Columbus, Racism, & Protests

Wealthy football players claim America is oppressive. Their protest over the national anthem goes viral. The nation gets thrown into turmoil.

Columbus Day arrives. We have our annual Columbus-was-a-genocidal-maniac theme trumpeted from the mouths of those who, like the football players, believe America is the bastion of systemic racism.

As a historian, I know that our history includes some terrible things. Yet we need some sense of comparative analysis, not emotional outbursts, to deal with what has happened. We also need to see more clearly that many of those things we don’t like have been corrected.

And as a historian, I also know that not many people are well versed on that history. They simply follow the lead of some who claim they know the truth, even though often they are following a political agenda, not truth.

Take Columbus. Who really knows that one of his prime motivations was to spread Christianity? Oh, I know—he was also vainglorious and coveted rank and honor. He loved the title bestowed: Admiral of the Ocean Sea. But how many know that when he returned for his second voyage that all the men he had left in the New World had been slaughtered and that another native chief joined him in attacking those who committed that slaughter?

We have a much-too-romanticized view of what life was like among those natives. Jesus’s comment about how there will always be wars and rumors of wars applied among them as well as European nations. They were not as innocent as sometimes portrayed. They connived politically for advantage over other tribes and engaged in types of behavior not countenanced today.

In other words, they were people just like all other peoples—and where there are people, there are problems.

Just a hint: don’t get caught in a war; your end will be slow and torturous.

Back to Columbus. Here’s a comic I found a number of years ago that probably is closer to the truth than anything nowadays:

I’m no apologist for Columbus Day. I can take it or leave it. But neither do I bow to a modern political correctness that can only see evil in the arrival of the Europeans. I can draw distinctions between those who carried out evil and those who didn’t.

When it comes to American history, I can decry the racism that led to slavery, while simultaneously rejoice that America became one of those nations that put an end to the practice.

I can clearly see that the segregation that followed slavery was evil, yet I can enthusiastically applaud the end of that particular evil empire.

I know that the inner cities of America are a place of disadvantage for success in life. Yet I also know that government programs to “help” have only led to the disintegration of the black family structure, thereby creating more poverty. When over 70% of children born in the inner cities grow up without a father, consequences follow. God intended that all children have both a father and a mother.

So, in an ironic twist, it’s all that government help that has created an atmosphere that some see as oppressive.

If the family structure were to be reestablished and genuine capitalism be allowed to flourish (not the crony type that dominates cities run by so-called progressives), I believe we would see much greater prosperity across the board in our society and much less rationale for the protests we see now.

Where do those foundational beliefs in the necessity of a strong family and a vibrant, free economy come from? They are Biblical principles. Only a return to those principles will bring this about.

Baltimore’s Real Problems & the Solution

Baltimore is now outwardly calmed, although reports from the ground say that there remains a simmering anger. Some of that has been assuaged by the news that charges are being brought against the six police who were somehow involved with the arrest of Freddie Gray. It’s interesting to note, though, that three of those six are African American, one an African American woman whose last name is White. Irony of ironies.

Let’s be honest here. None of what occurred with Freddie Gray was racial. What the news reports don’t say is that Gray had been arrested something like eighteen times, mostly for dealing drugs. He had served a two-year prison sentence for those activities. He was not exactly a model citizen.

The investigation was cut short by the announcement of the upcoming charges against the police. Those doing the investigating were caught off guard by it, as what appears to be an overzealous prosecutor (who is married to a city councilman who was behind the “stand down” order to police). Many are saying these charges will be dismissed because they are over the top. Many are also saying the only reason these charges were brought so quickly, before the official investigation could be concluded, was to stem the violence, a violence that has no real basis in what happened to Gray, but was merely the opportunity to run wild.

Tell Me Again

I will say again what I said a week ago. What we see in Baltimore is the Great Society in operation. Baltimore has not been neglected by the government; money has flowed into the city. The real question is where has it gone? It seems to disappear, as it goes primarily to politicians and their supporters. It enriches those who are already at the top at the expense of those who are at the bottom. They are kept at the bottom by the handouts they do receive, and the promises of more.

This is the perfect welfare state that keeps people in poverty. I will also mention again, as I did last week, that this city has been run, and is currently run, by those with a “progressive” vision. The last Republican mayor stepped down in the 1960s. You can’t blame them.

Neither can anyone legitimately blame some kind of “white power structure.” The mayor is black, the police commissioner is black, the city council has a majority black representation, and the police force is approximately 50/50 racially (as indicated by the police who have been charged). Baltimore is a corrupt city run by corrupt politicians who have had their way for decades. It’s way past time to be honest about the source of oppression in the city.

