What if there were no guardrails off the right lane shoulder of Route 180? What if? Likely, I’d not be writing this. I’d be dead. If not dead, then at least banged up enough to enjoy Geisinger’s intensive care.
Saturday morning didn’t exactly pan out the way I had expected. Up at 5 a.m. Brewed coffee. Fed the cat. Shaved and showered. Suited up for the important meeting. Reviewed my sermon and keynote address. Grabbed car keys. Looked at my winter coat but left it hanging. I’d be fine without it. It’s only rainy. Did grab my fedora.
Thirty-five minutes later I’m spinning circles in my wife’s car. No, it wasn’t a ride at Knoebels Amusement Resort. I’m in the passing lane on Route 180 south of Muncy. Rain had become ice. Tried to correct. Tried to compensate. Despite memories in slow motion, either the tail of the car spun to the front or the front spun toward the rear. Either way, car slammed sideways into the guardrail before bouncing me back in front of the oncoming car, headlights approaching fast.
I like seat belts. I’m now a major fan of guardrails. The sideways slam prevented me from tumbling downhill toward the gorge. Does Subaru install air bags in the roof? Imagine a highway without guardrails. It’s one thing if I suffer from the accident. It would be horrible to have injured any passengers. Surprise, I was able to walk away rather than be carried out from the crash that totaled my wife’s car. I even made the meeting on time.
A week later, we watched the epic World War I movie, “1917.” It put life into perspective. The story puts to shame those of us who think we’ve got troubles.
Imagine life without guardrails. Parents are guardrails, as least until we’re mature enough to choose invisible guardrails of our own. This is your bedtime. These are your chores. You will brush your teeth. No guardrails? You end up acting like an adolescent brat, even if you’re 73. So, it’s a disgrace for athletes to kneel during the national anthem, but it’s okay for your president to mock it at the Super Bowl? Hypocrisy is as hypocrisy does. Come on folks, are you going to excuse this one also? How many more? Are there any guardrails left? Any pride, honor? I keep at it hoping my grandchildren will be proud of where I stood.
Funny. The Republican Party still thinks I’m one of theirs. They phoned me to participate in a telephone Town Hall with Congressman Meuser. I took advantage of the offer to ask a question, although they never asked it. I entered the code. A sweet young thing answered. I asked: “Impeachment aside, would Meuser support censure of Trump?” She hesitated. Not what she expected. I always felt censure rather than impeachment was the wiser tact against Trumptocracy. Republican opportunism would never allow them to vote for impeachment (except for Romney, the last remaining Republican). A tougher test of responsible moral courage would have been to force them to either condone Trump’s conduct or judge his conduct as wrong, deserving formal reproach. Chuckle, chuckle, the documents will come out.
John Calvin, father of my denomination, was a realist about humanity. Judgment is healthy. We avoid confusing judgment with judgmentalism. We must judge ideas, behaviors, deeds. John Calvin rejected the facile notion of categorizing people as either good or evil. What he understood was how easily our goodness can be corrupted, distorted, dangerous. Humanity is far more slippery, ambiguous and complicated. Calvinism warns how our greatest evils are done in the name of the greatest good. Like security and safety. Calvin was no fool. Akin to Martin Luther, he realized “the world will not be ruled by a rosary.” This reveals why Calvin had such high regard for the purpose and necessity of civil government.
Because we don’t always drive the way we should, we require guardrails. Maybe also a playful tweak. Recently, I followed a pick-up truck that bore a decal of a black and white American flag. In the center was a ‘punisher’ skull. In the field was the Roman numeral ‘III,’ referencing the 3 percent of citizens who fought tyranny in the American Revolution, likely indicating the driver as pro para-military who’ll fight for his version of America, which itself is ironically tyrannical. Next time I see that decal I will pass and flash the peace sign. Guardrails. Hello, as historian Jon Meacham said: “We’re the jury now.”
The Rev. Robert Andrews is retired pastor of Grove Presbyterian Church in Danville. Read more of his work at robertjohnandrews.com.