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What’s happening to America?

Along with you, I was recently appalled to hear again that a gunman had opened fire at a nightclub in Thousand Oaks, California, killing 12 and wounding a number of others. Reports indicate that this was the 307th mass shooting in America this year. This is the kind of report we use to read about in third world countries. Not any more!

So what has happened in America? Certainly, I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not sure anybody else does either. Otherwise, these mass shootings wouldn’t continue to happen, and that’s the scary part.

How desperately we in this culture need to rediscover the Christian estimate of personality. That life itself is of infinite worth. It’s sacred. Thus, our common objection to murder, killing, violence, hatred and anger is a theological objection. Every person’s life is God’s life and no one has the right to violate the life of another.

A minister asked a group of young people the following question: “Where is the loneliest place in the world?” Some suggested the parched desert. Others said the rugged mountains where people have never set foot. Still, others may have said the middle of the restless ocean. Then one boy turned to the minister and said, “Give us your idea.”

The minister thought for a moment and said, “The loneliest place in the world is the human heart when love is absent.”

Could this be the real issue in our nation’s current crisis of polarization and separation?

Writing in his book “Them,” Senator Ben Sasse points out that a major reason for our societal discord is loneliness. He makes it clear that the collapse of relationships, meaningful attachments, a sense of “we,” and community life is at the heart of our discord.

When love is absent, friendships decline, community life suffers, neighbor’s become strangers and everybody is in it for his/her lonely self. Result? Polarization and separation!

Before going further, let me acknowledge the truth in the old comic strip Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.” What I mean is that we people of faith are partly to blame because we too often have allowed the world to conform us to its image rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us into the image of Christ.

Having said that, I asked again “What has happened to America?” There are some things that are rather obvious.

1. The sacred value of human life has been swallowed up in the easy access to modern-day weapons of assault.

2. Political power extremism has replaced across the aisle cooperation to get things done.

3. Moral standards have been lost by the careless attitude “that anything goes.”

4. News media bias has taken random events as Senator Sasse suggested, and made them into full scale indictments of individuals or groups. This has led to widespread suspicion and anger.

5. The inability of both the right and the left to laugh at themselves has led to graceless winners and losers.

6. The “common good,” something that benefits the good of the entire human family, has been placed on “life support.”

7. Truth itself has become such a casualty of fake news and lies that personal and societal trust has diminished.

8. Civility has been replaced by judgmental blame and discord.

9. Racism reality and accusation have mistakenly perceived reconciliation as weak and with no interest in solving justice issues.

10. Economic prosperity has not been a reality for numerous Americans and unemployment and poverty are problematic.

Anyway, that’s a start to where we are in our troublesome divided nation.

In conclusion, the story is told of a Jewish rabbi whose disciples were debating the question of when precisely “daylight” commences. One of them said, “It is when one can see the difference between a sheep and a goat at a distance. Another suggested, “It’s when we can see the difference between a fig tree and an olive tree at distance. And so it went on. When they eventually asked the rabbi for his view he said, “When one human being looks into the face of another and says, ‘This is my sister or this is my brother; then the night is over and the day has begun.’”

The same will be true for America.