Remembering Nancy Reagan

Nancy ReaganNancy Reagan passed away Sunday at the age of 94. It’s like the end of an era. The students I teach now were born after Ronald Reagan left office; they have no personal knowledge of him or how he impacted our country. Lacking knowledge of perhaps the greatest president of the twentieth century, they obviously know nothing about his wife either.

Nancy Davis Publicity Photo 1949-1950Nancy Davis was a Hollywood actress in the late 1940s who was falsely accused of being a communist, her name being the same as another Nancy Davis who was the suspicious one. Out of concern for her future, she called on the president of the Screen Actors Guild, Ronald Reagan, to explain the situation. He got it straightened out and, in the process, their relationship began.

Reagan had just gone through a wrenching divorce from another actress, Jane Wyman, a divorce he didn’t want and for which he was not at fault. When Nancy Davis entered his life, he said later, she gave his life back to him. They were married in 1952, a marriage that lasted fifty-two years until his death in 2004.

Nancy Reagan’s film career pretty much came to an end after her marriage, and she spent those next fifty-two years as an anchor of stability for her husband. When he embarked on his political career in 1966, she was solidly in his corner. She also was his prime encourager to seek the presidency in 1980.

Ronald Reagan Assassination Attempt 2After the assassination attempt in 1981, she began to turn to an astrologer for some guidance, something that her husband did not engage in. When I had the opportunity during my sabbatical to interview the Reagans’ former pastor, Donn Moomaw, he indicated that he was never sure just where she stood spiritually but that he had stayed in touch with her and had recently (2014) spoken with her again about faith in Christ. He believed she was very open to his words.

Of course we have to leave it in God’s hands as to her eternal destination, but based on Rev. Moomaw’s testimony, I am hopeful that she is now not only reunited with her husband but also basking in the presence of her Savior.

Nancy Reagan was a woman of class and good taste, someone admired by many. May that be the memory we have of her this day. Her body will be laid to rest next to Ronald Reagan’s at his presidential library. The next time I visit there—and I do hope there will be a next time—my visit to the gravesite will be to commemorate both of them and the public demonstration they offered of a marriage—if not exactly made in heaven—that showcased how genuine love for one another can be achieved on this earth.

Reagans on Boat 1964

Margaret Thatcher: Unintended Consequences

I’m taking my time reading through Margaret Thatcher’s The Path to Power, going one section at a time, as I try to increase my knowledge of the history of the United Kingdom in the late twentieth century. As I’ve followed her life from her time with her family, to her university years at Oxford, to her early political career, I’ve been fascinated with her observations of the era.

I was struck particularly by a section of the book dealing with the cultural shift in Britain in the 1960s. Thatcher, from the perspective of hindsight, details the loss of the Christian foundations in her country:

Path to PowerBy now (1968) the left-of-centre consensus on economic policy was being challenged and would continue to be so. But the new liberal consensus on moral and social matters was not. That is to say that people in positions of influence in government, the media and universities managed to impose metropolitan liberal views on a society that was still largely conservative morally. The 1960s saw in Britain the beginning of what has become an almost complete separation between traditional Christian values and the authority of the state.

She freely acknowledges that she didn’t catch the drift at the time. In fact, she voted in favor of a couple of bills that haunted her later. One decriminalized homosexual conduct between consenting adults over the age of twenty-one. The other allowed abortion “if there was substantial risk that a child would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped, or ‘where the woman’s capacity as a mother would be severely overstrained.'”

She was influenced, she said, by her concern for other people’s suffering, but didn’t see at first the moral ramifications of what she helped start. Her analysis of those issues changed considerably later, as she explains:

As regards abortion, homosexuality, and divorce reform it is easy to see that matters did not turn out as was intended. . . . Instead, it could be argued that they have paved the way towards a more callous, selfish and irresponsible society. Reforming the law on abortion was primarily intended to stop young women being forced to have back-street abortions. It was not meant to make abortion simply another “choice.” Yet in spite of the universal availability of artificial contraception the figures for abortion have kept on rising.

Homosexual activists have moved from seeking a right of privacy to demanding social approval for the “gay” lifestyle, equal status with the heterosexual family and even the legal right to exploit the sexual uncertainty of adolescents.

Divorce law reform has contributed to—though it is by no means the only cause of—a very large increase in the incidence of marriage breakdown which has left so many children growing up without the continual care and guidance of two parents.

Margaret ThatcherThatcher concludes with these reflections:

Knowing how matters have turned out, would I have voted differently on any of these measures? I now see that we viewed them too narrowly. As a lawyer and indeed as a politician who believed so strongly in the rule of law, I felt that the prime considerations were that the law should be enforceable and its application fair to those who might run afoul of it.

But laws also have a symbolic significance: they are signposts to the way society is developing—and the way the legislators of society envisage that it should develop. Moreover, taking all of the “liberal” reforms of the 1960s together, they amount to more than their individual parts. They came to be seen as providing a radically new framework within which the younger generation would be expected to behave.

