Wednesday, September 08, 2004

This and That

Today brought our country to a grim landmark as the 1000th. American was killed in the war in Iraq. (The most recent count is 1003.) My prayer is that God will comfort the families of all who have lost loved ones there, that this war will soon end, and that innocent people in Iraq will soon experience peace.

First, there were the Swift Boat veterans who called John Kerry's heroism in Vietnam into question. Now National Guard veterans calling themselves "Texans for Truth" appear in a TV ad calling George W. Bush's claimed service in the National Guard fraudulent. I wonder if other people are as sick of and unimpressed with this "tit for tat" campaigning as I am? Many suspect that these and other "527" groups operate in concert with the respective presidential campaigns, if not under their outright supervision. Be that as it may, I wish they would just cease and desist.

Whether "The National Guard issue," as it's called, is legitimate or not, the fact is that Bush has dealt with it repeatedly in the past and every single time, Americans have said they don't much care.

And in spite of John Kerry's irresponsible statements after the war---basically accusing American military personnel of widespread, pervasive war crimes, he was according to the internal documentation of the United States Navy, a genuine hero.

While those playing what they might call "hardball" denigrate our political process with these insulting or irrelevant attack ads, voters long to hear substantive discussions about the war against terrorism, the war in Iraq, education, health care, Social Security, and other subjects. (I even harbor the outrageous hope that the candidates could address issues not seemingly on the national radar screen, but nonetheless of great importance, things like: shoring up America's deteriorating infrastructure, securing the same from possible terrorist attacks, what it would take for America to once more become a catalyst and an honest broker for Middle East peace, anticipating the rise of China as an economic behemoth, and bringing the costs of government down.)

Every single attack ad, no matter its source, drives this election campaign further into the mud and further away from doing what it should do: helping we voters to make informed choices about the future of our country.

I've just finished re-reading Gerald Sittser's great book, The Will of God As a Way of Life. Like Sittser, I used to think that the "will of God" was some micro-plan for our lives, that a largely-inscrutable God forced us to undertake a painful process of finding that plan, and that if we didn't find and pursue that plan precisely, our lives couldn't be all that God intended for us. Sittser once believed the same thing.

But a cataclysmic event changed Sittser's life and his thinking about God's will. A drunk driver hit the van in which he and his family were driving, killing Sittser's wife, mother, and two other family members. Prior to that moment, Sittser assumed that he and his family had been pursuing God's micro-will for their lives. Now, he had to ask himself, "Was this horrible event the will of God? Had God orchestrated this tragedy, treating the members of his family like so many expendable chess pieces?

After a lengthy time of grieving, praying, reading God's Word, studying, and reflecting, Sittser took what was a great leap for one coming from a Reformed Christian background. He noted that in the Bible, God rarely discusses His will as something involving the future or specific plans He has for us. More typically, God's will as revealed on the pages of the Bible, have to do with how we live each day.

Like Rick Warren, in his wonderful book The Purpose Driven Life, Sittser concludes that we can do God's will for our lives in a variety of situations: married or unmarried, working as a waiter or computer programmer, college professor or ditch-digger. In any and all circumstances, God's will for our lives will involve our loving God with our whole hearts, minds, souls, and wills and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. (For more on this, read my message of August 22, 2004.)

I heartily recommend Sittser's fabulous book. I appreciate his insights and I agree with his fundamental arguments.

I have been reading the 9-11 Commission's report, having gotten about halfway through it. It is chilling, a bit like watching the movie Tora, Tora, Tora, which recounted the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. While there were insightful people fully aware of the danger presented to America by Osama bin-Laden's terrorist network and several failed efforts to destroy his organization, the US was ill-equipped to deal with the attacks of September 11, 2001. Whether the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission, publicly and forcefully endorsed yesterday by a bipartisan group of US Senators, can enable the kind of intelligence-sharing and coordination that must happen for the US to deal with terrorism, I can't say. But I am confident that ways can be found to fight and win the war against terrorists. One only has to read of how America led the Allies after the attack on Pearl Harbor to know that great and urgent tasks can be accomplished.

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