Sunday, October 2, 2016

Seven Sons

All night I've wrestled Jacob's angels
And prayed with Matthew, Luke and John
Struggling to find the words when I face the 
task that comes at the 

 Blood red dawn.

I've buried men before their time
Of alcohol and blackened lung
But how to bury seven of these
Appalachian miners' sons?

They stormed the beaches wave on wave,
they have sailed home to these rocky graves,
to family plots that bear their names.

Tomorrow I'll walk up seven hillsides 
Tremble before my flock on seven hillsides
Seven sorrows, seven sons, seven mothers and every one

Will turn to me for the word of God.

What does this mean?

There I'll stand, good book in hand,
A shepherd to these precious lambs.

What will I say?

What can I say?

The time has come to keep the faith
For others shattered by their loss.
Remind them of the loving God
Whose son, like theirs, paid the cost
To save a sad and wicked world
Through sacrifice, our love is heard.

And I pray that they believe those words.

Tomorrow I'll walk up seven hillsides
Tremble before my flock on seven hillsides
Seven sorrows, seven sons, seven mothers and every one
Will turn to me for the word of God

What does this mean?

Dear God, what does this mean?

Based on lyrics by an unknown sorrow filled author in memory of the 38 West Virginia soldiers who died on D-Day.

Winston Lodge Alexander, McDowell County
James O Boggess, Kanawha County
David E. Casto, Nicholas County
Donald G. Colangelo, Mingo County
Darius W. Crites, Upshur County
Joe DiCiuccio, Raleigh County
Jasper N. Elswick, Roane County
Curtis C. Feathers, Preston County
Jesse M. Hawkins, no home county identified
Elsworth M. Heck, Cabell County
Martin V. Hughes, Kanawha County
Edward L. Jones, Wood County
Alva Jackson Night, Braxton County
Eston C. Kuhn, Barbour County
James D. Lake, Braxton County
Bernard H. Lipscomb, Doddridge County
John Manfredi, Barbour County
Charles H. Manning, Hancock County
Conrad Cecil Mason, Ohio County
John Hobert Mathews, Pocahontas County
Charles G. McCalvin, Logan County
Jamie Edgar McComb, Pocahontas County
John Burk McCue, Monongalia County
Vernon C. McDaniel, Berkeley County
Norman G. Miller, Harrison County
William L. Mollohan, Jr., Kanawha County
Louis F. Nesci, Mineral County
Shirley J. Phillips, Randolph County
John Henry Shreves, Harrison County
William H. Smith, Raleigh County
Floyd Spiker, Preston County
Max L. Stemple, Preston County
Robert Charles Stonebraker, Harrison County
Raymond L. Winebrener, Mason County
Benjamin F. Winn, McDowell County
Benjamin H. Wirtz, Mercer County
Robert L. Wolverton, Randolph County

Monday, September 5, 2016

Still Standing

The recent upheaval concerning the professional football player refusing to stand for the national anthem (Colin Kaepernick) got me thinking about patriotism and America. 

Symbols often have deep meaning for many people across all walks of life.The American flag and national anthem hold such a position for millions of Americans, myself included. To not stand is to itself symbolically say, "NO". 

Not just "no" to particular policies, but really "no" to the country itself

The colors in the flag are themselves symbolic. The red is representative of the "hardiness and valor" in the country or - for many - the blood that has been shed to create and preserve the country.

I continue to have significant issues with and concerns about the future of America, but I have always stood in respect for the blood that has been shed so that even people like Mr. Kaepernick are free to disrespect the country. Blood shed like this from people who -interestingly - did it directly or indirectly to free people of color from slavery:

“The men rose up and dashed eastward through the open fields and along the railroad cut. Color-Sergeant John Hinchcliff, whom a fellow soldier described as “a Swede, six feet two, fair haired, blue eyed,” offered a conspicuous target as he attempted to escape with the flag. He was struck by several bullets and killed instantly. Sergeant William Wybourn, known as “a brave Irish lad,” rushed back and pulled the blood-soaked standard from underneath Hinchcliff’s lifeless body.

