The St. Croix Review speaks for middle America, and brings you essays from patriotic Americans.
Our Mission Is to Reawaken the Genuine American Spirit . . .Unbridled Power
Liberal Fascism, by Jonah Goldberg. Broadway Books, New York, copyright 2007, ISBN 978-0-7679-1718-6, pp. 503.
. . . since we must have a working definition of fascism, here is mine: Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian in that it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good. It takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action, whether by force or through regulation and social pressure. Everything, including the economy and religion must be aligned with its objectives. Any rival identity is part of the "problem" and therefore defined as the enemy. I will argue that contemporary American liberalism embodies all of these aspects of fascism. - Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism
Now men are free . . . but it is often the freedom of grains of sand that are whirled up in a cloud and then dropped in a heap, but neither cloud nor sand-heap have any coherence. -Walter Rauschenbusch, American progressive, Christian theologian, Baptist pastor, and leader of the Social Gospel movement in 1896. -from Liberal Fascism
The second quote discounts liberty. To my way of thinking it is ironic that a Christian theologian, one who studies the ways of God, thinks so little of a free person's capacity to chart a satisfying course through life. I am grateful for my freedom to choose wrongly: How otherwise would I have learned from my mistakes?
According to progressive Walter Rauschenbusch, personal worth and growth amounts to a grain of sand blowing in the wind; a person has no worth apart from the mass. Such are the ways of progressive intellectuals: They fall under the spell of a bundle of ideas, lose their common sense, and their capacity for empathy.
Barack Obama has fallen under a spell of a bundle of ideas centuries old. The ideas moving him have passed through continents and cultures - he may not be aware of their origin. In each time period and culture the bundle is applied somewhat differently, but in essence the ideas retain recognizable coherence.
Progressives in America were imperialistic 100 years ago; they believed that preparing for war fostered admirable martial virtues and put in motion national energies that could be brought to bear in no other way. War promoted national strength; aggression and the urge to conquer were virtues. Darwinian notions of survival of the fittest applied to their view of statecraft. Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Roosevelt - all these U.S. presidents - had this view.
Today's American progressives have turned their backs on global leadership (they put their faith in the UN); their hearts are set on dominating Americans, and so they grasp for comprehensive power over a smaller circle of people.
Today's American progressives are using effective time-tested methods that we need to understand. If we want to preserve our cherished liberty must understand progressive thinking. We must recognize their motives and methods. When Barack Obama said that he wants to "fundamentally transform" America this is a rare instance when we must take him at his word.
In the space of a brief essay I cannot be comprehensive - much source material exists, and Liberal Fascism is a good book that is a wealth of information (most quotes in this essay come from Liberal Fascism). My method will be to quote and paraphrase briefly a few of the most influential men who created the bundle of ideas that opposes our God-seeking, liberty-loving beliefs. From the spirit embodied in these men's words I hope to foster an ability to recognize what we are up against.
A good place to start would be with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the Genevan philosopher of the 18th century, who had a deep impact on Maximilien de Robespierre, the Frenchman at the center of the French Revolution. Rousseau invented the idea of the "General Will" - a collective spirit that embodied all mankind. The General Will encompassed the dreams, desires, goals, needs and wants of a people; the people were not bound by ethnicity, geography, or custom. Those who live in accordance with the General Will are "virtuous" and "free"; but those who don't are criminals, fools, and heretics (enemies) who must be forced to comply with the common good. Rousseau sanctified the General Will and thus he created a secular religion for the guidance of nations. Within the God-state those who defy the General Will live outside state protection and the state is compelled to do away with them.
Rousseau wrote in The Social Contract that because of Christianity's respect for both God and Caesar "men have never known whether they ought to obey the civil ruler or the priest." Rousseau proposed a society where religion and politics merge; where loyalty to the divine and the state is the same thing, except that there is no place for God.
Rousseau believed parliamentary democracy to be corrupt, inauthentic, and unnatural; the mechanisms of democracy to be profane - elections and representatives are "hardly ever necessary where the government is well-intentioned."
For the rulers well know that the general will is always on the side which is most favorable to the public interest, that is to say, the most equitable; so that it is needful only to act justly to be certain of following the general will.
The first totalitarian revolution was the French Revolution. It inspired the Italian Fascist, German Nazi, and Communist revolutions. Maximilien de Robespierre had closely studied the thinking of Rousseau and relied on his idea of the General Will. He imposed Rousseau's God-state upon France, twisting the "religious instinct" of the people into new objects of worship. He replaced sacred holidays with national celebrations, festivals honoring Reason, Nation, and Brotherhood. He renamed the Notre Dame Cathedral the "Temple of Reason." Surprisingly, he hated atheism; he believed in an eternal being (not Christian) who intervened in the affairs of nations.
Robespierre did not flinch from mass killing. He believed "deceitful" Christianity needed to be exterminated. He said:
There are only two parties in France: the people and its enemies. We must exterminate those miserable villains who are eternally conspiring against the Rights of Man . . . [We] must exterminate all our enemies.
Though Robespierre glorified "the people" he didn't value individuals (a characteristic he shared with Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao):
"The people" is always worth more than individuals. . . . "The people" is sublime, but individuals are weak.
Robespierre used violence to commit the masses to the revolution:
If the spring of popular government in time of peace is virtue, the springs of popular government in revolution are at once virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore an emanation of virtue; it is not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country's most urgent needs.
According to Johan Goldberg it is estimated that fifty thousand French people were killed during the revolution. The guillotine is the enduring symbol of the French Revolution.
Robespierre also pioneered the establishment of a revolutionary vanguard, an elite group who lead the masses; they were the "priests" of the God-state. Robespierre believed that God spoke through himself and the vanguard; only they could discern the General Will. It was their duty to reshape French citizens into "New Men." Robespierre said:
I am convinced . . . of the necessity of bringing about a complete regeneration, and, if I may express myself so, of creating a new people.
He passed a law to take children from their homes so that they could be indoctrinated in boarding schools - a motive shared by American educator John Dewey (he utilized kindergarten in the early 20th century to insinuate the state between children and parents), and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson who said:
Our problem is not merely to help the students to adjust themselves to world life . . . [but] to make them as unlike their fathers as we can.
The French philosopher Georges Sorel of the late 19th and early 20th centuries contributed to revolutionary causes. He wrote of the power of myth to capture and drive the masses of people. His definition of myth was "artificial combinations invented to give the appearance of reality to hopes that inspire men in their present activity." Sorel believed the Second Coming of Christ to be a myth moving people to Christian ideals.
Sorel admired Marxist theory and saw Marxism as a powerful myth. He thought the rationale of Das Kapital didn't make sense, didn't have merit, but its nonsensical nature didn't matter: People just needed to think it was true. He wrote:
. . . this apocalyptic text . . . as a product of the spirit, as an image created for the purpose of molding consciousness, it . . . is a good illustration of the principle on which Marx believed he should base the rules of the socialist action of the proletariat.
Benito Mussolini, the Italian fascist dictator, agreed with Sorel:
It is faith that moves mountains, not reason. Reason is a tool, but it can never be the motive force of the crowd.
Sorel noted the ideas of the American philosopher William James. James thought that people rely on a "will to believe" - any religion can work because the seeker believes it is valid and true: thus the seeker creates a powerful faith through his own powerful will. Sorel applied this idea to revolutionary causes; revolutionary ideals could be inculcated on the masses - using violent means if necessary. It is the task of the revolutionary vanguard to inspire and manipulate the passions of the masses, and it doesn't matter what is true or false:
Truth and falsehood are arbitrary terms . . . there are lifeless truths and vital lies. . . . The force of an idea lies in its inspirational value. It matters very little if it's true or false.
Sorel noted the writings of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche believed that people are always attempting to impose their wills upon each other; the drive for domination is a most powerful instinct: He named this instinct the "Will to Power." The Will to Power was not a quality to be ashamed of; it was life affirming, necessary, and should be encouraged, especially in leaders. The last lines Nietzsche's The Will to Power are:
- do you want a name for this world? A solution for all its riddles? A light for you, too, you best-concealed, strongest, most intrepid, most midnightly men? -This world is the will to power - and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power - and nothing besides!
Nietzsche thought Christian ethics a "slave" morality, a system for the suppression of the Will to Power.
Sorel believed the "Will to Power" justified the revolutionary elite in using "vital lies" to create a revolutionary movement with all the power of religious fervor. A cadre of professional intellectual radicals would inspire the "will to believe" in the masses using incendiary rhetoric. Mussolini and Lenin held nearly identical views; they sought to push aside incremental, parliamentary reform, and to shape "revolutionary consciousness" by undermining liberal institutions and fomenting violence. Mussolini wrote:
We must create a proletarian minority sufficiently numerous, sufficiently knowledgeable, sufficiently audacious to substitute itself, at the opportune moment, for the bourgeois minority. . . . The mass will simply follow and submit.
How did this bundle of ideas come to America? Johan Goldberg writes:
The answer resides in the fact that Fascism was born of a "fascist moment" in Western civilization, when a coalition of intellectuals going by various labels - progressive, Communist, socialist, and so forth - believed the era of liberal democracy was drawing to a close. It was time for man to lay aside the anachronisms of natural law, traditional religion, constitutional liberty, capitalism, and the like and rise to the responsibility of remaking the world in his own image. God was long dead, and it was long overdue for men to take His place. Mussolini, a lifelong socialist intellectual, was a warrior in this crusade, and his Fascism - a doctrine he created from the same intellectual material Lenin and Trotsky had built their movements with - was a grand leap into the era of "experimentation" that would sweep aside old dogmas and usher in a new age. . . . Mussolini declared often that the 19th century was the century of Liberalism and the 20th the century of Fascism.
Jonah Goldberg writes that Benito Mussolini coined the term "totalitarian" by which he meant
. . . a society where everybody belonged, where everyone was taken care of, where everything was inside the state and nothing was outside: where truly no child was left behind.
Today people are unaware of the spell that Benito Mussolini cast on everyone; ordinary people and world-famous figures worshipped him. In 1923 New York Times journalist Isaac F. Morcosson wrote admiringly: "Mussolini is a Latin [Teddy] Roosevelt who first acts and then inquires if it is legal." In 1926 humorist Will Rogers, dubbed by the National Press Club the "Ambassador-at-Large of the United States," told the New York Times Mussolini was "some Wop. . . . I'm pretty high on that bird." Will Rogers wrote in The Saturday Evening Post: "Dictator form of government is the greatest form of government: that is if you have the right Dictator." In 1927 The Literary Digest asked in a survey "Is there a dearth of great men?" The first two men cited to refute the question were first Mussolini and second Lenin. In 1928 The Saturday Evening Post "glorified" Mussolini by publishing his autobiography in eight-parts; the essays were gathered into a book which gained one of the biggest ever advances by an American publisher. Winston Churchill said Mussolini was the world's greatest living lawgiver. Sigmund Freud sent Mussolini a copy of a book he wrote wherein Freud wrote "To Benito Mussolini, from an old man who greets, in the Ruler, the Hero of Culture."
