Open Hands

I have not been writing much of late. The usual excuses apply: busy physician, caught up in other interests, yada yada yada. My wife has also suggested that working long hours, then coming home and sitting on the computer for the rest of the evening and all weekend is not what she would describe as a “relationship” — funny people, these women are — don’t they understand we men have our needs? And of course, she is entirely correct, and I’m committed to making some changes to fix my malfeasance in this area. Obsessively scanning the web for the latest Obamanation is not terrible good use of time or mental energy anyway, so the change is truly a blessing in disguise.

But change there is aplenty, and its rapidity and breadth makes it hard to comprehend and process in such a way as to organize one’s thoughts and communicate them in meaningful ways. We are rapidly becoming a different country and culture, transforming in ways that are hardly new but accelerating seemingly at light-speed. The leaders of our country, a nation long a force of enormous good and beneficence in the world despite her many flaws, now travel the world apologizing and criticizing the very nation and citizens they purport to lead, while praising the Europeans whose parasitic socialism and arrogant superiority exist solely because we have liberated, protected and sustained their existence from crush of fascist nationalism and the dangerous bear of Russian aggression. We now pretend, with stunning naivete, that nice talk will restrain monomaniacal tyrants with nuclear dreams in Iran, North Korea, and Syria. The scimitar of Mohammad is resharpened in a much-needed respite after years of crushing humiliation sustained in defending our nation from a new and extraordinarily dangerous fascism fired by a suicidal religious ideology.

At home, our economy stutters and stumbles to ground, suffering the hangover of decades of consumption which we could not afford, purchased with money we did not have. In response, our government spends untold trillions it does not have, bartering the future prosperity of untold generations for the present opportunism of slight-of-hand socialism disguised as a solution. Our banks and auto companies are nationalized; their executives fired by presidential fiat; their salaries capped by politicians who themselves have leveraged their political power to rape, pillage and plunder their way to untold personal millions mendaciously acquired.

Our government is officially, intractably, and utterly corrupt — and we are in no small part to blame:

By almost every measure, Washington is hopelessly corrupt.

And we are at once victims and accomplices.

Career politicians are spending the country to near-bankruptcy as they feather their own nests, tighten their leash on our necks and pat us on the head. They take our money, bend it to their will, then return small portions of it at their discretion to make us feel it has all been worth it.

Washington is to the taxpayer as the drug cartels are to the addict…

Washington is over $10 trillion in debt already. The Obama budget blueprint calls for adding another $9 trillion to that debt in the next 10 years. And the country is already facing untold trillions — $60 trillion or more — in Medicare and Social Security promises we’ve made to future retirees, money for which we have no identifiable source.

… Despite record-low approval ratings for Congress last year, we continued sending our congressmen back at about a 90 percent retention rate.

We have, sadly, been corrupted.

Our health care system, straining under unsustainable and spiraling costs, appears headed for nationalization as well, pouring untold millions of patients into the already-bankrupt Medicare system, while promising illusory “cost savings” through preventive medicine, electronic health records, and national boards to determine “appropriate” health care. The health care system we now enjoy, imperfect as it is, will be unrecognizably worse within the decade. It will not be a pretty sight. The health care bubble is about to burst: the grand mansions of high-tech healthcare, as unaffordable as they are sexy and seductive, are headed for foreclosure. Our pursuit of eternal life through technology is failing; we have exhausted our fortunes seeking a futile utopia of endless life without pain, sparing no expense to vanquish death and disease. Cerberus and Eurynomos reign triumphant, while we, penniless and disillusioned, have forgotten that to live is but to suffer and die — and we no longer know how to do either well.

Culturally, the war is over: the walls have been breached, the barbarians rule. While we focus on the dying paradigm of left and right, liberal and conservative, red and blue, the Goths in Gucci loafers and judges’ robes rule us. Arguments about tax rates, government size, foreign policy, domestic agendas are but flashy choreography on the steepening incline of of the Titanic’s ballroom floor. We will, in short order, see physician assisted suicide — if not active euthanasia — in every state; unrestricted fetal embryonic research and human cloning; all cultural and legal support for monogamous heterosexual marriage eliminated, as the foundational unit of civilized society quietly recedes into the oblivion of endless “lifestyle choices.” Expect all traces of Judeo-Christian influence to be be purged from public view and expression, as the relentless secular assault cements in the public mind the image of Christianity as hateful, bigoted, ignorant superstition. Health care professionals will be coerced to violate their consciences or forced from their profession if they refuse to do so; nor will other professions be spared from this purge. Tax exemption for churches and home schooling will likely come under assault, as society cleanses itself of all Christian influence in the name of tolerance and human rights. This process is nearly complete in the West, as evidenced by Canada’s ironically-named Human Rights Commission persecution of religious freedom and Britain \'s naked public square. It is nearing completion here as well.

The Church, once the strong beacon of light warning of dangerous shoals in a dark sea, now embraces the darkness in pursuit of “cultural relevance,” piling empty flattery on those who hate her, corrupting the doctrines for which saints and martyrs gave their lives. Her own universities, once an oasis for truth and reason, now issue meaningless honors to those who embrace and enlarge the culture of death, repudiating thousands of years of moral teachings in the name of “open-mindedness” and “diversity.”

