The best part, for me, of the drive home from church is not the afterglow of a well done sermon, or the anticipation of the hallowed after-church nap. It’s not carefully picking my lane changes so that I don’t make people resent church going people. It’s not restraining all of my favorite traffic invectives when people pick goofy lane change options.
It is the answer to the question, “what did you learn in kids church?”
Any parent of littles will tell you that the answers will range far.
I mean like, from “Jesus loves us, and the Bible is true,” to “Miss Stephanie can fit sixteen marshmallows into her right ear.”
Ok, there is no Miss Stephanie, and I have never seen the marshmallow trick, but doggonit, I believe.
Anyway, on this particular trip home, I asked the question and my kiddos told me, without punctuation, or breathing the story of Nehemiah. It came out something like this:
There was a king and queen and they needed someone to keep their wine safe so there was a man who drank all of their wine to make sure it was safe and then gave them more wine but probably had to drink all of that too and so one day he was sad because his whole city fell down and the king and the queen told him to go home and build the whole city again and he did and people were mad and people were happy and then they prayed
That’s the condensed version. The real version lasted the length of a toll bridge a left turn, a stop sign, a right turn, a stop sign, and a left turn and a traffic light.
Once concluded, I decided to ask a question. “Why was their city destroyed?”
“Because they were bad!” Good, good.
“But, daddy, why did God make them go away from their home?”
“Because they decided to waste their time on other gods other than God, and it made them start to act really bad, like the people around them.” I then tried to explain who the Babylonians were and then the Persians, and at that point we were back to marshmallows in ears.
But it lodged an idea in my brain.
The punishment of the Israelites was the wrath of an entire nation of violent people. Their wrath was so utter and wicked that God went on to punish them. With even worse people. And their violence was so bad that God destroyed them. Try and find the nation of either Babylon or Persia on the map. I know you can find Iraq and Iran quite easily, but the fact remains they got whooped so hard in the invasions that removed them from the map that their legacies were relegated to history and no future.
Justice is good. It is a lofty idea to consider that we are occasionally designated by God to be an instrument of justice. But there is a history-sized caution with that calling. Being deputized by the Almighty does not absolve us from the eyes of that justice on whose behalf we work. When kids play cops and robbers, some kids choose the cops because they assume that by occupying the side of “good guy” that it reflects so sort of deeply rooted personal integrity.
I’m one of the good guys and that means that everything I do is good.
And in that faulty syllogism is found all of the rancor of 2018 in America.
We find victimized people and then gravely pronounce their difficulty, thereby placing us as their magnanimous benefactor of justice. We then unfurl language, division, personal grandstanding, power hunger, and inhumanity to mankind so intense that it dishonors and demeans the victims we have trodden underfoot to gain everything.
For every right we define ourselves as good by championing, we create a dozen new injustices. By “we” I mean Americans. Left and right, all are guilty. We have a president who, when even small criticisms are leveled against him, takes to the internet and utilizes utterly demeaning language against them. We have his political adversaries who make outlandish claims devoid of intellect, honesty, or logical integrity. We have pundits who, in the name of logic, level the dignity of hundreds. We have television personalities that declare an entire half of the nation as politically stupid.
Guess what? We are doing this in front of our children. They are learning our language. They are learning our tone. They take what we do “virtuously” and then utilize our weapons without virtue or restraint against one another in the public places of their gathering.
Our nation has stuff to get done. Big stuff. We are on the verge of true energy independence, not from another nation, but just, in general, the ability to set up systems that free us from the slavery of the gas pump. We are on the verge of new tech that will take us to the stars and understand ancient times. People, enslaved for centuries, have the ability to take new self governance on themselves. Honest discussions of capitalism vs socialism vs oligarchism vs facism are possible because of the massive amount of education readily available to the average citizen.
And here we are, squabbling over what people did at the funeral this week or what advertising slogan a shoe maker uses.
It is time to stop trying to generate virtue by being the champion of the downtrodden. It’s time to stop acting like cowards. It’s time to grow virtue over the long and slow process of being improved by processes outside of us by systems that are better than us. The only process I know of that does so comes from God.
If you find a process more efficient with a higher standard, do let the world know. We will reset the years from the year of our Lord to the year of Miss Stephanie’s Marshmallow Filled Ears.