This New Presence of Sanity



Peggy Noonan wrote last week regarding some of the Hurricane Katrina coverage:

Let me tell you the greatest moment I saw in all the coverage. It’s the middle of the day on Thursday or Friday last week. The Army is arriving, or the Guard. A big green truck full of fresh-faced young men is cruising along a New Orleans street. Lt. Gen. Russell Honore happens to be standing there as the truck slows to make a turn. He looks up and yells at the kids on the truck, "Put those guns down!"

They’re startled. They’ve been lurching along with their guns pointed upward as if they’re ready for looters, as if their mission is protect life and property. Which of course it was, but they were kids, seemingly inexperienced, and they didn’t seem to realize there were no looters around, just survivors of the storm, citizens gathered on a corner to watch the truck go by. Gen. Honore yells to the soldiers, "Put those guns down!" and immediately they all take their rifles and point them down at their feet, and ride on. And the little crowd on the corner burst into cheers. They just cheered and applauded this new presence of sanity in their city.

This is what leadership is, specific and discrete decisions that are right because they’re human and full of common sense. You know someone’s a looter because he’s looting: rifles up. A peaceful citizen deserves respect: rifles down. I don’t know if Gen. Honore is as great as they say. I hope he is. But he won my respect at that moment.

So maybe–back to identifying with actors in the drama–you relate to him. Maybe you imagine what it would be like to be in charge of a mess and trying to bring method to madness. Maybe who you relate to, who you imagine being, says something big and deep about you. Maybe not. Maybe worth thinking about for a moment.


I like this story.  I especially like her her phrase, "…this new presence of sanity."


Sounds good to me.  Now what does that look like?


Individually— Maybe the presence of sanity in a human being (not using the word sanity in a clinical technical way) means that no matter what happens in the world, I remember that through Christ, I can keep my wits about me.  I don’t have to go through life just reacting to my circumstances.


For a number of years (in my 30’s as I recall), I found it very hard to enjoy life.  I was always looking for something more.  Another church.  Another place to live.  Another setting.  Even another vocation.  At that time it seemed like every time things would start to get really good in my ministry, someone would come along and mess it up.  Consequently, I felt as if I was on hold just waiting for things to come together.


They didn’t.


Church—  Maybe the presence of sanity in a church means that we do not lose sight of the basics in the midst of our committees, programs, processes, meetings, and all of the other stuff that we human beings have created.


Here are some basics for doing church…


  • Be Christian.  That is, be a Christ-follower if you are going to be a member of a church.  Let his teachings make a difference in the way you treat other humans.
  • Be moral.  Lying, committing adultery, slander, exploding at people are all evil.  (And please don’t excuse these behaviors because you happen to like the people)
  • Tell the truth and do the truth.  Lying is wrong whether it is a prospective minister puffing his resume or not owning up to your mistakes.  If you don’t know what to do, just say it.  Many people will find such candor to be refreshing.
  • Pray.  Not talking about anything fancy at this point.  I just think that it could replace a lot of our hand-wringing, endless meetings, and anxiety.


Perhaps all of this would help to bring "this new presence of sanity" back to our lives and churches.

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