Monday, July 7, 2008

Independence Day - and then some

Happy Belated Independence Day, America!

I took the time to enjoy the perfect - 72 degree - weather here in Wheaton, grill hamburgers and watch fireworks instead of writing this here blog. I mean this with no exaggeration - it was paradise here; wind was 3 mph, sky was clear and humidity was next to nothing. I was stunned by it. I wandered around just grinning, feeling I'd stepped into a dream.

What made that experience all the more gratifying was the fact that my landlady and I had just finished watching The Civil War, A Film by Ken Burns.

You think American casualties were bad in World War II? That they're bad in Iraq?

Americans killing Americans - with all the courage and combat strategy that we have been trained with, being used to the best effect for the worst cause in human existence - piled up a body count that has never been equaled by ANY of our wars.

Let me give you one such scenario: in one battle - just ONE - the Confederacy lost 7,000 men.

Today, if we have 10% losses, we're stunned. Back then, 30% losses were common and were often exceeded.

But the real killer of the war was far more subtle. You see, this was the 1860's. Bacteria and the need for strict sanitation was unknown. Men lost inches of bone by being shot in the arm or leg, so they had, simply had to amputate - the lead balls were large and took out huge chunks of body parts.

And those amputations were no more than the actions of a butcher. The surgeon would cut off the limb, wipe the blade across his apron, clench it in his teeth as he tied off the arteries and go on to the next mangled soldier on the line.

The death toll from this was horrendous. Men died by the thousands from infection and disease - far exceeding the horrific numbers killed in direct battle. (Casualty & Disease Statistics here).

That's what killed most Americans: an invisible host carried by ignorant surgeons.

The same is true today.

We evangelical Christians decry the sin of America and wonder why she is so infected. Why she lusts and paws at the doors of greed and sensuality and immorality. I know why. I used to be exactly the same, so I speak as one having been wounded, amputated and infected. I have an answer.

The surgeons are sloppy. They attempted for years a form of physical holiness and did not deal with the interior. Cutting off limbs (no drinking, no dancing, no movies, no etc.) for decades in the evangelical community, and not dealing with the root cause of the disease: human pride. Unresolved anger at God for being holy and therefore separate from us. So then we either 1) try to "man-up" to God by being "good enough" (the "religious way") or 2) we rebel and do whatever pleases us, 'cause God's a tyrant - who cares? (the "worldly way")

Both stem from a lack of love for God, not believing He loves us.

You see, we all have this creeping dissatisfaction in our hearts because we "fall in love" with the things we cannot have. We thirst and hunger says Jesus, but He'll be glad to fill us up.

"Let all who are thirsty, come to Me and drink!"

We want the salty water of materialism, egoism and the "in-crowd" - especially if the in-crowd is young, attractive and sexually active.

We are infected. And that infection first takes our freedom, then our nation, then our lives.

"All who sin [disobey God] are slaves to sin [continual disobedience]."

Freedom doesn't come from doing whatever we want. We usually want the wrong stuff.

Freedom comes from doing whatever God wants - and let's face it, He doesn't want anything that is not good for you. He does want you to listen to Him because He paid for you with His blood. In this spiritual Civil War, He has decided to pay the cost Himself.

Funny how we think we are fighting for our freedom as we enslave ourselves (name an addiction) and those around us (golly, aren't we fun to be around when we don't get our way?).

In that sense, we have all become part of the Confederacy.

A Confederacy of Dunces.

We all know how the Civil War ended. But we do not like to think why it ended.

It ended because the South could not wage war anymore. Sherman knew and Lincoln understood that the South would never surrender if there was any other possible choice.

Robert E. Lee did not surrender until he was surrounded on three sides and had no more supplies to draw from.

Sadly, that is us too.

So when God takes away everything you have, and you believe He is waging war against you, keep in mind, He wants a union with you from this. You can fight all you want, but in the end, pray that you surrender graciously, as Lee did at Appomattox.

Because He will not have you enslave others anymore. He would have you live and be free.

Amen.

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