It seems that lately everyone has a “worthy cause” they feel justifies their need to gather together, scream and yell in protest, defy authority, destroy property, and/or disrupt the plans of those who oppose them. Our country was founded on the belief that we have the right to do that and our forefathers were certainly not known for their silence or their passiveness. However, our ancestors did not have the advantage of our knowledge of history, our rapid means of communication, or our numerous opportunities for personal involvement.
First of all, one would think that the history of our country would convince us that fighting against and amongst ourselves is never a good thing. Violent confrontation has nearly destroyed our way of life several times and yet we seem to learn little from the lessons of war and riots. When I was a young woman I used to think that we were united as “Americans” and our goal was to stamp out communism, poverty, and injustice around the globe. Now the news media seems determined to remind us that we can divide ourselves by race, religion, occupation, political affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, social status, and financial level. The goal of any group seems to be dominance over any other group.
My grandparents didn’t know a lot about the world except what was announced on the radio or written in the newspaper. There was often a sense of “disconnect” between events in other parts of the world or even in our own country because of the delay in reporting. But there was also time for items in the newspaper to be read and re-read, discussed at the dinner table, and talked about at the post office or the local café. Then this thing called “television” found a place in their living room and we watched, transfixed, as visions of the whole world and even outer space were broadcast for our enlightenment and entertainment. The reporting was much more immediate and personal and heartbreaking. I remember many tears cried over the “starving children in Africa”. Now events are televised as they happen and the news is reported so rapidly that we have little time to think before reacting to it.
My grandparents and parents didn’t get involved in politics or protesting. They seldom had the time or energy to attend a group gathering for school or social events, much less a “cause”. They were too concerned with making a living and keeping us fed to worry much about what was going on beyond their daily lives. Church work was the extent of their community service and voting for the president was about the limit of their political involvement. Now we have more time and opportunities to become involved in community and charity work. We can join a variety of groups and organizations. We can raise funds and awareness through social media without leaving the comfort of our homes. We can communicate with strangers and travel quickly and easily anywhere in the world. Unfortunately we don’t often give enough thought to the groups we join or the causes we embrace. We fall prey to peer pressure or social expectations. We “jump on the bandwagon” before carefully considering where it is going.
So we find ourselves each morning listening to chants of “black lives matter”, “blue lives matter”, “all lives matter”. But the reality is that each and every day, in dozens of ways, we give the impression to others that their lives matter, but our own life matters more. It is the nature of man to be selfish. We avoid personal harm. We are defensive, even aggressive, against threats to our body. We guard our family and our possessions. We eat more than we need. We save money and build up stockpiles of possessions we don’t need. We entertain ourselves and decorate ourselves. And in most situations it is also our natural instinct to believe that whatever we say or do is “correct” and anyone who opposes us is wrong. That’s just the way our sinful little brains work. Let’s face it- most of the time “I’m okay, but you need forgiveness” is our prayer. Remember when Paul lamented that he ended up doing the very things he knew were wrong? Why do we do that? Because at the time it seems like what we need or want… and we have the free will to do it.
Yes, our country was founded on the premise that we all have the right to pursue happiness and the belief that we can live and function peaceably while doing so, but the reality is that your pursuit of happiness may nullify mine, and I can’t let that happen. So there has to be a way for both of us to compromise just enough to obtain the essence of what we desire. From the very beginning of mankind there has been strife and quarreling and jealousy and hatred. However, peace has always been God’s goal for us. Love and charity and understanding are what we are instructed by the Bible to pursue.
When we treat anyone with disrespect, or disregard the rights of others, or ignore the needs of those less fortunate, we imply that what we have or need or want is superior. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, between self-sufficiency and selfishness. And when we group together to protest anything there is always the danger that “mob mentality” will take over and we will lose our perspective and let our emotions take control of our actions. We may find ourselves adopting the attitude that our group matters more than the individuals within it, and that often leads to trouble.
We are at a crossroads in our country. We can continue to divide and dispute or we can unite together with the common goal of allowing everyone in our country to live in peace and safety. There is only one way to do that- remember the words of Jesus in Mark 12:
30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.