America. The land of opportunity and freedom. Unlike any other country in the world.
I consider it a true blessing to have been born here, to have grown up here, and to live here now. Even with reading all the reports and seeing all the news stories of life outside the United States, I don’t think I can really comprehend completely just how good it is to be here.
Sure, there are problems. There are some things that are breaking down. There are some things that are broken. And we must fix them.
Because this is a country unlike any other in the world.
We experience freedom; freedom that is fought for and defended in many ways. Soldiers have died, and others have probably wished they had died after going through what they have gone through.
The draft was in force when I turned 18. I remember my father saying that he prayed fervently that we would not go to war while I was of age. I didn’t really understand it until I had children of my own, but as a father, I understand that same fear.
Being involved in combat can only be described as incredibly hard – hard to leave home and fight, hard to survive, hard to try to come back, hard to continue on in life as a “regular” person.
I can’t imagine it. I simply can’t imagine how hard it would be.
While thinking about this, I have been struck lately with the formation of battlefields here within our own borders. These are battles not fought with bullets or missiles or drones. They are fought with words and ideas and beliefs.
I think that the damage from these wars on the home front can be, will be, greater than the horrific and bloody battles in foreign lands.
We aren’t just trying to kill each other’s bodies with bullets. We are trying to kill each other’s freedom with laws.
The pen really is mightier than the sword.
Here is the reality: This is a country filled with people who are very different from each other. Different thoughts and ideas, different words and beliefs, different visions of just how America should be.
But, (and I think we find this hard to believe), it is just as much their country as it is mine; it is just as much mine as it is theirs.
So how do we figure out the way that everyone is afforded the right to worship or not worship according to their own deeply held beliefs? How do we encourage people to grow in all these different directions while keeping a set of laws that we all must follow that doesn’t stunt that growth?
Let the battle begin.
Choose your side. Dig in. Find out everything bad you can about the enemy, because that is exactly what they are: The Enemy. All hands on deck as we do our best to get rid of this nasty little element that thinks so differently.
What is interesting is that there can be people found on both sides who are thinking and behaving this way. Nobody is really an innocent bystander here.
Can saints and sinners live together? Well, maybe we need to clarify who are the saints and who are the sinners.
Again, I would think that each side would claim that of being right and the other side is clearly in the wrong. Righteous indignation at these close minded, bigoted, heathens who are destroying us.
Everybody step back and take a breath.
Let’s define the sides:
What is a saint?
I’ve always been taught that a saint isn’t someone who is perfect and, well, dead. A saint is someone who is really trying hard to do their very best. Someone who lives in love rather than anger. Someone who is really focused on others rather than themselves.
I know many, many people who would qualify as a saint under that definition. They make my life better in countless ways.
What is a sinner?
Isn’t a sinner someone who isn’t perfect? Someone who has something that they still struggle with and haven’t overcome? Someone who is still working on changing and growing and becoming?
Put me down in this category, for sure. If we are honest with ourselves, we probably all fit really well here.
Wait a minute though. Can we only fit in one of the two categories? Do we somehow have to be either saint or sinner?
I know I am a sinner. But I am also working pretty hard at doing my best and being a loving person.
Can I be both?
Can there be many, many, many people out there who are both?
Kind of takes it from an “us and them” situation to more of a “we” situation, doesn’t it?
The things that I struggle with that put me in the sinner category are probably different than the things you struggle with. The things that I may be making some good headway in doing good, may be different than the things that you are sailing fast and strong in.
But there are things that “we” are working on and things “we” are doing pretty good in.
What if, and this is a pretty radical idea, I know, but what if I tried to learn from you the things that you are making progress on, and in turn, I shared what I could with you about things that make my life better?
What would happen to the battle lines and the rhetoric and the name calling and the mudslinging?
We might just find that we actually have time to sit down and, again, wait for it, talk to each other, and, yes, even listen to each other.
I’m sure I am naïve and don’t know all that is going on. I don’t think that I am the only one. Rather than let myself get whipped up in the mob mentality and grab my pitchfork as we get ready to storm the opposition, maybe I could see what I could actually find out.
I believe in religious freedom. I believe it is why this country came into being. It saddens me that so many are choosing to abandon religion and faith when I know that it brings me so much happiness.
But I’m pretty sure that you’re not going to be interested in learning about that happiness if all you can hear are the war cries from my side.
And it will be hard for me to stop and try to see things from your perspective if I’m ridiculed as a religious fanatic who needs to get into the 21st century.
But I’m willing to try if you are.
Because, it is OUR country, a country unlike any other in the world.
So, maybe it is worth taking a closer look at just what we are doing with this precious freedom each of us want so dearly.
In the name of freedom, are we actually putting ourselves in bondage?
Bondage to anger.
Bondage to fear.
Bondage to selfishness.
If all of us are fighting for the right to live our religion and our faith, or, to just be kind and loving people but without a faith, don’t we have the responsibility to actually do it?