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The Reason for Optimism

Lies cannot last forever.

by James Leroy Wilson
September 23, 2004

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In a recent Letter to the Editor, Brian Mack wrote,

"Ours is an inefficient, corruptible, and all too often failing system of government. However, I think that we can agree that it is also the best working model the world has ever seen. We have several examples of JLW's 'dark view', my question would then be what is the light view? Is there anything that you’re happy about vis-à-vis the way that the country is going?"

I would probably choose the Swiss Confederation as a superior model. The executive in that system, as I recall, has no where near the power of the American President. And its model of decentralized, local government, and neutrality in foreign affairs - the system the Founders envisioned, would have made America a much more free and secure country than it is today. Switzerland ought to have been our model; instead, we chose to inherit Great Britain’s nationalization of public affairs and the Messianic, imperialistic desire to “save” the world.

The downfall of the USA is ultimately not its form of government, but the nationalist impulse. Switzerland’s Confederation includes three different major linguistic groups, and they are jealous to keep their public affairs local - as they have for several centuries. In the USA, the people are transient, moving from place to place. Our oldest settlements aren’t even 400 years old. We get our cultural bearings not from the place we have lived in for just a few years, but from Washington, D.C. This nationalism, while understandable considering the demographic and sociological realities, is abhorrent to the design and language of the Constitution. And once we ignore the inconvenient parts of the Constitution (such as the Tenth Amendment), we are susceptible to sliding off its rails and flying off the cliff of tyranny.

Ultimately, a culture which values family and community will better protect liberty than a culture which exalts nationalism and ideology, regardless of what the Constitution says or how the political system works. I doubt that America has the cultural tools anymore to restore family or community, or even robust individualism.

That said, not all is hopeless. Is there anything that I’m happy about vis-à-vis the way the country is going? Well, the phony “assault weapons ban” expired. And by and large I prefer a culture of social toleration - those who would permit homosexuals to live their lives as they see fit are more likely to support at least incremental decriminalization of narcotics and bring an end to our barbaric War on Drugs.

And, as the power of unions decrease, I think I see among young people a greater self-confidence in their own ability to provide for their own living, rather than reliance on the government, tariffs, and a single corporation. One young man, recently laid off, extolled the virtues of a politician who, he thought, was economically conservative but socially liberal. I didn’t agree with his assessment of this politician, but I agreed with his sentiment. He didn’t feel that the government owed him a living.

Also, general opposition to this War on Iraq is encouraging. It shows that the will of the American people is continually spat upon by the powers who run both the Democratic and Republican Parties. Also encouraging, is the ample proof that the Democratic-Republican regime’s unquestioning yes-men, the elite media and mainstream media from The New Republic to The Weekly Standard to The New York Times to FOX News to CBS News, simply can not be trusted. The less trust put into the “system,” the more faith you must put in yourself and your God.

I also like some other things about America’s future. The tech sector - especially the Internet, from which the truth can be told. The possibility of watching every game of your favorite team, no matter where you live. The demise of the traditional studio-audience sit-com, which was always 95% bad. The ebb and flow of pop culture and the creation of niche markets. The increasing variety and quality of everything from coffee to bluegrass bands. The freedom to add cheddar and bacon to every sandwich I order. The fact that so many are willing to wage their own War on Obesity and War on Tobacco through the free market’s suggestions rather than through the government’s orders. That “Brown-Eyed Girl“ is still found in virtually every jukebox in America that I‘ve surveyed. The introduction of irony to America thanks first to PBS’s British imports, and then David Letterman, and which shows no sign of letting up thanks to The Onion. Advancements in CGI. The seeds of a new Christian Reformation.

If I’m pessimistic, that is because I do not believe in a political or cultural restoration of a bygone era, however attractive it may appear. The Constitution is gone. And, even though its leaders from both the Left and the Right are aware of it yet, so is “American Protestantism” which has now politicized itself out of credibility. But where restoration is impossible, there is still hope for reformation or renewal, something better that replaces what we had before.