The spirit of the age is also reflected in the words of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. In his 1890 essay, "Leaders of Men," Woodrow Wilson wrote the "true leader" uses the people as "tools":
Only a very gross substance of concrete conception can make any impression on the minds of the masses. . . . They must get their ideas very absolutely put, and are much readier to receive a half truth which they can promptly understand than a whole truth which has too many sides to be seen all at once. The competent leader cares little for the internal niceties of other people's characters: he cares much - everything - for the external uses to which they may be put. . . . He supplies the power; others supply only the materials upon which that power operates. . . . It is the power which dictates, dominates; the materials yield. Men are as clay in the hands of the consummate leader.
Jonah Goldberg writes that Wilson "mocked" "Fourth of July sentiments," that he believed the Constitution's checks and balances had, in Wilson's words, "proven mischievous just to the extent to which they have succeed in establishing themselves as realities." On the campaign trail in 1912 he said:
. . . living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and practice. Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of Life. . . . it must develop. . . . All that progressives ask or desire is permission - in an era when "development," "evolution," is the scientific word - to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle.
The points of my essay are broad, and could be made again using different words from different historical figures. Where can we see progressive ideas in operation today in America?
Rousseau's God-state, and Robespierre's objects of worship - objects derived not from God or Natural Law, but from the revolutionary elite - pulled humanity's roots from the soil. Reason, Nation, and Brotherhood - these are arbitrary objects originating from the whim of Robespierre; they lack genuine, spiritual, personal sustenance. They have not stood the test of time as Christian values have. They came from the fervid imagination of one hateful man. How are each of us to find the guidance, nurturance, and strength beyond ourselves that comes from the penetrating beneficence of God? - This should be our true aim.
American progressives today worship Nature, a Woman's Right to Choose Abortion, and Gay Marriage. Are these values better than Christian kindness, humility, honor, honesty, and generosity? As Paul Kengor writes in the St. Croix Review, progressives always progress - who knows what they will worship next?
American Progressives are not mass murderers as Robespierre, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were. Each American's life is precious, as long as we survive birth without being aborted.
The progressive list of enemies is long and the prosecution of targets ferocious. They hunt for hidden racists, sexists, bigots, and homophobes as eagerly as the inquisitors hunted heretics during the Spanish Inquisition - yes, the Church went power mad at times too, showing that no human institution is immune from corruption.
Progressives are impatient with the measured process of justice under the law, as can be seen in the aftermaths of the shooting deaths of Trayvon Martin in Florida, and Michael Brown in Missouri. Remember the words of Jesse Jackson, inculcating a myth, manipulating the gullible:
Trayvon is a martyr, he's not coming back, he's a martyr, murdered and martyred. . . . Blacks are under attack . . . targeting, arresting, convicting blacks, and ultimately killing us is big business.
The deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown are used as leverage points against measured, impersonal, lawful justice in the same way that an aikido master bends back an arm to collapse an opponent.
Progressive politicians reflexively, thoughtlessly, charge racism or sexism. A national Democrat leader, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, recently accused Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker of having "given women the back of his hand" and "grabbing us [women] by the hair and pulling us back!" She had no factual basis for this incendiary and slanderous language. Such charges serve to demonize; progressives don't have to kill if they can destroy their opponent's reputations and careers, leaving targets as objects for pity and intimidation.
Naming progressive enemies could be a parlor game. Here's my list: corporations, bankers, the top one percent, Christopher Columbus, Dead White Males, Big Oil, Big Pharmacy, Big Tobacco, smokers and second-hand smoke, owners of SUVs, insurance companies, gun rights activists, creditors, crediting agencies, the Tea Party, the Duke Lacrosse Team, George Zimmerman, trans fats, the Washington "Redskins," breast implant makers - we all could play: Connect an issue with an incident for extra points!
I believe that human-caused, catastrophic, climate change is a major progressive myth. There are motives: profit (Al Gore has benefited financially); fame (scientists such as James Hanson become stars); steady funding for university researchers from progressive foundations; animus towards capitalism; redistribution of income; a big, new, revenue stream for government; the creation of enemies (Big Oil, owners of SUVs); the worship of Nature with the fervor of nature worshipers turned against progressive enemies; misanthropy by extreme environmentalists; and a lust to control energy use minutely.
Other progressive myths are: The Tea Party is racist; the Republican's "war on women"; America is a pervasively racist nation; the American military is a terrorist force; America became wealthy by stealing from other nations, etc. One could increase the list.
The progressive vanguard is vast in modern America: The Democratic Party; media figures; the entertainment industry; public intellectuals; writers of all types; educators at all levels; lawyers and judges; and the federal bureaucracies who are unaccountable, can't be fired, and write most of the rules we live by. All aspects of life are covered. I suspect most are true believers and don't know they are moved by myths.
The photograph of President Obama laughing cheerfully on the golf course moments after "consoling" the parents of James Wright Foley, the journalist who was beheaded by Islamic terrorists, is revealing. It shows he just doesn't care what happens to fellow Americans, just as Robespierre didn't care about individuals - no empathy. President Obama is persistently dishonest and deceitful. He adheres to progressive morality - the Will to Power - though he may not ever think about Friedrich Nietzsche. *
Two things you said on page one of the June/July Review have been cooking in the back of my mind. The first is the title: "Our Mission Is to Reawaken the Genuine American Spirit." That has sort of been my mission ever since, when in 1944, I read The Boys of '76, by Charles Carleton Coffin, written in 1876.
The other thing you say on page one is: "Angus was moved to lead people to be good, and for him that meant to be honest." I had picked that up from reading his autobiography. I was very impressed, then, and again. Here was a man of the cloth who really seemed to understand what Christ was talking about.
Reinhold Niebuhr is my favorite 20th century theologian. Still, I do not remember his focusing so strongly on honesty. Angus really knew what he was talking about. Is it possible to deny the following? "If all people were honest, there would be no cheating, no crime, no war."
Another "self-evident truth" which validates Angus' position: "There is only one virtue: Honesty." Can anyone name a single virtue that is not honesty? Angus knew what religion is, and should be, all about: Honesty. Christ went to the heart of the matter: "The truth will make you free." Yes! From what?
From my training in undergraduate Religious Studies, and, taking many graduate courses without getting any graduate degrees, I have an opinion about that: "The truth will make you free" from ignorance, fear, pride, sin, and spiritual death. Those things add up. Christ really did speak "The Word of God."
Today religion seems to be failing worldwide. In fact, religion seems to be the problem. But, religion is supposed to be the solution. Not only should it be the solution, it can be. All religions are supposed to bring peace of mind, and consequently, peace for mankind. Religions need to be authentic: Honest.
The key to anybody's behavior is their own ultimate concern. How many people know what their ultimate concern actually is? This is the business of religion, and their business is not being done very well. I personally have lots of ideas about this problem, but they are far too radical for most people.
Do you know anybody who would be interested in my ideas who has the training to be able to refute my ideas? I say "refute" because refutation is what I am interested in. I wish to have my ideas refuted, if possible. Otherwise, I wish to have them used to defend the Spirit of '76: Natural Law, God's Will.
Many thanks for reading this.
Thank you for your letter. I don't often get such a thoughtful response, attempting to probe the nature of things, as you have done. Perhaps some among our readership would like to respond to you in turn.
I believe honesty is a first virtue without which other virtues are not possible. Could someone be more or less honest and remain largely selfish? Of course. I need to be motivated to grow out of selfishness so that a sense of justice (separate from self-interest), compassion, and equanimity can blossom. I want a head clear of resentment, envy, and unreasonable fear - this is hard to do, as these are compulsive emotional habits that reason alone cannot banish. We all need the support of a religious community I believe.
I think it was Emmet Fox who wrote that wisdom is the combining of knowledge with love - I believe that. Many virtues can be cultivated but none are possible without the honesty and courage to face the faulty way I sometimes see things. I don't think we disagree.
The following is a summary of the August/September 2014 issue of the St. Croix Review:
In "Ronald Reagan's Faith and Optimism," Barry MacDonald shows why Ronald Reagan was successful.
Paul Kengor, in "The Left's Evolving Hierarchy of Rights," shows how the free expression of religion and property rights are being suppressed in preference for gay marriage and abortion rights; in "Ronald Reagan on Religious Tolerance," he presents a forgotten speech in which President Reagan talks about the vital, enduring strength of America.
Michael D. Dean, in "World View and Marriage," uses logic, science, tradition, culture, Christianity, and sheer intellectual power to show how the replacement of Christian belief with secular arrogance has led to a less humane state of American culture.
Tim Goeglein, in "God, America, and the Public Square," underlines the importance of our Christian faith that continues to produce virtues in each of us - making the future of America bright.
Thomas Martin, in "Is It Time to Alter or Abolish America?" looks at abortion from the standpoint of the Declaration of Independence.
In "Constitutional Disobedience?" Herbert London confronts a Georgetown University professor's view that America should scrap the Constitution.
Mark Hendrickson, in "How to Stop the EPA's Jihad Against Carbon," looks at the mad lust on the part of the Obama administration to jack up energy prices, and he makes simple suggestions; in "America's Losing Battle Against Poor Governance and the Whac-a-Mole," he describes a plethora of out-of-control bureaucracies, who for some reason are arming themselves, and a Congress that has abandoned its responsibility.
Allan Brownfeld, in "Why Is New York's Mayor - A Self-Proclaimed 'Progressive' - Challenging School Choice for Minorities and the Poor?" promotes charter schools; in "Jon Utley at 80: From the Beginning, A Life Touched by the Tragedies of 20th Century History," he writes about Jon's parents, and the evils of Communism.
S. Fred Singer, in "The National Climate Assessment Doubles Down on Doom," shows how President Obama, and various federal bureaucracies, are doing their best (with no scientific justification) to scare the wits out of Americans.
In "A Cape Breton Incident," Jigs Gardner writes about hardship, poignant natural beauty, and perseverance
In "The Death of Liberalism," Jigs Gardner tells the story of Mayor John Lindsay's hollow ideology, and his futile efforts at maintaining order in New York City in the late 1960s.
In "Survey of Conservative Magazines: Another Straw in the Wind?" Feyette Durlin and Peter Jenkin present essays that represent conservatives' unsettled views on Greenism and the Welfare State.
Fayette Durlin and Peter Jenkin write from Brownsville, Minnesota.
