Reagan's Political Conversion

What happened to change Ronald Reagan from a New Deal liberal into a conservative icon? My latest posting on Big Government tells you how it happened. They made it the feature story for the day. You can find it here:

http://biggovernment.com/asnyder/2010/07/17/reagans-political-conversion/#more-144614

Most of the posting is an excerpt from my book on Reagan and Whittaker Chambers, which I just finished writing  recently. I’m looking for a publisher now. Prayer would be appreciated.

It Matters How You Get There

I’ve enjoyed contributing posts to the Big Government site. Through those, I have made a number of pleasant contacts with readers who have sent me e-mails. It’s also gratifying to write on people and issues that I consider significant.

I’ve noticed some trends in the comments on the site to my posts. First, I seem to draw out atheists. Now, I’ve hardly given an altar call; it seems all one needs to do is just mention God in a positive vein and venom will spew forth. A couple of comments were so obscene that the administrator had to remove them.

This experience has reemphasized to me that the coalition of people who want to reduce the size of government and get it back within its constitutional boundaries includes some who are motivated more by anger than anything else. Now, they are hardly the majority, but their presence and the extreme language they sometimes use is more of a detriment than an aid to the cause.

Another observation is that there are those who claim to be Christians and yet believe things that are antithetical to basic Christian faith. Again, I’m not surprised by this, but every time it rears its head, it is disappointing.

A case in point is my latest post, which dared to include a criticism of philosopher Ayn Rand. Actually, I was defending Whittaker Chambers’s critique of one of her novels, Atlas Shrugged. More than one commenter saw no problem uniting her philosophy with Christianity. The main reason for this is that she comes out on the side of the free market—as do I.

Yet Rand’s path for getting to this free-market position is not one that is compatible with Christian faith. First, Rand was an atheist. She loathed the idea of God. As an adherent of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, she favored the idea of a race of supermen who would transcend traditional morality and create their own right and wrong. She also shared with Nietzsche his disdain for Christianity, which she called “the best kindergarten of communism possible.” Christian ethics, she said, were destructive of the self, making life “flat, gray, empty, lacking all beauty, all fire, all enthusiasm, all meaning, all creative urge.” She called for an ethic of selfishness instead.

Now, self-interest is one thing: I am to take care of that which is my own first; I am to give priority to family, etc. But that’s not the same thing as selfishness, which is the dethronement of God and the enthronement of oneself as god. In her personal life, she was sexually promiscuous and dictatorial in her manner. One biographer says “she was vituperative, without humor, and increasingly Stalinist in her behavior as she aged … in the jealous demands she exercised over those who formed what was in effect her cult.”

The word “cult” seems appropriate. Some of those who follow Rand’s teachings are devoted to her in a way that comes close to cult-like worship.

Rand may have been in favor of capitalism, but it really does matter how one arrives there. I do so on the basis of Biblical principles, not through an ethic of selfishness.

If you didn’t have the opportunity to read my post in Big Government, you can find it here:

http://biggovernment.com/asnyder/2010/07/03/mr-beck-meet-mr-chambers/

I will continue to stand for Biblical principles as the basis for my analysis of our culture and our public policies. I hope to help others think things through on that basis as well.

Correcting a False Perception

I like Glenn Beck very much. He has helped a lot of people understand some basic principles. That’s why I was disappointed a couple weeks ago when he mentioned Whittaker Chambers in a negative way. I’m convinced it’s due to ignorance of what Chambers accomplished, and that he just passed along something his staff gave him.

To help remedy that, I wrote a post for Big Government to correct the false perception he may have. You can see it at

http://biggovernment.com/asnyder/2010/07/03/mr-beck-meet-mr-chambers/#more-138258

I’m hoping someone on Beck’s staff will pick up on it and pass on some better information to him.

A Chambers Dialogue

Last weekend, I posted on the Big Government site about Whittaker Chambers and his view that the New Deal was indeed a revolution. I was surprised to receive a comment from Chambers’s grandson—disagreeing with that view. Our dialogue on the issue turned out to be good for another posting, so if you’re interested, go to

 http://biggovernment.com/asnyder/2010/05/27/a-whittaker-chambers-dialogue/#more-125358

As you will see, I don’t accept his perspective, but it was instructive and beneficial to think it through. Hope you find it to be the same.

New Big Government Posting

The Big Government site has just posted my third offering. If you would like to learn why Whittaker Chambers [one of my favorite people] thought the New Deal was a true revolution, go to the following URL:

http://biggovernment.com/asnyder/2010/05/22/whittaker-chambers-the-new-deal-as-revolution/#more-123278

The Calling & the Perspective

Today is commencement at Southeastern University. I’ve now been here four years, so many of the graduates this year started when I did. As I look back on these four years, they seem very short, in retrospect. They seem particularly short when I place them in context of the fifty-nine years I have now experienced. No, I’m not old—I’m seasoned.

