September 22, 2017
I was born in 1954 so in the early to mid-1960’s, I was in elementary school. The Vietnam War meant little to me in those years. I didn’t know anyone who was killed in that far away land and outside of my step father, who was a lifer in the Army, I didn’t know anyone who even went to Vietnam. The only thing I really remember were the nightly newscasts telling us how many young men had been killed that day. An interesting side note (and I confess I have no way of checking to make sure this is accurate so I apologize if this is “fake news”), in the mid 1960’s, the numbers of U.S. soldiers killed in Vietnam began to rise. It was a PR disaster for the government, so they decided to address the problem. What they did was simply redefine “killed in action.” Unless a soldier actually died on the battle field, they were not included in the day’s casualties. In other words, if one died a day or two later from injuries sustained while fighting, they were not included in the everyday statistics. Is it any wonder that my generation struggles to trust the government or institutions in general?! Yet, there are still those who hold to the axiom “America right or wrong.” Um… I don’t think so.
In my relatively protected neighborhood in Gibsonia PA (with a few temporary excursions to Utah and Texas), I never saw a black person. I knew little of the “Civil Rights Movement.” Oh, for sure I had heard of Martin Luther King Jr., but he and the “Movement” meant little to me. That being said I was deeply saddened when he was killed, as I was when JFK and Bobby were. I never heard of Medgar Evers or Malcom X until I was a young adult. (Do you know Malcom’s birth name? Malcom Little.) It wasn’t until adolescence and the “hormone years” that it began to dawn on me that the world was in turmoil. Or at least the world I lived in anyway. The Vietnam War was escalating. The Civil Rights movement had made great strides, but as we know today there was and is a long way to go. I remember naively arguing with my dad over whether we should have dropped the bomb on Japan. I was 16 for heaven’s sake… what right did I have to judge his generation!?
In early 1972, I enlisted in the Navy. I didn’t actually depart for boot camp until November. Suddenly Vietnam became much more real. I am thankful that the war began to wind down about then, even though the fall of Saigon didn’t occur until 1975. I never was in any danger of going to Vietnam but I met many who had been there.
Well, what I really want to point out here is that there was a great deal of anger and division in our country. College campuses were hot beds of dissent and protest. Draft dodging, free sex, protest marches, bra burning, drugs and hippies were the order of the day. And speaking to it all were the artists, the poets and the musicians. Bob Dylan, Peter Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tom Paxton, Barry McGuire and many more. I have asked this question before but… where are they now? I don’t mean the specific people mentioned above… I mean the sages of our day. The artists who will speak for a generation. Where are they?!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I will agree with them. I am merely asking what has become of a culture where even the artists are silent?! I suspect it’s similar to a passage found in the Old Testament book of Judges.
Judges 21:25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.
That sounds great on the surface doesn’t it? Everyone making their way along in life… making their own decisions… doing what they thought was right and “fit.” But that’s not what was going on at all. At least it is not what this passage is alluding to. Here’s what was happening: People were pursuing their own demented thoughts and passions. It was every man, woman and child for themselves. Chaos and anarchy reigned. Why? Because they turned away from God and there were no leaders.
We now live in a culture of “me first,” “I want what I want,” and “I deserve to have whatever I desire.” Consequently, there is little sense of community, or working together toward common goals. And that applies to artists, musicians and politicians as well. They are unable or unwilling to speak to the culture. They are only speaking to whatever brings them their self-appointed interests. It looks on the surface like it might be impossible for a leader to come in to this mess and move us in a positive direction.
So, what do we do? Well, I cannot speak to unbelievers. I have no right or expectation to think that non-Christians will look to Christian standards to “right the ship.” But for believers…. There are many verses to which we could look. Allow me to mention only a couple from Philippians 2. Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
We ought to be reading these verses EVERY DAY… especially v.3-4. Humble servant hearts… I don’t see much of that these days. I only see arrogant, angry, loud mouths (especially on the internet!). I really don’t care to hear what you say you stand for or against. DO SOMETHING OF VALUE AND SOMETHING POSITIVE! Maybe we need to cease screaming out our agenda for a while and allow Jesus to shine through. If you think this applies to someone else… you might need to think again. Just sayin.