Our readers may be tiring of our chronicling of the confused response of conservatives to Greenism, but we believe that the struggle against this mad movement is going to be the titanic battle of our time, and conservatives are only confusedly groping toward an understanding of it. If conservatives don't take the lead, they are liable to be pushed aside by the forces demanding development that are even now beginning to stir, and the GOP may wind up like the Whigs in the 1850s: unwilling to take a clear stand on the great issue - slavery - of the day: the party disintegrated under the pressure of the pro and anti-slavery forces. This is the issue with the potential to make or break the republic, and even now it is hampering, not only our domestic policies but even our responses to foreign threats, like the Russian takeover of Ukraine (e.g., licensing liquefied natural gas ports to ship gas to Ukraine). We have noted the appearance, for the first time, in the conservative press of articles about various Green depredations, and the EPA's "war on coal" is regularly noted, but hitherto the conservative response has lacked a sense of urgency.
An article by Stephen Moore, chief economist at the Heritage Foundation, in the May issue of The American Spectator lacks historical and ideological understanding of the subject, but is the best comprehensive piece we have seen on Greenism in the conservative press, and it does not lack urgency:
. . . it is time for conservatives to combat the most economically and statist movement in the world today . . . the modern-day green movement . . . whose guiding principle is . . . to impede economic growth, material progress, and capitalism. . . .
He goes on to identify unequivocally the Green villain - the human race. He points out that Greens are "against almost all forms of electric power, except those that are prohibitively expensive." To put it more broadly, they are implacably hostile to energy development, the factor that makes modern civilization possible (a prominent Green told us that his Green friends knew the potential bonanza of shale gas, "but we're not going to let you get it.")
Mr. Moore goes on to point out how big corporations cultivate a Green image, noting that Chevron and British Petroleum talk "about anything but oil and gas."
Since we all know that corporations, no matter how clearly they are marked down as victims, will never fight, the Moore says the job is up to conservatives, which brings up the question:
How can we awaken Americans to the insanity of modern greens? The best line of attack might be to expose them as power-grabbing elitists, whose policies would do grievous harm to the poor and disadvantaged that they pretend to care about.
It is telling that the two major voting groups that oppose the Keystone pipeline are Democrats who make more than $100,000 annually, and Democrats with a college or advanced degree. Greenism is an elitist movement whose cost will be borne by everyone but the gentry. What an opportunity for Republicans
. . . to win back the old Reagan Democrat swing voters . . . middle-class, blue-collar workers who care more about their families and their jobs, not the snail darter or the prairie chicken.
Of course we are pleased to see such a forthright piece in a conservative magazine, but our pleasure is a little dampened by the inference that the editors did not grasp its significance: besides the cover story, there are nine articles highlighted on the cover - and this is not one of them.
* * * * *
Nicholas Eberstadt has a disturbing, and ultimately challenging essay in the 5/19 issue of The Weekly Standard, "The Great Society at 50," which analyzes the War on Poverty as it has developed over the years. He begins by describing President Johnson's Great Society proposals, showing how far reaching they were and how quickly they were implemented. When it comes to judging the results, using the "statistical measure invented to gauge" those results - the official "poverty rate - the effect has been an "unmitigated failure": the rate as of 2012 was 15 percent, up from 14.7 percent in 1966. Of course we know better, and the author goes on to explain why the official rate is so misleading; ". . . it presumes an immediate and exact equivalence between income levels and consumption levels." In fact, however, by 2011 "those in the lowest quintile were spending nearly 125 percent more than their reported pretax incomes," and much of that discrepancy is due to "noncash transfers of means-tested public benefits." The truth about poverty is that "consumption poverty" afflicts about 4 percent of the populace.
It is at this point that the essay becomes disturbing, as he shows how the antipoverty effort has coincided with a "tangle of pathologies": welfare dependency, the flight from work, and family breakdown. For instance, by 2012 a third of Americans were getting aid from antipoverty programs - and a third of these were below the poverty line. As for the flight from work, the proportion of employed men over 20 "has dramatically and steadily fallen . . . from 80.6 in 1964 to 67.6 [today]."
For every adult man who is between jobs and looking for new work, more than five are neither working nor looking for employment. We all know about family breakdown today, but the statistics are, nevertheless, startling and depressing. Before the war on poverty more than 93 percent of babies were born to married parents. By 2013 out of wedlock births were over 40 percent, and for some groups, like Negroes and Hispanics, the figures are even direr. A large body of research for years has shown the disadvantages of such children: their odds of "suffering adverse educational, health, behavioral, psychological and other outcomes [are high]".
We cannot draw hard and fast lines of causation between the rise of the welfare state and these social disasters, but the author points out that the welfare state "facilitated these trends by helping to finance them." He concludes that the antipoverty programs "subverted" the American promise by tacitly encouraging, and overtly subsidizing, an alternative to financial self-reliance, work, and intact family: the very social basis upon which the American experiment was built.
We cannot read this essay without asking ourselves this stark question: are we capable of confronting and dismantling the welfare state? *
When William showed up to get his pullets that spring, he was so changed that at first I didn't recognize him. His clothes were dingy and hung loosely, the belt gathering in his pants like an accordion, and he looked terrible: thin, pale, and careworn. I was reassured, though, when he spoke with his characteristic self-effacing smile in the quiet, almost melodic intonation, the voice buried in the back of the throat, that is common at this end of the peninsula, where Gaelic hung on longer. The story itself, told in a few simple sentences, was restrained, uncomplaining, self-deprecating. His mother had lapsed into senility at the beginning of winter, he said, and except for some help from his brother on weekends, William had borne the burden himself, managing the farm, running the household and taking care of his increasingly difficult mother.
When we had put the pullets in the back of his truck, I said, "If there's anything I can do, let me know," as if I lived next door, instead of 10 miles away. I suppose I was trying to express my sympathy for a man who, in the midst of trouble, made no claims for himself.
Not long afterward, I had a conversation with one of his neighbors, who explained that William would lose the farm if he put his mother in the nursing home in Baddeck, as some people had advised him to do. The farm was in her name, and her property would be forfeited to the province if she became a welfare case. The neighbor told me that he had gone through a similar experience with his own mother, although there had been no problem with the farm ownership and he had had his wife and grown children to help.
"Why didn't you put her in the nursing home?" I asked.
"Well, you know yourself, there's no care like home care. And how would she get on, so far from home and only strangers around her?" He paused and smiled. "Besides, our mothers brought us into the world; at least we can see them out of it."
Early on a Saturday morning in mid-September, I drove our team and wagon the 14 miles to the Highland Village. For the first four miles, the clay roads of the backlands that the horses and I knew so well from hauling grain and logs, eelgrass, sawdust, slabs, lumber and hay - Robinson Road, the Yankee Line, the Boom Road, the Southside - are hemmed in closely by dark woods, with only two houses in ragged clearings along the way. When I turned onto the pavement of Route 223, the horses' shoes rang out loudly on the asphalt.
There are a few settlements of half a dozen houses, but for the most part, the houses are solitary, sometimes with miles of woods and old fields between. No one was up, and I didn't see a soul until I passed two men digging potatoes at Mackinnons Harbour. Rarely have I seen such perfect weather here: it was not only warm, sunny, and windless, but the air was so unusually dry that every detail, even far across the lake, was clear and bright, helping me, along with the leisurely pace of the wagon, to see things I had not noticed before: houses and barns and winding roads behind screens of trees down in hollows and on distant hills. It seemed, especially when I was looking at far-off buildings in the clear morning light, as if what I saw, emphasized by the stillness and the lack of moving figures, was a vast landscape painting that subtly changed as I moved slowly by. The world was new-made, sanctified, more real than real, exhilarating. Driving past William's farm - a pleasure to see, with its taut fences, sturdy gates and well-kept buildings - I looked for him, but he must have been in the barn doing chores, because none of the cows were out. As the wagon dipped down the hill beyond the farm, I wondered about his mother.
The Highland Village was celebrating Pioneer Day, and my wife and I were going there - she in a neighbor's truck with most of the gear - to perform such tasks as making cheese and soap. I made the soap, sitting on the grass beside a small fire, answering questions, joking with friends, having such a good time that I let the time slip by heedlessly. I should have left around 4 p.m. in order to get home before dark, so when I finally left at 5:30, I was a little worried.
Now I was driving west toward the sinking sun, and the solitude of the morning was superseded by an intermittent stream of traffic, as people were up and about at their weekend cottages along the lake. Children waved, and a woman ran out to photograph the horses. After awhile, however, there was only an occasional car, the cottagers had gone in to supper, and the road was left again to the horses and me. The day regained its special quality, warm and calm and wonderfully clear, with the light beautiful on every stone and branch. But it was a dying light; inexorably, the sun sank lower and lower, and the shadows reached out to me from far down the road.
The horses slowly climbed the hill to William's farm, where the cows were standing around in the pasture behind the barn as they always do after being milked. As I gained the crest of the hill, William stepped out from the field across the road and walked over to the wagon, looking as he used to before his troubles had started - spruce and clean, with a shining face. He told me that early in the summer, he had hired a neighbor woman to help out and that his mother was a little better now.
"We had a couple of bad times," he said, shaking his head, "and we nearly lost her, but we got her to the hospital in time. It was close there."
He said that he had heard me go by in the morning and had been waiting for me to return. "Mother always liked horses; she used to drive the team on the hay wagon. I've got her sitting in the window," he said, nodding toward the house." If you could drive in there . . . ?"
With William on the back of the wagon, I drove up the short lane as it curved around the corner of the house, and sitting by an open downstairs window was William's mother. The overwhelming impression was of whiteness - the window faced west, so the level sun shone full on the white house; the room was white; white pillows propped her up; someone stirring in the background was dressed in white; and William's mother's hair, whitest of all, streamed out from her face in a silvery aureole - to which she herself was strikingly contrasted with her dark blue robe and glittering black eyes. She remained motionless and speechless, but her eyes, in the intensity of their gaze, conveyed all the strength of her expression with so much power that I had to look away. William went over to the window, and I heard him talking to his mother about the horses when I climbed down and walked back around the corner of the house.
I waited a few minutes, looking down at the yellowed poplar leaves lying thickly in the lane, before I went back to tell William that I had to go. I had to get off the highway before dark.
As I guided the team in a wide turn around the yard, I looked back. William stood next to the window, smiling, his hand raised in farewell, and his mother was exactly as I had seen her. The dark eyes concentrated all the energy in the scene, but whether they were following the horses out of sight or were just staring ahead at the sinking sun I could not tell. I waved and drove out onto the highway. When I looked again, the barn blocked my view of the house.
I passed a man and a boy painting a shed, and an old man splitting firewood, but the shades of evening were drawing down, and I saw no one else until I came to the field where the men had been digging potatoes in the morning. One of the men was sitting leisurely in a chair on the lawn across the road, and I called out.
"How were the potatoes?"
"Good!" he called back.
