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Modeled and Muddled: Recognizing Foolishness, Containing Sin

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Utopia has arrived. We’ll all be sinless from now on.

April Fools’!

The older I get the more I see we cannot eliminate sin, but we must try to contain it. Containment means allowing some divorce but ending no-fault ease. It means allowing some welfare but ending easy pickings. It means allowing small federal and state budget deficits but not the large ones we now have. Wise store managers work to minimize shoplifting, but they know a few thieves will get away. Wise officials have the same sense regarding graft and corruption. Otherwise, they and we are April fools.

Thirteen years ago our soldiers forced their way to Baghdad in only three weeks. We thought we had won: Remember the “Mission Accomplished” banner White House staffers made? But the mission had just begun. We tried to parachute democracy into a land with a history of autocracy and without the religious understanding that must underlie a successful republic. We were April fools, and we’re still paying the price. The Christians of Iraq and Syria are paying far more.

Five years ago protests raged throughout the Middle East and pundits waxed eloquent about an “Arab Spring.” Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had practiced containment concerning radical Islam, but the Obama administration dropped its support of him and the radicals took over. Providentially, they overplayed their hands and the army moved in, creating more misery than would otherwise have occurred. Throughout, Obama administration officials as well as many mediacrats (but I’m being redundant) were April fools.

Meanwhile, the United States and NATO in neighboring Libya supported rebels who overthrew Muammar Qaddafi, killing him and his son. Later, rebel forces killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others. What difference does all that make? Libya is now an anarchic country where ISIS with alacrity can seize and decapitate Christians, such as the 21 martyrs who were WORLD’s Daniels of the Year in 2015. Qaddafi was bad, but April-foolish Hillary Clinton was true to her liberal theology in believing his successors would be an improvement.

In our own Christian walks we fall into utopianism when we forget that full sanctification doesn’t come until heaven. That means we fight sin in our lives. We gain small victories. We do not win the war. Only Christ wins it for us. We should not despair when we fall short. Teenagers who peek at pornography should not think they’re down the drain. Married couples should not think divorce is inevitable when an incident of adultery occurs. When we fall off horses, we should get back on. Containment.

For centuries Jews in Russia, Poland, and Ukraine put up with pogroms -- sudden violent attacks in which a few people would be killed. Then normal life would resume. On April 6, 1942, the Jews of Piryatin, Ukraine, expected more of the same old same old. Then came something new: genocide. They had heard rumors of standard Nazi operating procedure: March Jews to a pit. Force them to take off all their clothes, both for humiliation and to make stealing their money or jewelry easy. Shoot so the bodies fall into the pit. Repeat. Most Piryatin residents did not believe people could be that evil. Tragically, they became April fools.

It’s not always bad to be an April fool. Baseball fans in many cities this spring are optimistic, and utopian hopes regarding the Chicago Cubs are the strongest they’ve been in this millennium. We need to remember former Yale president and baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti’s best line regarding baseball: “It breaks your heart. It’s designed to break your heart.” Life is similar. But the good news is that Christ came for the brokenhearted.

In Hinduism, gods are heroes. In Islam, Muhammad is perfect. In the Bible, the patriarchs and many others take turns being April fools, as do we all. Christ built the church on the faith of those who believe in Him; but Peter believed, denied, believed again on the beach, then immediately showed jealousy. Jesus is our model. Peter displays our muddle. Does March come in like a lion and go out like a lamb? On April 1 we may foolishly see ourselves as lions, but we depend on the Lamb.

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