Book Cover 1My book, The Witness and the President: Whittaker Chambers, Ronald Reagan, and the Future of Freedom, has been out now since early November. I’ve had the opportunity to speak about it before a number of groups locally.

It documents the impact Chambers had on Reagan as the latter read Chambers’s masterful autobiography, Witness. Chambers helped Reagan understand why people would be attracted to communism, and spurred him on to take on communism, which ultimately led to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The “future of freedom” part of the title refers to an analysis of which of these two key individuals in American history was more accurate in his prediction about how freedom will fare as we move forward in Western civilization.

Chambers was pessimistic, convinced that modern man would shut his ears to the message of civilization’s decline and the need to turn back to God. Reagan, however, saw freedom as the wave of the future, pushed by the desire God placed in everyone to shake off tyranny’s shackles.

I’m pleased to announce that the Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara, California, has decided to make my book one of its offerings to visitors. The Center is a division of Young America’s Foundation (YAF), which is an organization devoted to teaching high school and college students the principles of American liberty (on a basis of Christian beliefs).

The Center informs me that the book definitely will be useful in its programs. I’m also hopeful that I will be invited at some point to be included as a speaker in those programs.

Reagan Ranch Center

YAF also owns Reagan’s ranch, situated close to Santa Barbara, high up in the nearby mountains. During my sabbatical, I was honored to have been given a personal tour of the ranch. Cross one off my bucket list.

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What a blessing to have the book that was a labor of love for me for so many years now being sold by the organization that has such a close connection to the Reagan legacy.

If you haven’t yet obtained your copy of The Witness and the President, simply click here and be enlightened on the link between Chambers and Reagan.

The book is also being considered for sale in the bookstore of the Reagan Presidential Library. Your prayers for that are solicited as well.

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

Will Scalia’s Legacy Be Honored?

News of the death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia stunned the political world over the weekend. Scalia, a stalwart defender of the Constitution, will be sorely missed, especially in this era of constitutional ignorance and/or apathy. His firm conviction that one must look to the Founders’ words and their original meaning kept the Court from straying more often than it did.

Nominated to the Court by Ronald Reagan and confirmed by the Senate unanimously, Scalia was considered a legal giant, a towering intellectual who knew how to skewer foolish and unconstitutional Court rulings with a biting wit in his many dissents.

Meeting with Scalia

When Reagan nominated Scalia, he said this of him:

Reagan Quote-Scalia

His death was a graduation for him personally, as he was an outspoken Christian believer. He is far happier right now than all of us he left behind.

Yet his death, at this time, opens a political debate that has ramifications for the future of this nation. President Obama would love to place another justice on the Court who reflects his personal philosophy of progressivism, which ignores constitutional limitations on the federal government.

To be clear: he has the right to nominate. To be just as clear: the Senate has the right to reject any nominee he puts forward. Will the Republican majority in the Senate show some backbone this time and not allow another progressive on the Court? They are showing signs of a growing spine. We will see.

Scalia’s death was announced just a few hours before the Republican presidential debate in South Carolina. At the beginning of the debate, all joined in a respectful moment of silence.

Unfortunately, with Donald Trump on the stage (who was the only one not even to close his eyes during that moment of silence), the air of respect soon vanished.

I won’t go into a blow-by-blow description of what took place at the debate, except to say it would have been a genuine debate without the circus atmosphere created by Trump.

February 2016 SC DebateHis favorite word of the night was “liar,” aimed constantly at Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, and mostly in response to their accurate accounting of his liberal beliefs and attitude of personal insults. Trump interrupted continually, attempting to disallow other candidates from completing their sentences. As I watched, even I, as someone who has always considered Trump to be a rude, crude joke of a candidate, could hardly believe how low he sank in this debate.

In all the commentary afterwards, very few have voiced what I saw, but Stephen Hayes came closest when he referred to Trump as unhinged. He was, quite often, out of control emotionally. Any other person running for this nomination who acted like that would be considered poison politically, yet Trump and his supporters somehow consider his manner justified.

