As a father, I’m on a personal mission to give my teenage sons an education on WWII. To that end, we’re watching through the great movies.
We recently watched Saving Private Ryan, and I’m thinking now of this great scene early in the movie, after the storming of Omaha Beach and the assigning of the rescue mission which gives the movie its plot and theme – finding and extracting Private James Francis Ryan after all his brothers are killed in action while serving in various theaters.
Captain Miller’s men don’t see the reason for risking all their lives to save one guy they don’t even know. So they’re complaining about it and questioning it as they make their way. Then the captain is asked his opinion, and he deftly responds in a way that’s humorous but also a deflection of sorts.
“There’s a chain of command. Gripes go up, not down.”
That is to say, Captain Miller isn’t telling them they can’t complain. And he’s not saying they have no reason to complain. What he is saying is he’s not going to join in on the complaining, whatever his personal thoughts. They’re soldiers who’ve been given orders, and they’re going to follow those orders. And that’s all there is to it.
Bringing the whole business back to reality, specifically my own reality – though it should be added that the movie is based on a true story – when does raising a legitimate complaint or question about an objective or issue cross the line into inappropriateness or even insubordination?
That is, whether we’re talking about human authorities or the God who institutes every human authority, grumbling and murmuring are not good, and neither is being hyper-critical. And yet, on the other hand, there must be some appetite for raising issues and pointing out negative or even dangerous features and facts in order to mitigate and respond appropriately to them.
A decade under my belt in the oil and gas industry, for instance, has taught me that there is a constant need when dealing with high pressures, high temperatures, complicated processes, and flammable, explosive substances. That need is to check constantly the function and reliability of safety systems. Are the instruments working? What are they telling us? Is the safety shutdown matrix configured to keep the operation functioning within the bounds of the engineering specifications?
Yet you will always have folks in operations who are loathe to shut down production for a time to test, troubleshoot, repair, or replace components, especially proactively. And sometimes the lower-level reps need a little convincing from their superiors up the chain-of-command.
On the flipside, when safety culture gets out of hand, you will always find neat-nicks and nitpickers who clap their hands and smile with glee to find even the slightest arbitrary or even potential deviation from the strictest interpretation of the guidelines and procedures. This in turn serves to undermine those with legitimate concerns among the types who never want a temporary shut down for any reason, very much like the unamused townspeople in the story of the boy who cried wolf.
But sooner or later, if valid concerns are not addressed, the wolf does come along, and the boy gets eaten. And if a come-apart results from safety systems not functioning properly, everyone is the worse for it – including especially the ‘show must go on’ production fanatics. After all, when a pipe or vessel ruptures or bursts into flames, the downtime and cost is always far greater than if a pre-planned and orderly timeout had been scheduled ahead of time.
Yet this brings me away from talk of Captain Miller and Oil and Gas automation. What about problems of a more theological and philosophical nature in the Church?
Having recently discussed this week what tone is appropriate when talking about Big Eva figures like Platt, Tripp, Mason, and Keller on questions of social justice and CRT, I am coming more to the realization that many Christians I know are still unsure whether these Leftist ideologies are critically important to the thought and practice of the Church. Some of us are still undecided on whether Woke Christianity represents just one among many legitimate variations on our faith, or whether it does in fact preach and practice a false gospel.
The reason I say this is that questions have been raised concerning the appropriateness of a sarcastic or snarky tone when detailing concerns about the validity of Woke Christianity. Is it ever proper to communicate disdain or disgust for Leftist advocacy, or else moral equivocation between Democrat and Republican party platforms, or between progressivism and conservatism?
More specifically, is it untoward when talking specifically about the truth and decency of statements made by Platt, Tripp, Mason, and Keller – high-profile pastors all – to become agitated and mocking?
As I reason, this might be a question if a preceding question remains unresolved in the minds of listeners. Namely, the preceding question is this: whether social justice and CRT being mixed with Christianity is fair or foul.
If foul, and even potentially fatal, then it would seem to me that ambivalence not only could legitimately provoke frustration in me, but that it must. But if fair, or at least relatively innocuous, then I must seem to be making much ado about nothing, or at least nothing so important as all that.
Returning again to WWII analogies, I’m reminded of the reasons Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces and Patton was almost relieved of command and sent home. Ike was a politician destined for the presidency. Patton was a brilliant tactician who had read and studied Rommel, and therefore could anticipate his moves. Ike was put in place to bring everyone together – even egotistical blowhards like Montgomery – and Patton was thinking forward to the objectively greater hazard which Communist Russia would pose once Germany was defeated.
What doomed Patton was not that he was wrong about Russia, but rather that he was too right, and too clearly right, and it galled the proudest members of the coalition of the willing who did not appreciate much being backed into a corner publicly.
So accidents happen, and did to Patton, or at least were made to appear as though they had happened to him. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. And because everyone was so war-weary, a bad outcome for all was guaranteed at the expense of one of the great heroes of not only WWII but of both American and world history.
The important thing was not chiefly that the Soviet Union was fatally dangerous to untold millions around the world. No, the more important thing was that Patton was dangerous to the reputation and authority of the powers-that-be among the Allies.
Even so, there is a wide chasm between this being true and there being much or any practical benefit in pointing it out in the short-term.
As Pontius Pilate so famously quipped, “What is truth?”
The answer for many just so happens to be summed up in the words of Hiram W. Johnson. “The first casualty when war comes is truth.”
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