Decades ago, I was a reporter in Albany, N.Y., working for a newspaper at the foot of a hill that could be ascended only with huffing, puffing, knee endangerment and sweat unless you employed a trick.
It was this. You first went down a flight of stairs from the newsroom to the composing room, left by a backdoor, went across a metal walkway and a littered stretch of earth to the bottom floor of an adjacent office building and took the elevator up several levels. You then emerged minus wear or tear out of a front door to a sidewalk on the top of that now humbled hill in the otherwise proud capital of the Empire State.
The best part of this electronically eased conquest, however, was not exiting the elevator at a happy height, but rather a poster on the wall of the floor where the elevator was entered.
“Today,” it said, “is the first day of the rest of your life.”
Everyone has encountered that saying many times, right? I hadn’t until someone showed me the shortcut. And while the sentence initially struck me as somehow too cute to be profound, it worked on me as a positive, energizing reminder that unsullied beginnings and novel opportunities could be as much a matter of attitude as of circumstance. It even got to where those words would automatically prod a cheerful meditative moment figuratively consonant with my rise in the elevator.
If there are many excuses besides a poster for that attitude to announce itself — and I think there are probably quite a few — none quite equals the advent of a new year. What’s this number I keep hearing? 2011? Wow! That’s the first year of the rest of my life, a perfect pretext to shed the past and put on the future.
While the past for most of us has multiple grand attributes, all manner of personal regrets may reside there, too: Things that should not have been said or done, missed chances, pointlessly sour moods, self-destructive habits, a stale, wearied outlook that pushed us from the adventure of life, and, sadly, more, much more.
We are nonetheless like mythical Phoenix birds. It may not always be easy to locate it, but we do seem to have a capacity to rise from the ashes of the old self to a revitalized self, to see the world bright, shiny and new as it engages us with its fascinating plenitude and we discover possibilities both in and outside ourselves where we previously thought the road had come to an end. We then wake up as if from sleep with hope and a determination to make more of all that comes our way.
Enter the practice of framing New Year resolutions, of the terrific things we want to do for ourselves and should do for others, and yes, I know, some pooh-pooh this, saying you hardly need a calendar convention to fix issues that you probably won’t fix anyway.
Maybe, but maybe not, and here’s the thing: The counsel of defeatism is always with us, and if you heed it — guess what? — you will be defeated for sure.
Back in Albany, I first off wondered who was this Pollyanna busybody who put up the bottom-floor poster, thinking it OK to intrude on gloom and negativity, gratuitously lifting spirits. If the person is still around, I’d like to say I not only forgive you, I thank you.
And I would also like to express my gratitude for many of the New Year traditions — those resolutions, the fireworks, for everything that adds up to a widely conveyed sense that something great is around the corner, that the past is past and now we have a new year as full of potential as an infant, a sunrise year, a virgin year, a year allowing for a fresh start for those eager to give it a try.
Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado and a Centennial Institute Fellow. E-mail him at speaktoJay@aol.com.
(Denver Post, Nov. 21) America has a memory problem. Most of us couldn’t tell you who our great-grandparents were. Most people who live in Denver, Parker, Thornton, or Greeley couldn’t tell you who their hometown was named after.
Most of us couldn’t possibly remember who the days of the week were named for either. And as the years pass, it seems that fewer and fewer Americans remember who we’re supposed to be thanking on Thanksgiving Day.
School’s out all week on our campus, and the students will like that. Thanks, professor. Harvest bounty will flow from the farms through the kitchens and onto festive tables. Thanks, Mom – or thanks, Dad, if it’s a restaurant party. Sports and entertainment will have a big weekend starting Thursday, retailers a really big one starting Friday. Thanks, consumers. Airports will be even more hectic than usual. Thanks for nothing, TSA.
But if we skate along to the following Monday with no more reverence or reflection than that, we’d better stop and ask ourselves the Peggy Lee question: Is that all there is? Tom Noel, romping through history with his column a week ago about Denver’s first Thanksgiving in 1859, mentioned the territorial governor’s proclamation for “appropriate observance of the day.” What did Gov. Samuel Medary mean?
