My doctoral dissertation was on Noah Webster, widely considered America’s first schoolmaster. His Speller taught generations how to read; his 1828 Dictionary was unique, not only in its being the first produced by an American, but in its Biblical basis. Webster’s illustrations for words included Biblical citations and short homilies on the significance of some key words. His influence in early America was great.

Noah Webster Books

I’m highlighting him today because he offered insight to his generation when it came to choosing political leaders. His words are timeless; they apply to our current situation.

“In selecting men for office,” Webster urged, “let principles be your guide. . . . Look to his character as a man of known principle, of tried integrity, and undoubted ability for the office.”

To ignore lack of principle and integrity in a candidate is to violate the sacred trust given to us as citizens:

When a citizen gives his vote to a man of known immorality, he abuses his civic responsibility; he not only sacrifices his own responsibility; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor; he betrays the interest of his country.

Webster continued: “If rulers are bad men, it is generally the fault of the people.” After all, who puts men of depraved character in office? We can too often be deceived by them, he notes, but often we vote them in simply because they belong to “our” party. Here’s how he framed it:

Noah WebsterThey choose men, not because they are just men, men of religion and integrity, but solely for the sake of supporting a party [emphasis mine]. This is a fruitful source of public evils.

But as surely as there is a God in heaven, who exercises a moral government over the affairs of this world, so certainly will the neglect of the divine command, in the choice of rulers, be followed by bad laws and as bad administration.

I trust you know why I chose to emphasize that one phrase in the quote above.

By 1837, Webster was becoming distraught by what he was seeing in the culture and politics of his nation. He wrote to a friend,

Principles, sir, are becoming corrupt, deeply corrupt; & unless the progress of corruption, & perversion of truth can be arrested, neither liberty nor property will long be secure in this country.

And a great evil is, that men of the first distinction seem, to a great extent, to be ignorant of the real, original causes of our public distresses. Many of our greatest men are making vigorous efforts to remove present evils, but not an effort is made to correct the radical cause of our political calamities.

Webster’s concern in 1837 should be our concern today. Our principles have been corrupted; integrity is discounted; truth is being perverted. Yet we don’t address those fundamental issues. Instead, we rally to someone who either promises free stuff or who pledges to build a wall.

Webster’s prescription for the ills in our society is a return to Biblical principles and integrity of character. I agree with that prescription. That’s why I will never vote for anyone who lacks the very rudiments of those qualities. That’s why I will not vote for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump.

WebsterNoah Webster was a man of his time, but the ideas he fostered are based on the Book that applies to all men at all times. If you wish to know more about Webster, his views, and his influence during his lifetime, my book, Defining Noah Webster: A Spiritual Biography, is available. You can find it on Amazon right here.

We are faced with virtually no good choice in this coming presidential election, so let’s keep in mind that government is not our savior. There is only one Savior. Our responsibility is to be faithful to Him and maintain our integrity. Stand for righteousness, then stand back and see what God will do.

Our Developing Culture

Surely you have noticed how we are living in an upside-down world lately. Today, I thought I would simply offer some wonderful examples of how our culture has been developing.

Since we have a reality TV person now as the Republican candidate for president, I thought this might be fitting for some of his supporters:

Gov't Funding

That speaks to the reality of “reality” programs as well as the idea that government has some kind of stockpile of funds to pay for virtually anything and everything.

Which leads me to this:

Popular with Kids

And speaking of liberals:

Liberals Who Believe

Here’s the solution for liberal thinking on the gender front:

Bathroom Problem Solved

There’s no way I can leave out my own profession in this litany of what’s gone wrong in America:

Director of Admissions

When College Is Free

Well worth pondering today.

Historical Ignorance & Hiroshima

At HiroshimaPresident Obama was in Japan a few days ago, where he laid a wreath at Hiroshima, the site of the dropping of the first atomic bomb. Many were concerned he would turn this event into another apology for America. That was a valid fear since he seems to consider his own country to be responsible for most of the evils of the modern era.

