Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Memories of Pete Seeger

It was December 1967, and I was in army basic training at Fort Dix, NJ. The Vietnam War was raging and wasn’t anywhere close to ending. Young men were dying and more were to follow.

We had been out in the field doing something or other – I can’t remember what. It started to snow heavily, so we marched over to a nearby building for shelter. They called for several deuce-and-a-half trucks to come and pick us up. While we waited, the Company Commander, a First Lieutenant, suggested we sing some songs to pass the time until our transportation arrived.

He suggested we start off with a popular song of the day, a song written by Pete Seeger called “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” I don’t know whether he realized that it was an anti-war song, but the irony of it all was not lost on me. Here we were, spending eight weeks learning how to kill and maim, and yet here we were, singing an anti-war song. Most of us would be sent halfway around the world to fight in a questionable war, and in the song we were asking “Where have all the young men gone?” We know where they had gone, and where even more were going. It was a surreal moment.

Pete Seeger and others have demonstrated to us how powerful music can be. It can be effective in bringing awareness of injustices. It can help bring about societal change through powerful lyrics. It is a major way we worship God – that’s why we sing hymns and praise songs in worship. Music can express some emotions much more effectively than prose. Even after we’ve lost most of our faculties, music often remains with us.

Like anything, music can also be abused. It can put down women, as we hear in the lyrics of some rap songs in which women are referred to as “ho’s” and ‘bitches.” Music can promote drugs, promiscuity, and a host of other bad behaviors. Fortunately Pete and others have used their music to promote social justice and peace. Pete also used his fame and influence to clean up the Hudson River. If he had done nothing else, being instrumental in cleaning up our beautiful river would have made him a hero.

I didn’t know Pete and Toshi very well, but I had the opportunity to talk with them on several occasions. I had some interesting conversations with them, which I treasure.

After basic training, I went on to advanced training in the field I had enlisted for. Miraculously, I did not go to Vietnam, which I thank God for. Why I was spared and so many weren’t I can’t answer. It is one of those mysteries that we just won’t understand in this life. But I’m grateful I received orders for German language school, and then was sent to Germany where my new wife and I spent one and a half enjoyable years.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Your Reputation Is Everything

When I worked for a company, I had to let an employee go. To get back at me, she called my boss and accused me of verbally abusing her by using “the f word” and yelling at her. So my boss called me into his office and asked me what happened. I told him that first of all, I had my office door open the whole time, so he should feel free to ask any of the employees whose desks are close to my office if they heard me yelling and cursing. I then explained what happened, and said the allegations were totally false. He said to me that he didn’t believe her because he knew that’s not the way I operate, but he had to investigate.

Right now the story the media is obsessing on has to do with the Chris Christie issues, primarily the George Washington Bridge fiasco and accusations by the Mayor of Hoboken of bullying. What might have been a local story has blossomed into a national one for three reasons:

1. The governor is a national figure because he is potentially a candidate for the presidency.

2. He is a popular Republican and the media love to go after wayward Republicans and try to bring them down. Sadly there are too many wayward politicians in both parties.

3. Because of Christie’s tough guy persona, people are ready to believe the accusations against him.

That’s where reputation comes in. You can have a reputation as tough, but not a street fighter or thug. Christie, who I think has been a good governor, especially in times of crisis such as Hurricane Sandy, comes across as somebody who could be vindictive and manipulative. While Christie claims he “is who he is” and isn’t going to change, I think that’s the wrong attitude. What might have worked in local New Jersey politics probably isn’t going to work in national politics. If you are going to run for President, you had better start acting presidential – he actually should have started years ago.

People perceive you based, in large part, on your reputation. A good reputation can’t be bought – it has to be earned. Think about your reputation. It is the kind that will help you in future endeavors or hurt you?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

It’s not your grandmother’s world

I’ve seen a lot of changes in my 70 years on earth, as I wrote in earlier posts. While I was writing about the changes I’ve seen in my lifetime, I was thinking about my grandmother. When I look back and consider what my grandmother witnessed in her 102 years (born in 1884), it staggers the imagination. She was born in the horse and buggy age and died in the jet age, having lived long enough to see us put a man on the moon. Here is a brief summary of the technological changes she saw in her 102 years, going …

