Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Those Angry Days

I just finished reading the very excellent book by Lynne Olson, Those Angry Days.  This book was very insightful as the author tracked the two major movements of pre-WW2 America—the isolationists and the interventionists—focusing on the two major figures of each: Charles Lindbergh and Franklin Roosevelt, while thoroughly interweaving the lives of other significant players of that era.

Interestingly, the two were remarkably different, ideologies notwithstanding.  Lindbergh was conviction driven, caring little where popular opinion was on the topic of America’s involvement with the European conflict.  Roosevelt was at the other extreme.  Paralyzed even by a minority of public opinion against him.

I won’t review the book in a traditional way, but will offer some personal insights I gleaned, which may not make a lot of sense unless you’ve read the book.

Lesson 1—overcome past defeats

Franklin Roosevelt, frustrated by Congress blocking many of his policies in the late 1930s and by the Supreme Court’s adverse decisions to him regarding many lawsuits arising from his New Deal policies, set out to change the nature of the Court by expanding its number to 15 and consequently getting to appoint the new judges—favorable to him and his policies.  Roosevelt (fortunately) was soundly defeated in this attempt and it cost him politically.  This setback caused him to behave timidly in the future, when the country, did in fact, need his leadership in European involvement. 

While we need to learn from our defeats and failures, we should never be paralyzed by them.  Roosevelt was.  Even when public opinion was overwhelmingly on this side on such issues as Lend-Lease, transport escort, or even direct aid to England, he refused to act.  Our passivity can cause as much harm as over aggressive reaching.  Olson gave me a different, heretofore unknown, view of Roosevelt--that off a timid, sheepish, poll-driven leader.

Lesson 2 – listen to others, especially your spouse

Charles Lindbergh increasingly gave speeches in which his isolationist viewpoints were trumped and overshadowed by certain provocative statements, which were highlighted and recommended to be deleted by his wife Anne.   He ignored her insights, only to be haunted by them.  While his view was the wrong one, in my opinion, and would ultimately lose in 1941, he did cause Americans to think through various issues.  It was unfortunate that many of his valid objections were overshadowed by unwise and unnecessary statements.

Lesson 3 – Americans were bitterly and deeply divided over the issue of involvement in the European crisis.

Still reeling from the effects of World War 1, most Americans opposed involvement at the outset of Hitler’s expansion.  One of the reasons I enjoy history so much is that it puts the present in a context.  And while we may believe that only now are we so bitterly partisan, such is not the case.  While the issue of isolation/intervention was not strictly along party lines (though close), the two camps were bitter opposed to each other. 

Lesson 4 – the fight to persuade America was brutal

I was especially intrigued to learn about Britain’s spying and propaganda machine inside America.  Smearing, bribing, etc.  The role of the media was paramount in the struggle to sway America.  In the squabbling of today, we think we’ve descended to a new level of conflict.  Perhaps.  But the descent couldn’t be as steep as some would have us think.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Praising the Lord, Especially on Sunday

"From the rising of the sun, to the going down of the same, the Lord's name is to be praised."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Chiefs Rant -- Get It Right Campbell

The struggling Cleveland Browns are benching their second starting QB of this season--Brandon Weeden--and going with Jason Campbell in this Sunday's game against the Chiefs. I'll resist railing on the struggling Browns, because, hey...the Chiefs were there last season.  Here's a blurp from an interview Campbell gave about the Chiefs. '

'They are No. 1 in third down, No. 1 in the red zone and No. 1 in points allowed, so it is definitely a challenge,'' said Campbell, who signed with the Browns as a free agent in March. ''Arrowhead is one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, and that means even more we need to be on the same page.''    

A-hem...note to Campbell.  Arrowhead is the loudest stadium IN THE WORLD!!!  I hope fans will give Campbell a thorough education about this in this week's game as we go for 8-0 and continue our well deserved #1 in the NFL.   Go Chiefs!!!

But I do wish I'd hear less from KC's fans of "the Chiefs kingdom" and "the sacred acre" around here.  There is one kingdom and it belongs to Christ Jesus.  The gridiron at Arrowhead is far from 'sacred'.  That word is reserved for those things relating to God.  Hopefully, Christian fans of the Chiefs will, to paraphrase Kipling, "keep their heads when all around them are losing theirs".  Hoop and holler...cheer and shout!  But slam on the breaks when secular excitement trespasses onto our holy realm.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

J.C. Ryle on the Sabbath

You can read Bishop Ryle's entire treaty here.  I've listed his section on Profaning the Sabbath below.

The last thing I propose to do, is to expose some of the ways in which the Sabbath is profaned.

There are two kinds of Sabbath desecration which require to be noticed. One is that more private kind of which thousands are continually guilty, and which can only be checked by awakening men’s consciences. The other is that more public kind, which can only be remedied by the pressure of public opinion, and the strong arm of the law.

