Monday, November 15, 2010

Things Change

Things change, and in order to live successfully we generally have to accept even unwelcome changes and move on.
Sometimes things change because of tragic fires. The three-story school building where I was a student from 1945-55 was destroyed by fire in 1956. The farmhouse in which I lived during those same ten years was struck by lightning and burned down in the early 1960s. Last month a large portion of the west side of the square in my home town, Grant City, Missouri, completely burned down. (The picture of the latter fire is from the files of the St. Joseph News-Press.)
Things change, and we have to accept new realities and move on. A fine new school building was constructed in Grant City after fire destroyed the old one; the community moved on and was better off after the fire. My folks built a comfortable new house up the road from where the old house had been, so they, too, recovered from the shock of forced change and moved on to better things. And now those who owned the buildings and operated the businesses on the west side of the square in Grant City have to deal with unwelcome change and move on.
Things change in other ways. For example, the United States of America is much different now than it was when it was formed nearly 235 years ago. While this country was founded largely by Protestant Christians (although some of the “founding fathers” were not at all “orthodox” Protestants), gradually more and more Catholics and Jews came to this country.
There was considerable animosity toward the Catholic immigrants for decades, but fifty years ago this month, despite considerable (prejudicial) opposition by Protestants, a Catholic was elected President. Since then, for that reason and because of the impact of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), there have been increasingly cordial relationships between Protestants and Catholics.
There have also been pockets of prejudice against Jews in the U.S., but as the percentage of Jews has not been nearly as large as that of Catholics there has not been as much animosity toward them for the most part. Now there are sizeable numbers of Jews in most large U.S. cities—so much so that along with Christmas and Christian holidays, Hanukkah (which begins on Dec. 1 this year) and other Jewish holidays are commemorated even by some public schools.
Things change, and now there are large numbers of American citizens who are Muslims, Buddhists, and people of other religious faiths, a larger number of such persons than could have been imagined when I was a boy. As citizens, their religious freedom must be recognized and protected.


  1. I appreciate the regular comments by my esteemed friend Dr. Glenn Hinson. In an e-mail message received a few minutes ago he wrote,

    "I'm glad you made this point, Leroy. You might recommend that your readers read "A New Religious America" by Diana Eck.

  2. Hadn't heard about the fire in Grant City. Sorry to hear that.

    What immediately came to mind when I read this week's installment was how one thing changing rapidly is that English may be a minority language in the US. Predictions vary on when that may/will happen, but I think it's a change that's coming.

    Leroy, have you done a posting on whether English should be the lawful language of the land?

  3. I just got a lesson in change. I had something to say, and I said it so well that the computer told me it was too long to print. Change!

  4. OK, let me try the long essay again, well the last half of it!

    In the book "Black Elk Speaks," the Lakota medicine man Black Elk tells of a dream in which the Great Spirit informs him that it is the will of the Great Spirit to break the hoop of his people. What can we confess, except that history teaches us that, sooner or later, the hoops of all peoples are broken? In America today, Fundamentalists fear the hoop of America will be broken because America tolerates homosexuality and abortion. Liberals fear the hoop will be broken because America ignores global warming and economic injustice. Perhaps there is a reason Jesus said, "Take no thought for tomorrow, for sufficient to each day is the evil thereof." (Matthew 6:24)

    Baptists are proud to proclaim "A free church in a free state." Yet do we not need to add "in worship of a free God?" How we all want to put God in a bottle to be dispensed as needed. Yet, ever since the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, God has been free. We embrace change because that is the only way to embrace a free God. The price of that embrace is clear, "Pick up your cross and follow me." Carrying that cross we find our freedom. Just as Sisyphus found his, pushing that rock up the hill. For surely, every time we think we have it all figured out, the foolishness of God defeats us again. Like Job, we find God smashing all around us, even as God keeps our hearts beating within us. If only the world were as simple as Fundamentalists and Liberals think, we might be able to figure out which is right, and which is wrong.

    "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Wisdom does not belong to the right or the left. Wisdom belongs to the Truth. Truth lives in the wilderness, where poets and prophets seek her. All we bring back is her shadow. The mystery of God is not a program. Programs are what people do. Carefully must we craft them, ever aware of the abyss. Even Sir Isaac Newton met his Einstein. So the gospel begins with a cup of cold water. That is complicated enough.

    All the rest is just politics, and we would probably be better off if we all treated it that way. Politics is all about compromises and experiments. In our dogmatism, Americans have made it all about gridlock and absolutes. While it may be hard to find the best way, it is sometimes easy to discern a disastrous way. Perhaps a good change for America would be some good old-fashioned politics!