A Death in the Family

This is my Father’s world.

Maltbie Davenport Babcock

By Dr. Jim Ferguson

I am a native Knoxvillian and, except when I was in medical school and internal medicine residency, I have lived in Knoxville all my life. I went to Tyson Junior High and graduated from West High before going to college at UTK and then UT’s medical school in Memphis.

When I was at West, I remember the James Agee facility next to the baseball field where I spent innumerable hours playing baseball. I had a vague awareness of James Agee, but I had never read any of his books. I’m correcting this now after his autobiographical book title, A Death in the Family, recently popped into my mind.

Because of the destruction of our country and our church, Becky and I are experiencing a death in the family and going through Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ stages of death and dying. We are beyond the initial stage of denial (disbelief) as we watched church and country disassembled and the rule of law ignored. We now vacillate between anger, bargaining and most recently sadness (depression). I don’t see how we will ever be able to accept the evil that swirls around us in the form of crime, injustice, apostasy and modern idolatry where government is maneuvering to replace God. Last week I wrote about the Babylonian destroyers who were at the gates of Jerusalem in the late sixth century BC. Our destroyers now walk among us because we have elected them as leaders, while quislings support their institutionalized tyranny.

I hate to be repetitious, but some things are so important they need to be repeated. I have previously recommended a YouTube video entitled Political Systems 101: Basic Types of Government Explained. If you have trouble using the new technology, get your kids or grandkids to help you and you can be enlightened along with them and do some vicarious parenting! There is much that is problematic on the Internet, but there is a lot of good.

As I learned of demented Joe’s student loan proclamation, and the subversion of the rule of law in Nancy Pelosi’s husband’s drunk driving accident in California, I thought about what keeps us together. The US Constitution is the operating agreement that defines us as a country and a people. Likewise, the Methodist Book of Discipline is supposedly what defines my denomination. Both are being openly defied. Even Nancy Pelosi says iPOTUS does not have the authority to forgive student debt. And Methodist educators, ministers and Bishops don’t have the authority to ignore The Book of Discipline, a polity agreement that binds our connectional denomination. But just like Biden, the Methodist leadership now openly defies what binds us together. Consequently, my beloved church is in schism.

Many think that Methodists are in schism because of controversies regarding human sexuality, the same issue that breached the Episcopal, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches. Actually, controversies regarding The Bible and the nature of Jesus Christ are far more profound but have gotten little attention perhaps because nonsexual doctrinal controversies are less titillating.

Recently, I went to the funeral of a dear friend. We sang an old hymn that has continued to resonate with me. One line goes, “…O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” This thought sustains me. I understand my origin and my ultimate destiny. Islam holds that everything is “God’s will.” However, I wrestle with this, my responsibility and purpose in this fallen world. Should I just accept lies, injustice, apostasy and idolatry as God’s will? Must I love those who are opposing my understanding of God’s will? How can I love the unlovable?

The Greek language recognizes seven types of love. Examples are eros or erotic love, philia or brotherly love and agape which is sacrificial love. English uses modifiers to define love such as I love my wife Becky, I love chocolate and I love the worship service at Sevier Heights Church.

A friend and I have been discussing personal love and impersonal love. You could say that my love of Becky is personal, whereas my love of chocolate or my love of country may be intense, but would be impersonal.

Scott Peck wrote the celebrated book The Road Less Traveled. He defines love as any activity which advances your own or another’s spiritual development. Jesus said that we should love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind; and our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27). This ideal is tough, even after Jesus expanded on the concept with the parable of The Good Samaritan.

As Emmanuel, Jesus could extend his multifaceted love to everyone. I can extend my love beyond my skin to my wife, family and friends, but not to the ends of the earth because I am human and limited. Mahatma Gandhi was called the Great Soul and was said to have loved greatly. Jesus was the greatest soul and loved to the ends of the earth. I am far less capable. Nonetheless, I am challenged to do my best, to do my duty to God and country and those I love (Ferguson’s modification of the Boy Scout pledge).

I once heard that the opposite of love is not hatred but indifference. I’m not sure I accept this. To love someone requires a personal relationship. And because I’m human there are many souls on this planet with whom I have no personal relationship. I may be sympathetic to their journey, but empathy and love may be beyond my reach.

Perhaps the same goes for hatred. There are people with whom I disagree, but no one that I hate. The hatred of Donald Trump by those who have no personal relationship with him is in my opinion an example of the antithesis of love. Such hatred has driven many insane, and our country is reaping the consequences of such irrational hatred.

I will close these ruminations with one of my axioms and a last thought to consider: “Sometimes the best explanation for the otherwise inexplicable is evil.”