I grew up in a small working-class suburb in Pennsylvania in a little semi-detached house located across the street from an empty field about a block in size. In the 1950s and 60s there were a fair number of families of Italian heritage who lived in the neighborhood and in quite a few of those homes lived the family patriarch.
Most of those men spoke very broken English, if any at all, and to a boy of 5 or 6 they looked to be about 100 years old. How mysterious were these old men who I couldn’t understand!
That field across the street from my house was owned by an adjacent factory that was fading in production as union labor costs pressured the owners to move production to the South. But the factory owners were amenable to allowing the old Italian men to set up garden plots in the field on which they grew corn, squash, tomatoes, beans, peppers, and the like. My mom and the neighbor ladies were happy to be able to cross the street and buy fresh produce.
One autumn day when I was maybe 6 or 7 some of the older boys with whom I was playing found a 3’ length of iron pipe and thought, “Hey, why don’t we see what this pipe will do to the farmers’ squash?” Where on earth did that idea come from? These weren’t punks and vandals, just 9 and 10 and 11 year-old boys. But once the swinging started it was a blood-bath, or rather a pumpkin and squash bath.
Nothing left. All the watering, all the weeding and tending, for naught. There were a lot of tears that night, as parents got ahold of us and “reminded” us that we were to behave, not misbehave. The old farmers were very gracious to us and the parents, but it was the beginning of the end of their garden plots. Fewer and fewer over the next several years … and then they were gone. Maybe it was just their age but in my memory the two are linked.
Now, why am I telling this story; what relevance does it have? Just this: I never took a swing with that pipe. I was the little guy, too small to bother with and easy to brush off. I didn’t break a single pumpkin – but I sure wanted to! Everyone was laughing and having such a good time. “Gimme the pipe!”“Gimme the pipe!” But I never got it and didn’t damage anything. Sixty years on I am still ashamed.
I was swept up in the moment and was running without thinking. The more boys who joined in, the more exciting it became. And even though I wasn’t a bad kid, there was faulty thinking that allowed me to get snared.
It seems to me that a fair amount of our current political climate is analogous to my story. A lot of people suffer from faulty thinking that allows them to get caught up in “Wokeness,” “Cancel,” “COVID,” and “Orange Man Bad” tantrums. To be sure, there are intentionally evil actors behind the movements, but I believe the majority of the useful idiots going along with it are in a “Gimme the pipe!” mode. They are running without thinking and they are snared.
A 6 year-old doesn’t yet have a developed worldview. It’s what parenting is intended to convey. Today millions – nay, billions – of folks do not have a proper worldview because the institutional church allowed itself to be put in a Sunday-only box. Actually, the church helped build the box and stepped into it. The church has not shepherded its members well-enough to resist the crowd in order to do the right thing. To know enough to do things God’s way.
Lots of pumpkins are being broken today. There seem to be some churches noticing the damage – hopefully, I’m not just kidding myself. Those churches with an understanding of the times need to point their people to the God of Scripture and away from those gods of our own making. The time for the Church’s hiding from the world is past.
The consequences of the smashing of morality, civility, common sense, livelihoods, and people will come to bear at some point. Millions will get a good spanking, come to their senses, and be ashamed. When they look for answers to why they cried, “Gimme the pipe” may the Church be ready. May we be ready and not fail to maintain the garden plots of godliness, civility, and common sense for our posterity.