Sometime back in the early seventies there was a song that swept the country called Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. Le Roi, that’s French for king you know. Leroy had machismo; men 6 ft 4 called him “sir” and he was mean, the meanest man on the southside of Chicago. In fact, he was meaner than a junkyard dog. Could anyone be meaner than that? Can’t you just see that dog,-- yellow eyed, bony, mangey, hackles raised, fangs bared, snarling? He was a playful puppy once, but see how life has served him. It has turned him into a brute. We have all seen dogs kicked around who don’t grow up to be mean; they are cowardly, tails between their legs, they shiver all over when a man can get near them. The point is plain enough. What life does to dogs, it also does to people –and more. Life serves people badly: it is full of emotional shocks and yanks. By it we are made sad, happy, even elated, then get knocked off our feet.
Many of us can only imagine how bad growing up in this hostile world can be. For the black or Puerto Rican in Harlem where things are so bad there are some places where the police won’t go. Often garbage lies uncollected on the streets. Every city has its street wise little urchins. To survive in their kind of world they must build a wall, or shell, that protects them from reality. This allows them to have something that passes for sanity. It is impossible for many to remain sensitive human beings. They become hardened, brutalized and insensitive to others.
Again in the early seventies was a TV show, All in the Family, starring one Archie Bunker. He was a perfect example of the brutalized person I’m speaking about. He was raised in New York City, a man of limited ability in a very tough environment. As a matter of physical and emotional survival he becomes a brute. He does not react to other people’s problems. He does not allow himself the luxury of feeling sorry for others. Only if the problems of another person threatens his own security does he react to it. Thus if Edith, his wife, becomes upset, he would attempt to calm her only because he wants to be sure she will fix his supper.
Other men escape from life by becoming cowards, by becoming a recluse, or by being an under achiever, or perhaps entering a monastery. You are limited only by your imagination in conjuring up what men do to themselves to hide from the stark reality of life. Some invent secular religions,–a liberal humanism, if you will. Such movements affect the minds of innocent bystanders like you and me.
Fundamental Christians are not exempt from bizarre behavior which seems to me also to be an attempt to escape harsh reality, i.e., the mega church where there is strength in numbers, or following preachers of the ‘perfect people’ who have no need for anything. I am saved–never mind the starving millions. I’ll come if Jesus tells me,–Jesus makes all my decisions. They delude themselves into thinking that somehow they can avoid the trial that is life. It should be observed that the call to divine work and privilege is no guarantee of immunity from the anxieties, misunderstandings and dangers of life. I have seen enough of that type of Christian to know that they can’t keep themselves constantly hypnotized. They are either hypocrites, or they fall off the religious wagon. The whole thing is so egocentric as to be repulsive.
No one is immune to the hazards that face all the rest of humankind. All suffer from various diseases of the soul and always will because we are human. Thank God for our humanity and the desire and ability to try not to become brutalized. This is why Christ died for us. The thing that most often causes irrationality in people and their diseases is fear. Fear because we have forgotten that we have been purged from our sins.
Fear can be cured. We fear the unknown, but through the eye of faith we can know the unknown, the cure coming with knowledge and understanding in the proper study of the scriptures. Faith can be constantly reinforced by action. Easy to say, but why can’t we do it? Because it is our lot in life to struggle. Now, in an evil and unregenerate age we must struggle ever so much harder not to be diverted or shackled by the sin flaunted everywhere , and by the doubters, and the scoffers. Your struggle may make it possible to walk at least part of the way serene and strong. We must keep on struggling when sometimes we are tired of living and scared of dying. At the end God’s grace will bring us to His peaceable kingdom.