(Denver Post, June 3) The Founders wouldn’t believe it. The Colorado Court of Appeals says the governor may not proclaim an official day of prayer because of a clause in the state constitution prohibiting that “any preference be given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship.
This novel interpretation would come as a surprise not only to the governors who have issued such proclamations dating back many years, but also to the authors of that very constitution, who declared in its preamble their “profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.”
They couldn’t have intended the religious preference clause to become a barrier to state action encouraging Coloradans to seek that Supreme Ruler’s favor. Good to know that Gov. John Hickenlooper has directed Attorney General John Suthers to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, which should surely overturn it based on logic and precedent.
But wait; did I say “surely”? When it comes to religion and politics, church and state, nothing is sure any more. Also headed for the state Supreme Court is an ACLU challenge to Douglas County parents using their own tax dollars to educate their own children in (horrors) faith-based schools.
Meanwhile at the legislature we’ve seen both political parties consider divorcing the legal definition of marriage from its time-honored theological definition. The rationale for gay civil unions was put this way by Hickenlooper: “We don’t believe we should legislate what happens inside a church or place of worship, but government should treat all people equally.”
Leaving aside the vexed question of how the law recognizes different kinds of couples, look what the governor is saying in that sentence BEFORE the comma. He implies that government’s power over you and me stops only at the church door. This echoes a theme from President Obama, whose speeches always refer to “freedom of worship,” not “freedom of religion.”
What’s the difference? Freedom of religion includes the individual right of conscience in conduct outside of church – exactly what secular theocrats are trampling on with the HHS mandate for Catholic and evangelical institutions to provide drugs for contraception or abortion, in violation of their allegiance to God.
“The Supreme Ruler of the Universe,” you see, is no longer acknowledged as a reality under the dominant liberal consensus. He, or it, is now treated as just an outmoded notion which backward folk are allowed to preach about in their sanctuaries – but to whom they must no longer render homage by public word or deed. That homage is now supposed to be Caesar’s alone.
Where is all this leading? For over a millennium and a half, ever since the Emperor Constantine in 312 A.D., Christians in Europe and eventually America have been accustomed to friendly treatment by civil government. But that is over, over there, and may soon be over with here.
The Church of State, as my Colorado Christian University colleague Kevin Miller calls it in his important book “Freedom Nationally, Virtue Locally,” is setting up as the one and only religious establishment. I won’t say get used to it, because we never should. It must be fought.
But we who honor the God of the Bible had better gird ourselves, for this will get worse before it gets better. We’d better study the persecuted church, thriving in China and Africa; our own time may be coming. We must realize, as the Founders knew, that America is not in the Bible. Americans are, however. It holds vast wisdom and warning for us.
As the Constantinian settlement – itself quite unscriptural – passes away, a good place to start would be Jesus’ own rule: “Render to Caesar, render to God.” That balance, the only safe harbor for faith and freedom, was lost in Christendom centuries ago. It is now ours to rebuild.
This article will look at four questions: Why are the names Allah and Jehovah beginning to be used interchangeably by some Christians in this country? Why are those two deities not the same God at all? Why does it matter? What can be done? Footnotes are provided at the end to document the argument and conclusions on this vital distinction.
