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One Has Never Been a Larger Number

March 6, 2014

Frozen Maps and 9/11

(Fairview Heights, Illinois circa 2001)

When I was growing up, the Rand McNally world maps hanging in my school classrooms did not change from the time I was in kindergarten until I graduated from high school.  The world was frozen by the Cold War and the threat to everything good and holy was represented in four letters–USSR.  The rhetorical speeches of Soviet leaders, the arms race, Marxist atheism, military parades at the Kremlin and red-clad Olympic athletes clearly defined our enemies.  The communists were out to destroy baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Bible studies.  Life was so unambiguous.  When Soviet communism collapsed, the cartographer’s were suddenly re-commissioned as political floes broke loose from the polar map cap that had held them into place since World War II and maps suddenly had to be redrawn.  Baby boomers were thrust into a world we no longer understood, because we were raised in a world where you don’t know who you are unless you know who your enemies are.  Then came the events of 9/11/2001.  If the enemies of my childhood were red seas of gun-toting soldiers tied together by communist ideology and bent on world domination.  Then our new enemies were individuals tied together by hatred, employing terrorist tactics and bent on destruction of everything we thought was good and holy.  If the danger in the Cold War was represented by the many, then the danger in the War on Terrorism is represented by the few…or the one.

I view this post-modern world as having much in common with the first- century Roman Empire.  It was into this fluid culture that a carpenter/teacher from a minor providence in upper Palestine introduced a virus into Judaism called Christianity that would later mutate and reshape the world.  After the resurrection, ascension and Pentecost, a street preacher named Paul fueled the fire by planting churches across the Mediterranean.  His letters to these churches comprise much of the New Testament.  These days only natural and architectural landmarks (like the St. Louis Arch or the Alamo in San Antonio) identify this as the same world in which I was raised; nothing else seems familiar.  We are global, multicultural, multilingual, economically interdependent, well traveled, well informed and tied together, not by Roman roads, but by electronic currency and the internet.

My point is a simple one.  If we live in a unique time in human history when one terrorist can wreak great destruction, is it not equally logical to deduce that we also live in a time when the one humanitarian can do great good?  It seems to me that one has never been a larger number.

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop

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