Oppressed

Real help for the people of Baltimore will never come from its government. Real help will come from those inspired by their Christian faith to minister to those in need. You know, like the Baptist church that had just completed building a senior citizens’ assisted living center. Only one problem: the rioters burned it to the ground.

Let’s look at the real problems in Baltimore and other cities like it. Let’s look at the real solutions, not the empty promises offered by liberal/progressives who are more adept at lining their own pockets than offering real aid.

I forgot to mention something else at the root of the problem: all these government programs that started in the 1960s have decimated the black family in America. That’s why there are few fathers available to hold the rioting teenagers accountable. The mess we have created can only be solved through a bedrock Christian faith operating through our churches and within families. Without that spiritual rebuilding, there will be more of what we saw in Baltimore. This may be only the beginning of a long hot summer . . . and beyond.

Baltimore: The Deeper Issues

Baltimore is burning. What, exactly, is happening? There are many layers to this; most people focus on the superficial ones, the ones most clearly visible, but there are foundational problems that have led not only to this particular incident, but to an atmosphere like this that is sweeping our nation.

Freddie GrayThe top layer has to do with the arrest and death of a young black man, Freddie Gray. We still don’t have all the facts about what occurred. The investigation is apparently still ongoing. However, the lack of information is part of the problem. No one knows what led to his arrest in the first place. By all accounts, he was not actively involved in wrongdoing. Yet because he ran away from the police, he was arrested. While in the police van, something happened; he was so severely injured that he died shortly afterward.

Yes, that’s suspicious beyond question. Yet there have been no formal accusations against the officers, no explanation as to what took place in that van, and this gives the appearance, at least, of a coverup.

Stephanie Rawlings-BlakeProtests began peacefully, but by last Saturday, they began to change. As violence broke out, another top layer to this episode was added. Baltimore’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, in her desire not to crack down immediately on the emerging violence, actually made a public statement that she had ordered the police to give “space to destroy” so that the protesters wouldn’t be harmed. Since when does a government provide a license to destroy? Later, she angrily insisted she hadn’t said what she really said, and that the media were misinterpreting her statement. Well, if that’s the case, the protesters who easily turned into rioters “misunderstood” her as well, and decided they had the “liberty” to turn this into large-scale violence.

Suspect Dies BaltimoreYesterday, that’s exactly what happened. As the school day ended, students, urged on by comments in social media, began to riot. Police were attacked, many were hurt, with one policeman described as “unresponsive.” I haven’t yet heard an update on his condition. Businesses in the community, largely owned by minorities, and the places that provide jobs for the people in the community, were torched. Police cars also were set on fire; wholesale anarchy prevailed.

The police simply weren’t prepared for this. Did that have something to do with the attitude emanating from the mayor’s office? We now hear they were told to stand down, to hold a perimeter, but not get too involved in stopping the looting, burning, and outright riots. Mayor Rawlings-Blake was missing in action for many hours before finally facing the media. Utter chaos reigned, and the entire city is now on a virtual lockdown.

Those are the facts of the top layer of the problem. But it all goes so much deeper.

Naturally, some want to turn this into a racial issue. Yet keep in mind that the mayor is African-American and the police force, unlike in Ferguson, Missouri, is nearly half-black, half-white. No, the problem is greater.

One has to know history and government philosophy to realize what has happened over the decades to lead us where we are today.

Losing GroundAs well documented in Charles Murray’s superb book that was published in the 1980s—Losing Ground—the black family was intact prior to the policies of the Great Society, which pledged to end poverty in America once and for all. Government largesse began on a large scale, making the government the source of sustenance for the underprivileged, and replacing the father in the home. Marriage in the black community was practically destroyed. Statistics now show more than 70% of children born in these minority communities grow up without a father. Some people don’t mind that; they think that’s an “improvement.”

They are wrong.

Poverty increases exponentially in single-mother homes. Lack of discipline in the lives of the children becomes commonplace without a stable environment that is based on a two-parent family. Couple this with an education system that no longer educates, and the problems increase.

On the political side, what is now occurring in Baltimore is hardly the fault of conservatives or Republicans. That city, as most cities in America, is, and has been for many years, controlled by the Democrats. What we see is the fruit of policies promoted by the philosophy of government championed by progressives. In one sense, Baltimore is the progressive utopia. It should be a lesson to us all.

Biblical WorldviewBut now go one layer deeper still. Why do we allow all of this? What is the root cause? It’s simply this: we have abandoned our Biblical basis for thinking and acting. Our culture—led by the media, the entertainment industry, the education system, and the progressive politicians—has rejected eternal concepts of right and wrong delivered to us by God. We have set up our own gods, devised our own morality, come up with our own “solutions,” and promised our own version of heaven on earth.