Lieutenant Pierce narrated the remarkable conclusion of the incident: “I climbed up the rocky face of the cut, on the south side, and made my way with many of our men across the meadow between the railroad cut and the Chambersburg Pike, crossed the pike into a small peach orchard, and I overtook the colors in the hands of Sergeant William A. Wybourn. Just as I joined him he received a shot, and fell on the colors as if dead. I tried to remove the colors, but he held to them with true Irish grit. I commanded him to let go, and to my surprise he answered, ‘Hold on, I will be up in a minute,’ rolled over and staggered to his feet and carried them all through the fight, and was commissioned for his courage.”

Battle of Gettysburg

Patriotism, though, is something that has to be voluntary, something that has to be freely expressed and not forced. To force patriotism would be for America to cease to be America. Back in 1989, there was a case that reached the Supreme Court, Texas v Johnson. It was about a state law forbidding the burning of the American flag. The Court ruled this law unconstitutional and said these good words.

"The way to preserve the flag's special role is not to punish those who feel differently about these matters. It is to persuade them that they are wrong.
 The remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.
 And, precisely because it is our flag that is involved, one's response to the flag-burner may exploit the uniquely persuasive power of the flag itself. We can imagine no more appropriate response to burning a flag than waving one's own, no better way to counter a flag burner's message than by saluting the flag that burns, no surer means of preserving the dignity even of the flag that burned than by -- as one witness here did -- according its remains a respectful burial.
 We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents."

I will stand and be counted among those who still respect the country, 
even with all its imperfections.

I will also stand in defense of Mr. Kaepernick’s right to disrespect the flag and the country it represents and in so doing prove to him that we -and he -

are still free.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Raised Too Right

Summer 2016

"Well, it's down to two candidates now. Hillary or Trump. Not a big fan of Trump, but I hate Hillary."

As I sat comfortably on the couch listening to my dad, I started to think. My father and I have never shied away from respectful disagreements. I continued the conversation.

"I could never vote for her either, but I don't know about Trump, Dad," I said. "He openly advocates for bribery, lies, and treats people despicably. He is a scoundrel and is just plain corrupt."

Dad settled into his favorite chair and sighed. "Sometimes you just have to choose the lesser of two evils. Trump is bad, but he is better than Hillary."

As he continued talking about the evils of Hillary Clinton, I started to stare out the window. My mind wandered back to my childhood...

Summer 1974

On the floor of our postage sized little house, I was playing with my matchbox cars and building a racetrack for my favorite Porsche to race on.  Dad stood up to adjust the rabbit ears on the TV.

"It's official. President Nixon has resigned. The Watergate scandal has finally caught up with the President. After his Vice-President resigned last year due to bribery and extortion charges, the extent of the corruption is now complete in the White House..."
"What a mess," my dad said. " How can we have leaders so crooked? How does this happen?"

Summer 1984

Sitting at the dinner table, Mom passes the bowl of fresh green beans over to me as Dad talks about my brother's 'friends'.  The horrific accident from the prior year has left him debilitated but still resilient. His largest struggle might be the 'friends' who have been making fun of him lately. My dad has zero tolerance for such people.

"You can tell a lot about a person by how he treats people who are handicapped. We don't need those kind of people in our life and anywhere for that matter.

They are the true scum of the earth."

Fall 1984

As my parents are unloading my luggage and getting me settled into my dorm room at a conservative university, I can tell Dad is wanting to sit down and talk. I stop moving and sit.

"I know this school is strict. They are that way for a reason, though. We have talked about the evils of the modern world, what with moral relativism so big. 'It all depends on the situation,' they say. 'Sometimes you have to do the wrong thing if the situation calls for it.' Don't believe it. Don't sacrifice your conscience for such nonsense. I am just a simple man, but I know the truth. These people will help you understand these things even better."

