Monday, February 6, 2017

That Our Flag Was Still There...

This morning I had planned to write a blogpost called, "An Immigrant's Story", about a real life incident of extreme racism and abuse that a friend of mine suffered many years ago when, at the age of 16, he emigrated as a Middle Eastern student, from the country of Jordan, to the United States.  The incident, which took place at The Citadel (a military college), occurred in the early 1980's.  The gist of the blog would have been that we have a lot of work to do as a country and that things really are not going that well, in general.

But then I turned on the news, and I read the two newspapers that I inhale each morning - The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal - (I like to get both conservative and progressive perspectives in my journalism), and I realized that everyone else has beat me to the punch.  Almost every article in the New York Times today (and for the past month for that matter) is about how bad things in our country are going, and that we really are in a very, very bad spot.  Many people are actually prognosticating the end of America as we know it.

But, to be honest, I am not so sure.  It's not that we don't have a lot of work to do, or that we have a lot of bad things going on.  It's not that there aren't a plethora things that this current government is doing that I don't think are deleterious.  It's just that I think there is sometimes the tendency in human nature to histrionically over-interpret events and future trip to the worst possible conclusions possible.

So, this morning, with a blog entitled:

That Our Flag Was Still There...

I want to reflect, for a moment, on the human tendency to over-dramatize difficult situations for our country and our world.  I want to talk about how, during tough times, there is sometimes the trend towards over-billing how bad things actually are, while at the same time, overlooking the good things that are happening, and neglecting to put world events into their proper larger context and trajectory.

We are currently studying a book of the Bible at the church where I now serve called - Hebrews.  The book is rife with stark spiritual imagery, of light forces and dark forces. There are lots of examples of angels (good angels and bad).  These forces are "duking it out" (as it were) in a larger cosmic spiritual battle.  With our modern eyes and ears, it can seem strange to hear such stark spiritual imagery.  The fact of the matter was, though, that at the time the book was being written (and we don't know the exact date), very many people thought the end of the world was near.  They really did think that the end of everything was upon them - that life itself was all coming to a huge and final conclusion.

And the authors of the book of Hebrews were not alone.  Throughout the Old Testament and the New, there was the very real sense that the end was near.  The Old Testament voices believed it (Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel).  Among many of the early first century Christians (the disciples, Paul, Luke, Mark, John the baptist, and many others), there was the perception that the end of time would come about in their own lifetimes.  Such a view of world history was so prevalent that theologians have given it a name - Apocalypticism (from the Greek APOCALYPSES - meaning "an uncovering").

Of course, throughout history, there have been countless other examples of people and communities that believed that their  own particular difficult epoch, that their own challenging moment, would be the last period in human history (The Plague, The Crusades, The French Revolution, The American Civil War, World War I and II).  And of course, each time, human history seemed to miraculously rebound, and begin again.

And this brings me to the title of my blog post for this week:

That Our Flag Was Still There...

This line is obviously taken from the United Sates national anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner".  I was reminded of it again when I watched it being sung yesterday at the Super Bowl in Houston.  The line, penned by Francis Scott Key in 1814, is written directly about the "Defense of Fort McHenry" which Key himself witnessed.  That skirmish, in case you did not know, was about a cannon barrage by the British Royal Navy in Baltimore during the war of 1812.  In that battle, there was a large American flag, The Star Spangled Banner, waving triumphantly in the wind throughout the entire US victory.  And hence we have the lines:

"And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night..."

That Our Flag Was Still There..

The point is that many people thought that the end of the world was near during the War of 1812.  But it wasn't.  Many people thought that the end of America would occur during that time.  But it didn't.  Things moved forward.  Life moved on.  The situation got better.

And Our Flag Was Still There...

So, yes, there is a lot that is not going well with America.  There is a lot that needs repair.  Sometimes it seems like more things are being broken than are being fixed.  There are many things to be upset about.  But perhaps, it might be a good idea, once in a while, to take a step back, and view our little planet, our little country, our little flag in a larger context.  The end, we Christians believe, will definitely come some day.

But perhaps not as soon as we think!

All For Now,


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