Category Archives: American History

WISE WORDS FROM PRESIDENT BUSH ON 9/11/21

It would be a mistake to idealize the experience of those terrible events. All that many people could initially see was the brute randomness of death. All that many could feel was unearned suffering. All that many could hear was God’s terrible silence. There are many who still struggle with a lonely pain that cuts deep within.

Many of us have tried to make spiritual sense of these events. There is no simple explanation for the mix of providence and human will that sets the direction of our lives. But comfort can come from a different sort of knowledge. After wandering long and lost in the dark, many have found they were actually walking, step by step, toward grace.

(Emphasis mine and sounds like it was inspired by Lincoln’s Second Inaugural!)

THE IDEAS THAT MADE AMERICA

Our oldest son and his wife will many times choose a few hors d’oeuvres and then split a meal. They get more variety, and many times find out that the appetizers are better than the main offerings.

I thought of our son and daughter-in-law’s culinary sensibilities as I read Ratner-Rosenhagen’s terrific book. The author does a wonderful job of laying out the seminal ideas that have bubbled up over our country’s history. There are some ideas I wished she unpacked in more detail, but it is a satisfying sampler.

The author is a lucid writer, so any thoughtful person will find much to chew on in The Ideas that Made America.

 

WHY LIBERALISM FAILED

Don’t be misled. The liberalism that the author speaks of is the classical variety that undergirds both conservative and progressive liberal thought. The liberalism the author believes has failed is that of Mill and Locke, the latter a big influence on our Founding Fathers.

I heavily annotated my copy of Why Liberalism Failed because it is the kind of book that makes you think in fresh ways about old ideas.

Much ink has already been spilled debating the merits of this book. I won’t go into detail on those since this brief review is designed to say that I find Deneen’s thesis quite compelling. I plan to read more of Mill and Locke so my view could change some, but right now, I find myself aligning with Deneen’s concerns.

 

DON’T BE THIS GUY

There are many things that make us Americans comfortable giving our opinions on every subject from socialism to Seinfeld’s show.

It feels good to sling out whatever we think. For too many of us Americans these can be thoughts that are not well formed because there is little study that has gone into them.

During times of upheaval it does not seem practical to pull back and study. It is more tempting to register our opinion, even if our understanding of the issue is thin.

I am not on Facebook or Twitter, but I see and hear enough to know that these are not the places where one learns to be thoughtful and sensitive to the complexity of issues.

The radical thing might be reading a serious book, especially by someone who isn’t part of your tribe. 

MY VOTE…WHILE LIVING FAR EAST OF EDEN

The following represents my opinion, and mine alone. 
In light of my recent posts about our current cultural moment this may come as somewhat of a surprise to some of you, so here goes…  

From my early days as a Christian it made sense to me that the Bible has something to say to all of life. The Bible is certainly not a spiritual cookbook. It is not always straightforward how one should arrive at one’s decision. The book of Proverbs, and the whole wisdom tradition, showcase this sort of nimble discernment. Christians disagree over the proper interpretation and/or implications of the Bible. And those are Christians who agree on the binding authority of the Scriptures!

I continue to believe that is problematic to have Christians who rationalize or diminish the president’s rhetoric. That said, I Tim. 2:1,2 is a significant influence on how (at the present) I will vote. My vote is very much influenced by the person and party I believe that best protects religious liberty.

LESSER THAN TWO EVILS?

Many times I’ve heard the “lesser than two evils” objection brought up by those who voted (and will vote again) for Donald Trump. Here is David French:

And yes, Christians also hasten the decay if we vote for policies and people who would scorn the church, denigrate the value of unborn life, and celebrate other values contrary to biblical truth. But we do not have to choose between evils. Our nation’s two political parties do not dictate to the church how it must use its vast cultural and political power. The church must instead communicate its standards to our parties. 

If the world’s wealthiest and and most powerful collection of Christians are supine before their political masters in the United States, marching to the beat of secular drummers (even if allegedly “holding their noses” all the while) then I fear the message that sends is that we do not have faith that God’s providence governs the nations. We cannot and must not “put our trust in princes.” There is no such thing as a “binary choice.” We can choose not to yield to the spirit of the times. 

Theological truth can also create a pragmatic reality. Over time, perhaps the best method of cleansing our political class of the low, narcissistic characters who all too often occupy public office is to stop voting for them. “