I’ve read through his speech at Hiroshima. There is no apology per se, but the language does suggest an unwillingness to differentiate between aggressor and victim in how American involvement in WWII began. He mentioned how wars are caused by a “base instinct for domination or conquest,” yet pointedly never identified who was seeking domination and conquest at the time. His words leave it open to the possibility that America was just as guilty.

Let’s be clear: there is no moral equivalence historically with respect to the combatants in WWII. Too many Americans in our current generation suffer from severe historical ignorance.

Japan, in the years leading up to the war, was ruled by a military with a fascist worldview, which included a sense of ethnic superiority—all other peoples were inferior to the Japanese. Lacking certain natural resources, that ideology led them to invade and conquer the peoples around them and take over the resources they wanted.

Pearl Harbor AttackIt also led to 7 December 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor that sought to take America out of the equation, thereby clearing Japan’s path of domination and conquest.

That attack killed nearly 3,000 Americans and is what drew our nation into this world war. What followed was an unbroken series of atrocities at the hands of the Japanese military: Bataan Death March and prison camps that rivaled anything Hitler concocted.

That’s another key point: Japan was in alliance with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. As soon as America declared war on Japan (although Pearl Harbor made it clear who declared war first), Hitler declared war on America in solidarity with his Asian ally.

Once America and her allies began to push the Japanese out of their occupied areas, the Japanese government pledged to fight to the last man against any invasion force. Allied military analysts predicted extremely high casualties not only for their own troops, but for the Japanese as well.

The Manhattan Project was the secret development of the atomic bomb. It was begun only because Hitler was working on getting the weapon also. A world in which Hitler had an atomic bomb and no one else did, would have been a world living in constant fear of what a madman would do with it.

Truman & Atomic BombPresident Truman, after the surrender of Germany, received word at the Postdam Conference in July 1945 that the bomb had been tested successfully. Was he now going to use it?

Here’s where our historical ignorance enters in again. It has become fashionable to blame America for using this terrible weapon. Yet if you had been the president at that time, here is what you would have considered, and it’s what Truman considered: dropping one bomb might end the entire war without any further casualties for American troops.

Given the choice between an invasion that would have resulted in more American deaths and an even higher number of Japanese deaths, or the dropping of one bomb that would be devastating enough to bring the Japanese to stop fighting, Truman made the choice that was actually more humane.

In an attempt to minimize the deaths of Japanese civilians, leaflets were dropped over Hiroshima telling the people that devastation was coming; they were urged to leave.

After the bomb decimated Hiroshima, did the Japanese military realize they needed to end the war? Hardly. They pressed their scientists to come up with the same weapon. That led to the dropping of a second bomb, this time on Nagasaki.

The saddest part of this episode to me is that Nagasaki wasn’t the first choice of a target and became the target only because of the weather. Nagasaki was the most Christian city in Japan and was most resistant to the government’s policies. Such are the cruel ironies of war.

Even after the Nagasaki bombing, the military refused to surrender. The only authority in Japan that could overrule the military, the emperor, finally decided to do so. He addressed the Japanese people on the radio, informing them that the war was over. The military tried to stop the broadcast, but was unsuccessful. Many of the top military leaders then committed suicide.

These facts are either ignored or glossed over today. There is this great desire to paint America as the heartless combatant. Yet that is far from the truth.

Here is an excellent video—only 5 minutes and with interesting graphics, so you ought to invest those 5 minutes in watching it—that provides a fine overview of the Hiroshima decision. The speaker is Father Wilson Miscamble, a professor of history at the University of Notre Dame. After viewing it, in conjunction with what I’ve written here, I hope you will have a clearer understanding of what took place and why.

Ignorance of history can be corrected. What’s harder to correct is an ideology that seeks to remain ignorant.

How Fantasy Worlds Work

Some politicians seem to live in a fantasy world. Well, maybe that could apply to half of the general population as well, so let me backtrack just a little. Hillary Clinton seems to live in a fantasy world.

Hillary thought she would receive a coronation back in 2008 because she was married to Bill. Didn’t happen. No problem, she surmised—2016 is the big year for the coronation. Yes, it was supposed to be that way, but her fantasy world got in the way.

First, there was her arrogance in thinking the law doesn’t apply to her. The FBI begs to differ.

