medicine, which doesn’t really go with the previous two subjects but can sure make you see them in a whole new way…)
So many years gone… I was only five at the time. Still I remember the solemn funeral, the haunting image of the caisson and that black, riderless horse, and Mrs. Kennedy standing behind the veil. I don’t remember much else of the time, except for the fact that we had a black-and-white TV with three channels available, and when the president was on TV, we could forget watching Captain Kangaroo or Tom and Jerry because he would be on all three channels at the same time.
Wow… how did I ever survive a childhood without Sesame Street, the Cartoon Network, or Nick Jr.? The “Disney Channel” of course! Which came on for an hour every Sunday night at 6:00 on NBC.
Okay, so – in case you missed it – I wanted to let you know that there are people who still believe that no single shooter could have ended the days of Camelot. Most of them are treated by the press as if they need to get a life or something. While I haven’t studied the subject extensively, in my heart I want to believe that the president lost his life because of something more than a nut job’s attempt to prove he was a man.
In one crushing afternoon in November 50 years ago, America’s religion of Manifest Destiny and its faith in the inherent goodness of America was assassinated. Evil was never again confined to the Communists or Fascists who lived somewhere else. It was among us. It was in us… from our segregated South to our war in Southeast Asia to the violence erupting on our streets and college campuses to our recreational use of drugs other than alcohol and nicotine.
Sandwiched between the assassination of one president and the resignation of another, issues we conveniently never gave enough attention to suddenly grabbed you and me by the throat and demanded that we take a stand. And when we did, somebody else took a different one. And now, so many years later, we’ve galvanized and institutionalized those stands. We’ve gone from the United States to the Red States and Blue States, and to a whole generation of people that all seems rather normal.
Love – a subject that once was attached to some standard of right and wrong – is now freed of its former constraints and burdensome commitments. Now it’s a free pass to do whatever I want to do; if I do it in the name of “love,” nobody has the right to tell me I can’t do it.
The electorate or the government? Forget it. Not as long as we continue to crown Federal judges.
The church? Sorry. The way it used to be, maybe. But these days culture changes the church more than the church changes the culture.
The simple truth is, since the days of Camelot, we’ve institutionalized the Religion of Me and demonized the institutions. The last half-century is a study in how we’ve developed the iEconomy, iChurch, iEntertainment, iTechnology, iTherapy, iMedicine, iFamily, and iYou-fill-in-the-blanks. We’ve changed the taste of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now it’s all flavored by love-for-me-and-nuts-to-you.
Now… you may think I’m just whining or pining for the days of Leave it to Beaver. Not necessarily. But I would like to be able to go to a movie like About Time and not leave feeling like we were on an alien planet because we were entertained by something so life-affirming (check it out, by the way).
I would like to turn the news on and actually hear how the world is a little different – new – today instead of stacking my arsenal with one more weapon against “them,” whoever “they” are.
I would like a chance to use my so-called freedom of speech to talk about faith or life or hope or eternity without being made to feel that I can never introduce the name of Jesus into a public conversation. (Who would have thought I’d ever even have to mention something like that 50 years ago?)
I would like to find a way to show my Millennial children and yet-to-be-stereotyped grandchildren that if you were willing to dream and pray and work really hard, you could still find opportunity and hope in this world without feeling obligated to give equal time to the devil, the terrorists or the cynics.
I would like for at least one of those grandchildren, if not all of them, to be able to show the world that romance and commitment aren’t polar opposites, and that love is not synonymous with sex.
I’ve always believed in my heart and known in my mind that meaningful change and life contribution was possible without having to resort to hatred or character assassination. In fact, no one will ever touch me more than the one who can show me that while evil does exist in the world and even in us to some degree, it doesn’t have to define or control us… and that people who disagree with us aren’t necessarily evil.
That’s what the gospel is all about… the good news that the evil and self-worship that I am guilty of has been redeemed by the resurrection and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. History’s darkest day has been transformed into my only hope! And that hope is greater than all my shattered dreams, broken promises, and bad news bears.
In grabbing hold of faith, hope, and true love again, we don’t have to return to days of magical thinking, where we pretend that problems and danger reside “out there” somewhere. I might have preferred a world of imagined innocence. But by the grace of God I’ve been saved from the burden of having to preserve my own.
And because of that, I can look at the other dark days of history, including this one, and know that the darkness doesn’t have to define us. Through the lens of faith we can be confident that the best days – for me and for you – are the ones that lie ahead.
Even in a world that is no longer simply black and white.
Still I remember… Still I believe.
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