Tuesday, September 28

Odds and Ends

Keeping up with the ever-shifting, ever-changing campaign polling data can be quite a chore and more than a little confusing. Especially with this week's presidential debates, gauging the data coming in from across the nation has never been more important. Fortunately, there is a great site to follow all the numbers and then get a big picture electoral vote analysis.

Derek Langley is one of my favorite photographers anywhere in the world. I love his subject matter too: Cambridge, Oxford, London, and the Lake District. I met him several years ago at a little flea market-like crafts fair in Cambridge (at the All Saints Garden, on Trinity Street, across from the Trinity College Gatehouse) and I have followed his career ever since. Check out his beautifully artistic work at his Darkness and Light web store.

The best running socks I've been able to find anywhere are finally available directly from the manufacturer's web store. If you've never tried a pair of DeFeet socks, you've got a real treat in store. I would not want to do without my SpeeDes on a long run--they are the Cabriloet version of the standard AirEAtor. Very light, very fast. They've apparently even got a LiveStrong version in the pipeline!

An interesting exchange between Marvin Olasky and James Fitzpatrick has once again raised the substantive issue of architecture, worship, societal reform, and worldview. Alas, it is more than a little difficult to swallow when an ardent Roman Catholic comprehends such issues more clearly than an earnest Evangelical Calvinist.

One of my favorite blog sites has been Bruce Green's. He is the dean of the new school of law at Liberty University and his wide-ranging reading and penetrating insights are always enlightening. Alas, he has retired from the blogosphere-at least while the hectic semester schedule keeps him otherwise occupied. Nevertheless, his archives are still available and are most assuredly worth perusing.

The calamitous character of ideology is brilliantly described at the Touchstone Magazine blog today by David Mills. It is the height of Modernist irony that the very thing that makes celebs shallow may also be what makes them popular.

When I was in Austin last summer, I discovered the sublime joys of Peet's coffee. Then as I followed the Tour de France this year, I noticed that Lance and the Posties drank Peet's exclusively. Figures. It is one of those rare and peculiar pleasures that can only be had out on the West Coast and in Austin. But, I just discovered it can also be purchased online. Hallelujah!

Thursday, September 23

The Electoral College

My new book on the genius of the founding fathers and their federal vision for preserving our nation's liberty is now available. The Importance of the Electoral College has been published in a handsome paperback edition by Vision Forum and can be purchased at select fine bookstores--or from the Vision Forum website and their toll free customer service line (800-440-0022). Be sure to order a few extra copies for family members, friends, and neighbors who have bought the media myth that the Electoral College is an antiquated holdover from the 18th century that ought to be abolished. Note too that the book was designed to serve as a homeschool or classical school unit study for Civics classes. On top of all that, it is sure to provoke lots of lively dinner table conversation in these critical days leading up to November's election. At our church, even the youth group used the Q&A section last night as an ice-breaker exercise. So, be sure to get your copies today!

Wednesday, September 22

The Blight of Profanity

I was embarrassed and frustrated. I was trying my best to enjoy the football game with my wife. The Titans were winning; the weather was perfect; the bratwursts were spicy and hot. What could be better? But a couple of rows in front of us was a rabid fan who had apparently lost all control of his sense of propriety. He didn't like a particular call, or maybe it was a particular play; I don't know. What I do know is that he expressed his displeasure with a barrage of profanity that turned everyone within earshot a distinctive shade of blue--and it wasn't Titans Blue! He went on and on and on. It was awful. His foul mouth very nearly ruined a great afternoon at the stadium.

Alas, that incident was not all that unusual.

Coarse language is no longer sequestered in American life. Talk that was barely whispered a generation ago is broadcast at full volume today. Words that could once only be found scrawled in graffiti under bridges and in abandoned buildings are now woven into the vocabulary of our everyday conversations. The pollution of our verbal ecology has become rampant.

Consumer research analyst, David Chagall has said, “Four-letter words are flying all over the place these days--on the street, at the mall, on television, in movies, in rock and rap music, in five-star hotel lobbies, and not least in the hallways of our schools. In bygone times, dirty words used to come in plain, brown wrappers to opened only private if at all. Today, everywhere the public congregates, you are besieged by them.”

Was it really so long ago that the nation gasped in disbelief when Clark Gable dared to utter the words, “Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn” in Gone With the Wind? Were we really such a different culture when we engaged in a nationwide debate over civility and propriety when the Federal Communications Commission banned George Carlin's Seven Dirty Words routine from the airwaves? Apparently so. Thus, says Chagall, “Now on the eve of the twenty-first century, epithets featuring body parts, waste products, and sex acts are so commonplace they seem to be acceptable speech.”

Writers for television and film often lace the dialog of their characters with foul scatological humor, gross obscenity, and crass disrespect. Parents are mocked cruelly. Authorities are denigrated. Honor and faith are made the butts of cruel, vile, and vicious jokes.

Popular music has descended to even more astonishing depths. Brutally pornographic lyrics are not at all uncommon in rap or rock music today. Graphic language detailing the most horrifying cavortings of barbarism is widely heralded as “honest,” “liberating,” and “refreshing.” Indeed, anyone daring to express qualms about this tidal wave of vulgar, lewd, and tawdry preoccupation with adultery, and fornication--to say nothing of rape, incest, and mutilation--is likely to be mocked as a “prude,” a “goody-goody,” and a “moralistic fundamentalist.”

But as distressing as the proliferation of profanity in popular media might be, the widespread acceptance of filthy talk in the workplaces, in our communities, in our schools, and in our homes is even worse. Swearing hardly causes a ripple of concern any more. Indeed, according to Jonathan Lasker, in his sobering book, Profanity in America, many people see cursing as a “relatively risk-free verbal tool” capable of “getting the attention of others, emphasizing a particular point, expressing a strong opinion or emotion, intimidating others, making a joke, or even relieving stress, frustration, or outrage.”

Thus, he says, “The most striking trends in the popular use of profanity have been among women, teens, and children. It has been a way for them to strike back at authority or injustice or perceived unfairness. Though rarely effectual, it offers them a feeling of power when access to actual power may be more than a little remote.”

