“O God, we pray Thee for those who come after us, for our children, and the children of our friends, and for all the young lives that are marching up from the gates of birth…We remember with a pang that these will live in the world we are making for them. We are wasting the resources of the earth in our headlong greed, and they will suffer want…We are poisoning the air of our land by our lies and our uncleanness, and they will breathe it.
“…Grant us grace to leave the earth fairer than we found it; to build upon it cities of God in which the cry of needless pain shall cease; and to put the yoke of Christ upon our business life that it may serve and not destroy…”
Those are some words from a prayer by Walter Rauschenbusch; they date back to 1910—a century ago. They’re included in a book I’ve been reading which was published in 1917, Harry Emerson Fosdick’s The Meaning of Faith. (p. 60) It was published during what came to be known as “the Great War” and “the war to end all wars.” Human knowledge and technology during the latter part of the nineteenth century had reached new heights. However, as it was sadly discovered, knowledge and wisdom don’t often progress at the same rate. The “civilized” nations were plunged into what Fosdick calls in his preface “the most terrific war men ever waged, when faith is sorely tried and deeply needed.”
The first decade of the twenty-first century has amply demonstrated the lack of wisdom when it comes to creatively dealing with conflict. Conflict is inevitable. The question is: when will we learn that war and violence do nothing “to leave the earth fairer than we found it”?