The world we live in is in chaos…or so it would seem. We have riots, wars, and weather; tribalism, factions, and foes among friends. Everywhere you look someone is offended and others are oppressed, while committees argue over what to do when and where. The rich need to pay more and the poor need to depend less while the working class becomes the knot in the middle. The noise is deafening! No one is listening while everyone is screaming. Will things ever be made right?
I was skipping through channels the other night looking for something I would not have to think about but could just enjoy. I spent some time on Star Trek: TNG and Everybody Loves Raymond, neither were satisfying – Star Trek is often very politically correct about a great many things and Raymond’s family, though hilarious at times, can be mean and spiteful and rude. I would have preferred the Walton’s or Andy Griffiths with their simple families solving simple problems, but neither were available. I did find, however, on C-Span (I was pretty desperate…), a re-run of the 1976 Republican National Convention from Kansas City. This was the year Ford beat out Reagan for the Republican nomination and Carter eventually won the White House. It was not necessarily what I was looking for but as I lingered, something began to draw me in.
For a while I was amused by the hair and the clothing and the glasses it seemed everyone was wearing. You know the kind – large plastic framed or the then new-fangled wire framed kind that today would make one think you were planning on going snorkeling. There were a lot of plaid polyester suits with wide collars and even wider ties and many people with cigarettes between their lips as they cheered and clapped and clamored. It was an era I remember well and am amazed at how different things are now. There were no cell phones, no one taking selfies, no one texting. There were no giant wall-sized video screens and no polished, highly produced spectacle of popularity that we are so accustomed to in today’s political rallies.
As I watched and listened, beyond all the differences in time and presentation, I began to realize the speaker’s words were not that different from what they are today. He spoke of how the Democrats want to take from the rich and give to the poor and how the Republicans are a caring, accepting, and tolerant party. He spoke of the difficult international issues in the Middle East and rebuilding Europe and Japan. He spoke of the oil crisis and the need for more and new energy to be developed here in the USA. He stressed the importance of unity, patriotism, cooperation, and civility. He spoke of how we all have a part to play in our nation’s future and it begins by understanding our past.
Things today are not that different. For those who are old enough, repetition in history can be readily seen. For the younger all is new, but many of us are left with the notion that little has been accomplished, less has been solved, and nothing has changed. For those of you who are familiar with Ecclesiastes, this rings true:
“What has been will be again; what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new?” It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.” (Ecc 1:9-10 NIV)
In a believer’s life, the Good Lord will bring you back to the same lessons until they are learned – then and only then will he move us on to something deeper. I believe the same principle is at work in the nations and that is why they rage. Past hurts are not forgiven and habits are never challenged. Offenses are used as the fuel that fires the furnaces of hatred, division, and spite. Want rules over need and greed over contentment. In my view, our world will not change until we choose to learn the lessons we have been avoiding for millennia: “love one another as you would love yourself,” “bless and do not curse,” “do for others what you would have them do for you,” “forgive as you have been forgiven,” “give and it will be given.” Change is never easy and there is always something lost when stepping higher. Moving forward is different than just moving on. Outward appearances and presentations may change, but there really is nothing new under the sun…just reruns for a new generation…