At Ottawa Brook, the sun set, and the long shadows lost their sharp edges, blurring into the general dusk. The sky was still light above me, and the afterglow might last until I got off the pavement and onto the back roads. I called to the tired horses, urging them to quicken their lagging pace, urging them to press on into the darkening west. *
S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and director of the Science & Environmental Policy Project. His specialty is atmospheric and space physics. An expert in remote sensing and satellites, he served as the founding director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service and, more recently, as vice chair of the U.S. National Advisory Committee on Oceans & Atmosphere. He is a senior fellow of the Heartland Institute and the Independent Institute, and an elected fellow of several scientific and engineering organizations. He co-authored the New York Times best-seller Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 years. In 2007, he founded and has since chaired the NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change), which has released several scientific reports [See www.NIPCCreport.org]. For recent writings, see http://www.americanthinker.com/s_fred_singer/ and also Google Scholar. This article is republished from The American Thinker.
President Barack Obama has decided to make "combating climate change" one of the top priorities of his second term; his EPA has pursued policies that amount to a "war on coal" - or more specifically on emissions of carbon dioxide. On June 2, EPA announced a goal of a 30 percent reduction by 2030 - focusing mainly on coal-fired power plants that currently supply well over one-third of U.S. electricity.
The proposed EPA rules would cost approximately $51 billion a year and destroy 224,000 jobs each year through 2030. The poor and people on fixed incomes will be hurt the most. And all this pain will be for absolutely no gain: It will have no impact at all on the global climate, according to reports published by the libertarian Heartland Institute - based on peer-reviewed climate science.
Apparently, Mr. Obama has become convinced that CO2 is responsible for global warming - and that anthropogenic GW (AGW) is dangerous. Or perhaps, there are more sinister motives.
Never mind the lack of evidence about any significant human influence on climate or the fact that the atmosphere is a "global commons" - with the U.S. emitting only about one-tenth of all CO2, while China alone emits nearly one-half. According to official reports released on May 14, China now burns 49 percent of the world's supply of coal, the U.S. only 11 percent.
But since climate change is nearly all naturally caused, Obama should learn the lesson of King Canute, who supposedly commanded the tides to cease rising and falling.
Yet on May 4, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) issued its third National Climate Assessment (NCA), a collection of imagined future climate catastrophes and disasters for every section of the country. Its purpose is to convince the public that only quick action to cut emissions of carbon dioxide could avert these horrible events. The handsome report comes with beautiful pictures and graphs in color, a total of 841 pages. It was expensive too; representing four years of work by hundreds of people; but it sank quickly, like a lead balloon. Consequently, the media, with much help from the White House Office of Science and Technology, have done everything possible to keep the excitement going.
Yet daily we read of new discoveries, generally on the front page of the New York Times, which portend some awful calamity: killer heat waves, more droughts and floods, more hurricanes and tornadoes, looming losses of agriculture in poor countries, raising fears of famines and millions of environmental refugees, collapse of Antarctic ice sheets, and rise of sea levels flooding coastal cities, etc. - scenarios dreamt up in Hollywood.
The NCA report ambles on about rising rates of heat waves, droughts, floods, severe weather, hurricanes, etc. But there is no evidence whatsoever to support such claims; the official statistics show no such increase in the rates; there is no recent acceleration in the steady rise of sea level, which has been ongoing since the last ice age - a 400-foot rise in the past 18,000 years.
A group of retired military brass has rediscovered what they call "strategic climate change." It is an old fable that started out a few years ago, claiming global warming would enhance conflict over resources throughout the world and create even more environmental refugees.
The media also played up some fairly routine observations about the west Antarctic ice sheet in yet another attempt to convince the public that sea level rise is a much greater problem than rising temperatures - particularly since most citizens are aware by now that global temperatures have been flat for the past 15 years - in spite of a 10 percent rise in the level of CO2.
During the same 15-year period, the UN-created IPCC has issued three Assessment Reports (in 2001, 2007, and 2013). Hilariously, their politically oriented summaries claim increasing certainty (66 percent, 90 percent, and even greater than 95 percent, respectively) for AGW, based on supposed agreement between models and actual data!
As documented by the independent NIPCC (2013), the discrepancy between what climate models calculate and what the actual observations tell us is striking. Yet all speculation about future climate is based on these models, which obviously have never been validated.
But let me congratulate the USGCRP for not falling into the same trap as in their first report (2000), initiated by then-vice president Al Gore. In order to enhance the scariness of future impacts on different regions of the United States (they chose 18 regions), the report authors selected two climate models that had particularly high "climate sensitivity" and would give more temperature rise for the same increase of carbon-dioxide level.
Unfortunately for the (Gore) NCA, the two models gave opposite results for most of the 18 regions. For example, one model would predict that North Dakota would turn into a swamp, while the other predicted that it would turn into a desert. Altogether, about half the results were in opposite directions.
NIPCC can also be read as "Not-IPCC." And indeed, its conclusions disagree starkly with those of the IPCC. Both groups of climate scientists use the same procedure in summarizing the published literature - except that NIPCC includes papers which the IPCC ignores since they disagree with the pre-conceived AGW story; these papers also suggest possible natural causes for observed climate changes, such as solar variability and internal oscillations of the atmosphere-ocean system.
On reflection, this third NCA report is probably the worst of all. It represents a full press effort by the White House to scare the public into accepting higher prices for fossil fuels. It goes hand in hand with the effort of the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) to assign a high "social cost" to carbon-based fuels in their so-called SCC (Social Cost of Carbon) calculations. Unfortunately for OMB, the social "cost" of carbon is almost certainly negative: that is, more CO2 is good for U.S. because it benefits agriculture. But the SCC calculations don't include the benefits of increased CO2. One can learn about these by reading Volume 2 of NIPCC's "Climate Change Reconsidered-II," published in April 2014.
The reaction to NCA was not slow in coming. The NCA is more alarming than even the latest IPCC report published in 2013. For example the sea level predictions are about double those of IPCC 2013. Further, the IPCC does not foresee a rise in severe weather, floods, or droughts, based on historical data that show no significant trend with rising temperature. Even the alarmist U.S. National Academy of Sciences has taken a cool stance towards the NCA.
A direct rebuttal of the NCA is provided by an independent group of 15 scientists. It has been picked up by several media outlets - but of course not by the New York Times or Washington Post. I quote from their rebuttal:
Unilateral CO2 emission control by the United States promises to damage the economy of the United States without any benefits. In fact, increasing CO2 in the atmosphere facilitates achieving the goal of raising the poor out of poverty through increasing food production.
Sometime this summer, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will issue its decision in South-Eastern Legal Foundation vs. EPA, an important case having to do with whether the EPA's Endangerment Finding (EF) on CO2 should be upheld. Much is at stake here. SCOTUS can stop the EPA drive to remove plentiful, cheap coal, which the U.S. exports to other nations, and which until recently has provided over half of U.S. electricity. Coal will either remain a preferred fuel or will be replaced and raise the cost of electric generation.
If SCOTUS cannot stop the EPA, perhaps a change in the Senate in the November elections will do the trick. It will certainly put both House and Senate in support of low-cost energy and benefit economic growth and jobs. It would of course go counter to the campaign promise of Barack Obama that "electricity prices would skyrocket."
Why would the White House want to make energy more costly for Americans? I don't really think that they believe in limiting CO2 emission as a way to stop the climate from warming - if indeed CO2 is as effective as the NCA thinks.
I quote here from a letter submitted to OMB [on SCC]:
Artificially raising the price of energy is the same thing as impoverishing the American People. It is shocking and disgusting that our government would intentionally pursue this goal, particularly without any scientific basis whatsoever.
The currently calculated SCC estimates [by OMB] are being used to justify proposed EPA regulations, and also as input regarding a proper carbon tax levels should a future Congress elect to move in this direction . . . and these SCC estimates are for the entire world not just for the U.S. It matters a great deal what other key countries are to do in these regards. . . . And, in short, the current SCC estimates are not only worthless, they are extremely dangerous . . . to U.S. energy, economic and national security related policy.
Why would the White House want to make energy more expensive and depress the standard of living for most of the U.S. population? The problem becomes very acute for those in the lower income brackets where they have to decide between food and heat; whether to starve, or to freeze. Of course, they won't be permitted to starve or freeze; they will now receive energy vouchers in addition to food stamps. These subsidies will have to be paid for by taxes - mainly from middle-income earners; they are the ones who will lose out in this scenario.
But perhaps that's the ultimate purpose: To make a larger fraction of the population more dependent on government handouts - a Machiavellian scheme. So maybe that's why the NCA is as alarming as it is: to make people more amenable to accept higher energy costs and more dependent on government. *
Thomas Martin is the O. K. Bouwsma Chair in Philosophy at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Along with his fellow colleagues who are dedicated to the study of the Great Books, he teaches the works of Plato, Aristotle, and G. K. Chesterton.
At the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on February 6, President Barack Obama claimed that "killing the innocent" is the "ultimate betrayal of God's will."
In speaking of terrorists, Obama said:
Extremists succumb to an ignorant nihilism that shows they don't understand the faiths they claim to profess, for killing the innocent is never fulfilling God's will. In fact, it is the ultimate betrayal of God's will.
If President Obama means what he said, then he is an American.
Americans, lest we forget, side with their forefathers and declare:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Every rational person must ask, what is the difference between a terrorist who kills the innocent and a government that has supported the abortion of 1.2 million innocent, unborn babies in the last year alone - babies guaranteed the unalienable right to life as Americans?
Be rational and not emotional.
Read on Americans and remember that beside the three divine rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, there is a fourth right stated in the Declaration of Independence:
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, - That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
When the government becomes destructive of these ends - the three unalienable rights - it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it and to institute a new Government.
In philosophy when we speak of ends, we mean things that have final causes that exist in nature. Man by nature is created for happiness, and he is inherently tending to this end for which God has created him. Therefore, by being God's creation, we can only be truly happy when doing God's will. This is the source of our peace and joy.
President Obama continued at the National Prayer Breakfast:
So here we put aside labels of party and ideology, and recall what we are first: all children of a loving God; brothers and sisters called to make His work our own. But in this work, as Lincoln said, our concern should not be whether God is on our side, but whether we are on God's side.
While Obama can stand in prayer and professes to put aside party and ideology, he does not believe or support the first unalienable right of American babies.
In all likelihood, he did not script the words he spoke. He is yet another politician who is out to sway the vote by teleprompting whatever the audience wants to hear.
Who in their right mind thinks "brothers and sisters called to make His work our own" means that denying innocent children life is God's will?
It is important to remember that words do not mean anything by themselves. Rather, the person who is speaking means what he says or he does not - making him not good for his word.
Actions speak louder than words.