Margaret Thatcher was able to own up to her mistakes and learn from them.  In the same vein, when Ronald Reagan saw the consequences of a liberal abortion law he signed as governor of California, he delved into the subject and came away a staunch pro-lifer. He always regretted his earlier action. While I wish neither Reagan nor Thatcher had made those mistakes, I am heartened by the fact that those who have a Biblical foundation to their thinking can see their missteps and make amends for them later.

The Romeike Reversal

German Homeschooling FamilyMany of you, I’m sure, have heard that the German homeschooling family seeking asylum in the U.S. has now been told it can stay. In an amazing turnaround, the Department of Homeland Security contacted the Romeikes to inform them they have been granted “indefinite deferred status,” which is bureaucrat-speak for permission to remain as long as they don’t break any laws. I am delighted for them, as are a whole host of others. They never should have been threatened with deportation in the first place.

This decision came less than 24 hours after the Supreme Court refused to review their case. Michael Farris, their lawyer and advocate, ascribes this unexpected reversal to God’s intervention, perhaps helped along by the administration’s concern over negative publicity. After all, what did this family seek other than the right to educate their children according to their faith and to be grateful residents in a country that would allow them that freedom?

While I applaud the DHS decision, I don’t see this as a reason to have increased confidence in the Obama administration’s approach either to parental rights or fidelity to the rule of law. Any administration that promotes abortion on demand—and praises Planned Parenthood for its endeavors—and refuses to follow the law with regard to the definition of marriage cannot be depended upon to make correct decisions in the future.

Eric Holder’s DOJ has been particularly remiss in upholding the rule of law. He refused to prosecute Black Panthers who intimidated voters in Philadelphia. He said the DOJ would not be supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, despite it being a federal law passed by Congress and signed by none other than Bill Clinton. He now has informed state attorneys general that they don’t have to carry out any state laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Add to this the reprehensible conduct of his IRS toward conservatives and his lackadaisical attitude toward investigating those abuses, and we have an attorney general, responsible for ensuring the law is followed, doing just the opposite. He only follows laws he likes:

Enforce Me Not

So, while I rejoice for the Romeikes, theirs is a victory for one family. It’s not a guarantee that all of America’s families can breathe a sigh of relief. We must remain vigilant.

Snyderian Truism #9

How about some controversy today, since I’m normally so non-controversial? I’ve periodically presented what I call “Snyderian Truisms.” If you’ve missed the first eight, there’s a category on the right sidebar you can click to see them. It’s time for #9.

When I teach about the 1960s, a decade of radical change culturally in many ways, one of my topics is the self-titled Women’s Liberation Movement. So that students will know where I’m coming from as we discuss this topic, I give them this truism:

Femininity and feminism are not the same: God created the first; those who didn’t like God’s creation devised the second.

Feminine MystiqueWhile I readily understand that some will not consider this a truism, I stand by it. The presumed liberation movement that women needed was kickstarted by author Betty Friedan in her book The Feminine Mystique. It was the opening salvo in the attempt to remake the image of women.

Anytime women are mistreated, you will find me on the front lines defending them. God created both male and female, both are in His image, and both are to be treated with respect. Sometimes, though, rage is manufactured.

Rage became a salient feature of this liberation movement, as it does with all movements so named. Women, we were told, are an oppressed minority. Ignore the fact, for the moment, that women are not a minority at all; according to the movement, they can claim that status due to the way in which they have been treated.

What has been the source of this maltreatment? Why, society’s rigid stereotyping of the roles of men and women, of course. And the bedrock institution that furthers this injustice is marriage, a convenient setup that allows men to dominate all other areas of society while women are forced to stay home and take care of the children.

NOWThe remedy for all this oppression is threefold: abolish traditional marriage; accept lesbianism as an equally valid lifestyle; allow unfettered abortion. Only by sanctioning these three via law can true equality of the sexes be achieved. A new organization devoted to these goals appeared in 1966, dubbed the National Organization for Women (NOW). Even the acronym stressed the “urgent” nature of the movement. The first goal was accomplished with Roe v. Wade. Ever since, the “right” to an abortion has been the cornerstone for this radicalism. Touch that presumed right and you are the enemy.

Today, the other two goals are rapidly coming to pass: homosexuality has been given protected status and traditional marriage is constantly under attack. You could say this has been one of the most successful revolutionary movements in history.

Yet it means the death of a Christian culture. Once the roots of marriage and family are ripped out of a society, moral chaos and national decline will follow. Children will be considered a burden; genuine male/female love in marriage will be laughed at as old-fashioned at best, subversive at worst; all boundaries based on Biblical morality will be erased. We will have entered the brave new world so many rebels against God’s laws have always sought.

Yet there remains this gentle reminder for those of us who are Christians, a reminder that needs to be transmitted to this new generation:

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. . . . Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her. . . . He who loves his own wife loves himself. . . . For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. . . . Each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Some will object to the word “subject” in the first sentence. That’s because they misunderstand the nature of Biblical subjection. For the real definition, go to the last sentence, where respect is the key. The entire passage focuses on mutual love and respect. God’s prescription for marriage, if followed, never leads to oppression.

