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Wisdom Calls: What Goes Up Must Come Down

By Bob Slosser Columnist – I want to say a few words to those politicians who gather in nominating conventions from time to time, as the Democrats are gathered in Los Angeles this week. The words apply to the Republicans, too, of course, and it's not too late for the Grand Old Party to listen, including Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney.

I'm reflecting on pride, which eats so deeply into our national and world fabrics right now. I've watched a good chunk of this century as a newsman but only recently as a navel-gazing thumb-sucking sacred cow, as the ol' newspaper community used to refer to columnists, now disguised as commentary writers. And I've never seen our planet, especially the American continent, in such urgent need of reform in pride and arrogance.

It's just as bad, if not worse, with the younger folks, who on one hand offer so much hope in their business and technological acumen and on the other, offer the screamin' meemies with their disregard for civility, courtesy, law and valuable tradition. Not all tradition is founded on truth, of course, but a lot is and we need to take a hard look at it before we throw it all out.

I've been looking at the biblical prophets on the subject of pride and I've come across again the words of Isaiah and Ezekiel about how a beautiful, high-powered being, presumably an angel, God's delight, became Satan the adversary. Sadly, the whole creation was infected by his pride and love of self more than God. Some scriptural lines refer to Satan as the prince of this world (John 12:31, NIV), the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (Ephesians 2:2) and the rulers of this dark world (Ephesians 6:12). We've been infected by his pride, selfish ambition and lawlessness.

Isaiah, in one of those passages of Scripture that has a sort of skipping effect down through history, presents a type of Satan when he writes of a taunt from Sheol. It describes Babylon (a type of Lucifer) as having said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly -- I will make myself like the most high (Isaiah 14:12-14). He is to be cast into the depths of the pit.

Ezekiel speaks of the King of Tyre, another type of Satan, when the prophet quotes God: You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God (where Satan was disguised as the serpent). You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth (Ezekiel 28:12-17). Pride and self-love are running wild on the earth.

Today has been referred to as the Me Generation. Early in the century lived a young writer who wrote the definitive novel of the Lost Generation, which sounded a lot like us. It was F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise, an immediate and spectacular success. It still is. On the last page, Fitzgerald, himself a wasted young man who died early, wrote:

Here was a new generation, shouting the old cries, learning the old creeds, through a a revery of long days and nights; destined finally to go out into that dirty gray turmoil to follow love and pride; a new generation dedicated more than the last to the fear of poverty and the worship of success, grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken

There was no God in his heart, he knew; his ideas were still in riot; there was ever the pain of memory; the regret for his lost youth -- yet the waters of disillusion had left a deposit on his soul, responsibility and a love of life, the faint stirring of old ambitions and unrealized dreams. And he could not tell why the struggle was worth while, why he had determined to use to the utmost himself and his heritage from the personalities he had passed.

He stretched out his arms to the crystalline, radiant sky.

I know myself, he cried, but that is all.

Satan has stacked the deck against all of us, and only Jesus Christ can set us free from it. But he can do it, rather quickly. I'm concerned especially at this time of year with politicians, entertainers, authors, scholars, folks like that. They are especially vulnerable, and, unhappily, they have a huge effect on millions and billions of people.

George Bush Sr. had an understanding and a bit of protection in his professional life. George W. should, too, but he and Cheney are in heady territory, and they must guard against pride, selfishness, self-gratification, and temptation to pull a few shortcuts on God and his unchanging principles.

Vice President Gore worries me. His wife, Tipper, is far more knowledgeable about the matters I've talked about. But Al, a good Tennessean (that isn't an oxymoron, is it?) hasn't taken time to get caught up fully. He loves that limelight. Mr. Lieberman sort of pleased me with his morality and courage with Clinton awhile back. But there are some guys out there in Los Angeles that you need to keep an eye on. They think politics is all about self-gratification, instantly.

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