Probably the same thing that President George Washington meant with his proclamations in the century before, and Gov. William Bradford with his in the century before that. The same thing President Lincoln would mean a few years later in summoning Americans for “a day of praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” And the same that Colorado’s founders would mean in placing upon the state seal “Nil Sine Numine,” nothing without God’s spirit, a few years later still.
Whether they know it or not, legislators gathering to represent us at the State Capitol have those words in their hand every time they grasp the ornate brass doorknobs, and behind their heart every time they sit in the official chairs. The seal is everywhere under the gold dome; earlier generations took its symbolism that seriously.
Our generation is more coolly detached about these things. We know better, or think we do. The detachment may come at a price, however. Whether it’s Congress and the General Assembly grappling with deficits and entitlements, educators perplexed over test scores, law enforcement nervous about jihadists, parents suspicious of pot, or all of us battling the recession, the reverential mindset has resources that the on-our-own mindset lacks.
A society where people believe that good things come their way as a result of being lucky or deserving is more vulnerable to hubris and overreach in easy times, discouragement and dissension in hard times. A society where people interpret life’s ups and downs in the context of blessings or lessons from some sort of purposeful higher Providence is going to have the advantage in steadiness, resiliency, and cohesion.
Pluralist Colorado has both kinds of people. The person next to you at dinner on Thursday may be of the opposite mindset from yours, and no harm done – you’ll still appreciate each other, still be grateful for each other and for the day. But grateful to whom? That’s the common vocabulary of faith we’re losing. That’s the frame of reference which is slipping further and further out of focus, for all our surface religiosity.
Thanksgiving is no longer the one day in 365 when a great majority of Americans rededicate ourselves as a nation under God, and we’re the poorer for it. There’s a perilous century ahead. Facing it as reverential stewards of “the blessings of liberty,” I like our chances. Swaggering ahead as a lucky land, exceptional and entitled, I’m not so sure.
(Hillsdale Student) Growing up in the United States of America, I have always felt a primary loyalty to my native land. Having achieved my Eagle Scout and serving at Boy Scout Camp Buffalo Bill this summer, I realize the moral strength of the Scout Law. To become an Eagle Scout, I had to memorize its twelve points: "A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent."
As a Christian, I especially value the twelfth point, that of reverence. In the beginning of Matthew's account of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the Earth." On the face of it, this statement seems absurd. How can a person gain the Earth when he is meek? Meekness involves accepting the world around you, acknowledging the greatness of things beyond yourself, and, in a sense, renouncing them to be themselves. But by this method, a man inherits the Earth, he does not conquer it. Indeed, only the man who can look at a mountain for what it is, and not strive to destroy it to fit his convenience, can truly appreciate that mountain. He possesses it more surely than any miner or logger, because he sees it, and because he reveres it.
Similarly, Proverbs says that "the Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is understanding." Wisdom guides a man's way in life. It may lead him to riches and honor, but most importantly, it will help him to make the decisions that he will not regret when he has grown old. Proverbs says that this great light proceeds, not from study or from hard work, but from the fear of the Lord, from reverence for the God who made the World, and died to save sinners.
Modern America seems to be abandoning this reverence on all sides.
Many women proclaim that their unborn children are "their body," and that they can do whatever they want with them. If they possessed the meekness to see a child for what it truly is, they would not so rashly cut up the wonderful thing that grows in their belly.
No man who truly understands the Constitution of the United States should desire such radical programs as Obamacare or the economic stimulus of the Federal Government. If our President could humble himself before the document that drew this nation together again after the debacles of the Articles of Confederation, he may not so rashly follow the interpretation that ignores the Founders' intentions to limit government and preserve individual liberty.
