THE FRAYING OF THE SOCIAL FABRIC

Like hair growing, we have grown and mainly unnoticed, quite different in regard to family and the power of the communal family in how it sustains our cultures and local communities. There was once a time when the whole of life moved forward in the family, in a circle of loved, familiar faces, known and caressed as rare treasures in human size. I wonder if this ‘growth’ we call civilization, prosperity, and modern secularism (individualism) will amputate the generations of progress made by our ancestors?

Truly, we have become a nation of individuals. The community – of yesteryear defined our manhood and womanhood. It nurtured our societal development and responsibility and deepened our communal roots. Is the “community” now a silent and forgotten bystander? What does “neighbor” really mean in the lexicon of modern man?

The downside of individualism is a calm and considered feeling which disposes each citizen to isolate himself or herself from our fellow humanity and withdrawal into the circle of close family and the friends of old whom we feel safe. This lifestyle seems to be our preferred taste which leaves the greater society to look after itself. The result is that each person is forever thrown back upon himself alone, and there is a danger that he or she may be shut up in the solitude of their own heart. In my humble opinion, this is where we are at today – thrown back upon ourselves and in the solitude of our own hearts. Other than superficial “hellos” at work, in passing, and our shallow conversations, many if not most of us are disconnected from this life-giving organism we call “community.”

How much we are truly suffering from the cultural shift and choice of “individualism” has yet to come into full bloom. We can look back upon recent history and recognize that social welfare is oftentimes social warfare in its unraveling of the threads of social responsibility. Communities of yesteryear would bond together to ensure the well-being of neighborhoods regardless of economic class. But when the incentives of social handouts manifested to affect “individuals” – incentives not to work, not care, not to take part in the social tapestry also manifested in the form of poverty, urban blight, and pregnancies out of wrong motives to manipulate the handouts. Abortion is culturally proportional and more of lucrative business than a right.

The culture of academic elitism has contributed to the current state of the union and our assault on social and communal values. Newly educated classes of people or cultures have been especially likely to specialize in softer core subjects and to be prominent among those fostering hostility toward traditional values while promoting ethnic identity and individualistic movements. Such movements have been typically mobilized against other social or communal groups, the existing authorities, and other targets that would stand in the way of the “new cultural agenda”. In various periods of history, the academic and religious intelligentsia in general, and the newly educated classes of people in particular have promoted social decay in ignorance and without understanding the prophetic and long term significance of their beliefs.

Whether at the level of minority activists in a given local society or at the leadership level of national revolts against external powers – promoters of cultural and societal individualism have been disproportionately intellectuals and intellectuals from a very limited range of fields. Very few nationalist militants, ultra-religious, or socialist leaning politicians were and are engineers, economists, scientists, or skilled professional administrators. As an African student once quoted in regard to the modern generation of African leaders during the transition from colonial status to that of independent nationhood: “…K. Nakuma was a British educated lawyer, J. Kenyatta was a anthropologist, J. Kasabuvu was a teacher, and L.S. Sengor a poet just to name a few. Much the same pattern could and can be found in other parts of the world as well…” Leaders of the Basque separatist movement in Spain and the Quebec separatist movement in Canada were also birthed and promoted by soft subject intellectuals who lack critical thinking and prophetic/spiritual wisdom.

The current social landscape is changing, eroding and is coming into prophetic clarity. How we prophesy truth and resolution will require much wisdom and I certainly do not have all the answers. However, the powers and systems which are creating the world’s social sickness are coming into plain view for those who possess understanding. Maybe, just maybe, you are the neighbor who will change your community and repair the threads that have been severed? Perhaps, even within your region and country…

 

MEMORIALIZING AMERICA’S LONGEST WAR.

As we rightfully honor the veterans who have served and protected our individual freedoms,  maybe, it’s also an appropriate time to look back at America’s longest war.