When a society abandons that which is designed to preserve it, last night in Baltimore is one example of the result. The Biblical principle still holds: we reap what we sow. And we have been sowing some poisonous seeds for quite some time.

So, yes, let’s do what’s necessary to handle the top layer of issues: indict anyone, policeman or rioter, who has violated the rights of another. But we cannot stop there; we need to return to our Biblical roots. If we don’t, we will only be putting bandages on the cancer that is eating away at us. We are a culture in distress, and only the pure Gospel message will change that.

Snyderian Truisms #4 & #5

Virginia FarmSome of my truisms are generated in the classroom. They aren’t always things I’ve sat down and considered beforehand; at times, they pop out unexpectedly. For instance, a number of years ago, I was teaching about the founding of Jamestown and was relating the fact that the first ships that arrived had no women in them. The investors in the company who sent over the ships were primarily interested in trade, so they concentrated on setting up a trading post in the New World.

I then talked about the disadvantages of that type of settlement. All men, and no women, is not ideal. In my attempt to inject humor into my teaching, I made a couple of comments that resonated well with the students. They not only laughed about them, but they kind of took on a life of their own, with students continually referring back to them. I meant them as tongue-in-cheek, but they really were statements of reality. Thus were born Snyderian truisms #4 and #5:

You need women to have families.

Men, without women, would be uncivilized.

The Virginia Company ultimately realized they needed to send women to the colony to make it more settled. The nuclear family was the cornerstone of society, so women were needed to bring stability. Men also seem to have this tendency to let things deteriorate without the domestic touch of women. As I tell students, compare a young man’s dorm room with a young woman’s. Which one, on the whole, is neater? This points to the fact that there are distinct differences between men and women. God made those differences on purpose. Marriage is how those distinctives come together to form a compatible and complementary whole.

At the time, I considered those truisms to be unassailable. They were part of the panoply of self-evident truths that didn’t require defense. Unfortunately, since then they are no longer accepted by everyone. I didn’t count on the wholesale redefinition of marriage and family. While I always had a concern for the spiritual demise of our civilization, I had held to the hope that it wouldn’t deteriorate so quickly. Yet we now see the wreckage all around us.

Salt & LightThere are times when the most basic facts of life need to be reemphasized. We are now at that stage with respect to the nature of men and women and the Biblical definition of family. As the culture slips away from its moorings, those who stand firm on God’s truths will stand out more starkly. We need to be that light in the moral darkness that now predominates. We are the ones who can help preserve what is worth preserving. Never has the need for salt and light been greater. Are we up to the task?

The All-Out Assault on the Family

Confession time. Until a couple days ago, I had never heard of Melissa Harris-Perry. That’s because I don’t watch MSNBC. I have better things to do with my time than spend it on a network that has been shown, via reputable studies, to be little more than a shill for the Obama administration. Yet my attention was drawn to comments made by Ms. Harris-Perry, who apparently is a weekend host for one of MSNBC’s programs.

According to Rich Lowry of National Review, “MSNBC runs sermonettes from its anchors during commercial breaks. They are like public-service announcements illuminating the progressive mind.” In this case, Harris-Perry devoted 30 seconds to berating our society for not spending enough on public education. In the process of her remarks, she stated,

We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had kind of a private notion of children: your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children. So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities. Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s, then we start making better investments.

I see. Does anyone hear the echo of “it takes a village”? We’ve been down this road before with Hillary Clinton. I’m sorry, Ms. Harris-Perry, but children are the responsibility of their parents, not the whole community. The whole community did not give birth to them; they came into this world via their parents. To me, it’s amazing how brazen the Left has become; they can say nearly anything publicly now and expect no backlash. Well, they got one this time. Back to Rich Lowry, who wonders how this slipped past those who decide what airs on this channel:

Her statement wasn’t an aside on live television. She didn’t misspeak. The spot was shot, produced, and aired without, apparently, raising any alarm bells. No one with influence raised his or her hand and said, “Should we really broadcast something that sounds so outlandish?”

The problem, of course, is that compared to what’s already in the public sphere—same-sex marriage is a prime example—statements like this don’t appear so outlandish anymore.  Some on the Left now seem to be competing for the title of “most shocking idea of the week.” Lowry again, exposing the progressive mindset, puts it this way:

As the ultimate private institution, the family is a stubborn obstacle to the great collective effort. Insofar as people invest in their own families, they are holding out on the state and unacceptably privileging their own kids over the children of others. These parents are selfish, small-minded, and backward.

What we are witnessing, be it via abortion, same-sex marriage, or the “it takes a village” mentality, is an all-out assault on the family. If they get their way, family, as defined Biblically and traditionally in our culture, will be no more. The word will lose all meaning since it can mean anything. This is one of those battles that must be fought; we cannot plead weariness or bow to the trend because it seems inevitable. Victories come by the hands of those who remain firm and strong, and we are called to be both.

