WHERE IS DANIEL WEBSTER WHEN YOU NEED HIM?
Long before Hollywood lost its moral, ethical compass along with its sense of prudence, the film industry had the ability to tell stories with a sense of justice, faith and equality. In the 1930s as our nation was forced into a depression due to the excesses and uncontrolled manipulation of money and commerce, another voice emerged reminding us that we are not the be all and end all of our God given destinies. This voice could be found in old folk songs, sermons of the time and movies. One such movie was The Devil and Daniel Webster from a story by Steven Benet.
In the movie, a frustrated farmer fighting the hard scrabble fields, symbolic of the dust bowl crosses the line by making a deal with "scratch" the devil. For his soul he receives a bag of gold and good fortune. In return he loses his decency, compassion and everything he loves. When it is time for Scratch to collect, the farmer Jabez Stone, realizes he has been fooled by the devil and tricked out of his soul. He turns to Daniel Webster a famed orator and lawyer. Webster demands a trial and scratch agrees as long as he can select the jury. The jury it turns out is made up of the noted criminals and traitors of the time, most notably Benedict Arnold.
In the course of the trial it is argued that a man’s soul is his own, given by God, and if forfeited then must return to the maker. There is also a greater appeal to the jury who themselves are condemned men who have been meted out justice and suffered for their crimes. Webster askes them a deep and probing question, "How many of you, knowing the depth of your guilt, the consequences of your own deal with the devil, and before God, don't desire a second chance?" All who are truly repentant may know there are no second chances but want one. The jury is swayed and the verdict returns "Not guilty". Farmer Stone is not vindicated but must rebuild again with the forgiveness of friends and in faith for a better tomorrow. He also must work the ground he is given.
In the current atmosphere of "righteous" opinion and nonstop analysis, the public square can be both cruel and biased. Here is an example. In a moment of recognition it was asked of a friend if the person in the car next to us looked like Garrison Keillor. The reply was not to look at the person or answer the question but to point out Mr. Keillor’s alleged crime and criticize the man, convict him. End of story. I was shocked. It seems in the search for "justice" we can now write off the person, shame them, take away a legacy of goodness and pass them on to obscurity with just an opinion. There seems to be no thought of the deeper individual, their walk, struggles, or even the facts. We "who of course are perfect and blameless" can just convict others, thus disregarding the second chances we ourselves have been given. We are judge, jury and executioner.
Please note that I am not giving Mr. Keillor a pass. If he has done what he is accused of, I would hope for repentance and forgiveness. He will, I hop,e face his accusers and his God and seek forgiveness. My point is, as humans and as God's children we are defined by much more than our mistakes. We are children of the cross where our savior made the point that we need forgiveness for we know not what we do. I believe in a God of second chances. If He didn't give second chances, Peter's denial would have been the end of it. Paul's persecution of the Christians is the last word. All of us fail.
Many nights both abroad in combat zones and far from family and the comforts within our nation’s boarders, and on many lonely nights driving into tough situations, I was comforted by the voice, faith, humor and down home talent of Mr. Keillor. I am truly disappointed by his alleged behavior and equally at the backlash of unequivocal condemnation. It is the nature of sin to disappoint, to take and not give what it promises. I am glad my God does not define me as the sinner I am but asks me to see my mistake, repent of the sins I undertake, learn from them, start over, and move on. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
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