Many Arab Christians in America are now referring to Jehovah, the God of the Bible, as "Allah." Using the same name for different gods serves the objectives of the interfaith movement which is focused on political correctness and the unity of a one world religion. This lapse in linguistic rigor has helped contribute to the fact that 40% of evangelical Christians now believe that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. (1)
A partial Arabic translation of the Bible, for liturgical purposes, is often traced back to the 8th century A.D.(2) (after Mohammed established the regional presence of Islam) but no definite evidence exists on the date of those liturgical verse translations. The entire Bible was not translated into Arabic until the 19th century by British missionaries to complete the few verses that had been translated into Arabic for liturgical purposes earlier. (3)
We know that post-Islamic missionaries (from Great Britain, etc.) came to the Middle East after Arabic Bible translations were completed but they were reluctant to evangelize under the name of Jehovah because they feared Islamic reprisal due to Mohammed's history of violence and conquest. (4) British missionaries came to the Middle East when Muslims ruled the land. They had to appease the political rulers and used the name "Allah" in an attempt to avoid violence. The Christian Arabs typically used "al-Rub" not "Allah" before that time. (5)
It's important to understand that the name of Allah originated in polytheism and long before Islam ever arose. Mohammed was born in 570 and began preaching about his new religion of Islam (with Allah as its god) around 610. He gained 150 converts in his first 13 years of evangelism in Mecca and then went to Medina where he pursued physical, or combat, jihad while acquiring 100,000 converts up until his death in 632 A.D. using the name of Allah. (6) However, the god name Allah had existed several centuries before Mohammed co-opted it as the god of Islam. Allah was a truncated form of Al-Ilah, one of the 360 pagan deities worshipped by the nomadic pagan and polytheistic Arabs at the Kaaba in Mecca before, during, and after the time of Christ. (7) Mohammed's father was also named Abdullah (meaning "slave of Allah".) A tribe of Jews was called Abdullah bin Salam in the Bukhari Hadith. (8)
The Christian church exploded in growth in the first century A.D. Christian missionaries came through the Middle East/Africa regions in the late 2nd century and, in an effort to evangelize the polytheistic Arabs, sought a way to get these Arabs to understand the one true God of Jehovah. The missionaries may have used the name "Al-Ilah" (understood by the polytheistic Arabs as the one god higher than the other 359) in an effort to evangelize the Arabs at that time. Although we do not have archaeological, manuscript, inscription, mural, sermon, theological writings, or similar evidence of Christian missionaries using Al-Ilah as a reference to Jehovah in pre-Islamic history, many speculate that Arab Christians in pre-Islamic history used Allah as a reference to Jehovah. (9) If true, Christian missionaries, through lack of discernment, might have used Al-Ilah, a god that the polytheistic Arabs were familiar with as being the supreme god of the 360 gods worshipped by polytheistic Arabs at Mecca and throughout the region as an evangelical tool.
As Arabs converted to Christianity, some may have referred to Jehovah as Allah while the pagan Arabs referred to Allah as one of the 360 gods worshipped by the polytheistic Arab community. This concession to naming expediency on the part of Christian missionaries to reach polytheistic Arabs may have started the problem that we find today with two groups (Arab Christians and Muslims) using the same name of Allah to refer to two different gods. Al-Ilah was shortened to Allah. The problem is that the missionaries may have conflated two gods into one name in their zeal for evangelism. Some of these early Arab converts, e.g., Ghassanids, Lakhmids, Banu Judham, and Hamadan, etc. may have begun calling Jehovah "Allah" post 300 A.D., and 300 years before Mohammed created the Islamic "Allah." Mohammed used "Allah" as the means to bring Arabs out of polytheism and into Islam. The Jews and Christians of that time rejected his teaching as false (they were also familiar with the Al-Ilah becoming Allah) and Mohammed ultimately became a physical jihadist to compel conversion. Forced conversions to Islam (and Allah) continue to this very day. Unlike Islam, Christianity (as taught from the Bible) does not condone forced conversions. These are two very different religions with two very different gods. It makes no logical or theological sense to have these two different gods share the same name.
Here's why this matters so much: The contemporary problem is that some places (Mauritania) still use Allah as a reference to Jehovah while others (Mali) culturally reject that notion. (10) Riots erupted in Malaysia when some Christians used the name Allah to refer to Jehovah. (11) This is now becoming a problem in the United States as Arab Christians, among others, come to America and call Jehovah "Allah." Our culture, unfamiliar with this history, is ill equipped to reconcile this naming aberration. Consequently, we are seeing Christians say that they worship the same God as Islam. Sadly, this may have started with over-zealous Christian missionaries in the 2nd and 3rd centuries who chose a naming expediency in their efforts to lead polytheists into monotheism.
