By Everette Chapman
Have we ever lived in such a contentious, vicious, accusatory, or ill-willed time? One is called upon to pose that query each time he opens his computer and looks at the internet. Someone or other is always “slamming” someone else; questioning someone else’s judgment or actions; or calling someone up short for this decision or that. Each morning, we view a litany of Biden-bashing, Trump-trolling, Republican-ripping, or Democrat-damning commentary. The theme is that the only people who are right and reasonable are those who agree with me.
I find myself remembering the old adage that “whenever you point one finger at me, you have at least three fingers pointing back at you.” Perhaps it is time for us to start being as self-accusatory and as introspective as we are demeaning and negative toward our brothers and sisters. Our public discourse needs to become more positive, sweeter, and more uplifting of others, wouldn’t you agree?
Years ago, I once saw in the intriguing comic strip, “Pogo” an interesting commentary on our human dilemma. In one of these episodes, Pogo had sent out some sort of scouting party. Upon returning, the leader of the group reported, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Whether or not the Pogo character was intended to use bad grammar was not clear, but what is clear is that in that statement there is an accurate truism and an everlasting truth. We have indeed met the enemy, and he or she is, in fact, ourselves.
Pogo’s field general is not without precedent in his misquote. The apostle Paul expressed the same principle in one of his letters. He said it this way: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do; I do the very thing I hate . . . I know that nothing good dwells in me; that is in my sinful nature, for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. What I do is not the good I want to do; it is the evil I do not want to do, that is what I keep doing.” As Paul and Pogo suggest, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
In the old railway terminal in Cincinnati, I once saw a huge mural that portrayed the history and development of mankind. In one of the tableaus, there is a depiction of two men wrestling, grappling with each other with what seems to be all their might and main. The intensity of the struggle shows in every line of their faces and in every sinew of their muscular bodies.
The careful observer, however, would be called up short by a sudden realization that the two grapplers were completely identical to each other. Slowly the realization dawns upon the observer that what is really being portrayed there was man’s ongoing struggle with himself. The struggle epitomizes the truism we often express, “I am my own worst enemy.”
And isn’t that the gospel truth? I can blame others for my troubles; I can lash out at those who are different from me; I can sum up the problems with the world by blaming this political party or the other. There’s a lot of that going around nowadays. Sooner or later we need to turn that pointing finger back toward ourselves and become more charitable toward others.
No one holds me back from the fulfillment of my goals as much as I do. No one makes a fool of me like yours truly. Nor can anyone else cause my bad attitude like I can. My failures, mistakes, and shortcomings are no one’s fault but my own. Moreover, what is true of me is no doubt just as true for you. In a word, we need to stop lashing out at others and own our share of the blame for what is wrong with our community, our state, our nation, and our world.
Ironically, those stories early in Genesis about our human forebears show that the “blame game” started quite early. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, and since God created the serpent, it might have blamed God. Ever since that time, mankind has fallen into the trap of always blaming someone or something else for whatever is wrong.
Yet “The Gospel According to Pogo” still sounds in our ears: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” That “gospel,” however, is the bad news. The good news of the real “Gospel” is that we may admit our faults, confess our mistakes and failures, and the God who holds Himself accountable freely forgives. That truly is Good News!