I had a very smart man, a rocket scientist in fact (we have a few in Huntsville), tell me recently that America was going to hell in a hand basket. He didn’t say it quite that way because a respectable Christian, Southern gentleman would never drop the “H” bomb in front of the ladies unless he was reading it out of the Bible. But that was the basic gist of it.
He said a lot of things, that we had strayed from the intent of the Founding Fathers to establish a “Christian Nation,” that widespread belief in evolution was the root of much of society’s evil and ills, including increasing teenage suicide rates, and that really things had grown much worse since prayer was banned in public schools.
He kept repeating how we as a citizenry have elected fools and put them in charge. He didn’t name names, but it was pretty clear whom he considered The Biggest Fool of All. He said we all really needed to “take back our country for God” before it was too late. It sounded a little like he was a recruiter for an army of some sort; the only thing missing was sergeant’s stripes on his sleeves.
Obviously, there was a lot of information and nuance that fell through the cracks. The spaces between the lines of his 32-pt Arial font were big enough to drive a Mack truck through, and I would have been happy to per her in overdrive and gone pedal-to-the-metal had he granted an opportunity for a little Q & A, but he didn’t.
In the end, there was a mixture of applause, some merely polite, some enthusiastic. I suspect most there generally agreed with the majority of his points, while a smaller number recognized his slick presentation for what it was: fear-mongering demagoguery.
But because it was fear-mongering demagoguery for a Good Cause (in the name of Jesus,) he received a free pass. And then the audience rose, shedding his ominous PowerPoints like water from a duck’s back, and grappled with the more pressing Question of the Hour: Chili’s or Logan’s Roadhouse for lunch?
Had I been able to ask questions, I might have mentioned all the biology professors at various Christian colleges and universities, including my own alma mater (Hail to thee!), who somehow manage to hold on to both faith and science and quietly encourage their students to do the same and have for decades (you have to do it quietly lest some large donor fret too much and withdraw his money in a huff).
I might have asked that if evolution, and not love of money, really is the root of all evil, then why don’t we get busy and use whatever means necessary to flush out some of those troublesome, suicide-assisting biology professors from our schools and fire them? Seems to me that if you’re going to take back America for God, a good place to start would be by cleaning your own house.
I think that I might have also pointed out that I’m too busy to join God’s merry little band of stormtroopers. Most days it’s all I can do to get up, go to work, provide decent eye care to my patients while affirming their humanity and honoring the Imago Dei in their wrinkled, grizzled faces, exercise, do right by my family (and even then, the people I love most get shortchanged), pay my bills on time, and try to generally be a decent human being.
That effort alone exhausts me. Usually by the end of the day I barely have energy left to operate a remote control, and even if I try to do the right thing and read instead, my lids grow heavy after 5 minutes, and faster than you can say “Mr. Sandman,” I’m off to La-La Land.
And you want me to spend even more mental, physical and spiritual capital by signing up to fight a Culture War? Isn’t it enough to just try to sew a few seeds of righteousness on the small patch of earth I’m fated to walk across every day? Isn’t loving my neighbor as myself and–egads!–my enemies to boot a tall enough order to keep every fiber of my being occupied?
Hmmm. Let me get back with you on that–right after my evening nap.
All that, plus I’m still too busy fighting the Cold War to sign up for another one. I’m not saying that because I’m proud of it. In fact, it’s more confession than anything, very appropriate for Lent.
You see I hate, well, that may be a little strong; I strongly dislike Russians. Spammers or athletes, it makes no difference. Yes, I know it’s been 20 years since the Iron Curtain fell, but I just can’t let it go.
I realized this anew while watching the Vancouver Winter Olympics recently. I rocked back and forth, emitting peals of evil laughter as I watched the trash-talking Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko pout in the “Kiss and Cry Area” and place second to our boy Lysacek. I howled in protest when Domnina and Shabalin edged out Belbin and Agosto for Bronze in ice dancing.
Oh sure, I know the Russians technically outskated us that night, but I still had trippy flashbacks to those days when Soviet pairs could curse the crowd, flip it off, do a face plant after their Triple Axel and STILL win Gold because the entire judging panel was composed of burly, Soviet Bloc women with guns to their heads. Seeing the Russians on the podium was like watching Aleksandr Belov make that layup from that blasted US-Soviet Munich basketball final back in ’72 all over again–third time’s the charm.
And what did the Soviets do after their state-run, steroid-fueled, assembly line athletic factories fell apart? They took all that money and efficiency and created Russian spammers. On average, they leave 2,975 pieces of it a day here at Ocular Fusion. Every few days, as I empty my Askimet Spam Filter of their droppings, I curse them all over again.
I do occasionally turn the hate toward better ends, though. When I’m lagging toward the end of a long run, I sometimes imagine I’m racing a pair of Russians, and that’s usually good for a little burst of speed at the end.
As I turn on my street toward home, Ivan moves up on my left, Dmitri on my right. I place a well-aimed left elbow into Ivan’s 5th intercostal space and stick my right foot out just enough to send Dmitri tumbling into Mrs. R’s trash can. I lean hard and nip Ivan at our mailbox, much to amusement of the neighbor across the street.
But I just won gold and once again made the case for American exceptionalism. Do you think I care what he thinks?
Good Lord, deliver me! I can’t even love a pair of imaginary Russians, much less real ones.
No, I think I’ll spend what time I have left trying to learn to love my neighbors and my enemies–even Russians–and take a pass on The Culture War. I have a feeling that’ll keep me plenty busy for the rest of my life and then some.