“When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?”

It is, I suspect, this dismal litany of developments which constrains me, which makes it difficult to write, to make sense of the senseless and signal hope in hopelessness. To be a Jeremiah, in however small a measure, is an unenviable job. Not only must you look forward to the looming disaster awaiting a foolish and deceived culture; that alone would break the heart and pierce the spirit. Not merely must you encounter the hatred and ridicule of those thus warned, who will hear none of it. But more than this, the greater pain is that of mourning; grieving over the loss of what has been and what might have been; mourning lost opportunities to have spoken, or acted, or exhorted in some way, to have touched and changed another or steered but a few back on course. It is this grief which is so hard to process: the grief of a great and noble country crumbling and rotting from within; the grief of wealth unrivaled in history, squandered where moth and rust destroy; the grief for a church which slept with the harlot in hopes of bringing her to holiness. I find myself clinging, with knuckles blanched and fingers bleeding, to a fading dream which slips through the fingers like a mist wafting through an iron gate, drifting silently and relentlessly towards the unfathomable darkness.

It is time, it seems, to open the hands.

The walk of faith is said to be belief in the unbelievable, the fool’s way out of life’s challenges and disappointments, the easy path of cowards and naves. It is in truth none of these things, but rather the very hardest of things: submission. It is to bend the knee; to trust when sight is dim or absent; to rely on the benevolence and wisdom of One who knows all and reject the false knowledge we tenaciously trust in our self-will, fear, and deception. If there is a God — sovereign, transcendent, just, good in ways we cannot begin to fathom, and above all passionate in His love for us — then there is nothing to do but trust, to submit, to rest. It is the Cross — in all its horrors, irrationality, agony, foolishness — and victory.

This week the church celebrates Holy Week, commemorating and meditating on that moment in history when darkness seemed triumphant, when earthly hopes were dashed, when the irrational ruled and evil gloated. In that dark moment, the glorious hopes of man haughty and triumphant were forever dashed on the stones of Golgatha; the blood of a failed prophet sealed their fate forever. Such is as true now as then; it is a timeless certainty, eternal despite all appearances to the contrary.

And so I must — we must — open our hands, and bend our knees. It is a time for prayer, for humility, for fasting, for simplification. It is time for turning over the foolishness of man and the corruption of a culture to Him who alone knows the ways of man and the wanderings of nations. We must lift up the country, its leaders; the culture; the church. It is not ours to seize nor to save. We must stand in truth, suffering what consequences we may endure.

It is time once again to be a light.

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6 thoughts on “Open Hands

  1. “…the very hardest of things: submission…”

    In this age of selfishness, self-lessness is considered abase and not a thing to be achieved. Yet it is in submission, and only in submission, not to government, but to God, that we find true freedom.

    Thank you for a fine post, as usual.

  2. Meaty and relevant post, Bob, as ever. And well worth waiting for. I would like to add that in order for me to surrender and “be light again,” I find myself having to go through an emotional process that involves getting in touch with acute fear that comes up from time to time which then leads me into a grieving process which then leads me out and allows me to authentically surrender. Without going through all this— usually in a briefer time frame—I become chronically fretful. And it’s also not a one-time thing.

    You continue to nail the mess we’re in and the inevitability of suffering and even separation.

  3. This is exactly what I have been thinking/feeling/experiencing. Your eloquent piece expresses what I would have liked to write.
    I will be sharing it with those I love. Thank you.

  4. Beautifully written. You capture the spiritual crisis which threatens us far more than idiotic political wrangling does.

    It also occurs to me, reading this cri de couer of yours, that I am guilty of worrying far too much on a day to day basis about the dreadful prospects for medical care in this country in future (because of my family members’ chronic illnesses) in an utterly selfish fashion.

    I waffle these days, struggling to do the right thing personally, in my family, my community, but I don’t think the separatist solution is anything but escapism. Born of discouragement. I have been known to snarl at my keenly analytic spouse (both of us history and government majors in youth) as he reads aloud from the news to me, him making good comments to my cranky “Why do you bother…we’re all just powerless peasants now, so just settle into bread and circuses and stultify as the Anointed One wants us to!”

    In effect, I sometimes think that I (and many of my far more virtuous and energetic friends, mostly evangelical Christians) are living like hobbits in the Lord of the Rings. Happily and busily preoccupied, planting our own small plots, tending our own loved broods, sometimes sorrowing over personal troubles, but oblivious of the great and terrible things threatening in the larger world.

    So thank you for an exemplary post. I admire it because my own writing lately has been so tediously personal, and it’s good to be reminded of the big picture.

  5. Wow.

    I’m speechless. What a beautiful piece! Thank you! Like others said, you perfectly describe much of what I’ve been feeling lately.

    And Retriever, you did as well.

    I recall having a conversation with a friend of mine once who insisted that Lord of the Rings has no parallels with Christianity. For me, the parallels were unmistakable. But I also could see so many similarities with our lives today. And you are right, I think. Perhaps many of us are hobbits.

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