I’ve been teaching at the university level for twenty-one years, yet it always remains fresh. Each semester I teach American history survey classes. One would think it might get boring, but it doesn’t. The mix of students is always different and unique. Those survey classes are also profitable for the kingdom of God. Bringing a Biblical perspective into American history is sorely needed in this day—and the students know so little of the history to begin with. In most cases, it’s not really their fault; they haven’t been taught.

I’ve also had the opportunity to develop some upper-level courses that take the students deeper. This semester I offered a historiography course that started with Biblical principles; we discussed just what it means to be a Christian who also happens to be a historian.

Then there was the course on Whittaker Chambers, a name unknown to most people. Yet his monumental autobiography, Witness, has made a profound impact on key individuals in America, most notably Ronald Reagan.

I firmly believe the Lord has called me to this missionary endeavor—yes, that’s precisely what it is. I’m taking the Gospel message into how we perceive the most basic events in our past, and then analyzing what is currently taking place in our society. Biblical principles form the grid through which we see all of life.

Thank you, God, for this very satisfying life’s work. My aim is to remain faithful to the call.

I saw this cartoon yesterday, and it touched off a train of thought in my mind. First, let me share it—do you see the hidden meaning in it?

The reference is to how the mainstream media ignores the real danger and instead worries about how members of a group that committed acts of violence will be treated by the general population. The favorite concern right now is how Muslims will be treated, given all the Islamic terrorism.

Well, when’s the last time you heard about gangs running wild destroying the homes of Muslims? How about instances of dragging Muslims out of their homes and beating them? Perhaps we’ve been inundated with examples of intolerance and hatred toward this group?

If anything, it’s been just the opposite. Yet the phobia continues to be spread by the media.

Looking back on American history, there are not many times when government policy has been in favor of denigrating people groups. Yes, there was slavery, and the segregation policies that followed were unconscionable. But we’ve worked through that, despite what some people would have you believe.

The only other major problem along these lines occurred in WWII, when Japanese Americans were placed in camps. What was particularly wrong about this was most of them were American citizens, and their basic citizenship rights were denied. That also was dealt with later via reparations.

Those are the exceptions to the rule, however. Overall, America has been pretty receptive to those who are different. The massive immigration of the late-19th and early-20th centuries was welcomed. Businesses especially wanted workers, and the immigrants wanted work: both needs were met.

The source of this immigration was quite different from earlier arrivals to these shores. Now we were seeing people from “strange” places like Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, and Italy. The demographics of many parts of America were altered as a result. Many of the immigrants were Jewish and Catholic, religions that were not prevalent earlier. Yes, some prejudice existed toward them, but never by government design. You cannot stop individuals from being prejudiced, but you can set up barriers against that prejudice. Those groups ultimately succeeded in being incorporated into American life.

After WWI, there was a brief concern that the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia that had created the Soviet Union might replay itself in America. There were roundups of suspicious individuals who were part of the American communist movement. What was done with these individuals? Most were simply sent back to their home countries. Similar roundups in other nations resulted in firing squads. Not in America.

The Witness of Whittaker Chambers

Hollywood likes to make a lot of noise about the “McCarthy era” after WWII. If you believe the information spread by that crowd, you would believe that America was a dark place full of paranoia. In fact, there really was a significant communist underground movement in the 1930s and 1940s that placed men and women in key positions within the government. The threat was real.

The hero of this tale was a man named Whittaker Chambers, a former underground worker who then left communism and made his witness to the nation about the compatriots he left behind. Chief among those was a man named Alger Hiss.

Hiss Being Questioned by Congress

Hiss had worked with Chambers in the underground and was a highly trusted man in the State Department. He was with FDR at the Yalta Conference and took the lead in setting up the United Nations. People like Hiss were a true threat. The communist party was taking its orders directly from the USSR, attempting to undermine the American government.

Yet what did the American government do about this? Did it outlaw the party? Did it round them all up and shoot them? Hardly. Even when a genuine threat existed, we allowed people to believe what they wished. Was that wise? That is debatable. But at least it shows America was not a nation that retaliated with official violence toward its enemies.

Never has a nation allowed such liberty of protest. I lived through the 1960s and early 1970s when the Vietnam War so bitterly divided the country. From what I saw and have learned later, if you want to find the source of most of the violence within the nation during that time, you have to focus on the protesters themselves, not the government. We seem to tolerate a lot.

All that to say this: Muslims in America have nothing to fear. There will be no backlash. For that, I am grateful. However, the other end of the spectrum is that we will bend over backward not to offend to the extent that we will often refuse to see the real threat that exists.

America’s biggest problem right now is not its intolerance; rather, it’s an over-tolerance of those who would wish to destroy us.