When I speak of private Sabbath desecration, I mean that reckless, thoughtless, secular way of spending Sunday, which everyone who looks round him must know is common. How many make the Lord’s Day a day for giving dinner parties — a day for looking over their accounts and making up their books — a day for going unnecessary journeys and quietly transacting worldly business — a day for reading newspapers or novels — a day for talking politics and idle gossip — a day, in short, for anything rather than the things of God.

Now all this sort of thing is wrong, decidedly wrong. Thousands, I firmly believe, never give the subject a thought: they sin from ignorance and inconsideration. They only do as others; they only spend Sunday as their fathers and grandfathers did before them: but this does not alter the case. It is utterly impossible to say that to spend Sunday as I have described is to “keep the day holy”: it is a plain breach of the Fourth Commandment, both in the letter and in the spirit. It is impossible to plead necessity or mercy in one instance of a thousand. And small and trifling as these breaches of the Sabbath may seem to be, they are exactly the sort of things that prevent men communing with God and getting good from His Day.

When I speak of public desecration of the Sabbath, I mean those many open, unblushing practices, which meet the eye on Sundays in the neighbourhood of large towns. I refer to the practice of keeping shops open, and buying and selling on Sundays. I refer especially to Sunday pleasure excursions by public transport and the opening of places of public amusement; and to the daring efforts which many are making in the present day to desecrate the Lord’s Day, regardless of its Divine authority. “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.”

On all these points I feel not the smallest doubt in my own mind. These ways of spending the Sabbath are all wrong, decidedly wrong. So long as the Bible is the Bible, and the Fourth Commandment the Fourth Commandment, I dare not come to any other conclusion. They are all wrong. These ways of spending Sunday are none of them works of necessity or works of mercy. There is not the slightest likeness between them and any of the things which the Lord Jesus explains to be lawful on the Sabbath Day. To heal a sick person, or pull an ox or ass out of a pit, is one thing: to travel in excursion trains, or go to concerts, theatres, dances and cinemas, is quite another. The difference is as great as between light and darkness. These ways of spending Sunday are none of them of u holy tendency, or calculated to help us heavenward. No, indeed! all experience teaches that it needs something . more than the beauties of art and nature to teach man the way to heaven.

These ways of spending Sunday have never yet conferred moral or spiritual good in any place where they have been tried. They have been tried for hundreds of years in Italy, in Germany and in France. Sunday amusements and sport have been long tried in Continental cities. But what benefiit have they derived that we should wish to imitate them? What advantages have we to gain by making a London Sunday like a Sunday in Paris or other continental cities. It would be a change for the worse, and not for the better.

Last, but not least, these ways of spending Sunday inflict a cruel injury on the souls of multitudes of people, Public transport cannot be run on Sundays without employing thousands of persons if people will make Sunday a day for travelling and excursions. Entertainments cannot be opened on Sundays without the employment of many to cater for those who patronise them. And have not all these unfortunate persons immortal souls? Do they not all need a, day of rest as much as anyone else? Beyond doubt they do. But Sunday is no Sunday to them, so long as these public desecrations of the Sabbath are permitted. Their life becomes a long unbroken chain of work, work, unceasing work: in short, what is play to others becomes death to them. Away with the idea that a pleasure-seeking, Continental Sabbath is mercy to anyone! It is nothing less than an enormous fallacy to call it so. Such a Sabbath is real mercy to nobody, and is positive sacrifice to some.

I write these things with sorrow. I know well, to how many of my fellow-countrymen they apply. I have spent many a Sunday in large towns. I have seen with my own eyes how the day of the Lord is made by multitudes a day of wordliness, a day of ungodliness, a day of carnal mirth, and too often a day of sin. But the extent of the disease must not prevent us exposing it: the truth must be told.
There is one general conclusion to be drawn from the conduct of those who publicly desecrate the Sabbath in the way I have described. They show plainly that they are at present “without God” in the world. They are like those of old who said, “When will the Sabbath be gone?” — “What a weariness it is!” (Amos 8:5; Mal. 1:13). It is an awful conclusion, but it is impossible to avoid it. Scripture, history, and experience all combine to teach us, that delight in the Lord’s Word, the Lord’s service, the Lord’s people, and the Lord’s Day, will always go together. Sunday pleasure-seekers are their own witnesses. They are every week practically declaring, “We do not like God — we do not want Him to reign over us.

It is not the slightest argument, in reply to what I have said, that many great and learned men see no harm in Sunday entertainment, sport and pleasure. It matters nothing in religious questions, who does a thing:” the only point to be ascertained is, “whether it be right.”

Let us take our stand on the Bible, and hold fast its teaching. Whatever others may think lawful, let our sentence ever be that one day in seven, and one whole day, ought to be kept holy to God.