It is time to alter or to abolish this government for the sake of each citizen whose birthright has been denied by every President in the last forty years, for they have not attended to Lincoln's exhortation "our concern should not be whether God is on our side, but whether we are on God's side."
Abortion may be a pragmatic answer for messy situations, but we are reaping the harvest of not aligning ourselves with our Creator: child abuse and neglect, child pornography, children killing children, and so on.
Alter or abolish? *
This article is a reprint of a chapel message given April 13, 2012 at Maranatha Baptist Bible College, by alumnus Dr. Michael Dean, an attorney who litigates in defense of Christian liberties, and the vice-chairman of Maranatha's Board of Trustees.
I'm part of a legal team litigating the definition of marriage in Wisconsin, so Dr. Marriott asked me to speak to you today about marriage and law. I'll begin with several general observations about law and culture.
First, every relatively coherent society reflects some belief system or worldview that a critical mass of its individual members (or at least of its influential members) hold generally in common. Not every one engages in systematic reflection on reality, life, and meaning, of course, but most still hold more or less similar conceptions about the nature of things upon which they base their thought and conduct: what is "true," how to tell right from wrong, how things "ought" to be, and so on.
Second, such conceptions are matters of quasi-religious faith, adopted and held for reasons beyond strict logic and experience, the customary modes of legal proof. For example, even though no propositions are more fundamental to American law and culture than the notions that all men are created equal and have inalienable rights, the Founders did not attempt to "prove" natural rights or the equality of man, much less define them with legal precision. They simply asserted that they were "self-evident."
Third, though such conceptions are not susceptible to legal "proof" in the ordinary sense, they nevertheless govern, or at least inform and guide, the approaches our legal system takes and the conclusions it reaches when confronted with broad social issues.
Fourth, societies change over time, more or less in concert with changes in the fundamental cultural conceptions that cohere and guide them. Competing perspectives emerge to challenge the dominant worldviews, and because law is a function of culture, as worldviews change, legal perspectives change with them, sometimes as effect, sometimes as cause.
Finally, I'm not attempting a technical, academic exercise in either philosophy or jurisprudence. Instead, this talk is a general overview about Christian worldview, how it was incorporated in early American judicial decisions about marriage, how that worldview was replaced over time by a radically secular vision, and how legal perspectives on marriage have changed accordingly.
One of the best resources I've seen addressing "worldview" in non-technical terms from a Christian perspective is Dr. Del Tacket's DVD series The Truth Project. "Ontology" is the branch of philosophy that examines the nature of things, and Dr. Tackett boils down 2,500 years of it into a single statement, "Truth is what is real." Obviously, there is a profound dispute in culture over what is real. (In the social sciences, for instance, economist Thomas Sowell writes about the Conflict of Visions.)
At the risk of being grossly overbroad and misleading, there is critical common ground between some strains of classical pagan, natural law philosophy, and Judeo-Christian theology. From Socrates to Plato to Augustine to Aquinas to C. S. Lewis, and countless others in between, if there exist such things as reason and ideas - if they are real - then there must be a kind of being, a kind of stuff, that is different than mere matter.
Admittedly, man not being omniscient, reason alone is circular - "tautological." Nevertheless, reason is self-evident, and I believe in reason because it is reasonable. It is more reasonable to conclude that something should follow from something than from nothing, reason from reason than from non-reason, life from life than from non-life, effect from cause than from nothing, self-awareness from self-awareness rather than from non-awareness, sentience and foresight and choice from sentience and foresight and choice rather than from their absence, and so on.
In sum, it is more reasonable to conclude that we and the world around us are the result of some purposeful, incomprehensibly powerful and intelligent first being, than to conclude that we are the result of nothing at all. It is not reasonable to believe that, once upon a time, when there was no time, suddenly there was time. That over time nothing somehow became something, that something somehow blew itself up, and that after blowing itself up it somehow came miraculously alive, and that after becoming alive, again for no reason at all, it began breathing and reproducing and thinking, finally turning itself into movie stars, second basemen, and evolutionary biologists.
In contrast to the Christian view, it's become stylish to declare one's self atheist or agnostic - a free thinker, master of your own fate, captain of your own soul, no religious crutch, guided by reason alone.
That all sounds quite grand, but the atheist and agnostic assert their dogma in much the same way as Christians. They insist that being consists of self-existent time and matter (the "time-space continuum"), that time and matter have somehow always existed, or somehow came into being ex nihilo nisi causa ("out of nothing and without reason"), and that their present form - including you and me - is not the result of intelligent cause, but is merely the product of the big bang plus time, nothing more.
Often called "secularism" or "scientific naturalism," this view is that nothing exists except what normal human beings can perceive by means of the physical senses, augmented by whatever observational tools we may invent - that ideas and self-awareness are nothing more than particularly sophisticated mechanical events - that there's no ghost in the machine after all. The same as Jahweh declares, "I AM, and that's all," the naturalist and secularist declare, "Matter (or energy) is, and that's all."
My characterizations of secularist and naturalist thought are not caricatures. To begin with, they are nothing new. Shortly before Christ, for example, the Roman philosopher and poet Lucretius wrote De Rerum Natura, "On the Nature of Things." Advocating the view of the Greek philosopher Democritus 400 years earlier, Lucretius asserted that there is no Supreme Being, that being, even consciousness, are, ultimately, nothing but "atoms in the void," operating according to physical "laws" somehow inherent in the atoms themselves.
Almost twenty-five hundred years after Democritus, Stephen Hawking, perhaps the world's most acclaimed living cosmologist, reprises him in The Grand Design. He writes, "It was as if a coin 1 centimeter in diameter suddenly blew up to ten million times the width of the Milky Way." He explains that if you go far enough back in time, the universe was a "singularity" - a "Planck size" speck measuring "a billion-trillion-trillionth of a centimeter." He declares, "Because there is a law of gravity, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing."
Hawking might protest that he's not reviving Democritus, but instead has identified gravity as the antecedent being from which time and matter followed. He observes correctly that "It is reasonable to ask who or what created the universe," and concludes, also correctly, "if the answer is God, then the question has merely been deflected to that of who created God."
But Hawking concluding that a Planck size singularity is the first being and gravity its first cause doesn't avoid atomism, he just kicks the antecedent can a bit further back up the causal/teleological road. Being forced to ask "Who created God?" no more refutes God's existence than being forced to ask "Who created the singularity?" refutes the existence of Hawking's "law of gravity" or his seminal speck.
Put differently, how is an incomprehensibly infinitesimal dot of dumb matter less a "deflection" than an incomprehensibly intelligent First Being? How is it less an act of faith to conclude that the irreducible "being" from which consciousness and intelligence and all else followed was uncreated law and matter, than to conclude that it was uncreated Consciousness and Intelligence? How is it more a blind leap to conclude that Being created being, than to make, as Hawking does, the absurd statement that the universe not only "create[d] itself," it did so "out of nothing"?
As to Hawking's declaration that the universe created itself because there is a law of gravity, how is it more rational to believe that intelligence results from the irreducible "being" of "gravity" than from an irreducible "Being" of "Intelligence"? In psychological terms, how is comfort in the certainty of mathematical "law," in which all mysteries dwell, any more justified than comfort in the certainty of God, in Whom dwell all wisdom and knowledge, including mathematics?
And as to the very idea of gravity creating matter, how is it "scientific," much less "rational," to stake everything on a non-material "law" that is somehow creating material different than itself? How could such a law even exist prior to the matter Hawking thinks it created? I suspect that by "law" Hawking means nothing more than "how things behave." But if that is so, then how did law exist when nothing existed to behave? - when there was nothing for law to inhere in or operate upon? In fact, how is it legitimate even to say "when" nothing existed? Hawking would say time is a different special dimension of the same basic stuff as everything else, but it's still something, so by his premises, the phrase "when nothing existed" is a contradiction in terms. It is nonsense.
In the end, when Hawking claims that the "law" of gravity is the irreducible "being" from which all else follows, his naturalism is a philosophical assertion no less arbitrary than Jahweh's "I AM," and his atheism ends the same place as the village boor's - proclaiming himself God.
Again, this is not caricature. Hawking posits an incomprehensibly large number of possible universes (10500). He declares that "mental concepts are the only reality we can know. . . . It follows that a well-constructed model creates a reality of its own." Our universe is only "one of many," each with its own history, which means that "We create history by our observation, rather than history creating us."
Hawking's view is the same old naturalist paradox. In a truly Lipitan fit - where is Swift when we need him? - Hawking really does reduce man to a "well-constructed model." He says, "One can define living beings as complex systems of limited size that are stable and that reproduced themselves." We are "mere collections of fundamental particles of nature." Human conduct is pre-determined by laws of science, and "free will" is just an "effective theory" necessitated by "our inability to do the calculations that would enable us to predict [human] actions." Man is nothing but the biggest ant in a robotic anthill. Nothing but a pre-determined finder of keys in an arbitrarily operating cosmic asylum.
As Hawking's logical blind alleys demonstrate, atheism and agnosticism's certainties break down as a matter of reason. An atheist knows that God does not exist. But that's a universal negative - something you can't know, unless you're omniscient yourself, in which case you've made yourself god, which is what atheism is about anyway - Hawking creating reality by his own observation, for instance. Further, a universal negative is tautology without modesty. How does a naturalist know that nothing exists except that which he can see? Simple - he can't see it.
An agnostic sounds more modest than an atheist. Instead of saying God doesn't exist, he says only, "You can't know whether God exists." But agnosticism is no less tautological than atheism, because that too is a universal negative. You can't know that you can't know unless, again, you're omniscient. How does an agnostic know for sure that he can't know for sure? Simple again - he knows it.
Thus, like Christianity or any other faith, atheism and agnosticism are decisions based on something less than and other than omniscience. They are choices. God has created us to choose. We can't escape it. We can only hope to make as informed and reasonable a choice as possible, somehow enlightened, drawn and enabled by the Holy Spirit. (Or compelled by the Spirit, if you're Calvinist.)
But choose we must. In Matthew 6:24, Christ said that you will serve a master. Hate one, love the other. Hold to one, despise the other. In Romans 6:16, Paul says, "[T]o whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are . . . of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness."
Belief is a matter of how one chooses to think. II Corinthians 10:5 describes how Christians think: "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." II Peter 2:19 describes how naturalists think: "While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage."
The question is not "whether" you will choose; the question is "which." Man's greatest act of worship is the free choice to love and serve God for no other reason than because of Who and What He is. That's what the book of Job is about. That's what Christ told Thomas: "because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed," John 20:29.
Now let's think about that conflict of worldviews in relation to marriage. I'll start with a question. "How many of you are opposed to same-sex marriage?" Of course that's a trick question. It assumes that there is such a thing as "same-sex" marriage - that marriage is not some pre-political or a-political reality between a man and a woman created by God, or existing in the world of ideas or in the nature of humankind or the nature of things in general, but is instead an instrumental legal construct - something that can be created or changed or revoked by law the same way we create or change or revoke speed limits or the legal drinking age.
