Gratitude for our ancestors matters. We're not as awesome as we think we are.
My son is a pastor who periodically sends pastoral exhortations out to his church. He sent this one today and I thought it was a really excellent corrective to the plague of moral superiority and self-righteousness the permeates the thinking of the cool kids today.
Read the whole thing.
One of the sadder features of modern American life, and, to an extent, modern Evangelical Christian life is the disappearance of our heroes. “Disappearance” might be softening the harsh reality of our present circumstance too much. Everywhere you look, the high character and virtue of heroes from ages past is being torn down, exposed, lamented, reexamined, and assassinated to prop up a lie. Much ink has been spilled over the exact nature of the lie. Some say it’s a Marxist lie, and they are correct. Tracing the ideology to its roots is not difficult to do. But there’s more needed to understand and dispel the lie than a mere history of its development through the ivory towers of the Frankfurt School to the elementary school history and social studies textbooks of today. There’s more to discuss than the corruption of the state educational system. There’s certainly enough there to occupy us for some time, but these ideas are also beginning to infect the church in various ways and in various places. “Get thee to thine own house…”
Sending our children to institutions of higher learning that propound these lies without first preparing them with a foundational education in and appreciation of the splendors and nobility of Judeo-Christian Western Civilization, an education not already tainted by Karl Marx’s satanic visions (and Marx was not figuratively diabolical, he was openly and confessedly so) was to tempt fate. These graduates would in due course occupy seats of leadership in our institutions. Our seminaries would begin to wreak of historical revisionism and angsty, Marxist bitterness and vitriol, as would our mission agencies, as we have seen, and as would our Christian schools and our churches.
It must be understood that Marxism and a Marxist rendering of history are substantively atheistic and not accidentally atheistic. I’ve heard one or two popular evangelical pastors proclaim from their pulpits that if Jesus were here today, He would undoubtedly be Marxist. Setting aside the flawed theology of Jesus’s presumed absence from the here and now, this is so flatly false and absurd that it would be hilarious if it were not actually blasphemous. These men simply do not understand and have not taken the time to understand the issues at hand or the stakes at play. Marx’s view of the world hinged upon his passionate and determined atheism, an atheism that has come to dominate, across many disciplines, our institutions of higher learning and has now begun to infect our churches and our children. The way of freedom and liberation, according to these institutions and the prevailing zeitgeist, is to throw off the shackles of organized religion. Too long, they say, have our more natural instincts and inclinations been fettered unmercifully to the prudish dictates of white men in white collars. Marx’s utopian fever dream is a world without religion, without churches, without God.
This is not a warning; it’s a news bulletin. The revolution has already taken place, and we missed it. It was a soft revolution behind the closed doors of our institutions, but which finally spilled out into the streets and onto your social media feeds in recent years. What can Christians do about it?
Well, for one thing, we can start by picking our heads up and getting back to the business of taking the nations for Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18-20). Yes, there is such a thing as a Christian nation, and not only have we been called to make them, we had one once upon a time. (For those who would contend that we’ve been called to make disciples not Christian nations, what do you suppose a nation full of disciples would become other than Christian in some sense?) Ours was never a sinless, perfect nation in the same way that there is no sinless, perfect Christian. But neither is our nation or its founders guilty of every accusation of sin leveled against them. Regardless, broadcasting our nation’s sins while sweeping its conspicuous virtues and heroism under the proverbial rug is the worst sort of calumny and the height of ingratitude, arrogance, and disrespect.
Western Civilization, which gave rise to the hospitals, universities, scientific inquiry, the judicial principle of “innocent until proven guilty”, the end of slavery, the Renaissance, the symphony, and many more staggering achievements of the human race too numerous to mention here was formed on the bedrock principles of the once great Judeo-Christian Western tradition, a tradition which blossomed from the seed of the Kingdom planted once upon a time in a city far, far away. Our ancestors translated God’s word and the gospel into a society that worked to flesh out those transcendent truths into something approximating a Christian society marked by its struggle toward that which is good and true and beautiful. Marxist revisionists in the universities and in our Christian institutions would “burn it all down” in the name of enlightened moral purity and their cardinal virtue “equity.”