He was the most unpresidential man on the stage. Yet he leads the polls.

Even fewer commented on what else I saw: the calmness of Ted Cruz while Trump berated him as the greatest liar he had ever known. Frankly, I was impressed that Cruz could keep his cool throughout the tirade. In my opinion, that’s the kind of character trait I want in a president.

I will admit to being discouraged that a narcissist who, under normal circumstances, would be dismissed as a serious candidate, is on the cusp of becoming the Republican nominee for president.

What’s wrong with this electorate?

I’m reminded of a passage of Scripture that I hope doesn’t truly describe where we are as a nation—a passage that deals with what it will be like as the Second Coming approaches. We’re told by the Apostle Paul in the little book of 2 Thessalonians what will transpire with the ascendance of the Antichrist, who will deceive people “because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.” He continues,

For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

Is that where we are now? I don’t know. I sincerely hope not. But there certainly is a lot of deception taking place and a lot of voters who seem to want to be deceived.

Will Antonin Scalia’s legacy of faithfulness to God and to the rule of law be honored this political season, or will we instead take another step into spiritual chaos and darkness?

Introduction to Chambers-Reagan

Book Cover 1For those of you who have been thinking about buying my new book on Ronald Reagan and Whittaker Chambers, yet haven’t quite made the commitment, let me provide you with an excerpt from my introduction:

Any author should ask himself certain questions before attempting to write a book. Some immediately come to mind when considering the topic of this book:
• Are there not enough books on Ronald Reagan? Why add another one to the ever-increasing supply?
• Why focus on Whittaker Chambers, a man virtually unknown to the majority of potential readers? How can anyone so marginal to most people’s knowledge be a subject of interest for them?
• A literary agent added another: because Reagan and Chambers never met or wrote to one another, how can there be enough here for a full book? Would it not be better to write an article and be done with it?
There are answers for all these questions.

First, the market will determine if there are enough books on Reagan. At the moment, that market exists. It also may be a market that extends into the future indefinitely. Have historians stopped writing about the American Revolution or the Civil War? Has the final word been spoken about either topic?

20141025_095359Historians have only begun examining the voluminous information concerning Reagan’s life, his beliefs, and the results of his presidency. Most of the material at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, still has not been opened to researchers. The supply of new Reagan books will not be ending anytime soon.

Second, just because someone is virtually unknown is not an excuse for not making him better known. Are books not supposed to increase one’s knowledge? Further, if that relatively unknown individual can be linked to a subject of more general interest, the public is benefited by understanding that linkage.

Chambers with Newspaper of Hiss VerdictChambers deserves more exposure. For many social and political conservatives in America, he is not unknown; he is considered to be a near-legendary figure who helped birth modern American conservatism. George H. Nash, arguably the foremost authority on the history of modern American conservatism, states with respect to Chambers and his accusations against Alger Hiss, “As much as any other event, the Hiss case forged the anti-communist element in resurgent conservatism.”

That leaves the third issue—Reagan and Chambers never met or corresponded, so how can a book be justified? Chambers provided major inspiration for many conservatives in his flight from the Communist Party and in his attempt to reveal its inner workings in America. His autobiography, Witness, seemed to resonate with a broad swath of conservatives, even budding ones such as Reagan.

Reagan’s appearance before the House Committee on Unamerican Activities in 1947 to testify to the communist influence in Hollywood preceded by one year Chambers’s confrontation with Alger Hiss before the same committee. Witness gave Reagan the insight into communism that molded his thinking on the subject as he embarked upon his political career.

Reagan had portions of Witness committed to memory, so impressed was he by the power of Chambers’s writing. Portions of Witness kept showing up in Reagan’s speeches as president, and he posthumously awarded Chambers the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1984 for his contribution to American liberty.

