The events described in this article took place in 1992-1993.
Last year, the school committee in my town voted to make condoms available to students in high school without mandatory counseling, accountability or parental permission. I felt deep in my heart that this was wrong, that I must be living on the other side of Alice's looking-glass where up is down and nonsense is truth. Not content to let this policy go into effect unchallenged, my wife and I decided to do something about it.
With considerable prayer and after seeking counsel from pastors, friends and peers, we decided to embark on the great American adventure - politics. An unlikely mission for a trombonist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra, perhaps, but if Jesus could use fishermen, why not a musician? We gathered together a small group of like minded parents who we thought would be interested in joining in working to overturn what we believed to be a flawed policy. To our surprise and joy, all agreed, and our little band of nine set out to fight city hall.
To put this policy to the citizens of our town as a non-binding referendum required our collecting the signatures of 10% of the registered voters, or over 2,117 names. We registered as a political committee with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. We raised - and spent - a considerable sum of money. My laser printer and copier went through toner cartridges like a three year old in an ice cream store. We spent hours outside in the cold New England winter collecting signatures, asking churches to support us, writing letters to the town and regional newspapers, collecting medical information. We knew seemingly everything one could know about condom efficacy, failure rates, the nature of latex, and the transmission of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Our home was filled with hundreds of medical reports and studies, books and articles. We were in constant contact with many para-church organizations that gave us much good advice and strategy on how to go about organizing our informational campaign. The rightness of our cause we never questioned.
And so, when the day came that the signatures were counted, we rejoiced that we had succeeded in our task of putting the question on the town election ballot. "Shall the Lexington School Committee continue its policy of providing condoms to students at Lexington High School without parental permission?" became not just an exercise in careful grammar, but "QUESTION 1." We were on.
The real campaign now began. We raised still more money to pay for two newspaper advertisements. Thousands of informational brochures were printed and delivered door to door in bone chilling cold. We engaged in a televised debate over the issue. And we became aware that the opposition to us was real.
We prayed. We campaigned. We voted. And we lost. 46% of the voters agreed with us, but the majority favored the policy. So for now it stays. But the question then came to me: "WHY?"
Disappointed but not discouraged, we experienced the post election blues. I
returned to work the day after the vote with a heavy spirit. My heart not
entirely in it, I began rehearsals on Alban Berg's Violin Concerto.
But the Violin Concerto is a special piece, his last work, written as a memorial for one who lost a battle with polio. Berg was shaken with the news that young Manon Gropius, the beautiful, gifted and vivacious 18 year old daughter of a family friend had succumbed to the terrible disease. The concerto became a requiem for her - and for the composer himself. Through the sturm und drang, the painful chaotic harmonies and tortured melodies comes a remarkable event. Toward the end of the piece, as if the clouds part and a single ray of light strikes the earth, four clarinets begin to play, in perfect 17th century harmony, J. S. Bach's chorale, Es ist genug:
Winning isn't the only thing. The battle was mine to fight, but the victory perhaps not mine to share. Manon Gropius fought polio but death overcame her. Our world is full of struggle and discouragement. But we know that the darkness ultimately will not overcome us. Our victory is in the Lord, His timing known to Him alone. We do win some battles, but others are painfully lost.
What comfort to know that one day we will travel to our heavenly home and leave our great distress below. For to have fought the good fight, to have stood for what is right, to have had faith in the face of great odds - whether succeed or fail - will someday bring to my ears those words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Es ist genug! It is enough! Not mine to decide, but God's. I will go on to fight another battle. I may suffer loss, but when I need it, His encouragement picks me up to fight another day. Alban Berg as God's messenger? Yes, with a message three centuries old and a truth as valid today as it was for the apostle Paul, "Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12)." The words are true, but so is God's comfort. Es ist genug!
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