A Time to Take Stock: A Commentary

By Siahyonkron Nyanseor

The Perspective

December 4, 2001

Last week, President Taylor launched a national crusade in concert with the religious community to bring what he says is "Genuine reconciliation" and healing to the Liberian nation and people. Whether this introspection is reflected of change, or another cleverly maneuvered stagecraft is yet to be seen.

The Bible however teaches us to "Do onto others as you would have them do onto you", and that "There is nothing new under the Sun". Both statements are profound. They are true today as they were yesterday. Also, what may appear new to one generation may have already taken place during previous generation. Therefore, to adopt certain policy without first knowing the origin or the significance is pure ignorance. It is like a person jumping in a muddy river without knowing how to swim or not knowing that alligators dwell in it.

Taking to a practical level, most human beings and Christian believe that "nothing happens under the Sun without God's approval". As humans, we have a fundamental need to understand why certain things happen. Moreover, it is a widely held belief that each person's future is dependent on his/her decisions and actions. And it is said that humans are bound by a number of nature laws that have been put in place for their own good. One of these laws is - the law of cause and effect, or as the Bible says, "A man reaps what he sows." (Galatians 6:7). Once we recognize this principle, it is possible to predict the occurrence of certain future events.

However, many of us passively accept situations no matter how unjust or oppressive they are. We accept them as though conditions in life are unchangeable because it has been predetermined by the Almighty. Thus, believing that God predetermines our station in life, undermines the notion of personal responsibility; like in the case of a particular act an individual commits. While this belief may prevent progress for others, the belief in one's destiny has motivated others in the opposite direction. For example, historians have traced the growth of Capitalism and the Industrial Revolution to a number of factors. Among these is the belief in predestination. This belief led the Protestant religion to teach that "God predestines individuals for salvation". Max Weber, a German sociologist was motivated by this belief to the point where, he posed the question - "Am I one of the elect"? Based on the answer Weber came up with, he then said that individuals seek to make progress through their "worldly activity," and that success in business and the accumulation of wealth were considered as signs of God's favor.

Benjamin Carson, one of the world's gifted neurosurgeons argues that: "we create our own destiny by the way we do things. We have to take advantage of opportunities and be responsible for our choices." Lorraine Hansberry also agrees by saying, "The human race does command its own destiny and that destiny can eventually embrace the stars."

In essence, the universe in which we live consists of nature laws (law and order). These laws are principles by which all our life's experiences, conditions, and events take place. They are basic laws of life, which, according to Mark 9:23, "Everything is possible for him who believes."

As a Christian and a student of history, I like many others, subscribe to the principles of the universe - without which, I believe, life cannot continue. But there are those who believe the opposite to these laws. These individuals, some of whom are criminals and dictatorial leaders, preoccupation is the accumulation of wealth and power at the expense of society. As a result, they steal, murder and engage in all sorts of illegal and immoral activities.

Like Machiavellian the Prince, these individuals exhibit a kind of dual personality and are unpredictable, which makes it difficult for them to get along with others. But those who support them and the status quo, either refuse to see their shortcomings, or will go to every length to defend their policies and behaviors until the end when they are driven from power by force.

This reminds me of a story told by Benjamin Franklin about a woman who was never wrong:

"Many a time in my life, I have been absolutely sure I was right - only to change my mind a year or two later. Some people never change their minds. They are always rather ridiculous. I once knew a lady who told me that her sister said to her, 'It's the strangest thing. Whenever I get into a dispute with somebody, I've always been the one who was right."

The woman in Dr. Franklin's story is like President Taylor, they are not guarded by universal principles but rather by their own laws; that is the reason they behave like the Machiavellians of this world, who continued to make life difficult for humanity.

A Liberian proverb typifies this: "The way you make your bed, so shall you lie in it." This lead us to "Time to take stock", a message delivered by Rev. J. Albert Barchue, Associate Pastor of the Trinity United Methodist Church in New Kru Town, Liberia, who spoke on the topic. In that speech he said Liberia was once "…the beacon of hope for the entire continent of Africa, thus earning her the respect of all nations", but today, he went on to say, "…almost all countries are pointing at Liberia for instability in the sub region. …Liberia, which was in good relations with its neighbors and the rest of the world, is no longer in good rapport with these countries because of these accusations". Therefore, he said, "…it is now time that Liberians take stock and examine themselves as they move towards the year 2001. If everybody is accusing you, it is time that you take stock and examine yourself".

This examination is what the Taylor government needs to undertake. Since it is quite impossible for everybody to be wrong about the Liberian government illegal activities, by taking stock of itself, it could see its faults. Instead, the leadership is blind to the reality of our time. Taylor second, third rebirth, as a "born again Christian," and his recent discovery of Jesus whom he says is the "biggest President" Liberia has, can only be made real in the life of Liberian people by doing right by them.

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