I was nine years old when I came to America. A few months later, once I got settled into the neighborhood and started to know some of the kids my age I got invited to a boy’s house to watch television. I had never, until that time, seen a television before and it was, for a nine year old boy, something truly magical.
Even though decades have passed since then, I still remember the cowboy movie that was playing on the television that day, and how you could tell the good guy from the bad guy by the color of their outfit and the closeness of their shave.
The bad guy was always dressed in black, a little rough around the edges, unshaven for at least a few days, and with a propensity for chewing on a cigar. The good guy was usually dressed in white, clean shaven, and looked less dusty than his nemesis.
My mom wouldn’t let me go over often, but every time she would, I and my new friend watched cowboy movies. You kind of knew how they would end, but they were nevertheless fun to watch. You lived with the expectation of the good guy outdrawing the bad guy, and riding off into the sunset even though halfway through the movie fifteen men were shooting at him and all they managed was a shoulder graze which was always ‘just a scratch’.
As a nation we’ve cast ourselves into the role of the good guy, and even though our clothes are no longer white, our character is no longer noble, and our intentions are no longer pure, we still cling to the fallacious notion that we are in the right.
I will not argue or belabor the point of this nation having started out as a shining light upon a hill, a noble and worthwhile experiment in self-governance and hard work. Although some might disagree, I do believe in the beginning this nation blessed God and was in turn blessed of God because it blessed Him, seeing His hand of providence guide it through tumultuous and highly volatile situations.
If once we were the good guy, we are the good guy no longer. Those who are watching can see the hideous caricature we have become, they can see the role we’ve started to play and are in a confused state as to how it is possible we can still think of ourselves as the noble, gallant, chivalrous gunslinger whose only desire is to save the damsel in distress, free the townsfolk from an oppressive villain, and ride off into the sunset content with simply having done a good deed.
Simply saying we are the good guys does not make it so. One’s character and intent are always weighed and measured and after having assessed the true nature of the individual’s character, one concludes whether they are in fact the good guy or are just playing at it for some nefarious reason.
Because we have cast ourselves in the role of the ultimate good guy, we naturally see everyone else as the bad guy. Due to this perception, though the actions of others are nobler than our own and their moral compass more in tune with virtue, we still dismiss them as less than, and beat our chest proclaiming the righteousness of our path even though righteousness is utterly absent.
Man is by nature an arbitrary relativist, so given the chance to judge his actions based on his own standard, he will never be in the wrong. Hence the reason that even the way which leads to death seems right to a man. When there is no independent standard, when there is no independent plumb line by which we judge ourselves, we will always be the good guy, dressed in white, and fighting the good fight.
Unfortunately we are not judged by the standard we establish for ourselves as a nation, but by the standard which God has established for every nation. We do not strive to live up to our own expectations, our own ideals, our own sense of right and wrong, but to God’s expectations, ideals, and absolute definitions of rightness and wrongness.
When we see ourselves in the mirror of our own understanding, we can, perhaps, still talk ourselves into believing we continue to be the good guy. When we look into the mirror of God’s Word, however, not only do we see that we’ve fallen short, but that we’ve rejected every noble virtue and ideal that made the good guy what he was, and embraced the practices and predispositions of the vile and the wicked, making us into the selfsame thing we once loathed and fought against.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.