I recently read a new book by columnist Thomas Friedman, Thank you for Being Late. The theme is to understand the impact of change, particularly electronic communication, on our lives. Certainly, here in Pickens County there has been tremendous change since 1998 when I came. Few people had computers and were on the internet. Very few smart phones. No texting. We shopped in stores, not online. Very few TV channels for news and entertainment. The textile industry still provided about 1,000 jobs for our residents. We could buy new cars in the county.
Friedman identifies six important learnings for himself coming from his many interviews with key leaders in government, business and industry.
- America is becoming more diverse and, for him, this is a good thing. While he makes a good case for this, he neglects the importance of a society having shared values, a common set upon which laws can be based and followed. For many such values as freedom of religion, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, security, property rights, traditional family and rewards for hard work seem threatened by change. Some of us worry that “the baby is being thrown out with the bath wash,” that in blissfully accepting diversity we will set the stage for chaos.
- He found that many successful persons believed that being mentored by a successful person was the key to their success. I hope that one application for this truth here in our association will be experienced pastors mentoring the young pastors and other church leaders will mentor those who will take over the leadership in years to come. Today most of our pastors are local and not formally trained as ministers of the Gospel.
- Friedman sees that for a community, or a nation, to prosper, and for there to be peace and order in the world, the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” needs to be actively practiced. Perhaps this is the corrective to weakness I see with number one above. However, from my perspective the Golden Rule is not consistently applied by most in their everyday lives, nor in the practices of businesses and government. He suggests, and I would certainly agree, that this must become a priority. For this to happen, in my opinion, it needs to begin with an emphasis on it in our churches. If millions of Christians around the world would do so, then there is hope.
- He continues that isolation is a great threat for our nation. True. But so, to my mind, is an uncritical embracing of diversity and all change. One of the great fallacies of popular culture is that change is progress. Often it is, but often it is not. For example, consider the context of television and music entertainment. Lots of trash. Or consider mind altering drugs. Or consider the failed efforts of communism. Change is not a synonym for progress.
- So, while we should benefit from changes in our lives: personally, family, community, nation and world, I cannot just accept these changes uncritically. In many cases the change has been at least as bad as what it aimed to correct. It seems that the election of Donald Trump can be interpreted as many Americans feeling that some of the changes in the past couple of decades were not beneficial. Certainly, there are flaws in how things are structures and there are flaws in how we live. Changes need to be changed. But there needs to be a criteria for judging changes. To my mind this is found in the Word of God. There we find principles for how to conduct our lives, how to relate to others, both neighbors and enemies, how to have a family, a business, a community, and a nation. If change is to be made, make in a way that reflects the will of God.
- Finally, good relationships, good transactions, good neighborhoods are based on trust. Here the Golden Rule comes back in. Trust comes out of repeated experiences with one another. It can and should build and expand over time. What a wonderful thing it is to have a trust relationship with another person.
- While I doubt many of you will take the time to read this book for yourselves, I do hope that you will consider its points and work for better relationships on all levels in the coming year. Work on being a Golden Rule person in 2017.