I HAVE CALMED AND QUIETED MY SOUL," THE POET-king David tells us in Psalm 131, "like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me." That's good advice for Christian conservatives in America today: Lots of things can anger us, but few apparitions are uglier and less useful than a red-faced, veins-popping, clamor-voiced defender of a religion that emphasizes loving our neighbors. Christ sometimes was angry but always showed the self-control of One who knew the Father is in control.
If I were not slowly learning, at 52 years of age and 26 of them as a Christian, to calm and quiet my soul, I'd be irate that last month the mayor of Portland, Ore., declared a "Leather Pride Week" for her city, as Concerned Women for America reported and verified. This was not an occasion for selling more suitcases and shoes but an extension of "Gay Pride" events toward frontiers of perverse sexual activity that I won't describe here. Still, all I can do is warn the good citizens of Portland that their roses are blushing.
This issue, like those that WORLD puts out each week, includes other items that might make us wrathful, and should drive us to action when we're close to the scene of the crime, but should always drive us to prayer. When the culturally left Village Voice ran an article praising a New York City event connected to sado-masochism, the author noted that "every other guy was decorated with a sash bearing his title-International Drummerboy, American Leatherman, International Mr. Deaf Leather, to name just a few-which provided many opportunities for genuflecting." Rather than screaming at those who genuflect to false gods, we should pity and pray for them.
How did the Apostle Paul maintain his sanity and lower his blood pressure when he walked around Athens, seeing idols on every corner and shrine prostitutes at many temples? How did Daniel participate in the government of Babylon? They calmed and quieted their souls, and I suspect they also saw the humor in some of the religions their neighbors professed.
For example, what should we make of a press release headlined, "Who Knew Chickens Could Be So Endearing? 3 Chickens Rights Groups Urge Media to Do Positive Stories During 'September: National Chicken Month'"? Here's the lead: "Three U.S. animal rights organizations are urging the news media to balance chicken industry advertising with positive stories about chickens during National Chicken Month."
Think this is a hoax? I did at first, but this press release is only the latest in a series that includes one (from July 25) proclaiming, "Frank Perdue Now Available as a Voodoo Doll." It's true, as the press release noted, that celebrated New York Times writer William Grimes published a book this year, My Fine Feathered Friend, that details Mr. Grimes's "strong emotional attachment to a chicken." And it's true that eatchicken.com is on the offensive, advertising Roasted Garlic Teriyaki Chicken.
The hoax would have to be incredibly elaborate, and in any event the sad joke is on us. How should we react when unborn children are killed while a battle rages over whether to eat chicken? How did Daniel react when King Belshazzar of Babylonia put on a flowing feast for 1,000 of his closest friends and desecrated golden goblets taken from the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem? As the king with his nobles, wives, and concubines got drunk "and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone," Daniel calmly praised the God of the Bible and interpreted the writing on the wall: "God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end."
But there's good news amid the bad: With craziness all around us, belief in God more and more appears as the rational alternative to faith in quicksand. Colleen Carroll writes in The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy that recent college graduates are rejecting the relativist and postmodernist teaching their parents paid for and are moving onto solid ground (Loyola Press, 2002). I see some of that among students at the University of Texas.
And there's great news amid the good, contained in the promise the Bible notes almost at its end, in chapter 21 of the book of Revelation: Someday, for those who believe in Christ, "God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore." With that in mind, and with God's grace, we can calm and quiet our souls.