Of course, the effect of such a tactic may be less innocent than it may appear at first glance. Indeed, he argues, “Profanity is not only a hallmark of a post-literate society, where ordinary people simply do not have the amplitude of vocabulary capable of expressing a full range of emotions, it is also a hallmark of a frustrated society where ordinary people must give vent to their anger in inarticulate fashion. Historically, mass profanity has always been a harbinger of mass violence.”

Are you surprised? You shouldn't be. Embarrassed and frustrated, maybe. But surely not surprised!

Monday, September 20

The Fragrance of Oppression

The spate of violence in Iraq this past week got me to thinking about an article I wrote for Table Talk magazine this past year about the place of persecution in the history of the Gospel. I don't know about you, but my comfort and affluence often numbs me to the real nature of spiritual conflict in this poor fallen world. Thus, every so often I find I need to think about Ziwar:

The assailant fired off nearly thirty rounds. He shouted, “Allah akhbar! Allah akhbar! God is great!” He turned on his heel and left the taxi driver to die. And thus, on February 17, 2003, the Iraqi church had yet another martyr. Ziwar Muhammad Isma'il, a believer from the city of Zakho, not only left behind a wife and five children, he left behind a remarkable legacy of faithfulness in the midst of adversity, discrimination, oppression, harassment, and persecution.

Ziwar, a Kurd, came to saving faith seven years ago. “Since then he has been faithful to, and open, about his faith. Many times he was threatened and twice arrested, though never charged,” reported his pastor. Though practically illiterate, he had memorized large portions of the Scriptures and served as a deacon in the fledgling Evangelical church. Thus said his pastor, “he was always very well aware, as are all of us in the church here, of the fact that at some point, martyrdom is all too likely. He accepted this without reservation.”

I confess that when I received the e-mail reporting Ziwar's death, I was shocked. But, I know I shouldn't have been. Long ago the Apostle Paul asserted, “All those who desire to live godly lives will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). There is no way around it. No amount of compromise can divert it. Persecution is inevitable.

Jesus explained this fact to His disciples saying, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the Word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My Word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:18-20).

Ziwar understood, perhaps better than most of the rest of us, the ever-present danger of Christian profession in the midst of this poor fallen world.

Everyone loves a winner. The sweet smell of success draws nearly all of us like moths to a candle flame. Popularity, celebrity, prominence, and fame are not only the hallmarks of our age, they are just about the only credentials we require for adulation or leadership.

As a result, we are generally not too terribly fond of the peculiar, the obscure, or the unpopular. At best we reserve pity for losers. In fact, we view with suspicion anyone who somehow fails to garner kudos from the world at large. If they have fallen prey to vilification, defamation, or humiliation we simply assume that they must somehow be at fault.

There was a time when martyrdom was among the church's highest callings and greatest honors. Early on, Christians embraced the truth that "all those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12). The heroes of the faith have always been those who actually sacrificed their lives, fortunes, and reputations for the sake of the Gospel.
But no longer. There is almost a kind of shame that we attach to those who suffer persecution or isolation or oppression. If their cause does not meet with quick success, we are only too hasty to abandon them. Maybe they didn't try hard enough. Maybe they just made a couple of dumb mistakes. Maybe they had faulty theology. Maybe they just failed to marshal effective public relations techniques. But however they got into the mess they're in, we are all but certain that they are not the kind of models we ought to follow.

E.M. Bounds, the great nineteenth century pastor and evangelist who penned several classic books on prayer, asserted it was "all too often the case" that "when the church prospers it loses sight of the very virtues from whence its prosperity has sprung." According to Bounds those virtues "invariably have sprung out of either the suffering of believers or their response to the suffering of others."

Throughout the history of the church, believers have suffered both fierce persecution and enforced obscurity. They have been beaten, ridiculed, defrocked, and defamed. They have suffered poverty, isolation, betrayal, and disgrace. They have been hounded, harassed, and murdered. Through it all though, they bore testimony to the fact that they found solace in the realization of genuine hope-a hope that did not depend on the confirmation of worldly notions of success; a hope that did not need to adjust to the ever-shifting tides of situation or circumstance. They were somehow able to comprehend that the blood, toil, tears, and sweat of the faithful are the seeds of real success and that our diligent, unflagging efforts on behalf of the despised and rejected are our most potent caveats to the worldly-wise.

Though that may be an alien notion to us today, it has been the common experience of virtually all those who have gone before us in faith: apostles, prophets, martyrs, confessors, pastors, evangelists, missionaries, reformers, and witnesses. They tasted the bittersweet truth that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to "those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness" (Matthew 5:10) and that great "blessings" and "rewards" eventually await those who have been "insulted," "slandered," and "sore vexed" who nevertheless persevere in their high callings (Matthew 5:12-13).

And so, though they often suffered the slanging ridicule and irate torments of the world, they remained steadfast, continued their course, and walked in grace. Like Ziwar, they were willing to risk everything for the sake of truth.

The fact is, our response to the "fragrance of oppression," as historian Herbert Schlossberg has dubbed the persecutions and sufferings of our world, is perhaps the single most significant indicator of the health and vitality of the church. It is in "afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, sleeplessness, and hunger" (2 Corinthians 6:4-5) that our mettle is proven.

E.M. Bounds said it well, “The easy smile, the temperate deportment, and the contented visage of a successful and prosperous Christians can but impress few, but the determined faithfulness, the long-suffering fellowship, and the stalwart compassion of yokefellows in hardship is certain to convey the hope of grace to many.”

Everyone loves a winner. That's not all bad--as long as our understanding of who the real winners are conforms to Biblical standards. But then that's the rub, isn't it?

I loved Ziwar before. But now, he is my role model.

Friday, September 17

News Jonesing

If after the latest flap at CBS over faked news sources has got you totally fed up by the American media bias/incompetency/hubris, it may be the perfect time for you to spice up your news diet a bit. I always try to read news from as many different perspectives as possible--and especially from as many national perspectives as possible.

Thus, one of my daily mainstays is the BBC. But my current favorite is the German equivalent of America's NPR in Germany. Deutsche Welle offers internet radio programming in several formats as well as a very fine English-language news site. There you can catch up on world news from a German perspective as well as interesting insights into the breaking stories from throughout Eastern and Central Europe.

