Chambers: Death of a Nation?

Those who have read this blog long enough know my affinity for Whittaker Chambers, a man I consider one of the true heroes in American history. He had joined the Communist Party in the 1920s, thinking it was the answer to all the world’s crises. Only later did he come to grips with his error, but when he did, a whole new understanding opened to him.

As he notes in his masterful autobiography Witness, his mind had to be renewed completely:

What I had been fell from me like dirty rags. The rags that fell from me were not only Communism. What fell was the whole web of the materialist modern mind—the luminous shroud which it has spun about the spirit of man, paralyzing in the name of rationalism the instinct of his soul for God, denying in the name of knowledge the reality of the soul and its birthright in that mystery on which mere knowledge falters and shatters at every step.

As he stepped out into his new reality, he found faith in God, and that gave him insight that is well worth sharing with our generation:

External freedom is only an aspect of interior freedom. Political freedom, as the Western world has known it, is only a political reading of the Bible. Religion and freedom are indivisible. Without freedom the soul dies. Without the soul there is no justification for freedom. … Hence every sincere break with Communism is a religious experience.

There has never been a society or a nation without God. But history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations that became indifferent to God, and died.

That last line is haunting. How indifferent are we as a nation right now? How close are we to death?

A 9/11 Remembrance and Reflection

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, I was on my way to Patrick Henry College where I was a professor of history. Before arriving at the college, I stopped at a gas station. One of the other customers came up to me and informed me in a rather vague way that a plane had hit a building in New York City. I have to admit that didn’t sound all that bad to me—I assumed it was a small plane, I had no idea it was the World Trade Center, and I had no reason to believe it affected me in any direct way.

Yet his manner indicated there might be something more to it, so I turned on the car radio to find out if this was anything significant. Reports were sketchy, but I gradually realized it was bigger than I thought. When I got to the college, a prayer meeting already had begun over the incident, but we were largely in the dark about details. One of the problems was that there was no television in any of the rooms where we could watch the drama unfold. Trying to get news on the Internet also was difficult—it seemed to have slowed to a crawl.

My wife was on her way to a store close to Dulles Airport, but she soon grasped the enormity of the situation when all the stores began to close for the day. Of course, the plane that smashed into the Pentagon took off from Dulles that morning. That made it even more real; we used Dulles for our flights all the time. It made our next trip to Dulles for a flight a little more sobering.

I didn’t see any video of the actual events until sometime in the afternoon. Then I was glued to the television for hours. Living just outside the DC area made us feel more vulnerable than if we had been in our home state of Indiana, for instance.

For me, what took place that day was literally an act of war. I recall saying that to my American history class. This really was the modern Pearl Harbor, only worse. Few Americans in 1941 were aware of what Pearl Harbor was and Hawaii was not yet a state. In 2001, everyone knew New York, and the image of the Twin Towers was quite familiar.

Now they were no more—destroyed by an enemy that wanted to take down the one nation that stood in its way as it sought to impose its religious ideology on everyone.

The unity at the time seemed real. Flags appeared everywhere. Congressmen and senators stood on the steps of the Capitol and sang “God Bless America.” Yet I never was convinced the unity was genuine, and with each passing day that put 9/11 further from our minds, my analysis proved correct.

Rather than viewing this as an act of war, the political Left shifted ground and thought of it as merely a crime to be handled through the judicial system. Today, there is little understanding on the Left of the true nature of the evil that exists in radical Islam. They are more concerned with being sensitive to the extremists and not making them angry.

Here is what the Left needs to understand: they are inherently angry, and nothing we do will satisfy that anger. They will stop at nothing to try to destroy those they hate. And they hate us.

The false ideology that dominates the political Left blinds them to the false ideology that seeks to devour them. I’m reminded of a poignant quote from Whittaker Chambers in his classic book Witness as he tried to warn the society of his day about the evil of communism:

The dying world of 1925 was without faith, hope, character, understanding of its malady or will to overcome it. It was dying but it laughed. And this laughter was not the defiance of a vigor that refuses to know when it is whipped. It was the loss, by the mind of a whole civilization, of the power to distinguish between reality and unreality, because, ultimately, though I did not know it, it had lost the power to distinguish between good and evil. … The dying world had no answer at all to the crisis of the 20th century, and, when it was mentioned, and every moral voice in the Western world was shrilling crisis, it cocked an ear of complacent deafness and smiled a smile of blank senility—throughout history, the smile of those for whom the executioner waits.

Are we at that same place today?

At Southeastern University, where I currently teach, a group of students from the College Republicans planted 2977 American flags in the ground to commemorate those who died on 9/11. It was a moving sight.

