Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had much time to brood over the election. Still, I had some ready answers when my Aussie friend Benjamin mentioned it. When he said that Obama was in a great position to align America with the sentiments of the rest of the world, I said that was exactly what I was afraid of. I explained that it’s no accident that we aren’t like the rest of the world, and it’s the differences that have made us so prosperous. I told him that the greatness of Australia, the UK, and a few other nations, lay in how closely they resembled America’s departures from the rest of the world, particularly in the belief that government is supposed to work for and protect the individual, as opposed to serving the mob. He didn’t seem to have heard any of that before and I think it shocked him.
In another conversation a French diplomat said almost the same thing, so I asked him what country he thought we should more closely resemble in order for the world to be more comfortable with us. Maybe China? Would people love us if we used slave labor, forced families to abort their children, and harvested organs from our prisoners? Maybe everyone would love us if we were more like Russia, or Kenya, or even Saudi Arabia. He couldn’t name a single candidate, and I even threw him a bone by offering Liechtenstein, Malta, or the Vatican.
We often think of ourselves as being much like other nations, but exchanges like these point out that we are unique, and this is something to be proud of. Despite our obvious shortcomings, despite the deepening rift between what our Founding Fathers intended for us to inherit, and what we have chosen to become, and despite our most fervent denials, we are still marked by the fundamental ideas that formed this nation, ideas that would never have found fruition were it not for God’s grace, and His influence over the lives of men like Luther, Calvin, Washington, and Jefferson.
We may consider removing the Ten Commandments from our courtrooms, but we cannot erase the imprint on our souls placed there by the words “endowed by their Creator”. Even though we are most often unaware of it, that mark is there, and it sets us apart. We still believe that government exists for the purpose of protecting the rights of individuals, because those rights were granted us by God. We take that fact for granted. We consider it “self evident,” and in doing so, separate ourselves from every other country in the world, which, despite their claims of advancement, sophistication, or workers’ paradise, all operate from the notion that rights are granted by governments and can be taken away.
To align ourselves with the rest of the world, this is what is required of us; that we discard our unique perspective on the proper, God-ordained, relationship between government and man, and learn to find comfort in tyranny. For all our faults, I do not see this in our future.
Americans are subject to the same shortcomings that have decorated mankind’s history since the Fall. The Seven Deadly Sins are evident among us, as are an infinite number of others. We have become eager, of late, to take what does not belong to us, as long as such theft is sanctioned by the government, just as we have neglected to teach our children our nation’s history, and to equip them with an understanding of what it represents. But even as these discouraging characteristics seem to be asserting themselves more and more prominently, I find good reason to keep faith in America, and in the preeminence of American principles.
I am encouraged first of all, by the young Americans with whom I serve, a dozen or so of whom I met today, crew members on a jet that landed here in Riyadh, bearing, among others, General Petraeus. It is the job of these young men to maintain the communications equipment, brew the coffee, serve the meals, and when the jet is on the ground, to keep it safe. They fly all over the world at a moment’s notice and serve all manner of officers and dignitaries with the same level of professionalism. They saw to their passengers today, unloaded their equipment, listened attentively to my security briefing, and when we checked them into their quarters, they asked whether they could access the internet, so they could work on their college courses. These young men will put themselves through school while seeing more of the world and gaining more understanding of it than most of their professors would ever dream. Their experiences will stand them in good stead when they are confronted by the popular myths that tempt Americans to throw away their heritage.
I’m encouraged also by the growing influence of institutions like Hillsdale College, which reject government funding in favor of the liberty to teach what they know to be true. Hillsdale has aimed for quite some time now at restoring the philosophy of government to what our founding fathers embodied in the Constitution, and they just announced that they are stepping up their efforts by opening a campus in Washington, D.C.
I’m even more encouraged by the growing numbers of parents who recognize the importance of their role in their children’s lives, and who are taking more and more active parts in their education. Such a short time ago, homeschooling was unheard of, and now I doubt that anyone with school-aged children hasn’t heard of, and maybe even considered it. I know what a sacrifice that is. I know because my wife struggles with it every day. Homeschooling moms are never finished, never sure that they are doing enough, never quite able to rest from the awesome responsibilities they have taken upon themselves. They are the hardest-working people in the least-appreciated job, and they keep at it every day because they love their children and they are willing to sacrifice for them.
And that is what we started with in this country. We began with people who loved God and wanted their children to grow up in a land where they could worship Him. They made tremendous sacrifices in order to make that happen, and God rewarded them. They moved to a hostile land where they were outnumbered by hardships, but they persevered and they subdued the land, and it flourished under their hands. They weathered hopeless situations and heartbreaking setbacks, but they remembered the Source of their strength, and we have all reaped the benefits.
I am also encouraged by the story of David. When the Israelites grew dissatisfied with God’s presence, and demanded a human king, they were asking for disaster. They had everything they could have wanted, and they clamored for less, because having less would make them more like their neighbors. God answered their prayers. He gave them a human king, Saul. He could have washed His hands of them at that point. Instead, he elevated a shepherd boy, first to military leader, and then to king. David had his failings, but he was still a man after God’s own heart, and in spite of his sins, he was a blessing to his nation, and, ultimately, to the world.
Finally, I am encouraged because I believe we are commanded to be. “Fear not” is the command repeated most often in the Bible, and we know that the Holy Spirit empowers us with love, peace, and self-control; discouragement is not from Him. I remember a passage that I believe comes from C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. Satan is entertaining demons’ suggestions as to how to corrupt a Godly soul, and he smiles with favor on the one that says, “I will discourage his heart.” Satan knows that discouragement is the beginning of questioning God’s control, and it leads to nowhere good.
So don’t be discouraged. If God tells us not to be, that means we have a choice in the matter, so we must choose not to be discouraged. Better yet, we should choose to be encouraged. As we head into Thanksgiving, remember all the obstacles that our forefathers overcame; a tyrannical king with the mightiest military in the world, a civil war, bloodshed and fields of battle the likes of which had never been seen before, and through all of which God brought them for His own glory. Honor Him with your thanks. Glorify Him with your love for others. Keep your eyes on these things and shield your heart from discouragement. God is definitely in control, and that is very encouraging news indeed.