And for the latest polling numbers in the ever shifting-ever changing US presidential race, I have found the Electoral Vote Predictor site invaluable. The amount of data on the site is astounding and extraordinarily well organized.

Speaking of the Electoral College, my new book on the subject seems to be capturing a good bit of attention. I have already done interviews for National Public Radio, Point of View, and a host of local drive time programs around the country. Upcoming this week are stints on VCY America and Janet Parshall's program.

Wednesday, September 15

Social Discourse (Or the Lack Thereof)

Who among us has not wondered at the sad estate of political, cultural, and even theological discourse in America? It seems that we can't really discuss issues anymore. Instead, we argue. We name call. We denigrate. We engage in vitriolic wars of incrimination. Politics is marred by mudslinging. Social commentary is sullied by scandalous gossip, tabloid sensationalism, and squalid controversy. Race relations are sundered by prejudice, discrimination, and hate. Doctrinal disputes are regularly punctuated with anathemas.

The rapid and virulent disuniting of America is frightening. If it's not the 527s, it's the nightly news; if its not them it's talk radio or reality TV or hip hop's latest anthem of disdain; if it's not any of those, then it's probably us.

We are more bitterly divided today than at any time since the Civil War. We are divided over what is right and what is wrong. We are divided over what is good and what is bad. We are divided over what we should do and what we should not do. And as a result, “absolute confusion” is now our most apt epithet according to demographer George Barna.

Certainly we have always had our squabbles. We are fallen men and women. Substantial differences have “enlivened” relations between Americans since our earliest days. But more often than not, our acrid contemporary polarization has little or nothing to do with constitutional philosophies, political principles, social theories, covenantal formulations, or moral disputations--as has always been the case before. The fact is, we hardly know enough dogma to fight over it--as David Wells has asserted we have “cheerfully plunged” into “astounding cultural illiteracy.”

Instead our divisions tend to be much less substantial--usually along experiential, methodological, or pragmatic lines. We fight over styles and approaches. We part company over techniques and appearances. We sunder fellowship over emphasis, vocabulary, and personality. We are far less concerned with axiomatic first principles than we are with generic public poses. We are far less concerned with what we say or do than with how we say or do it.

And we will fight to the bitter end over such inconsequential matters. We impugn character. We assassinate reputations. And we vilify ideas--without ever taking the time to give them a fair hearing. We judge every book by its cover. As James Davison Hunter has said, “The substance and pitch of contemporary public discourse creates an impression that the typical way in which the culturally conservative and progressivist alliances communicate to each other and about each other is through language that is impulsive, if not outrageous.”

Instead of the reasoned interchange of statesmanship, hypothesis, and compromise, we are more prone to utilize what he calls the “grammar of contemporary hostility.” Instead of exchanging facts, insights, and observations, we are likely to merely exchange epithets. Our aim is to marginalize our opponents--portraying them as narrow extremists, misanthropic zealots, or divisive demagogues. We trot out the buzz words of hate and fear or play the trump cards of race or tyranny or heresy or treason. Sadly, this is the case even in the church--or perhaps, especially in the church.

We have even turned the shouting matches that result from such controversies into primetime entertainment--deliberately creating physical skirmishes and verbal barrages that pit adversaries against one another in the most incendiary and acrimonious environments imaginable.

What is this madness? Why do we continue to perpetuate it? This week I looked at three different stack of books in my study; they represent three different controversies; they contain the to-and-fro parrying of former friends and compatriots who are now opposing combatants in one or another of the latest doctrinal spats. A wave of nausea passed over me as I considered the implications of such carefully paginated vitriol. I am thinking about not reading any of them.

Tuesday, September 14

What Ever Happened to Southern Democrats?

Now he's gone and done it! My friend, Ben House, has started bemoaning the loss of the South's old tradition: Democrats with both morals and sense:

I wish Zell Miller had not spoken at the Republican Convention. No, I am not one of those overly sensitive types concerned about his harsh rhetoric and strident tone. No, I am not agreeing with the media-pampered Sen. John McCain who feared that Miller trampled the patriotism of Sen. Kerry. No, I am not bothered that Zell and others came across as angry old white men, for two and maybe all three of those adjectives describe me.

I wish Zell Miller had not spoken at the Republican Convention because I wish he had spoken at the Democrat Convention. I miss the Democrat Party. When I became of age to understand politics, it was fading away and is now almost totally gone, and I still miss it.

Especially in its southern wing, Democrats used to include lots of great legislators and political leaders, some who rose to the stature of true statesmen. These men were the heirs of Jefferson's better side and John Calhoun's sounder wisdom. From the end of Reconstruction to the Vietnam War era, the South was a one-party region. Southern politicians mastered political skills to offset their minority status. Southern Democrats both made Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal successes possible and kept his excesses in line. After working with and supporting FDR for six years, they firmly balked at his dangerous court-packing plan. FDR promptly campaigned in Democrat primaries trying to purge his party of these old stalwarts. This coup backfired and the old-line Southern Democrats retained their political power.

The Agrarians, famous for their political and literary classic I'll Take My Stand, compiled a less well-known collection of essays titled Who Owns America? that they hoped would be adopted as the platform of the Democrat party. Although the party did not adopt the Agrarian agenda, the conservative, near libertarian, farm-family-community world-view of the Agrarians still dominated many Southern politicians.

I remember the heyday of Southern Democrats in the 1960s when they chaired almost every major committee in Congress. Their drawls, their white hair, and their political savvy became stereotypical, but by and large, they were political geniuses.

These old-time Southern Democrats were hawkish. Their grandfathers might have fought for the Confederacy, but these men wanted the Federal Army armed with the latest and best weapons possible. They did not cotton to Nazis, Communists, anarchists, agitators, or terrorists messin' with “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Sure, they wanted naval bases on their coastal ports and army installations in their home districts. But the primary motivation was for such was to defend American freedom and soil of the United States. The 9-11 attack would have raised their ire, and that not for a short season. The old boys would have sought vengeance against our enemies with in the spirit of Nathan Bedford Forrest. And for them, the role of the U.N. would be to follow and not lead.