In any debate, Rule 101 is always "Capture the language." If you repeat the terms "gay marriage" and "same-sex marriage" long enough, most people won't ever think about whether there can even be such a thing, much less whether marriage is anything at all except what some judge says it is. And once the working cultural assumption becomes that government creates marriage to begin with, the debate then is simply a question whether government should create for same-sex couples the same legal rights and privileges that it already created for opposite-sex couples.
That assumption - that government creates marriage - is an instance of the idea of legal positivism, the secularist and naturalist's logical conclusion that law is not the mind of God or some set of first principles existing in the world of ideas or in the nature of things. Rather, it is whatever those who make the law say it is.
Legal realism takes that proposition a step further - that law is made by whoever has power, and is nothing more than what the powerful say it is. Justice Holmes once wrote in the Harvard Law Review, "I used to say when I was young, that truth was the majority vote of that nation that could lick all others." To our question, "What is real, what is the nature of things," realism answers that things are whatever the powerful say they are. Thomas Hobbes wrote about it in Leviathan. George Orwell in 1984.
The Christian view is that reality includes the physical universe, but is not only that universe. Those who haven't mis-spent their youth reading idealistic and solipsistic philosophy may not be aware that there have been very serious people who believe this world is not real, but is instead an illusion or perception of the mind. Christianity rejects that view out of hand as nonsense. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."
But Christianity assumes that reality also includes the super-natural or extra-natural. God and the Logos exist prior to and apart from His creation, and are knowable in an incomplete but still meaningful way. Put differently, Christianity asserts that Truth is Truth, regardless of what the powerful say. Robert Bolt wrote about it in A Man for All Seasons, where Thomas More, talking specifically about marriage, refuses to concede that Henry VIII's marriage to Katherine of Aragon is null and void, even though the king has the power to declare it so and to behead More for disagreeing. More says rhetorically:
Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it?
I once put it this way in a legislative hearing, "A law declaring that marriage is between one man and one woman does not deny equal protection to same-sex couples any more than a law declaring that 2 + 2 = 4 denies equal protection to 5 and 6."
Genesis establishes the Judeo-Christian view of marriage, of course. God said, "Let us make man in our image. . . . Male and female created he them," Gen. 1:26. The man and woman were each blessed by the other. "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet [or 'appropriate'] for him." Gen. 2:18. And having created them, God said, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. . . ." Gen. 1:26-28.
Thus, marriage between one man and one woman is inherent in human nature, created by God for two complementary and inseparable purposes: (1) the happiness of the man and woman who comprise it, and (2) the production of children as the natural consequence of its most intimate expression. Marriage is not created by the state. It is only recognized and regulated by the state, if at all, in a manner consistent with its nature.
In sociological terms, this is the "conjugal" view of marriage. In most cases actually, and in all cases symbolically, marriage is not just about gratification of the partners and fulfillment of their psychological and physical needs. It is, inherently, also about the perpetuation of the race - the production of children, and the fulfillment of their happiness and psychological and physical needs.
That understanding of marriage existed in early American law as part of a general Christian worldview. In 1892, in Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, federal authorities acting under federal immigration law prohibited an American church from hiring a pastor from England. Writing for the Supreme Court, Justice Brewer cited dozens of state constitutions, statutes, and court decisions invoking the Bible, the Trinity, and Christianity, and described them as a "mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation. . . ." Justice Brewer therefore concluded that the Free Exercise Clause protected Christianity, and Congress could not prohibit a Catholic Church from hiring Cardinal Manning, an Episcopal Church from hiring Canon Farrar, or a Baptist church from hiring Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Given that the United States was a Christian nation, the Christian view of marriage and its inherent purposes were also legal givens. Following are samples of dozens of early state law cases that explicitly track the nature of marriage and its purposes given in Genesis 1 and 2.
In Overseers of Poor of Town of Newbury v. Overseers of Poor of Town of Brunswick (Vt. 1829), the court observed that marriage is
. . . one of the natural rights of human nature . . . ordained by the great Lawgiver of the universe. . . .
In Gentry v. Fry (Mo. 1835), the court stated:
Bacon defines [marriage] to be: "a compact between a man and a woman for the procreation and education of children." . . . Rutherford declares it: "a contract between a man and a woman . . . for the purposes of their mutual happiness and of the production and education of children." . . .
It requires . . . masculine and feminine. . . a man and a woman. Two men cannot make it. Two women cannot - only one man and one woman . . . [for] their mutual happiness, and the production of children. . . . The propagation of the human species, and the happiness of man.
In Baker v. Baker (Cal. 1859), the court noted the same two purposes:
Again, the first purpose of matrimony, by the laws of nature and society, is procreation. . . . The second purpose of matrimony is the promotion of the happiness of the parties by the society of each other. . . .
The courts also recognized that marriage was essential to the existence of society. In Stevenson v. Gray (Ky. App. 1856), the court explained that marriage is founded in nature, is ordained to perpetuate the human race, and is "the foundation not only of all social order and refinement, but of the continued existence of society and of nations."
In the late 19th Century, the Supreme Court rejected the Mormons' argument that the Free Exercise Clause entitled them to practice polygamy. In Reynolds v. United States (1878), like the Kentucky court earlier, discussed that monogamous marriage - between one man and one woman for life - was vital in maintaining a free society, and that polygamy leads to despotism in societies that tolerate it. In other words, monogamy requires self-restraint and self-discipline, but polygamy, by sanctioning the habits of mind that a man can have whatever he wants and has the power to get, leads to tyranny. (For example, an interesting study is the relationship between polygamy and despotism from David to Solomon to Rehoboam.)
In Davis v. Beason (1890), the Court declared that polygamy was not protected under the Free Exercise Clause because "the general consent of the Christian world in modern times" recognized it as a crime.
In contrast to the Christian view of man created in God's image, the naturalist necessarily conceives of man as an accident of nature bent on his own survival and gratification. Marriage is created, not by God, but by the powerful, for their own ends, as they see fit.
In sociological terms, this is the "relationship" view, in contrast to the "conjugal" view. In the "relationship" view, marriage is an instrumental construct of positive law, created to meet the needs of the partners, in which production and education of children for perpetuation of the race is an incidental, not essential, purpose.
In the 20th Century, the relationship view of marriage largely displaced the Christian view of marriage in the law, an inevitable consequence of disestablishing the general Christian worldview on which marriage is grounded. In law and culture, it is always the foundations, the presuppositions that erode first. Traditions like marriage stagger on for a time out of inertia, but once the rationale is gone, traditions and habits eventually collapse, because in the end, mere tradition is never a sufficient justification for anything.
In Lynch v. Donnelly (U.S., 1984) the Court noted that the Establishment Clause prohibited a Rhode Island town from displaying a creche by itself at Christmas because that might show special endorsement of Christianity. But it was permissible to include it in a larger display with a wide variety of holiday claptrap, because that would show it only as part of America's history, without endorsing religion generally or Christianity in particular.
Even that was too much for J. Brennan, who described in dissent the disestablishment of Christianity from American law that had long since taken place:
By insisting that such a distinctively sectarian message is merely an unobjectionable part of our "religious heritage," . . . the Court takes a long step backwards to the days when Justice Brewer could arrogantly declare . . . that "this is a Christian nation."
The recent "Intelligent Design" case, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (M.D. Pa., 2005), is a striking illustration of how far the concomitant disestablishment Christianity and substitution of secularism and scientific naturalism in its place have gone.
It is readily apparent . . . that the only attribute of design that biological systems appear to share with human artifacts is their complex appearance, i.e., if it looks complex or designed, it must have been designed. This inference to design based upon the appearance of a "purposeful arrangement of parts" is a completely subjective proposition, determined in the eye of each beholder and his/her viewpoint concerning the complexity of a system.
In essence, the judge declared, as a matter of Constitutional law, that while the inference is obvious from mere appearance that a two car garage or a slice of toast was made by someone for some reason, it is impermissible to infer from appearance that a turnip or a frog or a person - or anything else biological - was also made by anyone for any reason at all. In fact, the judge noted that the Establishment Clause requires the courts and public education to assume that there isn't "anyone," that there isn't any reason or design (even if it looks like there is), and that it violates the Constitution for any government agent to teach young people that such inferences may be permissible or rational.
As the general Christian perspective in law was dis-established, the Christian view of marriage fell too.
In Griswold v. Connecticut (U.S. 1965), a married couple challenged a state statute prohibiting the sale of contraceptives. The Supreme Court held the statute unconstitutional. It speaks volumes that only half a century ago, such laws were still common. This is not a talk about birth control, but it is important to have some idea of historic Christian understanding that children are inseparable from the very idea of love and marriage. At one point in our history, the American people and their governments understood that the connection between gratification and children was so essential to marriage and culture that they made it illegal to sell the means to intentionally break that connection. But the Supreme Court, concluding itself wiser than the people, discovered in the Bill of Rights an unwritten right of "privacy," which included the right to separate gratification from procreation. Besides the actual legal effect, the Court's holding had a powerful symbolic effect, communicating to the nation that gratification alone was a sufficient justification for breaking the inter-generational covenant of procreation on which culture is based - that the Court would no longer allow government to prohibit the intentional severance of the natural connection between act and consequence, gratification and responsibility, comfort and commitment, present and future, love and children.
In Eisenstadt v. Baird (U.S. 1972), the Court affirmed its holding in Griswold, except this time, the plaintiffs were not even married. Far beyond Griswold, the Court sent the message that marriage was not essential and that individual gratification was more important than any social purpose that requiring the commitment of marriage as a pre-condition of sexual gratification or having children might serve.
In Roe v. Wade (U.S. 1973), the Court held that "privacy" includes the right to abortion. Beyond Griswold and Eisenstadt, "privacy" now included not only the right to sever the natural connection between gratification and responsibility and act and consequence, but also the right to destroy the consequences and avoid responsibility for them when they occur.
In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (U.S. 1992), the Court finally arrived where it was headed all along - the complete substitution of worldviews. In declaring that the right of "privacy" trumped all but the most limited regulation of abortion, Justice Kennedy wrote that "liberty" protected by the 14th Amendment includes "the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." Essentially, the Court said that because every mother has the right to define existence, life, meaning, and the universe for herself, not only can the king declare that the earth is flat, every one else can too. There is no fixed truth about whether an unborn child is a person, or deserves legal protection simply because of its nature as a human being. The child is whatever its mother decides, and it will live or die depending upon that decision.
Finally, in Romer v. Evans (U.S. 1996) and Lawrence v. Texas, (U.S. 2003), the Supreme Court effectively treated homosexual acts, by which children are impossible, as having equal legal status with heterosexual acts, by which children are, actually or symbolically, inseparably connected.