There is ambiguity among Muslims with respect to the Allah naming convention because Allah is the name of their God, and it, through colloquial use, is becoming a generic name for God. However, this contradiction confounds the Muslim when encountering other religions such as Hinduism, a polytheistic religion of 900 million adherents. (12) "When asked, does Hinduism have thousands of Allahs, Muslims say no, because there is just one Allah. The Muslim response is that Hindus worship idols." (13)
The lack of discernment in pre-Islamic evangelism and the lack of courage in post-Islamic evangelism on the part of Christian missionaries has corrupted the use of Allah as a name for Jehovah. Further, there is an interfaith effort (of questionable theological origins) called Chrislam that seeks to bring these two disparate faiths together. This constitutes heresy as Islam rejects Jesus as God and Savior while Christianity rejects the Allah of Islam as a means to salvation outside of Jesus Christ.
The Allah of Islam has 99 names, only one of which includes love, the primary character attribute of Jehovah, God of the Bible. (14) An extreme example illustrates the point of having one name for two different persons. Imagine naming a child Adolf Hitler in a remote tribal region yet when he grows up to be an international businessman, he finds social outrage when conducting business in the West. Those familiar with the German tyrant would see this as a horrendous offense to society while those who were ignorant of who Hitler was would be indifferent to such a naming convention. This, in an overly dramatic way, resembles the challenge to Christians who neither understand the origins of the name Allah in polytheistic Arab culture nor the co-option of the name Allah by Mohammed in promoting Islam.
What then can be done? The failure of discernment on the part of pre-Islamic Christian missionaries in the Middle East and the lack of courage (or fidelity to truth) on the part of post-Islamic Christian missionaries in the Middle East has contributed to the current problem of one name (Allah) being used to represent two different gods. American Christians today should be understanding of the global cultural confusion regarding the use of Allah for Jehovah but discourage the use of Allah for Jehovah by Arab Christians, and others, in the United States.
These two monotheistic faiths make separate and conflicting truth claims regarding salvation for eternity. Those that use the same name for the different gods of these two faiths serve the interests of ignorance, deception, or error. Discerning Christians and Muslims already acknowledge the differences in faith, the differences in the gods they serve, and the differences in the names of those gods. It is now the task for followers of each respective faith to preserve those differences in the public arena without succumbing to the political correctness of the interfaith movement while retaining a civil discourse and respecting the sincerity of each others faith.
Accepting the same name for two different gods as part of "political correctness" accelerates the onset of Chrislam efforts, increases the likelihood of apostasy, ignores the historical truth, and denies the reality of the two largest religions asserting competing truth claims. It appears that Martin Luther, founder of the Protestant Reformation, was prophetic when he said "It is better to be divided by truth than united in error."
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3. Correspondence with Robert Morey, Ph.D. May 11. 2012
5. Correspondence with Robert Morey, Ph.D. May 11. 2012
6. Correspondence with Bill Warner May 21, 2011
7. Winning the War with Radical Islam. Robert Morey Ph.D. Christian Scholar Press 2002 p.14.
8. Bukari Hadith vol.5 book 59 ch.13 no.362 p.241
9. Correspondence with Craig Blomberg, Ph.D. May 8, 2012
13. Correspondence with Messianic Rabbi R. Drebenshedt May 11. 2012
I’m thankful. I’m very thankful. And not just today, Thanksgiving Day, but every day. I grew up in a family with loving parents and siblings. I don’t mean to demean the rest of you, but I’ve got the world’s best wife (some of you are undoubtedly pretty good, but no one can hold a candle to Courtney, the love of my life). We have a home that someday we’ll own, in the great State of Colorado, a state whose abundance of outdoor beauty and recreation gave birth to my entrepreneurial spirit. We live in a land of liberty and opportunity, and for all these things, I’m grateful.