Not many people showed up for the remembrance, but those who came felt it deeply. The sad thing is that the new crop of college freshmen has no real significant memories of that day. They were too young to be impacted in the way I was. What does this portend for the future? I will do my part to remind them that an enemy does still exist and that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. I only hope they are open to that message.

Reagan's Political Conversion

What happened to change Ronald Reagan from a New Deal liberal into a conservative icon? My latest posting on Big Government tells you how it happened. They made it the feature story for the day. You can find it here:

http://biggovernment.com/asnyder/2010/07/17/reagans-political-conversion/#more-144614

Most of the posting is an excerpt from my book on Reagan and Whittaker Chambers, which I just finished writing  recently. I’m looking for a publisher now. Prayer would be appreciated.

It Matters How You Get There

I’ve enjoyed contributing posts to the Big Government site. Through those, I have made a number of pleasant contacts with readers who have sent me e-mails. It’s also gratifying to write on people and issues that I consider significant.

I’ve noticed some trends in the comments on the site to my posts. First, I seem to draw out atheists. Now, I’ve hardly given an altar call; it seems all one needs to do is just mention God in a positive vein and venom will spew forth. A couple of comments were so obscene that the administrator had to remove them.

This experience has reemphasized to me that the coalition of people who want to reduce the size of government and get it back within its constitutional boundaries includes some who are motivated more by anger than anything else. Now, they are hardly the majority, but their presence and the extreme language they sometimes use is more of a detriment than an aid to the cause.

Another observation is that there are those who claim to be Christians and yet believe things that are antithetical to basic Christian faith. Again, I’m not surprised by this, but every time it rears its head, it is disappointing.

A case in point is my latest post, which dared to include a criticism of philosopher Ayn Rand. Actually, I was defending Whittaker Chambers’s critique of one of her novels, Atlas Shrugged. More than one commenter saw no problem uniting her philosophy with Christianity. The main reason for this is that she comes out on the side of the free market—as do I.

Yet Rand’s path for getting to this free-market position is not one that is compatible with Christian faith. First, Rand was an atheist. She loathed the idea of God. As an adherent of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, she favored the idea of a race of supermen who would transcend traditional morality and create their own right and wrong. She also shared with Nietzsche his disdain for Christianity, which she called “the best kindergarten of communism possible.” Christian ethics, she said, were destructive of the self, making life “flat, gray, empty, lacking all beauty, all fire, all enthusiasm, all meaning, all creative urge.” She called for an ethic of selfishness instead.

Now, self-interest is one thing: I am to take care of that which is my own first; I am to give priority to family, etc. But that’s not the same thing as selfishness, which is the dethronement of God and the enthronement of oneself as god. In her personal life, she was sexually promiscuous and dictatorial in her manner. One biographer says “she was vituperative, without humor, and increasingly Stalinist in her behavior as she aged … in the jealous demands she exercised over those who formed what was in effect her cult.”

The word “cult” seems appropriate. Some of those who follow Rand’s teachings are devoted to her in a way that comes close to cult-like worship.

Rand may have been in favor of capitalism, but it really does matter how one arrives there. I do so on the basis of Biblical principles, not through an ethic of selfishness.

If you didn’t have the opportunity to read my post in Big Government, you can find it here:

http://biggovernment.com/asnyder/2010/07/03/mr-beck-meet-mr-chambers/

I will continue to stand for Biblical principles as the basis for my analysis of our culture and our public policies. I hope to help others think things through on that basis as well.

Correcting a False Perception

I like Glenn Beck very much. He has helped a lot of people understand some basic principles. That’s why I was disappointed a couple weeks ago when he mentioned Whittaker Chambers in a negative way. I’m convinced it’s due to ignorance of what Chambers accomplished, and that he just passed along something his staff gave him.

To help remedy that, I wrote a post for Big Government to correct the false perception he may have. You can see it at

http://biggovernment.com/asnyder/2010/07/03/mr-beck-meet-mr-chambers/#more-138258

I’m hoping someone on Beck’s staff will pick up on it and pass on some better information to him.

A Chambers Dialogue

Last weekend, I posted on the Big Government site about Whittaker Chambers and his view that the New Deal was indeed a revolution. I was surprised to receive a comment from Chambers’s grandson—disagreeing with that view. Our dialogue on the issue turned out to be good for another posting, so if you’re interested, go to

 http://biggovernment.com/asnyder/2010/05/27/a-whittaker-chambers-dialogue/#more-125358

As you will see, I don’t accept his perspective, but it was instructive and beneficial to think it through. Hope you find it to be the same.

New Big Government Posting

The Big Government site has just posted my third offering. If you would like to learn why Whittaker Chambers [one of my favorite people] thought the New Deal was a true revolution, go to the following URL:

http://biggovernment.com/asnyder/2010/05/22/whittaker-chambers-the-new-deal-as-revolution/#more-123278