May 10, 2010

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Isaiah 5:20

I’ve been meaning to talk about this previously, but perhaps you’ve read in the paper about the incursion of thousands of Burmese pythons into the Everglades. It seems these non-native reptiles are the offspring of cast-off pets, and they’re endangering the South Florida environment by eating up the indigenous wildlife—alligators included (brings kind of an interesting picture to mind, doesn’t it?). According to a piece in last Saturday’s New York Times, it’s gotten so bad that Congress is considering a ban on buying or selling several kinds of giant snakes.

But the thrust of this particular article wasn’t so much about the havoc they’re causing as it was about their newfound celebrity. That’s right—the pythons are becoming a tourist attraction. “They’re asking about pythons that don’t even belong here, instead of alligators,” said Bob Freer, who’s become a top private python hunter.

The public’s fascination with the snakes worries biologists. “People need to view exotic species invasions as pollution—biopollution,” said David E. Hallac, chief of biological resources for Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks, in the Times article. “In some cases, this form of biopollution can be even more difficult to remedy than chemical pollution, mainly because we have no way of cleaning up exotic species from our natural environment.”

The interest has led reporters to interview Everglades officials around 300 times, and Mr. Freer has appeared on Animal Planet and the History Channel to talk about the pythons.

So what we have here is a classic case of topsy turvy priorities: the native gators, birds and such that used to be the star attractions are now ceding the spotlight to creatures that aren’t even supposed to be there in the first place.

And don’t we often find that same reversal of standards all around us? Take the issue of civility, for example. Talk about exchanging the sweet for the bitter! In my exercise class this morning, I had a fellow student upbraid me for not working out hard enough—twice! Why this complete stranger felt it her duty to comment I have no idea. How have we gotten to be such a mouthy and rude country—is it a trickle down effect from the rancor we see in our national leaders, or a trickle up from the personal thoughtlessness and downright meanness we can’t seem to keep in check anymore?

But that pales in comparison to the cold shoulder too many give to God these days, the epitome of goodness and light. The latter part of Romans 1 lays out an indictment of those who ignore Him: “They became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, [and] exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” (vv. 21, 22, 25). The result is moral, spiritual and even physical pollution—“impurity…dishonor…degrading passions…indecent acts [and their] due penalty…depraved mind…wickedness, greed, evil…envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice,” and people becoming “gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful…” with the conclusion that “although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (vv. 24, 26, 28-32).

Strong words. Some would say condemning ones too. Ah, but the good news is that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:1, 2).

The struggle between evil and good and the tendency of us willful humans to flip flop the two is real. But God stands ready, with just a word of assent from us, to clear out the invasive sin, to “rescue the godly from temptation” (2 Peter 2:9) and “keep [us] from falling, and present [us] before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy” (Jude 25).

No Burmese pythons allowed!

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