Dad worked hard to provide for us, but also instilled a strong work ethic so that we could provide for ourselves. I remember working with Dad after school one day as an 11 year old. We were picking up scraps and trash at a home he was building. A subcontractor stopped to talk to Dad, and I stood idly by and listened for most of an hour. Then it was time to go home. As we got into the van I was foolish enough to remark how easy it was to earn my 50 cents for that last hour. Man, did he lay into me! He said he wasn’t going to pay me for that hour. I complained that I was there to help him, and since he was listening to the subcontractor, I was helping him listen. Dad carefully explained that he pays me to work, and that we each have different jobs. If I expect to get paid, I had better stay busy doing my work.
My dad taught me that hard work in this land of opportunity is rewarded. Indeed, the United States of America is the most prosperous nation in history. Even the poorest among us live far better than most of the rest of the world. We owe that to our history of respect for liberty. It is our deeply held belief in liberty that gave us a legal system that protects property rights. Without property rights there is no incentive to create or produce anything more than what it takes to survive. After all, if you can’t enforce your right to own what you produce, why bother?
As thankful as I am for all these things, I’m also deeply concerned. Former State Senator John Andrews today told me of the writings of Alexander Tytler:
The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, those nations always have progressed from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, and from dependence back into bondage.
In Senator Andrews’ book “Responsibility Reborn” he says, “You’d have to be dreaming, not to recognize that we have been living in a nation that has for quite a while been somewhere on the declining side of the cycle”. He also points out that the cycle can be reversed. If I didn’t believe that, I would not write these columns. I would not have run for State Representative in 2010. Simply put, I wouldn’t bother. If we don’t renew our respect for liberty, if we don’t restore limits on government that respect property rights, we will continue down that cycle.
We have gone from a nation that was built on a rugged entrepreneurial spirit, on self reliance and personal responsibility, and on mutual respect for rights and liberty, to a nation with a culture of dependence that relies on what the government can take from one to give to another.
During this season of thanks, let us be grateful for the work of those who established, secured, and protect our freedoms. Let us be mindful of the abundance we enjoy, and how the blessings of liberty created that abundance. And let us commit to not decline into complacency, apathy, and dependence, but embrace the independence and personal responsibility that will ensure the survival of the Republic.
(Centennial Fellow) It was the worst news I could get as an atheist: my agnostic wife had decided to become a Christian. Two words shot through my mind. The first was an expletive; the second was “divorce.”
I thought she was going to turn into a self-righteous holy roller. But over the following months, I was intrigued by the positive changes in her character and values. Finally, I decided to take my journalism and legal training (I was legal editor of the Chicago Tribune) and systematically investigate whether there was any credibility to Christianity.Maybe, I figured, I could extricate her from this cult.I quickly determined that the alleged resurrection of Jesus was the key. Anyone can claim to be divine, but if Jesus backed up his claim by returning from the dead, then that was awfully good evidence he was telling the truth.For nearly two years, I explored the minutia of the historical data on whether Easter was myth or reality. I didn’t merely accept the New Testament at face value; I was determined only to consider facts that were well-supported historically. As my investigation unfolded, my atheism began to buckle.Was Jesus really executed? In my opinion, the evidence is so strong that even atheist historian Gerd Lüdemann said his death by crucifixion was “indisputable.”Was Jesus’ tomb empty? Scholar William Lane Craig points out that its location was known to Christians and non-Christians alike. So if it hadn’t been empty, it would have been impossible for a movement founded on the resurrection to have exploded into existence in the same city where Jesus had been publicly executed just a few weeks before.Besides, even Jesus’ opponents implicitly admitted the tomb was vacant by saying that his body had been stolen. But nobody had a motive for taking the body, especially the disciples. They wouldn’t have been willing to die brutal martyrs’ deaths if they knew this was all a lie.Did anyone see Jesus alive again? I have identified at least eight ancient sources, both inside and outside the New Testament, that in my view confirm the apostles’ conviction that they encountered the resurrected Christ. Repeatedly, these sources stood strong when I tried to discredit them.Could