-From the horse and buggy to the horseless carriage to the modern automobile;
-From gas and kerosene lamps for illumination to electric lights;
-From wood-fired kitchen stove to microwave oven;
-From ice boxes to electric refrigerators;
-From a hand pump to running water;
-From an outhouse to indoor plumbing;
-From washing laundry by hand to washing machines;
-From hanging laundry on the line to electric or gas dryers;
-From heavy irons made of iron heated on the stove to lighter-weight electric irons;
-From open windows to electric fans to air conditioning;
-From coal-fired furnace to oil or gas furnace that doesn’t need tending;
-From trains to flight (propeller) to the jet age to rockets exploring the solar system;
-From steam-powered locomotives spewing smoke to diesel-electric;
-From writing a letter to sending a telegraph to email to texting;
-From writing a letter to calling on the telephone (landline) to the cell phone;
-From handwriting to the typewriter to the computer word processor to voice recognition;
-From horse-drawn wagons to 18 wheel trucks;
-From dirt roads to paved roads to superhighways;
-From Vaudeville to radio to movies to black and white television to wide screen HDTV;
-From libraries to the Internet.

That’s an enormous amount of change in just 100 years, and the list didn’t even include advances in medicine.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Societal Changes – Part 4

This is the fourth and final post in a series about the changes I’ve seen happen over my lifetime (from the 1940s to the 2010s). See my introductory comments in Part 1.

Increased sense of vulnerability and fear

When I was a kid there was always the threat of nuclear annihilation hanging over our heads, but otherwise we felt pretty safe. Now I long for the good old days of nuclear annihilation and mutually assured destruction when I see how vulnerable we are to all kinds of threats, some of which didn’t even exist years ago. Even without nuclear annihilation, the US and possibly large parts of the world could be seriously crippled in any number of ways. So this sense of fear and vulnerability is understandable, but we can’t let it overwhelm us or dominate us.

(1) We’ve seen terrorism in the US, England, Spain, Russia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Iraq and many other places. Terrorism can take many different forms, and they could do a lot of damage if a terrorist organization acquires any weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Nobody’s safe, but we can’t let that fear keep us from living our lives – then the terrorists win.

(2) There is a real risk of cyber warfare that could knock out the power grid, electronics (computers, cars, TVs, phones). This could come from an enemy or from a burst of radiation from the sun. It could be localized or widespread.

(3) I believe there’s a risk of economic collapse because all economies are tied together in the global community. Fortunately we weren’t seriously affected by economic problems in Greece, Italy, Portugal, or Ireland. Moreover, with our deficit spending, heavy debt (governmental, consumer, and student), and unfavorable balance of trade, we might not need any outside influences for our economy to collapse. It almost happened in 2008 – hence the bailout.

(4) There’s a risk from rogue nations: North Korea and Iran being the biggest threats right now, but Pakistan, which has nuclear capability, could be a future threat if it comes under the control of something like the Muslim Brotherhood.

(5) Along those lines, the risk of aggressive Islam goes beyond terrorism to the possibility of radical islamist organizations eventually controlling key countries that are already vulnerable, such as post-Assad Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, etc. With such power they would be a serious threat to the West.

(6) Risk of a more powerful China and Russia dominating us

With China holding a significant amount of US debt, they could exercise a lot of power over us. Moreover, their military budget is increasing every year by double-digit percentages. So China is a formidable economic, military, and technological power: a force that will increasingly have to be reckoned with.

Who knows about Russia? It is on the rise economically, and will also become a force that will increasingly have to be reckoned with. That old Russian imperialism hasn’t gone away, and it will probably remain after Putin is no longer in power. Both China and Russia have the technology to launch devastating cyber warfare that, worst case, could cripple us, and best case, seriously inconvenience us.

Russia is the major supplier of natural gas to Europe, and I suspect a significant supplier of oil as well. Think of the power that gives Russia! All they have to do is threaten to turn off the gas, and Europe will do whatever Russia says. That’s a scary thought.

(7) Acts of nature such as a large asteroid or meteor hit; a burst of radiation from the sun; a huge tsunami (such as might come from a land collapse in the Canary Islands); an unusually large earthquake (such as the New Madrid Fault and the San Andreas Fault).

(8) Man-made disasters are always a risk, such as a nuclear plant meltdown. However, most of them tend to be localized. One risk is bridge collapses. There are many bridges in the US that are unsafe and should be replaced ASAP.