This defense of the homeland extended to the local community as well. These Democrats thought gun control meant hitting what you aimed at. Sheriff and policemen were to be armed and dangerous-toward criminals and thugs. And lest the police could not make it in time, the local citizens were also armed against varmints of either two or four legged varieties. The South was both courteous and prone to defensive violence. “Law and order” was not a slogan, but a political reality in the old Democrat South.

Those fellows were fiscal conservatives as well. They knew well the benefits of pork barrel politics, but their Celtic blood put tight reins on federal spending. Being Southerners, they knew the difference between being lazy and being needy. They were also suspicious of American money being sent off to other countries. Foreign aid might be used to prop up friends or oppose enemies, but never was it to be given to ingrates.

These Southern Democrats were not marble men; they too had feet of clay. They might between speeches and filibusters gather privately in the anterooms of the Capital for fine cigars and strong bourbon, but public life still called for personal moral standards. They often did not respond quickly enough or adequately to racial tensions and problems, but their conservative gradualism would have avoided the social upheavals of the 1960s. It is hard to imagine the old time Southern Democrats caving in to roving packs of abortionists, feminists, teacher unions, or to gay marriage supporters. They still lived in the fear of God and of a Christian electorate.

Few of them are remembered today. Some of us remember Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina, whose claim to fame was the Watergate Hearings. Ervin quoted Shakespeare in one breath and upheld strict construction of the Constitution with the next breath. Sen. John Stennis of Mississippi was highly respected by Republicans as well as Democrats, and he now has an aircraft carrier named after him. Sen. Russell Long of Louisiana, whose father and mother both were Senators, overcame his flamboyant father Huey's style and became a respected leader and ardent supporter of Republican President Nixon. Sam Rayburn of Texas, Speaker of the House, was a man of great honor in his day. Congressman Wright Patman, who served in the district I grew up in, is still highly respected in northeast Texas more than two decades after his death. Many other fine Southern Democrats served in the House and the Senate.

Democrats who were strong patriots, hawkish on defense, strict constructionists on the Constitution, fiscal conservatives on the budget, and defenders of traditional Christian standards were not just found in the legislative branch or in the Southern delegations. FDR's first Vice President, John Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner of Texas was a feisty, outspoken conservative. FDR's successor, Harry S. Truman, a social liberal and a committed New Dealer, saw what FDR missed and stood firmly in opposition to Soviet expansion in the early days of the Cold War.

Even President Kennedy, no hero of mine, could issue warnings more belligerent than even the most conservative Republicans today. JFK warned the enemies of this nation that we would “bear any burden and oppose any foe” who threatened us. Where in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts could you find such today?

Former Democrat Vice President Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota was a bouncy liberal who championed the cause of Civil Rights. But Humphrey was a Cold Warrior and an optimist who never blamed America first. Even then Governor Ronald Reagan once told a friend of Humphrey's “Hubert would have made a good President.”

For years Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson labored in behalf of oppressed Soviet Jews. Jackson was a strong defense man who always supported America's mission against tyranny. For years, Sen. William Proxmire of Wisconsin built a reputation as a man of extreme integrity and honesty. Even Gov. George C. Wallace, with his well-documented flaws, motivated many Americans to stand up for their country against enemies abroad and moral decay at home. Both of 1972 Democratic candidate George McGovern's running mates-Sen. Thomas Eagleton and Sergeant Shriver-were committed Catholics who were pro-life. McGovern himself, very much a man of left wing viewpoints, had a war record as a bomber pilot in World War II that was truly heroic.

In recent years, Jeffersonian Democrats, Cold Warrior Democrats, pro-life Democrats, fiscal conservative Democrats have all gone the way of the dinosaurs. My parents and people of their generation still vote for the candidates who bear the name Democrat, but the old party is gone: It is as gone with the wind in the South as the rest of Scarlet O'Hara's world. Zell Miller represents the last of a breed, the last of a long and glorious tradition, but unfortunately he is retiring from the Senate.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a two-party system again? Wouldn't it be wonderful to actually have to weigh out the choice between a Republican candidate and a Democrat?

Monday, September 13

The Star Spangled Banner

The War of 1812 was fiercely raging when Francis Scott Key, a Washington attorney was sent to the British naval command to secure the release of a prisoner when the fleet began to bombard the placements of American fortifications in Baltimore at Fort McHenry. Key had to watch in agony, wondering if his nation could possibly withstand such a barrage.

Though the battle raged through the night on this day in 1814, the American defenses stood firm. The sight of the flag still flying over the fort the next morning inspired the young lawyer to pen the immortal words of the Star Spangled Banner.

Later it was set to a popular English hymn tune, Anacreon in Heaven, and it became a standard in the patriotic repertoire. Congress officially confirmed it as the national anthem more than a hundred years later, just before the First World War.

Though the first verse of the anthem is well known-sung at the opening of most political and sporting events-the other verses are almost entirely unknown:

O! say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming:
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming,
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there:
O! say, does the star-spangled banner still wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave? On the shore, dimly seen through the mist of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam-
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is the band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country would leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave!
And the star-spangled banner in triumph cloth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the foe's desolation;
Bless'd with victory and peace, may our heaven rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just-
And this be our motto-“In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Total Truth

My good friend Byron Snapp is not only a busy pastor and educator, he is one of the best-read men I have ever met. His book reviews are always informative and insightful. This past week he sent me his take on the remarkable new book by Nancy Pearcy, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity (Crossway Books). It was so helpful to me that I decided you might like to benefit from it as well:
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How are we to make sense of the world in which we live? The answer to this question will say much about our worldview. It will point out whether we are developing a Christian worldview and whether our worldview is segmented into a public and private realm.

In this very important and well-researched work, the author passionately desires to help the reader define and form a Christian worldview. She concludes her stimulating and insightful book by providing help in living out a biblical worldview.

She begins by pointing out that Christianity does not allow for a division between one’s heart and one’s brain. Christianity is to be applied to every area of life in thought and practice. It impacts our public life as well as our private life. It is central not only on the Lord’s Day but throughout the week.

