The Wall

As a lad and the youngest of three boys, I eagerly accepted the role of chief underdog and pest. Having three guys in one bedroom was interesting enough, but placing me in the backseat of an automobile with two older brothers was a formula destined for disharmony. Trips longer than 30 minutes in the faithful old ’49 Plymouth crossed some sort of invisible barrier beyond which decibels rose and turf wars raged.

"If you don't settle down RIGHT ... THIS ... MINUTE, I'll ..." Dire words such as these from the front would inspire a tenuous truce. Elbows would be withdrawn from seatmates' ribs, and a thin veneer of civility would form for a fragile few minutes — but only for a few.

And thus was born my mother's invention, a fabric contraption to hang over the front seat. In it, each of us boys in the back had our own pouch for books, games, toys and such. The effect was miraculous —almost as if a wall had been created between us. With better things at hand than fomenting strife, we three sons would arrive at the distant destination — fingers, toes, noses and ears all accounted for — still friends.

In spite of all the rhetoric we hear in America today about walls of division, perhaps some walls are best left standing. Perhaps they protect what would otherwise be forever damaged or destroyed.

Human relationships flounder when force is applied; they flourish when freedom is fostered. But liberty, and with it all the freedoms we cherish, is fragile. Like three bouncing boys in a back seat, it needs boundaries to survive.

So, I worry when I hear voices rising in our country, calling us to tear down the wall that guard the distinctly different roles of church and state, religion and politics. I worry when I hear Adventists joining others who berate the core values of religious liberty for what they imagine is the greater good — a "Christian nation."

Such was the climate that led some Adventists of an earlier generation to align themselves with a charismatic leader promising pure motives, a return to solid values and a bright future. Their hopes died along with the ashes of a million and more Jews. Must we countenance another Hitler, another Holocaust, before we wake up and smell the Postum?

Sound-bite opinions travel with lightning speed through the Internet and social media connections like Twitter. Personal perspectives are formed with little contemplation, providing fertile ground for a populist movement with no critical evaluation of history or principle. It's not hard to imagine a prophetic timetable accelerating to a place unthinkable just a few years ago.

There has seldom been a more important time for Adventists to place the message of religious liberty front and center. The wall of separation we champion is not just a good idea for three rambunctious boys on a journey to Grandma's house.

It's on behalf of all of us in this dying world and the message we've been asked to share, as the celestial clock ticks off the final minutes.

"Having three guys in one bedroom was interesting enough, but placing me in the backseat of an automobile with two older brothers was a formula destined for disharmony."

May 01, 2011 / Let's Talk