“The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.”
-- L.P. Hartley, British author
I’m thankful for memories.
Of the first time I saw the love of my life, Claudia, back in junior high school. To steal a phrase from the Tom Cruise movie "Jerry McGuire," she had me at “hello.” Heck, even before that.
Of gazing star struck at my baby girl, Stacie Leigh, through the window of the hospital’s newborn nursery. It marked the second time I’d experienced “love at first sight.” Of cheering on my 5-year old son, Scotty, legging out his first single in a T-ball game. I wouldn’t have traded that moment for a Mickey Mantle rookie card.
And a zillion other such cherished family moments with which God has richly blessed me.
Nowadays, I don’t take such memories for granted. Sadly, I have observed, up close and personal, how memories can vanish, as two of my elderly family members have fallen victim to Alzheimer’s and dementia. The loss of one’s memories seems to me a cruel kind of prelude to death.
In most ways, I guess I’ve always believed it is incumbent on mankind to look to the future. As a Christian, that is foundational to my faith — that the best is yet to come. The renowned Victorian poet Robert Browning said as much in verse, and “Old Blue Eyes,” Frank Sinatra, popularized that theme in song.
Yet, it is sometimes difficult to concur with that promise for the future, at least as it relates to this earthly kingdom. When I observe the course of human events, I worry about the kind of society in which my grandchildren must find their way. I wonder what manner of memories they will sculpt, because in good conscience, I am challenged to make the argument that, morally speaking, things are getting better.
Just imagine if man’s morals kept pace with his technology, for undeniably we have witnessed remarkable scientific advancements in our lifetimes. Consider that:
· On the one hand, we now have palm-held computers with greater capacity than the bulky, punch card ones which initially filled entire rooms. But, on the other hand, we are still raping, robbing and killing each other as if we remain Neanderthal in our survival-of-the-fittest thought processes.
· On the one hand, surgeons can now transplant hearts and other organs, and miracle drugs have been developed which have virtually eradicated once dread diseases. But, on the other hand, we can’t even allow today’s children to frolic unabated in our neighborhoods – like I routinely did in the early 1960s – without fear of them falling victim to some sick pedophile.
· On the one hand, today’s youth are taught in multi-media, internet-equipped classrooms with ready access to more information than at any time in history. But, on the other hand, all the money we pour into our school systems to provide for such high-tech curricular support can’t resolve one of the base problems – that myriad children across America are products of broken homes and deprived in their most formative years of the simple blessing of a mom or dad reading them a bedtime story. In fact, children of divorced parents are approximately two times more likely to drop out of high school.
· On the one hand, today’s farmers annually ship $100 billion worth of crops to foreign nations, producing twice as much food as their fathers did, while using less land, water, and energy. But, on the other hand, we still have over 600,000 hungry, homeless Americans with some 67,000 of those being military veterans. That’s unconscionable.
· On the one hand, today’s children can solve mathematics problems on a cell phone calculator that used to involve pencil and paper. But, on the other hand, we apparently don’t know enough math nowadays to deduce how our ever-increasing national debt will place a titanic burden on future generations who had nothing to do with its accumulation. To me, that’s amoral.
· On the one hand, we claim to live in an enlightened society with the scope of man’s knowledge growing exponentially year after year. But, on the other hand, I fear we have lost our fundamental sense of right and wrong. Many now openly advocate ideologies that are incongruent with Biblical principles once held dear by Americans – as illustrated by two states recently approving the “recreational” use of marijuana. In my day, Americans were so “unenlightened” that baseball was considered recreation.
But back to memories - all this is not to say that everyone’s reminiscences are pleasant. The America of my youth treated some of its peoples in an absolutely abhorrent fashion. The good old days weren’t so good for everybody. That’s beyond dispute and hopefully instructive as to subsequent generations avoiding the same shameful mistakes.
Bottom line - it is my belief that if the memories we create in the future are to be as wholesome as some of those on which we now reflect, then we must concern ourselves more with righteousness than political correctness. Statesmanship must trump partisanship. We need to hate sin, not our fellow man.
As it is, we’ve depreciated into a terribly polarized nation, the likes of which modern society has rarely observed. Must it take another Pearl Harbor or 9/11 to foster national unity? No, we’re not being bombed by the Japanese or al-Qaeda, but, make no mistake about it, America is unquestionably embattled. We are confronted by an even more explosive spiritual foe – one bent on imploding a nation from the inside-out.
You know what really scares me – and I mean right down to the ground? Referencing Matthew 7:23, it’s the stark image of standing before my Maker and being admonished, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”
As we face such epic issues as the looming “fiscal cliff,” I must wonder if God still recognizes America. Then again, maybe He’s seen it before under different names like Rome or Constantinople.
So, on this Thanksgiving, I earnestly pray for happy memories for my grandchildren. The course America charts today will manifest in the memories of tomorrow.
Dr. Scott Elliott’s views are strictly his own and do not represent an official position by his employer, Meridian Community College.