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Paul Larson, San Juan Capistrano
A country at a crossroads—do we move forward or do we move further into division, discontent and anger? Or, do we look back and look forward? Are those our only options?
It was an interesting and challenging confluence of two national events this month—on Nov. 8 we had an election, and on Nov. 11, we celebrated Veterans Day. One looking back, and the other looking forward.
The Rev. Michael Vaughn, pastor of Community Presbyterian Church of San Juan Capistrano, started the Nov. 13 service in an unusual way. Instead of the usual musical prelude, he began with the following:
“We are going to start worship today with a minute of silence, in observance of national and world events. Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 1918, started out as Armistice Day in 1918—a memorial to the human cost of war and the communal expense of peace, a memorial to the millions swept up in what at the time was called the war to end all wars, which did not end all wars.
“The early 20th century and the year 1918 was a time of great culture change. In Europe, economic, political, national, and religious forces were all in turmoil and conflict. In the United States, a sleepy giant that reluctantly, slowly saw it had responsibility to the world community. This conflict afterwards, called World War I, did not really end; it was fought to exhaustion. Ending not with a real solution—just an armistice, a break, a timeout. A false, unsustainable pseudo-peace which then seeded World War II. Then came a cold war that seeded where we are even now.
“I will also co-opt today for our minute of silence—the elephant in the room—our national presidential election last Tuesday. Whether individually we are pleased or not, we knew we would gather here together today. We are people of faith, people of the book, people of the Kingdom of God, and not people of something partisan. I am confident as we diverse people assemble today, we all in advance intended to pray for our new president-elect, no matter if it was a him or her.
“We live, as you know, in a time of great culture change—economics, demographics, the purpose and use of institutions: e.g., schools, churches, other organizations. Even the very social contract between us is in flux—some even call it a culture war.
“We need to honor the lives and civil sacrifices of the past and beware of the danger of fighting this cultural, polarized clash to exhaustion or no sustainable solution—not just slather over or just take a break. The social contract of our patriotic duty requires more.
“So, let’s have the minute of silence in healing and memory of those who sacrificed to protect this nation, and also in healing of the current civic rancor among us that must die—not just in order that we can continue to be this great nation, but more so we can faithfully live towards the Kingdom of God.”
Regardless of our individual political beliefs, healing our great nation is paramount. Regardless of our individual religious or spiritual beliefs (or even having none), healing is needed. Fighting to exhaustion is not a solution.
We have the opportunity to look back to honor those who have served, and we also have the opportunity to learn from history. We now have a more immediate opportunity to look forward to how we can serve our nation, our world and each other with honor and dignity. We are standing at a crossroads, and are much in need of reflective moments of silence.
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