Decline of the US in terms of power, prestige, and self-sufficiency

Just at the time when all these threats are hanging over us, I believe the US is on the decline and may not be able to prepare, defend itself, or respond to them effectively. Some evidence of our decline are:

(1) Much manufacturing is now done overseas – we are left with lower paying service jobs and lack of manufacturing capability and skills. If we had to fight a WWII type of war today, I don’t think we could do it today.

(2) Our economy is weakened by deficit spending and consistent unfavorable balances of trade (primarily with China). Congress can’t seem to do anything, further hurting the economy and our ability to prepare for disasters.

(3) We are heavily dependent on China for many goods, plus they hold much of our debt.

(4) We are still dependent on foreign sources for oil, although that situation has improved somewhat. It may be hard to believe, but at the outbreak of WWII, the US was an exporter of oil. Our imposition of an oil embargo on Japan (because of what it was doing in Asia) helped trigger the attack on Pearl Harbor.

(5) We are technologically unprepared for many of the threats facing us, such as cyber warfare. Advanced and sophisticated technology is possessed by China, Russia, and others (China recently sent a lunar module to the moon).

(6) We have a crumbling infrastructure which is expensive to upgrade, but is necessary.

Cleaner air and water; fewer people smoking

Although there is still much to clean up from past abuses, our air and water are generally cleaner. Unfortunately, we still have serious environmental issues in China, India, and other developing nations. China’s economic growth alone would generate significantly more pollution, but on top of that they aren’t even trying to control pollution. As a result, parts of China such as the Beijing area are in almost constant smog. All that air pollution will travel around the world, contributing to climate change.

With fewer people smoking and smoking not allowed in most indoor spaces (restaurants, offices, airplanes), we don’t have indoor air pollution from second-hand smoke that we used to have.

Improvements in medicine and technology

There have been tremendous improvements in medicine and technology, improving both the length and quality of life.

There are now many therapies that can prolong life and put the cancer into remission for a long time. A diagnosis that used to be a death sentence can be, with early detection, successfully treated.

With antibiotics and anti-viral medicines, infections that might have killed you years ago are now easily treated. Vaccines have eliminated or successfully reduced diseases that were a threat when I was a kid, such as polio.

You now have various treatments for coronary artery disease: angioplasty, valve replacement, stents, bypass surgery, ablation, plus medicines that help prevent heart attacks.

Unfortunately we’ve also seen an increase in certain conditions, such as asthma and autism, and even new diseases emerge such as AIDS and Lyme disease.

Regarding technology, we now have devices and other things that have generally made life better. Most of this technology wasn’t even conceived of 70 years ago:

-Smart phones, personal computers, the Internet, social media
-High definition TVs, cable, streaming movies, Blu-Ray, TiVo
-Safer and more efficient cars, better headlights, fuel injection, anti-lock disk brakes, traction control, hybrid cars, air conditioning, power windows, radial tires,
-Microwave ovens, more energy efficient appliances, better insulated houses,
-MP3 players or iPods, GPS, copiers (even your computer printer can make color copies).

Of course many of these innovations have a downside, because even good things can be abused or misused. Nevertheless, these advances have made life safer or more comfortable, and some have significantly enhanced communications or the quality of entertainment.

As you can see from these four posts, there have been a lot of changes since the 1940s: attitudes, behaviors, and technology being the most obvious. What most concerns me of all these is the increased secularization and diminished spirituality of people today. Many of our other problems would be significantly diminished if more people got into right relationship with God. Let’s pray that it happens soon.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Societal Changes – Part 3

This is the third post in a series about the changes I’ve seen happen over my lifetime (from the 1940s to the 2010s). See my introductory comments in Part 1.

Increased polarization between left and right; demonizing those who disagree with you

One glaring result of this polarization is the paralysis in Congress. They can’t seem to compromise on anything, and each party’s main goal is to destroy or discredit the other party. Everything in Washington is about the party or ideology, not about conducting the people’s business or working on behalf of those who elected you and on whose behalf you committed to work.

Sadly, Congress isn’t the only polarized institution. Churches are following the example of society rather than following the teachings of Jesus. Mainline denominations are divided over issues, especially regarding same-sex marriage and the ordination of practicing homosexuals. Denominations are being torn apart, as we have seen in the Episcopal Church. Their split started with the consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop, an openly practicing homosexual. What’s especially sad are the nasty battles that take place between the religious left (yes, there is such a thing) and the religious right at annual conferences, synods, etc. With all this animosity, one has to wonder, what ever happened to the teachings of Jesus? And then they wonder why they are losing members!