Another Personal Reflection

This daily commentary takes stock of current events in light of Biblical truth. It’s just who I am. I don’t have to force or impose a certain meaning on those events because I quite naturally interpret everything through that Biblical prism. Today, I want to step back a bit and simply be thankful for what the Lord has given, and what He has allowed me to do. We should all do this regularly.

I’m thankful, above all else, for being redeemed from a selfish existence, devoid of meaning. I’m grateful the Lord loved me enough to intervene in this world to provide a path toward Him and out of spiritual darkness. There is no purpose apart from the One who created all from nothing. He is the reason we even have an existence.

From that firm foundation, He opened a door for the possibility of other relationships. Today, I want to publicly offer thanks for forty years of marriage to someone who has stuck with me through every difficulty. The past two years have been particularly hard, with my wife undergoing cancer treatments. Currently, the cancer is gone, but we are realistic; we know it is an aggressive one and may come back, but we are living every moment with the knowledge that even death cannot separate us from the love of God. This life is only a preparation for what is to come.

Although our children are now out of the house, married, and having children of their own, that doesn’t mean they are out of mind. Once parents, always parents. I can say without qualification that I appreciate my children more now than at any time in my life. Perhaps that’s maturity. One would hope at the ripe age of 61 maturity would be a more constant companion.

Those children have now given us five grandchildren—with two more on the way this year. Being a grandfather has been a whole new phase of life. At first, I wasn’t sure how I would take to the word “grandpa,” but it’s now one of my fondest titles. I’m anticipating seeing them reach their early adult years at least, and want to have as much influence on their lives as I can, trusting in the mercy of God for more time to do so.

Those of you who read my mini-life-story back in my December posts know that the Lord gave me a second chance to teach. There are some certainties in life; one of mine is that I am meant to be a teacher. The place where He has put me now affords ample opportunities to speak His truth in history. The students He has given me are my responsibility; I must be faithful to His calling. I’ve experienced rough patches along the way, but, overall, I enjoy this ministry, believing I am contributing to the number who will enter His kingdom and that I will have helped many grow in their faith.

As an extension of the classroom, the Lord also has allowed me to write. While I am not as prolific as some in my field, I am satisfied that every article and book I’ve written has been worthwhile. I have no regrets for thoughts expressed or wording used. Like Noah Webster, I want to be sure that nothing I’ve published ever led anyone to sin. My completed manuscript on Ronald Reagan and Whittaker Chambers remains without a publisher currently, but I maintain faith it will find a home eventually. There really is something about God’s timing. Meanwhile, a new writing collaboration is brewing that could be exciting.

Bottom line: life with God is always an adventure, and regardless of the obstacles that undoubtedly await, I have the assurance He is with me at every juncture.

So, now it’s time to get on with life today. Thank you, Lord, for making it worth the walk.

Hope in a Deteriorating Culture

The culture shift of the past forty to fifty years has been astounding. I remember the late 1960s when it began in earnest. Being in college from 1969-1973, during the height of the Vietnam War, meant interacting with that shift constantly. Yet, even in the midst of such influences, my Christian faith was confirmed and became more real than ever.

This is what gives me hope.

Today, those influences are more in-your-face than before. We’ve seen radical changes in the acceptance of what was before deemed immoral sexual behavior. It now threatens basic organizations that used to promote values consistent with Biblical faith.

That cartoonist was taking a chance by clearly calling homosexuality a sin. I applaud his willingness to stand up for truth and accepting the consequences that may follow. How much longer will his syndicate put up with those views? We still have freedom of speech technically, but the pressure is being applied to bow to the “new wisdom.”

The family structure is breaking down. We now consider almost any arrangement to be a family. And parental oversight of their children? What has become of that?

When 70% of inner-city children have no father, we shouldn’t be surprised at the outcome. Another factor in the deterioration of morality is the steady diet of violence to which children are subjected. I’m not saying all violence needs to be censored, but there’s a way to portray it within a moral framework. Unfortunately, that is no longer the norm:

Then we attempt to fool ourselves into believing it does no harm.

Yes, things are demonstrably worse now than in my early years. Yet the remedy remains the same: the application of the gospel to individual lives. If enough lives are changed by the God who reaches out to the lost, a society can turn around. I’m not a wishful thinker; I see the reality. However, I see a deeper reality behind what the world sees. Until God gives up on us, I’m not going to give up either. That time may be coming, but until I’m convinced we’ve come to that stage, I will continue to speak up for the One who is the truth. If those who know Him are faithful to that calling, you never know what can happen.