Spring 1987

"Do right! Even if the stars fall, do right!"

The words of the university's founder ring out loudly through the auditorium.

The speaker is playing an old recording of his famous sayings. He continues with another old recording.

"It is never right to do wrong, even to get a chance to do right!" 

Fall 1998

"I can't believe it." my dad growled as we sat around the living room over Thanksgiving watching the Detroit Lions play again.

 "I cannot believe how the country just ignores this whole Lewinsky affair. The man cheats on his wife--in the White House no less-- lies about it, and the country lets him off the hook. Doesn't anybody care any more? What has happened to the morals of this country?! If a man cheats on his wife and lies, what do you think he will do with the country?"

"Christians care," I said.

 "Yeah, but that's it." he quickly countered. "If we stop caring, there will be nothing left to stop the devil."

Summer 2016

"Aren't you listening?" my dad snaps me back to the present.

"I'm sorry," I muttered. "I just don't think I can vote for Trump."

"What? You have to."

"I respect your judgment more than anything, but I just can't."

Grimacing with disappointment, he said,

"Did I somehow raise you wrong?"

I dropped my head thinking,

No, Dad. You raised me too right...

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
Proverbs 22:6

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Court of Public Opinion

Just how damaging will be the recent email scandal on Hillary Clinton?

Sadly, not likely to be very damaging.

The degradation of the bedrock principle of the rule of law first caught my ire in this situation, but upon reflection something deeper troubles me more.

What troubles me more than the court of law is the court of public opinion. 

FBI Director Comey was presented with a situation in which he could go forward and recommend prosecution (he had strong evidence) but he did not have a bullet proof case. When dealing with high public officials bringing a charge itself would be fatal. By the time the case would run its course, even if not convicted, the candidate would have been destroyed.

So what to do? 

He could have given the Department of Justice the information and they no doubt would have issued a statement making Clinton look like a falsely accused martyr.

No, instead, he quietly and with no advance notice issued the public statement himself. He listed in damning detail the failures of Clinton while noting he did not have the air tight case needed to recommend prosecution.

When Congress erupted in anger and demanded explanations, he promptly appeared the next day and directly answered pointed questions with pointed answers showing to the entire American public the liar and low character person Hillary Clinton is. The firebrand US Representative from South Carolina, Trey Gowdy, provided the pointed questions:

Gowdy: Secretary Clinton said she never sent or received any classified information over her private e-mail, was that true?
Comey: Our investigation found that there was classified information sent.

Gowdy: Secretary Clinton said there was nothing marked classified on her e-mails sent or received. Was that true?

Comey: That's not true. There were a small number of portion markings on I think three of the documents.

Gowdy: Secretary Clinton said "I did not e-mail any classified information to anyone on my e-mail there was no classified material." That is true?

Comey: There was classified information emailed.

Gowdy: Secretary Clinton used one device, was that true?

Comey: She used multiple devices during the four years of her term as Secretary of State.

Gowdy: Secretary Clinton said all work related emails were returned to the State Department. Was that true?

Comey: No. We found work related email, thousands, that were not returned.

Knowing he could not proceed in a court of law he proceeded to the Court of public opinion.

Better to note publicly the failures of the official (as he did) and the public surely will in turn seek out an official with higher personal character.

The problem is that many Americans simply do not care.

Democrats are so committed to the implementation of their desired policies, so committed to the defeat of Donald Trump that they will elect with open eyes a candidate with low personal character.

But before any Republicans can puff out their moral chests and pound it with pharisee-like arrogance, consider:

Which candidate with low personal character are you so committed to that you likewise simply do not care?

Where stands the soul of America?

“Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their [government]. If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the [government]…. If the next centennial does not find us a great nation … it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.”

James Garfield

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Sound of Silence

Whether it is the deep growl of my old 302,

the rolling roar of a dark summer sky,

or the wind whipping through my hair as I ride down a long hill,

I enjoy so much of this life.