Security Inquiry

Called Indictment

Until there is an indictment, Hillary can continue to live in her fantasy of having done nothing wrong. The only thing that might preclude the indictment, of course, is that Obama is still president and his Lack of Justice Department will make the decision whether to go forward with it.

She also didn’t believe anyone would offer a credible challenge within her party to the nomination she felt she deserved. While I hate to think of Bernie Sanders as a credible challenge, there apparently are enough Democrats living in their own fantasy world that he has not yet been put away completely, thereby causing Hillary added stress:

In My Seat

To me, one proud socialist and one disguised socialist aren’t all that much different. And yes, Sanders won’t be able to stop Hillary from sealing the deal eventually, but it would be fun to watch a Democrat convention displaying all the rancor and hatred that a liberal/progressive ideology inspires.

Hillary thinks she has an ace in the political deck—Bill, who, for some reason in this fantasy world, seems to have some degree of acceptance in the population. He does, at least, with those who have short memories. The rest of us, though, will never forget:

Two for One

From everything I’ve said so far, you might be tempted to think I consider Trump a better choice. If so, you are new to this blog.

Double Negative

Just when we need a strong, moral, constitutional candidate who has the convictions to turn this nation around, this is what we get instead:

Not Working

My point today is not to lead you into despair, although I recognize the possibility. Rather, I hope this stunning scenario will ensure you don’t choose a fantasy world. It’s time to get serious about our future.

No Trump Train for Me

Come on, Snyder, get on board the Trump Train. We’re going all the way to the White House, so don’t you want to take whatever meager credit you might get for being part of the Team? Besides, if you don’t get on board, we’ll blame you if we lose. You wouldn’t want that, now, would you? We’ll make you responsible for Hillary’s presidency, and you’ll never be able to live that down.

Yes, the pressure builds. But it doesn’t change my mind because I’m not tied to a political party or any political savior. I wanted Ted Cruz to be the Republican candidate. If, though, Cruz should come out tomorrow as a full-throated supporter of Donald Trump, I would not follow him into that swamp.

Just as I’m not following Republican leadership into the moral morass known as Trumpism.

Stephen HayesStephen Hayes, in the Weekly Standard, wrote some poignant words yesterday that speak for me. As he described Trump’s campaign as a “con,” he took aim at all those Republicans now lining up at the train station, hoping for a good seat:

Three months ago, most GOP officeholders and conservative opinion leaders understood Trump to be an ignoramus and a boor, a vain reality-television star and a longtime donor to Democrats who had built his candidacy on the kind of progressive populism most of them had spent their careers fighting.

Today, many of those same Republican elected officials and prominent conservatives are hailing Trump as the future of their party and the ideological movement it houses and excoriating anti-Trump conservatives who hold to the same position they took just a few weeks ago.

And in case you’ve missed what Trump has done since he has become the presumptive nominee, Hayes provides a detailed breakdown:

In the time since he effectively captured the GOP nomination, Trump has doubled down on his slanderous claim, borrowed from the National Enquirer, that Ted Cruz’s father helped Lee Harvey Oswald months before the JFK assassination; refused to apologize for attacking Heidi Cruz’s looks, once again calling her “fair game”; picked a fight with David Cameron, leader of America’s longest-standing ally; distanced himself from his own tax plan; recommitted himself to releasing his tax returns and then declared defiantly that those returns are his private business and would not be released; backed off his proposal to ban temporarily entry to the United States for Muslims and then reiterated his support for such a ban; and, finally, lied on national television about a 1991 audio recording in which he created a fake persona—”John Miller,” a made-up spokesman played by Trump himself—for an interview with a gossip magazine, in order to boast about his virility and his virtue.

Pick and choose your favorite out of that list. The most abhorrent are the accusations against Cruz’s father and Trump’s continuing claim that Heidi Cruz was “fair game” for his team’s attacks on her. The silliest, and in some ways the most insightful, gambit was his attempt to say he wasn’t the fictional “John Miller” or “John Barron” when he publicly admitted he was years before.