Preservation of the institution takes precedence over constituents; lack of respect

The government and other institutions lost a lot of respect in the 1960s and 1970s, partially as a result of the Vietnam War and the Nixon cover-up and resignation. In more recent times, it has become obvious that institutions are unable to police themselves. So when scandals or other problems occur, and lack of oversight or a cover-up are discovered, further respect is lost. The priest abuse scandals in the Catholic Church are good examples. Rather than getting the abusive priests out of the ministry immediately, the church passed them along to another parish, and then engaged in cover-ups.

The problem is that in most cases it’s all about the preservation of the institution, not about protecting the people you are supposed to serve. That’s been true of the Catholic Church, the legal profession, the medical profession, etc.

Increases in violence: mass shootings, gang killings, random acts

Society has become more violent, as we’ve seen with serial killers, mass shootings (even in elementary schools), gang killings, random acts of violence, road rage, and home invasions. There are rapes (including in the military), muggings, and the often violent stealing of thousands of smart phones each year.

Crime and violence have always been with us, but today I believe it is much worse than when I was younger. What’s happened?

I believe the driving factors are:

(1) Graphic violence portrayed on TV, in the movies, and on games. That can’t help but influence impressionable kids and create a climate in their minds in which violence is acceptable.

(2) Another influence is drugs. Addicts rob (and often commit violent acts in the process) to get money to feed their expensive habit. There is also violence between drug dealers, but innocent people occasionally get caught in the crossfire.

(3) Increasing poverty and a sense of hopelessness can drive some to crime and violence. High school dropouts with no job, no prospects, and nothing to do will often take drugs, rob to fund their habit, and seek “thrills” by committing random acts of violence.

(4) Poor parenting that does not teach children life skills, right from wrong, and a strong sense that crime and violence are unacceptable behaviors. Some kids learn their values in the streets where it’s often survival of the fittest (meaning survival of the most violent).

(5) Alienation of “different” youths from the mainstream, with bullying or other forms of harassment taking place against them. This sometimes leads to violence such as mass shootings in schools.

(6) Widespread availability of guns, including careless gun owners who don’t secure their weapons properly, thus enabling their children to easily get a gun. Another aspect of the availability problem is the fact that mentally ill people can easily buy guns.

Increased bullying

Like crime and violence, bullying has always been with us, but today I believe it is more widespread and vicious. A cyber bully puts malicious stuff on the Internet for all to see, humiliating the victim publically. Girls seem to be into this kind of bullying in a big way, but when I was a kid, it seemed to me that it was mostly the boys and mostly physical (think of the neighborhood bullies who pick on Ralphie in the movie “A Christmas Story”).While that type of bullying certainly isn’t good, I believe the psychological bullying done today is more damaging to the frail egos of children. Hence the teen suicides that sometimes result from such bullying. Unfortunately parents and school officials don’t seem to be taking bullying seriously, and so it continues.

More on societal changes in a future post

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Societal Changes – Part 2

This is the second post in a series about the changes I’ve seen happen over my lifetime (from the 1940s to the 2010s). See my introductory comments in Part 1.

Aggressive atheism and growing secularization; diminished influence of the Judeo-Christian ethic

Aggressive atheists are using the courts and scare tactics to try to eliminate God and religion from our society. Using the First Amendment as a weapon, they have successfully influenced the courts to ban public prayer, manger scenes on public land, memorial crosses, and other religious expressions.

With growing secularization, fewer people attend weekly worship services on a regular basis, fewer people send their kids to Sunday school, and fewer people profess faith in biblical beliefs. As a result, fewer people are getting spiritual nourishment or learning biblical principles of behavior. I believe we all need transcendent moral and ethical standards, not man-made ones subject to change. Today we are being guided more and more by man-made standards of behavior such as Political Correctness and situational ethics.

As situational ethics and relativism have increasingly become the basis for behavior, the inevitable result is less consideration for others. Political Correctness has become the dominant paradigm of “proper” behavior; with “tolerance” its key virtue. There are several problems with PC:

(1) PC “Tolerance” is inconsistent in that it applies only to certain groups that must be “tolerated”, while others who aren’t PC are not to be tolerated;

(2) There is free speech only for those who support the PC line; otherwise you are shouted down, vilified, or what you have to say is labeled “hate speech” even when it really isn’t.