If this optimism can be summarized, I suppose it would be that the American people might now be more honest and open amongst themselves, and therefore more suspicious of secrecy and disdainful of hypocrisy, than they have been in the past. While this has had its perverse moments such as reality tv in which people spill their emotions on camera, this is also the check on the American political system. Those who control our government must not have secrets, for secrets conceal private agendas, not government policy. And those who make our laws and tell us what to do, must not be hypocrites, but oblige themselves to the same rules. If anyone deserves to live in a glass house and have their private lives revealed on television, it is politicians.

So, to the extent I’m optimistic, it is because of the seeds sown, the suspicion and cynicism planted, that our system doesn’t really work and that none of these politicians can be trusted. Whatever political result may take place in the short-term, in the long-term of cultural transformation I’m optimistic. Lies can not last forever.

Comments (3)

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Jonathan Wilson from Chicago writes:
September 23, 2004
Dear JLW, I would be interested in what you intend to capture by the term American Protestantism. If what is meant is a mainline sensibility that diminishes the authority of the word of God and supplants it with psychology, libertine entitlements and Marxist philosophy, I agree about the loss of credibility. If what is meant is the uncritical, flag-waving support of the current Neocon agenda by certain high profile Evangelicals, I also agree. That could delimit what is meant, because those are the two sides portrayed publically by the press, ergo, American Protestantism is that face of it which gets attention. Hopefully, the loss of credibility in these two camps will result in their loss of parishoners and their rapid marginalization within the global Church. Hopefully believers will stage a mass exodus to churches that stand on God's Word.

However, millions of American Protestants agree with you (and me in this instance), and quietly persevere in their faith - there are even several denominations that have declared themselves for God's Word above all: in so doing they have stood against the morass of (especially) sexual confusion in the dominant culture which has seeped into and shaped the agendas of the mainline Protestants - these declarations have not stopped there, however, but have included expressing suspicion and concern for various aspects of the Neocon agenda, not least being the Iraq War and the suspension of liberties.

Sincerely, Pastor Jonathan Wilson, Cuyler Covenant Church

James Leroy Wilson from The Swamp writes:
September 23, 2004
American Protestantism as I see it discredited itself on three fatal errors: the Public School, Prohibition, and Modernity (i.e., unquestioning allegience to the modern secular State and faith in its ability to organize society to just ends).

The sheer perversity of all of these unBiblical positions, and the obvious moral and social disasters that have sprung from them, have not been officially acknowledged by any major Protestant group that I'm aware of. Unlike in the Catholic Church, there has been no repentence and correction. Instead, Protestants ignore their history of barbarism and view post-modernity and gay rights as the new big threats, thoroughly misunderstanding that their own version of Christianity was seduced by modernity. Today's Protestants want to take morning after pill, but it's too late.

Statism and Christianity do not and can not mix. That's why I mentioned this in the column: I believe the seeds have been sown for a new Christian Reformation.

Puddleglum from Southern Ettinsmoor writes:
September 28, 2004
(please note that the following is a call to focus for Christians within their own lives and NOT a call to using political influence in any way. I don't want to worry those of our readers who are not Christians and have them think I'm advocating conquest of the world type stuff.)

So, Statism is a shell game, Protestantism has whored itself to the false god of Salvation by Human Effort (i.e. politics), and true Christians are embarrassed and left crying out to God while pursuing a closer discipleship with the only source great enough to alter the human heart.

Ok, we've got to the starting mark, how do Christians herald in this new Reformation which will focus on the Schaeffer's true Truth and not on gimmicks, trends, and celebrity endorsements?

Come on, you said yourself that the Internet is a great tool for ensuring the distribution of truths. Let's use it.

That said, I don't think that PO is the correct venue for the Revolution of Personal Discipleship, but there is Razormouth.com and InternetMonk.com and others. Let's not wait for this reformation to led by someone else tomorrow when there are still actions that we can take to lead it today.

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