In the early 1950’s a new movie, “Quo Vadis” was released. It was a somewhat romanticized version of real events that took place in the Roman Empire at a time when Christianity was emerging and political intrigue was deepening.The title of the film, loosely translated, means ” where are you going?”
Indeed, where are we going? For all of us, especially our children, how are we shaping, with our policies, beliefs, hopes and fears, a future where life can be lived in a meaningful and satisfactory way? Given the dark clouds of change that threaten access to affordable and reliable health care, draw back support for childhood nutrition and day care, turn a blind eye to the senseless killing of children by the proliferation of guns, dampen the enthusiasm and curiosity for legitimate scientific inquiry and label news that is not liked as “fake”, the answer to the question, “where are we going?’ becomes more urgent with each passing day.
But that question may be the wrong one. More importantly, it is not so much where are we going but what do we want, when and if we get there. For example, what do we mean when we speak of health care that is of high quality and accessible and affordable to all? Do we truly mean “all” or just us? If “all” does that mean a system of payment for medical care and treatment for every single individual regardless of economic status?
And of course there is gun control. Do we really want to put a stop to the killing of innocent children and the ever present fear that surrounds us all by the proliferation of assault weapons? Will we ever have the courage to admit that, yes, guns do kill people, and assault weapons do so in horrific ways and thus demand legislation that ready access to such weapons be stopped?
Do we want to stop the scourge of drug addiction and deaths from overdose by possibly bringing ourselves to think that compassionate rather than punitive ways of dealing with this epidemic might just be more productive and lasting?
With overwhelming evidence that the early years of life shape the future, do we want resources for young children that encourages their development, learning and care for each other? Are we willing to pay, through our tax dollars, generously for this to be the norm for how we value our children?
What about open spaces, clean air, woods and streams and the natural wonders of God’s creation? Do we want to preserve those places, free of exploitation and commercial use? If so, are we willing to influence policy and demand political accountability to ensure that it happens?
Where are we going and what do we want? As long as we remain suspicious of each other, dominated by fear and led by political forces that ignore the common good, we will find it difficult to answer those questions and more often will lose our way in attempting to do so.
Yet, there is hope. That hope. fundamentally, lies in how we find in ourselves the courage and ability for compassion, acceptance, respect and concern for each other and our planet. And that is the theme of the novel, Quo Vadis, written in 1895, which inspired the movie. The author captures the apocryphal story of the apostle Peter fleeing from Rome to escape persecution, who encounters the risen Christ and asks that question: Quo Vadis? Christ answers by saying he is going back to Jerusalem to be crucified again. It is at that point Peter regains the courage needed to turn around , return to Rome, and fulfill his destiny.
So Where are we going? Perhaps it is time we too, turned around and faced, with courage and conviction, the challenges before us. Only then will we define what we truly want and what our own destiny demands of us.