If married couples had the meekness to realize the gravity of their marriage vows, they would not so rashly throw them away for small causes. In cases of infidelity, the promise has been broken, and the marriage may be annulled. But if a man and a woman vow to love and serve one another "in sickness and in health, 'til death do us part," they should honor their commitment, and preserve the little nation of the family that their vows create. Each family is precious, and provides the home and childhood that each citizen needs. When a couple abandons their vows, they do not only commit perjury: they destroy a nation.
These three problems, abortion, excessive growth of government, and frivolous divorce, illustrate the lack of reverence in modern America. If we humble ourselves, we shall be exalted. If we boast ourselves, like Hitler's Nazis, the Russian Communists and the Italian Fascists, we shall surely fall. How long did Hitler's "thousand year reich last?" How greatly are the mighty fallen, but how greatly are the humble risen! In World War II, the United States did not plan on ruling the world, and it defeated those nations that desired to dominate all before them.
So, during this 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America, I challenge Americans to be reverent, and honor the good that surrounds us. While President Barack Obama has declined to appear at the National Jamboree, thus sending an insult to the Boy Scouts of America on their 100th anniversary, the American people may prove more loyal to an organization that makes such a difference in the lives of their children. Boy Scouts does not only teach young boys how to sail, row, paint, care for the environment, work with leather, survive in the wilderness, and live an outdoor life. It plants the seeds of virtue in a man, and those seeds, when watered properly, blossom to form the true citizen, the man who cares for others and for the integrity of his country. Wise citizens will make a peaceful and prosperous nation, while those who cannot humble themselves shall fall. May God bless America, and may America revere God.
(Denver Post, Mar. 7) “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” mutters a world-weary American to his paramour at the end of a Hemingway novel. The acid dismissal of love typifies suspicion of idealism in any form, a timeless temptation for humankind.
Hemingway gave his story a modern setting but borrowed its title, “The Sun Also Rises,” from Ecclesiastes, a world-weary classic of 2200 years ago. Since the novel’s publication in 1926, Americans have gone on to conquer the Depression, defeat Hitler and Tojo, end segregation and polio, win the Cold War, computerize earth and explore space. Still the stance of cynicism toward nobility and goodness is widely fashionable.
To enter the new wing of the Denver Art Museum, for example, you walk past a huge whiskbroom-and-dustpan sculpture and make your way into a jarring, angular Daniel Liebeskind structure that resembles a glass skyscraper felled by an 8.8 earthquake. Don’t assume you know what beauty is, the objects seem to say. Not so fast with your delight in the human spirit and your pride in our civilization.
After running this gauntlet of the unpretty on a recent afternoon, however, I was more than rewarded by the DAM’s enthralling exhibit of the works of Colorado painter and muralist Allen True, 1881-1955. His heroic depiction of man and nature in the older and newer West may not tell the whole story, but it immortalizes a proud part of it that we should gratefully cherish. You need to see our state’s past through True’s eyes.
Trappers, prospectors, pioneers, cowboys and Indians, builders and aviators come to life under his imagination and brush in a way that celebrates their “men to match my mountains” vision and purpose while escaping Hollywood cliché. And equally striking as the art itself is the self-confidence of an era that could give it a public place of honor all across the city and region, not so very long ago.
“More people, more scars upon the land,” the gate-closing grumble of John Denver in “Rocky Mountain High” (named an official state song in 2007), was not the way Allen True’s generation viewed the human settlement and beautification of this vast territory previously written off as the Great American Desert. A good example is the specimen of his art most familiar to Coloradans, the water saga with True’s murals and Thomas Hornsby Ferril’s verse in our State Capitol rotunda. The theme is people flourishing as modernity advances – rather than the depopulation grimly sought by leftist scolds.
Water project construction: True mural in Colorado Rotunda. "[Let] aqueducts be laid to nourish cities," says the caption by Ferril.
Under the painted, silent gaze of True heroes and heroines, lawmakers not only in our capitol but also in those of Wyoming and Missouri (from which Lewis and Clark, Pike and Fremont started west) make decisions for this new century. You’d like to think the vitality, generosity, and optimism of his art – and of Ferril’s poetry, sure that “beyond the sundown is tomorrow’s wisdom” – would guide them more than the cramped and gloomy green ideology now ascendant.