Chambers and Reagan are bookends: Chambers inaugurated the battle against communism and Reagan, with help from allies such as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, helped bring the Soviet chapter of that movement to a close. Chambers, though despising the word “conservative,” nevertheless helped initiate that movement; Reagan, it can be argued, was the fulfillment of that burgeoning movement, even though the movement continues beyond his administration.

That’s my rationale for the book. I’ll be providing more excerpts in future posts. Hope you find it intriguing enough to get a copy for yourself. Here’s the Amazon link.

Reagan: The Principled & the History Makers

Yesterday, I wrote about my new book on Ronald Reagan and Whittaker Chambers. Both men are as relevant to our day as they were to theirs.

As we near the end of another year, and as we consider the challenges that loom, some select quotes from Reagan may help us focus on our responsibilities. There are some quotes from Reagan with which many people are familiar, but I’ve chosen to pull out some that are less well known, yet just as insightful.

Just two months into his presidency, right before the assassination attempt, he spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference dinner:

We’ve heard in our century far too much of the sounds of anguish from those who live under totalitarian rule. We’ve seen too many monuments made not out of marble or stone but out of barbed wire and terror.

But from these terrible places have come survivors, witnesses to the triumph of the human spirit over the mystique of state power, prisoners whose spiritual values made them the rulers of their guards. With their survival, they brought us “the secret of the camps,” a lesson for our time and for any age: Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid.

That last line is the key. As we think of the battles ahead, we need to believe that. At a commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Heritage Foundation, he exhorted his audience that they had to face the reality of the world situation:

We must never be inhibited by those who say telling the truth about the Soviet empire is an act of belligerence on our part. To the contrary, we must continue to remind the world that self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly, that whatever the imperfections of the democratic nations, the struggle now going on in the world is essentially the struggle between freedom and totalitarianism, between what is right and what is wrong.

This is not a simplistic or unsophisticated observation. Rather, it’s the beginning of wisdom about the world we live in, the perils we face, and the great opportunity we have in the years ahead to broaden the frontiers of freedom and to build a durable, meaningful peace.

When laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery, Reagan spoke of principles and common sense:

Peace fails when we forget what we stand for. It fails when we forget that our Republic is based on firm principles, principles that have real meaning, that with them, we are the last, best hope of man on Earth; without them, we’re little more than the crust of a continent. Peace also fails when we forget to bring to the bargaining table God’s first intellectual gift to man: common sense.

Common sense gives us a realistic knowledge of human beings and how they think, how they live in the world, what motivates them. Common sense tells us that man has magic in him, but also clay. Common sense can tell the difference between right and wrong. Common sense forgives error, but it always recognizes it to be error first.

I added the emphasis at the end.

I’ll conclude today with a pithy, yet valuable, Reagan perspective—one we would do well to remember:

History is no captive of some inevitable force. History is made by men and women of vision and courage.

Let’s go out and make some history.

Genesis of Chambers-Reagan

Book Cover 1What led me to write my new book The Witness and the President: Whittaker Chambers, Ronald Reagan, and the Future of Freedom? Here’s the background.

It was not until after my graduation from college in 1973 that I began to pay serious attention to politics. Of course, it was hard not to know what was going on that year—the Watergate controversy overshadowed all political discussion. Over the next year and a half, I watched as the Nixon presidency collapsed.

The 1976 presidential election forced me to consider the two candidates on a deeper level than I had previously. Although my personal political philosophy was not fully developed, I was socially conservative due to my evangelical Christian faith. When the Democratic candidate, Jimmy Carter, claimed to be a born-again Christian, I read his autobiography and tried to sort through what he really believed, both religiously and politically. The result of that research was a reasoned vote for Gerald Ford.

Ford, though, had not been my first choice for the Republican nomination. I had followed the Reagan challenge to Ford closely and was disappointed when Reagan fell short at the convention. By 1980, I was solidly in the Reagan camp, rejoicing over his stunning electoral victory over an incumbent president.