State supreme courts have taken the Supreme Court hand-off and run it to the logical end zone. Accepting that the essence of marriage is personal gratification and fulfillment, not responsibility or children, Massachusetts, Iowa and New Jersey supreme courts, among others, have declared that same-sex relationships are the legal equivalent of opposite-sex relationships.
Those decisions break the inter-generational covenant. They turn on its head the inviolable understanding that children need both mothers and fathers, and that mothers and fathers, being more mature and disciplined, will subordinate their own indulgences for the good of their children. They subordinate the child's needs for mother and father to the adults needs for gratification with someone of their own sex.
That's what the Rosie O'Donnell interview was about several years ago, when she said she would explain to her son that he didn't have the kind of mommy that needed a daddy. He had the kind of mommy that needed another mommy. In the ultimate infantile role-reversal, the parent no longer sacrifices and subordinates her needs to those of her child out of her love for him, she demands that the child sacrifice and subordinate his needs to those of his mother, out of her love for herself.
In Wisconsin, we are presently litigating the meaning of marriage in the case Appling v. Doyle. Despite the Wisconsin Defense of Marriage Amendment that we worked so hard to pass, Gov. Doyle and the legislature later enacted legislation under which same-sex couples become domestic partners in exactly the same way that opposite-sex couples become spouses. They apply for licenses, take oaths, have their licenses signed by civil officers, and file them in county offices, which then send them to the state registrar of vital statistics for recording in the same database as marriage records.
Why do we care about that? Because when the state gives what we call the imprimatur of official approval, or "secular sanctification," to same-sex relationships in exactly the same way it approves and sanctifies marriage, it communicates to the public, and educates society to believe, that there is nothing unique about marriage, and that there is no essential difference between the two kinds of relationships. For example, several Wisconsin public schools that use life-skills games in their curricula are now instructing students to pick same-sex students to role play as their life partners.
In closing, why is a trustee giving a chapel talk, not just about the Bible, but about history and philosophy and apologetics and law and sociology and language and literature and a half dozen other subjects?
There has been a good deal of discussion over the years about what kind of school Maranatha really is because, besides the training in Bible and ministry characteristic of a traditional Bible college, we offer a strong program in the liberal arts and sciences.
Are we a Bible college, or are we a liberal arts college? The answer to that question is an emphatic "Yes."
Several years ago, the board revised the college mission statement. It says:
The mission of Maranatha Baptist Bible College is to develop leaders for ministry in the local church and the world "To the Praise of His Glory."
We included the phrase "and the world" because, instead of an insular fortress mentality of withdrawing from life, hunkering down in a religious bunker, treating church like a support group and Bible study like a personal growth seminar, coping and surviving while we wait for the rapture to rescue us, we as a board hope to inculcate a mission mentality, one of going into the highways and byways, engaging individuals and culture where you find them, conducting the battle on the enemy's turf. If you like academic metaphors, we seek a mentality that is enriched and empowered, not debilitated, by what Augustinian scholarship and the social sciences call the "inward turn."
The arts and sciences do not detract from ministry, they are complementary and essential to it. The term "liberal arts" has become somewhat of a decapitated idiom, a spontaneous lexical twitch. But it has a history, an etymology. From Alcuin's seminal enterprise for Charlemagne, the trivium and the quadrivium were formalized by classical scholars as those studies that were appropriate and necessary for free men. The original Latin expression literally meant, "Arts befitting a free man." As originally conceived, the liberal arts encompassed all of life, preparing scholars for leadership in theology, philosophy, law, culture, politics, and commercial enterprise.
A few months ago Dr. Marriott gave me a copy of Robert Marsden's Reforming Fundamentalism, which is a history of Fuller Seminary written against the broader backdrop of 20th Century evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Near the end, Marsden writes that in the '70s and '80s, the seminary was engaged in struggles to break with the past, including "the effort to free itself from the dominance of 'the mind of excellence,'" an effort that "involved a reappraisal of the role of the clergy."
Marsden explains that Fuller was originally organized on the "Princeton" model, following "the American Puritan and Calvinist tradition [in which] the preacher was expected to be an intellectual leader of the community as well as a spiritual leader. The assumption was that intellect was one key to cultural and hence spiritual influence." In that tradition, seminaries were to be "theological graduate schools, fostering the general enterprise of intellectual leadership. . . ." But by the 1980s, "the once-conspicuous theological emphases were now overshadowed by programs for practicality and service. . . ."
What does that mean? Regardless of Marsden's characterization of Fuller in particular, American higher Christian education has drifted pedagogically from its Puritan origins, de-emphasizing over time the academic model and institutional expectation of preparing pastors and graduates for intellectual leadership in culture, not just the church. It means that while Christian colleges and universities were losing confidence, backing away from cultural leadership, competing secular viewpoints were replacing Christianity in law, education, government, the military, business, entertainment, media, communications, political parties, library boards, museums, arts councils, publishing houses - every conceivable social institution that molds thought and directs culture, burying even the memory of a Christian culture, changing what normal even feels like.
Why are we concerned with culture? As dispensational, pre-millenialist Baptists, we do not accept old Princeton's covenant theology, nor the replacement theology from which it came, nor the reconstruction theology to which it led. Notwithstanding, from a theological basis founded in texts like Matthew 13:33 and I Corinthians 7:21, we do agree with the proposition that higher Christian education is about "fostering that general enterprise of intellectual leadership."
The more culture rejects Biblical structure, the more it dishonors God and destroys the people within it. As our culture eradicates the mores and even the memory of Christianity, the church becomes less and less a base camp for teaching and training and staging to reach the lost, and becomes more and more a spiritual and psychological triage unit.
It is not my place as a board member to tell administration, faculty, or even students how specifically to think or exactly what to do. It is our function, however, to establish an institutional vision and authorize programs designed to achieve it, and to encourage you to reflect on that vision and act accordingly.
I encourage you to seriously consider Maranatha's mission statement. And without diminishing one whit the primacy of the local church, when you come to that phrase, "and the world," then lift up your eyes, because the fields are white with harvest - a harvest that, but for the mercy of God, seems soon to perish in a cultural collapse, the likes of which the world has never seen.
Think about our mission. Pray and act accordingly. To the Praise of His Glory. *
Our Mission Is to Reawaken the Genuine America Spirit . . .
Ronald Reagan's Faith and Optimism - z
It is obvious in many who engage in or watch politics and governance: cynicism. My hero/commentator, Charles Krauthammer, is an admittedly proud cynic, expertly honed to see underlying motives. Charles sees motives, goals, and likely results: self-promotion predominates, solutions ignored, Americans without power suffer, and problems accumulate - the veterans who die waiting to receive medical care while VA managers hide waiting lists so that managers win bonuses is a poignant example. The Veterans' Administration is not being run for the benefit of veterans but for the benefit of VA managers, which epitomizes the nature of bureaucracies.
Witnessing commonplace wickedness unpunished year after year must have a depressing effect upon a conscientious person. Charles deploys quick-witted, cutting humor, and an air of detachment. I wonder whether the capacity for inspiration, the ability to see the possibility of God-directed goodness, and marvelous outcome have been ground out of him. A conscientious, intelligent person could adopt the role of martyr/warrior, fighting the long battle with fallen human nature to inevitable defeat.
Set within Washington D.C., where deception and selfishness thrive, and power is plentiful, it must be very difficult to find the strength of character to believe that God does have a plan for the prosperity of ordinary Americans throughout America. It must be hard to believe in the innate goodness of the American people - their resilience, problem-solving capacity, and decency - when America has been saturated with decades of leftist ideology carping on the sins of our past and the need for government overseers so that Americans don't foul up again.
In Washington D.C. it must be very hard to have a simple faith in God's power and a bright future. I believe that we, as Americans, have to see that the solutions to our problems will not originate in Washington D.C. Our solutions will have to be imposed upon Washington D.C. from the heartland.
Ronald Reagan is one of our heroes. Though he was president for eight years he was not corrupted by the atmosphere of Washington D.C. He genuinely took the best interests of the American people to heart - and a sophisticated cynic called him "an amiable dunce." Washingtonians are blinded by their dispositions, and cannot recognize sincerity.
Ronald Reagan's character was not formed or changed by Washington, D.C. Paul Kengor, in his recently published book, 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative, writes that Reagan's reverence for human life came between ages fifteen to twenty-two, in the 1920s, when he was a lifeguard patrolling the Rock River in Dixon, Illinois. Ronald Reagan saved the lives of seventy-seven people! Could there be better training for instilling a sense of the sanctity of human life? Ronald Reagan played the life-long role of rescuer: he abhorred abortion, the possibility of nuclear war (he wanted to abolish nuclear weapons), and empathized with millions whose lives were being crushed by Communism.
Ronald Reagan was also formed by his various careers communicating with Americans. He started in radio, acted in Hollywood, and went into TV broadcasting. He became the host of the popular TV show "GE Theater," sponsored by General Electric from 1954 to 1962. As part of his job he traveled the country visiting GE plants. He met management and assembly workers and gave lunchtime and dinner speeches. From his experience mingling with Americans Paul Kengor writes that he developed respect for his fellow Americans:
He had an uncommon faith in common Americans. He had an unshakable optimism in their inherent goodness, wisdom, work ethic, and common sense. They could do anything: they could achieve anything. He was convinced of American ability and ingenuity.
Paul Kengor writes that Ronald Reagan's faith came from his mother, Nelle. She believed, under the worst circumstances, "God has a plan for all of us," one that "always works out for the best." Reagan wrote in "My Faith," an article in a Hollywood magazine (June 1950), quoting Robert Browning: "God's in His Heaven/All's right with the world." As governor of California he wrote to a woman in New York about her handicapped son (he did not flinch from hard cases!):
I find myself believing very deeply that God has a plan for each one of us. Some with little faith and even less testing seem to miss in their mission, or else we perhaps fail to see their imprint on the lives of others. But bearing what we cannot change and going on with what God has given us, confident there is a destiny, somehow seems to bring a reward we wouldn't exchange for any other. It takes a lot of fire and heat to make a piece of steel.
He wrote another letter as governor to the widow of a slain policeman:
. . . the why of God's plan for us . . . Whatever God's plan is for each of us, we can only trust in His wisdom and mercy. . . . It isn't given to us to understand - we can only have faith. . . . [W]e must have faith in God's plan for all of us.
To a small group of pro-life leaders gathered at the White House in 1987 Reagan quoted Terrence Cardinal Cooke of New York:
The gift of life, God's special gift, is no less beautiful when it is accompanied by illness or weakness, hunger or poverty, mental or physical handicaps, loneliness or old age. Indeed, at these times, human life gains extra splendor as it requires our special care, concern, and reverence. It is in and through the weakest of human vessels that the Lord continues to reveal the power of His love.