“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” said Shelley. The way we visualize and verbalize our sense of possibilities has more power to limit or liberate us than any government. Sentimentality is no substitute for reason and reality, of course, as Hemingway’s scorn for “pretty” thought reminds us. But there is a realism in the American success story, captured by the painter True and the poet Ferril, superior to the sentimentalism of frightened Gaia-worship. Let’s embrace it.
The West portrayed in old songs, an open range and Front Range with never a discouraging word, mountain majesties near gleaming cities undimmed by tears, may lack practicality. Yet it’s a better ideal to strive for than anything in Al Gore’s lugubrious poetry – and Allen True depicts it gloriously. The True exhibit runs through March 28, not to be missed.
('76 Editor) "Avatar" with its leftist plotline, where capitalism and America are villains, is amusingly debunked by Denver Post columnist Mike Rosen today. Reviews in National Review, Weekly Standard, and Commentary did likewise. I'll be skipping this overhyped dud.
After posting the above on Twitter and Facebook a short time ago, I was informed by one Victoria Livingston on FB that: "Americans have had a history of being bullies; it started with overrunning the Indians before the 'settlers' were Americans." To which I then replied:
America a bully at times, Victoria? Of course, what did you expect? Strong nations, like strong individuals, may be tempted to use their strength irresponsibly. That's not confined to our country - it's the human condition, the tragic flaw, original sin, fallenness. But show me another country that has been half as earnest and noble as America in trying to atone for that irresponsibility in the past and to prevent its recurrence in the future.
With "Avatar," James Cameron - like so many others in entertainment and mass media - has bitten the hand that feeds him with liberty and opportunity, affluence and indulgence, privilege and prestige. Ingrates one and all. Fie upon them.
('76 Editor) This week Centennial Institute officially begins its second year. We're working to become known in Colorado and nationally as the open forum where current issues are tested against timeless principles.
Our Spring 2010 events calendar features topics from drug policy to mobility strategies to the Christian testimony of an ex-Muslim terrorist. We'll also feature Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute on capitalism in crisis, Douglas Bruce on taxpayer protection in Colorado, and Michael Poliakoff on the classical legacy of Vergil.
The full schedule, confirmed with a few exceptions, is below. There's no charge for these events, but space is limited, so you will need to reserve early.
For reservations, email Centennial@ccu.edu or call 303.963.3424.
Wednesday, February 17, 7pmCCU Music CenterDebate: "Why Not Legalize All Marijuana?"State Rep. Tom Massey, State Sen. Sean Mitchell,DA Carol Chambers, Attorney Jessica Corry----------------------------------------- Monday, February 22, 7pmCCU Business School 101Issue Monday: "Mobility Solutions for Colorado"Randal O'Toole, Author of "Gridlock"----------------------------------------- Wednesday, March 3, 12 noonCCU Dining Commons AnnexLuncheon Briefing: "Confronting Radical Islam"Tawfik Hamid, Author of "The Roots of Jihad"----------------------------------------- Monday, March 15, 7pmCCU Beckman Center 202Issue Monday: "Vergil's Epic of Western Civilization"Dr. Michael Poliakoff, Former Academic VP, University of Colorado----------------------------------------- Friday, March 19, 730amBrown Palace HotelPolicy Breakfast: "Reviving Democratic Capitalism"Arthur Brooks, President, American Enterprise Institute----------------------------------------- Wednesday, April 7, 12 noonCCU Dining Commons AnnexLuncheon Briefing: "From Muslim Terrorist to Christian Believer"Kamal Saleem, Author of "The Blood of Lambs"----------------------------------------- Wednesday, April 14, 7pmCCU Music CenterLecture: "Defending Liberty"Wayne LaPierre, President, National Rifle Association (invited)----------------------------------------- Monday, April 19, 7pmCCU Beckman Center 202Issue Monday: "Taxpayer Protection in Colorado, 1985-2010"Douglas Bruce, Author of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights
||medical marijuana, arthur brooks, wayne lapierre, douglas bruce, radical islam, terrorism, tabor amendment, randal o'toole, carol chambers, jessica corry, tawfik hamid, kamal saleem
||Centennial Institute | Colorado | Culture | Policy
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Bismarck, Prussia's Iron Chancellor, once said, “Laws are like sausages. It's better not to see them being made.” In the case of the current government, bound and determined to take over our health care system regardless of public opposition, never have so many Americans been privy to the making of sausage—and it hasn’t been pretty. One must wonder if this much bribery and corruption are in plain view, what must be going on behind the scenes?