In October 2001, George W. Bush told the country that he was sending the American military to Afghanistan in order to “bring justice to our enemies.” It’s safe to say that support for the war would not have been as nearly unanimous in my opinion, if stated, “Oh, and by the way, our troops are going to be fighting there for the next 13 years.” But if all goes according to plan and America follows up on its pledge to bring them home by the end of 2014  that’s how long the Afghanistan war will have lasted. I thought it would be interesting to take a brief look at some of the basic facts of our involvement there as we honor our brave men and women who have sacrificed in many different  ways for the comforts we enjoy today in America. Last spring, Afghanistan passed Vietnam (measured by the time between the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964 and the departure of the last Americans from Saigon in 1975) to become America’s longest war.

To date, we’ve spent over half a trillion dollars in Afghanistan, a figure that includes only the direct yearly costs for both military expenditures and civilian aid. This figure does not include the cost of replacing materials and weapons used in Afghanistan, nor the long-term costs of caring for the thousands of service members who were wounded there. Those factors will certainly add hundreds of billions of dollars to the tally in the years to come. Considering the V.A. Situation – this is troubling. Today – keeping a single service member in Afghanistan costs upward of a million dollars per year.

Interestingly, the number of troops serving in Afghanistan has been lower than in most of our past conflicts, including Iraq. Until America began winding down the Iraq War, the number of troops there typically averaged between 140,000 and 150,000. On the other hand, when Obama took office, the number of troops in Afghanistan had never exceeded 40,000. After he undertook a “surge” of troops to Afghanistan, the number maxed out at 100,000 during the summer of 2011. Last fall it came down to its current level of 68,000; plans for the ultimate draw down that will take place over the next two years have not been totally finalized…But progress is at arms reach which I applaud the president.

For all their horrors, our current conflicts have been far less deadly than the wars of America’s past. Over 100,000 Americans died in World War I, over 400,000 in World War II, 36,000 in Korea, and 58,000 in Vietnam. But advances in medicine, communication, and transportation—not to mention the modern nature of the conflicts—have kept casualties significantly lower in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That’s no comfort, of course, to the thousands of men and women killed and wounded in those wars, nor to their families and friends as we remember this Memorial Day. Last August, the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan passed 2,000.

 

 

DESTINATION SICKNESS

King Solomon, like most contemporary existentialists (belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual), lived his life as if it were irrelevant and the future uncertain. He drank, collected women, gathered possessions, and cultivated knowledge, only to discover in the end that these pursuits were futile and ultimately empty.

Near the end of his life, filled with remorse and regret, Solomon articulated a principle that speaks to us down through the ages. The words are simple, but their meaning and application are profound. Solomon would write, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth.” Ecclesiastes 12:1. It was absolute truth that he himself had forgotten somewhere along the way. Why is this simple admonition so important? Solomon answers this question in the last two verses of the same chapter:

“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”

Like Solomon, modern man has also forgotten the wisdom of a will greater than his own and we can summarize this condition as “destination sickness.” The awakening of the man or woman who has arrived and has discovered he is nowhere. He has achieved his goals and finds they are not what he anticipated. He suffers the disillusionment of promises that have weathered out – the short term grand payoffs with the eternal kickbacks. He has all things money can buy and finds decreasing satisfaction in all he has. He’s a man who has become a huge success within a career and a pathetic failure at home. He’s a big shot with the boys in the office and hunt club and a big phony with the boys at home. He’s the status symbol in society and a fake within the family. Indeed, “Destination Sickness” – the illness easily caught by a culture that is affluent and godless.

The first and most important lesson we must make in life is summed up in “morality.” There is a divine will to obey and every person (especially our sons and daughters) needs to know that there is an all powerful, all seeing, and righteous Creator that has defined what is good and what is evil. The definition of good and evil is not something that man can concoct in his head – we are born with this understanding and without excuse. We choose to stray from this divine understanding in our personal and collective rebellion against God. We must be retaught and re-awoken as a society that absolute values exist if we are to truly experience “life” as the human race. Why do I say this? Because true satisfaction in life is directly proportionate to one’s obedience to God. In this context, moral boundaries take on a whole new perspective. They become cultural benefits rather than burdens. It is now that eyes are opened and the commandments of God are liberating, not restrictive.

This is genuine revival…