Although this is very clear on the pages of Scripture, a two-tiered approach of heart/mind, private/public, secular/religious is rampant in our culture, in churches, and in academia. Mrs. Pearcy gives an excellent overview of the development of this appraoch in philosophic thought. She is not hesitant to point out how the First and Second Great Awakenings influenced Christians to believe that a two-tiered outlook is normal. She openly acknowledges that God brought much good out of these eras. However, church leaders and Christians failed to teach and apply Christianity to all of life. She, also, examines the impact of Darwinism and the industrial revolution in promoting a two-tiered worldview. The church unfortunately became a follower of culture rather than a leader in culture.

She provides the reader with the grid of creation, fall, and redemption to show how Christianity is to be interpreted and lived out in life. This grid is also applied to various nonchristian worldviews to show how each has redefined creation, fall, and redemption inconsistently. This teaches the reader how to think through arguments that are raised by nonchristians. Her work in this area should encourage readers not to be stymied when they encounter such arguments.

God used Francis Schaeffer to teach her the validity and reality of Christianity as the true religion. The Bible is total truth and is to be applied throughout culture. Building on Schaeffer’s work she develops ways that Christianity is integrated into life.

This work is multi-faceted. It looks at philosophy, history, and the changing social and ecclesiastical climate in the United States over the years. It does so within a Biblical framework. Readers are encouraged not to be concerned with the status quo. They are challenged to begin to develop their own thinking. A Christian worldview provides the only basis to optimistically and compassionately engage nonchristian ideas.

The author provides many illustrations and relevant scripture passages to drive home her points. Her writing style is very engaging.

This volume would be very useful for church officers and laity. It should be of particular help to those involved in campus ministries, Christian education, and families. Parents desiring to teach their children how our culture arrived at this point and how to begin to regain a biblical worldview will be especially encouraged with this resource.

Saturday, September 11

Remembering Adversity

On this day just three years ago, we were all changed by an unspeakable horror. As tens of thousands of us watched on television with a sense of surreal shock, the two towers of the World Trade Center collapsed into flaming chaos, rubble, and dust, and vanished from the skyline of lower Manhattan. Just hours earlier, the most brazen and horrific terrorist attack in human history was carried out when devout Muslim partisans crashed commercial airliners into both of the towers as well as the Pentagon in Washington, DC. A fourth hijacked plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania when the passengers realized what was transpiring and overwhelmed the terrorists. The death toll ultimately rose to nearly three thousand--including scores of police, fire, and rescue workers who ran into the buildings to save those trapped in the infernos that ensued. And thus the nation was suddenly transformed--and unified--by adversity in a way that prosperity never could.

Still, the Questions

It seems that there are far more questions than answers. Despite the fact that our best experts have devoted hundreds of thousands of words, millions of man hours, and billions of dollars to unravel the snarl of mystery that surrounds the current East-West conflict, most of us are as confounded as ever. And our questions only seem to multiply.

Just two weeks before the 9/11 terrorist attacks were executed, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheik Ekrima Sobri, offered a chillingly prophetic prayer in the Al Aqsa Mosque. The radical Iraqi-backed cleric lifted his eyes heavenward and implored, "Allah, there is no strength but your strength. Destroy, therefore, the Zionist occupation and its helpers and its agents. Destroy the U.S. and its helpers and its agents. Destroy Britain and its helpers and its agents. Prepare those who will soon unite the Muslims of the world and march in the footsteps of Saladin. Allah, we ask you for forgiveness, forgiveness before death, and mercy and forgiveness after death. Allah, grant victory to Islam and the Muslim's in the coming war."

A host of questions immediately spring to mind: what did the supreme spiritual leader of Palestinian Muslims know and when did he know it? What war is he talking about? Why would he invoke such virulent hatred against the Western world? Why would he pronounce such fierce anathemas against the nations most responsible for brokering peace between his own people and the Israelis? Why would he reserve such impious enmity for the powers which had insured the transformation of Yasser Arafat from a rogue terrorist operative into a respected nationalist leader and his Palestinian Liberation Organization from a disreputable revolutionary cell into a legitimate regional government? Why would he so openly attack his land's chief financial and political patrons? In short, how did we become the enemy in his unholy Ji'had?

And there are still more questions.

The four commercial airliners which were hijacked early in the morning of September 11, 2001 were transformed into weapons of mass destruction by a handful of men willing to lay down their lives as martyrs for their faith. America, indeed, most of the Western world, was utterly shocked. But why? Were we not given abundant warning that such unimaginably ignoble deeds might actually be forthcoming? What did we learn from the appalling suicide bombings which had rocked Israel week after week during the previous year, or the suicide attack on the U.S. destroyer Cole in a Yemen harbor in October 2000, or the suicide bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, or the suicide attack on U.S. Army barracks, the Saudi Khobar Towers, in 1996? Why were we so surprised? More, why were the military, security, and intelligence communities so surprised?

Even that does not exhaust our questions.

Saudi exile Osama bin Laden has been the locus of international terrorism for more than a decade. His network of confederated revolutionary cells, Al Qaeda was established in 1988 and funded by his family's vast and diverse fortune. In the years since, Al Qaeda has repeatedly struck U.S. and Israeli targets and have destabilized moderate regimes the world over. In 1990, they assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane in a midtown Manhattan hotel. In 1992, they bombed American troops stationed in Yemen during the Gulf War demobilization. In 1993, they shot down U.S. helicopters over Somalia. A month later, they set off a massive explosion in the underground garage of the World Trade Center in New York. In 1994, they unleashed a wave of terror against India in Kashmir and genocide against Copts in Egypt. In 1995, they deployed terrorist cells in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia where assassinations, insurrections, and kidnappings became a regular occurrence. In 1996, they not only attacked U.S. military housing facilities in Dhaharan, they launched radical new revolutionary movements in Chechnya, East Timor, Chad, Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Algeria. In 1998, they issued a fatwah in conjunction with other notorious terrorist organizations such as the Egyptian Al Gama'a Al Islam, the Palestinian Hamas, the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Pakistani Jamaat'I Islam, and the Yemeni Al Ji'had. The spiritual decree asserted the “duty of all Muslims to kill U.S. citizens, civilian and military, and their allies everywhere.” Though the Clinton administration targeted Al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan and Sudan with surgical military strikes and place Osama on the FBI's “most wanted” list, little was actually done to stymie their efforts in London, Paris, Hamburg, and indeed, in schools, communities, and airports all across the U.S. How is this possible? How can an organization with such a sordid past be free to continue to pursue their pernicious goals?

