[This meditation is obviously dated, having been written when my mother was alive (she died in November of last year) and during the second administration of George W. Bush. Our pastor used to say that the commandment most repeated in the Bible was "Fear Not." Old as it is, these words--not my mother's favorite, by the way, still have some currency, methinks.]
“Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of those who do wrong. . .”
The only fret I have is whether or not I do enough frettin’.
Take my mother, for instance—she’s sure that the world is slowly sinking toward a moral morass, some iniquitous black hole that will eventually suck most all of us in, until, gloriously, the Lord, in glory, comes again. She frets about the life’s seamy appearances, and her continual frettin’ affects her mood.
She’s old enough to deserve my respect no matter what her views or how much she frets; besides, she’s my mother. But I’m not taken by the way she flirts with such obsessions because I don’t think she should spend the last years of her life frettin’.
We live in strange times. I don’t think it’s possible to locate an era in the last decade or so when spirituality in general and Christianity in particular was ever quite so popular. The vast majority of Americans, unlike citizens of any other nation, claim to believe in God. A significant majority go to worship frequently. Crime is down, as is drug use, as is teen-age pregnancy. Even abortion rates are lower than they were.
On the campus where I teach, just about every student wears a t-shirt with a Bible verse. Students flock to praise-n-worship gatherings voluntarily and exude a piety that existed only among the most devout just twenty years ago. Lots of parents tell me their kids are far more spiritually mature at 18 than they were at that age.
Politically, the U. S. government is in the hands of Republicans, my mother’s party. Many politicos and pundits claim the last Presidential election was a wake-up call to many opinion-leaders who never took Christians seriously. Most major newspapers now concede that for too long they didn’t have a clue about what was going on in the hearts and heads of an huge segment of their own readership—American evangelicals.
It’s difficult to argue, I think, that we’re all going to hell in a handbasket, although sometimes I think my mother would like to think so. Specifically, what troubles her is that this Christian nation is becoming secular, forbidding prayer and tolerating abortion, tossing the Ten Commandments and, in its place establishing, “political correctness.”
I think she’s frettin’ way too much. She thinks I’m worse—liberal.
When Black Sunday came to the Great Plains, when clouds of dust arose from recently plowed Oklahoma land and swept all the way up into South Dakota like a murky blizzard, lots of good people presumed the world was at end. Not long ago, a woman told me that she had a childhood memory of looking up at the preacher in the little country church she attended and, on Black Sunday, seeing only the preacher’s white collar.
When things got dark, good people thought we’d finally come to end times. It’s understandable, but it didn’t happen. Most believers I know plot out the trajectory of our lives in the same direction—things are just getting worse and worse.
Maybe not. But then, as I said, maybe I just don’t fret like she does. Maybe I will in just a few years.
But I know this—both Mom and I can take heart from verse one of Psalm 37, which says, in a nutshell, “don’t do that.” The enemy—whoever they are—aren’t worth my time or anxiety, nor are they worth hers.
Next week I’ll quote that verse to her. Maybe it will help.
Probably not. She’ll probably still think I’m a liberal.