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.