There are yet more questions.

A decade ago three different countries in the strife-riven Middle East were invaded by neighboring nations within a matter of a few weeks. Their governments were displaced, their people were dispossessed, and their resources were dissipated. When Syria overran Lebanon, the world barely noticed. When Libya led a coup in Chad, the incident was almost entirely overlooked. But when Iraq swept into Kuwait, an international crisis-and ultimately the Gulf War-was provoked. Why? What made the difference? Iraq's antics in the region were not exactly unprecedented. The conflict between Kuwait and Iraq has flared up again and again over the past thirty years, resulting in armed confrontation on at least five occasions. In 1961 and again in 1973, Iraq actually annexed portions of its tiny gulf neighbor. Why, then, was the intelligence community in the United States so surprised when the old rivalry resurfaced in 1990? And, why the dramatic reaction?

Still more questions arise.

Throughout 2001, world attention was focused on the newly reinvigorated Palestinian resistance movement, or Intifada, in Israel's occupied West Bank and Gaza territories. Contrasting images of the Jewish victims of terror attacks on pizza parlors and of the Palestinian victims of Israeli retaliation have been etched in the minds of television viewers around the globe. Meanwhile, innumerable other Islamic Intifadas across the region are virtually ignored-the Intifada of the Kurds in Iraq, the Intifada of the Shi'ites in Tajukskaya, the Intifada of the Albanian Muslims in Kossovo, the Intifada of the Druze in Lebanon, the Intifada of the Azaria in Azarbidjan, the Intifada of the Sunnu in Kashmir, and the Intifada of the Dra'hanna in Sudan. Why is one uprising front page news, when all the others constitute no news at all?

Even now, our questions continue to present themselves.

In Iran, the home of Islamic fundamentalism, the excavation and restoration of the ancient ruins of pagan Persia have become a national priority. Likewise, in Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Libya, Jordan, and Egypt--each a very strict Muslim state--the artifacts and achievements of their pre-Muslim forbears have become rallying points for both national patriotism and pan-Arab pride. Why this apparent lapse of piety and consistency?

The slippery, difficult, and discomfiting questions just keep coming. Like the conflict that engendered them, there seems to be no end to them.

So, where can we turn for answers?

By now it is fairly clear that the answers will not be found in State Department dossiers. Neither will they will be disclosed in classified Pentagon reports. They are not likely to be revealed in official press briefings. And they certainly will not be related in the dispatches of the popular media.

Perhaps the best place to start looking for answers is not tomorrow's newspaper, but yesterday's history books. It may well be that insights into a whole host of the plaguing dilemmas of both the present and of the foreseeable future, may be discerned best as we carefully study the events of the past. Indeed, the elusive answers to our thorniest questions may only begin to be divulged as we familiarize ourselves with when, where, how, and why those questions arose in the first place. Perhaps we are beginning to learn that the most progressive vision of the future begins with an insightful perspective of the past.

Preparing the Way

Over the course of several years now, President Bush has developed a vibrant devotional life. Every morning before dawn, even before he brings Laura a cup of coffee, he reads from the Bible. Not surprisingly, he finds the Book of Psalms particularly invigorating. That poetic section in the heart of the Old Testament articulates the battles and the rewards of faith, the triumphs and the struggles of hope, the joys and the sorrows of love. He is particularly taken with the stunning power of passages like Psalms 27 and 91--passages that resonate with themes of moral steadfastness in the face of conflict.

He also regularly reads the daily selection from My Utmost for His Highest, the classic devotional work by Oswald Chambers. The book was written in the Middle East during the most difficult days of the First World War. Published posthumously in 1923, it has remained continually in print ever since. With millions of copies in more than two dozen languages, it has become one of the bestselling inspirational books of all time--a classic on a par with Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis and Gerhard Groote and Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan.

Chambers was born in Scotland in 1874--in the same year G.K. Chesterton and Winston Churchill were born. His father was a Baptist pastor, converted and trained under the ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, arguably the most influential English Christian of the nineteenth century. His mother was converted under the ministry of Thomas Chalmers, who was likewise the most influential Scottish Christian of the age. This rich spiritual legacy was evident in the writing and teaching of Chambers. The resulting humble simplicity, deep piety, and passionate vision ultimately encouraged Christians to live their lives as “broken bread and poured out wine” for Christ, to “give their utmost for His highest.”

A daily dose of Chambers is no little thing. His stirring call for personal sacrifice, moral clarity, and repentance is obvious on nearly every page. It is hardly a wonder that under such a steady hand, Bush's faith continued to deepen and mature.

When President Bush was interrupted during a visit to a Sarasota, Florida elementary school with the news that a plane had struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, on September 11, 2001, he had already been providentially prepared for the Herculean task of leadership that would follow.

Earlier that morning, the selection from My Utmost for His Highest, had led him to a very telling passage--how telling, he would have had no way of knowing at the time. Based on the model of servant-leadership from the Gospel of John, the short reading portended and portrayed the path the president would have to take in the difficult days ahead: “Ministering as opportunity surrounds us does not mean selecting our surroundings, it means being very selectly God's in any haphazard surroundings which He engineers for us. The characteristics we manifest in our immediate surroundings are indications of what we will be like in other surroundings.”

The president would indeed soon find himself in haphazard surroundings. The passage continued even more dramatically: “Towels and dishes and sandals, all the ordinary sordid things of our lives, reveal more quickly than anything what we are made of. It takes God Almighty Incarnate in us to do the meanest duty as it ought to be done.” And finally: “We have to go the 'second mile' with God. Some of us get played out in the first ten yards, because God compels us to go where we cannot see the way, and we say, 'I will wait till I get nearer the big crisis.' If we do not do the running steadily in the little ways, we shall do nothing in the crisis.”

It is a great comfort to know that regardless of how magnificent or mundane our path may be in the days ahead, God is even now preparing the way for us--even as He prepared the way of the president.