these encounters have been hallucinations? No way, experts told me. Hallucinations occur in individual brains, like dreams, yet, according to the Bible, Jesus appeared to groups of people on three different occasions – including 500 at once!Was this some other sort of vision, perhaps prompted by the apostles’ grief over their leader’s execution? This wouldn’t explain the dramatic conversion of Saul, an opponent of Christians, or James, the once-skeptical half-brother of Jesus.Neither was primed for a vision, yet each saw the risen Jesus and later died proclaiming he had appeared to him. Besides, if these were visions, the body would still have been in the tomb.Was the resurrection simply the recasting of ancient mythology, akin to the fanciful tales of Osiris or Mithras? If you want to see a historian laugh out loud, bring up that kind of pop-culture nonsense.One by one, my objections evaporated. I read books by skeptics, but their counter-arguments crumbled under the weight of the historical data. No wonder atheists so often come up short in scholarly debates over the resurrection.In the end, after I had thoroughly investigated the matter, I reached an unexpected conclusion: it would actually take more faith to maintain my atheism than to become a follower of Jesus.And that’s why I’m now celebrating my 30th Easter as a Christian. Not because of wishful thinking, the fear of death, or the need for a psychological crutch, but because of the facts.Lee Strobel wrote “The Case for Easter: Journalist Investigates the Evidence for the Resurrection“; his first novel, “The Ambition,” releases May 17. He lives in Castle Rock, Colorado, and is a Centennial Institute Fellow. This article is reprinted from the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy Blog.
(Centennial Fellow) Energized by the Tea Party, a conservative comeback ostensibly rolls into Washington this month. But are the results desired truly going to happen?
Conservatives have two well-established, honorable impulses: they want a free country and they want a virtuous country.
Unfortunately, the strategy of numerous conservatives in acting upon these impulses has been failing for decades.
That’s because of this important axiom: when Americans ask their Federal Government to deliver both freedom and virtue, they will ultimately get neither.
The problem is this: a key number of Christian conservatives ask their Federal Government to deliver both freedom and virtue. And Washington’s obliging, persistent installation of coerced, often fake, “virtues” reduces the freedom of all Americans.
Decades ago, Washington started assuming that an essential purpose of the Federal Government is to define and enforce the personal virtues of Americans. So, by now, Washington is deeply committed to ensuring that Americans’ personal behaviors are conformed to “government standards,” like Americans buying the “correct” light bulbs, purchasing compulsory health coverage, and teaching six-year-olds “enlightened” sex education in public schools.
In this way, America is inexorably moving beyond economic socialism to “virtue-socialism.” Not content with just the leveling of economic resources of Americans, Washington relentlessly works to level the virtues of Americans.
Simply stated, the Federal Government is in the “virtue business.” That’s because Article I, Section 11 of the Constitution says, “Congress shall have the power to define and enforce personal virtues to be adhered to by the people.”
Just kidding, of course. That provision of the Constitution doesn’t exist. But you couldn’t prove that by perusing the voluminous laws and regulations conforming citizens’ personal behaviors to Washington’s whims.
Key leaders on the supposedly conservative side, including Christians, have often bought into the assumption that the Federal Government should be in the virtue business. Hence: The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. No Child Left Behind. The latest “family-friendly” Federal policy.
But the results are clear: Federal policies simply entrench the Federal Government’s power and its constituent base. The long-standing strategic mistake is to agree that the Feds should be in the virtue business at all. So, a crucial number of well-meaning conservatives who think they are fighting the good fight are instead fighting the wrong fight.
Rather, there is a truly conservative, Constitution-honoring strategy: “freedom nationally, virtue locally.” Virtue is not generated by Federal Government policy. Virtue percolates effectively bottom-up, by a clarion call to individuals, and by inculcation of values in families, churches, local associations, and communities. Americans own their own virtues—apart from the Federal Government. That’s part and parcel of their religious liberty.
Jesus said “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Well, contrary to conventional wisdom, in America “Caesar” is not the Federal Government. Caesar is “the people, bound by the Constitution.” And the people, via the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, did not delegate the defining and enforcing of Americans’ personal virtues to the Federal Government.
