And don't get me wrong, it is a passion of mine, I think it is vitally important, and I love to do it. But weeks like this one are particularly dispiriting:
In Britain, researchers have combined genetic materials to produce human-bovine hybrids. Why? Because they can. And apparently they see nothing Frankensteinian about it. Just doing research, you know -- maybe harvest some stem cells along the way -- and they justify it by claiming it may help cure disease. The manipulation of the very nature of humanness is apparently not an issue.
In Georgia, a group of 3rd graders hatched a plot to kill their teacher, this in retaliation for the teacher making a student stand on a chair. These kids had assigned students to cover the windows of the classroom, duct tape and gag the teacher, and supply knives to finish the job. How does a society produce a batch of 8 year-olds who can even conceive of such a thing?
In Oregon, Thomas Beatie (that would be a "he") announced that he is five months pregnant. Oprah had him on her show. And, without any exception I could find, the entire news media insists on referring to Beatie as a "pregnant man." Hello! His sex-change surgery notwithstanding, "Thomas" Beatie is, by definition, a woman. This is not debatable. Yet we live in a society that condones and patronizes those who demand not only that their "gender" is a matter of personal preference, but that those who would question the idea are nothing but old fashioned bigots. How did we get here?
Finally, today it is being reported that intelligence officials have uncovered substantial evidence of Al-Qaida's plans to bring a nuclear attack on the United States. Given the number of nuclear components once stored in the former Soviet Union, and the current corruption of the government there that yearns for the old totalitarianism, the materials needed to carry out such a plot cannot be too hard to obtain. And so we live under the constant possibility that the terrorist planning could well come to fruition.
All this is disgusting and demoralizing not so much for me, but for the state of the future world that my children will be forced to live in. Such a world is beyond my comprehension but I'm afraid that it will not be beyond my children's realization. All of it stems from the fact that ideas matter. Some ideas are wrong and destructive. And those seem to be the ideas whose stock is on the rise. It can all be very depressing ...
... and then came yesterday.
Yesterday, I visited an Advanced Biology class at the high school two of my sons attend. I wish I could name the school and the teacher of that class but, the world being the way it is, I am actually reluctant to do that in such a public forum without the permission of all involved. Suffice it to say that my visit there encourages me to be confident that there is hope in this culture.
Here is a teacher whose passion and dedication to the truth are glaringly evident not only in her approach to the material she teaches, but in the attitudes and competence of the students who have the privilege of being under her tutelage. These kids are well-versed in the details of biology, well-acquainted with the worldview issues that underly the technicalities of that field, and confident in articulating and defending why they think what they think. Though I know this is all too uncommon, it is encouraging to see that it is possible to raise up a generation of kids who will be leaders -- and thinkers -- and promoters -- of good ideas. Ideas that can serve as the antidote to the poison that infects our society today.
Ideas matter. These kids know it. And they are ready to go impact a world that needs them badly.
In his book, Not The Way It's Supposed To Be, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. offered an insight that I have never forgotten when he defined the Hebrew word shalom. "Peace" has always been my translation of the word. But Plantinga points out that my definition of the word doesn't cut it:
The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight -- a rich state of affairs in which the natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.One only needs to read history to know that the world has long seemed to be coming unglued. I suppose our time is not much different than other times have been in the turbulent past. But when you're living in a time like this, it sure can seem discouraging to be swimming against the tide. Shalom like that seems to be a phantom.
But knowing that there are those who share the passion to strive to restore it as well as humans ever could is encouraging. There are good ideas that long to be brought to fruition. And there are good people who strive to hold and defend those ideas both now and in the future. Though it sometimes seems elusive, there is a hope-filled future for all of those who choose to seek it. And with that future comes a promise -- the promise of a shalom like none of us can even comprehend.