by Jack Hoehn | 21 July 2019 |
The moon rises full tonight over the Blue Mountains to my east, as the sun sets full over the Cascades to my west, and we are being reminded that 50 years ago men walked on the surface of this moon. The mission control of NASA has been reconstructed as a museum—complete with ashtrays and cigarettes, which were normal at work. All stewardesses were attractive, attentive, young women, and all pilots and astronauts were men.
As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted the lunar flag, I was a second-year medical student finishing my part 1 board exams, and excited about the wedding my fiancée was planning for that September. Our young friend who attended that wedding signed the guest book as Mrs. Lloyd Munson, even though Jeannie had a name of her own. Adventist evangelists pulled the vibrant and powerful communist Russia into their sermons as the King of the North. My academy class had been 90% white, and my medical school class was 90% male. Females or non-whites could be denied mortgages based on that fact alone.
Homes were still being painted with lead-based paints. Automobile seat belts were not universal. Smoking was permitted not only at work, but also on commercial airlines where the recirculation of air guaranteed everyone on the flight became a smoker. Asbestos was being used to fireproof buildings. There was no Environmental Protection Agency.
All of us medical students and our girlfriends or wives had had chickenpox, mumps, measles. 100 children a year still died from chickenpox, as no vaccine for it yet existed. Some of us had had polio. It would be 18 years until Prozac became available for treating depression.
None of us had home computers, there was no internet, and they still sold black-and-white television sets on which you could view three networks. I didn’t know of anyone with a mobile phone, and the ones I had seen were the size of a brief case.
My age mates were fighting, killing, and dying in Vietnam in a senselessly prolonged war dictated by old men, their politics, and their weapons’ industries destroying the lives of young men and those who loved them in 21 different nations. When I was 18, my draft board had only permitted me to continue my education because they needed doctors to patch up their wounded.
The ancients considered the moon the first of the seven “planets” (Greek planetes = wandering). Most of the night stars stayed put, but seven of them moved about night to night, the first of them the moon, worshiped on Moon-day. Second was Mercury, ruled by Odin or Woden for Wodens-day; then Venus, ruled by Frida on Friday; Sun for Sunday; Mars, ruled by the Anglo-Saxon Tiw for Tuesday; Jupiter, ruled by Thor for Thursday; and for the furthest movable star visible to the naked eye, Saturn for Saturn-day (our Sabbath).
So under these wandering heavenly bodies, what had wandered on earth during the past 50 years?
Deanne and I spent our nonage wisely on 13 years of mission service in African hospitals, and 32 years attaining age in medical ministry in Walla Walla. Our children have morphed into adults and given us grandchildren. Our technologies have exceeded our imagination.
Gender, racial, sexual justice is better, even if our president continues to demean himself and his office as if nothing has changed. We now have female doctors and pilots, black congresswomen, brown senators. Same-sex lovers are permitted to be lifelong partners. Depression is now treatable. No one except the ignorant need die of polio, chickenpox, measles, or mumps. Cardiac surgery is commonplace. My chest scar and Deanne’s hip scar are now unremarkable. Imaging shows us what we are dying from quicker and in more detail than ever before. Vegetarian diets are much easier to follow now than 50 years ago.
Yet not everything has changed. Black lives still don’t matter all that much to some people. Gay men likely can’t become president, no matter how sensible their policies and how admirable their manners. Adventist administrator males still sit around in their pomposity voting that women called to ministry shouldn’t be ordained. A Sabbath School I attended even at enlightened Walla Walla University is still divided by those who feel that Genesis with its “evening and morning” yom must be a heaven-sent testing truth chronology regardless of all the physical evidence, and those who feel that “Genesis is a song, not giving us information but adoration.”
When Isaiah visioned God filling Jerusalem’s temple, he had his lips purified by a coal from Heaven’s altar. He was tasked with telling truth to Israel on God’s behalf. Yet God warned him that his heaven-sent ministry was doomed to failure. “Hearing they won’t hear, and seeing they won’t see.” 700 years later the holy lips of the Son of God repeated the very same words.
So all you who have watched the same fuzzy television pictures of men walking on the moon 50 years ago that I did—it’s not our fault.
Change comes. It has come to each of us, it has come to our friends, it has come to our children, it has come to our governments, it has come to our church, but it comes slowly and sometimes not at all.
Not because you are not telling us the truth. Not because the evidence is not available for us to see. But because even men who fly to the moon, even prophets with lips touched by heaven, even Jesus himself, can’t get past the fact that some humans hearing, won’t hear. And seeing, won’t see.
But then, how would I know? I’m writing late at night under the influence of a full moon—the very definition of “lunacy.”
Jack Hoehn is a frequent contributor to both the print and online versions of Adventist Today. He has served on the Adventist Today Foundation board since 2012. He and his wife Deanne live in Walla Walla, Washington. He has a BA in Religion from Pacific Union College, and an MD from Loma Linda University. He was a licensed minister of the Adventist church for 13 years when serving as a missionary physician in Africa.