1984 Campaign ButtonI had returned to college by that time, having started a master’s degree in history, and can recall the reaction of one of my professors the morning after the election. He came into the classroom with the burden of the world seemingly on his shoulders. Clearly, he was disturbed. He removed all doubt as to the source of that disturbance when he announced to the class that he could scarcely bring himself to realize that “that cowboy has been elected president.” His perspective was not unique; it was dominant on that campus—and most others.

A few months into the Reagan presidency, I moved to the Washington, D.C., area to continue my education, pursuing a doctorate in history at The American University. I remained in the D.C. area throughout the entire Reagan administration, leaving for my first full-time college-level teaching position shortly after George H. W. Bush took over the Oval Office.

Those eight years in D.C. gave me a political education, even though I never took a job with the administration. Rather, I wrote and researched for a number of organizations, both inside the government and outside, as a freelancer. It was a valuable time for grappling with how my faith formed the basis for my political philosophy.

In the midst of this “grappling” I heard about a book many considered seminal to the entire conservative movement as represented in the Reagan presidency. When I discovered that Reagan himself had read the book and credited it with providing his understanding of the philosophy and workings of the communist mind, I decided it was time to evaluate it myself. The book was Witness. The author was Whittaker Chambers.

WitnessI did not expect what I found. I expected a treatise on communism and how wrong it was. What I received was far more. Chambers had not written a political tract; instead, he wrote painfully of the weaknesses in his own life while detailing the tragic consequences of a philosophy that he believed dethroned God.

It was not just a story. It was not simply an autobiography. It was a personal spiritual reflection and confession. One reading was not enough, even though it was 799 pages. I had to go through it again to see what I might have missed the first time. I believed the work to be so significant that later I developed an entire college course around the book and its author.

My new book adheres to all the goals of a scholarly work. My research is as meticulous as possible, and documentation for every quotation is provided. While I have salient points of agreement philosophically with both of my subjects, I also recognize their weaknesses and inconsistencies, and those will be noted.

The goal is a reasoned historical analysis. But one can be scholarly and not have to succumb either to cynicism in the analysis or to dryness in writing style. If the reader who finishes this book can be glad that he had the opportunity to read it, and that it furthered his understanding of these two individuals, I can be satisfied with that.

If you would like to delve into this further, just click on the ad on the right side of my blog and go straight to the Amazon page. I’m hoping you will find the foray into the worlds of Chambers and Reagan to be worthwhile.

“The Witness and the President” Makes Its Appearance

Witness & President DrawingTen years ago, I had the vision for a book on Whittaker Chambers and Ronald Reagan. I wanted to compare/contrast the pessimism of the former with the optimism of the latter. I also wanted to know just how much Chambers influenced Reagan.

I had read Chambers’s masterful autobiography, Witness, back in the mid-1980s. It affected me deeply. I also was very appreciative of the principles that guided Reagan in his life and administration, an appreciation that grew over time as the nation floundered under successors who weren’t as solidly grounded—and some of whom, like Bill Clinton, who never deserved the office in the first place and who destroyed the respect and esteem we should hold for the presidency.

I read everything else Chambers wrote—his journalistic essays and his posthumous work, Cold Friday. I researched diligently the papers of Reagan’s presidency at his library, combing through all his speeches, and read as many as I could of the myriad books about him that kept appearing.

It all came together, and now the result is The Witness and the President: Whittaker Chambers, Ronald Reagan, and the Future of Freedom. The book is now available through Amazon at this URL.

Am I relieved that this has now come to fruition? Absolutely. But this is more than merely the satisfaction of getting the book published; this is part of my effort to help our citizens understand basic Biblical principles upon which our society must be based.

Chambers left the Communist Underground and found the Christian faith. He gave witness to the need for Western civilization to return to the faith. Reagan, unlike Chambers, had a Christian upbringing. Whatever straying he may have done during his lifetime, he came back to that same solid foundation of faith that Chambers found.

These two men have a message for our generation. This book tells their stories and, I trust, will challenge you to think about the principles we must never lose.

I hope you will get a copy, read it carefully (it tells a good story, too), and ponder its message.