It had been so long since I had seen a really good movie, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps I had reached that age where I would stop liking movies. You ever wonder why your parents don’t go to the movies anymore? I’ve never heard a good explanation, but there must be a reason, right?
Well, the good news is that if there is such an age, apparently I have not reached it yet. After a long drought, I can honestly say that the last five movies I’ve watched were excellent, and all but one had a good message, and by “good” I mean one that was either consistent with Truth, promoted virtue, or asked the right questions.
I’m partial to the Middle Ages. Not that I would necessarily have wanted to live then, but it is not because it was the “dark ages.” I prefer modern health care, technology, and prosperity. It makes life more comfortable.
But what I prefer today over the Middle Ages is not necessarily something we, as moderns, can take credit for; it is the result of knowledge and understanding building on itself and progressing through each generation to bring us to this point scientifically and technologically. We have the generations that came before us to thank for that.
The disciplines of architecture and art are a more even playing field when comparing the Middle Ages with today. With regard to architecture, advances in engineering allow us to do certain things with buildings we could not do with buildings 1,000 years ago, and, as a result, if anything the moderns have an advantage.
That should also be true of art in architecture. There are things we can do now we couldn’t do 1,000 years ago that give today’s artist or architect more creative tools to work with. So, all things being equal, what we can do with virtually unlimited funds today in say, building a church, should far exceed in beauty and creativity what man created 1,000 years ago, particularly if 1,000 years ago was a “dark ages.”
So, I picked a church, not just any church, but Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. A church I used to attend. A beautiful church. One of the largest churches in America (85,000 members). A church with more money than Croesus. A church that could build essentially any church it wanted, and it did. In 1980s, it built the structure you see above. I was proud to attend Second Baptist Church. It was the most beautiful church around.
Well, I am now fully vaccinated and past my 14 day waiting period.
Last week was my first week back in a live church service since the pandemic began. I was asked to preach at a church in a different city on the subject of work, which I was happy to do. But before I agreed, I asked if they were following best practices regarding the pandemic; I didn’t want to be part of encouraging a super-spreader event. Fortunately, they were doing it right, requiring masks, social distancing, and operating at a reduced attendance capacity.
Today, I return to a live church service at my church for the first time since the pandemic began. I am proud to say my church has done it right, conducting services solely on line for months and then starting back with live services at a reduced capacity, with temperature checks, social distancing, and masking requirements, while still maintaining the service online for those not vaccinated or comfortable yet to return.
What my church has done during the pandemic has been governed by consultation with a medical advisory team made up of physicians and medical professionals, application of CDC guidelines and best practices, and prayer. I believe it has been a Spirit-empowered approach. Here’s what I mean.
I just finished reading an excellent biography of Cato, not Inspector Clouseau’s Cato but Rome’s Marcus Porcius Cato a/k/a Cato the Younger (95 B.C. – 46 B.C.). Cato was known for his integrity in a time of intense political corruption and polarization in Rome that ultimately led to the fall of the Roman Republic when Caesar declared himself dictator for life in 44 B.C..
Cato stood against both political parties, the populares (Democrats) and the optimates (Republicans), in favor of the Republic and doing what was right. As a result, Cato was highly respected, and sometimes also despised, by both sides. That is the price of speaking the truth. Even the 1st century Christians held Cato up as an example of integrity in the midst of corruption.
The current U.S. political climate bears similarities to the Rome of Cato’s time. Political opponents today are demonized. There is no rational discussion by which consensus is reached. There is no middle ground. The reason for the polarization is that people are being brainwashed by the media. But before my friends on the right say, “Amen,” read on, because for polarization to occur there must be two poles, not one.
I was in a relatively small group of people in September 2016 before the election when a prominent Evangelical leader and author told us God had told him He had raised up Donald Trump to be a Cyrus. I thought his remarks inappropriate before a group who had assembled to hear about the kingdom of God, and I expressed my concerns to the host of the meeting, whom I deeply respect. We both said something to the effect of “Well, we will see.”
I have been an admirer of Cyrus the Great as a leader, not only because of the Biblical account but also because of Xenophon’s biography and Herodotus’s history, all of which describe a good, generous, and magnanimous ruler. I even named my Persian cat after Cyrus.
Here’s where we ended up with Trump in the final year of his presidency: (i) an out-of-control pandemic that while not his fault has to date killed 450,000 Americans (25% of those who have died worldwide) and was made worse because of Trump’s politicization of the issue; (ii) a racial uprising and riots like we have not seen since the late 1960s, not only because of a video of police killing black Americans but because of Trump’s pandering to white nationalists; and (iii) an insurrection which I doubt was intended by Trump but am convinced was caused by him.
Even if one accepts the Trump spin on all three of these crises, any one of them is sufficient to stain any president’s four year term; Trump had them all in one year. He is now the only American President to be impeached twice. Members of his own party have voted for his impeachment, and judges appointed by him have voted against his lawsuits alleging a fraudulent election. Was Donald Trump a Cyrus, or is there another Biblical character who Trump more closely resembles?