A prayer for the Fourth of July


Every time I get a communique from the secretary of the Boone, Ia. High School class of l938 it is like a necrology. The survivors are now the minority. I think about my closest friend from the first grade through senior high and later the Bible College. He has been gone for ten years. I think about my first love, a girl named Jane, who I met in the first grade and remained her best man until we went to Junior High, where she met the guy who was to be her future husband. Since then I have never met a Jane I didn’t like. She has been on the far side for fifteen years. I think about my grandfather’s namesake, John Berg, who went on to become a distinguished physician.

I think about my pal Paul Harvey who went down in flames over Europe in WWII. And I think about the kid who always sat next to me because of the alphabet, Tommy Benson, who went down over the Pacific in the same war. Then there was John Shadle, later a college professor. All these were guys who would rather negotiate than fight.

We did have fist fights in those days and sometimes the grapevine would let us know in advance who was to meet in the alley after school. I have asked myself whatever happened to the bullies who were always picking fights. It is fair to say that for the most part they were from the other side of the tracks, and had to fight for recognition. There was always the guy who would throw the first punch. But none of those guys ended up as physicians, ministers, teachers or Air Corps pilots. (It was called the Air Corps during WWII) There was Paul Harvey, a broomstick kid who couldn’t have fought his way out of a paper sack, but he turned out to be a war hero. And there was Tommy Benson, my next door neighbor, who wouldn’t hurt a flea. He too went down in WW II.

And what about the bully boys? They remain anonymous. They won those fist fights in the alley because they knew how to throw the first punch. To be tough meant to beat the other guy to the punch. Nobody seems to know what happened to them, and worse yet, nobody seems to care.

One’s mind runs in quirky directions as one penetrates deeper into “advanced middle age.” There was a time when Emma Lazarus’s words at the base of the Statue of Liberty reflected our soul:

“Bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” But since Iraq we have become known as the bully who threw the first punch. Like all bullies we have had to build a defense mechanism for our behavior. We have had to sell our invasions as wars of liberation instead of aggression. But as Lincoln said, “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.”

What better time for national and governmental repentance than our 230th birthday, the 4th of July? And what better expression of repentance than to pull out of the country we have invaded, and do it now. The only way to pull out a thorn is to pull it out! Repentance means to turn around! To those who argue that civil war will result, we can answer that civil war is already raging.

It is a needle in the haystack quest, trying to track down the school yard bullies. In the long run they become anonymous. But remember what the scripture says, “If my people who are called by name shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” That is our most urgent prayer on the 4th. Heal our land! (2Cor. 7:l4)

Darrel Berg is pastor of the Guemes Island Community Church. He lives in Coupeville.

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