When the pleasures and thrills roll to a quiet stop in the still of the night, I find myself at peace and yet somehow uneasy with the sound of silence.

Slow at first, gradually increasing in intensity, the empty void becomes deafening. As I unconsciously rise, I find myself gazing into the immense starry sky.

So scanty my pleasures, so small my life, so short my existence.

Why am I reaching to the sky?

"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” 

C.S. Lewis

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Flip Side of the Coin

Back in 1993, the Trump Plaza hotel and casino were looking to expand. 

Just a little.

Just a small limousine parking lot. 

In the process of buying several nearby properties, they encountered a problem. Three nearby owners, including an elderly widow named Ms. Coking, refused to sell. 

No matter how much he offered, she was not interested. Ms. Coking had lived there for decades and the property held sentimental value to her.

 No deal.

Donald Trump, it has been said, does not take no for an answer. If someone or something is in his way, if the widow would not sell, he would force her. He turned to a government agency and was interestingly able to persuade them to use eminent domain to take it.

Eminent domain allows for governments to take private property and use it for necessary public use. Roads, hospitals, bridges, etc. Private property was considered sacred by the Founders, so they mandated (Fifth Amendment) it must only be taken for public use. One might be hard pressed to explain how a limousine parking lot for a casino could be considered public use but the Constitution is not something of great concern to Donald Trump.

While his efforts against the old widow would ultimately be stymied by the Courts, he had demonstrated a willingness to use any means to achieve his goals.

How could he persuade a government official to use eminent domain to get him a limousine parking lot?  Years later when running for President, he would be accused of "buying" or bribing government officials. Remarkably, he would brazenly admit to it. With pride.

Many of his supporters have considered the open bribery he has employed as irrelevant since after all he was doing the bribing and was not the one being bribed. Two sides of the same coin as it were, but unlike the politicians, he only operated on the one side of the bribery coin.

He was self-funded. Invulnerable!

He would, in fact, make this a staple of his stump speech.

For example, in January in South Carolina while campaigning he said this:

"What’s happened is all of this money is being given to them [government officials] by special interests, by all of these people, including lobbyists, and these lobbyists make our leaders do — our leaders, can you believe our leaders? This is what — but they make the leaders of our country do things that they don’t even want to do because they’ve given them tens and tens and tens of millions of dollars."

The day after effectively winning the nomination for the Republican party on May 3, he suddenly discovered he would need more money in the general election than even he had. As a result, he announced he would begin to solicit funds for his general election campaign.

No longer self-funded.

He would instead begin the process of asking for money on a large scale. He would have to begin opening his extensive Rolodex and start making those phone calls asking for large contributions.

Quietly, with downplayed fanfare, the bribery coin had been flipped over. 

Not to fear --- we all know Donald Trump is a man of high character. 

We all know he could never be bought.

"The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

US Constitution Article II section 4

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Standing Man

"This is a notorious case, with a notorious defendant. Yet we must take care to enforce the Constitution without regard to the nature of the crime or the nature of the criminal.

The Fourth Amendment protects 'the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.'

This right is a basic one of all the people, without exception; the Amendment's protection is thus made effective for everyone only by upholding it when invoked by the worst of men."

Abel v United States

The quote above is from a case in 1960 dramatized in the award winning film Bridge of Spies. In this true to life film, attorney James Donovan defends a notorious foreign spy, Rudolph Abel.

Abel is caught virtually red-handed but also with methods that do not meet the standards of 4th amendment protections. Donovan is given the unenviable task of having to defend him. Donovan, a true patriot (having fought in World War II), understands that to truly protect America in the long run from tyranny, we must not abandon our principles even with the "worst of men". He understands that even a Communist spy has rights. This -- our principles -- is who we as Americans really are.