(3) Academia is firmly in the grip of PC so that academic freedom has become a myth on most campuses. Tenured professors have been fired because they didn’t toe the PC line. Controversial guest speakers have been shouted down at colleges and not allowed to present their viewpoint. Case in point: a few months ago Ray Kelly (then Police Commissioner of New York City and proponent of “stop and frisk”) was invited to give a speech at Brown University. He couldn’t give it because his audience wouldn’t let him.

Further indicators of moral decline are that teen-age girls see absolutely nothing wrong with sexting; cruel bullying of a classmate is fine; graphic sex is shown in the movies and even on TV; religion, God, and believers are put down and ridiculed by the media.

Deconstruction of the Bible and the US Constitution to fit agendas

Both the Bible and the Constitution are based on unchanging principles. They are “carved in stone” and are not to be changed or redefined at society’s pleasure.

Many believe the Bible contains God’s truth written down by human intermediaries using various literary forms such as poetry, allegory, illustrations (parables), and history. Many theologians, seminary professors, and pastors deconstruct the Bible, reducing it to a patchwork of questionable writings which can be interpreted as you see fit. Passages in the Bible that conflict with their agenda or beliefs are distorted or explained away to fit their needs.

Similarly, the Constitution of the US is now considered a “living document” by the courts, which goes against the very purpose of having a constitution. As a result, it can be reinterpreted (and misinterpreted) well beyond the framers’ intentions. Rather than being that unchanging “stake in the ground” it has become subject to change and reinterpretation even though such changes are often in conflict with the framers’ meanings (as we know from their writings and early court cases).

Growing disparity between rich and poor, diminished middle class

We seem to be regressing when, for the first time in recent US history, the next generation will have a lower standard of living than their parents. What’s happening?

(1) Increasing number of poor, and a declining middle class (something like 46 million people are living in poverty);

(2) People are earning less as we move from better-paying manufacturing jobs to lower-paying service jobs;

(3) While earning less, workers are faced with higher medical and energy costs;

(4) Executives and sports figures are getting obscene compensation packages, widening the disparity between the highest and lowest paid people.

More on societal changes in a future post.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Societal Changes – Part 1

I’ve lived through a lot of history in my time on this earth. I’ve also seen significant societal changes take place as well. I suspect that in some ways our country would seem somewhat strange and different to somebody coming back from the 1930s, 1940s, and even the 1950s. Think of the Michael J. Fox movie “Back to the Future” or Rip Van Winkle. Many of these societal changes had their roots in those decades. Some of these changes are either good or troubling, depending on your perspective.

I’m giving you the major changes (including changes in attitudes, behaviors, new threats and technology) that have been transforming this country over the last 70 years. I’m doing this for at least four reasons:

First of all, I find these things interesting and I hope you will too. At the end of this series I even list the technological changes my grandmother witnessed in her 102 years.

Second, I want you to have an appreciation of the significance of the changes that have taken place in the last 70 years. If you are under 40, you may not realize how much we as a society have changed. If you are over 40, you’ll recognize most of these changes because you’ve lived through them.

Third I want to provide an historical context for where we are today as a society and a culture, as well as strive to understand today’s attitudes. I’ll do that by listing what I believe are the driving factors behind these changes. You may disagree with some of these, but at least hopefully you’ll see how much our society has evolved over the years and appreciate the magnitude of these changes. Knowing this will help you with the third purpose.

Fourth, I want to give you possible action items. By “action items” I mean that I want to make you aware of these changes over time so that you can either consciously embrace them and actively promote them, or go against the tide if you aren’t happy with some of them. Just because society is moving in a certain direction doesn’t mean you, your family, or your children have to go along with it if you disagree with certain trends.

Below are the changes I’m aware of over the past 70 or so years in no particular order. While I provide some commentary and opinions on each item, I ask that you be the judge of whether these are good or not so good trends, and then act accordingly.

More civil rights for minorities and some lessening of racism and sexism

Note I said “some lessening” because we aren’t where we as a society should be, but we’ve made progress. I remember watching the Civil Rights struggle on TV and seeing peaceful American citizens being knocked down by powerful fire hoses and being terrified by police dogs. Unfortunately we still have classism and sexism, although women have made good progress. Women are participating more fully in the workplace, and some are even CEOs and generals in the military. In churches we have women clergy and women bishops. There’s still the “glass ceiling” in business, and sadly, sexism is strong in the military, with rapes, harassment, and cover-ups. Over 50% of college and seminary students are female.