Friday, September 10

On the Road Again

For more than two weeks now, we have been extraordinarily busy. The whole King's Meadow and Franklin Classical School team have been running from pillar to post, it seems. In fact, during the last twenty days Joanna and I have only been in the office together one day!

Last week we participated in the annual beginning of school camp for FCS. It is a time when we have a lot of fun, establish the standards for the school's spiritual culture, and really get to know one another in a non-threatening, non-classroom environment. It was great. In fact, it was far and away the best camp experience ever. Our new principal, Tina Gilchrist, did a fabulous job and led us well following a difficult summer of transition.

Then this week Karen, Joanna, and I were on the road again. We visited Jackson, MS and Belhaven College. I had the privilege of speaking at the school's opening academic convocation and chapel, visiting several classes, lecturing, and meeting with the visionary leaders of this remarkable institution. I had a wonderful time. And the icing on the cake came when Dr. Roger Parrot and Dr. Dan Fredericks bestowed on me the Doctor of Humanities degree. As my son later said, now I am "Dr. Dr. Dr. Grant!" Yes, and that and several dollars will buy me a cup of coffee at Starbucks!

In the midst of all this excitement, my new book, The Importance of the Electoral College, came out and I've been doing a flurry of radio interviews--on both nationallys syndicated shows and on regional drive-time shows.

All in all, it has been a great couple of weeks. But now I am ready to settle into my regular routine--I've got all my Modernity lectures for Humanities to hammer out and a new study on the Book of Esther to work through, after all.

Saturday, September 4

Missing Poll Numbers

For weeks now it seems that the media bombarded American voters with the figures showing November's presidential election to be a "dead heat," "too close to call," "neck and neck," and "breathtakingly close." We've been treated to one poll after another. We've seen "potential voter" polls, "likely voter" polls, "registered voter" polls, "partisan" polls, "campaign ad" polls, "convention bounce" polls, and "media perception" polls.

Not any more. In fact, now it is hard to find any poll numbers at all. It is eerie, isn't it? The polls have all but disappeared in the wake of the Republican convention. They are still out there of course, it is just that you really have to hunt for them in most cases--either that or go to specifically conservative stations, programs, or sites.

The reason is simply that President Bush has taken an enormous (at least by modern standards) lead--according to the most recent Time magazine poll, a double digit lead; according to the most recent AOL poll, a lead in every single state in the union! Whoa! Can that possibly be right? Will the lead hold? Is it just a convention bounce? What's going on here?

Surely this is news. Big news. Right?

Apparently not.

I guess this dramatic turn of events is just not "news fit to print"--at least not according to the convoluted perspective of the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, and the rest of America's liberal media elite. Gee, who'd a thunk it?

Better Light, More Glory

Here is the latest essay from my good friend and frequent book correspondent, the intrepid Ben House. Pay heed; this one is a doozie--both the book he reviews and the way he reviews it:

It is here. After decades of waiting, it is finally here. After fitting so many random pieces of the puzzle together, the whole picture can now be seen. After hearing the case denied or seeing it minimized, the full story is available. The case is proven.

Some scholars have told me that our Founding Fathers were Deists. I have read of their freethinking and skepticism. I have been catechized about the influence of the Enlightenment on our country. Such mantras as “pluralism”, “separation of church and state”, and “secularism” have all been drummed in my mind by the academic elite. Oh surely, the Founding Fathers were members of the established churches, but that was as irrelevant then as now.

Thomas Paine, the infidel, molded the Revolutionary American mindset. Thomas Jefferson, the Deist, formulated the American ideal. John Locke, the secular thinker, fashioned the principles of the Revolution. We had Sons of Liberty, Patriot armies braving the winter at Valley Forge, signers of the Declaration of Independence, creators of the Constitution, and superb individuals like Washington, Madison, and Adams, all of whom seemingly operated in a religious vacuum.

The American Revolution seemingly sprang out of the soil even though the colonies had a long and rich history by 1776. There had been Puritans, but they simply burned witches and persecuted the likes of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson. There were colonial legislatures, but they restricted the suffrage to white landowning males and clashed with royal governors over tax policies. There were pamphlets and broadsheets, but they were economic responses related to mercantilism. There was the Great Awakening, but it was religious fundamentalism and emotional frenzies over hyped-up fear of God’s wrath.

But, it is here. After decades of waiting, it is finally here. After fitting so many random pieces of the puzzle together, the whole picture can now be seen. After hearing the case denied or seeing it minimized, the full story is available. The case is proven.

Pastor, theologian, and author David W. Hall has completed his magnum opus, titled The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding (Lexington Books, 2003). This book opens the floodgates that will change or confirm the way we view America’s roots and future. At least it will change or confirm it for the faithful remnant that reads the book and faithfully teaches its core content to others.

America’s heritage is Christian, but not only Christian: America’s founding and heritage is Calvinistic. People of Reformed and Calvinistic persuasion largely colonized America. America did not invent a new order of the ages in 1776. It continued a process of refining a Biblical and Reformational theory of government that acknowledged the sovereignty of God and resisted the sovereignty of kings. Jean Calvin of Geneva, not Jean Rousseau of Geneva, created the mindset that governed this country. More than the Greeks and Romans, more than the Enlightenment thinkers, more than the explorers and colonizers, Calvin established America. And Calvin was not alone. Such theologians, writers, and pastors as William Farel (Calvin’s co-pastor in Geneva), Peter Viret of Geneva, Theodore Beza (Calvin’s successor), John Ponet of Strasbourg, the anonymous author of Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos in France, and Johannes Althusius (the author of Politica) all weighed in on the theological implications of governmental tyranny, persecution of the Christian faith, and the limits of obedience to ungodly rulers.

If these continental Reformers did not say enough, from the British Isles came another regiment of political and theological thinkers. John Knox, Andrew Melville, and other Scots put their theology in action during the turbulent reigns of such tyrants as Queen Mary Stuart and her worthless son James. Scotsmen George Buchanan and Samuel Rutherford penned great treatises on government to teach rulers how to rule and to admonish and remove them when they misruled. As this Calvinist political philosophy was being debated and thought out among the Puritans in England, some opted to pack the ideas for their trek across the Atlantic to the New World.