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?

9/11 & the Two Visions of America

Can anything new be said on the anniversary of 9/11? Maybe we don’t need to hear anything new; perhaps we just need to be reminded that there are those out there who hate us. However, what is meant by “us?” America, you say? Yes, in the abstract, but what comprises America anymore? Do I with my Biblical worldview represent the true America, or do Planned Parenthood—as one example—and Barack Obama constitute the real America?

On 9/11, eleven years ago today, members of Congress stood on the steps of the Capitol and sang together. At the moment, I can’t recall if they sang “America the Beautiful” or “My Country Tis of Thee” or another similar tune. That specific memory eludes me. But sing they did, although some commentators noted that the Republicans seemed to be leading it and a good number of the Democrats looked reluctant to add their voices to the chorus. What a wonderful image it presented: a united nation.

But it was a false image.

It played well for the camera, but the camaraderie was short-lived. The chasm between two very different visions of America is too deep and wide to be bridged for long, even with a common enemy. After the initial shock of the attack, the progressive visionaries began to downplay the severity of the terrorist threat. They even began seeing in their minds’ eye, though not in reality, a kind of pogrom instituted against Muslims in the U.S. All of a sudden, we were the problem, not them. We weren’t sensitive enough to the way they had been treated; we had brought this on ourselves.

That vision of an America that was too big for its britches, and that needed to be slapped down, clashed with the other vision—that of an America that, while often making mistakes in foreign relations, nevertheless had attempted to do the best for others most of the time. It’s the vision of an America that has helped rid the world of truly evil dictators and totalitarian movements such as communism. It’s the vision of an America that retains basic moral values stemming from its faith in God.

These two visions cannot mesh; they are too opposed to each other.

For too long, we have tried to ignore this massive chasm and assured ourselves that we are all Americans who will pull together despite our differences. We need to face reality.

There is no real external union without internal unity.

These two separate visions of America stem from two contrasting worldviews. One is Biblical and God-centered, while the other is secular and man-centered:

  • Beliefs are different on both sides of this divide
  • Purposes/goals are not the same
  • Christian morality battles humanistic immorality
  • One holds to the sacredness of life while the other aborts it
  • One supports traditional marriage and the family while the other redefines sexuality and the very nature of marriage
  • Limited government and constitutionalism inspire the one, whereas a socialistic welfare state is the dream of those who would transform our society and make it into something neither God nor the Founders ever desired

It would be a fascinating object lesson to be able to separate these two groups and let them have their way completely—two entirely distinct nations with two distinct worldviews—and then compare the results. One would go the way of every socialist/communist experiment that has ever been tried, while the other would be an energetic, thriving society where innocent children would be safe in their mothers’ wombs, the family structure would dominate, Biblical morality would be enacted into law, and the government would not be overseeing all aspects of one’s life.

But that won’t happen; we cannot separate the two; we have to make it work somehow the way it is.

What have we learned, eleven years later? Unfortunately, we’ve learned we are not really one people. We are not united. Our foundations are crumbling and we are in danger of turning our backs on the God who gave us life and liberty. If we choose that path, we are lost.

God didn’t make 9/11 happen. It was the brainchild of perverted individuals. Yet when sin abounds, He seeks to use the consequences to get our attention. He will use every circumstance to try to reach into a people’s hearts and lead them to repentance. By all means, may we never forget what happened on 9/11, and may we honor those who displayed great courage on that day. But the best way to honor them is to return to the truth, and to the One who is Truth. That is our only hope.

The Stark Choice

The Democrat convention meets this week in Charlotte, North Carolina, a state that just passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The Democrat platform, meanwhile, for the first time, is endorsing same-sex marriage. Welcome to North Carolina, Democrats. Personally, I don’t think President Obama is going to carry the state this time. Last time was an anomaly, just as it was in Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, and Florida. I’m expecting all those states to go Republican.

If one were to just look at the results of this first term, one would wonder how anyone trying to run on a record like Obama’s would ever have a chance at reelection. Here are the latest statistics:

As the proverbial icing on the cake, it is probable that the national debt number will exceed $16 trillion while the convention is busy explaining how things are so much better under this president. That’s going to take some doing, considering what has really occurred on the Obama watch:

Liberty has suffered now for nearly four long years. Yet Obama and his minions apparently believe they have made progress. Their definition of progress, though, is decidedly different than mine—and I hope it’s different from that of the majority of the electorate:

A lot is going to depend on voter turnout, not only for those who wish to see a change, but also on the part of those who may like the trend toward more government dependence. I’m not one of those who wishes everyone would vote; I prefer knowledgeable voters—knowledgeable about the rule of law, constitutionalism, limited government, religious liberty, and free enterprise. Frankly, we’d be much better off if some people didn’t vote:

The electorate is filled with uninformed and misinformed voters. The media helps considerably with creating the latter:

The choice is rather stark this November. Will the electorate see it clearly?