I don’t do New Year’s resolutions anymore. However, I do have a few New Year’s hopes and wishes.

For instance, I hope that some time in the coming year we can find a way to get our troops out of Iraq. They should never have been sent there in the first place, and to keep them there in harm’s way borders on criminal behavior.

Every trumped up reason for the war has proven false. There were no weapons of mass destruction, there is no burgeoning democracy, and there is no peace between Sunni’s and Shiites. And while there was not an Al Qaeda presence in Iraq before 9/11, there is now. The Iraq war has become the terrorists’ most effective recruiting tool and our continued presence there only fuels the fires of hate.

I also hope that some time in the coming year we finally decide to do something about our dependence on crude oil as an energy source. Not only does oil entangle us in the web of Middle Eastern politics, but our consumption of oil contributes to a growing environmental catastrophe.

Weather patterns may indeed move in cycles across time. Drought and rain may come and go in predictable patterns. But it is the height of human foolishness to think that human activity does not affect the intensity and duration of these cycles. If we continue to keep our head in the sand about this, that may become our permanent position.

I am also hoping in the coming year we rediscover our compassion. We have been angry and frightened for so long that we have forgotten how to be compassionate. In the aftermath of 9/11 there was an outpouring of charity and self sacrifice. Since then it has all but disappeared. Charitable groups around the country report significant declines in annual giving.

Of course no one really believes charity can do all that needs to be done. There was a time when we thought “we the people” could pull together to accomplish great acts of kindness. But now we want “the end of big government.” That’s the catch phrase that is used to criticize social programs that offer help for the poor and needy.

On the other hand, there are those who don’t mind big government, so long as it’s just reading our e-mails and listening to our phone calls. I guess that is another hope I have for the coming year ”that we might gradually begin to reclaim the civil liberties we have given away trying to feel safe.

Speaking of fear, I am also hoping for a renewal of faith. Not the kind of faith we’ve been seeing ”faith on the campaign trail, faith on the lips of politicians at convenient moments, faith as a knife that cuts and divides communities. No, I am hoping for a renewal of a different kind of faith.
If Jesus is right and the greatest good is to love God and our neighbor, then the establishment of a genuine human community is a divine imperative. I am hoping this will become our purpose in life.

Jesus said if we possessed faith the size of a mustard seed we could accomplish amazing things. Not necessarily big things, but meaningful things ”like a beloved and just community for example. It makes sense when we think about it. Neighbors take care of each other, and the neighborhood. That’s something to hope for.

James L. Evans, a syndicated columnist, also serves as pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.

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