 Many of the amendments included in the Bill of Rights were viewed by the Framers of the Constitution as inalienable or rights inherent in all men -- not just citizens. These were things all humans should possess. At times in the history of the United States, we have not treated these inalienable rights as such but there always seems  to be at least a few men who are willing to stand up for these natural rights even at great cost. Even if knocked down, they stand again, refusing to yield to even a hint of tyranny. 

This relentless lawyer James Donovan would get shot at, threatened even by police and the CIA but would take the struggle all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing before them as dramatized in the film:

"I know this man. [Russian spy Abel]

If the charge is true, he serves a foreign power --
but he serves it faithfully. If he
is a soldier in the opposing army --
he is a good soldier. He has not
fled the battle to save himself; he
has refused to serve his captor, he
refused to betray his cause, he has
refused to take the coward’s way
out. The coward must abandon his
dignity before he abandons the field
of battle. That, Rudolf Abel will
never do. 

Shouldn’t we, by giving
him the full benefit of the rights
that define our system of
governance, show this man who we
are? Who we are: is that not the
greatest weapon we have in this Cold
War? Will we stand by our cause
less resolutely than he stands by

Through the course of this fight, spy Abel grew to appreciate the kindness and steadfast commitment to the American principles Donovan showed. He recognized him for what he was. He called it in Russian "Stoikey Muzhik".

Standing man.

At the end of the film, Donovan is standing on a bridge about to exchange Abel for an American held in Russian custody. Donovan was trying to also gain the release of a young American held in East German custody but time had run out and the CIA handlers insisted Abel cross. In the confusing conversational melee, Abel perceived that Donovan was fighting for another man.

"We’re waiting for another man?" Abel said as he looked at Donovan. CIA agent Hoffman replied, "Doesn’t matter what he wants, sir, I’m in charge and you are free to go. Please go. Walk across."

Looking at Donovan, Abel simply said, "Stoikey Muzhik."

"I can wait." Abel then said. Only after the East Germans released the other man did Abel cross.

On the plane ride back home, Donovan opened a gift Abel had left for him. It was a portrait of Donovan drawn by Abel while in prison.

Respect for men of character knows no borders.
Respect for standing men.

"Though a righteous man falls seven times, he will stand up."

Proverbs 24:16

Thursday, March 10, 2016

What Makes America Great?

As I sat watching the Republican debate on March 3, I was astounded to hear Donald Trump openly advocating, on a full national platform, for direct torture. When questioned about the possibility of subordinates rejecting the order, he said:

“They won’t refuse, they’re not going to refuse me, believe me. If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.”


I knew that torture was against international law, against United States law, and against United States military code. To hear a candidate openly calling for the breaking of law was shocking to me.

Is this what “making America great again” is all about?

What is the answer to the question? What does make America great?

The answer became clearer a few days later when, in response to Trump, a retired general publicly said this:

 “Somebody needs to remind Mr. Trump that the military is not his palace guards. We do not do this,” retired general Hertling said. “They take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies -- foreign and domestic.

He was supported in a public statement by over a hundred national security leaders in which they said they would not obey that order. 

Trump backed down.

Here were Americans reminding Trump, and really all of America, that we are not a country ruled by a man. We are ruled by a Constitution. We do not swear allegiance to a man. We raise our right hand and take an oath to the Law. The Founders, in framing the new America and in coming out from under the tyranny of King George, split the power apart in a brilliant system designed with the purpose of never again coming under the rule of a tyrant.

Following the rule of law and not the rule of man is surely a necessary thing, but I knew this could not be the final answer. I knew from history and humanity that power was intoxicating and, given opportunity, leaders would simply not follow the rule of law. It is not enough. If Trump were to become president and surround himself with similar minded, power hungry men, what would become of the law?

I remember a previous president and his right hand man:

Early in the morning of June 17, 1972, several burglars were arrested inside the office of the Democratic National Committee, located in the Watergate building in Washington, D.C. This was no ordinary robbery though: The prowlers were connected to President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign, and they had been caught while attempting to wiretap phones and steal secret documents. Nixon, in a brazen violation of the law, was trying to secure his reelection. One illegal act was followed by numerous illegal acts in an attempt to cover it up.  He raised “hush money” for the burglars, tried to stop the Federal Bureau of Investigation from investigating the crime, destroyed evidence and fired uncooperative staff members who would not go along with his illegalities.

