A BITTER SUNDAY

This sonnet will seem cryptic, at first.

“All those who surrender will be spared”
Spoke Jeremiah to his stiff-necked people,
Advocating something Churchill never dared,
For God does not always stay in the steeple
And knows different folks need different strokes,
Some times a caress, and some times a lash.

Now I look across my nation’s bad jokes
Called “wisdom”, see people who are by cash
Besotted, and wonder if it’s wise to quit,
Or to “Never Surrender!” It depends
On what you surrender to. I lack wit
And cannot see through your fog to the ends
Your justified means lead lemmings to,
But you who judge God will see God judges you.

I have always loved tales where the good guys triumph over the bad guys, despite insurmountable odds. Good tends to be an underdog, in the eyes of the politically crafty, but there are plenty of examples of underdogs triumphing, when you look for them.

I’m not merely talking about sporting events, such as the amateur American hockey team beating the professional Russian team in the 1980 Winter Olympics. I’m talking about the history of world politics, the really “big leagues”, where the fate of entire nations and civilizations are at stake.

For example, the underdogs in 1450 would have been three little nations far out on the western edge of Europe, when the world powers were Venice and the Ottoman Empire. Who would have dreamed that fifty years later the Pope would basically divide the planet into two parts, controlled by what had been Portugal, and  Aragon and Castile ( which became Spain.)

Yet even as Portugal and Spain became a world power a new underdog existed to the north, called Britain.

Yet even as Britain became a world power a new underdog existed across the Atlantic, called “The Thirteen Colonies.”

Those attracted to power are always flocking to the side of those about to lose to the underdog. Think hard about this, before you embrace that which is “politically correct”.  The very people you sneer at for being “incorrect” likely will rise, and prove to be “correct” as you prove to be “mistaken”.

What is the mistake? The mistake is to put politics and power and money and acclaim and satiated-desire ahead of Truth, (also known as God.) It is a mistake because Truth does not need to lift a finger to be true, while crafty, political deck-stacking and agenda-pushing requires ceaseless effort, and still remains at least partially false.  In the end Truth, although seemingly naive compared to craftiness, wins out, because it exists without effort, whereas falsehood collapses under the draining effort required to make “what isn’t” be “what is”.

In the Bible one sees that the Hebrews tended to see themselves as the “good guys”, and had some marvelous examples of themselves being the underdogs, yet defeating seemingly insurmountable odds. Jehoshaphat sent his puny forces out with musicians ahead of the armed men, and the three huge armies they faced began bickering among themselves, and then fought each other, rather than Jehoshaphat’s forces, and in the end all Jehoshaphat’s men had to do was gather up the plunder from three self-destroyed armies. In like manner, when Sennacherib confronted Jerusalem with 185,000 troops, some sort of plague broke out and slaughtered them. The Hebrews triumphed against impossible odds.

The “Churchill”, as the Hebrews faced Sennacherib, was the prophet Isaiah. As the Hebrew king quailed in the face of a contemptuous army of 185,000 Assyrians, Isaiah spoke the “never surrender” of his time. And, (though of course the Assyrian version of history is different), most ancient histories, (even while calling Judea a “vassal”), show Judea as a lone area, an island of independence that never submitted to the World Power called “Assyria”.

Only a couple generations later the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah had less heroic advice for the people of Judea. Rather than “Never Surrender”, it was, in various forms, “Surrender.”

This apparently was because the rot had set in. Rather than a people who were an example of Truth the Hebrews had become corrupt, and were examples of a sort of slander. Therefore Jeremiah was the bearer of bad news, and in the unenviable position of walking up to rich and powerful people and saying, “Tsk tsk! Y’know, what goes ’round comes around, and you’re ’bout to reap what you have sowed, and it ain’t pretty”.

In modern terms, Jeremiah was like a divinity student walking into a Madison Avenue advertising agency and saying, “You fellows are not telling the Truth.” He got laughed right out of the room.

Actually, on one occasion, after telling the Truth at the Hebrew temple, the head priest (Pashhur) promptly had Jeremiah beaten and put in stocks for a day. Among other things, this resulted in “Jeremiah’s Complaint”.

Because Jeremiah was all about telling the truth, and because telling the truth got him treated like a turd, he had to be truthful to God and complain about what honesty had earned him. Though the blues he sung are 2600 years old, “Jeremiah’s complaint” is a remarkable bit of blurted honesty, and expresses exasperation towards the Almighty (like a flea yelling at an Elephant.)

I won’t belabor you with the whole complaint. (It can be found in Chapter 20 of the book of Jeremiah, verses 7-18, if you are interested.) What is interesting to me is that Jeremiah seemingly decided the smart thing to do would be to shut the f— up, to avoid the pain, but when he tried to be silent the pain was like a fire in his heart and bones, and he simply had to open his mouth and blurt out the honesty that would once again land him in trouble.

For me the hardest thing to take is Jeremiah’s advise to surrender. I far prefer Churchill’s cry to “never surrender”. But perhaps it all boils down to whether you are surrendering to an evil falsehood, or surrendering to the Truth.

As a boy I recall being struck by a political cartoon from 1944, when Germany was facing defeat. In the cartoon Hitler was attempting to rally the German people. But hidden behind the front of his podium was a folder, labeled “Churchill’s 1940 Speeches”. This impressed me, as a boy, with the idea the “bad guy” could say the exact same things as the “good guy”.

In the time of Jeremiah the Hebrew leaders were saying “Never Surrender” as the Babylonians advanced upon Jerusalem, hoping the Hebrews would again be saved by a miracle, and to them Jeremiah would obviously appear to be coward and a traitor for stating, “Surrender”. However was he? Or was he like a man in Germany in 1944, when surrender would have been the wise thing to do? In any case, the cry “Never Surrender” did no good against the Babylonians, and the Hebrews were crushed and led off to captivity.

In modern terms the concept of “Global Warming” is deemed politically correct, but Skeptics are advancing like an invading army. Alarmists bravely cry, “We shall never surrender!” I am like the prophet Jeremiah.

Now read the sonnet again:

“All those who surrender will be spared”
Spoke Jeremiah to his stiff-necked people,
Advocating something Churchill never dared,
For God does not always stay in the steeple
And knows different folks need different strokes,
Some times a caress, and some times a lash.

Now I look across my nation’s bad jokes
Called “wisdom”, see people who are by cash
Besotted, and wonder if it’s wise to quit,
Or to “Never Surrender!” It depends
On what you surrender to. I lack wit
And cannot see through your fog to the ends
Your justified means lead lemmings to,
But you who judge God will see God judges you.

 

 

 

 

 

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