Thursday, August 18, 2011

Faith Works 8-27

Faith Works 8-27-11

Jeff Gill


Stupid things I thought ten years ago



A bit less than ten years ago, I was wrong.


Yes, I've been wrong since then, too. And before that.


In the wake of the tragic events of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, I was quite certain that one outcome would be a change in the political and social climate.


We had just finished a summer full of shark attack hype and groundless speculation about a young woman who had disappeared in Washington, DC; the Chandra Levy case was then conflated into a rehashing of the earlier intern-related Capitol area news of the previous decade which had soaked up an immense amount of political time and energy with the hem of a "little blue dress."


I thought, and said out loud and in print, that we all would find ourselves being a little more thankful, and little less obsessed with trivia, and a whole lot more committed to the common good, after seeing the drama of September 11, 2001 play out in front of us. We'd heard the sobbing last phone calls from people trapped in the Twin Towers, counted up the steps climbed by first responders up towards their sacrificial doom, and we'd seen the impassive faces of the perpetrators glare back at us as a challenge to our national spirit, and our resolve.


It was such a searing, heart-wrenching experience for Americans, there was no way that it wouldn't turn us towards each other in newly caring, co-operative, compassionate ways. You know, like we've been experiencing since 2001.


Hah, he said ruefully.


Ten years on, and it's tempting to make the same mistake by going in the opposite direction: we're doomed, this is hopeless, never will we learn. But no.


First, churches just can't spend much time worrying about our national culture. 24 hour cable is still trying to scare us into not changing the channel, the political parties want goodies from everyone's pockets to then give to their chosen friends, and no repetition of "We Are the World" is going to change the fact that most pop culture is, was, and always will be largely an endeavor in praise of selfishness.


Fads are almost without exception either the direct product of, or the indirect result from forces manipulating the marketplace to advance a message and usually to make money. Join the fad, and you've signed yourself up to help sell something, one way or another. Fight the fad, and you may well find yourself fulfilling the non-Biblical adage "there's no such thing as bad publicity if they spell your name right."


Second, people of faith have very little reason to expect transformation of hearts stemming from current events. Show me anywhere in the Bible where a major event in the world (deaths of kings, edicts of emperors, invasions by the opposition) triggered a widespread change of assumptions or attitudes. There was a census that seemed to play a role in triggering events, but the census itself didn't count for much.


If souls are to turn, or in the quaint old term "repent," it's only going to happen because someone stands up and points one way and says clearly "this is what's at the end of that road," then points the other way and adds "and there's where you want to be heading, and here's why . . ."


Repentance, "metanoia" in Greek, or simply "turning" is what happens as the result of a vision, clearly articulated, and consciously chosen. We need a gracious gift of awareness wrapped around us that makes the right choice possible, but beyond that grace, there is no chance that large numbers of people will make a course change in the right direction just because of one event in another direction.


Or at least they might for a little ways, but another loud boom from another point on the compass is just as likely to stampede us all back the way we just left.


There are a few hopeful learnings we can gain from the last decade, and some lessons we might gain from looking closely at the incredible sacrifices made that day, in the air and on the ground, in the face of such implacable evil. I want to talk about them in the next couple of weeks, but first I wanted to say this:


I was wrong.



Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; there's no need to send him more examples of when he's been wrong to He's sometimes wrong @Twitter under the tag Knapsack, too.

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