Save Yourself!

yorktown george washington Lord_CornwallisWe’re an independent lot, here in America. We want to govern ourselves. Only through war did we learn the paradox that by combining thirteen colonies into one “united states” could we do just that. Colonists who refused such a grand vision, who wanted to remain New Yorkers or Bostonians rather than become Americans for example, fled to Great Britain. Good riddance.

We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. ~ Ben Franklin

This independent streak eventually headed south, resulting in the Confederacy and the Civil War. The American Revolution was a success for self-government and independence, on a national scale. The Civil War, however, was a disaster. I agree with states’ rights but not on slavery. It became a federal issue when 3/5 of a person was written into the Constitution in 1787, so only a Congressional amendment could fix it. And since when is human trafficking a right?

hitler nazi warAmerica reunified after the Civil War through business and industry. Independence still marched into the 20th century, this time as neutrality. “Let’s save ourselves,” people said when they heard the rumblings of war in 1930s Europe. They didn’t seem to care about people suffering and dying because of Hitler. Pearl Harbor changed all that. Americans learned that only by saving others could they save themselves and, in the words of President Woodrow Wilson, “make the world safe for democracy.” Where would the world be today without Japanese bombs? Would America still have clung to neutrality?

Our independent streak reared its head again in the 1960s. “Let’s save ourselves,” we said when we saw the Communists try to overrun Vietnam. There was no Pearl Harbor to wake us out of our stupor this time. DDT was a horrible weapon and we botched most on-the-ground battles, but that didn’t change the Communists’ real threat. We just decided we didn’t care. The Rwandan genocide was no better. “They’re just poor people with no gold or oil,” we told ourselves.

Now we want Ukraine to fend for itself against Russia. We’re offended when President Obama has anything to say about the conflict. “How dare Obama give his two cents on democracy? And who cares about what happens in Europe? Let’s fix our problems at home – and save ourselves.” This pretty little speech is ignorant of both international politics and foreign policy. First, it is the President’s duty to say something. Ignoring the conflict makes him a bad world leader. Second, the U.S. signed the 1994 Budapest Memorandum with the UK, Ukraine, and Russia. Putin violated this treaty when he invaded Crimea recently. Just yesterday he signed a treaty with Crimea, making it part of Russia. How far will Putin go before we forsake isolation?

No man is an island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. ~ John Donne

If we really wanted to save America, we’d ditch neutrality altogether. Forsaking regional for national and national for international identities produces the miracle of self-government. It means refusing neutrality, looking outward at others’ needs instead of inward towards our own. Only by saving others can we save ourselves. So there is nothing with making international treaties with other nations and helping them when they’re in need. In today’s global economy, political isolation is naïve. I wish Ron Paul would see this. The man needs his own Pearl Harbor.

We want to help trafficking victims in other countries. We want to feed the hungry and clothe the naked too. Thanks to British missionary William Carey, we even want to spread the gospel around the world. If it weren’t for him, we’d probably still believe that God can save people without us and then let sinners fend for themselves. Why doesn’t this international humanitarianism spread to politics? Why do we cling to neutrality?

God doesn’t need us, remember? So he could have stuck to heavenly isolation and independence when he saw us dying in our sins. Jesus could have let us fend for ourselves, weeping when we entered hell but doing nothing about it. I’m glad our Trinitarian God doesn’t work that way.

jesus-carries-the-cross christAs Jesus was on the cross, passersby told him, “If you’re the Son of God, then come down from the cross and save yourself!” (Matthew 27:40, Mark 15:30, Luke 23:37, 39) The chief priests said, “He saved others. Himself he cannot save” (Matthew 27:42, Mark 15:31). They didn’t know Jesus wasn’t in the business of saving himself. He came to earth to save us. I’m so glad Jesus said no to neutrality. Aren’t you?


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