So, is self-inflicted defeat of their own political goals once again likely for conservatives?
Not if the elected officials substantively endorse the American people’s local discretion and strategically install “freedom nationally, virtue locally.” That’s the only clear path for American greatness.
Perhaps meaningful change will start with the 112th Congress. Godspeed.
Kevin Miller is the author of the just-published Freedom Nationally, Virtue Locally—or Socialism and a Centennial Institute Fellow.© Kevin Miller
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, Dec. 25) Senator John was a political man, a driven man, some would say a hard man. At dusk on Christmas Eve, he squinted from his office window through falling snow toward the Capitol, and grumbled to his assistant about the latest Bill Ritter gimmick: low-energy holiday lights.
His clock struck five. “I suppose you’ll want all day tomorrow,” the aging conservative barked. “If you please, sir,” Joyce whimpered. “It’s only one day a year.” Back came the senatorial snort: “One day less for this office to defend faith, family, and the flag, while you fritter at home with your relatives and pastor. All right, but you’ll owe me an extra Reagan catechism on Monday.”
Hurrying past a shopping-cart woman on the corner, Andrews got in his gas-guzzler to head home. Driving south, his thoughts turned northward, not to Santa’s workshop but to the ANWR oil reserve. He ejected his wife’s “Messiah” CD, popped in the latest Cato Institute lecture, and speed-dialed Douglas Bruce.
Then it happened. Distracted by an Obama bumper sticker, the grouchy Republican braked too late for a red light and skidded into a fire hydrant, triggering both a geyser and his airbag. That was the last thing John remembered; everything went black.
A gray-haired lady was shaking him. He sniffed the musty air of Buena Vista’s old elementary school. “You’re not…?” Dorothy Roman smiled. “Yes, I am: your teacher from 1957. For a smart boy, you’re often still a dunce. Follow me.”
Stopping at several homes, she showed him classmates he’d looked down on. Peeking into a church, he saw two brothers ridiculing a less affluent family’s Christmas attire. “Ouch,” he murmured, “Jim and me.” Then to the Andrews ranch, where his mother sat by the fire in tears. “People matter most, John,” Mrs. Roman said quietly. “You’ve often written that, but do you live it?”
“Dad, are you okay?” From the darkness, the dazed rightwinger heard his policeman son shouting through the shattered windshield. But an instant later it was blazing daylight, Christmas morning, and he was 500 feet above downtown in Jeff Puckett’s “Prayer One” helicopter. “Joy to the world, the Savior is born,” crackled the pilot’s voice over the intercom.
Fellow passengers began identifying landmarks. Ron McKinney, a Salvation Army captain, gestured to Red Shield Community Center in a gang neighborhood. Kent Hutcheson pointed out school after school where Colorado UpLift staffers mentor inner-city kids. Bob Cote waved up at them from the Step Thirteen shelter and rehab facility.
Far below, a beaming teenager with a new basketball emerged from a boarded-up house. “Look, Pops, it’s one of the families our company adopted through Denver Kids Inc.,” said John’s daughter over the intercom. He tried not to think about his new landscaping at home. Rev. Tom Melton, who coordinates the weekly prayer flights, greeted them upon landing, serious for once. “Remember, Senator, we’re all one city.”
Flashers from an emergency vehicle blasted his eyeballs. The Cato lecturer was droning on about Ayn Rand. John blacked out, then seemed to waken amid the smell of sanitary chemicals and body fluids. A gaudy banner proclaimed this was Sunrise Assisted Living and it was New Year’s 2030. What was so familiar about the bent man dozing in front of the TV?
“Patty Gordon, who left us back in 2007, was always so warm and kind,” a nurse was saying. “So was her daughter Donna, John’s wife. But with old Mr. Brainy, it was always books and ideas, votes and visions. Now look at him. Too bad.”
The horrified columnist screamed and woke, himself again at last. Paramedics jumped back as he leaped from the wreckage, shouting: “Holy Scrooge, a second chance! Goodwill toward men and no excuses. I’ll try harder, God help me. Merry Christmas, everyone.”