There go our heroes, one by one, falling to the mob of militant secular Pharisees. A Pharisee is someone who attempts to achieve personal or societal moral purity apart from God and His grace, someone who quite naturally then thinks very highly of himself but very poorly of those around him who cannot manage to live up to his lofty, enlightened standard. The Marxist lie is a Pharisaical lie. It is an attempt to erect a just city and a moral person apart from God and God’s grace. “Off with his head!” come the shouts from outside in the streets of a society in which everyone is his own “Queen of Hearts.”
This mindset necessarily turns morality on its head, because it unmoors morality from its source and sets it adrift in a sea of whim and fancy. Right is wrong and wrong is right. So, in this “progressive” (read, regressive) way of thinking, it’s compassionate and loving to terminate a baby in his mother’s womb, for both the mother’s and the baby’s sake. It’s compassionate to affirm the psychological interior delusion and to chemically and/or surgically despoil a child of the riches of their noble, God-given gender, because transgressing a person’s feelings is above all the unpardonable sin. It’s wrong to admire men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson because they were sinners who had slaves. It’s time to collectively repent of Martin Luther’s sins as a church, because he was guilty of harsh and ethnically insulting criticisms of the Jews of his day in Germany. The thinking goes something like this: Luther said those mean things and then one thing led to another and Hitler slaughtered millions of Jews in concentration camps during WWII. Where will it end if we don’t repent for Luther, who caused the Holocaust, and for Washington and Jefferson, who clearly did not understand the principles they set forth in the Declaration, and for all the sins of great men and women down through the ages? It’s utterly silly and historically indefensible.
The Marxist lie, at its heart, is the epitome of personal moral arrogance and contemporary bias. Yes, Washington and Jefferson had slaves. Yes, Martin Luther said nasty things about the Jews in his immediate community for personal and political offenses. Yes. And if you looked hard enough and left no stone unturned, it would be possible to achieve character assassination of every laudable figure in history. Be that as it may, these men are better men by far than the beardless boys and bearded girls who decry the splinter in their forefathers’ eyes and will not lift their hands to deal with the plank obstructing their view.
In order to take the nations, we will need our heroes, those men and women, the guiding memory of whom Satan would love nothing more than to deprive us in the days ahead. A boy without heroes is a boy without a path to follow. A boy without a path to follow is a lost and wild boy, who becomes a danger to himself and to others. Give him back his heroes for the sake of the world.
If we are to take (and in some cases, retake) the nations for Jesus, we could do a lot worse than to study and seek to emulate the mighty successes of our forebears, who built a far greater society on the principles of Christian justice, freedom, and equality before God and under the law than anyone else in history had ever managed to produce before them. We could do a lot worse than to start by humbling ourselves before God and our ancestors in grateful admiration and by learning from their mistakes.
Tell the stories of our nation’s heroes around the dinner table with your children. Tell them of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Booker T. Washington, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, and many others besides. Tell of the heroes of our faith, too. Tell them of Abraham, David, and Samson (all very flawed men, but heroes nonetheless). Tell them of the 12 apostles and of how they lived and died for Jesus. Tell them of Stephen. Tell them of Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Perpetua and Felicity, the brave and noble Christians of the Roman persecutions. Tell them of the great scholastic theologians. Tell them of the great composers. Tell them of Florence Nightingale. Tell them of Jim and Elizabeth Elliot and of Hudson Taylor. Read to them the great stories. Read Shakespeare, The Wind in the Willows, Les Misérables, Tom Sawyer, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, The Lord of the Rings. Attempt to plumb the depths of that fathomless well of great heroes of Western Civilization, and you will plumb happily for a lifetime.
How great a tradition has been squandered in the name of progressive moral elitism but without any knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. How sad to see our heroes tossed aside so casually and trampled underfoot. These great men and women deserve a seat at our tables, a monument on our mantles, a frame on our wall, and certainly a hallowed place in the hearts of grateful, educated Christians of the West. The future of our institutions depends upon our ability to embrace and learn from the past, to rise to its noble challenge and to learn from its failings.
Remember to “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee", and "let him who is without sin cast the first stone”.