William Bradford, John Winthrop, John Cotton and others set the norms for Biblical and covenantal civil government in Colonial America. By the time of the American War for Independence, the war for the hearts and minds of the people, the true revolution, had been completed by scores of pastors who had faithfully preached election sermons for generations. The language of the colonial charters, the resolutions preceding the Declaration of Independence, the ongoing sermons and theological pamphlets all testify to the Reformed heritage in this country’s founding and the extent to which Calvinism sparked our independence. Presbyterian and Congregationalist pastors and laymen filled the ranks of both officers and soldiers in the Continental armies. The War for Independence was truly a Presbyterian Rebellion.

Dr. Hall begins his survey with a most brilliant coup. His first major witness called to testify before the court is a surprise. Surely Cotton Mather or John Witherspoon or George Whitefield might testify to America’s Calvinistic heritage. They are all examined later on in this book. But the first witness is Thomas Jefferson, the ‘creator’ of the wall of separation of church and state, the arch-Deist and unbeliever among the Founding Fathers, the primary secular and Enlightenment thinker of his age. Jefferson’s motto, which adorns his monument in Washington, was “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” As in the case of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was not so much a poetic creator as a wise scholar, meaning that he cultivated his ideas from others. That motto was not of Jefferson’s devising. It was a summary, a Cliff’s Notes version, of a long theological heritage worked out by the Reformers, the Covenanters, the Huguenots, and the British and American Puritans.

As a further proof of Jefferson’s wonderful inconsistency, Hall cites the case of Jefferson’s efforts to move the entire faculty of Calvin’s Academy of Geneva to northern Virginia. Jefferson knew that this faculty was Calvinistic, yet like the careful botanist he was, he knew that they would flourish in this land if transplanted.

Hall’s book is weighty, long, heavily documented, filled with analyses of theological and political tomes, devoid of anecdotes, plodding in its lining up the proofs of the thesis, scholarly, sober, and academic. In other words, it is the kind of book to make a Calvinist’s heart throb with excitement. This is certainly no easy read; it will not fit at your bedside or near your fattest easy chair. This book calls for a desk, a notepad, strong coffee, and quiet children. It served well for my early morning readings. If there is a monastery nearby, check in and read this book there, but you might need to conceal the title.

This book is expensive--$90 in hardback (perhaps a paperback version will be come out for 4 point Calvinists and Dispensationalists). It is cheaper than a car and not much more than the cost of a tank of gas for a SUV. This book is worth the cost of buying it and the labor of reading it. The bibliography alone can provide a wonderful gift list of books that your wife can buy you (or you can by her) for Christmas, birthdays, or other occasions, such as Samuel Rutherford’s birthday. Dr. Hall has marshaled and referenced scores of books by pastors and scholars we all recognize, as well as books from others, many of whom are secular scholars, whose labors are common grace blessings to us.

Some years ago, Peter Marshall and David Manuel broke open the case for the Christian heritage of America with the publication of The Light and the Glory. The book was popular, and it has contributed greatly to a rethinking of our heritage among homeschoolers, Christian schoolers, and individual Christians. A whole library of books has followed in the last several decades enabling Christians to rethink and reclaim our heritage. Some of the books are outstanding; some overstate the case, for example by virtually elevating the Constitution to the level of Scripture; some of the recent books simply quote from other recent books with little depth or research. A few heavyweight studies preceded The Light and the Glory. Books like R.J. Rushdoony’s This Independent Republic and The Nature of the American System and Gregg Singer’s A Theological Interpretation of American History filled in a few gaps in the story of our founding, but reached a small audience.

Dr. Hall’s book will probably not achieve the popular status of The Light and the Glory. The story of the Mayflower is easier to teach than an examination of Lex Rex. But for those of us who teach American history (or European history) and government, for those of us who use the pulpit to proclaim political theology, for those of us who regularly violate the social norm and talk about religion AND politics, this book is vital.

As a personal testimony, I am thankful for a Reformed Baptist elder, Henry Wood, who taught me American history at our local community college back in 1974. He lectured on the importance of understanding the Calvinistic roots of this country. He pointed me to Loraine Boettner’s Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, as well as to the books of Rushdoony and Singer. In Boettner’s book, there is a chapter on the influence of Calvinism in history. For many of us, it was a starting point for many readings in the field of history.

Now with David Hall’s The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding, we can all march forward with a renewed vision of the future because of a truer understanding of the past. See your banker today to refinance your house and buy this book.

Friday, September 3

The Electoral College Flap

The New York Times on Sunday called for the abolition of the Electoral College. The timing couldn't have been more perfect--if such a display of constitutional tomfoolery could ever really be perfectly timed! The fact is my new little book, The Importance of the Electoral College, has just been released. Not surprisingly, I take the opposite view of the Times.

As a result of the happy and providential convergence of these contrarian developments, I have been flooded with media requests from all over the country. And more are flooding in as the fall presidential race really begins to heat up. You can get copies of the book directly from Vision Forum at their website or by calling toll free at 800-440-0022. Moms, dads, and educators might want to consider using the text for a little election primer or for a unit study on the character and nature of the constitution. But be prepared: the subject seems to be raising quite a furor.

It is likely that there is a great deal about the current political and cultural climate that would altogether dumbfound, agitate, and flummox the Founding Fathers. But this business of the Electoral College brouhaha would be particularly baffling to them. As I asserted in a blog entry this past week, the innovative federal approach to electing the president was one of the least controversial provisions of the new constitution. Even during the divisive debate for ratification, it was one of the very few aspects of the new compact that gained universal support. Indeed, according to Alexander Hamilton writing in the Federalist Papers, “The mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system, of any consequence, which has escaped without severe censure, or which has received the slightest mark of approbation from its opponents. The most plausible of these, who has appeared in print, has even deigned to admit that the election of the President is pretty well guarded. I venture somewhat further, and hesitate not to affirm, that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent. It unites in an eminent degree all the advantages, the union of which was to be wished for.”

Just goes to show how far afield we have drifted from the thinking of those who entrusted us with the great legacy of freedom and liberty.