There was one staff member, though, who was solidly behind the president -- Charles Colson. Colson, a former Marine and self-described “flag-waving American”, loved his country. Though trained in the law, he would do everything in his power to break it in order to help Richard Nixon. He knew Nixon needed to be reelected. The ultra-liberal Democrat George McGovern had to be stopped. Ultimately, when it all came crashing down he would be sent to jail for obstruction of justice.
Here was a president and some of his staff who were convinced they knew what the right result was and were going to get it done no matter the means. The law was not sufficient.

I remembered a different story from 2004 in which a man was confronted with the same choice:

Do I follow the rule of law or do I follow the rule of men?

In 2004 when James Comey was deputy attorney general, he was asked to reauthorize a package of top secret, warrantless surveillance targeting foreign terrorists. But Comey believed significant aspects of the massive program were not lawful. He refused to sign.

At the time, Comey was in charge at the Justice Department because Attorney General John Ashcroft was in intensive care with near fatal pancreatitis. When Comey refused to sign off, the president's Chief of Staff Andy Card headed to the hospital to get Ashcroft's approval.
Comey jumped in his car and raced to the hospital to prevent this from happening. He managed to get there first, and attempted to explain to Ashcroft but he was too disoriented from his illness, so Comey waited.
In walked Andy Card and White House Counsel Gonzales. They spoke to Attorney General Ashcroft and said, in very strong terms, that the program should be reauthorized. Ashcroft surprised Comey when he pushed himself up on his elbows and said, "But that doesn't matter because I'm not the attorney general." He turned to Comey and pointed weakly. "There's the attorney general." Then Ashcroft fell back, and the others had no choice but to turn and leave. 
The next day, some in the White House tried to force the authorization through a different way. So, Comey wrote a letter of resignation to the president, calling the situation "apocalyptic" and "fundamentally wrong." He left the letter on his desk as he and FBI Director Robert Mueller went to the White House to resign.

As they looked out at the Rose Garden, waiting to meet the president, they both fully expected that this was the termination of their government careers. In the end, however, President Bush was persuaded not to implement the unconstitutional changes.
Comey was asked about this episode later in an interview.
Interviewer: Wasn't it your responsibility to support the president?

James Comey: No. No, it was my responsibility. I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Interviewer: Help me understand the principle at stake here that caused you to write a letter of resignation, to rush to the attorney general's bedside, to tell the president that he couldn't have what he wanted, and to face down the president's chief of staff. What was it that motivated that?

James Comey: The rule of law. Simple as that.

What was the difference between Colson and Comey? What would compel the one to follow the Constitution and the other to pursue power instead?

There was a wise sage from France, Alexis de Tocqueville, who visited the young republic of America in 1831. He traveled throughout the country examining our people, noting our vast resources and our wonderful new Constitution. How was this new country so successful? Why was it great? How would it continue to be even greater? 

Tocqueville made this trenchant observation:

“Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot. Religion is much more necessary in the republic which they set forth in glowing colors than in the monarchy which they attack; and it is more needed in democratic republics than in any others. How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie be not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? and what can be done with a people which is its own master, if it be not submissive to the Divinity?”

This acknowledgement that without faith and good morals liberty was doomed to failure would be echoed by prominent leaders from the beginning of the republic all the way to the modern day. From Adams to Eisenhower to Reagan and beyond, they would paraphrase and poetically expound on this truth in speeches. One example repeatedly used:

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her harbors and her ample rivers -- and it was not there. . . . in her fertile fields and bound less forests -- and it was not there. . . . in her rich mines and her vast world of commerce -- and it was not there. . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution -- and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power." 