Aggressive feminism

The early feminist movement was focused on opening up long overdue opportunities for women, but there are some today who engage in man bashing (what is the female equivalent of misogynistic?) Moreover, Political Correctness tries to control what you say so that you don’t “offend” women. For example, in seminary and in public discourse I’m discouraged from using the masculine pronoun for God. PC also dictates that you shouldn’t use certain words such as “girl” or even “lady”. I’ve heard speeches and read articles that denigrate men to raise up women. Those who do that should realize women don’t need to put down men to raise themselves – they can do just fine without resorting to such tactics.

Cheapening of human life by widespread abortion

We’ve seen something that was illegal become a “constitutional right” in 1973. Sadly, I believe readily available abortions cheapens human life, especially late-term abortions in which a fully-formed baby’s life is terminated. Can euthanasia be far behind?

Normalization and acceptance of behaviors hitherto considered immoral or socially unacceptable

Homosexual behavior is the key example of something that was considered a “perversion” but is now so accepted that we have same-sex “marriage” now legal in a number of states. Depending on your viewpoint, this is either enlightened progress and long overdue, or further evidence of the decline of western society.

Entertainment has become more provocative (Miley Cyrus, twerking), and both sex and violence are more graphic and more frequent in movies, TV, and games. Profanity is more widespread, even during the so-called “family hour” on TV. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, TV generally portrayed positive values and showed men and women as good role models. If there was any sex in a movie, it was discreet (the camera either faded or panned away). You knew what was happening but it wasn’t in your face like it is today. I know what it looks like, and I really don’t need to see it every time I go to the movies.

Decline of the Family

While opinions may differ regarding same-sex marriage, few would disagree that heterosexual marriage has its problems. I’ve seen divorce go from a rare occurrence (except for Hollywood types) to something close to a 50% rate. This is disturbing because the nuclear family is the basic building block of society, plus divorce adversely impacts children and women (financially and psychologically). I blame this increase in divorce on three things:

(1) No-fault divorce, which has made it easy to break up a marriage;

(2) Irresponsible fathers (and increasingly mothers), who care more about themselves than they do their spouse and children;

(3) Bad attitude on the part of people getting married in that they have little or no sense of commitment and feel that “if it doesn’t work out, we can always get a divorce.”

More on societal changes in a future post

Friday, January 3, 2014

Lessons from Nelson Mandela

Before I became a pastor, I worked in industry. My last employer before leaving the business world was an English company that had operations in 20 countries or so. One of those countries was South Africa.

I was at the company’s headquarters in England for some meetings, and was staying in the company’s condo that they used for visitors. Also there at the time was an employee from South Africa, a white guy of Scottish heritage by the name of Ian if I remember correctly. We got to talking in the living room one evening, and the subject turned to the new situation (end of apartheid) and new president (Nelson Mandela) in South Africa.

He had nothing but praise for Mandela. He told us that the new president, rather than seeking revenge, forgave those who had been so cruel to him and to his people. Mandela set up councils, not for retribution, but for reconciliation. I was surprised by Ian’s unabashed praise of Mandela, and was interested to learn what was going on in the post-apartheid era. Sadly, our media drops the story once it turns to good news, so I wasn’t aware of all the good things happening.

Nelson Mandela can be a model for all of us. We’ve all been wronged, but rarely to the extent of Mandela and his wife Winnie (who was in jail for about 500 days, much of that time in solitary confinement). He forgave, and worked for a better future rather than looking back at a past he couldn’t change.

Another model for us is former president F.W. deKlerk. He had the foresight to see that apartheid was not only evil but was not sustainable. He boldly ordered Mandela released from prison and negotiated the transfer of power from minority white rule to majority black rule. I’m not familiar with the details of the transition, I know it was difficult and the two men were often at odds.

I think there are several lessons for you and me:

(1) Do the right thing. Work to eliminate oppression, injustice, and unfairness wherever you find it (even though it might cost you).

(2) Forgive those who have wronged you, which isn’t easy but is necessary for your own well-being. Think of all the times you have been forgiven by others, and how much God has forgiven you.

(3) Even be nice to those who have wronged you! I think the following passage from the Bible says it all:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21, NRSV, based on Proverbs 25:22)