In between periods when Abraham Lincoln received word of huge numbers of battlefield casualties (both sides were American casualties), Lincoln resorted to humor as a source of strength. In the same way Ronald Reagan was famous for his sense of humor, giving him charm and an enduring connection with Americans. Humor lightened and humanized both Lincoln's and Reagan's seriousness of purpose. In one of his speeches Reagan said:
I know it's often said of me that I'm an optimist. Over the years, I've been described as an inveterate optimist, an eternal optimist, a reflexive optimist, a born optimist, a canny optimist, a cagey optimist - even as defiantly optimistic. It just goes to show there's no word that cannot be turned into a pejorative if the pundits work hard enough at it.
Paul Kengor relates one of Reagan's "favorite parables":
It was a story about a father with two boys: a pessimist and an optimist. The father placed the pessimist in a room full of new toys. He placed the optimist in a barn with a pile of manure. When the father returned, the pessimist was crying and throwing a fit, complaining that he had no toys to play with. When he went to the barn, he found the optimist digging doggedly through the pile of manure. When the father asked the optimist what he was doing, the boy replied, "I know there's a pony in here somewhere!"
That optimist was Reagan. The kid in the manure was Ronald Reagan. This was a parable about himself.
Americans have faced many seeming shadows of doom; periodically we have borne weighty psychological pressures as a people. At the time of our Founding the British military was a fearsome, world-dominating power; it took faith in a just God to revolt. The confrontation over slavery tore the nation apart. The numbers of Civil War deaths and injuries were terrible. There was despondency during the 1930s depression, followed by the dread of the might of Hitler's Germany. In between periods of crisis our nation has never been free of controversy and afflictions.
During Ronald Reagan's term there was a failing economy and the Cold War, heavily weighted by the continuing discord of the Vietnam War. Reagan was the right person at the right time for the presidency. When sophisticated foreign policy experts cajoled him to accommodate the Soviet Union, because they believed the U.S. was losing the Cold War, Reagan told an adviser:
Dick, my idea of American policy toward the Soviet Union is simple, and some would say simplistic. It is this: We win and they lose. What do you think of that?
He believed that a buildup in U.S. military strength would decrease the likelihood of war and further the chance for peace - peace through strength - a view disparaged by the Washington commentariat. Reagan thought that he could bring the Soviet Union to the negotiating table to reduce nuclear arsenals, but first the U.S. would have build up its weaponry to negotiate from a position of strength. Reagan saw the necessity of countering the threat of Soviet SS-20 missiles bristling in Eastern Europe with the deployment of American Pershing II missiles; his bold actions inflamed the Nuclear Freeze Movement to international protests. In many nations Reagan countered Communist aggression through covert and overt means - he was called a warmonger.
While esteemed economists and prestigious think tanks (prized authorities for Washington insiders) testified to the overawing strength of the Soviet economy, Ronald Reagan singularly perceived Soviet weakness, and believed he could push the Soviet economy to the breaking point by leveraging American economic might focused on an arms build up. Reagan promoted the development of a space-based missile defense system, the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), derisively dubbed "Star Wars."
A new type of Soviet General Secretary ascended to the top of the Soviet Union. His predecessors were thuggish, dour, and threatening, but Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev was handsome, urbane, and open to negotiations with President Reagan. Gorbachev and Reagan held a series of diplomatic summits, and hopes were raised worldwide for a peaceful resolution of the Cold War. The diplomacy culminated at a meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, where Gorbachev proposed banning all ballistic missiles; in return Gorbachev expected Reagan to scrap SDI. President Reagan refused: he wanted to continue developing the science.
Disappointment was near universal; blame was heaped on Ronald Reagan: He was the warmonger insisting on the continuation of the Cold War - all the sophisticated people said so. Reagan perceived that "Star Wars" was a trump card, an effective tool for pressuring the Soviet economy and military. He had the gut feeling that he was right, and the strength of character to act in the face of scathing condemnation. He could act as he did because he had an innate sense of optimism coming from his trust in God. Ronald Reagan was proved correct when the Soviet Union did collapse during the following presidency of George H. W. Bush: a great evil passed away.
Ronald Reagan's efforts at reviving America's failing economy also required keen perception and strength of character. Reagan implemented his economic policies, consisting mostly of reductions in the rates of the federal income tax, but the recession lingered through 1982-1983 - the stimulative effect was slow in sparking the economy. A less self-assured president would have buckled and changed course before the numerous vicious critics, but an advisor said of Reagan:
He is absolutely convinced that there will be a big recovery. . . . He is an optimist, My God is he an optimist!
Reagan was right: his policies brought the longest peacetime expansion in the nation's history: ninety-two consecutive months. Chronic unemployment, double-digit inflation and interest rates were vanquished. Poverty rates fell and standards of living rose for everyone.
Ronald Reagan led Americans out of period stagnation and malaise. He loved America and Americans. He had a sunny personality that attracted ordinary Americans, because he believed in goodness, and the nobility of America. He believed in freedom, he trusted God, and so he was optimistic. When he wanted to speak to the American people directly he gave speeches, bypassing a hostile media. The sincerity with which he spoke was obvious to all, except the Washington cynics. The following is a quotation from Ronald Reagan's "Farewell Address to the Nation" (January 11, 1989) given from the Oval Office:
An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn't get these things from your family you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea, or the family who lost someone at Anzio. Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed you could get a sense of patriotism from popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special. TV was like that, too, through the mid-sixties.
But now, we're got to teach history based not on what's in fashion but what's important - why the Pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant. . . . If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I'm warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit. Let's start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual.
And let me offer lesson number one about America. All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven't been teaching you what it means to be an American, let'em know and nail'em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.
And that's about all I have to say tonight, except for one thing. The past few days when I've been at that window upstairs, I've thought a bit of the "shining city upon a hill." The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free.
I've spoken of the Shining City all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.
I could have chosen any number of equally good quotes from Paul Kengor's excellent book. Kengor's book is slender but it does capture the essence of Ronald Reagan. The 11 principles of Reagan Conservatism are: Freedom, Faith, Family, the Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life, American Exceptionalism, the Founders' Wisdom and Vision, Lower Taxes, Limited Government, Peace Through Strength, Anti-communism, and Belief in the Individual.
By way of contrast, to capture the spirit of our present ruling elite, I want to offer a quotation of Barack Obama, given on the verge of a modest reduction in federal spending. Standing before a group of police officers and firemen President Obama said:
Now, if Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness; it will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research. . . . Emergency responders like the ones who are here today - their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded. Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced. FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country. Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find childcare for their kids. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings. . . . So these cuts are not smart. . . . They will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls. . . .
One year after this speech the Government Accountability Office issued a report (May 2014) stating that one layoff resulted from the modest sequester cuts that were implemented. Note well the deceitful attempt to threaten, scare, and punish the American people. These words reveal a man consumed with a lust for power, and a willingness to stop at nothing to grasp it. Today President Obama's claims stand exposed as ridiculous, outrageous, and disgraceful.
As Americans we should not be trapped in forebodings about the future of our nation. Look at the effects one good man, Ronald Reagan, had on American history.
Americans need to be shown the difference in character between Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama: Reagan sought to nourish, uplift, and rescue; and Obama to deceive and dominate.
Currently Americans are afflicted by out-of-control federal bureaucracies - the VA, IRS, EPA, HS, HHS, NSA, etc. - their arrogance and grasp of power is insufferable. The presidency of Barack Obama is all about extending the power of the federal government, and making Americans subservient to the ruling class. But more and more Americans are becoming disillusioned. The time is ripe for revival.
Are the federal bureaucracies more imposing than the British Navy, Hitler's Germany, or the Soviet Union? All it would take to vanquish the bureaucracies is one inspired president who could explain clearly to the American people why these huge government agencies are un-American, and that the American people can be trusted to manage their own affairs better than an unaccountable ruling class. President Obama's administration is proving an excellent example of government failure. The pain he is creating drives the point home.
In a nation of over 300 million people, swaddled as we are (though people need reminding) in our traditions of freedom and achievement, we can trust that better leaders will emerge. *
The following is a summary of the June/July 2014 issue of the St. Croix Review:
In "Our Mission Is to Reawaken the Genuine American Spirit . . ." Barry MacDonald explains the focus of The St. Croix Review.
Thomas Martin, in "Who Am I? What Am I Doing Here?" uses a college commencement speech to impart timeless wisdom.
Peter Searby, in "Educating the Lost Boys, Part II," presents his inspiring program that relies on the best methods of teaching from Western Civilization.
Allan Brownfeld "'Being White in Philly' Explores 'Whites, Race, and the Things that Never Get Said'," writes about continued racial tension and an aspiration to find peace; in "Father's Day with Bill Cosby, an American Original," he celebrates a courageous and honest man with a golden heart.
In "The Politics of St. Paul," Mark Hendrickson ponders many interpretations of St. Paul's writings on how early Christians should interact with the Roman Empire; in "The UN, EPA, and the Latest Climate Change Folly," he undercuts the latest alarmists' rhetoric with facts.
Herbert London, in "The Pathway to the Future," points to nihilistic trends in American culture and calls for an American awakening.
In "The Quest for David Axelrod's Leftist Roots," Paul Kengor demonstrates how far researchers go in search of the truth; in "Nancy Pelosi Accepts Margaret Sanger Award . . . and then Calls Catholics Like the Pope 'Dumb'," he shows how morally bankrupt Pelosi, Sanger, and the "progressive" movement are.
In "The Obamacare Scam," Twila Brase points out the many ways the "Affordable" Care Act is a bad deal.
Fred Singer, in "The Coming Paradigm Shift on Climate," argues that there has been "no appreciable human-caused warming in the 21st century at all."
Timothy Goeglein, in "The Centennial of a Cataclysm: One Life, One Family," relates the tragic end of the British poet, Wilfred Owen, who died in W.W. I.
Anthony Garavente, in "The Red Army's Victory That Shaped W.W. II," explores the strategies of Chamberlain, Stalin, and Hitler that led to Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of August, 1939; he shows how W.W. II could have played out much differently.
In "The EU Threat to Democracy and Liberty," Philip Vander Elst explains how a core of European elites has been successfully stealing national sovereignty and liberty from the individual European nations through fifty years - this is a cautionary tale about the relentless drive of tyrants.
In "A Life in Diaries," Jigs Gardner describes the daily, weekly, monthly activities that melded his and Jo Ann's lives with their beautiful farm.
In "Vanity Fair," Jigs Gardner explores the social norms of Victorian England in William Thackeray's best novel.
In "Know Your Enemy," Fayette Durlin and Peter Jenkin consider aspects of the Left to identify its essence: Contempt for the genuine American spirit.