CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©
The obituary for Earl Reitan is in the Bloomington, IL Pantagraph today. He was 90.
Earl was chair of the History Department at Illinois State University when I was the United Methodist campus minister there. Those were the years of civil rights and Viet Nam unrest on campuses, and Earl was one of the most important, even though understated, voices on our campus.
He spoke against the Viet Nam war with such credibility because he knew history and because he was a World War II veteran, a teen-aged rifleman, with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. But he spoke so thoughtfully, with respect for everyone, that his was one of the voices that kept our campus, unlike every other state campus in IL at that time, free of violence.
He would not have been in that position, though, had it not been for our willingness to care for veterans after WW II, especially with the GI Bill. Earl was a child of the poverty of the Great Depression. He liked the army; he got enough to eat there. But after his army days, he was able to go to college, and get a PhD at the U. of Illinois because of the GI Bill.
I think of all the absent Earls, Earls we need now, and will need in the future, veterans of our current wars, whose experience and wisdom we shall not be able to use because our greedy politicians are willing to ignore them in order to feather the nests of their financial contributors.
I have some Christian friends who agree with those politicians because they claim that not only should the government not help anyone in need but that individuals should not help them either, because people must learn to “stand on their own two feet” and earn their own way. It is hard to claim that is Christian thinking. Everything Jesus said would seem to contradict it. He was in favor of helping anyone in need, just because they were in need. Even if you take do that extreme “own two feet” libertarian position, though, it is hard to claim that military veterans have not earned their way. Many cannot “stand on their own two feet” anymore because they no longer have two feet.
Greed, which is the real reason for ignoring the needs of others, is not Christian, regardless of how many wordy philosophies we wrap it in.
John Robert McFarland
I tweet as yooper1721.
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