I think if Trump had his way completely, his administration might look something like this:

Dream Team

All through this campaign season, I kept hoping that Republicans would come to their senses. It didn’t happen. We went from one inconceivable scenario to another:

No Way

I don’t want a Hillary presidency. It might destroy the country. I don’t want a Trump presidency. It might destroy the country.

That’s where I stand, and that’s why I won’t vote for either one. I’m not boarding the Trump Train—not now, not ever.

Higher Education Sometimes Isn’t

Let’s compare the myth with what is all too often the reality about what occurs in a college education.

The myth is that the four years spent in the arena of higher education is a time when the student will be able, under wise direction from professors, to sift through a variety of worldviews and learn how to become discerning in a quest for what is genuine and what is not.

That has been somewhat fictional all along, simply because the culture will be a strong determinant in what is taught at colleges and universities. The idea that all sides will be fairly presented is not the usual fare. We need to remember that value-neutral education is a myth; everyone teaches from a distinctive worldview.

The reality is that parents who go into debt in the hope that college will round out their child’s educational experience may instead find an entirely different child when the experience has been completed:

What Did You Learn

Now that the radicals of the 1960s and 1970s are filling most of the professorial posts in the liberal arts programs of the universities, what else should we expect? They are now attempting to clone themselves through this new generation. They haven’t done this alone, of course; they’ve had the help of the public school system nationwide and the larger entertainment culture.

Everything now offends some students (and I use that term loosely).

Trigger Words

Well, perhaps we should provide a trigger warning for those who are now embarking on their new path in life:

Trigger Warning

There’s always this possibility, though:

Grad School

All of this is quite disturbing to me, since I teach at a university. I’m not at your typical university, fortunately. Although Christian colleges and universities are not immune to these forces, there remains more sanity when you are at an institution that continues to hold up God’s Word as the standard for learning.

Sadly, though, what we see spreading across the nation is the epitome of what I have called Snyderian Truism #11: “Higher education sometimes isn’t.”

Screwtape Proposes a Hellish Education

I’ve been scouring C. S. Lewis’s essays for pertinent comments for the Academic Roundtable in which I will be participating at the upcoming summer Lewis Foundation conference. This is work? Not really. More like fun.

Screwtape Proposes a Toast 2In the process of my scouring, I reread his “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” a followup to the fabulously successful book, The Screwtape Letters, that put Lewis on the literary map for Americans.

As a lifelong educator, just now completing my 27th year of teaching at the college level, I was struck anew and afresh by his commentary on how hell would like education to be carried out. Lewis’s critique sounds so very contemporary, despite having been written at the end of the 1950s.

In the words of the devilish Screwtape, Lewis lays out the scheme:

The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be “undemocratic.” These differences between the pupils—for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences—must be disguised.

He then describes how this can be accomplished at various levels of education, with the first example being the one closest to my experience:

At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not.

Aren’t we told continually by our social engineers that everyone deserves a college education? We’re now being pressured to pay for everyone’s college education. But college is not for everyone, a statement I make based on those 27 years of teaching I mentioned above. Some students have no idea why they are there, and many should be directing their lives elsewhere. Isn’t the Biblical concept that of a diversity of talents?

Lewis/Screwtape then takes aim at basic elementary education:

ScrewtapeAt schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing the things that children used to do in their spare time. Let them, for example, make mud-pies and call it modelling. But all the time there must be no faintest hint that they are inferior to the children who are at work.

We wouldn’t want anyone to feel bad about failing; it would damage self-esteem:

Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have—I believe the English already use the phrase—“parity of esteem.” . . . Children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma—Beelzebub, what a useful word!—by being left behind.

The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age-group throughout his school career, and a boy who would be capable of tackling Aeschylus or Dante sits listening to his coeval’s attempts to spell out A CAT SAT ON A MAT.

So what is the overall goal, according to Screwtape?

In a word, we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when I’m as good as you has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will vanish. . . .

We shall no longer have to plan and toil to spread imperturbable conceit and incurable ignorance among men. The little vermin themselves will do it for us.

I also can agree with, and shudder at, his concluding statement: “Of course this would not follow unless all education became state education. But it will.”

A Lewis prophecy coming to pass in our day.