Michael Bray

Author of A Time To Kill

Wilmington or Pottersville?

Michael Bray
23 July 2008

Wilmington or Pottersville?

What’s God got to do with it?

How many times have you wondered or heard another speculate (or expostulate) upon the role of the Deity concerning world events: He brought this or that judgment or blessing? More often, in modern times, we are more inclined to ascribe credit to this Being (pardon my old-fashioned reverential use of the upper case to honor Him, and pardon my presumption that He is a he) for the good things and would rather credit “fate” with responsibility for bringing us bad things as if to protect His integrity as a benevolent One.

Permit for a moment consideration of a casuistic proposition: The Temptation of the Casino and the Judgment of the DHL Pull Out. I believe He is involved in all of history and His hand is engaged in the good and evil which comes in response to human actions; He blesses and He curses. That is Christian orthodoxy. (Apologies to Kathy Griffin and other Emmy Award acolytes who think He is not really around or that if He is, His involvement is as frequent and benign as visits from Santa Claus.)

Last fall in the Advent season while watching again It’s a Wonderful Life, the story of what Bedford Falls could have been if George Bailey had not been born, I thought of Wilmington and the casino threat. It has been a family tradition established from the beginning and all eleven children were home for the holidays to participate in the event. (The VHS tape seems to have joined with its owners in suffering the pains and the wear of repeated activity, but, thankfully, the message came through – again: do the right thing and it all comes out well in the end.)

George (Jimmy Stewart) is visited by an angel in response to the prayers of his family and friends. To convince him that he ought not commit suicide, the angel shows him what life would have been like for Bedford Falls without him. Rather than a productive community with happy families owning and living in their own homes, Bedford Falls is overrun by the avaricious Mr. Potter (Drew’s great grandpa, Lionel Carey) who has hedged out all the lending institutions in the wake of the Depression, bought up all the property, and degraded the town with sleazy bars and various indicators of general debauchery.

The similarities leaped off our non-high definition, small screen TV. Should George sell out to the wicked Potter so that he can live a better life? Should George allow his community to suffer the ravages of the greedy and exploitative Potter so that George can be a Potter employee with a comfortable income? And should Wilmington sell out to Cleveland casino men?

Sometimes, when we have no hope for justice in particular situations (poverty, ignorance, jail, war, disability, death) we are left to contemplate an “end” beyond the end of this life for rectification. And in this hope, with no solution in view, we find solace. We find contentment in doing the right thing even when we cannot see the salvation we need. We persevere. George does the right thing, goes through rough times, but ends up well blessed. He perseveres.

State Representative David Daniels writes about a “prayer rally” held at the Courthouse on 20 July sponsored by the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association concerning the impending disaster regarding employment at the Wilmington Air Park (WNJ, 23 July). “It was” according to Daniels, “a successful (and moving)” event and it was listed along with all the other political options which are being pursued to find relief (federal relief, anti-trust action against DHL, etc). No. We must cover all the bases and do some praying.

Now, I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet (although I was for many years employed by a non-profit organization). I don’t presume to interpret infallibly the events of history and explain what God is doing. Jesus corrected those who presumed that certain disasters came from particular sins of particular peoples (Luke 13:3-5). But if I may speculate and propose a suggestion, it is this: Public repudiation of the casino intrusion by our County Commissioners and City Council.

What was needed at that prayer rally was more than petitioning God for a solution to the DHL problem. Leaders of the people owed a confession to God and to the people for their role in leading this county into a miserable alliance with the casino gangsters. Confession precedes forgiveness and perhaps, if this DHL mess is the judgment He has ordained, He will bring us relief. But even if He does not bring us relief and even if there is no spiritual connection between these two entities, such a confession and a repudiation of the casinos is still the duty of the civil leaders in this community.

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