There is an old saying, “People who believe nothing will believe anything.” A man named G.K. Chesterton said that or something similar, and I know it is true. We all believe, we are incurably religious, and if we don’t have truth, we will attach our belief to something false. If life has no meaning, we will find a purpose; and some purposes are bad for us.
When I was a boy, my family went to church. Every adult in my life was strict, and apparently, following their rules was the way to God. I didn’t always believe them, but I learned early that it was important not to get caught. I grew up in the days of beatings, and at school the principal had a regulation strap issued by the school board. I only got one regulation punishment, around the age of eight, and that was enough for me. I didn’t want more of that pain, so I carefully stayed out of trouble, and avoided anyone who could punish me. My parents were also generous with the corporal punishment. If you are wondering, my family was like all the others in the neighborhood. Punishment of bad boys was physical and severe in those days.
When I grew to be an adult, I read a newspaper story about my school, which is old and historical in my city. That’s where I learned that my old principal was a retired baseball player. Now I know why that strap hurt so much, he had muscular athletic arms. That old grey-haired man could bring that tool down hard on a soft hand.
At church preachers told us to find a purpose for our lives, and not to live for no reason. I never believed that. I always found a purpose and a focus, even if I only wanted to stay away from that strap at school, and avoid other beatings. The meaning of life was given to me. I settled for conforming and watching carefully, and never getting caught.
A few weeks ago, a police officer put his knee on the neck of another man, and killed him in the city of Minneapolis. It may have been personal, those two men allegedly knew each other. We all know, the video of the dying man begging for his life started riots and terrible destruction. Now we know the end of the story, and we hope it won’t happen again.
I disagree with lighting a police car on fire and jumping on the roof. That does not fit with any purpose I found for my life, but apparently, some people find meaning in burning and destroying things. That purpose and focus has come to their lives.
I clearly remember a day when I stood at a bus stop, on a snowy day in December, and I knew I needed something better. I was almost an adult, and I knew that my philosophy of surviving and not getting caught was not what I needed. I needed truth. I remember praying and asking God to help me because I didn’t have the tools that I needed to live. From that time, somehow, I found a purpose and focus that I didn’t have before.
I remember that time, now when I drive by that bus stop.
I am still learning what Jesus meant when He told us “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).
It’s easy to see violent criminals destroying cities and to know that they are wrong. If I’m honest, it’s also easy to remember my young life, and to know that I was wrong. My false beliefs kept me out of trouble and theirs get them into trouble, but we have the same human quality. Years from now some children will see Mom or Dad in an old video, and start asking questions. I kept my young self out of the record. One strap session was enough to keep me straight, but I still get questions.
We need truth at the center of our lives, and not just an intense belief. I hope you have found that, and I hope that miracle will happen to the sincere anarchists who are destroying our cities with religious devotion.
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. (Lamentations 3: 25 to 27)