Centuries Old

I have lived in at least three centuries, maybe four or five.


I grew up on a farm in rural Mississippi in the 20th Century.  It is now the 21st Century.  One of the common jokes, told differently based on the angst at the time, is that Mississippians are just now experiencing the change from one century to the next… The 18th to 19th Century.


If you are not from Mississippi, you are not allowed to repeat that or even laugh at the joke.  Them’s fightin’ words if you ain’t from them parts.


There are a lot of places that seem to be behind the curve on the socio-economic evolution scale.  Agrarian cultures, in almost any state, are susceptible to keeping the things the way that they are.  If you see something that works, keep doing it.


Christian communities like to keep things the same.  God is unchanging.  That’s one of His better qualities.  He is reliable and faithful.  He is the same today as He was yesterday and He will be tomorrow.  Thus, Christians sometimes feel that sociological shifts provide a move toward looser morals, a graying of the area between good and bad.  In some cases, this is absolutely correct.  In other cases, it may not matter at all other than what is said in the second half of Romans 14:23 that all things that are not faith are sin.


So, you take people that naturally do not like change, add a sociological society (like farmers) that resists change, and a religious society that resists change, and you get people that accept modern conveniences, but still live with values based on a past time.  In some ways, they should be applauded for sticking to their moral code.  It doesn’t work well when they leave home.


I left home and was teleported to a different place and time – unprepared.


When I was a senior in college, we had some very interesting conversations in ROTC class.  Our professor was a Major.  He told us what insurance company to use, United Services Automobile Association (USAA) – at the time, only available to commissioned officers in the military and their families.  He taught us the difference in banks and credit unions, and leaned us toward credit unions.  We had discussions about common military courtesies and traditions.  But one discussion led to great embarrassment for me.  We were having a discussion on political views.  The Major pointed out the 2 or 3 liberals in the class who wanted great change and social reform and the majority of conservatives in the class who wanted to keep things the way they were.  It was one of the other students that pointed out that my name had not been mentioned.  The Major quipped, “Oh, he is a reactionary.  He wants things the way they used to be.”  Everyone, except me, roared with laughter.  I turned red and looked down at my notebook, hoping that the bell would ring.


I wasn’t a reactionary as much as I was a naïve young man who had grown up in a closed society that had not yet started kicking and screaming their way into the 20th Century (or maybe the 19th?), although we were over half way through the 20th in years since 1 AD.  I didn’t want things the way they used to be.  All I had to do was drive 38 miles toward the east of the campus, and I would be in the way things used to be, because those things were still there.  In a small extent, that applied to my home town, but I’m really talking about the farm where I grew up.


When you never leave home, you can comfortably live in whatever Century for which your town’s moral compass is set.  My parents only lived for a couple of years outside a 150 mile radius of the town of their birth.  Those years were forced upon them by my Dad’s National Guard unit being activated during the Korean Conflict.  They rejected that world when my Dad didn’t reenlist.  They ran home to start a farm, and I came into the world soon after.  The real world was what we saw on the news at night, but my parents would summarize the news program saying, “Now that that nonsense is over…”  The odd thing was that we had lost the farm when I was in second grade.  My Dad worked on the road.  He constantly fought with his bosses, but he had skill that they needed.  He hid his brushes with the real world so that my mother could maintain her imaginary world.  Thus, the real world never affected their values.  The problem is that my values were based on what I was taught.


The problem throughout my life became that I held onto the principles that my 17th, 18th, or 19th Century parents taught me.  Those principles didn’t work in the 20th and 21st Centuries.  “Work hard and your life will be secure, and you will be rewarded.”  I had an old engineer pull me aside one day, early in my career.  He said that I worked too hard to ever be promoted.  If I were the boss, who would become the workhorse that did all of the work for the department?  They had me for that.  They were going to promote the lazy guy whose only contribution to the department was organizing the golf outing.  He would then boss me around, because he knew I would get the job done.  Later on, that same department tried to fire me.  Why?  Because they had made big mistakes, but my fingers were in every pie and who better to blame for their mistakes.  No one would investigate who actually made the mistakes once blame was assigned.  Yet, once you have established that you are a hard worker, you have to keep going.  If you ever slow down, you are perceived as slacking off.  Everyone could recognize you as a slacker, because they are slackers.  They know the symptoms.


When you look back at your life and you see the injustice, what are you really doing?  You are comparing a very logical 21st Century reaction with a 17th or 18th Century value.  To you, it is injustice.  To the people around you who have evolved or might I say “sold-out their moral upbringing”, it is a natural result of you not keeping up with the times.  It still boils down to “It’s all your fault.”  Romans 3:23 does not say that I have sinned, and everyone else hasn’t.  We are all guilty, not just the one taking the blame.


So, should we throw away the Golden Rule?  I was taught, and the Bible backs me up, that we should love others as we would like to be loved.  Early in my work life, the Golden Rule was quoted as, “He who has the gold, rules.”  One relative recently told me that the common Golden Rule today is, “Do unto others before they have a chance to do unto you.”  When this relative was asked what would happen if the other person didn’t wish you ill, the response was that at least the other person would know whom to fear.


To someone who loves Jesus and wants to love others as Jesus loves us, these modifications to the Golden Rule should be rejected.  Yet, we still live in a broken world where everyone tests their boundaries.  The law of the land is that if you don’t get caught, you didn’t break the law.  My thought, from early in life, was that God sees everything.  I am caught even when I just think about doing something wrong.


When I look back and see the injustice, I shouldn’t be angry that the corner office was not my destiny.  I shouldn’t get angry that I got so many people promoted when they took credit for my hard work.  When we go before our maker on judgment day, will we ask for justice or will we beg for mercy?

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