America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.

This is what makes America great.

"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other."
          John Adams

"Let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers just men who will rule in the fear of God.
The preservation of a republican government depends on the faithful discharge of this duty; if the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good, so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded. 
If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the Divine commands and elect bad men to make and administer the laws. "
         Noah Webster

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Flickering Flames

"We’re fighting a holy war, what’s happened to America is that the wicked are bearing rule. We have to lead the nation back to the moral stance
That Made America Great
...we need to wield influence on those who govern us.”
Jerry Falwell Sr summer of 1980 

With the election of Ronald Reagan a couple months later and the founding of the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell would be firmly ensconced in the Reagan Revolution. He would spend the Reagan years spearheading the fight against a variety of social sins. From abortion and pornography to alcoholism and gambling, he became in many ways the face of the fight to make America great again by fulfilling the principles so many of the Founders believed were essential - like these, noted by Samuel Adams:

"He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man."

As the Reagan years waned, Falwell increasingly saw the need to spend time securing the future of America through training its young to become warriors for Christ. The school he had created, Liberty University, was struggling financially and so he ultimately resigned as head of the Moral Majority to lead the school forward. 

It was at his desk at Liberty that he would die on May 15th, 2007, its debt having been reduced to 30 million. His Will left his insurance policy of 34 million to the school he cared so much about and thus, in death, finally made it solvent. He was, with great ceremony, laid to rest on the campus he loved. A bright "eternal flame" over his grave was lit as well as on a memorial cross nearby. Fitting it seemed as the University is known as the "Flames".

Falwell had made careful preparations for a transition of his leadership to his two sons. One would become pastor of his church and the other would become president of his university.

His namesake, Jerry Falwell Jr.

"He has left instructions for those of us who had to carry on, and we will be faithful to that charge,” said the University Vice-President.

Just over eight years later in the summer of 2015, a press conference was held in New York in which Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president. Borrowing a slogan used by Reagan, Trump declared,

 "Make America Great Again!" 

Initially, many Christians were derisive of the man and his candidacy. Trump had spent his life, after all, in pursuit of much of what Christians are called to fight against. His list of moral failures is difficult to fully quantify but in part would include:

  1.  Married three times to different women, leaving each for the next woman.
  2.  Proud of his sexual liberalities, openly stating in his book Think Big: Make it Happen in Business and Life that he has had sex with some of the "top women in the world."
  3.  Regularly uses the f-word in public speeches along with other obscenities so vulgar that network television would be required to bleep out these words to avoid violating Federal  Communications Commission rules.
  4. Regularly uses speech demeaning of people.
  5. Owned and operated numerous casinos. 
  6. Opened the nation's first casino strip club.
  7. When asked, in 2015, if he had ever asked God for forgiveness he said,"I don't think so."

The first casino strip club opened just two years before Trump declared for the presidency. The manager of the strip club had this to say:

"We feel this is the third leg of the Atlantic City triangle: gambling, alcohol, and adult
entertainment, it's a natural."

Seeking broad assistance that would be crucial to the success of his run for the White House, Trump would nevertheless engage Christians and seek their support. Some, like the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, not surprisingly refused:
"We choose speakers who generally promote our university's mission and who do not stand in opposition, either in word or deed, to what we claim to hold dear as a Christian community … and frankly, Donald Trump simply doesn't represent OKWU's behavioral, theological, moral or political ideals."
Remarkably though, there was one prominent Christian university that would accede to his request to speak and would even go a large step further-- Liberty University. The president, still Jerry Falwell Jr., would remark in December 2015:

"Trump reminds me so much of my father."

And on January 21st, 2016, Falwell Jr. would officially endorse Trump for President, interestingly saying of Trump:

"He is a successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can 

lead our country to greatness again."

The University's previously established "eternal flames", next to the grave of its fallen founder continue on today, flickering be it ever so dimly.

" For it was so..Solomon's heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David." I Kings 11:4