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Just dropping by ... ‘No Man is an Island’

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Dairyman Published on 24 August 2016

Back in the day, when I woke up to the quiet sounds of birds chirping in the trees and the warm serene light of morning streaming through my curtains, and the warm secure feeling of family wrapped around me like a blanket, I knew the absence of fear.

I knew that God was just a prayer away and all would be well. I knew my parents loved me, and my friends and neighbors were close by. One cry from me would bring the entire neighborhood to my rescue. That is the way it was back then. We were not afraid.

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We played in the roadway after dark and wandered unattended through the forest. We didn’t wear seat belts or helmets. In fact, we rode in the back of the pickup trucks for miles and miles on the highway, and we swam in muddy rain-filled watering tanks that the cows drank from and sloshed around in, leaving the edges green with manure.

We did not grow up in fear of the next pandemic or the next violent attack from a developing country because we lived in the arms of Christianity. Nearly everyone felt the same way about life. It didn’t matter what brand of Christian you were, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist or Mormon, you knew the commandments, and the Bible was a mainstay in nearly every home.

If you got in trouble at school, your parents knew it before you got home. Your secret pranks on the street were always your next conversation with your parents. We lived with the “brother’s keeper” mentality. Everyone took responsibility for everyone else’s safety and well-being.

It was a time when people believed John Donne’s “Meditation”:

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.

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And the song written with same theme by Joan Baez shows how it was back then:

No Man is an Island

No man is an island,
No man stands alone,
Each man’s joy is joy to me,
Each man’s grief is my own.
We need one another,
So I will defend,
Each man as my brother,
Each man as my friend.
I saw the people gather,
I heard the music start,
The song that they were singing,
Is ringing in my heart.
No man is an island,
Way out in the blue,
We all look to the one above,
For our strength to renew.
When I help my brother,
Then I know that I,
Plant the seed of friendship,
That will never die.

Today, we live in a world of islands. We lock our doors and buy security systems – and still we don’t feel safe. We don’t know our neighbors, and our neighbors don’t know us. We avoid eye contact and feel embarrassed if we make a mistake and smile and the person doesn’t smile back.

We sit right next to a person in the subway or the doctor’s office and never know his or her name. We suspect the worst in the newcomer, and we are forced to teach our children that strangers are danger, as they often are.

We teach our little ones to fear germs, accidents, modes of communication and the police. We no longer live in the embrace of Christianity. We live under the magnifying glass of greed and entitlement promoted by the media. The white-hot quest for entertainment, money and power has eclipsed the love of humanity. It’s all about “me, myself and I.”

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The Bible warns us of such people:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

Without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
—2 Timothy 3:1-5

With men and women of this caliber acting as leaders of our country, it is easy to see how we can watch the demise of our Constitution and the death of hundreds on television and still not rise up and scream to the world, “Enough is enough!” It is easy to see why politicians make promises they don’t intend to keep and with smug faces vote for the destruction of our nation’s values and laws.

These people view the world as a series of boxes. One box for business, one for morals, one for neighbors and friends, and one for strangers. There are no doors or windows in the boxes, so you can do whatever you want in each box and it doesn’t affect anything else. In other words, morals don’t come into play when you are making business deals, and strangers can be hurt because they are not part of my friends and close neighbors.

Christianity is only a box to be opened on Sunday if it’s convenient, or to be worn as a badge at election time. For such men and women, the determining factor for all action is the same. “What is in it for me? How can I make things better for me?”

Islands and boxes are not Jesus’ way. The very doors of Christianity hinge on the statement, “If ye are not one, ye are not Mine.” Christianity has no compartments or boxes to hide in. It is one continuous “straight and narrow path” reaching to eternity. All good feeds into that path, and all bad leads away from it. Sunday go-to-meetings is not just for once a week.

It is the beginning of the week, the ending of the week and all the days in between. Every stranger is an opportunity to act as the Good Samaritan and every neighbor, black, white, red or yellow, is a brother or sister.

It is difficult to have charity toward all men when we see and hear of so many horrific acts of violence. There is real danger out there. We cannot live in the same world I grew up in. We must be vigilant and prayerful. God will bless us with protection, or He will allow glory to be our epitaph.

We must pray for our hearts to be soft so we will be able to forgive our enemies. We must take courage and remember our Exemplar who said, as He hung on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We must pray for our enemies and “do good to those who despitefully” use us and persecute us. We must learn to forgive as Jesus forgave.

Why? If we do not forgive, we become part of the problem. We will kill the very spark of Christianity with the venom of hatred. Then the enemy has won. He will take home the spoils, and our heritage will be buried again in the dark ages of history, and Christ will have died in vain. In other words, we must make Christianity our greatest and only quest.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ enumerated the blessings of true Christians. May we live so as to be worthy of those blessings.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
—Matthew 5:3-12 PD

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