Today I went to Fred Meyer to get a refill on my prescription, which is necessary if I want to avoid another stroke. While there, I saw a rack of video DVDs. There were some cool titles, but I wanted to feel that I'd really gotten my money's worth, so I chose carefully.
Ever since I moved to Bellingham, I'd had an extra interest in the Civil War, on account of the fact that Bellingham had a strong connection to George Pickett, well known for Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg. Pickett had lived in Bellingham (when it was still a fort), and in fact, the home in which he lived at that time in his life is within easy walking distance of the Lighthouse Mission, where I currently sleep at night. It's the oldest house in Bellingham, I have learned. There is also a bridge, within easy walking distance, which Pickett built. It crosses over a small but rather boisterous creek which leads to a salmon fishery.
To make a long story short, I decided to buy a 3 DVD set of the movie "The Blue and The Gray". It had a wonderful cast of famous actors, including Stacy Keach, Gregory Peck, Lloyd Bridges and others. It cost me $10, but I regard that as money well spent.
Watching the movie, I am reminded that the Civil War took place, in part, because some men (such as John Brown) regarded the words of the Bible as relevant to the issue of slavery issue in a way which obligated them to fight for the purpose of defending the rights of innocent human beings ... and because others who also considered themselves to be Christians saw fit to defend and rationalize the practice of slavery. That episode in the history of America, and in the history of the Christian church, was shameful.
We would love to think that such things are behind us, and that we "enlightened" people would never do such things anymore. But my own recent experiences when dealing with my brothers and sisters in the faith have persuaded me that nothing much has changed in certain crucial respects.
Morally obtuse people in power, even in the church, somehow manage to continue to rationalize policies and practices and attitudes which are utterly contrary to the values taught and demonstrated by Jesus Christ when he walked the earth.
David Wilkerson, who founded Teen Challenge, was a great influence on my life. Sadly, before he died, he presented a message he called "Anguish". He looked at the current state of the church, and he did not like what he saw. If he had lived in the days prior to the Civil War, I suspect that he would have felt the same way, just as I do.
It breaks my heart when I consider the potential which exists in the church, and when I consider how far we still have to go in terms of achieving the goal of living lives which conform to Christ's expectations. Healing of relationships can never take place unless and until we repent of our shared guilt. Yes, God can and does forgive, but there can be no forgiveness without contrition and true repentance. Our life legacies will depend, in part, on whether or not we stood up for true righteousness and justice.
The issues of the day change from era to era, but the fundamental need for true discipleship and humility remains.