An ad promoting a trip to Glacier National Park

There’s been lots of bad news this past week. Hurricane Ike ran ashore over Galveston, Texas, and folks as far away as Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky felt its force. The collapse of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae was quickly followed by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the eventual bailout of American International Group (AIG). All the while, our country is tossed into turmoil of a different sort.

The rhetoric of the “culture wars” is back. After Sept. 11, 2001, our country found a unified voice. Our empathy for others was unashamedly embraced in the horrific aftermath of a national tragedy. We wanted to trust one another again. We wanted to forgive our differences and work together for common ground and a better country and world.

Seven years later, in the complacencies, complicities and complexities of a post-9/11 world, we are finding ourselves more divided than ever. A protracted war with a dubious beginning and an even more elusive conclusion looms over us piling up (or digging us deeply into) a gigantic debt growing with each passing second. Other engagements in Afghanistan and Pakistan beckon attention, while the population wonders who we can really trust and what we can truly afford.

Back at home, the nostalgic values of small-town America are contrasted with a distrust of urban diversity and sophistication. Common sense is pitted against scholarly education, experience is contrasted with insight and sound judgment is exchanged for a cult of personality and charisma.

TV talking heads talk past one another, confusing volume for veracity, as misconceptions and outright lies are repeated long enough and loud enough to substitute for the truth. In this historic presidential race, the rancor is palpable as the old divisions of male versus female, young versus old, black versus white, rich versus poor and left versus right are twisted and turned inside out.

Each talking point is cloaked, every intention betrayed and every outrage pretended long before it is proclaimed. We are adrift, ravaged by storms within and without.

Soon after 9/11, we sought the best. Now, we are not so sure. Whoever wins this 2008 election, one thing is certain. Afterward, we will be an even more divided populace than ever. Because, you see, if you read this thinking I was talking about the other guy, you were wrong. I’m talking about both sides.

The culture wars are back and it’s really too bad, especially when there are so many other fights on our hands. I wonder–where are those for whom it was said: Blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful?

Where are they? Are you one?

Mark Johnson is senior minister at Central Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky

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