It seems that Liberal Democrats have a very limited number of tools in their toolbox. Their tool of choice always seems to be the one of bribery. Seek out the greatest weaknesses and deepest self-interests of your opposition, offer it to them and they'll sell out anyone or anything. Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson and the SEIU are but the most blatant examples.
Isn’t this what Democrats have done with large swaths of voters? They give out crumbs in order to chip away at self-sufficiency, and recipients vote their greatest weaknesses and their deepest self-interests even if government dependency is not in their best interest. This is all wrapped in the most amazing paradox of all; the bludgeoning banner of “compassion” so as to claim moral superiority.
That’s quite a feat for an ideology with so few tools in its toolbox.
What’s the solution? Make self-sufficiency popular again, as a function of self-esteem and happiness. Do that, and the Democrat machine is disabled with no tools to restart its engine.
(Denver Post, Dec. 27) Remember those times when we thought the world had changed, but it hadn’t? Eight years ago after jihadists attacked the US homeland, and again last year after America elected its first black president, the talk of “forever different” was soon quieted by life’s old patterns. The world does not change, because human nature does not.
But an event that did change the world occurred 2000 years ago in the stable at Bethlehem. Religious differences aside, the earthquake of Jesus’ coming is historical fact. The idea of all persons created equal, all endowed with dignity and liberty, arrived with him and has gained steadily ever since. This makes our seasonal celebrations, both sacred and secular, most fitting.
Among them is the parlor game of tallying up who made a difference in the old year, amid the gusts of forgettable news and fleeting celebrity. In 2009 the very word “change” devolved from a mantra into a punchline. Yet certain individuals had an impact that deserves recognition as the calendar turns. Editors at Time and Sports Illustrated have crowned their national honorees. On behalf of Rocky Mountain conservatives, here’s my award for Coloradan of the Year.
Who would you choose? And by what yardstick would you decide? I took as jurors Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Grant, spiritual fathers under whose wise and brave influence our state was born. We looked for distinguished contributions by fellow citizens in keeping Colorado true to its heritage. The field was broad and bipartisan.
This was the year that Mike Coffman, Iraq veteran twice over, took his war-fighting savvy to Congress. Ken Salazar, son of the San Luis Valley, became steward of all the nation’s public lands. Douglas Bruce left public office but remained a potent force for limited government through his TABOR legacy. Peter Groff, descendant of slaves, took charge of faith-based programs for schoolkids across the country.
None of them, however, made our top-10 finalists. Nor did Jim Tracy, the managerial wizard who electrified Rockies fans, or Michael Bennet, the education wizard who vaulted into the Senate. Nor did leftist campaign financier Tim Gill or Islamist plotter Najibullah Zazi – though jurors sent them backhanded thanks for puncturing the complacency of many.
As finalists for 2009, the jury salutes Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute, laughing lancer of liberty; Joe Blake of Colorado State, common-sense businessman turned university president; and Mayor Hickenlooper along with Congressman Salazar, two solid Johns who remind us not all Democrats are loony liberals.
Plus Philip Anschutz, philanthropist, media mogul, and rising GOP rainmaker; Vincent Carroll, senior pundit of the right at the old Rocky and now here at the Post; Dick Wadhams, quarterback of the state’s impending Republican revival; James Dobson, radio hall-of-famer and hero of the American family; and Jane Norton, new voice of women conservatives in the West.
