One of the most heartrending disasters of late happened in Surfside, Florida, where a 12-story condominium collapsed on June 24th. The last information I saw reported that 98 deaths have been confirmed. What began as a rescue attempt was declared a recovery mission on July 7th.
Every death from that horrific disaster is a tragedy, but the loss of children is always especially painful. A single casket with two sisters is not easily forgotten, nor should it be. The grief for Surfside is further compounded by a particularly agonizing factor. It could have been prevented.
There will be inquiries, investigations, accusations, and countless lawsuits for months or years. Hopefully, some of the measures taken will help prevent such catastrophes in the future. It’s too late, however, for the casualties of June 24th, and for those left to grieve.
Sometimes when death comes there’s no way it could have been avoided. That doesn’t diminish the pain of losing a loved one, but maybe it allows us to better accept it. The most troubling aspect of the Surfside tragedy is knowing it didn’t have to happen. A lack of structural integrity had been documented in 2018. The foundation was failing, but warnings were ignored.
I hope I’m wrong, but I believe as Americans we have a critical problem with our foundation. Instead of structural issues, ours is a lack of spiritual integrity. The tenets of our democracy have long reflected commonly held values of faith in a righteous God. Judeo-Christian principals were once widely embraced by most citizens and political leaders, even those not inclined toward organized religion.
That’s been changing for a while and seems destined to continue a treacherous downhill slide. The closer we get to the bottom the faster we travel and the harder it is to stop. We’ve swapped Holy Words for Hollywood as celebrities have gained idol-like status. The characters they play often promote hedonistic lifestyles and their offscreen examples are not much different. We are constantly enticed to choose temporary pleasures over eternal treasures.
Sadly, such influence is not targeted only to adults or even to impressionable teenagers. Young children are now being swayed through innocent looking cartoon characters. Lucifer deserves to be listed in many of the production credits, but his best work is often done sublimely.
I shouldn’t single out Hollywood, though. Entertainers of all sorts, from singers to professional athletes, offer a steady diet of coarse language, vulgarity, and live for the moment lifestyles. If someone is courageous enough to take a stand for biblical values, they’re likely to get shunned or sued or labeled a bigot. It’s become acceptable to advocate for almost anything except what’s written in God’s Word.
The entertainment industry doesn’t deserve all the credit for our shift from biblical values toward unrestrained licentiousness. Entertainers can’t lead us where we are unwilling to go. I mention them, however, because they are highly visible on the road toward low morality.
Admittedly, our country has an imperfect past in many areas. But even during the lowest points in America’s history, there seemed to have been some threads of faith that helped bind us together. Those threads are wearing thin now and harder to find. The stitching in our collective fabric of basic decency is coming apart at the seams.
Dr. Jerry Pickard, a retired Baptist pastor and longtime friend, brought a July 4th message at Vienna First Baptist Church about the spiritual condition of America. He referenced Exodus 32:1-14 where the prayer of one man, Moses, resulted in God sparing the Israelite people despite their corruption and disobedience. If the prayer of one man caused God to spare a nation, imagine what the earnest prayers of many could do.
We can pray and walk boldly where God leads us, or we can travel the path of token efforts to avoid ruffling any feathers and subjecting ourselves to criticism. I’ve taken the easy route many times, but I’ve found some new inspiration in a sobering lesson from Surfside, Florida.
A foundation was crumbling yet warnings were ignored. And a million tears are now salted with the bitter regret of what we know. It could have been prevented.