If you've somehow been in a Rip Van Winkle sleep and have awakened without knowing what season it is, you might catch on by seeing how niceness is suddenly directing traffic or how smiles surround us wherever we go. (Centennial Fellow) While making my way through a traffic jam the other day, I could not help being impressed by the various driver courtesies. Later, I encountered great gobs of gladness while poking around in a shopping mall. Then, on returning home and scouting out news on the Internet, I bumped into three tales of a giving spree. The stories were about red kettles, the Salvation Army donation containers you see in front of stores with a volunteer ringing a bell or maybe, like a sight I witnessed the other day, a bunch of happy little girls singing carols. In Louisville, Ky., it's reported, someone dropped a South African Krugerrand worth $1,400 in one red kettle. In Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., the anonymous kettle gift came in the form of cashier checks. The amount was $5,500. It was cashier checks again in Joplin, Mo. There were five, wrapped in $1 bills and signed by Santa Claus. They added up to $100,000. A literary character named Fred, nephew of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," tells his uncle what underlies such acts, saying that Christmas is "a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys." Scrooge, we all know, is a bah, humbug kind of guy and isn't buying any, but then come the visiting ghosts, including that of Jacob Marley, his regretful, dejected, deceased former partner. Trying to buck him up, one online discussion of the story reminds us, Scrooge says to the old fellow that he was after all good at business. The death-refashioned Marley responds with Dickensian eloquence.
"Mankind was my business," he cries.. "The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!" We all feel that way, don't we, that goodness to others is our business? You don't think so? Adam Smith, who wrote famously, powerfully and lastingly in the 18th century about the power of self-interest to benefit the common welfare in economic affairs, also wrote persuasively and importantly about sympathy for our fellow human beings as a virtually universal sentiment crucial to and forming the core of our morality. We want others to be happy, he says. James Q. Wilson, a superb social scientist of our own era, explores aspects of the idea in "The Moral Sense," arguing that sympathy is a key element in our moral apprehensions, serving as a powerful motivator in some instances, though weak or even absent in others. For most of us, I am convinced, it definitely is there. It is evident as one example in charitable giving that is higher per capita in American than anyplace else in the world, that has been picking up this year after a recessionary decline and that is especially pronounced during this special holy day season. Even many outside the Christian faith seem to find themselves moved by the story of amazing grace and a humble birth that would bring vast new, loving possibilities into our lives. And with visions of doing unto others dancing in their heads, great numbers slow down in traffic so someone in front of them can change lanes, or drop a few dollars or even many thousands in a red kettle somewhere, scuttling through anonymity any accusation of merely seeking praise. Bah, humbug? No. Joy to the world. Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado and a Centennial Institute Fellow. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)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.
Friday, 22 October 2010 15:25 by Admin
Conservative strategist Ralph Reed drew on his storied career in politics, his doctorate in American history, and his deep-dyed Christian convictions, seasoned with an impish self-deprecating wit, to deliver the first Centennial Institute lecture of the fall season, October 12 at the CCU Music Center, on "Faith and Politics in a Secular Age: What Citizenship Requires of Us, Beyond 2010 and 2012." Listen to full audio here:
John Andrews, director of the Centennial Institute, set the scene for a full house of students, faculty, and guests from the community, by noting that the Founders’ understanding of America as a nation under God has lost its unifying force for citizens amid the materialism and multiculturalism of today. Yet there is the danger that a faithless society cannot long remain a free society. The question for today, he said, is how can we “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” acting individually and together?
Centennial Intern Matt Lenell, a junior communications major, gave the introduction for Reed, whom he called one of the most acclaimed political strategists of our time. He currently directs the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a national voter mobilization effort he founded to help conservatives rebound after 2008. Reed also heads the consulting firm Century Strategies and has just published his first novel, The Confirmation. As executive director of the Christian Coalition while barely in his thirties (see Time cover below), Reed helped sustain the Reagan Revolution, and later chaired the Republican Party in his native Georgia.