What Hath We Wrought?
Some sayings capture the flavor of a city:
“Paper or plastic?” (Berkeley, CA, before a 2012 ban on plastic grocery bags)
“Frozen or ‘on the rocks’?” (anytime in New Orleans)
Some sayings capture the signs of the times:
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” (President Ronald Reagan, West Berlin, June 1987).
“I will build a great, great wall….Mark my words” (Donald Trump, candidacy-for-president announcement speech, June 2015).
Some sayings capture the essence of Christ’s teaching:
“You shall love your neighbor” (Mark 12:31).
“The last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16).
“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar” (Luke 20:25).
Still other sayings express an evolution of ego worship:
A Timeline of Arrogance
From “Thine, O Lord, is the Glory” to “The Glory is Mine, all Mine”
“What hath God wrought?” (the first official Morse code message transmitted in the US, May 24, 1844, a phrase from Numbers 23:23).
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us…bind up the nation’s wounds…” (President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, March 4, 1865, which many regard as his greatest speech).
Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries
“God himself could not sink this ship!” (an unknown Titanic crewman to passenger Sylvia Caldwell, 1912).
“We believe that the boat is unsinkable” (Philip Franklin, vice president of White Star Line, referring to Titanic, April 15, 1912).
“Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence; it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines” (philosopher Bertrand Russell, 1872–1970).
“We’re more popular than Jesus now” (John Lennon of the Beatles, March 4, 1966).
“Is God Dead?” (Time magazine cover, April 8, 1966, on the sixties movement known as the Death of God).
“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going” (physicist Stephen Hawking, 2010).
“I just talked to Jesus/He said, ‘What up, Yeezus?’/
I said, ‘…I’m chilling/Trying to stack these millions.’/
I know he the most high/But I am a close high” (from
“I Am a God” on the Yeezus album by Kanye West, 2013;
a life-size gold sculpture of West as Jesus titled False Idol was installed in Los Angeles in February 2017.
“And by the way,…if you’re spiritual and you believe in God—one of the violators was God, because the forests were producing a certain amount of nitrates and phosphates to the Chesapeake Bay” (U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-PA, on why the bay is polluted, March 18, 2017).
When we recall that our original sin was pride to be like God and arrogance to become God, another saying of Christ captures the essence of his teaching:
“No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24)—
especially if one is God and the other, our inflated ego.