But last and loudest, as Coloradan of the Year, we applaud Archbishop Charles Chaput. He did the state proud as a leading signer of the Manhattan Declaration on sanctity of life, dignity of marriage, and defense of religious liberty. His book “Render unto Caesar” is a timely guide to principled citizenship in a nation under God. Four centuries of Americans who pushed westward from the Old World’s exhaustion to the New World’s promise would recognize in Chaput a friend to their souls.
I’m not a Catholic, and some of my ghostly jurors were but hesitant Christians; yet no matter. The good archbishop models self-government and self-giving for Coloradans of all faiths. Tempted to believe we live by bread and circuses rather than by truth and love, our state is continually reminded otherwise by this fearless prelate. Soldier of civilization, man of backbone, Charles Chaput will live in grateful memory many Christmases from now.
('76 Editor) Good news. Death is on defense this week. That’s a big reason for the excitement about Christmas and Hanukkah. It should make these holidays welcome even among people who don’t share the biblical beliefs they represent. And it should humble the believers themselves. Civil harmony would benefit. “Merry Christmas” and “Peace on Earth” are still annually proclaimed in lights on the City and County Building, after Denver’s mayor decided against substituting something generic a few years ago. Following a similar bout of hesitation, small-town EnGolden still has its menorah display. We all ought to cheer if we love life.
The Christian faith, along with the Jewish tradition from which it grew, has enlivened our civilization through the centuries with a message of unshakable hope for the human future. The Old and New Testaments argue for an eternal reality in which the grave is not the last word. America as we know it is more humane, dynamic, and purposeful as a result. That’s well worth a celebration every December.
Long before Jesus or Moses, of course, rituals of rebirth were observed at this time of year as the life-giving sun starts its comeback and the days lengthen. So if you prefer a winter solstice festival, fine. Solar cycles will always be with us. But they don’t put death on defense as Christmas and Hanukkah do.
“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” says the fatalism that believes bodily existence is all there is. Scripture contradicts it. Economic guru John Maynard Keynes gave the modernist version when he shrugged, “In the long run, we’re all dead.” Don’t be so sure, say the faithful.
Hope of immortality through their descendants was already a given for the Jews among whom Jesus was born. Many also believed in a bodily resurrection. Christ’s followers were sure of it. Correct or not, that meant conducting themselves in this world so as to be worthy of the next. Moral seriousness grew. All of society felt the gentling effect.
If death cancels life, period, why shouldn’t might make right? Why shouldn’t ethics begin and end with “if it feels good, do it”? It’s different if eternal punishment awaits brutality and tyranny. New incentives come with expecting we’ll have to live forever with the consequences of how we treat each other. This was the awesome force of good that arrived with the baby in the manger.
The Romans who ruled Bethlehem, like the Magi who brought gifts, idealized justice but never knew its author. Knowledge of “the Supreme Judge of the World,” as the Declaration of Independence calls him, is uniquely the Judeo-Christian contribution to history. The result was a vast increase in motivation for achieving peace on earth through goodwill to men.
Peace and justice are far from realized, as each day’s headlines attest. But infanticide, genocide, slavery, and the subjugation of women, once accepted, are now condemned. Freedom and democracy, once rare, are spreading. Heartless death-dealing and all kinds of living death are lessening in our world because of the Hebrew girl’s son who was “born that man no more may die.”
Think about it. Every news story about economic relief or homeless shelters or animal rescue bespeaks a life-affirming ethos that is the very opposite of Lord Keynes’s “dead in the long run” callousness. We’re that way partly because of a faith tradition that sees past death.
As for the so-called Christmas wars, isn’t government or commercial sanction of Jesus’ birthday a false issue? He asked for nothing of the kind. He did ask us who follow him to be more childlike, less demanding. Faithful and unfaithful alike need to lighten up. After all, many believe the light of the world is here – and they don’t just mean the solstice.
