Monday, January 25, 2010


The Gospel began: “Many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us” (Lk 1:1), then Luke proceeded to indicate that he was joining that crowd. Now we have heard and pondered his words 2000 years later. Hearing those words gave me pause to consider: What words might be written about the things now being accomplished among us in this country? How would they be pondered 2000 years from now?

God’s Son came only once to this earth, and certainly no other event can be compared in importance, but if we think of his coming as a “unique” event, certainly there are other major, unique events in the world, perhaps occurring even now. Their importance, however, is often only discovered in the future.

I believe the formation of the United States was a unique event in history. The way the nation started, and its stated purposes are unique among nations. And certainly the United States has been blessed like no other nation, blessed in so many ways. Why? Certainly some believe that we have largely come to our present status because of our Christian heritage: In God We Trust is our motto. As we matured as a nation, we acted as no nation in history, being one of the most generous and caring countries ever known – even dying for the liberty and sanctity of the lives of others. What we are now doing in Haiti is just a small example of the people we have become. But there are those who view negatively some aspects of who we have become. They think a “unique” time has now arrived, and they would seek to “change” the focus of our nation.

To my understanding, I believe some in this country are saying we have mis-applied the commandment to Love Your Neighbor. They seem to say: “Don’t try to free some peoples overseas whose culture you do not understand, first free the people right here who are bound in chains by our society.” They seem to say: “Don’t focus on feeding the hungry overseas before you focus on feeding the hungry right here.” They seem to say: “Don’t try to cure the ills of people around the world before you try to cure the sick people without adequate medical care here.” In short, they seem to say: Love your Neighbor who know and can see first, before you try to be the savior of the world. And even if you want to help those far away neighbors, don’t assume YOU know how to help them; seek the help of all neighbors around the world, so we can act together to Love our Neighbor.

That sounds good. Looking at it another way though, it also seems they are saying: “Let us take all our blessings of the Lord and apply them to ourselves first.” Looking at it that way, it doesn’t sound so good. I think before we “change” anything, from the very good, blessed nation we are, we need to ask some serious questions, and I think the present situation in Haiti gives us a good basis to evaluate things.

“Free the people right here who are bound in chains by our society.” Who has limits “chained” by our society? Who in the United States cannot work and grow in wealth and influence? Who cannot alleviate any unreasonable grievance against him through our court systems? Who, if he is unloved cannot find love from some of the many people who care about the least of us? Need I state all of the obvious examples of how there are ALWAYS people here willing to help? And what of the people in Haiti?? Look at their history and their likely future. Where were they able to turn to in the past; where will they be able to turn to in the future? In all likelihood the answer is the same: they are very much alone. Do we really need to help the people in this country before we would help those in Haiti? REALLY? Do you seriously compare the two levels of need?? If you do, you really need to go there, even for a week.

“Focus on feeding the hungry right here.” Hungry? Here? In the United States people with incomes of $20,000, $30,000, or $40,000 are defined as being in poverty. Poverty? Wake up America!! These are not “poor” people, they are “poor-er” people. Everyone in the United States is a “poorer” person than that one person who makes the most. People in this country may be poorer compared to others here, but they are not poor. You want to see poor, go to Haiti. You want to see hungry, go there and get a meal given to you, and not know where your next will come from – and even the one you have may be stolen from you. I have a friend who sometimes speaks about the “starving in America”. I have a standing offer to give $10,000 -- I’d have to borrow it -- if he can show me one person who could not get food and starved in this country. I have yet to pay.

“Cure the sick and people without adequate medical care here.” My response here is similar to the “starving Americans” comment. Who in America cannot get any medical care? Who in America is dying in the streets covered in flies, like the dying in Calcutta? Who in America is being buried in mass graves, unmarked and unremembered, like those in Haiti? Adequate medical care?? Some people in America may get “less” adequate medical care than others – what is your definition of adequate? If it’s about quality of care, in every medical specialty there is only one “best” doctor, and regardless what I pay for my doctor, it may not be him. Would you have everyone go only to the “best” – my, he would be very busy. Or would you punish all, and send them to the worst? In America, among PEOPLE (not robots), there will always be better and some more, some less – and money won’t always buy the difference in quality. In Haiti, however, there is no question about “adequate” care, there is the fact about NO care. Yes, there are many doctors rushing in now, but soon they will be largely gone. And for some Haitians, there will be NO medical care.

Many in America want to change our culture, to focus on ourselves, to make the poorer of us more like the rich, the weaker more like the strong, the sicker more like the healthy. But in the process of changing all these physical attributes of people, they are also proposing to change the spiritual. Instead of being the nation others look to for help, they would have us be the nation that turns our back. Instead of being a caring nation, they would have us be a selfish one. They would focus on us being physically well, but spiritually dead. Instead of taking our lead from God, they would have us take our lead from them.

God HAS blessed this country. If we act to the world like the rich man toward Lazarus, I suspect we will yield similar results. Instead of being the nation of continued great harvests, we will be nation looking for a drop of water to cool our tongue (Lk 16:19-31). America doesn’t need to make change in the future, it needs to look back at the changes it made in the past. We were great in no small part because we used the fruits of our blessings well. As individuals, as companies, and as a country, we need to make sure we apply our resources well, and liberally share our harvests with others – as we have done in the past. We do not need to be focused on getting more, we need to be focused on giving more. We do not need to be focused on being equal in each other’s eyes, we need to focus on being equal in God’s eyes.

It’s what made America great. It’s how we love our neighbor in this world. It’s what our future generations may look back proudly upon, as they read about what we have done, and have continued to do – without change.

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