Friday, September 16, 2011

A Thermometer on American Culture

Brian Williams of NBC, during a recent GOP debate, asked Gov. Rick Perry this question (story here):

“Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times,”

The audience in attendance cheered wildly and ecstatically.

Then, Mr. Williams, noting the crowds exuberant response to 234 executions asked,

“What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?”
....Does what we celebrate tell us something about ourselves?  
When we celebrate the deaths of our enemies, do we learn what we are really like?  

We dance on the graves of 234 people....but don't realize that their end will also be ours.  We also will die in sin.  We celebrate their executions, believing that we also aren't on death row, about to be punished for crimes against God. 

We are wrong.  We are going to die, too.  

A retired president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, wrote once that during the rule of Communism in Czechoslovakia, he realized that it was becoming harder to tell who was good and bad...he wrote, “The line [between good and evil]  did not run clearly between ‘them’ and ‘us,’ but through each person.  No one was  simply a victim; everyone was in some measure co-responsible . . . Many people were on both sides” (NY Review of Books, Feb. 19, 1998).

Alexander Solzhenitsyn said it this way, “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart. . . . This line shifts.  Inside us, it oscillates with the years.  And even within hearts overwhelmed with evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.  And even in the best of all hearts there remains . . . an uprooted small corner of evil” (The Gulag Archipelago part iv, chapter I)

234 are dead...but not simply "out there in them"...evil is in me.  Paul says this in Romans 3, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

"All"....that's me, and you.  234 dead....and I too will one day die...a sinner.  Let's not get prideful....

Proverbs 24:17 says, "Do not gloat when your enemy falls;  when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice." 

What do we learn about ourselves when we gloat over the deaths of our enemies?
We learn we no longer recognize our own depravity and utter dependance on the mercy of God. We learn of our deep and intrenched pride.

"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18)

So this morning I lament.  Lament that I...and you...are sinners, in desperate need of mercy.  Lament that we live in a world where there are murderers...and death, anyones death, is a constant and ugly reminder that things are not as they were made to be. 

And I will pray.  Pray that God helps me love my enemies...

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