From The Blog

Mission Monthly – October 2008

“The tragedy is not that things are broken. The tragedy is that they are not mended again.”

Alan Paton, Cry, The Beloved Country(1948)

Every year during our family’s summer vacation I look forward to reading a great book. I have not always succeeded but this year’s effort was indeed rewarding! This meditation will not be a book report but I will enthusiastically pass along the recommendation I received to read Cry, the Beloved Country!

Our vacation could not have been better, but to the annoyance of my wife there was (only) one drawback to the beautiful cabin offered to us by our good and generous friends: the television (which, I might add, is an equally annoying concession of the cabin’s owners for the sake of extended family—right P&C?). I limited my television watching mostly to Ryder Cup golf, a Packer game and to catching up on current events, especially the upcoming Presidential election and early reports of our n’s mounting financial crisis. It is here that my meditation begins.

Could there be a more accurate term to define the current financial crisis than “tragedy” as noted above? Of course, it would be offensive and naive to describe the outright corruption we are seeing as a mere tragedy. The fundamental question, however, is not how we label this crisis but whether or not we as a nation, especially our civil authorities, will resolve this criminal mismanagement or else remain a part of the crime.

There are some parallels between 20th century South African apartheid and the society of 21st century North America, and I can see none greater than the disparity of opportunity and the death knell of self-interest. As a “Christian” nation we are seeing myriad levels of anti-Christian morals arising as a result of declining standards of behavior in both the public and private sectors. I remember reading one of the founding fathers who said something like, “The fundamentals of a successfuldemocracy are founded on the expectation that our leaders will be men (and women) of high moral character.” Here the word “leader” should not be limited to an elected official, although it may have intended strictly to be so, but I would also include the leaders of industry, education, our homes and churches.

I would not change for a moment being a citizen of this nation and democracy; there is no other country that offers the freedoms we benefit from. But let us be frank: this is no utopia and not all freedoms are beneficial! There is far too much evidence of fraudulence and duplicity at all levels to think otherwise. What are we to do? I believe, like anyone suffering from an unknown illness, we must first admit to the illness, and then take courage to seek remedy.

One of our Presidential candidates has been criticized for saying, “The fundamentals of our economy are strong.” The nominee responded by illustrating, and I believe few would disagree, how these fundamentals are rooted in the strength and ingenuity of the American worker who is ready and able to keep our economy moving. I would add that it is my hope that the strength and ingenuity of the American citizen is also ready and able to participate in mending that which is broken within our society. Government and corporate America, both loveless bureaucracies, will never establish policies free of material self-interest. It would take enormous amounts of uncharacteristic humanity and humility for it to be otherwise. We cannot wait for this; but what we can do is stay watchful as faithful Orthodox Christians, doing what we can as individuals, families and churches not to be indifferent to the remedies needed to mend whatever may be broken in our lives and society. There is no excuse for us ever to become cynical about our social systems. We must remain realistic, of course, but we also must remain courageous, believing, thankful, hopeful, positive, hard working, moral and generous. Today we begin by prayerfully preparing ourselves to cast our vote on November 4. After that, as always, our vigilance over the tragedies of corruption and indifference will be tested, and I pray God will help us to have the determination to establish and uphold, as individuals and as a nation, that which is right and well-pleasing in His eyes.