Growing up male in the days before clearly defined political correctness and finely tuned international sensitivity training, we boys spent much of our free time playing war. Sometimes we were equipped with reasonable facsimiles of firearms, like those carried by real soldiers and cowboys.
And other times we used sticks, pipes, baseball bats and clothes hangers. Back then we had real imaginations.
We were equal opportunity war heroes. We played Korea, Europe, the South Pacific, Cuba, Mexico, Gettysburg, and Russia, but among my battle-hardened eight-year old peers, we liked the Revolutionary War best.
It wasn’t because we understood The Revolution or the “Give me liberty, or give me death” deal, but because we thought the British infantry were a bunch of nincompoops and easy fodder for conquest.
We delighted in our patriot’s guerilla warfare tactics while the half-witted King’s men stood in a line in the middle of the meadow providing easy target practice. What were they thinking?
Suffice it to say that when sides were being chosen at recess one wanted to avoid landing in the British camp. It was a humiliating experience. Sometimes the soldiers in bright red with the girly hats and noisy drums got killed five or six times in the span of fifteen minutes. Stupid stooges!
It felt good to return to readin’, ritin’ and ‘rithmetic after a bloody stint in the Royal Infantry.
Along about puberty, we surrendered to our hormones, stopped warring, and started romancing young women who found warfare revolting. It was tough to get a second date after the first was spent on the rifle range.
I assumed once adulthood settled in the war faring would end.
Not so, I’ve discovered.
The war continues, only now, it’s not fought with broom handles and baseball bats but with ideas, world-views, and social alignments. In contemporary America, we are all foot soldiers in the Cultural War.
Most of us have been shot at and hit.
Real wars differ from make-believe wars in many ways, but certainly one of the most obvious differences is that in playground skirmishes the players can always recognize the bad guys. It ain’t that easy in the current conflict. It’s difficult to tell who’s who, who’s good, who’s bad, who’s neutral, and who done it.
We warriors, many of us on extended duty, are no longer wee warriors, but major combatants in a very grown up and vicious battle. Casualties are mounting – the carnage overwhelming. There is no clear winner in sight.
The current Cultural War raging across our land appears as a modern day version of the Civil War. It’s that nasty. Brother against brother. Old friends making new enemies. Everyone forced to choose sides. Deep convictions about the nature of life, the future direction of the Republic, and serious ethical and moral disagreements fuel an already volatile fire.
Most everyone acknowledges we’re at war, but most folks don’t really understand the terms of engagement. Many sum it up as red and blue, Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, Coastal vs. the Heartland, or science vs. religion. All of these contain some measure of fact, but all are lacking in themselves. It’s more complex.
I believe the core of the conflict centers around the way one views the nature of mankind. Are we temporal or eternal?
What we believe about this fundamental reality determines the uniform we wear and the style of life we pursue. It shapes our values, our behavior, our relationships, our hopes and our fears.
Some of us have defected from the temporal camp and switched allegiances. It provides us a unique perspective, allowing us to evaluate both world views and contrast one against the other. They can’t both be right.
The appeal to living as a temporal earthling, without design, destination, or purpose, is found in the perspective that life, as brief as it may be, can be lived without restraint or guilt. This belief system grants the infantry immunity from responsibility or accountability. Each person answers only to self, and thus self sets the standards and writes the rules. The temporal person can “go for the gusto” without recourse because there is no judgment in the end. “Turn out the lights; the party’s over.”
Temporal folks believe mankind to be without intelligent design or life past death. Thus, pleasure and happiness here and now are as good as it gets. They resent anyone or anything that hinders their pursuit of self-defined happiness.
The person, who in contrast, views life as a gift from God with divine design, purpose, and responsibility functions from a law principle delivered by God and not as a product of self. Big difference.
The eternal soul considers life here and now to be secondary to life eternal. We understand our existence on planet Earth as nothing more than a staging area to prepare for eternal life. We live by an authority beyond ourselves.
Conflict invariably comes when those practicing God-rule clash with those committed to self-rule.
Recently the salvos fired from the temporal ranks have become more vicious.
University of Texas physicist and Nobel laureate scientist Stephen Weinberg was quoted in the N.Y. Times as saying, “Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”
He’s not alone in his hatred of eternal thinking patriots. Universities, currently hotbeds for new-pagan thinking, are loaded with well-trained snipers. Their bitterness rivals that of folks in the entertainment industry (who cater to folks seeking temporal relief). Elton John said a couple of weeks ago that, “organized religion ought to be banned.” Let’s hope the knight doesn’t become king.
There is an increasing disdain among secular materialists for folks who view forever differently than do they. They think we’re party poopers.
The great thing about eternal thinking surfaces in the day-to-day life experience. We don’t have to have everything okay to be okay. Our happiness is not dependent on external circumstances. We’re not slaves to pleasure, and thus free to enjoy, rather than constantly manipulating, the ride. We can take a licking and keep on ticking. Our hope trumps despair. Resurrection power sustains us through grief and disappointment.
Listen to the last three verses of 2 Corinthians 4:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
We walk by faith and not by sight, often incurring the wrath of those who have invested everything in the present.
I conclude these observations about the nature of war and man with this question: “What if we turncoats who have transferred from the domain of darkness into the marvelous light of Jesus are right?”