Tuesday, November 10, 2020

On Watching A Helicopter Land Atop Children's Hospital

One day last week I found myself sitting in a parking deck, looking at the city. Suddenly, a helicopter appeared overhead. I watched it, and after a moment it took on a different motion. It became surreally deliberate in its descent. Then I realized it was landing on top of Children's Hospital.

It's neat to see something that appears to be still, but also moving, while knowing part of it is moving so fast you can't really see it. It was awesome—reminded me of Airwolf, but just for a moment.


Soon people appeared on the roof, rolling a stretcher to the helicopter. I had to process the reality. This scene wasn't Airwolf. It was somebody's baby who needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. That sent me down a different line of thought.

I'm glad our society has systems in place established on the premise that preserving human life is worth a helicopter flight. Yes, I know someone owns the helicopter. These systems can be lucrative. But, think about the pilot and the people on the roof. In that moment, do you think it was about the money?

So, a different way to say it could be that I'm glad we have systems established on insurers trusting that somebody considers the preservation of human life to be worth a helicopter flight. That's the less-feel-good sentiment, but we can feel worse still.


We could say that our society considers human life to be worth a helicopter flight, at least for now. While Western culture has continually looked less and less to Judaeo-Christian principles for its values, the average atheist still agrees that you don't count the cost before flying someone to the hospital. We'd be foolish, however, to take societal agreement on that point for granted.

Here is where we could list fundamental ideas whose perseverance was taken for granted anywhere from 70 to just ten years ago. But, that's not necessary, is it? The point is that we'd be foolish to think that dynamic has reached its conclusion. Some folks like to say the culture war is over, and we lost. That doesn't mean we don't have more to lose. Or, as Bob Dylan says it,

When you think that you've lost everything
You find out you can always lose a little more

So, what do we do?


I don't have the answer for how to help atheist and pagans continue (or start!) believing that human life is worth a helicopter flight. Thankfully, that's not our job. Our job is to preach the gospel and to live by the ways of the kingdom.

  • Love my enemy
  • Give and serve without seeking recognition
  • Defer to the rights and dignity of others

The kingdom of God is always growing, always expanding. The culture doesn't always reflect that continually growth because the kingdom doesn't play by the culture's rules. The kingdom's advancement is mysterious, sometimes hidden. It doesn't look like a Fortune 500 company or a successful political campaign. It looks like:

  • A mustard seed
  • A woman kneading yeast into flour
  • A banquet for bystanders and beggars

We live our lives by the truth of the kingdom. In the world we find a chorus of voices that deny the kingdom's existence. So, we don't expect the world to look like the kingdom, and we shouldn't expect the kingdom's advancement to look like worldly success. Rather, while we go on living in the world, we go on looking for the kingdom and living by its ways. That doesn't mean we give up on the culture altogether. Sometimes the seemingly rocky ground rests on good soil hiding just beneath. We don't try to dig everything up. We scatter the seed.

Maybe I was having a childlike (or at least less cerebral) moment in the parking deck, because I was genuinely surprised when the helicopter took off again. Maybe even American culture has pleasant surprises still in store—some good soil beneath the surface. After all, we believe in the One who does the work of redemption. We are waiting for the One who makes all things new.


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