February 27, 2006
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend,

"Good grief, Charlie Brown!" If you're one of those people who visit the comics before you head for the headlines, it may be good preparation for the "what happened before we went to print" version of the "news." In Charlie Brown's world, he would never get the chance to get his head up into the blue sky of "positive thinking;" he would be - forever - brought back to reality by his buddies - Lucy, Linus, Pigpen - on the ground. The character with the brightest demeanor was the one with the least to say: Snoopy watched what went on... but always had a "way of escape" with his single-seat fighter plane, conveniently masquerading as a doghouse. "Good grief!" is a pretty good intro to the news-of-the-day...

The Winter Olympics have given us all a welcomed distraction from the realities of the world-at-large, circa 2006. With the closing of the Games, it's headed back to "normal." Good grief...

Fifteen years ago next week, an amateur videotape showed the world the beating of Rodney King, by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department. Good grief. The aftermath was uncontrollable riots in the streets of LA, a departmental overhaul at the PD... and the famous line uttered by King: "Can't we all just get along?" The answer, a decade and a half later, is, probably not.

Samuel P. Huntington is a professor at Harvard University. The Clash of Civilizations is his controversial theory in international relations: that people's cultural/religious identity will be the primary agent of conflict in the post-Cold War world. Huntington's thesis was originally formulated in an article entitled "The Clash of Civilizations?" published in the academic journal Foreign Affairs in 1993. The term itself was first used by Bernard Lewis in the September 1990 issue of The Atlantic Monthly entitled "The Roots of Muslim Rage." Huntington later expanded his thesis in a 1996 book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. His proposal is debated by theorists... but most any reader of modern news would find it a difficult position to argue against.

This morning in California, news outlets like the Los Angeles Times reported an assault on the state's middle school textbooks. Problem? They portray Hinduism as "a religion of monkey and elephant gods, rigid caste discrimination and oppression of women." Abhijit Kurup - a Southern California resident whose religion is Hindu - is taking his case to the state Board of Education. Reason? "It degraded my religion." (Never mind whether it was "true!")

A Berlin by-line opened an article with this lead line: " Europe is a cultural ground zero of Muslim frustration bristling against and challenging the continent's vaunted ideals of tolerance..." Riots outside Paris preceded the unprecedented Muslim revulsion to the insensitive - but, largely banal - editorial cartoons that portrayed Mohammed in unfavorable terms. Train bombings in Madrid? Subway terror in London? The Clash is underway in Europe...

Nations are no longer the source of conflict. The world of today - and, of tomorrow - will be marked by the collision of the cultures defined by religious history and personal faith. Is Huntington right? or, will everyone make Rodney King the prophet du jour and choose, instead, to "just get along?"

It seems that the modern, politically-correct American answer runs more along the Rodney King path. "Tolerance" is the answer to differences of every type and tone. Can a passive tolerance offset an antagonistic dominance from systems that lack the underlying foundation of belief and practice that has defined the Judeo/Christian era?

Good grief? That's the comic response. What's the reasoned, biblical response?

God has a strategic approach that fits every generation. It isn't good grief; it's good news. Good news? Yes: that's the Gospel (literally, the good news).

What is it? Simply: our biggest problem isn't the rift between cultures. It is the rift between mankind and Creator God. Sin separates; grace closed the gap, when God gave His Son, Jesus Christ, to offer Himself as the full payment for sin. Civilizations clash... but, Jesus saves. Still does. Only solution. Urgent message.

Bob Shank

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