As Christmas comes, reactions abound. Since the fourth century AD, when Roman Emperor Constantine embraced Christianity, church service attendance in Western Civilization is greatest at Christmas and Easter.
Prior to Constantine, Christianity was illegal and thus did not attract people who were not deeply committed. Ironically during this period of intense persecution the number of Christians grew at a phenomenal rate, with an organic underground-style network of small home-based churches (much like China has been experiencing since the rule of Mao Zedong). That amazing growth, before Constantine, laid the foundation for Christianity’s widespread acceptance leading to a more organized Christianity.
Yet in many ways organizing Christianity stifled the life-transforming power that grew the earlier organic Church. And in more recent decades the spike in attendance at services for Christmas and Easter has decreased, while critical reactions toward or around these two special Christian days has increased in both number and intensity.
The name CHRISTmas forces most people to consider at some level: Who was Christ and why should his living two-thousand years ago make any difference to us today in our hectic modern life where we are bombarded with ideas trying to answer life’s most basic questions?
Many find this season warm and joyous. Yet others respond from indifference to an outright repulsive reaction to Jesus Christ’s claim to be God, the creator, sustainer and restorer of humanity and the world.
Some reject Biblical moral boundaries, while other rejections are connected to horrific acts done in the name of Christianity, or at least by self-identified Christians. While it is important to acknowledge such acts as horrific, it is just as important to ascertain if such acts are condoned or condemned by Biblical teaching, lest we throw baby Jesus out with the filthy and corrupt bath water.
As Americans, does the Christmas story have anything to do with: our freedom to think and express ideas; our freedom of religion; the equality of people; or even ideas like the size and reach of government?
Clearly the individual rights and freedoms that have long-defined America are not because of where America sits on the globe, but rather they fall directly from a worldview that sees humanity as unique and special and worthy of protection. And Christianity, which teaches that people are created in the image of God and that God came in human form and gave his life to provide a means for every person to have a restored and harmonious relationship with their Creator, puts a value on human life that is arguably much higher than that of any other set of ideas.
Cultures, which have embraced the Biblical value of humanity, have delivered the greatest level of individual liberty. While not all American founders embraced orthodox Christianity, they did embrace the Biblically-based view of human nature and that every person is created equal “with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The American experience, just like our own life experience, has had its struggles putting these profound ideas into practice. Yet had these ideas not sprung from a real foundation the American experiment in liberty would have been a futile effort, like every other culture that does not value humanity.
In recent decades some in America have been pushing America away from its foundation, with the result being increased chaos. Chaos has been answered by increasing the size and reach of government, leading to a decrease in personal liberty and making our personal and national future much less secure. We would be wise to look at the results of godless national experiments before we take the leap.
If atheism or any other set of ideas is true then by all means let us live life accordingly, but let us not take that jump without first investigating the idea which arguably has most radically and positively changed the lives of people and civilizations: Biblical Christianity.
Granted Biblical Christianity, unlike most other sets of ideas, does not align well with human logic, where might makes right, or utopia is achieved through personal effort. Does that not suggest that Biblical Christianity is not a human creation, but more likely revelation from our Creator? Even apart from the continual historical and archeological validations of Biblical history, Biblical teaching on human nature, the human condition, and the path to restoration, ring incredibly true with human experience.
Humanity is creative and desires to express that creativity. True faith cannot be forced upon someone. Vast power (control of resources) invites corruption, whether in business, politics, government, or religion. Left unbounded by inner moral guides or external militant guides, people and cultures self-destruct. Incredible transformation and healing does result when people bond with their Creator. Indeed these human experiences align with the Biblical presentation of humanity.
Ideas do have consequences. Ideas that ring true with life experience yield better results for us individually and for cultures. This Christmas, consider investigating genuine Biblical Christianity directly from its source document and resting your future in ideas that ring true and truly transform.
Mark Shepard writes from Vermont, where he formerly served as a state senator.