Time to re-examine values: Column
By Rev. Robert Poindexter
I was born in the southern part of this country and grew up with certain values: love of God, love of country and love of family. At 17, I joined the U.S. Army and trained with the Army Airborne. After training, jumping from an aircraft while it was still flying began not to make much sense, so I quit. As a reward, the Army reassigned me to Korea. I spent the 13-month assignment carrying 30-caliber machine guns up mountains, camping out in rainstorms like I had never experienced and feeling isolated except from my foxhole buddies. Finally, I was returned stateside and stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas. Afterward, I completed my service obligation by spending three years in the California National Guard.
I married a really great lady and we began a family. For about 10 years I worked in the construction industry operating heavy earth moving equipment building roads and dams; I operated cranes building pipelines and buildings.
I felt during my experience in the military, some important aspects of life had been left out. So I began training for the Army Chaplaincy. It wasn’t as if I had any previous formal education. Therefore, I began college. My wife, now of 53 years, and my children were dragged through the experience of my obtaining a seminary education in order to serve in the chaplaincy. I completed my education and was commissioned by the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches as a U.S. Army chaplain. I served three years on active duty and three years in the California National Guard.
I have been in the service of the Christian Church for over 44 years. All the aforementioned speaks of learning some values about life, love and country. I learned ideas about God were good for my spiritual life. I learned how to sacrifice for the love of my country. I also learned, a good relationship with a partner was the most valuable aspect of life; if there were to be any happiness.
Lately, I’ve been hearing different things than what I was taught. I am now learning those things are not really valuable any longer. For the first time I am now being told Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 25:35-40, is not applicable, is irrelevant and of little consequence to life in this country.
In America there are 43 million people living in poverty. Witnessing this only requires viewing a news program and seeing the homeless living on the street – even veterans (for whom there’s not much care). But now, I don’t need to feed them. Secondly, I no longer need to give water to the thirsty, if it’s not profitable for the stockholders – for example, Flint, Michigan. Anyway, folks can drink bottled water or boil river water for purification. Thirdly, I couldn’t possibly be required to cloth the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, especially if they’re not deserving.
I have also learned I don’t need to protect my children’s education for which I am accountable. If I can’t pay, they can borrow money from government guaranteed loans and upon graduation go into adulthood owing $50,000 plus. In California when I grew up, education was free. U.S. statistics indicate some are over 55 years of age and still paying off student debt.
I have also learned, the 43 million folks living in poverty don’t deserve good health. Therefore, they can just hack it out for themselves or continue being a burden to the local community. In reality, they have health care paid for by me; they can just go to the emergency room, but it’s the costliest road to achieve it.
Lately, I am being told the air I breathe is of little importance and not as much of a consequence as having no job; I don’t need to concern myself about the breathability of air – it doesn’t matter what’s dumped into it. I am not sure about others, but if I went through my own closet taking out everything I’ve not worn for over two years, I could probably cloth several who are naked. Oh incidentally, if it were possible to count the numbers of folks I visited when they were sick or incarcerated – as a chaplain/minister – wow, there weren’t many.
Perhaps my whole hope is I could take another look at my own values. I often wonder if I might need another chance to re-evaluate them. It’s possible, I could be out of step and not even realize it; perhaps having wrong values.
Oh Lord, I don’t know what to do. I need help sorting out some things. Could you help me? Do I even dare pray about misguided values?
Rev. Robert Poindexter is a resident of Quincy.